Officers still giving to Plott
People from near and far continue to show their support for Franklin County tornado victims even though the tragedy took place almost a year ago.
This past August, former Franklin County Sheriff Larry Plott received over 500 law enforcement patches from a complete stranger to help replace the collection he lost when his East Franklin home was completely destroyed by the tornado. This week, Plott received even more.
This new batch of patches came from a now-retired deputy Sheriff from Deltona, Fla., named Timothy Willis, who happened upon Plott’s story by chance.
Chris Ozbirn, director of the Franklin County Archives and Research Center, said Willis and his mother came by the Archives on August 18, 2011, to do some family research since his father was originally from Franklin County.
“When he was here doing research, I found out that he was a deputy sheriff in Florida,” Ozbirn said. “I told him about the project I was trying to do for Sheriff Plott because I thought he might be interested in helping.”
Not long after the tornadoes came through Franklin County on April 27, 2011, Ozbirn decided her way to give back would be to help Plott recover many of the patches he had accumulated during his 28 years as sheriff that were blown away in a matter of seconds on that fateful day.
Ozbirn knew she could probably get in contact with some people she knew through her position at the Archives, and she was ultimately able to help Plott secure more than 560 patches just days before Willis showed up at the Archives office in August.
“This was something that was totally unexpected,” Ozbirn said. “This man came here for a completely different reason and ended up being someone who was more than willing to help with this project.”
Ozbirn said Willis told her he was always willing to help a brother in law enforcement and would consider it an honor to help her find more patches for Plott’s collection.
“He said that it was something he wanted to do out of respect,” she said. “I thought that was a very nice thing for him to do for someone he didn’t even know.”
Ozbirn said after returning to Florida, Willis got in contact with each police department and sheriff’s office in the state of Florida to tell them Plott’s story and what Ozbirn was trying to do for him.
“After talking to all the law enforcement personnel in Florida, Tim got in contact with me and let me know that he’d be sending me some patches soon,” she said. “I thought that was great but then he told me what else he was planning to do.”
Ozbirn said Willis told her he had really been affected by Plott’s story and wanted to do something special for him. He knew how important a sheriff’s badge was, so he took it upon himself to design a badge bearing the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office name and have it made for Plott.
“Tim sent me pictures of the different choices he finally came up with and we settled on a gold one that I thought Sheriff Plott would really like,” Ozbirn said. “Tim should really be commended for going above and beyond what he originally agreed to do to help.”
Willis was unable to make it back from Florida, so Plott received the patches and specially-made badge from Ozbirn on Thursday.
“I took me years to come up with the patches and badges I had and it seems like I’ve gotten back that many and ten times more overnight,” Plott said. “Regardless of how long you’ve been in office, it takes a real effort to get a collection like this, so this is just unbelievable.
“I’m just overwhelmed with how many I’ve gotten and the fact that people have wanted to help me. I am so thankful and grateful.”