This is our favorite time of the year.
The holidays are just around the corner. People are making plans to be with family and friends for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And it’s a time when we are reminded of just how special the people who call The Villages and the surrounding area home really are.
Each year at this time, a great many charity groups ramp up their efforts to collect everything from food to clothes to toys for those in need. Some of those drives already are under way. And others will start sooner than later.
But do you want to know the great thing about these efforts? They’re all going to enjoy some level of success – thanks to those of you out there who time and again are willing to open your hearts and wallets to those who are less fortunate. We’re always impressed by your generosity. But after having been a part of this community for many years, we aren’t surprised when get the opportunity to write about so many of you making a difference for others.
It’s heartwarming, to say the least. And it largely defines what this community really is all about.
With that in mind, we’d like to encourage everyone to support an effort or two if they can. Can you imagine what would happen if every household in The Villages and the surrounding tri-county area made a donation of some type? Besides needing several big trucks to haul all those donations, it would fulfill so many needs in the community and change many lives.
That said, we know donations already have started flowing and others will come soon. We thank you for that and we encourage you to continue helping those who might be down on their luck and need a positive boost.
Opportunities to help exist in a variety of ways, but we’ll tell you about a few that already are under way as the holidays are fast-approaching.
Lady Lake Police Chief Chris McKinstry wrote in a recent Villages-News.com column that his department will again be coordinating with other law enforcement agencies to host the “Santa’s Shop With A Cop” event. School-aged children, chosen by their school guidance staff, will receive an invitation to go shopping with law enforcement officers in an event that truly allows deserving children and police officers to share a special bond and make lasting memories.
“For many, the holidays are far from joyous,” McKinstry wrote. “Sadly, many in our community struggle with day-to-day needs and are unable to put food on their tables – let alone buy gifts for their kids. No child should spend Christmas hungry. No parent should have to explain to their children why they didn’t receive a gift for Christmas.”
Needless to say, we’re huge fans of this program and we couldn’t agree more. This effort not only makes sure children aren’t going without at Christmas, but it also shows them that police officers are real people – many of whom have huge hearts and will do just about anything to make their communities better. We think that’s pretty neat and we wish McKinstry and company the best in this noble venture.
Along those same lines, our friends who belong to The Col. Phillip C. DeLong Detachment of the Marine Corps League in The Villages recently kicked off their annual Toys for Tots drive. Member Bruce Jones, who is leading this year’s effort, said about 240 drop boxes are being placed throughout the community to make it easy for area residents to drop off toys to help make this year’s drive a huge success.
If you know anything about the members of this detachment – once a Marine always a Marine! – then you know that the members will work tirelessly to make sure truckloads of toys are collected and distributed throughout the tri-county area. Many of them will put in extremely long hours on this effort over the next two months. And we’re willing to bet that just about every one of them will reach into their own pockets at some time or another to purchase a slew of toys as well.
Another great effort that’s already under way is the 10th annual Pajama and Book Drive, a service project of the Girl Scout Alumnae Silver Trefoil Group. Every Villages recreation center has a big red box for Villagers to donate pajamas and books, which will then be distributed to the more than 6,000 homeless children in Lake, Marion and Sumter counties.
Again, we’re huge fans of this effort. Every child should have fresh pajamas to sleep in. And we’re obviously big-time proponents of the effort to get books into these children’s hands to encourage them to explore the world through the written word.
There’s a similar effort under way to help underprivileged Wildwood Elementary students. Villager Faye Scher is spearheading a community-wide drive to collect coats for students at the school, which has a poverty rate of about 90 percent.
Scher, of the Village of Gilchrist, said many of the students don’t have coats. And she added that some live in trailer homes with no heat or are sleeping in cars.
With cold temperatures inevitable in the coming months, Scher said it’s important to collect the coats now so children can be prepared when the weather changes. With that in mind, those wishing to donate should purchase new, solid-color coats – no prints. The coats can be dropped off at:
- 1426 Juarez Place in the Village of Rio Ponderosa (north of County Road 466);
- 3051 Bureau Path in the Village of Gilchrist (near Buena Vista & Pinellas);
- 3106 Merrit Lane in the Village of Fenney (Mockingbird Villas off White Ibis); and
- Hair and Nail Creations, 104 Main St. in Wildwood (U.S. 301 close to Wildwood Cleaners).
Scher said cash donations also are appreciated. Checks can be sent to Faye Scher, 3051 Bureau Path, The Villages FL, 32163 or dropped off by Dec 6. There is a box at Scher’s door for the coats. Those who need more information can email her at [email protected].
There you have it. We’re sure there are many more worthy groups out there collecting and we applaud them all for such noble efforts. We encourage each of you to pick an organization you want to support and do whatever you can to make a difference. And we’ll take this opportunity to thank you in advance.
Because after living here for as long as we have and being active members in the community, we know that because of each of you, success is right around the corner for these charity groups that work so hard to make a difference in the local area.
We think that’s pretty special and we applaud each of you for making it happen year in and year out.