It started with a request to cull her stuffed animal collection while Olivia Georgi was in elementary school— and grew into searching school lost and found rooms, hitting up neighbors and businesses for donations and even trolling the streets around her River Ridge home.
Her finds are cleaned and fixed and can become a tiny nugget of comfort for a child whose world was turned upside down by a parent’s arrest or somehow becoming entangled with law enforcement.
Children all across Pasco County have benefitted from Olivia’s efforts.
Olivia has been bringing her found and donated items to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Child Protective Investigations unit for years. The division’s job is to take care of children whose parents run afoul of police, said Melanie Snow, a media coordinator for the sheriff’s office. The parents might be arrested or abusing the child.
Whenever deputies are called to a situation that includes children, someone with the division is sent to watch over the child’s wellbeing. It is an interim step before state authorities can decide custody. The children are often scared, in an unfamiliar place and surrounded by strangers.
“Their main interest is the child,” Snow said.
Donations of toys and clothing such as those Olivia collects can make a huge difference.
“The children are taken sometimes in just pajamas. Often the simple things can provide the most comfort and remind them of home,” Snow said.
On Wednesday, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco presented Olivia with a Citizen Service award to recognize her work helping the Child Protective Investigations unit.
“We never expected anything like this. It’s really kind of nice,” said Olivia’s mother, Janet Georgi.
Olivia, now a sixth grader at River Ridge Middle School, got an early introduction to volunteering, said her mother. She took Olivia to a Cotee River clean-up when her daughter was just 10 days old.
“This is so overwhelming,” Georgi said.
Donations to the sheriff’s office began when Olivia was told to tame an exploding population of stuffed animals and pick the ones to keep. The rest, Janet said, were donated. The family was already familiar with the children’s division of the sheriff’s office through other volunteer work.
“It snowballed from there,” Georgi said.
The stuffed animals weren’t the end of donations from Olivia’s belongings. They were joined by other toys, then her Barbie doll collection.
Because Olivia’s father, Otto Georgi, worked for the health department and inspected schools, they looked at lost and found rooms for donations. Mom washes and cleans the donated clothes. Local businesses are tapped, and so are neighbors.
Her latest donations were three bicycles, two that were sitting in front of a neighbor’s house and a third found abandoned in the neighborhood. Otto made some small repairs and the manufacturer sent parts for free, Georgi said.
Olivia intends to keep up her efforts.
“It makes me feel very happy and makes me feel like I’m doing something good,” she said.
The 12-year-old’s donations are needed even more, Snow said. The epidemic of prescription medicine addiction is only increasing the number of parents and children deputies encounter, reaching into neighborhoods not accustomed to crime.
“These are suburban moms who used to be in the PTA,” Snow said.
The sheriff’s office is working to build a special room at the division for children and needs donations, Snow said.
For more information about donating, email Snow at MSnow@pascosheriff.org or call (727) 457-3959.