NORTH PORT, Fla. - The oven-roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and fresh-baked rolls are all delicious. In North Port, an early Thanksgiving dinner means much more to those sitting around the table.
"It means everything to me, everything," said 89-year-old Florence, who has been celebrating her Thanksgiving with members of the North Port Police Department for the last four years. "They are there for me 24/7."
North Port PD has become her extended family through the HEARTS program, or Helping Ensure Active Response by Telephoning Seniors.
"What that means is they get a daily telephone call, checking on them to make sure they are OK and if they don’t answer their phone call, we send an officer over just to make sure that they’re all right," said Mandy Lorenz, the North Port PD telecommunications supervisor who heads the HEARTS program. "Some of our members don’t have someone to check in on them every day. This gives them a sense of security, that if anything should happen that help is on the way."
The Thanksgiving dinner tradition helps Florence match the faces with the voices that check on her daily.
"The police have been serving me for years. I fell down, they pick me up. They do everything. Close my shutters, open my door. Buy me food. Come and see me. They are always there for me," said Florence.
They're here for her on Thanksgiving and any day.
"I am thankful for my family. My extended family. They are my family," she said.
For more information on the HEARTS program visit https://www.cityofnorthport.com/government/city-services/police/community/hearts-program.