City of Eustis, First Responders And Vets Give Back to the Community

MOUNT DORA, Florida— “We’re gonna take over and go crazy!”

Eustis Police Chief Craig Capri’s announcement to 22 children and their caregivers early Sunday morning was met with claps and cheers as they made their way into Walmart in Mount Dora to spend gift cards that were generously donated by the community, including the AMVETS and current and retired employees.

“This day would not be possible without the AMVETS,” Capri told Inside Lake.

PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

Capri was joined by his two thirds of his command staff, Capts. Ken Toler and Dave Carney, and several of his road patrol officers and administrative staff, in addition to Eustis Fire Chief Mike Swanson and Deputy Fire Chief Scott Davis and several EFD firefighters. Acting City Manager Tom Carrino was also in attendance.

Children were each given a $200 limit to spend, made possible by the AMVETS’ donations and donations from current and retired employees. EPD recently held its annual Christmas party and raised $640 in donations for this event, EPD Sgt. Elena Pasek said. A retired officer joined in Sunday’s fun too and not only shopped with one of the children, but also transported his newly purchased bicycle home because it would not fit in his mom’s car.

“It’s important to Chief Capri to always include our retirees in these projects,” Pasek said.

PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

The children hit the toy and electronic aisles running; Michael, 11, a fifth grader at Eustis Heights Elementary was calculating his Transformers and Power Rangers purchases as he threw them in the cart and voiced his concerns about tax. When asked how he knew about sales tax, Michael replied, “Because I do the math.”

PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

8-year-old Lisa, who is a third-grade homeschooler, purchased a sweatshirt with Grogu emblazoned across the front, a soccer ball and two Care Bears. The Care Bears were Lisa’s favorite purchase and she said she plans to snuggle and sleep with them.

Ryan, 14, grabbed a Nerf gun and was on the hunt for a PS4 controller when Inside Lake talked to him. “It’s my favorite,” the Eustis High School freshman said.

Participants were treated to a huge breakfast after shopping, provided by the AMVETS. Steve Ivie, an Army veteran who has been a member since 2014, said Capri came to them for help with this event and they did not hesitate.

“Everything we do, we put back in the community,” he said. “We’re always doing something.”

PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

Ivie was all smiles as he shopped and he said often, the kids will buy personal hygiene items and necessities with their gift cards and members will come out of pocket for those purchases so the kids can spend their money on fun things. “Help the kids, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Capri echoed his sentiment, “It’s a time for us (EPD) to give back to the community. No kid should have to go without Christmas.”

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