Suffolk Police Department Sgt. Cheryl Balzer and Kanetria Williams find the perfect fleece blanket for Kanetria while shopping at Walmart on Friday evening.
Suffolk Police Department Sgt. Cheryl Balzer and Kanetria Williams find the perfect fleece blanket for Kanetria while shopping at Walmart on Friday evening.

Miracle on Main Street

Published 10:07pm Friday, December 20, 2013

Walmart seems an unlikely place for a Christmas miracle, but one happened there on Friday evening.

Kids and police officers invaded Walmart for the Fraternal Order of Police Suffolk Lodge 41’s annual Shop with a Cop event. Police, sheriff’s deputies and retired police officers pushed carts and tallied prices as less fortunate children picked out Christmas gifts for themselves and their families.

Ashley Cullipher shows off the Easy Bake Oven she bought herself for Christmas.
Ashley Cullipher shows off the Easy Bake Oven she bought herself for Christmas.

The organization had raised funds to take the kids shopping and had a budget of about $100 for each child. But something remarkable happened while they were in the store — first one person, then another, then another approached the law enforcement officers and quietly handed them cash and gift cards, eventually adding more than $100 to the available amount.

“We’re blessed, and my family is blessed,” said Minyon Holmes, a recent transplant from New Jersey who handed cash to two different officers.

After handing money to Sgt. Cheryl Balzer, she saw Sgt. Herman Kee on a different aisle and gave him a bill, too.

“The same woman just gave me money,” Balzer told Kee when she spied the act taking place.

Kee’s response: “Get out of here.”

Kee also saw a local business owner he knew, who went to the register and purchased a gift card. Another man also gave money to a different officer after hearing what the program was about.

It was a true community effort to help the children. Vonita Williams, whose son Jonathan and daughter Kanetria were among the young shoppers, said the family suffered an electrical fire at their house on Suburban Drive on Dec. 8.

“Everybody has been good to us,” she said. “The whole community pulled together and helped me.”

Her children picked out clothes, shoes and toys.

Young Ashley Cullipher chose sparkly earrings in a variety of colors for her mother and got an Easy Bake Oven for herself.

The program is a way to show kids that “cops aren’t always the bad guys,” Kee said.

“You always have to try to help the kids and people in need,” said retired Suffolk police officer Al Bremer, who also said the organization will deliver food baskets to other needy families this week.

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