Throughout his nearly 40-year career with the Florence Police Department in South Carolina, Samuel Lee Toney dedicated his service to kids in the community. He put in extra effort to connect with the youngsters he and his partners met while patrolling.
“They would build a relationship with constant activities and just showing up for that kid and staying connected to them all the way until adulthood,” Samantha Toney, Samuel’s daughter and a police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, told The Post and Courier.
The impact her father left on the community became very evident after his passing in 2015, when people began sharing their stories with Samantha. For example, Samuel founded the Junior Deputy Sheriffs program in the 1970s to teach kids about leadership and healthy relationships, including interactions with law enforcement. Veronica McNeil attended the program and credits it and Samuel for creating a pivotal moment in her childhood. She met the elder Toney a year after being sexually assaulted at age 9, and she was still struggling in her recovery. She told The Post and Courier that he was not only kind and understanding, but believed she possessed strong leadership characteristics. “He taught me how to care again,” said McNeil, who now works at a disabilities and special needs development center.
Those types of stories inspired Samantha to establish the Samuel Lee Toney Sr. Foundation in 2015. Its mission is to promote positive and supportive relationships between law enforcement and young people. Currently, it offers a variety of classes and activities, including equine therapy with Star and Princess, the two horses her father rode during his mounted duty days. The Florence P.D. signed over custody of these animals to Samantha after her father’s passing so they could continue benefitting the community.
“I’m having a lot of fun in this movement to humanize officers, build trust with our communities and help transition our young people into promising adults with the mentorship of those who wear this badge,” Samantha told American Police Beat.
This year, she kicked off Rally for Tips, the organization’s first major fundraising campaign. The goal is to collect enough donations to serve more kids next year and expand programs to include motivational speakers, field days, scholarships for trade certifications or licenses, and college tours.
“Our goal is to have 4,000 people giving $1.50 per week,” Samantha said.
Find more information about the Samuel Lee Toney Foundation at samtoney.com.