Special to the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD – Nearly 20 Easters ago, Sammy Easton filled her basket with more than eggs. She collected lots of precious memories, too.
Easton’s mind brims with recollections of the last Effingham County Sheriff’s Office Easter Egg Hunt, a formerly annual event that was last conducted when she was five or six years old.
“One of my first memories is of that Easter egg hunt,” said Easton, a certified permit technician for Effingham County government and the 24-year-old daughter of Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie and EMS Director Wanda McDuffie. “We actually had it at the Effingham County Methodist Campground. I remember the eggs being spread out on the ground and we had a K-9 at the time. Her name was Missy and she was a Golden Retriever. I remember playing with that dog.
“We also had McGruff the Crime Dog.”
In an attempt to help other children develop similar recollections, Easton pushed her father to end the Easter Egg Hunt’s dormancy. She prevailed and is organizing the next edition set at the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office on April 1 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
“My dad knows I have stuck my hair out and done some wild things, but he has faith in me,” Easton said.
The Easter Egg Hunt is a fundraiser for Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes, an organization established to give the state’s most at-risk children the love, safety and stability needed to become mature, successful adults. Residents of the homes are taught strong moral values, spiritual awareness, how to positively participate in a community and how to trust.
“Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes has had a real big place in my heart since I was 6,” Easton said. “… Hearing stories of kids who were my age but had a whole lot harder life than me impacted me. I really wanted to help them out.
“Why don’t we do that?”
Easton hopes the Easter Egg Hunt will generate $3,000. The recent Effingham County Sheriff’s Office Duck Derby raised more than $7,000 for Georgia Sheriffs' Youth Homes, nearly doubling her goal.
“Something struck me then,” Easton said. “I don’t want to have just one event. I have free time and I like to plan this kind of stuff.
“I said, ‘You know what? We are going to have an Easter Egg Hunt.’”
More than $1,700 has already been donated for the hunt. Chick-fil-A is the primary sponsor.
A golf tournament in support of Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes is also in the works this year, plus another Ducky Derby.
“I made a joke that I wanted to raise one dollar per person in Effingham County,” Easton said. “That’s probably not going to happen this year but we are a whole lot closer than we were.”
Easton won’t be hunting eggs this time. She is pursuing vendors vigorously, however. Seven have been lined up so far.
“It could be anything,” she said. “We’ve even got a DUI school that will be a vendor there. We also have some little boutiques that will be out there.
“I want to support local small businesses.”
The vendor fee is $50. It can be paid through the event website at www.effcogsyhfundraisers.com.
“We aren’t providing electricity,” Easton said, “so you’ll have to bring your own (generator).”
Easton is pleased to have young Statesboro entrepreneur Ava Mincey in the vendor lineup. She sells lemonade to fund Alzheimer’s disease research.
In 2021 when she was a sixth grader at William James Middle School, Mincey was named one of two Georgia Top Youth Volunteer honorees through the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
“I’m very excited,” Easton said. “To me, she is a little small-town celebrity. I used to hear about her all the time when I was living (in Statesboro).
“I’ve heard about how good her lemonade is.”
The egg hunting will start at 10:30 a.m. Participants, encouraged to use baskets instead of bags, will be divided into four age groups: 2 and under, 3-5, 6-10 and 11-17.
The eggs won’t be filled with candy. Goody bags loaded with confections will be presented at the end of the hunt, however.
“Then at 11:30, we are going to have an adult Easter egg hunt,” Easton said. “We will have different gift cards, cash and things like that stuck in their eggs.”
Easton revealed that Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes isn't the only reasons she wanted to breathe new life into the hunt.
“You hear so much negativity about law enforcement and it is driving a wedge in the community,” she said. “If we are able to have these small events that go toward something great that can be used as a community outreach event, why don’t we do it?"
McDuffie and sheriff's office personnel will be available for citizen engagement.
“Having those memories of the community and the sheriff’s office coming together and doing this is something that I will always wish we could get back to," Easton said. "I hope people will come out, have a good time, and celebrate.”