A line of Rock Hill cop cars was parked outside Ebinport Elementary School on Friday morning, and a group of uniformed officers marched inside with arms full – but there was no crisis.
The police officers from the department’s “B” shift, led by Officer Corey Zessin – a former Ebinport student – showed up to give out dozens of brand new coats that had been donated by local stores.
But these cops also bought a lot of the coats themselves, with money out of their own pockets.
They call it a “Blue Coat Jacket Drive,” named for the blue uniforms the officers wear everywhere.
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“Any way that we can help the kids out here is serving our community,” Zessin said. “I went to school right here. I know sometimes a family might need a coat for a child. Every little kid needs a warm jacket.”
Over the past month, shift supervisor Lt. Marc Kitts, Sgts. Cedric Stokes and Tim Marquez, young patrol officers Zessin and Allyson Elman and more officers hustled to find new coats. Many stores offered coats, Woodhaven Baptist Church donated, and the officers bought more.
School counselor Lou Ellen Holliday and Principal Shane Goodwin contacted families of children they thought might need a warm coat.
Then the officers took time from their busy Friday shift to play Santa’s helpers – wearing uniforms instead of elf outfits. Holliday introduced each kid, and that child was the center of attention from all these cops with the shiny badges that many 6-year-olds dream of wearing some day.
The kids were asked to look through the coats and pick one that fit and that they liked.
Danvontae Cherry, 6, came in and was fitted with a coat.
“You look like a champ,” said Sgt. Marquez.
“Great look for you,” chuckled Sgt. Stokes.
But Danvontae wanted more than a coat. He wanted hugs from these officers.
He sure got them, and all the other kids did, too.
Another child, 6-year-old Ciara Randolph took to Officer Elman right off the bat. Elman helped her find just the right jacket, and the two hugged. Ciara was so happy with the jacket that she wasn’t taking it off. She marched off to class with it on so everybody could see.
Brothers Dakota Bean, 10, and Grayson Bean, 5, came in for jackets. They got coats and they got smiles and they got a lot more.
“These police are pretty cool,” Dakota said.
But the kids didn’t just get coats on Friday. They learned that whenever they see a police car, that there are people inside. And they learned the people inside started out just like them.
They got to meet Corey Zessin, who learned how to read, write and do math, how to be a good friend and a good listener and more in the same school they are now learning all those things.
The police officers on “B” shift Friday, even as the kids were getting coats, handled cellphone calls and had to talk to road officers about radio calls and other calls for service around the city. The need for cops did not stop for the men and women in blue to deliver coats.
But when Corey Zessin hugged 7-year-old Danny Gordon, told him that he was a great kid and wished him a Merry Christmas, there might not have been a more important police action anywhere in Rock Hill Friday.