Cooking for a Cause

This men’s group provides scholarships for local students, among other outreaches.

Front row from left: David Woodbury and Ronald Jones. Back
row from left: Harry Williams, Chris Hagins and Wayne Rush. 

Men Working to Better the Community (MWBC) is putting a new twist on takeout. Throughout the year, members of the nonprofit bring a smoker and propane burner to Ocala Park Estates to smoke chicken and ribs and fry fish. For every 40 to 50 meals they sell, the men are able to award a $500 scholarship to a local high school student.

Since 2000, MWBC has awarded more than $40,000 in scholarships to local students through these fundraisers and club dues. Although scholarships are the primary focus, the members of MWBC also work to meet needs in the community such as helping with home repairs, food preparation for the annual Back to School Bash hosted by the Marion County Children’s Alliance, putting together Thanksgiving food baskets and sponsoring a Marion County Youth Football team.

MWBC President David Woodbury says it all started in 1997, when some of the men working with Marion Service Roofing and Sheet Metal saw houses in disrepair around the community. They decided to form a club and donate their skills to help people who couldn’t afford to repair their homes.

“It was for anybody, anyone who asked,” Woodbury says.

Woodbury, a founding member of the 25-yearold organization, has been president for the last 22 years. MWBC became an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2011.

“Years and years ago,” he offers, “we were the first organization to team up with the Back to School Bash with the E.D. Croskey (Recreation Center) and we were buying hamburgers, hotdogs and whatever they wanted us to serve the kids.”

They team up with churches to pack the Thanksgiving baskets for donation to families, Woodbury says.

Last year, the group worked with the E.D. Croskey Recreation Center to pay for a free swimming session for around 50 to 75 kids, adds member Chris Hagins. They intend to continue the activity this year and combine it with their 2022 scholarship award ceremony on June 11th.

Applications for MWBC scholarships are sent to guidance counselors with Marion County Public Schools. The club typically awards four to five scholarships every year to students who demonstrate a love for community service, have vivid long-term goals and will be attending a trade school or college aft er graduation. Grade point average (GPA) is a strong consideration and applicant GPAs are generally 3.5 or above.

The men host the fundraising cookouts nearly every month and typically raise $800 to $900, Hagins says. The dinners cost $10 to $12 and include chicken, ribs or fish, along with a drink and two sides. The cookouts are advertised on the group’s Facebook page. OS

To donate or learn more about becoming a member, email menworkingtobetterthecommunity@gmail.com

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