Melissa “Mel” DeMarco has built a multifaceted career founded on infrastructure. Her success in various aspects of highway construction, planning and development, mortgage banking, purchasing and material management, contract administration, politics, and journalism all have one thing in common: A solid, strong base from which to build.

The former mayor of Mount Dora and now publisher of the Mount Dora Citizen, knows from experience everything grows from a foundation that is continually maintained and fortified. That same philosophy has brought Lake Cares Food Pantry to where it is today.

The independent community agency provides food and other necessary items directly to the people who need assistance in Central Florida. In 2017, the agency served 36,201 people, with approximately 65 percent being senior and disabled clients. Lake Cares also distributed more than 15,000 pounds of food each week. On average it takes 38 pounds of food to serve one family of four for three days (3 meals per day).

But to maintain that foundation, Lake Cares needs more awareness throughout the community and more funds carry out its mission. Leaders such as Mel have risen to the occasion without hesitation.

Mel is one of 12 women participating in a fundraiser for Lake Cares that was inspired by the 2008 best-selling book “The Necklace,” which chronicled how a jewelry-sharing journey changed the lives of 13 women. Each woman wears the necklace, dubbed “Bella Diamante,” for one month raising funds and awareness throughout Lake County. The pantry is selling 1,000 raffle ticket at $50 per ticket. In the spring of 2019 at the10th Anniversary Gala at Lake Receptions in Mount Dora the winner will take home the show-stopping necklace appraised at more than $20,000. Second prize is $5,000 and third prize is $2,500.

Participating in the yearlong endeavor brought along a sense of duty for Mel. “The number of people assisted with food, and directed to needed services continues to grow, she says. “So, it’s very important.”

Agencies such as Lake Cares are vital to the future of Lake County. Lifting people out of poverty is a key to economic growth and educating clients about nutrition, health and wellness enriches the region.

During the time she wore “Bella Diamante” it made her “feel connected and a part of a greater commitment to the community.”

As the necklace continues its journey, Mel knows the foundation that built Lake Cares Food Pantry continues to be strengthened.

Healthy food can taste good and be a delight to the senses, take for instance pesto. I love pesto and a simple pesto is full of flavor and aroma and can be used in a multitude of dishes. Pesto is quick and easy to make and is friendly with most diet plans. Even if you are not a good cook my quick pesto can make you shine like a star. Try this pesto in your new year, or for any special gathering and let the flavor and aroma of sweet basil wake up your taste buds. Add this pesto to riced cauliflower for a keto friendly diet or if trying a diet with more animal-based protein like the Atkins diet then marinate chicken breasts before grilling. Freeze leftovers in ice cube trays to use later.

We wanted to share the stories of some of the heroes we meet out there in our community as we take Resource Advocate calls for Lake Cares.

Today we're thinking of a woman we met on the phone several weeks ago who is supporting her disabled husband and 7-year-old son on a minimum wage job. Even with the help of SNAP (food subsidies) and low-income housing, we were amazed by her ability to manage her life on such a small amount of disposable income. She walks to work because it is not possible for them to support a car.

Karen is one of 12 women participating in the fundraiser that was inspired by the 2008 best-selling book “The Necklace,” which chronicled how a jewelry-sharing journey changed the lives of 13 women. Each woman wears the necklace, dubbed “Bella Diamante,” for one month raising funds and awareness throughout Lake County. The pantry is selling 1,000 raffle ticket at $50 per ticket.

In the spring of 2019 at the 10th Anniversary Gala at Lake Receptions in Mount Dora the winner will take home the show-stopping necklace appraised at more than $20,000. Second prize is $5,000 and third prize is $2,500.
“Joining this group of amazing women gave me the opportunity to give back to an organization that I strongly believe in,” says Karen.

On Giving Tuesday on November, 27th, 2018, Facebook is partnering with PayPal, to match a total of up to $7 million in donations made on Facebook to eligible US-based 501(c)(3) nonprofits. And Lake Cares is eligible!

So with over 2100 active Facebook friends, we figure if even a small portion will share the $10 Challenge with their friends, and coupled with the possible Facebook/PayPal Match, it would truly meet the description of "It Takes a Community".

I decided that I would create a healthier party mix that was equally delicious and nutritious. By default I also realized the no bake mix that I created also happened to be dairy and gluten free, which is a nice bonus for those of us who are avoiding either one or both of those. The hardest part about this mix is not eating it all before you bag it up.