ZEPHYRHILLS — Over the past five summers, the Zephyrhills Police Department has helped hundreds of local kids get the clothes and school supplies necessary for their return to the classroom.
With the recent surge of economic woes nationwide, the department expects more children will need help this year.
"Lots of businesses are going bankrupt. That means loss of jobs," said Zephyrhills police Capt. Robert McKinney. "Loss of jobs equate to more need in a community."
This weekend, the department kicks off its annual Shop With a Cop supply drive at the Wal-Mart on Gall Boulevard.
There, officers will accept donations of crayons, composition books and three-ring binders.
But what they really need is cash.
"The thing about cash is you can tailor your supplies," McKinney said.
It's appreciated if 400 people donate notebooks, but the students also need pencils to fill up those blue-lined sheets in between the spirals.
"It does help to have the cash so we can make a more well-rounded package," McKinney said.
The department works with area elementary and middle schools to identify students whose families may need a little extra help buying calculators and bookbags.
The goods are distributed on the first day of class by the schools' resource officers.
For families with extra needs, the Police Department uses the cash to buy shoes, socks and clothes. An officer will escort the kids through the garment aisles of local stores, hence the name Shop With a Cop.
There's no set monetary goal for this year's fundraiser. The officers will take whatever they can get.
"We just try to do as much as we can," McKinney said. "There's always more need than there is supplies."
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 521-6518.