Sun Lakes Citrus Sharers have another record year

The Sun Lakes Citrus Sharers store donated fruit.

The Sun Lakes Citrus Sharers store donated fruit.

James M. Harrald

All the volunteers with the Sun Lakes Citrus Sharers would like to send out a huge Thank You to all the residents of the Sun Lakes community whom we picked for this year. Once again, we were able to donate well over 57 tons of fruit to St. Mary’s Food Bank. One bin of oranges alone weighed in at a whopping 2,120 pounds! We had a record year, picking nearly 1,200 trees at over 540 homes within the community. We had another record of 145 volunteers, which allowed us to glean all we could handle!

Our fearless leader and founder of the SLCS group Sarah Kelzenberg has passed the torch this year to James and Laura Harrald to guide us moving forward. Sarah began the group 11 years ago in an effort to utilize unwanted fruit for charity. What began as two volunteers and a truck, has now become a volunteer army of pickers and semi loads! Sarah will always be a part of the SLCS organization, and her leadership will be missed. We hope the change will be repeated for years to come, so the SLCS will be serving the Sun Lakes community years from now!

Each year, we designate 10 picking days, which consist of five consecutive Saturdays and Mondays in a row, this year starting on January 28 and running through February 27. With an average of 71 pickers per day; that is over 280 volunteer hours each day, or nearly 2,800 hours for the season. Thanks to the donations from some homeowners, we are able to keep the picking equipment and buckets in action. We are an all-volunteer organization, so we rely on donations to support the efforts.

Our SLCS crew is made up of eight teams, captained by Sheila Sellers, Jeanne Kulander, Duane Ticknor, Joe Tighe, Gloria Richardson, Tom and Pat Giroux, Laura Harrald and James Harrald. Each day, the captains gather their crew at the designated “Citrus Central.” Once again, George and Christy Thomas graciously gave up their garage for the five weeks so we could safely store the fruit as we picked. St. Mary’s then sent a semi-truck each Monday afternoon to pick up the fruits of labor; pun intended! Special thanks to George, Stan, Ed, Si and Murray, who threw pails into bins like a well-oiled machine.

We would like to send a special thanks to our database and intake crew. Linda Everett and her Mom Betty take the calls from homeowners wanting to be picked, which are passed along to captains and maintained in a database by Pearl Ryan. Roxy Banta is our liaison to the pickers hoping to volunteer. Each day, Roxy keeps our check in process running and makes sure the waivers are signed. We are volunteers, but safety for our crews is a priority. You will notice we do not use ladders, but rely on long picking poles. For this reason, we often miss some of the higher fruit, but we do our best. If we have been by to pick and you still have high fruit, that is a good indication of where to start pruning!

Be on the lookout in the fall for our open house table to recruit more volunteers and, once again, there will be an article in the January Splash to contact us to be a picker or a “pickee.” Thank you once again for a great 2017 picking season!