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Pasco deputies' knock brings supper, not subpoena, during holidays

DADE CITY

There was a knock on her door. Someone called out "Sheriff's Office," and Krystal Simonds stiffened.

She remembered the last time authorities came by her home.

In April, Dade City police found her brother-in-law, Charles Andrew Simonds, 37, dead from multiple gunshot wounds to his back.

Five months later, Krystal Simonds' husband was laid off from his job with a Tampa pest control company. The next month, her father-in-law died.

"It has been a rough year," said Simonds, 33.

But the knock on the door Tuesday morning brought good news.

Simonds was one of 540 families that received a food basket as part of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office annual holiday food drive.

"Merry Christmas," said Detective Gary Souto as he and Detective Jennie Wilson brought a turkey and box of trimmings into Simonds' home.

Her son Nathaniel, 3, grinned at the visitors.

Simonds had received a letter earlier this month that she would be a recipient, but the food was even more than she imagined.

"I won't have to scrounge up to get a meal for Christmas," she said. "We won't have to eat something plain; we actually can have a turkey."

This year, the Sheriff's Office collected a record amount of food for the drive, which has been a December tradition for as long as anyone can remember.

The school system alone donated nearly 49,000 cans of food, 20,000 more than last year.

Between the schools and donations of residents and Sheriff's Office employees, the organization was easily able to surpass its goal of feeding 500 families. They also donated an additional 15,000 pounds of food to various food banks around the county.

"In this particular economy, the need was great," said Cpl. Alan Wilkett, the food drive coordinator.

On both sides of the county Tuesday morning, Sheriff's Office employees, prisoners and volunteers loaded up the trunks of cars and beds of pickup trucks with boxes of food.

They headed down dirt roads, past barbed wire fences, window air conditioner units held up by 2 by 4s and parked cars covered in mold, knocking on doors with turkey and canned green beans.

"God is good," said Trudy Capehart as the pile of cans on her dining room table grew.

A few roads over, Devora Mathis gave the detectives hugs after they delivered her food.

"Now don't pull me over," she said before they left.

Detectives Souto and Wilson drove back to the Sheriff's Office's Dade City headquarters for another trunk full of food.

A former resource officer at Weightman Middle School in Wesley Chapel, Souto said he has seen firsthand how important a few cans of vegetables and a turkey can be to a family during the holidays.

"It's just a small box of goods," he said. "But it means a lot more to them."

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (813) 435-7312.

Nudists also collect food for needy

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office isn't the only group helping the hungry this holiday season.

Hundreds of nudists in Pasco and Hillsborough counties donated about 10 truckloads of food to the Suncoast Harvest Food Bank in Land O'Lakes.

The donations, worth $36,000, will be distributed to needy families and individuals.

The food drive was organized by the Pasco Area Naturist Development Association, nicknamed PANDA.

How you can help:

Suncoast Harvest Food Bank gratefully accepts donations of all kinds, from cash to food to items for its thrift store. Call (813) 929-0200 for information.

Pasco deputies' knock brings supper, not subpoena, during holidays 12/22/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 22, 2009 10:32pm]
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