BROOKSVILLE — The big, black Hernando County Sheriff's Office Humvee was parked behind Powell Middle School, empty when it arrived and chock-full of food when it left.
The school collected items for the "Stuff the Humvee" program. Powell's four houses: Purple Dragons, Blue Bombers, Yellow Stingers and Green Goblins competed to see which team could collect the most.
The Purple Dragons won and were rewarded with the chance to stuff the Humvee and a pizza party with some of the sheriff's SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team.
"We're doing the holiday food drive for the needy families in Hernando County," said Deputy Eric Dunn, 37, a former Powell student.
An invitation went out to the middle and high schools. Deputies picked up food from the other schools. Schools that had internal competitions, Powell and Fox Chapel middle schools and J.D. Floyd K-8, had the opportunity to stuff the Humvee.
The drive was organized at the school level by school resource officer Deputy Sonya O'Banner. At the Humvee loading, she was joined by Deputies Dunn (SWAT), Rose Denjesus, Scott Reak (SWAT), Abraham Dowdell (SWAT), Steve Sikalos, Steve Snell, Dustin Atkins and Matthew Spooner.
Fox Chapel SRO, Deputy Wendy McGinnis, spearheaded Stuff the Humvee. "She's the one who started the program last year," said Dunn. "I can see it getting bigger and bigger."
The children seemed very aware of the situations of some families and individuals. "There's a lot of homeless people around here," said seventh-grader Brittany Castellano, 12. "When I'm driving in my car I see them. It just makes me feel really bad. It makes my heart want to break."
Fellow Purple Dragon, sixth-grader Eric Riggins, 11, agreed. "There's a lot of people without food," he said. He has seen people pick up discarded bottles to try to get a drink of what might be left in them, he said. "It just makes me feel sad. This helps a whole lot."
Eighth-grader Taishia McRay, 13, is proud of what they had done.
"It makes me feel like I'm helping people and it comes from the heart," she said. "And I'm being a great American citizen."