Sheriff’s office distributes toys in biggest toy drive to date

There are still thousands of dollars of donations lining the halls at the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office in Port St. Joe, but Pache Batson, who manages civil process for the GCSO, said she already feels relieved.

Batson has spent the past few months alongside Sheriff Mike Harrison orchestrating the sheriff’s annual toy drive. This year, the project will serve 250 Gulf County children. Batson said coordinating the effort has been a massive amount of work.

“It’s not over yet,” she said. “But now the toys are starting to go out to families, and I feel like I can just breathe.”

The sheriff’s annual toy drive, which began taking donations around Thanksgiving, distributed toys, clothing, grocery gift cards and other items on Wednesday and Thursday to Gulf County families in need, as identified by the schools and other organizations working with youths.

Harrison said that this year’s toy drive was the largest the sheriff’s office had ever put on, at least in the ten years since he took office. The need in Gulf County, he said, is growing, with the youth poverty rate expected to rise above the national effort in the upcoming 2020 census calculations.

But growing need is not the only reason this year’s toy drive was so large. Harrison said that over the years, the Sheriff’s Office has taken on the responsibility of gathering Christmas gifts for the county’s youth from various other community organizations.

“It used to be that everyone had small toy drives, and then slowly we just sort of absorbed those,” he said. “And I’m honored that people trust us to handle, I mean, it’s thousands of dollars of donations.”

The drive would not be possible without the level of community involvement that Harrsion said has grown steadily over the years.

This year, he was near certain there would be a surplus of donated toys, which he said the Sheriff’s Office had a plan for.

“Anything that is still here when we are done will be taken to the communities impacted by the tornados,” he said. “We have already contacted some other departments to make that happen and get everything there.”

The sheriff said he expected to be able to send a large number of donations to Kentucky, Tennessee and other affected areas due to the generous and large donations from Gulf County citizens.

“Their communities were decimated. We know what that’s like. I remember the trucks of toys that came here after Hurricane Michael for our children.”

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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