JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville Sheriff's Office deputy is getting praise for going out of his way to help a family in need after he responded to their home a few days before Thanksgiving and discovered a mother and five children who were in dire need of basic items like food and clothing.
Last week, Officer Dustin Hammerstad was dispatched to a trailer home on the Southside. The first-year policeman discovered a mother and five children, from toddlers to teenagers, living in extreme poverty.
The family of six was living with just one mattress, so Hammerstad decided to give the family whatever he could, showing up at the home a second time with a squad car filled with presents.
“We are out there to serve the public. That is what we do,” Hammerstad said. “The family was in crisis and they needed intervention. They had one bed in the living room, one sofa seat, no silverware (and) very little to eat.”
According to Hammerstad, the family was from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, and the children’s father left the family at some point and never returned.
“Their father apparently left the picture sometime in the past few years and he just never returned. And I just felt like they needed help. And I just wanted to do something,” Hammerstad said. “I couldn't get them money because I am trying to survive myself, but I felt like I had things that I could provide to them that they did not have that we take for granted.”
So Hammerstad turned to Facebook and Craigslist. He called co-workers, friends and family, and in no time, donations poured in.
“The silverware, the TV, the beds, they were just lying around. People weren't using them. They were just laying there. And these people didn't have it. So I just gathered it all up and brought it over there,” Hammerstad said.
He loaded his cruiser and his family's minivan and surprised the family on Thanksgiving Day.
“Thanksgiving is a time of giving. A time of giving thanks. And I just felt like a lot of people take for granted things that these people didn't have,” Hammerstad said.
Hammerstad said he didn't do it for the recognition or the praise and his good deed only came to light when a co-worker reached out to News4Jax to share his story.
He said he did it simply because he cares.
“If I go over there now I get hugs. They like me,” Hammerstad said.
Hammerstad said he's not done. He said he’ll keep visiting the family and is trying to get school supplies for the kids and books for the teenagers.
He's also gotten them in touch with social workers to help improve their living situation.