Housing Authority, police team up to help underprivileged youths

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SARASOTA - The Sarasota Housing Authority, City of Sarasota Police Department, and Target are partnering to provide underprivileged youths with a unique holiday experience.

The Sarasota Housing Authority’s Honor the Badge shopping event is a new initiative designed to help build mutual trust and respect between law enforcement officials and children of families living in Sarasota Housing Authority communities.

Honor the Badge pairs 75 local underprivileged children with local law enforcement officers, including incoming Sarasota Chief of Police Bernadette DiPino and Acting Chief Paul Sutton, to shop for holiday gifts at a local Target prior to the store opening. The Sarasota Housing Authority, through donations received from local business, religious organizations and individuals prior to the event, provided the funds for the gifts to be purchased by the police officers.

“Having a safe, strong, vibrant community begins with having mutual respect and trust between community members and the men and women sworn to protect them,” said Sarasota Housing Authority’s Executive Director William Russell. “Honor the Badge works to build this respect and trust through this fun and positive experience during the holiday season.”

Incoming Chief of Police, Bernadette DiPino stated, "The holiday season is the perfect time of year for people to see that law enforcement officers have a heart for their community and what better way for police to show their commitment to the community than by taking a child shopping for holiday presents!” Chief DiPino added that, “my family has a long history of helping people in need during the holiday season which I have continued throughout my career. I am proud to see the Sarasota police involved in this event, which is what the holidays are all about – happy, smiling children being helped by America's hometown heroes."

Who: Sarasota Housing Authority and City of Sarasota Police Department

What: A holiday shopping experience for 75 local underprivileged youth and Sarasota law enforcement

When: Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.

Where: Target, 5350 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, Fla. 34232

Why: The Sarasota Housing Authority wants to build mutual trust and respect between law enforcement and the housing authority’s children and families though this interactive holiday shopping experience. By pairing underprivileged youths with local law enforcement officers to shop for holiday gifts, Sarasota Housing Authority hopes to build a bond between officers and underprivileged youths that can develop into future positive interactions.

For more information, please visit www.sarasotahousing.org.