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Officer Clyde
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posted 12-13-2004 07:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Officer Clyde     Edit/Delete Message
Conservation Officers Steve Minardi (Ritchie), Clyde Armstead (Jackson) and Danny Dolin (Wood) participated with officers from Parkersburg Police Department and Wood County Sheriff's Department along with the Wood County Prosecuting Attornys Office. Thanks to WalMart and the Blennerhassett F.O.P. Lodge #79.

49 children 'Shop With a Cop'


PARKERSBURG - Give the children most in need of toys for Christmas a hundred dollars and they'll want to spend it on everyone but themselves.

That's what police officers and two prosecuting attorneys learned Sunday as they escorted 49 children on a "Shop with a Cop" shopping trip at the south Parkersburg Wal-Mart. The children were each given $100 gift cards, which were paid for by the Blennerhassett Lodge 79 of the Fraternal Order of Police and Wal-Mart.
Wood County Prosecutor Ginny Conley, who was a chaperone, said she was impressed with the children's generosity.

"I think it's fantastic, the kids seem to be enjoying buying presents for their families that they wouldn't be able to buy otherwise. I asked the girl I was with what she wanted to buy and she said she wanted to get her aunt, grandma, mother and brother something. Her family was her first priority," Conley said.

Representatives of the Wood County Sheriff's Department, Parkersburg and Vienna police departments, the Wood County Prosecutor's Office and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources escorted children in the store, said Greg Collins, a Parkersburg detective and president of the FOP lodge.

"This is the first time we've done this and we're really excited about it. This is a chance for us to provide something for 50 kids who could use a little extra for Christmas," he said.

Parkersburg resident Angela Freed, 8, led her chaperone, Conservation Officer Steve Minardi, immediately to the video game section. Minardi and Freed were the first ones to arrive there, but within minutes the aisle was crowded with blue uniforms and excited children.

"How about 'Cabela's Big Game Hunter,'" the conservation officer said jokingly.

After browsing the games for several minutes, Freed decided to spend her money elsewhere. However, she did buy a small compact disc player before leaving the electronics section.

"I'm feeling pretty daggone good right now," she said.

Freed said she devoted about six hours to making her shopping list. Her mother, Lisa, said the girl had made many revisions to the list and the first list was comprised mostly of gifts for others.

"She had gifts for mom, dad, grandparents, aunts and every one of her cousins. I said 'it's yours, mommy and daddy will take care of the rest (of the gifts,),'" Lisa Freed said.

Despite repeated encouragement to spend the money on herself, the girl still attempted to purchase gifts for her mother and father, Rick, during the shopping trip.

She was able to purchase something she and her father both could use tennis balls. Rick Freed said he and his daughter play tennis every Sunday. The balls they were using were in poor condition, Lisa Freed said.

"The balls they have are like ones you'd give to the dog to play with. They don't bounce very well," she said.

Parkersburg Police Chief Bob Newell helped five-year-old Hannah Haney with her shopping. Haney spent her money conservatively for a five-year-old.

"She was very excited. She seemed to know the things she wanted ahead of time. There were certain things she had in mind and that's exactly what she bought," Newell said.

Among Haney's purchases were a sleeping bag with princesses on it, Care Bears, a doll and a stuffed horse.

The officers enjoyed themselves as much as the children did, said Wood County Deputy L.S. Jefferson.

"Police officers love to do things like this when it can help people in the community and provide service beyond what we do usually. It does our hearts good," he said.

Minardi said such events help police develop a better rapport with children.

"It's a great thing to get kids around policemen and nobody is in trouble. They're just all having a great time," he said.

Each child was given a Wal-Mart name tag and a shopping cart with a helium-filled balloon tied to it. The balloons let Wal-Mart workers know to give those customers special attention, said Bethany Murray, personnel manager for the store.

Children also received stockings stuffed with gifts and two bicycles were given away, said K.L. Hornbeck with the Parkersburg police.

The store received a $2,500 grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation, which covered half of the cost of the gift cards, said Tracy Morgan, accounting manager for the store. It was money well spent, she said.

"We couldn't be happier about it," she said.

The Wood County Board of Education was instrumental in identifying children who could benefit from the program, police said. The FOP lodge plans to hold another event next year, Collins said.

"We have a lot to live up to next year, but we're definitely going to do it. It's one of the best programs we've got," Collins said.

The Fraternal Order of Police also is providing families with food for the holidays by giving $1,000 to the Needy Food Project.

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