Polk Sheriff's Charities

BARTOW — Even with a strong economy, there are families in Central Florida who are struggling to pay all their bills and may not have any disposable income during this upcoming holiday season. That’s why in Polk County, the sheriff’s office is lending them a hand.

Polk Sheriff’s Charities will be giving away free turkeys on Saturday, Nov.  23 at three locations, an effort by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to recognize that some families simply can’t afford a holiday meal this year.

What is Polk Sheriff’s Charities?

Polk Sheriff’s Charities, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit charitable organization, and they’re sponsoring the free turkey giveaway.

“This is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to Polk County citizens for their support of our deputies,” said Polk County Sheriff’s Grady Judd.  “In some communities around the country, you can find tension and mistrust between law enforcement and residents. Not here. We work hard with our communities to keep our neighborhoods, families, and children safe. We are honored to get so much support from so many people.”

“With Thanksgiving right around the corner, the Polk Sheriff’s Charities board decided to contribute turkeys to families who may be finding it tough to put a meal together for the holiday,” noted Carrie Horstman,  public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The turkeys will be distributed one per family, and one per vehicle on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last, Horstman noted, adding that no identification or pre-qualification will be required to receive a turkey.

“We trust that folks will do the right thing,” Judd said.

Polk deputies will be at each location to hand out the turkeys, which are in the 15 to 17-pound range, and there will be plenty to go around: the sheriff’s office anticipates up to 1,400 turkeys will be given away on that upcoming Saturday.

“If we have any turkeys left over, Polk Sheriff’s Charities will donate them to non-profits or the county jail to help them serve turkey to the inmates,” said Bunky Hill, chairman of Polk Sheriff’s Charities. “But I have a feeling we may run out on Saturday. We have a lot of turkeys, but we also have a lot of need in Polk County — not just folks down on their luck, but we also have working families that could just use a boost for the holiday.”

Where Can Families Get The Free Turkeys?

The locations and times where the turkeys will be distributed are:

  • In East Polk County, from 9-10:30 a.m. at Church on the Hill, 1111 Scenic Highway in Dundee;
  •  In Central Polk, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Polk State College‘s Winter Haven campus, where cars will enter at Lake Elbert Drive NE and exit at 10th Street NE in Winter Haven;
  • In West Polk, from 1-2:30 p.m. at Church at the Mall, 1010 East Memorial Blvd., Lakeland.

This Thanksgiving boost is a part of the ongoing work of Polk Sheriff’s Charities, Inc., which was formed in December 2006.

“Although the idea for the charity had been discussed for some time, it was formed as a result of the tragic murder of Deputy Matt Williams and K-9 DiOGi after a routine traffic stop,” Horstman noted. “The community’s outpouring of emotional and monetary support after that tragic event ultimately demonstrated how a charity like PSCI would be supported.”

And that kind of community support is why Polk Sheriff’s Charities decided to lend a helping hand to families on this holiday season, the sheriff noted.

“Building relationships and connections in our neighborhoods is what we are all about,” Judd said. “We literally could not have the success in fighting crime that we have without our communities’ support. So, we know that there are families out there who are struggling financially and we want to do our small part to help out this Thanksgiving.”

The charity provides monetary support to Polk County Sheriff’s Office members who are facing significant unexpected negative events in their lives, scholarships for law enforcement family members and other deserving Polk County students, and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office law enforcement memorial.

The charity also supports any needs that the law enforcement community may have. That can include:

  1. Purchasing Christmas gifts for children in Polk County’s low-income neighborhoods
  2. Supporting organizations dedicated to assisting victims of crime and domestic violence
  3. Supporting local charities that work on quality of life issues
  4. and supporting the agency’s K-9 unit for the replacement of their K-9 partners.

To learn more about Polk Sheriff’s Charities, Inc.,  or to make a contribution, call 863-298-6604, or write to Polk Sheriff’s Charities, ATTN: Deb VanConant, 1891 Jim Keene Blvd, Winter Haven, FL 33880.

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book “Of Cats And Wolves.” Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.

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