Businesses give back to charities, causes

Veteran Troy Sasser, left, of Bellview, helps unload furniture with veteran Steve Oleary, of Ocala, on Friday at the Restoring Hope Thrift Store in Wildwood.

Villages residents are renowned for their generosity in supporting charitable causes. Area businesses frequently step up to match that giving spirit. Several businesses in and around The Villages, including Demshar’s, Parady Financial Group, IHOP and Jersey Mike’s Subs, recently have hosted or currently are hosting events or campaigns to raise money for charities. Jersey Mike’s Subs is hosting its 10th annual “Month of Giving” campaign this month with locations across the country participating. On March 25, which is Jersey Mike’s “Day of Giving,” all participating locations will give 100% of the sales made that day to the organizations it’s helping. Two Jersey Mike’s near the Villages, in Lady Lake and Wildwood, are participating and giving to the organization Combat Veterans to Careers in Wildwood.  

“We really pick what matters to us and will make the most impact in that market and Combat Veterans to Careers is just a great organization that provides training and supports to veterans,” said Chris Brown, franchise owner of the two locations.

Both stores have donated to the veterans organization for the past few years after Brown learned about the organization from a member who came to the restaurant looking for a job.

Combat Veterans to Careers was started in 2012 by David Booth, a retired veteran who had difficulty transitioning back to civilian life after serving. The organization assists veterans and their families by helping with housing, education, transportation, employment and more.

It has helped about 3,000 veterans and their families. Booth wishes to help more but said the organization doesn’t have enough resources. Jersey Mike’s donations over the years have assisted the organization “tremendously” to be able to help more people, Booth said.

“They’re amazing. They really embraced and get the effect that our veterans are going through in their transition, and they are all about being part of this community and giving back to this community,” he said. “It’s just amazing to see a business step up and really make an impact and change the lives for our veterans who have fought for our freedoms.”

Last year, the Jersey Mike’s in Lady Lake and Wildwood raised $17,676 for Combat Veterans to Careers.

About 160 Jersey Mike’s in Florida are participating in the campaign. Last year, the business raised $665,000 in the state, said Todd Quinzi, Jersey Mike’s area director for Florida.

IHOP also recently put on a national campaign to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. On Feb. 25, National Pancake Day, customers who came to IHOP, including the location in The Villages, received three free buttermilk shortstacks and were asked to make a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

On National Pancake Day, The Villages IHOP gave out 519 shortstacks, said the store’s general manager, Dewey Sanders.

The Villages IHOP location raised about $6,000 from the entire campaign, which began on Dec. 31. The money was donated to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, which is part of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Sanders said.

“We just believe in keeping things local and giving back to our community and it’s very important to us and our owners,” he said.

National Pancake Day at IHOP began in 2006. Since its inception, about $30 million has been raised nationally.

The owners of the Demshar’s restaurant in Spanish Springs started its own foundation, the Demshar Foundation, last fall to give back to local charities.

“I’ve always done fundraisers and given back,” said co-owner Dennis Demshar. “That’s what I want to do. It’s in my blood. I want to help.”

The goal is to raise $75,000 to $100,000 annually to donate to organizations such as House of Hope and Hands of Mercy Everywhere. Demshar plans to raise money through events at the restaurant, such as a pancake breakfast, bowling tournament, fashion show, afternoon tea and dinner and gala.

The first fundraiser to support the new foundation will be a pancake breakfast scheduled for April.

“I raise a lot of money and I enjoy it probably more than making money,” Dennis said. “I enjoy giving that money away.”

Parady Financial Group hosts several fundraising events and initiatives throughout the year.

On Saturday, the financial services firm helped put on the Alzheimer’s Family Support Walk at The Villages Polo Club. The event, hosted by Alzheimer’s Family Organization, raises money for educational programs and support for families and caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients and brings awareness on the syndrome.

Parady has been a co-name of the event for the past eight years because the company believes it is an important cause to support, said Cindy Reed, managing partner at Parady.

For the month of February, Parady hosted a food drive with items donated to the Wildwood Food Pantry and Wildwood Soup Kitchen.

In honor of Mother’s Day, Parady also is planning to host its annual baby shower event in May at The Villages Polo Club, where attendees bring baby items, which are collected for and donated to several organizations.

“It’s important to our clients and it’s important to Greg and Jenni Parady that we’re always mindful of the community we’re living in and we’re always charitable,” Reed said. “This is a very generous community in general and it’s important to give back.”

Staff writer Summer Jarro can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5404, or