Needy get filled, volunteer couple in Mount Dora get fulfilled.
For 18 years since retiring to Florida from North Dakota, Cal and Shirley Rolfson are pretty much living the dream.
They enjoy a decent lifestyle in Mount Dora, they are healthy, have a multitude of friends, a beautiful family, and are active in the community – especially Cal, who retired after 40 years of practicing law to become a longtime city councilman and vice mayor.
The Rolfsons have accomplished a lot, but they’ll tell you one of the things at the top of their list is volunteering at the Lake Cares Food Pantry – something they’ve enjoyed doing every Wednesday morning religiously for the past 10 years.
Cal says Shirley is responsible for getting them through the doors after answering a call for volunteers Lake Cares advertised in a local newspaper.
“So, rather than sit around at home and do gardening and things like that, Shirley said, ‘Let’s go down there and check it out,’” recalls Cal.
Moved by Lake Cares’ mission and purpose, they applied, and after volunteering that very first Wednesday, they were hooked.
“I look forward for Wednesday to come; that’s kind of my highlight. Just to come here every week and serve others, it’s such a good feeling,” Shirley says.
According to Lake Cares’ Director Irene O’Malley, volunteers are the heart of the Mount Dora-based organization. Without them–no matter how much food or money the community donates–there would be no way to keep the pantry going and get food to those who need it, and do so efficiently.
Irene says the pantry has grown from one to eight distribution sites throughout Lake County since it was founded in 2009. About 125,000 pounds of food are distributed per month, along with personal hygiene products, dog food, and more.
Increased demand created by the coronavirus pandemic has added to the number of families served and magnified the need for volunteers, which currently numbers more than 200.
Irene says she appreciates Cal and Shirley and many other longtime volunteers who step up to the plate consistently and so graciously.
“To me, one of the most precious things that anyone can donate to Lake Care is their time as a volunteer,” Irene says.
That feeling is shared, which says a lot about the organization. “Everybody loves being here,” says Irene.
Cal says that as long as he and Shirley remain able, they will continue their service to the community at Lake Cares, where they are responsible for packing and distributing personal products like baby diapers, toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, laundry and dish soap, shampoo and conditioner, dog food, deodorant, feminine products, and adult diapers.
In addition to making friends with many of the volunteers over the years, Cal says they’ve been inspired by many members of the community they’ve crossed paths with.
“We believe volunteering here is as valuable to us as it is to the clients we serve,” he says. “I liken it to Matthew and to some of the gospels where Jesus says, ‘If you really love me, feed my sheep.’ And I don’t mean to sound altruistic, but it’s an honor and a duty to help those who in need of food.”
Shirley recommends volunteering at Lake Cares to anyone looking for something to do, a way to help or really make a difference.
She says it’s not only been a bright light in her life since day one, but it’s made her more appreciative overall.
“People are so happy and so thankful to be getting groceries and every day, I think, ‘What if that were me? What would I do? Oh dear,’” Shirley says. “I feel very honored and humbled to be able to help all these people and do something for someone else besides myself.”
Shirley adds, “If you want to be of service to other people, this would be the place that would make you feel very good about what you are doing. There’s certainly a need.”