“This is only the beginning. In our first year, we learned more about the process and how to get things done in this community. But more importantly, we learned a lot more about ourselves, what our capacity is to deliver a high level of service, and bring some satisfaction and joy to our community. This year is only the beginning. Look at us three years from now, and you might not even recognize us as being a law enforcement agency first, but an agency that is a part of this community, and that works in harmony with our community.” – Sheriff Earnell Lucas

The annual tradition of Thanksgiving is considered a joyous holiday surrounding family and food, but it can be a challenge for many of Milwaukee’s low-income residents who already deal with hunger issues and live in food desert areas.

To show support for the community, Sheriff Earnell Lucas and Milwaukee County Sheriff’s deputies gave Thanksgiving dinner baskets to local families on November 26, complete with a large turkey and all the fixings.

Sheriff Lucas delivered full meals for two families to express his holiday wishes, and to highlight his efforts to show the community that the Sheriff’s Office cares.

“There’s nothing more important than serving the people of this community,” said Sheriff Lucas. “Sheriff’s Deputies do many wonderful things on a day-in and day-out basis that do not get noticed. These kind of activities and events take place all throughout the year to show our community service. Delivering these Thanksgiving meals is just one of those ways.”

Sheriff’s Deputies shopped for groceries at Metcalfe’s Market on November 25, to prepare the holiday meals. All the stuffed baskets will then be distributed to 55 families in the area in time for Thanksgiving.

The food program was paid for with help from community partners like the Deputy and Retirement Associations, American Family Insurance, Metcalfe Market, and other area organizations.

Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Deputy Kristine Camarillo has been involved with the Thanksgiving meal program for the past three years. She felt honored to be involved because of the powerful impact on the community.

“Some families have children with special needs, and shopping adds another level of stress, so we want to make sure this holiday is special for them,” said Deputy Camarillo. “It’s also a chance for us to have positive community engagement, share a supportive message, and build the trust that is lacking here in the inner city.”

Sheriff Lucas has talked publicly about his humble beginnings, and how important it has been to him to assist people in their time of need. His first delivery was to the Escobar family on the city’s south side.

“It’s a big relief during the holidays, which can be stressful sometimes. This helps because I don’t have to go out and buy a turkey now, so I can stay home with my kids,” said Escobar. “My family is going to be able to come over, have a big family dinner, and enjoy our time with each other. During the holidays, everybody is always worried about their own family and making sure their family is okay at home. So it’s very thoughtful of the Sheriff to come out and help others.”

The second delivery took place on Milwaukee’s north side to the Davenport family. Mrs. Davenport had moved into her home only three weeks earlier, and struggles with health issues. After undergoing open heart surgery, her husband suddenly passed away. And being on a heart pump has limited her activities, which already caused her to miss a free turkey giveaway.

Mrs. Davenport said that the unexpected food delivery was a blessing, and the act of caring was overwhelming for her. Each of the nearly dozen deputies who visited her got a hug of appreciation.

The Clinton Rose Senior Center was near the Davenport residence, and Sheriff Lucas used the opportunity to visit with the community members and wish them a happy Thanksgiving.

Along with the meal recipients, the experience had a visibly positive impact on the participating deputies as well. Under Sheriff Lucas, the department has worked to heal its relationship with the community, and forge stronger bonds. The Thanksgiving meal program was “a wonderful opportunity to remember why we raised our hand and took that oath when we joined this profession.”

“I certainly didn’t think that I would feel as fulfilled at the end of the day as I am now. It was a real opportunity to bring joy to families in need. And our last visit was very powerful, where we saw someone who had a very compelling story. She suffered the tragic loss of her husband, suffered a heart attack and is now recovering. To bring some joy to her at this time of year, and see the smile on her face, it’s so rewarding,” – Sheriff Earnell Lucas

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Lee Matz