Mystery Messages: Anonymous citizen posts surprise bench ads to encourage Clay County deputies

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – In Clay County, someone is paying tribute to the Sheriff’s Office in a special and public way.

But they’re keeping their identity a secret.

News4JAX tried to dig into the mystery surrounding the good deed.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook got a call.

“From somebody that says, ‘Hey, there’s a (Clay County Sheriff’s Office) bench out here.’ And I didn’t know what they were talking about. And then I started getting photographs,” Cook said.

Not one, not two, but three advertisements all added to public benches thanking Clay County deputies for all they do.

One at Blanding and Blairmore boulevards reads: “Blessed are the Peace Makers,” referencing a verse from Matthew 5 in the Bible.

Another of the benches at Blanding and Camp Francis Johnson Road says: “We appreciate our sheriff and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.”

Cook called the public encouragements a “big surprise.”

“And, you know, I’m calling some of my friends and like, ‘Alright, do you know who this is? Do you know who this is?’ And everybody’s keeping tight-lipped right now,” Cook said.

Encouraging messages for law enforcement appeared on public benches in Clay County (WJXT)

But not knowing who left the messages doesn’t diminish the joy the Sheriff’s Office is receiving from them.

“We get into this job because we want to protect and serve. And, you know, all too often we don’t hear about the great work that our men and women in law enforcement do every single day,” Cook said.

And she was ready with an example of some of her unsung heroes.

“I had three deputies, on their own, go out and get a hotel room and food for a homeless family that they encountered on the street here,” Cook said. “Things like that happen all the time.”

And someone wanted the agency to know they noticed -- and that those efforts matter.

Whether the person responsible for the benches ever reveals themselves or not, Cook said it sure feels good knowing people care.

“We are so fortunate here in Clay County to have a community that shows it overtly by buying advertisements on benches, saying ‘Thank you,’” Cook said.

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.