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Groups take off pounds to give back to charity

ENCINITAS — Losing weight and keeping it off is a struggle for many. However, local Weight Watchers members have found additional motivation to take off the pounds by tying weight loss to charitable giving.
Local groups of the national organization donated more than 2,271 pounds of food to the North County Food Bank on Oct. 19. Beverly Booth, who leads 15 Weight Watchers meetings in San Diego County each week, helped volunteers load 13 large barrels filled with food at the Elks Lodge in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. “I’m proud of our members for taking up this cause,” she said.
Members of the Encinitas and Vista groups pledged to donate the equivalent in food for every pound they lost during a seven-week period as part of the second annual “Lose for Good” campaign. Local groups are encouraged to donate food to a community food bank while the national organization pledges to give up to $1 million to fight hunger.
Booth, who lost 130 pounds in 1997, said the groups chose the North County Food Bank as this year’s recipient. Tim Ney, director of community relations for North County Community Services, said he was pleased with the level of commitment from the Weight Watchers members. “Not only are they taking care of themselves (by losing weight) but they want to take care of others,” he said.  
The effort was completely optional but members took the challenge seriously. “Our local meeting room food drive is totally volunteer,” Booth said. “We were really inspired to give,” said Celeste Rathbun, who has been a member since 2000 and lost 30 pounds. “I gave the amount of weight I lost and then some,” she said. “It just hit home when Tim (Ney) told us how many families go without food in our own community.”
With approximately 200 local members attending weekly meetings, the Encinitas group lost just over 1,000 pounds during the past 7 weeks. Booth was thrilled that members chipped in extra food to bring the total donation to nearly 1,500 pounds of food. “It helped us to focus on our goals more easily when we knew we were trying to help someone else,” Booth said.
In the difficult economic climate, Ney said the donations will be particularly helpful. “This is the beginning of our Holiday Food and Funds Drive,” he said. “The demand for food has gone up by 60 percent since last year.”
While the statistics of those in need of basic necessities are sobering, Ney said more than 250 organizations participate in some capacity in North County alone. “We have eight community food distribution sites and we collaborate with other nonprofits to meet the full-range of needs of our clients as efficiently as we can,” he said.
For more information on North County Community Services, visit