Villagers helping law officers give big

Wildwood Police Chief Randy Parmer carries the torch into Brownwood Paddock Square at the end of his department’s leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.

If you want to know how generous residents of The Villages are, all you have to do is ask a cop. So far this year, the three local sheriff’s offices and three police departments have raised more than $130,000 for various charities, and donors from The Villages have played a big role in that success. With agencies set to begin fundraising for their Christmas charities in the fall, that number will grow. 

Here’s a snapshot of their fundraising this year, as well as a look ahead:

Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches

Agencies raised about $70,000 for the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches, which provide a safe and stable living environment for at-risk children. Of that, $30,000 came from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office’s sixth annual Bass Tournament and Family Fun Day in February.

The rest came from the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office through events like Shoot with the Sheriff Sporting Clay Shoot in February and the fourth annual Derby Day in May. The charity is a longtime favorite of Sumter Sheriff Bill Farmer, who was recognized by the youth ranches in July with a Lifetime Achievement Award for fundraising.

Sumter sheriff’s Outreach Coordinator Theresa Cooper said Villagers are critical to them meeting their fundraising goals.

Special Olympics Florida

In March through April, the Wildwood Police Department and Sumter, Marion and Lake County sheriff’s offices raised $10,500 through Tip-A-Cops. During the fundraiser, officers and deputies waited on tables and donated their tips to the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.

The torch run is the largest grassroots fundraiser for the Special Olympics, an organization that gives athletes with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to compete in a variety of competitions.

The sheriffs’ offices each have had their own legs of the Torch Run, and they invite smaller departments to join. The Wildwood Police Department ran its own leg for the first time in April.

Back to School

With children heading back to school, agencies rallied to help. On July 20 the Lake County Sheriff’s Office provided more than 700 Lake County students with school supplies through Project Kid Connect. More than 100 volunteers, sheriff’s deputies and other employees donated their time at the South Lake District Office in Clermont to hand out backpacks filled with the supplies. The Fruitland Park Police Department is currently collecting school supplies for Fruitland Park Elementary School; today is the last day to donate. Supplies can be dropped off before 5 p.m. at the police department, 506 W. Berckman St..

Christmas

Agencies raise money to take children shopping for holiday gifts through Shop With A Cop. Wildwood Police Chief Randy Parmer said the department is looking into holding its own program this year as well. Funding comes from different sources. The Lady Lake Police Department gets most of its support from the Kiwanis Club of Lady Lake, while the Fruitland Park Police Department receives contributions from businesses and donors, many from The Villages. The Sumter sheriff’s office has Kids, Cops and Christmas, part of its Christmas program, but the campaign lost a major fundraiser when the Dunkirk Trail Light Show ended. However, Cooper isn’t worried and said there’s a lot of clubs and people in The Villages who help.

Staff writer Phill Stuart can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5332, or phillip.stuart@thevillagesmedia.com.