A future Lebron James may blossom soon in Franklin County, and an outreach by the sheriff’s office may have a hand in it.
Thanks to private donations, and the handiwork of Sheriff A.J. Smith and his crew, three new basketball goals will soon sprout around the county.
The one in Apalachicola is already in, in the parking lot at Southern Villas on 24th Street, and plans are in the works for ones in Eastpoint and Carrabelle.
Smith said he, Lt. Ryan Sandoval and Sgt. Alan Ham last month erected the one at Southern Villas, thanks to a donation by David and Michaelin Watts. In addition, about 150 basketballs, each one labeled with the insignias of the Matchbox and the sheriff’s office, have been provided by Helen Ausley Willis, who manages the Matchbox, the completely refurbished former Apalachicola High School gymnasium.
“They are great community partners who love the kids in our county,” said Smith.
The sheriff said he and his staff are in the process of deciding where to place the ones in Eastpoint and Carrabelle, which the Watts also donated.
“We want to find places where kids congregate, where’s there’s slow traffic where kids live,” said Smith. “These are totally portable basketball goals. They have a base and you put sand and water in base to weigh them down.”
Smith said the recent donations stemmed from one made earlier by Ken and Kim Fish, from Taylor’s Building Supply, to put up a goal in Eastpoint.
Smith said it’s all part of an outreach to get law enforcement officers closer to the communities where they work.
“It’s about being a partner in the community, and getting the kids to realize that law enforcement is not the bad guys, that we’re here to help,” he said. “It puts a different face on law enforcement.”
“It’s a better thing for kids to be doing than sitting inside, and instead to be outside and moving. And who doesn’t love basketball?” said Smith.
The sheriff said the initial idea was to have deputies interact with kids and leave them a basketball, but the idea blossomed into one where goals would be erected at strategic places around the county.
“It’s kind of been a snowball effect,” Smith said. “We live in a great place, so let’s get kids outdoors being active. It’s a way to build relationships way, to see law enforcement as their friend and not their foe.”