First responders host Santa in Uniform in Chattooga County
Chattooga County Georgia first responders enjoy their "Santa in Uniform" tradition, like no other.
Chattooga County Georgia first responders enjoy their "Santa in Uniform" tradition, like no other. For more than ten years, police officers and firefighters have raised funds to take underprivileged kids shopping at Christmas time. But this year, it almost didn't happen.
Two months ago, the GBI was called in to investigate, after a Summerville Police Department Clerk of Courts was accused of stealing funds from the Christmas account.
First responders are grateful for those who stepped up to replace the missing money so that no child would be turned away. “The community, we showed them we were resilient and we weren't going to give this up. The community rallied behind us and we are bigger than ever now,” said Summerville Fire Chief Robbie Lathem.
When it comes to Christmas shopping, the choice is never easy. But give a kid the entire Walmart store and the choices become seemingly endless.“I got a hatchimal, some boots, some keychains,” said 4th grader Kandice Wylson.
Forty-three underprivileged children paired up with officers and spent the afternoon together. Starting with 150 dollars, the children are required to buy a pair of shoes and one new outfit. They can spend the rest on whatever they like. “We work really, really hard all year to come up to this moment. Getting to watch them come through and pick out the toys, clothes, and stuff they want, see the smile on their face is worth it all,” said Summerville Firefighter Josh Shelton.
It's a magical day for the children. “Getting the hatchimal was the most exciting thing because it was the last one they had. I was so happy about it,” said Wylson.
And for the officers, it's pretty cool, too. “We had a great time! And we had fun doing it,” said Shelton.
For the kids, it's not just about getting gifts for themselves or loved ones, it's about developing positive relationships with emergency responders. “He made it really fun, he made it really fun,” shouted Wylson.
And as the event grows, it never misses the importance of what a simple stroll through a department store, around Christmas, can mean to a kid. “When we get here and these kids smile, they're happy. It shows the reason for the season,” said Summerville Police Chief Stan Mosley.
The GBI continues to investigate missing funds from the Summerville Police Department.
Plans for Santa in Uniform 2018 will begin tomorrow.