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Car show, toy drive benefits youth and veterans in need over holidays

December 20, 2017
By ERIC DeVAUX ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

A local non-profit organization threw its first annual event on Dec. 16, which started as a car show but evolved to include a toy drive for families in need.

The SW Florida Shield Foundation of Lee County, in correlation with the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District, ran its first annual Charity Car, Truck and Bike Show to raise roadside awareness of police officers and emergency responders and to collect donations for local veterans and children.

"We're doing this event for disabled vets and children for Christmas," organizer James Branham said. "A lot of the money we raise with the cars are all going to the vets. We keep a small amount for our safety equipment."

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Toy drive coordinated in partnership with the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District to benefit Lehigh Community Services.

The fire district oversaw the toy drive.

"They're going to have somebody come at the end of the (car) show and they're going to pick up the toys," Branham said.

The toys and food were handed off to Lehigh Community Services.

For the car show, a competition was held with the winners getting trophies.

According to Branham, members from the SW Florida Shield Foundation of Lee County help law enforcement and emergency responders roadside by taking care of their safety from oncoming traffic.

"We give our first responders a safe working area to get people out of their way so they can do their jobs," he said. "There's just been too many people killed this year between your firefighters - which has doubled this year - your police officers is way off the chart, (and) your tow operators, which also almost doubled this year."

The organization wants first responders to know that they are only there to help.

"They're not quite sure of who we are or what we do," Branham said. "We need a little bit of publicity. We're not out to take anybody's job or step on anybody's toes."

The SW Florida Shield Foundation of Lee County has been operational for four years.

"We're just starting to get a little bit more out in the public now," he said. "It's a challenge."

The organization covers Lee, Collier and Henry counties.

"We're looking to expand," Branham said.

Currently, the organization is looking for more volunteers.

"Right now we are looking for volunteers, whether they would like to help out with the events or they would be more hands on out on the roadways to help with traffic control," he said.

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