SPRING HILL — Hernando County sheriff's Deputy Steve Sikalos knew the job could be perilous, but he was up to the challenge.
"It had the potential for danger," he said, after slicing through a pizza in the Fox Chapel Middle School cafeteria on Feb. 4. You just never know when a pizza slicer might slip. And don't even mention the hot pans.
Sikalos and deputies Matt Spooner, Dustin Adkins, Rose DeJesus and Fox Chapel school resource officer Wendy McGinnis willingly faced those dangers. They were at the school to serve students who had collected the most toys in the Hernando County Sheriff's Office and Hernando County School Nutrition Association 2010 Community Policing Holiday Drive.
"I love it!" said the school's food service manager, Sandy Griffin. "The kids are excited. I love it when we do something like this."
Of the 345 toys collected overall, Fox Chapel contributed 175, she said, winning the deputies' services.
The School Nutrition Association is the professional organization open to food services workers. The group offers scholarships to graduates interested in food-related careers, participates in fundraising and community projects and provides education and certification opportunities to members.
"This is the first year the sheriff put something on the table," said Lori Drenth, director of Food and Nutrition Services, referring to the toy drive.
While Sikalos, under the watchful eye of substitute food service worker Ann Cuce, was busy slicing pizza, Spooner and McGinnis were on the main line, serving spicy chicken sandwiches, baked potatoes and other foods.
They were very busy. Spooner had tongs at his disposal for picking up the chicken patties, but he said, "I don't think I can be able to learn to work with tongs. They were coming too fast. Everybody wanted a spicy chicken sandwich today."
Adkins and DeJesus had their own problems. Adkins said he only had one issue. He put a hamburger together upside down. DeJesus, though, found out something important.
"I learned that the tray's every compartment is for a specific purpose," she said. "You do not put a hamburger where the milk goes."
The students had their own observations about having deputies serve them. Some had no idea why law enforcement was there.
"They were very quick, better than the regular lunch ladies," said seventh-grader Israel Cardona, 14, who contributed a couple of toy cars to the holiday drive.
Eighth-grader Collin Beringer, 14, suggested there might be a little more to it. "The deputies make so little money in the county that they have to work here."