PINE BELT - Nearly two dozen underprivileged children in Laurel are going to have a very Merry Christmas this year, thanks to some kindhearted Laurel Police officers.
Saturday, the youngsters were taken on a holiday shopping spree at Walmart, as part of Laurel's annual Shop with a Cop.
Each child, along with a family member, was escorted by a police officer, who gave them enough money to buy toys, electronics, clothes or school supplies.
"The officers get as much out of this as the kids do," said Sgt. Michael Reaves of the Laurel Police Dept. "It's always good to give back to the community and we hope that this humanizes the badge, so to speak."
"We are very grateful," said Kim Anderson, a parent of two children who received gifts as part of the program. "I think what they're doing is great, because everybody can't afford to give their kids what they want and this helps me and my family out a lot this year."
Laurel's chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police sponsored the event.
Meanwhile in Petal Saturday, some other deserving children also benefited from the Shop with a Cop program.
But before heading on their shopping trip to Walmart, courtesy of Petal Police, the kids were given lunch and personalized tours of the Petal Police Department.
They checked out police cars and motorcycles and other emergency vehicles.
They also got a visit from Santa Claus, who was more than happy to pose for photos with them.
"We try to build a relationship with our community and with the children that we serve," said Leonard Fuller, chief of the Petal Police Department. "And it gives the children a chance to know us and meet us and hang out with us."
"I think it's awesome actually, because there are a lot of families out here that really can't afford to do Christmas for their families and I think it's just wonderful," said Nikki McDaniel. Her two children were among the 30 helped by Petal Police during its Shop with a Cop event.