Palatka police officers help give once homeless kids a Christmas

Three Putnam County children, who were once homeless and living in a tent, have now been placed with a foster family.

Their parents were arrested and accused of stealing from the Walmart while their children were with them.

When Palatka police Officer Ashton Cassidy responded to a theft call at Walmart, he said he knew it was different.

“Something needed to be done right then and there,” Cassidy said.

Police said three kids, ages 8, 8 and 11, were with their parents, Seth Steinback and Jennifer Pierce, when they were taken into custody, accused of stealing.

“Had a lady in custody who was stealing food items, makeup items, dog treats and, like, campground lantern wicks,” Sgt. Mike Meredith said.

When officers asked the kids where they lived, they said they didn’t have a home and that they lived in a tent.

“I’ve never seen a case this severe. These kids are living in a tent, eating crackers for a meal,” Cassidy said.

Officers took the kids to McDonald’s for their first meal of the day around 6:30 p.m.

“The kids were more worried about money, when they shouldn’t (be),” Officer Mylinh Reeves said.

Cassidy then made a post to social media, asking the community for help.

Within hours of the social media post, people from the community started to drop off clothes, toys and blankets.

But when he asked the young girl what she really wanted for Christmas, he was caught off guard.

“You ask most 11-year-old girls what they want and you’ll get iPads and a laundry list of stuff, and here this girl is. She just wants a family,” Cassidy said.

Police said the girl's Christmas wish is coming true. The three kids have been placed with a foster family and with this being their first Christmas, the officers said they hope to make it a special one.

“Most kids get toys and a Christmas tree and family every year. It’s special to help them with this,” Cassidy said.