Note: The Feed Flagler community celebration, with free meals offered at 11 locations across the county, begins at 3 p.m. today, Wednesday, Nov. 23, until 6 p.m. Go to the foot of the article for locations.
The final number is in: Feed Flagler, the third annual countywide Thanksgiving food and cash drive and free banquet for 4,000 people, raised $25,000 this year, largely on the strength of a spirited duel between Flagler County Sheriff Don Fleming and Tax Collector Suzanne Johnston, who accounted for $17,000 of the total.
Johnston was last year’s fund-raising winner, raising $3,400 mostly through tip jars set at all her counters at two locations in the county. She claimed the trophy and vowed to hold on to it this year. But the sheriff hadn’t been part of the contest last year. He joined this year–and promptly opened the bidding by putting in $5,000 from his budget’s drug-forfeiture money, and putting Johnston on notice: he intended to win that contest.
And he did. Fleming and the sheriff’s office raised $9,100 to Johnston’s $8,100.
“I gotta tell you,” Fleming said this morning, “that Suzanne Johnston, she can raise money.” Fleming said he managed to raise the sheriff’s office’s share past the initial $5,000 through donations from vendors that work with the county jail, the Police Benevolent Association, and many individuals. He had no intention of losing, keeping his totals secret, as much as was possible, to not tip off Johnston.
When Johnston remitted her donation check to county officials this morning, she reportedly said: “Tell the sheriff I’m going to give him the trophy in 9,100 pieces.”
Johnston was being entirely facetious of course–and continued to be when we spoke with her moments ago: “I can’t believe they’re going to take our trophy from us,” she said, but all for a good cause. “It was fun. But you know, if it hadn’t been for the sheriff we wouldn’t have collected the amount of money we did, because it was a real fun competition. We’re all very lucky that our residents are as generous as they are, to help us do this.”
She added: “I guess they’ll come get this trophy soon. What I hope to do is get some handcuffs and handcuff the trophy to the table. That’s what I should do.”
The money she turned over to the county wasn’t a check but actual cash, and on her way there, a sheriff’s deputy signaled that he might hold her up and take the money to add to the sheriff’s stash. But she made it to the county offices unscathed.
FlaglerLive was no slouch either in the fund-raising department, though we came in a distant third, raising $2,200. Thank you, readers.
“We should have joined forces,” Johnston said. True enough: had the tax collector and FlaglerLive combined forces, the sheriff would have been defeated. Maybe next year.
Today’s 11 locations offering free Thanksgiving meals from 3 to 6 p.m.:
- Bunnell Elementary School, 305 N. Palmetto, Bunnell.
- Hidden Trails Community Center, 6108 Mahogany Blvd. in Bunnell, hosted by Grace Tabernacle Ministries.
- Pellicer Community Center, 1380 County Road 2007 in Bunnell, hosted by Westside Baptist Church.
- Espanola Community Center, 3055 County Road 13 in Bunnell, hosted by St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church.
- First United Methodist Church, 205 Pine Street in Bunnell, co-hosted by God’s Family Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
- Buddy Taylor Middle School, 4500 Belle Terre Parkway in Palm Coast, hosted by the school district.
- St. James Missionary Baptist Church, 609 State Street (U.S.1), Bunnell.
- Hammock First Baptist Church, 5382 Oceanshore Blvd. (State Road A1A), in the Hammock.
- Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, 75 Pine Lakes Parkway South in Palm Coast.
- Wickline Center, 800 S. Daytona Avenue in Flagler Beach.
- First AME Church of Palm Coast, 91 Old Kings Road North, Palm Coast.