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Knitters group donates bears to Sheriffs Office

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HUDSON — Whether it’s prostitution stings, drug busts or other reports of misdoings, law enforcement officers called out to the scene of a crime often encounter children stuck in the middle of an unhealthy situation.

Pasco Sheriffs deputies, many tall in stature and bulked out in bulletproof vests, guns and other equipment, are menacing to children already frightened by their parents and relatives being handcuffed and hauled off to jail. For that reason, many deputies keep small toys in their patrol cars, like soft teddy bears, to give out as a token of trust.

“This is that first piece of trust,” Sheriff Chris Nocco said to a group of knitters who donated nearly 100 bears to the Pasco Sheriffs Office on Friday. “You’re taking that kid, putting them in the back of a cruiser, and you shook their whole world. This is a bit of trust.”

Knitters for Charity, formed in 2010 and based out of the Hudson Regional Library, spent the last couple months knitting outfits for dozens of small teddy bears purchased by group members from a local dollar store. On Friday, the group presented the bears to Nocco and Deputy Marc Mitchell, along with two bears made especially for them with cowboy hats and star-shaped badges sewn to their vests.

The bears will go in officers’ patrol cars for children being transported to other relatives or foster homes.

Founder Jerrie Hoge told the deputy that the bears were only one project among many the group participates in. Since 2010, 7,596 items have been knitted and crocheted by the charity knitters for hospitals, women’s shelters, homeless shelters and more.

“Wow,” Nocco said to a roomful of laughter. “You do a lot better than our inmate labor.”

The undressed bears were purchased at a local Dollar Tree for $1 a piece. The knitters adapted teddy bear clothing patterns, as well as patterns for American Girl dolls, to deck the bears out in little sweaters, bonnets and more.

The group has reached out to Dollar Tree’s corporate office for a donation of bears for future projects for the Sheriffs Office.

Knitters for Charity meets at 11 a.m. every Friday at the Hudson regional Library, 8012 Library Rd. There’s always a need for new yarn donations, Hoge said, which can be dropped off during library hours. For more information, contact Hoge at (727) 863-7309 or jhogehe@aol.com

You can reach Daylina at dmiller@suncoastnews.com or (727) 815-1067. Follow her on Twitter at @DaylinaMiller.

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