We applaud Sumter County Sheriff Bill Farmer, Chief Deputy Gary Brannen, Outreach Coordinator Beth Hunt and the many members of their staff who stepped up this past week to help their colleagues at the Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman.
We also want to offer a huge “thank you” to Villagers and other tri-county residents who joined in the effort to provide aid to those federal employees who have gone without paychecks for several weeks because of the recent government shutdown. Area residents, churches, banks, schools and first responders donated everything from non-perishable food items to household supplies to diapers to pet food to gift and gas cards, Hunt said.
Those items were crammed into three large SUVs on Friday and delivered to those in need at the prison, who eventually will get paid now that the government shutdown has temporarily ended.
But the future is quite unclear and those workers know they could be going without pay again when the three-week stopgap measure to reopen the government expires. In many ways, their paychecks hinge on the outcome of the border wall fight. And even with the government reopening, they still aren’t sure when their back pay will arrive.
Hunt said the sheriff’s office thought it was extremely important to support their federal colleagues and they have been thrilled with the response.
“We have just had a huge outpouring of people in the community that have brought items to us,” Hunt said. “We’ve had hospitals, schools, different law enforcement agencies, banks and just individuals – on the south end and the north end of the county – that have donated quite a lot.”
Not surprisingly, Hunt added, several churches in the community quickly stepped up to the plate to help the federal workers, many of whom are young and have small children.
“Bushnell, Coleman, Webster – I’d say there’s at least seven churches that have donated or are donating and helping out,” Hunt said.
Of course, Hunt wasn’t surprised at the outpouring of support because she’s been involved with the sheriff’s office’s community outreach program for quite some time. She’s seen Villagers and other residents dig into their pockets to help others in need time and again. And she said she’s quite happy to see it happening again, as many of the federal workers at the prison – some Hunt knows personally – really need the help and are thankful for it.
“I am proud to live in this community because we have so many kind and giving people,” she said. “It is a special county and people are very giving and very kind when someone is in need.”
Hunt added that the collection effort will continue through next Friday, then be re-evaluated depending on the need if the government shuts down again.
The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office delivered three SUVs full of food and household items to employees at the Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman on Friday. The collection effort continues through next Friday and could be extended if need be.
She added that those wishing to contribute over the next several days can do so by dropping off items off at the sheriff’s office in Wildwood, 7361 Powell Rd.; the Bushnell office at 250 E McCollum Ave.; and at Nathan Thomas State Farm, 502 S Main St. in Wildwood.
As we said earlier, we applaud the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office for stepping up to help their federal law enforcement colleagues who truly are the victims in the political battle that led to the shutdown. Those workers have to stay on the job without receiving paychecks, which obviously is making things quite difficult for them. So it’s very heartwarming to see the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office – with the full support of Farmer and Brannen and the hard work of Hunt and many others – making such a huge difference for those who truly need their help at such a difficult time.