NEW PORT RICHEY — Olivia Georgi is 12 years old. She is willowy with long, dark blond hair and sincere brown eyes. When she's complimented she looks down, bashful, and smiles. Olivia doesn't remember a time when she wasn't working to help children less fortunate than her. It's just a part of her and she constantly looks for items that can be saved, repaired and donated; broken bikes on the curb, lost and found items at schools.
Once she has accumulated enough items, she and her parents take them to the Pasco County Sheriff's child protective investigations unit in New Port Richey.
On Wednesday, Olivia will receive the Pasco Sheriff's Office Citizen's Service Award for her work. She said she's flattered by the award. She said she does this "because it makes me feel good."
Helping other people is in her genes. Her parents, Janet and Otto Georgi, have volunteered for neighborhood and river cleanups for decades. Olivia's first river cleanup was when she was 10 days old, her parents say. Janet, 48, and Otto, 70, both worked for Pasco County, she in computers, he as an environmental engineer. So they were familiar with the Sheriff's Office and its CPI unit. Their donations began when Olivia was 5 years old and she had an overload of stuffed animals.
"I told her, 'Keep the ones you want to keep, the ones you really love,'" Janet said. " 'The other ones we will give to the Sheriff's Office.' "
That began the giving. The family clips coupons and buys extra food on sale to donate. Janet saves free makeup samples to give. There is a Chili's restaurant that gives them free packages of crayons. Publix lets them take stacks of free coloring books. Otto has fixed three broken bicycles and donated them.
They have no idea how much they've given during the years.
"Oh, wow," Janet said, when asked.
"Lots," Otto said.
"Wow," Janet said.
They usually bring several trash bags full of items every six to eight weeks. They get the unclaimed lost and found items at Cypress Elementary and River Ridge Middle, where Olivia is in the sixth grade. She hopes to expand the process and get items from other schools.
"Thank you for everything you have been doing for our agency," CPI unit director Ken Kilian said to Olivia on Wednesday when she and her parents dropped off another bike and several bags of food, sundries, toys and clothes. Kilian spoke to the Georgi family.
"You have helped lots of families," he said.
More than 1,500 children filter in and out of this office each year. Sometimes the children have just been removed from a home and they are there, scared, confused, waiting for another relative or foster care to pick them up.
"We want to make their stay as comfortable and warm as possible," Kilian said.
Sometimes, these children are entering a new part of their lives with nothing but the clothes they are wearing. Kilian said he always wants children to leave the office with something, so wherever they go, they will have something — a stuffed animal, a ball, a book — that is their own.
Olivia said she's excited about the awards ceremony. She already has her outfit picked; a blue dress and ballet flats. She hopes to be a doctor one day.
"I like helping people," she said.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.