Drawing on nearly 15 years as a nonprofit executive and educator, Kelsey Gonzalez emerged as the choice from 200 applicants in a national search to take the reins as executive director of Lake Cares Food Pantry.
Lake Cares is Lake County, Florida’s primary antidote for food insecurity supporting some 325 families weekly — a clientele comprised largely of disabled individuals or seniors, and working-age families — by distributing more than 100,000 pounds of food monthly.
“We are delighted that the national search for our executive director position has identified Kelsey Gonzalez, a local resident, as the new executive director of Lake Cares Food Pantry,” said Cathy Hoechst, chairwoman of the Lake Cares Board of Directors. “Kelsey is exactly who Lake Cares needs to follow the lead from Irene O’Malley, our retiring executive. Kelsey has a proven record of leadership and will provide undisputed value to our clients, donors, staff, and volunteers.”
“Lake Cares has such a great reputation in our community as being a safe and welcoming place for those in need. I was excited to have the opportunity to become a part of this,” Gonzalez said. “I felt like I could take my expertise of working at the Boys & Girls Club for the last 15 years and put it into place at Lake Cares. Lake Cares helps families, individuals, children, seniors and the disabled have a trusted place to come for food and for help with getting back on their feet. This organization is an opportunity to give a loving hand up to those who may be down. I am so ecstatic to become a part of the trusted Lake Cares family.”
In a 14-year career with The Boys & Girls Clubs of Lake and Sumter Counties and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, Gonzalez held leadership roles of increasing responsibility, including, most recently, serving as development officer and area director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, Lake County. A graduate of Umatilla High School, she holds an associate’s degree in elementary education from Lake-Sumter College in Leesburg, Fla., and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Central Florida.
Gonzalez succeeds O’Malley as executive director, whose last day on the job is December 31. She helped open the doors of Lake Cares Food Pantry in April 2009 aiding clients with food stamp applications and later serving on its board of directors, before being elevated to executive director in October 2010, overseeing the daily operations, grant writing, fundraising, and community collaborations.
Gonzalez plans to build upon O’Malley’s compassion and community stewardship.
“My hope is to continue to build community partnerships with area chambers, organizations, businesses, and residents to provide for our clients,” she said. “Lake Cares not only feeds people, but it also provides tools and resources for our clients to better their lives — like giving direction on applying for food stamps or navigating the system to become insured. I look forward to working with our team of volunteers which is such a vital part of Lake Cares. I am also excited to work closely with our board members to carry out our mission: ‘Feed the Body, Educate the Mind & Lift the Spirit of All Individuals’.”