Groups help students finance their future

The Opera Club of The Villages’ presentation of the Three Tenors Plus One last year at The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center benefited the Harold S. Schwartz Music Scholarship program.

The first half of the school year is almost over, which means seniors are halfway through their last year of high school. Preparing for graduation and post-secondary education can be overwhelming for students, but one thing that can relieve some stress is knowing that the community is supporting them for their next chapter. Local groups and organizations are coming together now by planning events to raise money for scholarships to support graduating seniors in the tri-county area. Events hosted by The Buffalo Scholarship Foundation, The Opera Club of The Villages, the African-American Club of The Villages and the Sophisticated Gents of Florida, and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Committee are coming up soon, and an event hosted by Dollars for Scholars is happening Saturday.

The Buffalo Scholarship Foundation, a nonprofit organization that awards post-secondary scholarships to graduating seniors at The Villages High School, has awarded students more than $1,041,000 in scholarships since the foundation started in 2005.

The foundation hosts events every year to raise money for scholarships, and it kicked off the school year with its annual golf tournament Sept. 28.

Tickets go on sale Friday for the foundation’s next big fundraiser, the Battle at The Villages, a basketball tournament to take place Dec. 27 to 29 at VHS.

The sixth annual tournament will include the VHS boys basketball team and seven other teams: five from Florida, one from Wisconsin and one from Connecticut.

The public also is welcome to attend the Sumter County Showcase on Dec. 7 at VHS, which also raises money for scholarships.

The showcase is a tournament presented by the Battle at The Villages and will include basketball teams from VHS, Wildwood Middle High School and South Sumter High School.

Tickets for both events can be purchased at battleatthevillages.com starting on Friday.

The two events raised $2,100 for scholarships last school year, said Marty Dzuro, tournament director for the Battle at The Villages and director of basketball operations for the VHS boys basketball program.

“I encourage people to attend because it’s for a great cause to help the graduating seniors from the charter school,” said Dzuro, who graduated from the school in 2012 and also benefited from receiving a scholarship through the foundation.

Looking ahead, community members can start planning for the Buffalo Scholarship Foundation’s Wine Walk on March 21 at Spanish Springs Town Square.

Also supporting the foundation, the charter school’s parent organization, Buffalo PRIDE, will host its third annual Running with the Herd 5K on Jan. 25 at The Villages Charter School.

Randy McDaniel, director of education for the charter school and nonvoting board chairman with the foundation, said the school and foundation are blessed to receive the support from the community every year.

“Our foundation takes responsibility to be good stewards of the funds raised to assist hard-working students in pursuing their post-secondary dreams,” he said.

Other local groups also are focused on raising money for scholarships.

DOLLARS FOR SCHOLARS

For example, Dollars for Scholars will present “Starry 2019” at 7 p.m. Saturday at Savannah Center.

The public is invited to enjoy entertainment by Dawn DiNome and the Flashback Band, Clark Barrios and Johnny Wild and the Delights.

Tickets range from $22 to $30 for residents and from $27 to $35 for the general public. Tickets are available at any Villages Box Office location or at thevillagesentertainment.com.

Money raised from the event will go toward scholarships for graduating seniors at The Villages High School and Wildwood Middle High School.

Last school year, Dollars for Scholars awarded $51,000 in scholarships to 10 students from Wildwood Middle High and one student from VHS. The money was raised from various fundraisers, including the Starry event.

“The donations and the support from the community are vital to giving these students an opportunity to further their education and improve their lives,” said Dollars for Scholars President Joyce Gilette, of the Village of Tamarind Grove.

For information about “Starry 2019,” contact Gilette at 352-633-5281 or jyfl1@aol.com.

THE OPERA CLUB OF THE VILLAGES

The Opera Club of The Villages will present “An Enchanted Evening” at 7 p.m. Nov. 16 at Eisenhower Recreation Center.

Tickets are $30 and are available at any Villages Box Office location or at thevillagesentertainment.com.

The event will feature four musicians from conservatories around the nation, and the concert is dedicated to veterans. Those attending are invited to arrive early so they can tour some of the military memorabilia at the recreation center.

While some of the proceeds from the event will go toward Villagers for Veterans, the majority of the funds will support the Harold S. Schwartz Music Scholarships, which go to graduating seniors in the tri-county area who will study music at a college or university next year.

Along with donations from the community, this is one of two events the club hosts to raise money for scholarships. The other event is “Three Tenors Plus One” at 3 and 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center.

The club awarded eight students with more than $40,000 last school year, and the members hope to do the same again this year, said Marty Taylor, scholarship chairwoman for the club’s Harold S. Schwartz Music Scholarship program.

The program began in 1997 and has been awarding scholarships to local students ever since.

“These young students are the future,” said Taylor, of the Village of Lake Deaton. “This is carrying on the music tradition.”

AFRICAN-AMERICAN CLUB OF THE VILLAGES AND THE SOPHISTICATED GENTS OF FLORIDA

Hosted by the African-American Club of The Villages and the Sophisticated Gents of Florida, the sixth Friendship Golf Tournament will take place Nov. 16 at Harbor Hills Country Club.

Money raised from sponsors and donors for the event go toward scholarships for graduating seniors at The Villages High School, Wildwood Middle High School, Leesburg High School and Lake Weir High School.

Although the event is full and registration is closed, donations still are accepted to support the graduating seniors.

With a majority of the proceeds coming from the golf tournament, 28 scholarships were awarded last school year, totaling about $58,000, said Ken Fisher, golf tournament chairman.

Since the first golf tournament, 118 scholarships have been awarded to local students.

“We want to provide an opportunity for the kids to have a chance to go to school so they can get an education and contribute toward society,” said Fisher, of the Village of Osceola Hills at Soaring Eagle Preserve.

Donations can be made through sophisticatedgentsfl.org/Friendship-Golf-Tournament/. Checks also can be made payable to Sophisticated Gents of Florida/Friendship Golf Tournament and sent to Sophisticated Gents of Florida, P.O. Box 157, Lady Lake, FL 32159.

For information about making donations, call Fisher at 513-379-0992 or Bill Jackson, co-chairman of the golf tournament, at 847-338-2754.

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. COMMEMORATIVE COMMITTEE

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Committee is looking for monetary donations to support graduating seniors in the tri-county area with scholarships.

Checks can be sent to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Committee at 333 Colony Blvd., Colony Plaza #304, The Villages, FL 32162. 

The organization awarded nine $4,000 scholarships last year, and the members are hoping to do the same this year, said Bob Janson, president of the commemorative committee.

“Students need as much support as they can possibly get,” said Janson, of the Village of Hadley.

The scholarship recipients will be recognized at the 17th annual breakfast at 9 a.m. Jan. 11 at Savannah Center, and the public is welcome to attend to honor the life of King and recognize the graduating seniors.

Tickets for the breakfast are $15 per person. To purchase tickets, call Carolyn Moores at 352-259-9925.

For information about the breakfast or making donations, call Janson at 352-391-0373.

Staff writer Rachel Stuart can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5390, or rachel.stuart@thevillagesmedia.com.