TAMPA — Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was honored by the Gold Shield Foundation, which assists families of first responders killed in the line of duty.
At a luncheon Thursday, Bondi received the Philip A. McNiff "Lifetime of Service" award, named for the late FBI special agent who later worked for the New York Yankees and helped create the foundation.
The event drew several hundred business supporters, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and first responders including Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan and Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
"I’ve never stopped loving being a prosecutor," Bondi said of her previous role at the Hills-borough County State Attorney’s office.
She also served as the speaker, telling of her fight against illegal drugs. She praised the importance of law enforcement working together to prevent crime and to solve cases, particularly in the string of Seminole Heights killings.
The Gold Shield Foundation was formed in 1981 by former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner after a sheriff’s deputy, a Tampa police officer and two firefighters from Tampa Fire Department were killed.
Tom Shannon, president of the $3.8 million foundation, said Steinbrenner called friends and said, "What are we going to do for these families?"
The organization ensures a college education or vocational training for the spouse and dependent children of Florida law enforcement officers and firefighters of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Polk and Marion Counties killed in the line of duty.
Executive director Joe Voskerichian said 21 dependents and four spouses have completed education through the program, with others in college or soon to enter.
Kelly Curtis Stout, whose husband, Tampa Police officer Dave Curtis, was murdered June 29, 2010, along with officer Jeffrey Kocab, shared her feelings about the organization. She said after seeing so much evil, she was able to see so much more good. "It is a tremendous relief that the children (four sons) can receive a first-rate education."
Contact Lenora Lake at [email protected]