From crime fighting to gift giving, Polk County Sheriff’s deputies will go from putting folks in jail to providing needy children with Christmas toys. (Photo by Michael Freeman).
LAKELAND — This weekend, the deputies with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office will take a quick break from the ongoing battle against local crime to do something very different: deliver toys to needy children.
It’s an annual Community Christmas event that deputies take part in.
“It’s an awesome event,” said Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. “I go every year and I’m in tears every time. It’s hard to keep from being choked up, and they’re such humble people, and the kids are so overjoyed. It’s really sweet.”
On Saturday, Dec. 15 at 11 a.m., the residents at Sanlan RV Park at 3929 U.S. 98 S. in Lakeland will be the site for this special event sponsored by the Polk County Sheriff’s COPS (Community Oriented Policing) Southwest district deputies.
Working in collaboration with several local businesses — including McGee Tire, Winter Haven RV, Spring Review, Republic Services, Sam’s Club, and Verizon Wireless — their aim is simple: to bring some Christmas cheer to more than 30 children during the annual Southwest COPS–Sanlan Ranch Christmas Party.
“The Southwest Christmas COPS Party is something we do every year,” Eleazer said, “and this will be the fourth year we’re doing it.”
Every year the RV park’s residents, with help from those deputies, identify children in the community who otherwise wouldn’t get gifts for Christmas because their parents are struggling financially to make ends meet.
Throughout the year, as deputies patrol the area around the RV park, they have opportunities to meet with these local families and make a list of who needs help, Eleazer said.
“That’s a really neat thing that the deputies do,” she said. “Because the deputies are out in the community a lot, they’re able to gather information on which families are in need, and they actually make lists of what their kids want for Christmas.”
They keep those lists all year long, she said, adding “We try to get at least three gifts per kid.”
During this event, two residents of the RV park volunteer to play Santa and Mrs. Claus at the party, and will help Sheriff Grady Judd and the COPS deputies hand out the toys to the children.
The party is going to be held in the community room at the front of the park.
“There’s a husband and wife that play Santa and Mrs. Claus, and we’re going to have 32 kids and their families there, and Santa will call out their name to come up and get their gifts,” Eleazer said, adding that adults in the audience should bring plenty of tissue to wipe their happy tears away.
“It kind of shows what the season is all about,” she said.
On the same day, Eagle Lake deputies will take part in the annual “Candy Canes for Kids” project. This is a collaboration between East Region deputies and local businesses like Envisors, Engineers, Planners and Surveyors firm in Winter Haven.
Working with local schools, 17 families in the Eagle Lake area got selected recently and will be receiving Christmas gifts, Legoland Florida theme park tickets, and a holiday meal provided courtesy of Publix Supermarkets, which has its headquarters in Lakeland.
Polk Sheriff’s Charities also contributed to this initiative, and deputies will meet with Envisors’ volunteers on Saturday at 8 a.m. at Eagle Lake City Hall, 75 N. 7th St., and travel to the families’ homes distributing the gifts.
To learn more, visit Polk County Sheriff.

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