HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg Police Department hosted its fourth Hearts of Hope Christmas Party for children of violent crime victims.
The Christmas Party was filled with prayer, songs and lots and lots of gifts.
“You can see the joy in their face. Even with the parents it’s a relief knowing that this is something they don’t have to buy their children,” said Whitney Harper, who envisioned this event.
She said the idea came to her in 2014 after seeing the effect violent crimes had on children. She and the Hattiesburg Police Department wanted to make the holidays special for them and its been happening ever since.
“It reassures the family of those victims that they can get justice that the police department is here for them and to serve and protect them,” Harper said.
Mitchell Williams with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the University of Southern Mississippi said acts of kindness like this show the best character of the Hattiesburg community.
“We celebrate this. Our HPD does a wonderful job protecting us but for the least of these, Kendall, the least of these," Williams said. “These folks over here that are just having a different kind of Christmas. Yeah, we want to be involved with that and we’re pretty humble to be a part of it.”
Southern Miss head football coach Jay Hopson and his wife and several other coach’s wives did a lot of shopping for the kids who’d be receiving gifts. She said all the preparation that led to today was all worth it.
“This is the best day because we get to put the faces with the names and see them open their gifts and see their joy, so this is the best part of the whole process,” said Michelle Hopson.
One Hattiesburg officer added something a little different, bearing gifts and songs. She said the event was heartwarming for her.
“It’s just so exciting to see the smiles on their faces and the joy that the kids have because their first interaction with the police may not have been a good one, dealing with tragedy and for them to see us in a different light it just warms our hearts and we look forward to the event every year,” said Lt. Latosha Myers-Mitchell.
She calls it a worthy investment in our future.
“We remember them, we love them," Myers-Mitchell said. “We know they’re our future, so we are invested in them and our community is investing in them as well and we appreciate that so much.”