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“We’re just trying to capture a special moment for young people": Christmas shopping with Currituck County cops

Photo by Mechelle Hankerson. Retired Currituck County officer Joey Davidson tries to involve his children in his local law enforcement lodge’s Christmas program.
Photo by Mechelle Hankerson. Retired Currituck County officer Joey Davidson tries to involve his children in his local law enforcement lodge’s Christmas program.


It’s a Friday night at the Target in Chesapeake closest to the North Carolina border.

Dozens of law enforcement officers from northeastern North Carolina are being unleashed on the store with $250 and Christmas lists from kids in their communities.

“We get a lot of joy out of this,” said organizer and Currituck County school resource officer Nathan Large. “I don't know who gets more joy out of this, if it's the kids or us. We don't get to see the kids’ faces, but we love it. We eat this up. It's just fun.”

This is the third year the northeastern North Carolina Fraternal Order of Police lodge has gone Christmas shopping for local kids. The group includes all levels of law enforcement officers mostly from Currituck, Dare and Camden counties.

They raise money all year however they can. Social services departments help them identify families that need help, and they’re prepared to spend $250 on presents for each child.

The first year, officers shopped for 40 families, and last year, it was 65. This year, the number doubled and before the holiday, Currituck school resource officer Nathan Large estimated they were on track to shop for 120 families.

“I remember, you know, having a Christmas with not very much or nothing under the tree,” Large said. “We're just trying to capture a special moment for young people.”

Large said officers do whatever they can to raise money for the lodge’s Christmas shopping.

Retired officer Joey Davidson is a “superstar” when it comes to that, Large said, and has raised thousands of dollars on his own.

Fundraising is the easy part for Davidson. He said shopping is much harder.

With the help of his 15-year-old daughter Autumn and 7-year-old Braxton, Davidson spent about an hour and a half shopping for the first child.

Davidson is a big fan of Christmas and sets up special movie nights for his kids. The family goes outside, sits on bales of hay and drinks hot chocolate while they watch classic holiday movies.

While they shopped at Target, each one had a Christmas-themed shirt on. Davidson had a Santa with sunglasses under the words “Don’t Stop Believin’” – because “we’re beach cops,” he explained.

Autumn wore a sweater about elves which was fitting, since that’s what her dad called her for the night.

Davidson relied on his daughter to make the final call on most gifts, like what kind of shoes a 14-year-old girl would like.

He picked out a pair of light brown, rhinestone tennis shoes.

“I think they’re unique,” he offered. “I mean, I would be looking at those. Doesn't show dirt as much.”

Instead, Autumn suggested an all-white sneaker she said will match with more outfits.

Large said the group of officers try to get everything on a child’s list, even if it means going over budget.

“We know some people, you know, they need clothes. They need shoes. They need a jacket. We have people ask for shampoos, body shampoos, different things like that,” he said.“We really try to make sure we balance out the wants and the needs. Of course, we want to give them as much as they want, but we do the best we can.”

As the Davidsons reached the end of one of their assigned child’s list, they tallied up how much their cart costs.

“We have art stuff, a lot of canvases, shoes,” Davidson said, showing Autumn price tags as she added it up on her phone calculator. “What else are you thinking? Anything else?”

The family glanced into the cart while Autumn consulted the list again. When they were satisfied, they rolled the cart to the front to line it up with others.

Children of other officers pushed their hauls to a trailer that bring the gifts back to North Carolina for delivery.

As another volunteer checks them in, Davidson told another officer they went a bit over budget.

“But I have my card with me,” he offered.

Organizers know some shoppers will go over budget and plan for it.

“We're just trying to capture a special moment for young people to help them and (their) families because, you know, the world’s tough and it's not fair,” Large said.“You can really make a difference in lives with young children.”


Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Mechelle is News Director at WHRO. She helped launch the newsroom as a reporter in 2020. She's worked in newspapers and nonprofit news in her career. Mechelle lives in Virginia Beach, where she grew up.

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