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Lake Elsinore Comes Together For Needy Kids During 'Cops For Kids' Night

“I grew up in Orange County. I’m always amazed at the generosity in this Valley,” said Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce President Kim Cousins.

The working relationship between Lake Elsinore educators, law enforcement, community leaders and residents was apparent Thursday at Chili’s on Central Avenue during the biannual Cops for Kids night.

The event featured uniformed deputies from the Lake Elsinore Sheriff’s Station and Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Explorers bussing tables and serving patrons dinner. In return, customers were asked if they would like to leave a donation for the nonprofit Cops for Kids, which raises money for needy Lake Elsinore Unified School District students.

Most patrons did, because most live in the community and were either teachers, district officials, friends and family of law enforcement, or community leaders.

There’s a “built-in network” in Lake Elsinore, said Cops for Kids President Tom Thomas. “Lake Elsinore still has a small-town feel. A lot of people ask, ‘What can we do to help?'”

Thursday night’s event will raise around $3,000, according to Thomas, who scurried from table to table chatting with familiar faces and carrying a wad of envelopes stuffed with donations.

“The money really goes to where it should – right to our kids,” said Thomas, who also serves as an LEUSD governing board member.

In addition to patron donations, Chili’s also kicks in a portion of sales proceeds from the event.

Chili’s Managing Partner Jeff Root said giving back is part of the company’s mission statement.

“We want to invest in a community that invests in us,” he said. “Of course we see increased business from this, but any increase goes to them (Cops for Kids). We make zero off this.”

Lake Elsinore Sheriff’s Station Captain Dave Fontneau was busy serving hungry eaters Thursday, but he took time to talk about the event’s importance. In addition to raising money for a needy cause, the event gives the community a chance to mingle with law enforcement in a way it might never do otherwise, he explained.

“It’s a great opportunity to interact in a positive way,” he said. “It gives us a chance to show it’s not just about taking bad guys to jail.”

Fontneau said his station works to partner with the community to help break down barriers and keep the lines of communication open. He pointed to uniformed deputies who were smiling and chatting with customers Thursday night.

“All of us work hard to make it happen. It’s a team effort,” he said of the connection between the community, its leaders, school district officials and law enforcement.

In total, approximately 15 sworn deputies and 20 Explorers volunteered their time Thursday night.

Thomas, who also serves with the Rotary Club of Lake Elsinore, said the Chili’s event costs nothing to put on, and bringing in customers was easy: He used his connections to spread the word.

“It’s a natural fit. Rotary gives back in scholarships, Cops for Kids helps needy students, and the district wants to make sure kids’ needs are met, ” he said.

Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce President Kim Cousins was also at Thursday’s event. He said for those who can afford to give, Cops for Kids is a “no brainer.”

“I grew up in Orange County. I’m always amazed at the generosity in this Valley,” he said.

LEUSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Passarella was at Thursday’s event, too. He said the bringing together of like-minded community members is a great way to raise money for a good cause.

“There are a lot of needy people who would probably like to be here tonight, but can’t afford to,” he said. “We can. Why not give back?”

Tom Thomas May 04, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Thanks to all who joined us at Chili's. This is always a fun event where we raise needed funds for Cops for Kids.. A special thanks to Captain Dave Fontneau and the Lake Elsinore Sheriff's Station staff and of course, our Explorers. Without them it would not be possible. Thanks too, to Jeff Root at Chili's. Jeff and his staff go that extra mile for us and it is very appreciated. Tom Thomas Executive Director and the CFK Board
Toni McAllister (Editor) May 04, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Great turnout. Nice to see the community working together.
Mark May 05, 2012 at 02:48 PM
This is what our local area is really about, people helping people! Congratulations to Tom Thomas, Captain Dave Fontneau, Jeff Root, all law enforcement individuals present, and yes our esteemed Explorers. When people come together for the betterment of their community, great positive things can and will happen. Thanks for the article Toni.
Hoopmom May 06, 2012 at 06:25 AM
My daughter played basketball at Temescal Canyon High School and Jeff Root was always willing to give donations of food or money for the girls. He's a great guy!
chapin May 15, 2012 at 06:35 AM
It is nice to see people come together. Question, where is this money going or how is this money use??

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