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Lakewood Ranch clubs suit every interest

Carl Backman and Nancy Cunningham, members of Aloha Ukulele, perform with the Lakewood Ranch Community Activities  club for Play Music on the Porch Day on Aug. 26, 2023.
Carl Backman and Nancy Cunningham, members of Aloha Ukulele, perform with the Lakewood Ranch Community Activities club for Play Music on the Porch Day on Aug. 26, 2023.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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Do you like books, photography or dogs? Are you single or a couple of empty nesters? If you ever find yourself bored or lonely living in Lakewood Ranch, consider that maybe you haven’t found the right club to join yet. 

Lakewood Ranch Community Activities offers 66 different clubs and counting. Anyone can propose a new club as long as the club’s leader and 51% of the members are Lakewood Ranch residents.

Clubs range in interests and size. The Needlework Group for Charity has eight members, and the Lakewood Ranch Women’s Club has 544 members. That group grew so much that they now have special interest groups under the umbrella of the main club.

“It’s hard to meet people and make friends when it’s such a big group,” Membership Chair Linda McMillan said,” So we started these smaller groups. I’m a member of Blankets 4 Babies. I play Mahjong, and I also play Canasta.”

And if you don’t know how to knit or play Canasta, the other members will help you learn. Joining a club is an easy way for newcomers to find a friend. McMillan said the Sassy Singles is one of the newest and most active special interest groups with over 30 members.

“They do all kinds of things. They go out to dinner and do social events at each other's houses,” McMillan said. “They also use it for networking. The club is blossoming.” 

Joe Kaminsky, a member of the Lakewood Ranch Angler's Club, teaches children how to tie knots with fishing line at a Youth Fishing Seminar in March 2023.
Photo by Liz Ramos

There are plenty of clubs that include men, too. There’s the Angler’s Club, the History Club or the Financial Forum Club. There is no shortage of clubs, but Lakewood Ranch Community Activities CEO Keith Pandeloglou said there is a shortage of indoor meeting space.

“Town Hall was built for five communities,” he said. “We now have 40 plus and are still growing.”

Indoor space is limited to Town Hall and Town Hall North, but staff coordinates with parks and third-party spaces, such as the Robert Toale & Sons Celebration of Life Center, to accommodate every club that needs a meeting space.

Not all clubs require indoor space. The Adult Soccer Club meets at Summerfield Park, and the Dogs of Lakewood Ranch meet up for walks or on Facebook, where the group has over 2,000 members.

Karen Eckert, in the lanai of Gardeners Out East member Carolyn Lowry-Nation in 2019, joined the Lakewood Ranch Community Activities club in 2016.
Photo by Jay Heater

But with indoor space at a deficit, Pandeloglou is keeping his eyes on the development of the second floor in the new Lakewood Ranch Library. The county built the additional floor but hasn’t finished it or decided what it will be used for yet.

But when there’s a will, there’s a way. Riverwalk Meadow resident Irene Shatz joined the Women’s Club 18 years ago.

“When I first moved here, we didn’t have a Town Hall. We met at a bank,” Shatz said.

The Needlework Group for Charity was originally called “Knit and Natter” and started out of Sue Dart’s living room.

“We started just after COVID because we just felt like we needed to get out and meet people again,” Dart said, “So we’d all sit, and we’d have tea and knit and natter.”

Both the Needlework Group and Blankets 4 Babies, one of the Women’s Club’s special interest groups, donate their creations to nonprofit organizations like the Red Cross and Mother’s Helping Mother’s.

Blankets 4 Babies has been knitting, crocheting and quilting since 2017. The 22 members have donated 700 blankets to local charities and the Sheriff’s office. However, knitting isn’t the only way to give; both the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs have chapters in Lakewood Ranch.

Clockwise from left: Meryl Meher, Linda Kraft, Deborah Jernigan and Pam Hildebrand play Mahjong at Town Hall on Nov. 28, 2023.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

There are also the staple clubs for books, gardening and art. Lakewood Ranch offers two options for each. If nothing listed is of interest, start a new club.

“The only time I have seen the board turn a submission away is if they were really a business looking for ‘free’ space.’ As an official Lakewood Ranch club, you are able to request free meeting space at either Town Hall or Town Hall North,” Community Coordinator Paige Venuto said. “That is just a perk for our community members. If they were a business, they would have to rent Town Hall or Town Hall North space at the business rate.”



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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