Like the rest of us, PGA Village resident Dr. Shamsher Singh was horrified watching the Bahamas drown under Hurricane Dorian in a nightmare deluge. That storm turned north, sparing Florida any major damage, and, like the rest of us, Singh went to work grateful the storm was kind to the Treasure Coast.
He likes to get to the office around 5:30 a.m. when the building custodian’s about the only other soul around. Said custodian is from the Bahamas.
“When this happened, he was telling me he couldn’t get in touch with his family at first,” Singh said. As news trickled out of the Bahamas, “he told me the street where he grew up was wiped out,” Singh said. “His church was gone.”
Fortunately, the man’s family survived. But many others didn’t.
“They were just washed into the ocean,” Singh explained. “It was two days at 185 mph (winds).”
Singh did what’s the most natural thing for him. “I told him, ‘I’ll try to help you out,’” he said.
His idea of helping out was contacting Mustard Seed Ministries and donating $250,000 for rebuilding efforts on the island nation and its expatriates living in St. Lucie County. It’s not the first time he’s done that. Singh gave St. Lucie County $250,000 for repairs back in 2004 after a string of hurricanes hit. “If you give you’ll always be happy,” Singh said.
Singh’s philanthropy also includes helping out Southeast Honor Flight. In 2013 that organization wanted to show the documentary movie “Honor Flight” locally, so it worked out a deal with Carmike Cinema 14 (now AMC Port St. Lucie 14) to get the movie and have four pre-sold showtimes. The first couple of screening times sold out fast, but then ticket sales waned. That threatened the entire enterprise and it looked like the movie screenings would have to be cancelled. Singh heard about it, and promptly bought up all the remaining tickets for the local Honor Flight affiliate to give away. He took some to give to his patients, too.
By then Singh was already hooked on volunteering for and donating to Honor Flight, an organization started up and dedicated to getting every living World War II veteran to Washington, D.C. to see the National World War II Memorial. That memorial was belatedly opened in 2004 when World War II veterans were already dying at a fast rate. Since then the population of World War II veterans has drastically declined.
Some Honor Flight affiliates, called hubs, closed up when they ran out of local World War II veterans in their areas. Others opened to taking younger veterans. Southeast Florida is one of the latter. One reason Southeast Florida Honor Flight is able to keep gong is because people such as Singh haven’t lost enthusiasm as it transitioned to taking Korean and Vietnam veterans to Washington, D.C. at no charge to let them see the memorials erected to honor their service.
Last year Singh was the co-marshal at the 30th annual Sights & Sounds on Second Street Festival and Parade in Fort Pierce as an honor for his work with Honor Flight. He said yes to riding in the parade on one condition – that veterans rode with him. He thought they deserved the honor more than him.
Singh is the founder and organizer of the upcoming second annual Honor Flight Golf Tournament. Here’s the thing – Singh doesn’t like golf. “I can’t even stand to watch it,” he said.
So, why is he doing all the hard work of organizing a golf tournament? “We should raise about $10,000,” Singh said.
Southeast Florida Honor Flight started up in 2008. It does four flights a year. On Nov. 2 it will fly 79 veterans to D.C. – and it will be Singh’s 28th trip as a guardian, someone who pays for a flight ticket to volunteer on the trip. With that flight, Southeast Florida will have flown more than 3,100 veterans – 3,174 – to the nation’s capital.
Singh doesn’t see himself as particularly generous. He said life’s been good. America, he said, has been good to his family and him.
“My business is doing well, so I may as well give it,” he said. “I’m in good health. My kids turned out really well.”
Besides, Singh said, “my life is extremely simple and straightforward. It’s a simple life with no complications at all. I can (give), because I don’t have to answer to anybody.”
The shotgun start for the Saturday, Oct. 26 golf tournament at Indian Hills Golf Club (1600 S. 3rd St., Fort Pierce) will be at 8:30 a.m. $85 for individual players. To register, call the club at 772-465-8110.