Captain Tina Sykes

Captain Tina Sykes helps load some of the more than 6,200 food items that were collected by the Orange County Sheriff's Office for families in need.

What began as a call for help to provide meals and food for 325 Orange County families, turned into a competition involving law enforcement, a trophy, a trailer full of food, trash-talking, some appetite-loss-inducing puns, a last-minute run to the grocery store, and controversy.

In the end, though, it was all for a good cause and in good fun.

The “Stuff the Turkey” competition was announced at the Orange County Sheriff’s office. The flier established the teams — nine of them — deadlines and rules. As a bonus, the command staff would function as the tenth team and be required to match the total number of items collected by the winning division. The team that got the most food items for donation would be declared the winner.

“In closing, it doesn’t get any ‘butter’ than this,” wrote Major Kevin Jones in his flier. “We ‘cran’ do it. I ‘yam’ excited about what we are doing for 

hungry people in the community.”

In the end, an event that typically draws casual participation, produced more than 6,200 food items, filling one of the rooms at the sheriff’s office. 

“What started out as addressing a need with Orange County Schools and seeing what we could do to help quickly became a very intense competition among our agency,” said Captain Tina Sykes, who also heads the School Resource Officer Program. 

Captain Sykes said the amount of food raised stunned cohort Sherita Cobb, who is director of Student Support Services at Orange County Schools. 

“I called her to give her a heads up at about 11 a.m. to let her know we had well over 6,000 items to be delivered,” Captain Sykes said. 

Cobb couldn’t believe it and quickly went upstairs to ask her staff to hang around to help. But the Orange County Sheriff’s Office came out in force to unload the packed cornucopia on wheels.

“It took 12 people using hand carts and push trucks almost an hour to unload all the food items,” said Alicia Stemper, director of public information for the OCSO. “I had no idea how much 6,200 pieces of food actually is when you’re moving it in can by can.”

So, which team won the Stuff the Turkey contest and walked away with the Top Turkey trophy (yes, a trophy with a turkey on top), community service hours, and bragging rights? That’s where the controversy comes into this feel-good story.

Team School Resource Officers unloaded more than 1,500 food items on Thursday, Nov. 12, the deadline as stated in the flier. However, Strike Team K9 claims it was given different information and had believed the deadline to turn in food was Nov. 13. 

Seeing what the SROs had raised, and believing it still had one more day, Strike Team K9 mobilized and apprehended more than 700 additional food items to add to its total. 

Strike Team K9 was crowned the winner, but an investigation is likely ongoing.