Golfers Chip In To Provide Food For SWFL Families In Need

By Jon Pazdera

Golf was considered an “essential activity” under Florida’s Safer at Home order, a declaration that allowed dozens of courses in Southwest Florida to remain open, hundreds of workers to remain employed and thousands of golfers to continue playing a sport they love.

It also allowed a group of golfers to rally together for a worthy cause and put hot meals on the dinner table for families impacted by COVID-19.

Golf has always provided an avenue for self-reflection, five hours away from work, stress and alarming headlines. It was on the course in April that one of our members began thinking about how Cypress Lake Golf Club could help Harry Chapin Food Bank, an organization working diligently to feed local families. Admittedly, our members have been blessed and are in a position to help others facing sudden economic hardships.

The idea: ask the club’s members to chip in while on the course. Through the Drive Out Hunger Challenge, held April 23-26, members were asked before each round to contribute a set amount per stroke, whether it was 25 cents or $1 per shot, or another amount.

Initially, the goal was to raise $5,000. We nearly eclipsed that total in the first day!

“When you see the news media and all these families that have lost their jobs, and the food bank lines, I just thought it was a good idea for us as golfers to contribute back to the community,” said member Raul Pedraja, who first approached general manager Ed Rodgers with the idea.

Before the final day, we made another plea to members, and they responded in full force. On April 28, Cypress Lake Golf Club presented Harry Chapin Food Bank with a check for $20,000 – four times our original goal!

The members of Cypress Lake Golf Club certainly stepped up to the challenge, but most importantly, they stepped up to help families in this community whose livelihoods are being impacted by the coronavirus. For every $1 donated to Harry Chapin Food Bank, the organization is able to use its purchasing power to buy $8 worth of food. The Golf Club’s $20,000 donation will provide about 80,000 meals.

“It just goes to show you the power of people’s support for their neighbors in need,” said Greg Clancy, major gifts officer at Harry Chapin Food Bank. “Disasters and times like these seem to bring out the best in people.”

Now, it’s time for other organizations in Southwest Florida to step up. I am personally challenging other golf clubs and residential communities to top our total. The fundraising opportunities are endless, like an end-of- season merchandise auction or tournament-style competitions like closest-to-the-pin, longest drive and straightest shot contests.

As the members of Cypress Lake Golf Club proved, a quarter here and a dollar there can make a big difference. No one should go hungry in our community. This is the time when those of us who have been fortunate can help our neighbors overcome economic challenges and begin moving past this tumultuous period.


Jon Pazdera is director of golf at Cypress Lake Golf Club, Fort Myers’ oldest and most historic private golf club. For more information, please call 239-481-1333 or visit

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