Community Shows Heart

By: Mary Chartier

This article first appeared on November 18, 2013 in The Villages Daily Sun

Spruce Creek Golf and Country Club

What an evening!

Once again, the Horizon ballroom was filled to capacity with residents, visitors from surrounding communities, many volunteers, special guests, local dignitaries and entertainers, all to raise money for the non-profit organization USA Cares, the nonprofit group that provides financial and advocacy support to members of the U.S. armed forces, veterans and their families.

As I entered the ballroom, I spotted many of the people I had spoken to at last year’s event and decided I would walk around and ask what motivates them to work so hard and volunteer so many hours for this cause.

What I learned over the course of the evening is that the reasons, while stated differently, all come from the same place – the heart.

I spoke to Bob Carter of the Veterans Association planning committee, and asked, “What drives you to be so passionate about this event?”

“What drives me is the fact that 100 percent that is raised from the event goes to the veterans and their families,” Bob answered.

I chatted with Dennis Demshar, president of HoneyBaked Ham in Lady Lake, and asked if this fundraiser would become an annual event.

“Yes, it is going to be an annual event,” Dennis said with emotion.  “This is my passion.  I am committed to USA Cares.  Every year we are going to continue and get stronger and stronger”.

“Are you going to provide the food again this year?” I asked.

“This year we are going to have our own honey-baked ham, turkey, baked potatoes, steamed green beans, we have a great dessert, salad and all the trimmings,” Dennis said.

The evening began with welcoming remarks by Carter followed by the presentation of colors, Pledge of Allegiance, singing of the national anthem, and a wonderful invocation.

During dinner, I spotted entertainer Norman Lee and asked, “What is it that motivates you?”

“I bleed red, white and blue.  Anything I can ever do for our young men and women who serve this country, man I’m there”.

“I sing a song, and I preach the gospel, but these people are laying down their life on the line.  They are willing to give everything to keep this country safe,” he continued.

Norman gazed around the room with admiration in his eyes and said, “Look at all these people.  Every one of these people, every single one of these people donated their time, every one of these people paid for a ticket”.

“Hey, this is America; we all stick together, and when one is down, by God, we’re there to help,” he said with emotion.

Once dinner was finished, Richard Sobieray, USA Cares representative for Central Florida, spent a few moments welcoming visiting dignitaries, thanking all the residents and volunteers who contributed to the event’s success.

“We can’t thank the residents of Del Webb enough.” Richard said.  “You guys have been absolutely wonderful to us and we appreciate it”.

Richard went on to say that it was an honor to work with USA Cares for what they do.

“The September figures, for example, for the state of Florida alone, they have granted over $522,000 to Florida clients.  There are approximately 2500 clients here in Florida and (they have) saved 553 homes”.

Time arrived for Bryan Anderson, guest speaker and spokesman for USA Cares, to come to the stage.  As he did, the audience came to its feet and gave him a heartfelt welcome.

Bryan survived an improvised explosive device attack, losing both lets and left hand while serving in the Iraq War.

“Thank you for the unbelievably warm welcome,” he said as he looked out into the audience.  “First off, I just gotta say, thank you all for coming.  I look at this right now, every year, as a tradition – something that I have to go to.  You guys are my family now, and I just appreciate it,” Bryan said.

“You can be sure that there are soldiers in Florida that got to keep their houses, got to keep their lights on and, got to feed their kids at night,” Bryan said.  “I just have to say, it is all because of you.  It is touching to me”.

The rest of the evening was filled with Norman electrifying the audience with his boundless energy, beautiful voice, leading everyone in rousing renditions of patriotic songs and conducting an auction that both mesmerized and entertained everyone in the room.

Thanks to all these wonderful volunteers donating their time, talents and goods, the event raised $20,000.


USA Cares representative Richard Sobieray; Dennis Demshar president HoneyBaked Ham of Lady Lake; Jennifer Simpson USA Cares Kentucky; and Bryan Anderson, USA Cares spokesman, take a moment before the third-annual HoneyBaked Ham charity event.  The event, sponsored by the Del Webb Veterans Association, was a big success.

Golf Tourney Benefiting Vets Filled with Fun, Competition

Written by: Mary Chartier

This article first appeared on September 9, 2013 in The Villages Daily Sun

Spruce Creek Golf and Country Club

Spruce Creek, Folds of Honor
Jim Hartmann hits a long shot down the Champions #1 fairway .

Labor Day weekend, golfers across the nation were teeing up to play a fun round of golf and, at the same time, raise funds for the Folds of Honor Foundation.

The foundation provides services and scholarships to the families of military personnel who have been killed in service to our country.

The Patriots Day golf tournament was sponsored by the Spruce Creek Golf and Country Club Veterans Association, David Blackston Financial Advisory, title sponsor, and Brown Golf at Eagle Ridge and host of others.

Over 206 golfers came together for this fun golfing event, an event that pits the Army and Air Force against the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.

Registration started early Sunday morning with everyone enjoying a quick breakfast of coffee and muffins.

I walked around a bit, talking with several golfers, wanting to know why they were participating.  I was not surprised at their responses.

To a person, they all agreed that it would be a fun day and that it was for a very worthy cause.

Then I spotted two younger participants, Drew and Kyle Blackston, and learned that they were the sons of the title sponsor of the event and would be playing in a foursome with their dad, David and mom, Andrea.

“Why is your family so involved in this event,” I asked.

“This is our home and we are just trying to help out the community and like to get involved,” Drew responded.

Drew added, “We support the military and everything they do.  My grandfather on my dad’s side served in the army in France during WWII.  My grandfather on my mom’s side fought in WWII in the navy”.

Opening ceremonies started with event chairperson, Jack Cherry, introducing Dave Blackston, who sang the national anthem, and team captains Ron Spencer, leading the Army and Air Force, and Bill Stewart, leading the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.

In a moment of levity, Ron reminded everyone that their team had been defeated by the Navy, Marine and Coast Guard team last year then said, “Today is the day of redemption”.

Ron followed that up by telling all the golfers, “I want you to go out there and have some fun today”.

During the announcements, Jack also mentioned that there would be several ROTC cadets volunteering during the event.

I spoke briefly with Belleview High School teacher and Air Force ROTC sponsor, retired Lt. Col. Terry Dickensheet about the cadet program and the cadets who would be working the event.

“The mission statement of the program is to develop citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and community,” Terry said.

He told me that senior Anthony Beckzo, junior Alisha Stamm, sophomore Zakary Solgut, and freshman Zachary Stamm had volunteered to be at the event.

“As each team comes up to hole number 9 on each course, they will salute the veterans, pull the pins while they putt and put the pin back,” Terry explained.

After a beautiful day on the golf course, the golfers returned to the clubhouse and were greeted by the great down-home, toe tapping music of the Last Time Out Band.

Once everyone was settled in their seats, Jack requested all the veterans to stand up and be recognized.  He then asked everyone else to stand and, “give a moment of silence to all those brave men and women who have served this country and given their last measure of devotion”.

Veterans Association Chaplain Jay Welty gave the blessing before everyone sat down to a delicious lunch of pulled pork and chicken-salad sandwiches, scoops of macaroni and cheese, potato salad, three bean salad, cake and ice cream catered by Toppers Tavern.

Anticipation mounted as everyone wanted to hear who this year’s winners would be.

Director of golf Dale Smauder announced that after a friendly competition between the services, the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard had once again taken the trophy, and that the trophy would be on display at the pro shop.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with heartfelt thank yous to all the volunteers who had contributed to the success of the event, chance drawings and a wonderful silent auction.

Tony Hagwood, general manager of Brown’s Golf, took a few moments to thank everyone for their participation in such a fantastic cause.

Thanks to all the hard work of all the volunteers, sponsors, golfers from Spruce Creek and surrounding communities, and generous donations the event raised over $17,000.

Club activities and events are for Spruce Creek Golf and Country Club residents.

Mary Chariter is a resident of Spruce Creek Golf and Country Club.  She can be reached at


Pictures taken by:  Mary Chartier