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Charles Ridley and Thomas Siccone

Thomas Siccone, 51, and Charles Ridley (Chuck Ridley), 43, opened Village Academy elementary school in southwest Delray Beach last year. Starting with 200 students in kindergarten through second grade, they plan to add third grade next year and to continue right through high school before they're done.

It's not the first joint project for the two men who took the newspaper's Palm Beach County prize for community service.

Chuck Ridley is founder and executive director of MAD DADS (Men Against Destruction, Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder), where Siccone is a board member. The grassroots community group started with two men patrolling the streets to keep drug dealers away and grew into a center for mentoring children and nurturing neighborhood associations.

Tom Siccone also is a founder of the nonprofit organization Give Some Back Inc., which has raised nearly $1 million to buy and distribute toys, computers and playground equipment to underprivileged children.

He explained that the group got started in 1985 when one of his business associates had a good day in the bond market.

"He said, 'I'd like to give some of this back,'" Siccone recalled. The group supports cultural, educational and sports programs.

A special concern of Siccone's is literacy, and he has provided funding for an AmeriCorps literacy volunteer to tutor students and their parents. He said he will donate his share of the $10,000 award to the Palm Beach County Literacy Coalition.

Cynthia Ridley accepted on behalf of her husband, who was at a training program in New York and unable to attend the luncheon.

Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, By NOREEN MARCUS, Staff Writer, Posted March 31 2001

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