BGA gives to Blessings
Pictured, from left to right, are Dave Beck, Sol Asekun, Len Ciriello, Jim Remler (BGA founder), Rachelle Garrett (Citrus County Blessings Operations Director), W.A. Pace (BGA Commissioner) and Peter Bockiaro.
On Monday, Feb. 27, the Citrus Hills Bad Golfers Association (BGA) presented a check to the Citrus County Blessings Operations Director, Rachelle Garrett, for $2,830 for this year’s donation.
The BGA has voluntarily taken collections from its members for 11 years for five needy organizations each year. The Citrus County Blessings program is one of the BGA’s favorite organizations. In 11 years, the BGA has donated over $100,000 to Citrus County organizations.
The Blessings program provides around 2,400 local students in 28 schools with six meals to take home every Friday of the school year. The students are also given additional food to take home over the school breaks, to include summer break. Seventy percent of the schooled children in Citrus County are enrolled in the free and reduced-price meal program. The Blessings program supplements this program. Each child is recommended by a school employee. Students’ identities are protected, their names only released to staff and key volunteers.
The Blessings program utilizes two staff members and over 400 volunteers each month from the 900 registered volunteers to transport pallets, pack bags and deliver the food to the schools.
This organization is truly one of the highlights of giving for the BGA.
Once a month, Bonnie Rybak and her fellow Rotarians unload pallets of food from a Citrus County Blessings truck at First Presbyterian Church in Inverness to be sorted and packed in bags.
On the days Let’s Feed Citrus has a food distribution, Rybak is there, loading food into people’s vehicles and doing whatever else needs to be done for the hundreds of cars filled with people needing food to feed their families or give to their neighbors.
“I mark the dates on my calendar because that’s a priority for me,” Rybak said.
And that’s true.
But, it’s someone like Bonnie Rybak, who prefers being behind the scenes doing the small but nevertheless important tasks, who is exactly the kind of person an organization — or a community — needs to thrive.
Because of her willingness to be in the background, to do the work and not expect or even desire the glory, because of her enthusiasm and energy and passion for making the community a better place, whether unloading trucks, serving on boards, tutoring or raising funds, because of her dependability and perseverance, Bonnie Rybak is the 2022 Citrus County Chronicle Citizen of the Year.
Each year, the Chronicle Editorial Board solicits the community for nominees of people who have a positive impact on the lives of others.
Rybak was nominated by Inverness businesswoman Linda VanAllen.
“Bonnie is a rare gift in our community, and it’s time she was recognized for all her hard work,” VanAllen said. “Whatever she does, whatever board she’s on, she’s passionate about making it successful and determined to do whatever she can.
“When you get to know Bonnie, you know that every day when she gets up she’s wondering who she can help that day. She puts her heart and soul into everything she does.”
HCA Florida Citrus Hospital recently held a “Healthy Food for Healthier Tomorrows” food drive to benefit Citrus County Blessings. The two-week drive amongst hospital caregivers resulted in an overall donation of 610 pounds of jam and jelly along with a $10,000 donation.
“Our charity of choice for this year’s drive was Citrus County Blessings, a local program that provides 2,300 local students across 31 schools with six meals to take home every Friday during the school year,” said HCA Florida Citrus Hospital CEO Lisa Nummi. “We learned earlier in the year that Blessings had received a generous donation of peanut butter; we chose to complement that donation by collecting jam and jelly.”
Before the jam and jelly was donated to Blessings, hospital caregivers used the jars to create a sculpture.
“In keeping with the spirit of providing “blessings in a backpack” to kids, we turned our caregiver donations into the largest jelly backpack the state of Florida has ever seen,” said the hospital’s Director of Communications and Community Engagement Katie Myers. The jelly backpack structure includes a top loop, zipper and working straps, weighs in at more than 600 pounds and is 6’ tall.
The sculpture was entered into a contest among other HCA Florida Healthcare West Florida Division hospitals and won first place: an additional $10,000 donation to Citrus County Blessings.
“Our Citrus County Blessings program thrives on relationships like the one we have with HCA Florida Citrus Hospital and its staff. It’s a great way to raise awareness, build relationships and help our children,” said Citrus County Blessings Executive Director Christina Reed. “This jelly drive couldn’t have come at a better time to complement our large peanut butter donation. We are so thankful for our friends at HCA Florida Citrus Hospital and what they were able to accomplish for our kids.”
Pete's Pier Tournament a Success
Citrus County Blessings was one of the recipients of proceeds from the 3rd Annual Pete's Pier King of the Bay Fishing Tournament. The donation from this event will help feed food-insecure children in Citrus County.
Ben and Nancy DiVona were named Family of the Month for June by St. Scholastica Knights of Columbus Council 14485.
They moved from Selden, New York, to the Tampa Bay area in 1976 before coming to Citrus County in 1998.
Ben became a knight in 2013. He has been co-director for the Culture of Life Program since 2015 and heavily involved with the Baby Bottle Campaign. Both Nancy and Ben have assisted with the Council’s Ad Campaign and Car Show, as well as volunteer at Daystar Life Center and Citrus County Blessings.
Knights Ladies Auxiliary celebrates 50th anniversary, CCB receives grant dollars
The Knights of Columbus Council 6168 Ladies Auxiliary celebrated its 50th anniversary luncheon on May 25 by awarding a $1,000 scholarship to Jillienne Lapid of Lecanto High School, a $500 scholarship to Morgan Tomasko of Withlacoochee Technical College and more than $1,500 in grants shared by Citrus County nonprofit organizations.
The $1,500 was shared by Citrus Abuse Shelter Association, the Pregnancy and Family Life Center, Citrus County Blessings, the Citrus County Family Resource Center and the Community Food Bank.
With proceeds from its own fundraising efforts, the Ladies Auxiliary every year awards charitable gifts to county nonprofits, a scholarship to a deserving female Citrus County Catholic high school senior, and a “careerist” scholarship.