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Sheriff's office delivers Thanksgiving boost
Alfreda Williams
Capt. Pete Hossalla gets a thankful hug from Springfield’s Alfreda Williams during a Nov. 26 turkey stop. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
We just never know when that blessing is going to come or where it is going to come from.
Deputy Chauncey Blige

 RINCON —  Capt. Pete Hossalla of the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office has a sixth sense. Some might call it a “need detector.”

Perched on the edge of Columbia Avenue on Nov. 26 with several deputies positioned nearby, Hossalla patiently watched as dozens of cars whizzed past him. Suddenly, with no explanation, he got on his radio and said, “There it is. That’s the one. Go get the red one.”

Hossalla’s order ignited a chain reaction that started with flashing blue lights and ended with an expression of gratitude from the unknowing driver who received a Thanksgiving turkey instead of a traffic citation.

That scenario was repeated multiple times in the county during a two-day stretch. Twenty-five turkeys and all the trimmings, donated by Walmart, were distributed.

“I’ve been out of work for six weeks,” Steven Pittman, a stunned Springfield resident, said after he was pulled over in a gas station parking lot. “I’ll be able to feed my family. It will put a smile on everyone’s face.”

Guyton’s Christie Lafollette and her passenger, Shirley Marcus, grinned broadly after they were presented a Thanksgiving bounty while exiting a Rincon shipping center parking lot.

Initially, Lafollette was confused by the ordeal. Daunted by the blue lights, she walked obliviously past a turkey-weilding Hossalla to the back of her car. She had been led to believe that her tag had expired. 

Finally, Lafollette gasped after realizing what was really going on, putting her hands to her face.

“I thought she was going to back into my car,” Hossalla said with a laugh.

Marcus let the deputies know that their act of kindness was appreciated.

 “I think it is great that (deputies) protect us with their services," she said, "but then to bless us with this food unexpectedly is a great blessing from the Lord. We just really thank them because we know that their lives are in danger all the time. We pray for them and we care about them.

" It is wonderful that they show their affection and show that they care for us.”

Deputy Jason Bragg was also part of a humorous episode. He drew a surprising response when Guyton’s Tanesha Brown was stopped on Columbia Avenue.

“Y’all are going to give me a turkey,” she said after leaving her car and walking purposefully toward the deputies, including Chauncy Blige

The reaction drew a hearty laugh from Bragg.

“This is wonderful,” Brown said. “I thank y’all so much.”

Some of the turkey stops weren’t random. Several people received turkeys upon the recommendation of a member of the public or a school resource officer.

Deputy Paige Rushing works at South Effingham Middle School and strives to build relationships with its students.

“Usually, I build a rapport with them slowly,” she said. “From there, they get to know me and say, ‘hello,’ to me everyday.”

Students frequently reveal their needs — sometimes inadvertently — to Rushing or other school resource officers.

“It’s very heartfelt to be able to help somebody else,” said Deputy Jodi Rodgers, who has participated in turkey stops since they started four years ago. She missed the ones in 2018 because of gall bladder surgery.

The most emotional Nov. 26 stop for Hossalla and his delegation of deputies was their first. It was at the Springfield residence of Alfreda Williams.

“Me and my kids have been homeless,” she said as tears gushed down her face. “We’ve been swindled twice and we lost everything. We were just talking about it.

“We didn’t know what we were going to do (for Thanksgiving).”

Williams’ outpouring of emotion deeply impacted the deputies deeply. 

“I can’t even tell you why we do it because you can’t put it in words,” Hossalla said after returning to his vehicle. “That is exactly the reason we do it.”

Blige, who joined the sheriff’s office in July, knocked on several doors and set the tone for the planned turkey stops. He expertly calmed unsuspecting residents who were alarmed at the swarm of law enforcement professionals in they yards.

“I enjoy it,” Blige said. “I do believe it is a blessing.”

Blige kept Psalm 68:19 in mind. It says, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.”

“We just never know when that blessing is going to come or where it is going to come from,” Blige said.