Franklin Co. deputies dribble into kids' lives

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Fla. - A generous donation to the Franklin County Sheriff's Office is helping deputies engage the youngest generation of the county.

"We do more than just put people in jail," Sheriff A.J. Smith said.  "We want to show kids that we're regular people. We want to help them. We're here for them. What better way to do that then connect with a little basketball."

The idea started in early February when deputies noticed kids in Eastpoint playing with an old, broken basketball goal. Smith replaced it with a new one, donated by Taylor's Building Supply.

"We set it up then I noticed their basketballs were dilapidated so I was talking to another friend of mine Helen Willis who has the Match Box. Next thing I know, we had basketballs," Smith said.

Helen Willis, who restored the former Apalachicola High School gymnasium and transformed it into a community center, donated 50 customized basketballs to the sheriff's office. They are green and white with a sheriff's logo.

"I have a passion for basketball. We're a basketball family," Willis said.

Willis said kids and adults form a special bond and trust over a game of basketball at her gym. It's the very thing Smith is trying to establish in the community.

"I was speechless. Needless to say. It's a lot of basketballs. It's going to touch a lot of kids," Smith added.

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