Canton police, citizens help hurricane victims in Central America

Canton police officers spent the weekend before Thanksgiving hustling to collect clothing, shoes, blankets, pillows, and nonperishable food for the survivors in hurricane-ravaged sections of Honduras and Nicaragua. Within two days, Canton residents and businesses donated enough items to fill a 20-foot U-Haul truck.

"The citizens came out really great. The churches came out really great and our officers took up money to buy the gas and the rental truck. None of this came out of taxpayer or police funds," said Police Chief Stephen Merrifield. “We’re also going to have a blessed Thanksgiving, so we just wanted to do what we could to help hurricane survivors who are really struggling right now.”

By Sunday night, the police chief, two sergeants, and his administrative assistant were on their way to Miami to ensure the items could be shipped to Central America in a timely fashion. They dropped off the load Monday morning. The chief said all of this came together just a few days after administrative assistant Gabriela Gonzalez opened up about what life has been like for her family in Nicaragua following the one-two punch from Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

“The areas that were hit hardest were already isolated and neglected and then this hits. There's extreme poverty in [Nicaragua] and that's why this is so devastating. It's like going back ten years because they have nowhere to go now," said Gonzalez, who's worked for the Canton Police Department for two years. "It's just wonderful to see the response in Canton. I know a lot of people don't even know where Nicaragua and Honduras are and still, they just came out to help."

Before the crew from Canton Police Department left Miami Monday afternoon, the police sergeants, who used vacation days to help expedite the drive-time, said it was the least they could do to make the small relief mission a big success.

"I've been blessed in my life and they're people all over the world needing help, so I just knew it's what I had to do," said Sgt. Greg Ayers.

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Sgt. Tiffanie Cromer, who helped coordinate some of the corporate donations, said the community effort speaks volumes about the people of Canton.

"It's heartwarming during such a tough year on all of us. I understand sometimes, you just want to take care of your own, but these people are still giving and working hard to help those that need help. I just love this community and this police department. This is who we are," said Sgt. Cromer.

Chief Merrifield said the items Georgians donated will be packaged in Miami, then delivered to Hondurans and Nicaraguans within the next two weeks.

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