The Sun City Garden Club is serious about citrus.
by Erin Turner
About 20 volunteers from among the club’s 110 members kicked off the 2010 Sun City Citrus Drive Tuesday. The group of gleaners will attempt a huge feat in the next two months as they collect grapefruit, oranges and lemons from homes in Sun City.
“Last year we did over 460,000 pounds, so this year our goal is 500,000-plus,” said Pete Petersen, Sun City Garden Club president. “We always try to out-do the year before.”
The Citrus Drive began in 2002. The club has since collected more than 2 million pounds, which benefits the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance.
“No other club in the United States does what we do. It’s pretty impressive,” Petersen said.
The volunteers will glean fruit Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays beginning Thursday this week until March 22. They’ll generally go out between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. and complete six houses or about 18 trees each day, Petersen said.
“We’re very active. We always claim 99 percent gleaned. Some of those trees are 30 feet high, and we crawl all the way up in them. We’ve got guys who are 70, 80 years old who climb trees,” he said. “We’re quite proud of it and rightly so. We’re more of a philanthropic club. We all garden at our homes … but mostly we’re a philanthropic club.”
Petersen said residents who request for their trees to be gleaned for a small fee — or residents who drop off their own citrus at one of four collection sites at the community — should take pride in the drive.
“I always give the residents credit. I always say it’s the Sun City Citrus Drive, so it makes them feel like they’re a part of it,” he said. “What this does is it goes for a good cause and a lot of people benefit from it. That’s what our motivation is.”
St. Mary’s participates in food exchange programs with food banks in other states. Citrus will be shipped to Idaho, for instance, in exchange for potatoes, said Chuck Citrus, citrus coordinator for St. Mary’s.
To read more and how you can volunteer, click here