Lake Cares Food Pantry is embarking on round two of a popular fundraiser that made them thousands of dollars the first time around.
Last year, it was all about Bella Diamante, an expensive white diamond necklace that became quite a conversation piece around Lake County.
Twelve women took turns wearing Bella Diamante before it was handed off to Carol Lynn Nelson of The Villages — the winner of a raffle that benefited the Mount Dora help organization.
This year, however, there’s a new gal in town: Maribella, a 30-carat blue topaz necklace featuring an array of white and blue diamonds on a white gold setting designed by Gold in Art Jewelers. It is valued at a minimum of $21,500 and is now up for grabs.
“It’s kind of another chapter of the story of our little group here,” said Cathy Hoechst, June’s wearer of Maribella and Lake Cares’ board chairwoman.
The idea, officially dubbed the Diamond Endowment, came from a 2008 book written by Cheryl Jarvis called “The Necklace: 13 Women, 1 Diamond Necklace and a Fabulous Idea.”
The book tells the true story of 13 California women who split the cost of a $37,000 necklace dubbed “Jewelia” they otherwise could not afford alone. They took turns wearing it for four weeks at a time before handing it off at a get-together to tell of the necklace’s adventures each month.
Hoechst read the book and thought the idea of doing something like that would not only be fun but a great way to raise money for the food pantry.
That’s when Bella Diamante, and now Maribella, came into play, along with two sets of 12 local ladies who contributed to the purchase of the custom necklaces for the chance at one month guaranteed to wear it before raffling it off to a permanent owner.
Like last year, raffle tickets for the necklace are being sold for $50, and only 1,000 tickets will be sold.
A winner will be chosen at Lake Cares’ next Anniversary Fund Raising Gala, scheduled for April 2.
Second prize will be $5,000 and third prize will be $2,500.
Lake Cares Executive Director Irene O’Malley said Lake Cares decided to repeat the fundraiser because many local women wanted in on the fun of wearing the necklace, many wanted a chance to win it and because the effort netted $71,000 in profit.
“This whole thing has evolved into a really neat story with so many side stories to it,” Hoechst said. “All fundraising ideas take their course and I’m sure this one will too one day, but for now, it continues to be fun and people were just so excited about doing it again.”
The 12 ladies wearing the necklace this year are Hoechst, Clara Schneider, Linda and Jeanette Bokland, Theresa Elliott, Edna Gonzalez, Holly Farley, Tina Morin, Kelsey Gonzalez, Erika Greene, Donna Marini, Christine Williams Stewart and Jodie McEwen.
Each month, all of them, along with the ladies of Bella Diamante, pick a restaurant in town to meet at for drinks and dinner and to share stories about where Maribella has been and to pass her to the next person.
All raffle proceeds will benefit the Lake Cares Food Pantry, which in 2018 distributed 733,000 pounds of food to 48,904 individuals, or 275 families each month, throughout Lake County.
Raffle tickets for Maribella can be purchased at the Lake Cares Food Pantry, 2001 W. Old Highway 441, Suite 1, in Mount Dora; by visiting their website; or by calling 352-383-0100.
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