ANNA MARIA – The season of giving started early in the city of Anna Maria. Residents and business raised more than $18,000 for the Flight to the North Pole organization.
Funds will be used to help terminally ill children and their families.
“Every dollar we earn is given right back to the families,” Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Patrick Manning said. Manning led the donation drive in Anna Maria.
The MCSO and Anna Maria city officials presented a check to Flight to the North Pole representatives outside Ginny’s and Jane E’s Nov. 1.
Manning began asking for donations in early September. It took less than two months to raise a total of $18,696.
“Ginny’s and Jane E’s raised the most,” Manning said. “Over $3,000. They were our biggest donor. Paul and Tammy Foster truly embraced the idea.”
The secret, according to Manning, was that every employee asked customers for any leftover change when they ordered food or drinks at the restaurant.
“The response was amazing,” Manning said.
Flight to the North Pole was founded in 1985 by Eastern Airlines flight attendants. When Eastern Airlines closed the organization hopped over to Continental Airlines. The Flight’s founder, Sidney Ettedgui, eventually landed with the MCSO, bringing the non-profit with him.
Ettedgui said, “As long as we have money there’s no limit to what we do.”
The Flight used to have an actual flight from Sarasota-Bradenton Airport to Fort Myers, but Ettedgui said the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the heightened security at airports put a stop to that. “It was too much to put the families and children through,” he said, “but there’s still plenty we can do, too.”
Flight to the North Pole funds go to help families with anything. Manning said in the past they’ve paid electric bills, rent and helped with travel costs. “Anything that’s needed,” he said.
Funds aren’t just raised during and before the holiday season. The MCSO holds events and donation drives throughout the year.
The next event is an exotic car show Nov. 10 outside the MCSO headquarters, 600 301 Blvd., Bradenton.
“There’s no better cause to be a part of,” Manning said. “Next year I’m hoping to raise $30,000 from Anna Maria businesses and residents.” The 2018 goal was $10,000.
Manning said, “The further in life you go, you learn it’s not about you, it’s about what you can do to help someone else.”