Turkeys, not Tickets brings smiles to parish residents

Members of the Lincoln Parish Sheriffs Office handed out 100 free turkeys in their annual “Turkeys not Tickets” event.

By Malcolm Butler
Sirens in your rear view mirror is never a good thing.
Well, at least not most of the time.
However, during two days last week, around 100 folks in Lincoln Parish went from thinking they were about to receive a traffic violation to receiving a free Thanksgiving turkey instead, compliments of the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Lincoln Agency.
What started out as a project by Lincoln Agency’s Thomas Graham and some teammates in the Ruston Chamber of Commerce Lincoln Leadership program has turned into an annual “Turkeys not tickets” Thanksgiving gesture, according to Sheriff Stephen Williams.
“It’s just a chance for our people to get involved and a chance to give back to the community and to those who may be having a tough time,” said Williams. “It’s an act of kindness.”
In 2019 Graham was a part of the Lincoln Leadership program and found an opportunity to make something he had seen in another community come to life in his own community.
“I had seen this in the paper down in Lake Charles one time when we were down their with my wife and her family,” said Graham. “The state troopers were doing it down there. I always thought Ruston would be the perfect place to do this.
“I got an opportunity when I was in the Lincoln Leadership Program. We had to come up with a project that would enrich our community. So I thought this would be perfect. We took the idea to Sheriff Williams and they were all on board. Everyone jumped in to help. That was four years ago. Now Sheriff Williams and Landon Hunt and those guys have kept it going which is a great thing for our community.”

So last week members of the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Lincoln Parish Detention Center and some others within the Ruston community road around in squad cars in search of minor traffic violations.

The siren lights went on. The violators were pulled over. However, instead of receiving a traffic ticket, they received a smile and a free turkey.

“It’s a great way to give back to the community,” said LPSO Major Landon Hunt. “But it’s really amazing how much our deputies and employees get in return by being a part of it. It’s geared to giving back to our community, but I think we get just as much or even more from it.
“You can tell by the smiles on their faces how much joy it brings our deputies and those who are participating to be able to share a blessing with others.”
And what is the reaction of those who take the frozen bird home instead of the costly ticket?
“Honestly, its everything from ‘I don’t know how to cook it so I don’t want it’ to people who start crying,” said Williams. “It’s all across the board. Ninety-five percent of them are very grateful and caught of guard. It’s a positive deal for our employees and for those who receive it.”
What started out as a one-year project has turned into an annual act of giving.
“(Thomas and his group) started it, and asked if we would help,” said Williams. “Well then the next year rolled around and all of our folks enjoyed it so much that they wanted to continue to do it. We have an employee fund; we call it the flower fund. Everyone contributes to it. So we use some of that money and then Thomas and Lincoln Agency continue to help. It’s grown and grown and grown.”
“I told him that Lincoln Agency just wanted to continue to be a part of this,” said Graham. “Ruston is the perfect place to do this. So we try to help out each year however we can.”