A few nights a week, clad in shorts, fishnet stockings, helmets and roller skates (the kind that predate the in-line variety), the South Coast Derby Dolls take to the gym floor of the Terrell Thomas Boys and Girls Club in Brunswick to knock each other over at high speeds.
It is a rough sport that requires a competitive spirit and a passion for speed.
But being a Derby Doll also requires another sort of passion, one dedicated to making a difference in the lives of residents.
The team’s use of the Boys and Girls Club is no coincidence. Derby girls regularly donate their time to help children in after-school programs operated by the Boys and Girls Club around the county.
When it came time to start another civic program, the Derby Dolls decided to help feed families in need around the community.
Through Meals on Eight Wheels, an allusion to the skates they wear, the Derby Dolls are now hoping to feed at least one needy family each month. So far, the response to the new program has been overwhelming, said Hollis Martinello, treasurer and charities coordinator for the group.
Nearly an entire room in her Brunswick home is filled with cans and boxes of food, while her freezer is stuffed with four frozen turkeys, all ready to give to those who need them.
“We wanted to help deserving families, not just pass out food to whoever came along,” Martinello said.
Finding the right families was the hard part, though.
For help, Martinello said the tough girls turned to a group of tough guys.
The Rugby River Men is a group of former rugby players who began raising money for community efforts four years ago after a homeless man beat up a child for no apparent reason. The group’s annual Pull for a Kid Tug of War every January now raises money to provide what children need to get them away from the streets and into programs like the Boys and Girls Club.
When Martinello reached out to Brent Nichols, a former rugby player and mental health consultant, he was quickly able to find the right family for the first Meals on Eight Wheels effort.
The cooperation illustrates how groups with similar missions become stronger when they work together.
“It has become a network of people working toward the same goals,” Nichols said. “That is the beauty of a small community.”
Nichols extended the network when he told the Elks Club Women’s Auxiliary about the meals program. The auxiliary had been looking for a cause to which to give a pickup truck load of donated food.
Now, Martinello has a room full of food at her house that will be enough to allow the Derby Dolls to feed several families over the next few months.