by Cindy Peterson for The Daily Commercial

EUSTIS — The Tavares, Mount Dora and Eustis fire departments were awarded for collecting more than 11,000 pounds of food during their inaugural food drive in January.

That equates to around 20,000 meals donated to the Lake Cares Food Pantry.

After a friendly competition between the departments, the Golden Triangle Rotary Club awarded first, second and third place to the respective stations. The Tavares department collected 2,390 pounds, the Mount Dora department brought in 2,532 pounds and Eustis came out on top with 6,599 pounds.

“We’ve got a goal of providing 10 million meals throughout the district and this is a perfect example of our community working together to meet that goal,” said James Dickerson, Community Project Chairman of the Golden Triangle Rotary Club. “This is the finale of a great food drive.”

Although the rotary club was hoping to have the drive before the holiday season, they were glad they waited until the first of the year.

“We found that January is actually a hard month for the pantry,” Dickerson added. “The holidays are great for donations but people slow down after the holidays. This donation helped keep people getting the assistance they need. It was heartwarming for me to see these men step up and do this. They don’t just put out fires, they do so much more for our community. Every day, they enter into uncertainty amid the pandemic and without question. Now they are also assisting in providing vaccines to people. They are true heroes.”

Each department was awarded for their contribution, but the Eustis Department received a special plaque that will remain in their possession until next year’s drive.

“We appreciate all the help from our Chamber and our city,” Eustis Fire Chief Mike Swanson said. “We look forward to making this an annual tradition.”

At the end of the drive, all the food and monetary donations were delivered to the Lake Cares Food Pantry in Mount Dora.

“This year has been difference since the pandemic,” Irene O’Malley, executive director of the Lake Cares Food Pantry, said. “All our shelves stared drying up and just when we needed it most, we heard about the Rotary Club coming in with nearly 12,000 pounds of food. It made our hearts happy what you did for our community. Thank you so much for your support.”

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