Bryant PD host­ing fundraiser for Christ­mas event

The Saline Courier Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Sarah Perry [email protected]­ton­courier.com

Each year, be­gin­ning in Oc­to­ber, of­fi­cers with the Bryant Po­lice Depart­ment are al­lowed to break the depart­ment’s dress code and grow fa­cial hair. Through the Beards and Badges fundraiser, the Bryant Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice raises money for the depart­ment’s San­tas with Badges shop­ping event in De­cem­ber.

To be able to grow a beard, each of­fi­cer has to col­lect dona

tions of at least $150, the amount needed for each child to shop. The of­fi­cers typ­i­cally raise more, said Of­fi­cer Ster­ling Pruitt, who cur­rently serves as the pres­i­dent for the FOP.

Chil­dren se­lected to par­tic­i­pate in San­tas with Badges are iden­ti­fied by school coun­selors. These stu­dents are in a “need sit­u­a­tion” which can in­clude chil­dren from low-in­come house­holds, fos­ter chil­dren or in­di­vid­u­als not be­ing raised by their bi­o­log­i­cal par­ent, Pruitt said.

The chil­dren are re­quired to pur­chase cloth­ing items and a gift for a fam­ily mem­ber as well as se­lect­ing gifts for them­selves.

“It’s def­i­nitely one of the more re­ward­ing things we do,” Pruitt said.

The event al­lows chil­dren to see of­fi­cers in a fun sit­u­a­tion, he added.

“It’s dif­fer­ent that what we nor­mally do,” he said.

“A lot of times, when peo­ple en­counter us it’s not al­ways a good cir­cum­stance. Usu­ally, if the po­lice have been called some­thing bad has hap­pened or is hap­pen­ing … to be in that dy­namic there, at Wal­mart, tak­ing those kids shop­ping, it’s just a fun time.”

The of­fi­cers also find joy in the chil­dren’s hap­pi­ness.

“You get to see how happy those kids are. It’s a unique thing for them. Most of the kids we’re deal­ing with, they have never got­ten to go to Wal­mart and been told ‘pick out a toy.’”

Pruitt has worked for the Bryant Po­lice Depart­ment for three years. Prior to his job in Bryant, for five years he worked for an­other po­lice agency that did not par­tic­i­pate in a Christ­mas shop­ping event.

“Com­ing here and get­ting to do it is amaz­ingly re­ward­ing,” Pruitt said.

Last year, troop­ers from Arkansas State Po­lice, as well as of­fi­cers from Union Pa­cific Rail­road, joined forces with the Bryant of­fi­cers for the event.

Be­cause of the suc­cess of the 2018 Beards and Badges fundraiser, more than 50 chil­dren were able to par­tic­i­pate.

Along with of­fi­cers per­son­ally rais­ing money, Pruitt com­mended lo­cal busi­nesses for their sup­port.

“We’ve been blessed with a lot of lo­cal busi­nesses who re­ally sup­port what we’re do­ing and give large do­na­tions to what we’re do­ing,” Pruitt said.

Last year, the depart­ment raised about $12,000, which was more than ever raised be­fore.

Pruitt and other of­fi­cers hope to raise the same amount or more this year.

The depart­ment be­gan the fundraiser in 2016 af­ter of­fi­cers heard at a con­fer­ence of an­other depart­ment do­ing a sim­i­lar pro­gram.

Since the of­fi­cers aren’t usu­ally al­lowed to grow beards, they were ex­cited and ea­gerly par­tic­i­pated in the fundraiser.

“It was like Christ­mas for the of­fi­cers,” Pruitt joked, say­ing that the pro­gram was “wildly suc­cess­ful.”

This year’s shop­ping event is sched­uled for Dec. 12 at the Bryant Wal­mart.

In­di­vid­u­als wish­ing to do­nate for the event may con­tact the FOP via email at bryant­[email protected] or through the Bryant Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge 80 Face­book page. Checks ad­dressed to the FOP may also be mailed to the Bryant Po­lice Depart­ment. The or­ga­ni­za­tion would like to have all do­na­tions turned in by Dec. 1.

Along with fundrais­ing for San­tas with Badges, the FOP also pro­vides fund­ing for a back to school shop­ping event. Dur­ing Putting Kids Feet First, Bryant of­fi­cers help stu­dents shop at Shoe Car­ni­val for a new pair of shoes.

The FOP is made up of of­fi­cers from the depart­ment. The or­ga­ni­za­tion pro­vides com­mu­nity out­reach pro­grams as well as sup­port­ing of­fi­cers and their fam­i­lies, Pruitt said.

SARAH PERRY/ The Saline Courier

Bryant of­fi­cers are all smiles while par­tic­i­pat­ing in the 2018 San­tas with Badges event. The Bryant Po­lice Depart­ment and the Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice are cur­rently gear­ing up for this year’s event by host­ing their an­nual fundraiser.

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