The elementary school honors parents and retirees who put students No. 1. The honorees are more than happy to help.
Stan Wishin was positioned inside the entrance of the Floral City Elementary School cafeteria. As children filed in for an assembly he was greeted with multiple high-fives.
Ron Dornsife, Beth Rua and Holli Cole were nearby. The four _ along with Jim Hampton, who was unable to attend _ were invited to the Level Three assembly (a reward for students with good behavior) to receive special pins reserved for volunteers who have given at least 70 hours each of their time during a school year.
Wishin, 79, and Dornsife, 70, were in Citrus County deputy uniforms and volunteer at Floral City as part of the Sheriff Office GRANDPA (or Getting Retirees Actively Motivated to Policing Again) program. Both have been involved in the program since it started four years ago and have spent that time at Floral City.
Rua, 34, and Cole, 23, are parents of students at the school. Rua has two sons there, Dallas and Nicholas. Cole has one, Cameron. Both have been volunteering at Floral City for one year.
GRANDPA is a program that started in Ohio and was picked up by Sheriff Jeff Dawsy. He asked for volunteers to work as mentors, in security and in classrooms in schools. Volunteers do not have to be retired law enforcement officers or grandpas (women are welcome), but some are.
Wishin retired as a lieutenant from the Broward County Sheriff's Office. Before that he was a police officer in New York City for 21 years. "It's in my blood, so you don't walk away from it that easily," he said.
Dornsife is an example of a volunteer from another walk of life. He was with General Motors for 33 years. One of the main objectives of GRANDPA, he said, is "to make the schoolchildren more comfortable with law personnel."
Lt. Doug Dodd, who is the volunteers' coordinator with the Sheriff's Office, said there are about 16 volunteers in the program.
Rua and Cole are not in the GRANDPA program. They volunteer for the sake of their children and all of the children they serve. "I thought it was good for my kids to see me here helping other kids," said Rua. She helps with the Accelerated Reader program, with the exceptional education students and in the art classroom.
Cole, who says she does just about the same as Rua, attended Floral City as a fifth- and sixth-grader (when she was there, the school went through sixth grade.) Her husband went to the school from kindergarten through sixth grade. They were living in the Florida Panhandle when they decided to return to Citrus County. She said Floral City Elementary School was the last deciding factor. They wanted their children to go there.
She returned to the school to volunteer, she said, "to be close to my son and to help out the other kids. I love kids."