TEXARKANA —The annual Shop With a Cop and Firefighter event will look a little different in both Texarkana, Texas and Texarkana, Arkansas this year.
It's been a year faced with many challenges for fundraising and live events. But Shop with a Cop is an important tradition to local public safety officers.
"People are stepping up however they can," said Shawn Vaughn, spokesman for Texarkana, Texas Police Department.
"It may look different and feel different this year, but Covid or not, Christmas is coming and these kids need it, and we will provide it the best we can," Vaughn said.
Shop with a Cop is a charity event where local police and fire departments raise money to provide Christmas for disadvantaged families in the Texarkana area. The public safety officers raise the money and give each child about $100 each to shop with at local stores.
The Texas-side officers take kids shopping at Target and Arkansas-side officers shop with their kids at Walmart.
Some changes have been made to this year's event as a result of COVID-19.
Due to the concern about COVID, TTPD recently made the decision to cancel the in-shopping event, Vaughn said.
Instead, the officers and firefighters will shop for the children alone after they are provided a wish list from a child by the Department of Human Services.
"We will purchase the gifts from the child's list and then have a drive-through pickup event on Dec.12" Vaughn said.
The pick-up will be from 9 a.m. to noon Dec.12 at the Special Operations and Training Center near Spring Lake Park.
"We have a responsibility to do it as safely as possible," Vaughn said.
Texarkana, Arkansas Police and Firefighters will be shopping with their kids in shift throughout the day, said Sgt. Rick Cockrell, a spokesman for TAPD.
"It will be all day at certain times. We are working hard to meet all CDC guidelines," Cockrell said.
Raising money for the event was a big challenge this year.
"Fundraising has been challenging this year. Last year we had a local band do a concert to raise money and we had restaurants doing events to raise money, and we could not have any of those type things this year," Vaughn said.
Fundraising also came from some different sources this year.
The Inter Greek Council at Texas A&M University Texarkana designed a t-shirt to sell and gave the proceeds to the Texas-side Shop with a Cop program.
Student Austin Sikes is involved in the Greek community at the university. His dad is also a Texarkana, Texas firefighter.
"Greek Life is always looking for way to help the community and I knew the (police and fire) departments could not do a lot of their normal things this year because of COVID," Sikes said.
In Texarkana, Arkansas, police officers put down their razors to raise money for the annual event by participating in "No Shave November."
Each officer paid $100 to participate. That fee sponsors one child. Officers began growing their beards on Nov. 1. For $150, an officer could get a head start on growing their beards, Cockrell said.
Pawn Express has also issued a challenge to Texarkana residents. They have offered the officer or citizen with the best beard a prize.
No Shave November is also a morale booster that officers enjoy doing, Cockrell said.
Voting on the best beard will be on the TAPD Facebook page during the last three days of November. The winner will be announced at Shop with a Cop.
Donations can be made to either departments's Shop with a Cop program until the end of November.