Children receive back to school shopping spree

Police found child trying to sell stuffed animal to buy food.

The Franklin community continues to come together to support five children recently removed from the care of their parents when police found one of the children trying to sell a stuffed animal to buy food.

MORE: Attention surprises Franklin cop who helped child selling toy for food

Last week, the five children went on a shopping spree arranged by the Walmart store in Franklin so they would have back to school supplies, new shoes and clothing.

Jeremy Safranic, who has children of his own, said he and a fellow Walmart manager felt compelled to help the children, who are now in the care of their grandmother.

“(Safranic) was really moved by the situation and thought more could be done because he is a dad,” said Leslee Wright, senior manager of communications for Walmart. “He did an amazing job.”

Safranic, the store’s asset protection manager, said after hearing the story of the boy, he contacted Franklin police and asked how he could help.

After getting the store manager’s approval, the children came in and were paired up with a store associate to help pick things out while shopping.

“At first, the kids were kind of shy but they eventually opened up,” he said. “The grandmother was really overwhelmed.”

In addition to back to school supplies for the children, their grandmother received groceries from the store.

Safranic estimated the value of the merchandise and groceries at more than $1,000.

“Knowing that my store will back me and that knowing my company is backing me and the associates in our store is great,” Safranic said. “Walmart has always been there for the community and helping people.”

Safranic added, “hopefully they enjoyed their first day of school.”

Donations in excess of $5,000 have been sent to the St. Vincent de Paul Society to help the children, according to Father James Manning, pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, which works with St. Vincent.

It was one of St. Mary’s parishoners who called police when he saw the 7-year-old boy outside a CVS store Aug. 7, trying to sell his stuffed animal for food, Manning said.

“I’m very appreciative of what he did,” Manning said of the parishoner. “I hope every parishioner of St. Mary would do what he did. The child was in need. It’s truly a good Samaritan story.”

In a police report, officers wrote that the children’s parents created “a substantial risk of health and safety by neglecting the cleanliness in the residence, having a large amount of bugs and spoiled food throughout the residence, not having properly prepared and packaged food for the minor children to eat, and allowing a 7-year-old child to wander from the residence without their permission or knowledge, in an attempt to locate food.”

According to the police report, Tammy and Michael Bethel told police they had a 7-year-old son and did not realize he was not in the house.

Warren County Children Services did an emergency removal of all five of the Bethel’s children and placed them with relatives.

Tammy and Michael Bethel each pleaded not guilty to five counts of child endangerment charges and are scheduled for a pretrial hearing next month in Franklin Municipal Court.