Lee County ‘Officer of the Year’ awardees give money to favorite charities

Five people in law enforcement received a $25,000 award on Monday. But they will not keep the money. Instead, it goes to each of their favorite charities.

Cooking up meals at Buckingham Exceptional Student Center will soon get significantly easier for its special students.

“It’s going to change lives,” said Donna Aiossa-McNally, of Lee County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s going to give kids the opportunity to learn how to cook.”

The generous donation is thanks to a $25,000 donation from Creighton Construction and Development.

“People that serve our community in one way and then enhance our community in another,” Dan Creighton, of Creighton Construction & Development, said. “It’s just such a dichotomy of amazingness.”

Each of the five “Officers of the Year” finalists received $25,000 to give to the organization of their choice.

One of the finalists decided to use the money to support his own non-profit, where he dresses up as superheroes and visits kids in the hospital. Three others used their awards to support Valerie’s House, The Messina Children’s Center and the Deputy Dog Program at the LCSO.

Aiossa-McNally, who is among the winners, is saving up for a new kitchen for students.

“The perfect kitchen would have an area where the kids could come up in a wheelchair and go underneath, so it’s the right height,” Aiossa-McNally said. “Same with the appliances. How to learn how to load a dishwasher, how to come up to a sink, to have the ability to come up to the sink and be able to reach everything.”

“The $25,000 certainly will speed up the process, because we need $60,000 per our school district,” said Dr. Ruthie Lohmeyer, with Buckingham Exceptional Student Center. “It’s just so exciting because our kids love to cook!”

The students are now cooking for the homeless shelter once a week. It is a lesson Aiossa-McNally is thankful for this holiday season.

“It’s important to receive, but it’s so important to give back,” Aiossa-McNally said. “All kids need to learn that lesson.”

Reporter:Taylor Petras
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