Guest bartenders at Polo Grill & Bar advise community to support The Food Bank of Manatee.
Guest bartender Kim Miele waved a handful of tips in the air, then laughed as she tossed the money in a bucket.
The bucket might as well have been a bowl of food.
Every dollar raised Feb. 8 during "Bartending for a Cause" at the Polo Grill & Bar in Lakewood Ranch was going to the Food Bank of Manatee and, in turn, would purchase food and supplies for families in need.
Miele, who is the executive director of the Gulf Coast CEO Forum, landed the volunteer role after talking to Maribeth Phillips, the CEO of Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee (which operates the Food Bank of Manatee). Phillips, who is on the Gulf Coast CEO Forum board, was checking to see if Miele would be interested in bartending for a night.
"When she said the Food Bank, I was in," Miele said. "There is such a need."
Bill Porter, the past president of the Lakewood Ranch Rotary Club, said "Bartending for a Cause" had two very important purposes. The first, of course, was to raise money with all tips going to the Food Bank along with proceeds from raffles.
However, Porter said there was an even more important goal for the event.
"Awareness is critical," he said. "People come here and say, 'I didn't know the need you have.'"
Phillips agreed it was a great night to get the word out. "See how many people are here?" said Phillips of the Polo Grill & Bar's packed area around the bar. "This is bringing awareness. We are letting people know we need help."
The Food Bank of Manatee is operated by Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee to provide nutrition and supportive services to the community. It is the largest hunger prevention program in Manatee County, providing over 4.653 million pounds of food annually for local children, families and seniors.
"Every dollar we raise feeds someone," said Phillips, who noted the Lakewood Ranch Rotary Club always has been a big supporter of the Food Bank.
"The only way to sustain the Food Bank is through donations," Porter said.
While Phillips and Porter were speaking, guest bartender Allison Imre, the owner of Grapevine Communications, was racing up and down the bar, handing out drinks and collecting tips.
"Look how involved the community is," she said.
Those who would like to become involved with the Food Bank or Meals on Wheels Plus can visit www.foodbankofmanatee.org or call 747-4655.