Eight Rotary clubs come together to help community

Club president-elect Gay Ratcliff-Seamens, of the Village of Belle Aire, unloads a bag of donated food from a car during a food drive for the Evening Rotary Club of The Villages on May 21, at St. Timothy Roman Catholic Church.

Eight Rotary Clubs of the tri-county area are stepping up their efforts to collect much needed-items for the community.

With many out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic, they are visiting the local food pantries to help put food on the table to feed their families.

On Saturday, eight of the local Rotary Clubs in the tri-county area, will come together to host a community wide food drive to help fill the need. The drive will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. as a drive-thru style where donors don’t even have to leave their vehicles, and will consist of 10 drop-off locations. All donated items will benefit local food pantries.

Wendy Weaver, spokesperson for The Villages’ three Rotary Clubs, said in addition to nonexpired foods for the local food pantries, they will also collect personal hygiene items including feminine hygiene products and toothbrushes, and snacks for school children, who may otherwise go without food.

“We had great success with our last drive, where we collected a little more than 19,000 pounds of food,” said Weaver, of the Village Hacienda. “We are hoping this drive will be just as successful, if not better.”

This time instead of seven clubs coming together, there will be eight. These clubs include The Rotary Club of The Villages-Morning, The Rotary Club of the Villages-Noon, The Rotary Club of The Villages-Evening, The Rotary Club of Leesburg-Sunrise, The Rotary Club of Leesburg-Noon, The Rotary Club of Leesburg-Sunset, The Rotary Club of Wildwood and the Rotary Club of Lake County Golden Triangle Club.

“It was amazing to see other clubs wanting to get involved to help keep the food pantries stocked for those who are in need,” said Randy Bayliss, president of The Rotary Club of The Villages-Noon. “Even before the drive was officially announced, we had additional clubs inquiring about if another drive was happening so they could join. Rotary Clubs get involved in a lot of projects benefitting the community, so we are pleased to be able to help out local food pantries once again.”

With an abundance of groups comes an abundance of drop-off locations. These locations include: Colony Cottage Recreation Center, Mulberry Grove Recreation Center, Savannah Center, Oxford Assembly of God in Oxford, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Leesburg, The Venetian Center in Leesburg, Morrison United Methodist Church in Leesburg, Trinity Lutheran Church in Summerfield, Orange Avenue Church of Christ in Eustis and First United Methodist Church in Mount Dora.

With the additional drop-off locations, the clubs are hoping their reach will extend further and they will be able to help more families in need.

“We have seen the local food pantries’ need for help in more than just in The Villages,” said Bayliss, of the Village of Mallory Square. “We know times are hard and we just want to let people know we care.”