HUDSON — A handful of deputies, a firefighter and a pair of inmates marched back and forth Monday morning at Safety Town, between a high stack of cardboard boxes and a cargo truck.
The boxes held peanut butter, Ramen noodles, crackers, cereal, green beans. Beside them, a fleet of tiny bicycles, some pink with white tires or with Spider-Man rims on their training wheels, waited to be loaded with the food.
All of it, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said, was set to go to his target charities this year: the ones that help homeless children.
About 1,700 homeless children live in Pasco County, according to the school district, including children living two families to a home, in shelters or unsheltered.
"To ensure that our next generation has the best opportunity to succeed, we have to first make sure they have the basic necessities to live," Nocco said in a news release for the food drive. And on Monday morning in front of the cargo truck, he said, "There's some kids who want an iPod for Christmas. There's others who just want a meal."
The food, about 15 tons of it, came from food drives at the county's schools, donation boxes at the Sheriff's Office and fire stations and through other community groups.
Volunteers made home deliveries with boxes of food and toys in past Sheriff's Office food drives. This year, the charity trucks came to a distribution zone to be loaded. The change was for efficiency, Nocco said. Less time for volunteers putting together boxes, and the donations still go to people who need them.
The Sheriff's Office reached out to the charities helping homeless children and victims of domestic violence, such as Catholic Charities Transitional Housing. When Cpl. Mary Guyer visited the charity, she said, its food stocks were dwindling and there were no toys for the children there. She put the charity on the donation list.
"We are definitely stocking their pantries and then some," she said.
Contact Alex Orlando at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.