Villages Rotarians have joined with Villages Charter School Rotary Interactors to collect more than 6,000 pounds of non-perishable food items.
The groups collected the food March 27 at six locations in The Villages. The donations will benefit seven different food pantries in the tri-county area.
The Rotary Clubs have supported food pantries over the years, however, the pandemic caused clubs from around Central Florida to work together for a bigger positive impact.
Since March 2020, Rotary clubs in The Villages, Leesburg and Mount Dora have jointly planned quarterly food drives in their communities. These collections have totaled tens of thousands of pounds of non-perishable food.
“We started with nearby pantries but added several who seemed underserved,” said Randy Bayliss, president of Rotary Club of The Villages Noon and chair for the recent food drive. “We now have ongoing relationships and they know they can call on Rotary to help with future needs.”
Bayliss said the Rotary Club collected more than 1,100 pounds of food and cash at Everglades Recreation Center and the Trailwinds Village Publix grocery store.
“These were shared with Beyond the Wall and the United Community Methodist food pantries in Fruitland Park,” he said. “We also shared our collection with The LovExtension, a group that provides home food delivery to seniors and disabled in Lake and Sumter counties. Linda Krupski, director of LovExtension, was thrilled with the opportunity Saturday and will be speaking about their program at the noon weekly meeting.
Gay Ratcliff Seamens, president of the Rotary Club of The Villages – Evening, added: “This past year has been very tough on local food pantries, especially the smaller ones that don’t have wide community resources.”
Ratcliff Seamens was busy Saturday visiting and helping 22 club members at three sites. The Village Car Wash/Winn Dixie location provided St. Theresa’s Food Pantry in Belleview with more than 2,800 pounds.
“The day started off great when The Villages Tesla Car Owners Club ‘quietly’ showed up at 9 a.m. with four Teslas filled with food and also made a $400 donation to the club,” said Sandra Ricciardi, club co-chair.
The club partnered with Hope Food Pantry of Weirsdale at Sumter Landing Winn-Dixie. Anita Dillman, director of the pantry, was thrilled with more than 1,000 pounds of food that filled her partner Tonia Brock’s car twice. The food donations have continued this past week as Rotarians have made more trips to Hope Lutheran Church, where there is a food locker at the entrance.
Rohan Recreation Center was the club’s third site in The Villages and it hosted a collaborative effort between the Evening Rotary Club and Langley Health Services to help Hope Ministries Food Pantry in Bushnell with almost 500 pounds.
Grace Tabernacle Wildwood benefitted from the Rotary Morning Club collecting food at Colony Cottage Recreation Center with Interactors from The Villages High School.
This food drive was started by the three clubs placing 10 large drop boxes at recreation centers to collect food donations for the month of March.
“This made it convenient for Villagers to donate food on their schedule and really helped all three clubs increase the amount collected overall,” said Bayliss. “This is a generous community and the Rotary Food Drive was able to help several food pantries meet the needs of those in and around our community because of their generosity.”
Are you a member of a service club that has made a difference in the lives of tri-county area residents? If so, please send the details and photos to [email protected]