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Get-it-done attitude put to work for Meals on Wheels of Sarasota

Rhonda Leiberick, a Lakewood Ranch resident and the executive director of Meals on Wheels of Sarasota, finds her calling creating meaningful connections.

As executive director of Meals on Wheels of Sarasota, Rhonda Leiberick has found work that is deeply meaningful.
As executive director of Meals on Wheels of Sarasota, Rhonda Leiberick has found work that is deeply meaningful.
Photo by Lori Sax
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Rhonda Leiberick knows the importance of community-based libraries firsthand.

She used to take her two toddlers, Brody and Cooper, several times a week to the Fruitville Public Library. The trip was 15 miles from her home in Riverwalk Meadow — but it was worth every mile. She would get a little break while the boys participated in library programs, including art, puzzles and music. “It was our morning adventure,” she says. “It’s where my children were able to socialize with other kids before they even went to preschool.”

That was back in the mid-aughts. Now, some 15 years later, Leiberick remains a fan of libraries. She is proud to serve on the board of Friends of the Lakewood Ranch Library — a nonprofit support arm for a new library being built in Lakewood Ranch. Leiberick is a firm believer that libraries are a must-have for any thriving community. A library is a sacred space “where people can forge deep human connections,” she says.

Connecting with others and making a difference for those in need is vital to her. Leiberick, 48, had initially moved to Sarasota from Connecticut in 1994 to study graphic design at Ringling College of Art and Design and worked in that field following graduation. But she yearned to find a career with deeper meaning. Eventually, Leiberick found the perfect opportunity at Habitat for Humanity in Sarasota, where she served in community outreach and as a program director for eight years. 

But she started feeling an itch to run a nonprofit and felt confident in her skills to do so. “I had a plan five years ago that I wanted to lead an organization that needed to be transformed,” she says. “I wanted to make my mark.”

Leiberick found her calling at Meals on Wheels of Sarasota. She started there as interim director in 2022 and was officially appointed executive director in February. The organization, which was founded in 1971, serves 160,000 to 180,000 meals yearly to home-bound seniors, veterans, and physically and mentally disabled people of all ages. The service is often why clients can remain in their own homes instead of relocating to a nursing facility. The nutritious meal, friendly visit and safety check help them cope with three of the biggest threats of aging: hunger, isolation and loss of independence. 

For Leiberick, her work at Meals on Wheels fulfills her longing to make a positive difference in people’s lives. “The feeling you get when you help people, and get the gratitude back, that makes it all worth it,” she says. Leiberick says she loves arriving at work each day around 7 a.m., when the kitchen staff begins prep work on the meals. She then handles operations and manages the paid staff of six, while also keeping an eye on bigger-picture challenges. That includes a plan to upgrade the organization’s technology, its mapping logistics for routes and, most importantly, figuring out ways to serve more people to meet an increasing demand. 

How did Leiberick end up a Rancher?

It starts with another deep connection — to her heart. Leiberick met her husband, Kevin, in 1998 and they married two years later. When they were expecting their first child, in 2005, they started the search to put down roots and find their forever home. 

Rhonda and Kevin Leiberick enjoy Lakewood Ranch for its growing restaurant scene, parks and walking trails.
Photo by Lori Sax

That’s when they discovered Lakewood Ranch.

According to Leiberick, it was the perfect place to raise a young family. “We wanted a small town feel, and we feel we have that here. There were plenty of other families with children, lots of parks and great schools,” she says, adding that they specifically chose Riverwalk Meadow because of its proximity to Main Street. Back then, Leiberick joined the Lakewood Ranch Mom’s Group. “My oldest son was nine months old, and this group was our saving grace.”

Connecting with community and their neighbors remains a constant for the Leibericks — especially when they’re not working.

Their favorite go-to place is Truman’s Tap & Grill on State Road 70, where they play bingo on most Thursdays. They’re big sports fans, especially of the Tampa Bay Rays, attending games in person whenever they can. And they do their best to explore the parks and trails nearby, along with Lakewood Ranch’s burgeoning restaurant scene. They also recently rediscovered a pastime they were into before kids: golf. 

“It’s much easier,” says Leiberick, “now that the kids are older.”


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