Lake Cares food pantry gets results with personal touch

Nonprofit uses appointments to get to know clients, speed up services

MOUNT DORA, Fla. – Irene O'Malley, executive director of Lake Cares Food Pantry, is the winner of this week's Getting Results Award.

Lake Cares, an independent community food pantry in Mount Dora, distributes over 15,000 pounds of food in northern Lake County every week.

One of the things that makes Lake Cares unique is that when clients visit the location to pick up their food, they must have an appointment. During their appointment, they are interviewed by one of the nonprofit's volunteers and fill out a questionnaire that asks about food allergies, family size and food preferences. 

O'Malley said taking those steps helps to streamline the process.

"When it first started out, there were long lines of people that would be waiting hours to get their food," she said. "I just thought we weren't treating those people with dignity."

Now, appointments are scheduled for seven clients every 15 minutes. Clients have an experience much like waiting at a doctor's office. In this case, however, they can be on their way with a trunk full of groceries moments after that interview with a volunteer.  

"The appointment process is important," O'Malley said. "The fact that we interview them every time that they come to this facility, that is important too, because it's that personal touch."

O' Malley said 65 percent of the clients are seniors or disabled. For many, that conversation about their needs may be the only time they talk to someone all week.

"Just because you're in need of food doesn't mean that you shouldn't be treated with the utmost of dignity," O'Malley said.

Lake Cares relies on volunteers and community donations. If you would like to help, please visit their website, LakeCares.ORG    

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