With November’s arrival comes a year’s worth of holiday anticipation and anxious preparation.

As we begin fighting the crowds at shopping malls and filling our calendars with decadent family meals and holiday events, it can be easy to forget that some families struggle to provide even the most basic necessities.

Although several organizations coordinate holiday fundraisers and charity events, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has the unique opportunity to give back to children and families with whom they have met and interacted, sometimes on multiple occasions.

Putting names and faces to the recipients of our holiday giving is added incentive to PCSO members who dedicate additional time and effort to benefitting the less fortunate during the season.

For what is the 15th consecutive year, this month, the Sheriff’s Office will kick off the holiday giving season through a partnership with the Indian Rocks Beach Rotary Club, Beach Community Food Pantry at Calvary Episcopal Church, Pinellas Suncoast Fire Rescue District, and Publix.

The partnership aims to limit the number of families who go hungry by delivering food to families who otherwise could not afford traditional holiday meals around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

Volunteers load patrol cars with hearty Publix meals, including items like fully cooked turkeys, cornbread, mashed potatoes, green beans, loaves of bread, and more, and deputies deliver them to families whom they have identified in their daily work within the community.

Once we finish off the pumpkin pie and pack up the cornucopia, the PCSO sets its sights on hosting the largest law enforcement-organized holiday charity fundraiser in the Tampa Bay Area, which has raised more than $500,000 in donations and proceeds since its inception 25 years ago.

On Saturday, December 1st, Ride & Run With The Stars will celebrate its silver anniversary with the customary day’s worth of family activity including a 5K chipped race, 10K and 25-mile bike rides, a “Challenge” 5K run and 25-mile bike ride combination, and a “Family Fun” 1-mile walk or skate.

Post-race activities include the opportunity to refuel with food truck fare, a Kids Zone with arts and crafts and a climbing wall, a fly-in visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus on the Sheriff’s Office helicopter, and a silent auction with tables full of gift baskets, vacation tickets, gift certificates, and more.

The only thing more rewarding than a day of family exercise and activity is knowing that the proceeds support the Sheriff’s Christmas Sharing Project, through which PCSO members use the money raised to shop for holiday gifts, clothing, food, and other necessities for families in need.

Like the food drive partnership, the gift packages assembled during Ride & Run With The Stars’ shopping day are hand-delivered by familiar-faced deputies.

If you are interested in getting involved with Ride & Run With The Stars, whether by registering for a race, ordering a t-shirt or Silver Anniversary Challenge Coin, sponsoring the event, or making a donation, contact Lieutenant Joe Gerretz at 727-582-6287, and visit www.rideandrunwiththestars.com for more information.

In the meantime, let the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office be the first to wish you happy thanksgiving, happy holidays, and happy giving!

Posted by Joanna Cheshire Thursday, October 11, 2018 2:03:00 PM

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