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Dec. 19, 2023

On Sunday we hosted our fifth Shop with a Deputy event. Our primary focus is teenagers who are in state care, victims of crime or have in some way needed positive interaction with law enforcement. Why do we focus on teens? Most Christmas drives are geared toward children, leaving less donations for older youth.

Our first year, we started with 7 teenagers who were able to spend $75 each. This year we expanded to 17 youth who each were able to spend $200 (money doesn't go as far as when we started).

The money for this event is donated primarily by deputies and staff here at the sheriff's office. As word has spread we also received gift cards from local community organizations. We are also grateful to the shoppers who handed us money while shopping at to others in the community who heard about our cause. We are always overwhelmed by the generosity of our community!

So what do the teenagers buy? It's probably not what you think. While we had 4 Squishmallows purchased, most of our teenagers are buying for younger siblings or family members. One purchased a microwave for his family. Lots of socks and underwear, bath kits, hoodies, shoes, blankets, pillows, Doritos, fruit and other snacks - many of the items we take for granted as necessities.

Afterwards we took our entourage to Pizza Hut for lunch and fellowship, allowing the teenagers to talk to the deputies. Each year this event touches our hearts and the hearts of our deputies. Several of the teens we check in with throughout the year.

We never plan to make this a huge event so we can maintain the closer personal interactions with the youth. However, we will continue to grow the event.

Special thanks to Pineland Lodge, NWTF, Palatka Walmart Associates, Palatka Pizza Hut and the numerous anonymous donors who helped us increase not only number of teenagers, but also the amount they could spend.

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