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Rotary Club raises $140,000 from Suncoast Food & Wine Fest

Robyn Bell, Lynne Lash, Linda Jacobs and Christine Captain say the Suncoast Food & Wine Fest is their favorite event of the year.
Robyn Bell, Lynne Lash, Linda Jacobs and Christine Captain say the Suncoast Food & Wine Fest is their favorite event of the year.
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On March 28, the bucket will be almost empty again.

That's when the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch will present $130,000 in grant money to 26 area nonprofits. The funds were generated by a ton of volunteer hours in putting together the 21st annual Suncoast Food & Wine Fest that was held last November at Premier Sports Campus.

Actually, Rotary members collected $140,000 — $10,000 from their record of $150,000 — but $10,000 is held back to present grants during the year for those in dire need outside of the regular grant cycle.

"I am so proud of this event," said Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch President Sybil Porter. "This is our premier event and we have it down pat now."

They have it down pat due to the dedication of the members. Of the 104 members, 60 were involved in volunteer work on last year's Suncoast Food & Wine Fest. It would be noted that the Rotary has other programs as well that demand volunteer hours. The members are busy.

Steve Kelle guides the Suncoast Food & Wine Fest ship. Porter said it all starts with him.

She said the need in the community is obvious. The Rotary received 39 applicants for grant funds. Of the 26 grants that will be presented, the smallest is $2,000 and the largest $5,000. The Rotary has now presented more than $2.3 million over the years. Nonprofits must be in the region to be considered.

Porter said the money goes toward all kinds of needs.

"It runs the gamut," she said.

The event itself is so well known that the Rotary has to offer subtle reminders about who is doing the work.

"The last couple of years now, there has been more attention paid to signage," Porter said. "We have done a lot of advertisement."

The work begins each year before the money from the previous year is granted. The Rotary Club at Lakewood Ranch held its first organizing meeting for the 2024 Suncoast Food & Wine Fest on March 7. This year's event will again be held at Premier on Nov. 2.

Meetings are held monthly and the work is continuous. 

"We absolutely bust our butts," Porter said.

The frenzy culminates at the event.

"The tents go up on Wednesday," Porter said. "On Thursday, we pick up equipment and signage from the storage unit. On Friday, we set up the tables and chairs. On Saturday, you finish all the last-minute tasks, and then Sunday, you clean up.

For more information about the event or about joining the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch, go to



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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