If a simple act of kindness could change someone’s life, Donna Castillo-Budd has changed plenty of them.
Budd has been an inspiration to thousands of families and an unsung hero to the South Shore community for more than 35 years.
A community service officer with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office since 1979, she started working in the first substation in Ruskin with Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee, who was also a community service officer at the time.
“We started with one desk, two phones, and we made it work,” Budd said.
In 2012 she relocated to the Sun City Center substation.
At her recent surprise retirement party, Gee commended Budd for her impact on the community.
“Donna has been a valuable employee at the sheriff’s office and a steadfast liaison to the citizens of Ruskin and greater South County for nearly 35 years,” he said. “Her knowledge and sincerity to serve will be hard to replace. Donna can head into retirement knowing she made a difference and for that I am so proud of her.”
In 1980, Budd founded Deputies Darlin’s, a nonprofit organization that helps South Shore children and families in need during the holidays. Budd and her volunteers receive new, donated toys, which are wrapped and distributed to parents so they can provide a Christmas morning for their kids. Last year, 52 families received gifts.
“Donna is a kind, loving person who has had a great influence in my life,” said Annie Moniz. “Deputies Darlin’s helped me when I was a struggling single parent with a toddler. My daughter still remembers the Santa deputies delivering toys to our house. Because of Donna and Deputies Darlin’s, my daughter had a Christmas to remember.”
With her official retirement on April 26, Budd plans on making some changes in her life.
“Although I will continue to volunteer with Deputies Darlin’s, I plan on spending most of my time with my six grandchildren,” she said.