An early morning phone call from his store clerk gave Mims Volunteer Firefighter Chief Gary Carroll a rude awakening.
"She called me at 5 o'clock," said Carroll. "(She) said, it's stolen, its gone."
Just after midnight, a thief made off with a 40 inch Murray riding lawnmower. It was chained in front of the the gas station Carroll owns where he works full time.
"I was mad, my wife was madder than I was," said Carroll. "I couldn't believe that somebody wanted to steal it. Why would somebody want to do it?"
The lawnmower was donated anonymously and was to be the special prize in a fundraising raffle for the Mims Fire and EMS Department.
"You're going to wonder why a person would do that when all we're trying to do is earn money to keep us equipped with the firefighters equipment, the EMS equipment, to support the community."
Carroll said the thief used a strong bolt cutter to break the lock and chain.
"Somebody had to have come by and seen it and planned to do this," he said.
The Mims Fire Department covers more than 100 miles of area surrounding the Lake-O-the-Pines.
"Without us here," said Carroll, "fire support or ambulance support is 30 minutes away."
$600 had already been raised to replace the mower. Now, Carroll says he and his community are left wondering why someone took the joy out of their community's charity.
"Everybody's upset, everybody comes in the store is upset."
A reward is being offered, but Chief Carroll says there should never have been a need for offering one in the first place.
"You know you trust people, you'd think they leave it alone, it's for the community."
Chief Carroll said the Mims Fire Department will continue its raffle. They are looking into buying a new lawnmower, even though it means using already slim funds.
Maya Golden reporting, email@example.com