Tiffany Cummings of the Greater Ridgecrest Area Youth Development Initiative in Rainbow Village presents Jaunita Bennett with her Thanksgiving dinner.
LARGO - Ontario Brown got a very special knock on her door Monday. Thanksgiving dinner for her family of seven had arrived.
Brown, 35, lives in Rainbow Village, a housing development in unincorporated Largo run by the Pinellas County Housing Authority and under the jurisdiction of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
Brown’s family was one of 54 families in the Ridgecrest, High Point and French Villas areas who were selected by the PCSO’s Community Policing Unit to receive free Thanksgiving meals, prepared by the Indian Rocks Publix and delivered by members of the CPU.
“I was surprised,” Brown said. “I really didn’t know what I would do (for Thanksgiving).”
Brown is an unemployed single mother and with six children ages 4, 5, 8, 9, 16 and 18, some of them with health issues, she said it is tough to make ends meet in any given week, much less providing them with a delicious Thanksgiving feast.
Publix took care of cooking each family a turkey, stuffing, bread, green bean casserole and desserts. Monetary donations were made by Guppy’s Restaurant, E&E Stakeout Grill, and the Indian Rocks Beach Rotary Club.
Volunteers from Calvary Episcopal Church and Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue helped load up the food for delivery Monday.
According to Sgt. Danny Doherty, supervisor of the Community Policing Unit, the deputies try to reach out and select those most in need that they come across in their daily on-the-job duties.
“We wish we could help them all,” Doherty said.
“I’m excited. It’s crazy,” commented Brown’s 16-year-old daughter, Breaunna Young, as the Thanksgiving dinner was delivered to their front door by Deputy Mike Gattarello, a community policing officer for Rainbow Village.
Down the street, another 20 meals were taken to the Greater Ridgecrest Area Youth Development Initiative, an organization that assists families with everything from paying their electric bills to resume writing and mental health counseling. In addition to the 20 meals the PCSO provided to the GRADI center, Indian Rocks Beach Rotary will serve another 15 families, according to Tiffany Cummings, GRADI program assistant.
In most cases, families requested the meals and the community met the need.
“We are so thankful for them,” Cummings said.
Patiently waiting inside the GRADI center in her wheelchair to pick up her Thanksgiving dinner was 73-year-old Jaunita Bennett, who looked forward to a nice meal with her husband, Wallace.