Children know the importance of making a good first impression.

More than 115 Gwinnett County children rummaged the aisles of the Shoe Carnival on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road. Saturday morning looking for the ideal pair of shoes for the coming school year.

Outside, the Gwinnett Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 66 backpacks full of school supplies with the help of the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office Explorers Unit.

This is the 10th year the Cops and Kids program is helping kids and their parents get a head start on back-to-school shopping.

“This helps kids start doing something beautiful,” said Mike Jones, who attended the event with two young students. “It’s great. You get free book bags and shoes and socks. This is our first time here and we appreciate it.”

His eighth grader Jayquan White was checking out the Nike and Adidas shoes in the store. White said he wanted something stylish. Meanwhile, an aspiring third grader, Karissa Smith, was reaching for a pair of white sneakers when her two older brothers shouted that they wanted something “trending”.

“My baby,” said her father Keytta Smith, “she likes to choose her own things. She will choose something at some point. However, events like this are practical. We have things like paper, notebooks, glue, crayons, they’re all things that you need that we don’t have to buy. “

According to a survey by accounting firm KPMG, the average parent spend per student this back-to-school season will be up to $ 270, compared to about $ 250 in 2020.

The survey also found that parents of preschoolers plan to spend up to 32% more money this year as there is increasing expectation that items will cost more in the coming months. The Cops and Kids program helps offset some of these expenses for low-income families.

Success! An email was sent to with a link to confirm the list registration.

Error! An error occurred while processing your request.

Connie Chesser, President of Lodge 66, said the event was made possible through donations from local businesses and residents. Parents also receive coupons for a free eye exam with their children at America’s Best in Duluth. There you can get glasses if necessary.

In addition, the event gives the community the opportunity to see law enforcement from a different perspective. Youngsters in the Explorers Unit also learn that working as a police officer involves interacting with the community outside of the professional environment.

“So often the first contact people have with a police officer is due to domestic problems – traffic stops or other incidents,” said Chesser. “They don’t understand what’s going on and that we’re just doing our job. We do our cops and kids programs to let them know that we are there when they need us and that they can call us for help. “

“As far as I know,” she continued, “no other organization ensures that children have a new pair of shoes, and the great thing is that they can go in and choose them themselves.”

Chesser, along with Lodge 66 trustee Carlos Llorens and his brother Daniel Llorens, who both attended the event on Saturday, together have over 100 years of law enforcement experience. Carlos Llorens said they have helped more than 1,500 children through the program over the years.

Families are selected through a variety of channels including the Family and Children’s Services Department.

“We really like to do that,” said Carlos Llorens. “The hardest part is finding the right kids because people don’t know what struggles some people are going through today. There are a lot of kids out here who have trouble getting one meal, people in an effective way, and that has been very effective. “

Shoe Carnival General Store Manager Axel Mendez said he has been part of the event since he was deputy store manager 10 years ago. Last year the event was held as a drive-through due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so Mendez was excited to have people in his business again this year.

“It’s good to see people out and about again,” Mendez said after leading a mother with two children to the Nikes. “We’re just excited to help the police fraternity do such good things for the community. We’re excited to be doing our part.”