An under-the-radar cause took the spotlight Oct. 23 at the SRQ Waterworks.
The Sheriff’s Activities League has been helping the youth of Sarasota County for almost 40 years, but the SAL charity auction at the downtown club was the first “big fundraiser in a long time” for the nonprofit, said DeWayne Hill, director of the SAL.
The SAL connects at-risk youth in Sarasota County with sheriff’s deputies for mentorship, after-school activities and weekend recreation. The program has taken youth horseback riding, among other fun outings.
But that’s only half of what SAL does. The SAL’s Explorer Program offers high school students leadership training and the chance to learn firsthand about careers in law enforcement.
Anais Zambaux, a junior at Sarasota High, is in her fourth year in the program and is considering entering the U.S. Marine Corps or perhaps attending a ROTC program.
Either way she’s interested in “a military career or law enforcement,” Zambaux said.
“I've grown a lot. I’ve learned to treat everyone with respect, even if they’ve been in (prison) they’re still people and deserve respect,” she said.
Steve Shimonov and Ronnie Shugar, SAL board members, hosted the event, which featured a wide range of auction items to entice donations. Shimonov’s Sarasota Watch Co. sponsored the event along with Jon F. Swift Construction and Shugar.
“I had mentorship that really helped me (as a youth),” said Shugar. “It’s a great cause. It’s not just about the kids. It’s an appreciation for the sheriff’s deputies and the time they’ve taken out of their days and weekends to spend with the kids. We’re also here to sponsor first responders.”
Before kicking off the live auction, both Hill and Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman addressed the crowd of potential bidders and donors.
“I have the greatest job in the world, but it breaks my heart, because it is needed,” said Hill, adding that far too many area youth are essentially raised by their smartphones.
The nonprofit has kept a low profile for a long time, explained board members.
It has a low overhead, with almost no administrative costs, said Lance Karp, SAL board president, so nearly every dollar of donations go directly to the intended recipients.
As the bidding heated up, Karp told the Observer, “(The SAL) has always been low-key. It’s time we let some other people help us.”