GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club president Annette Bellingar delivered 75 Christmas crackers, donated by club members, to a Tampa assisted living facility. Each cracker contained two pairs of socks for each facility resident. Bellingar also presented boxes of new shoes, accessories and toiletries provided by a generous donor friend of the woman’s club. Maryvette DeLeon, administrator of the assisted living facility, left, accepts the gifts from Bellingar.
COVID-19 has claimed another victim.
The traditional Independence Day festivities in Lutz will not be held this year.
For decades, the community, north of Tampa, has attracted thousands of people to its annual Fourth of July parade, and associated activities.
But, this year, organizers decided it was just too risky to stage the annual event.
“We mulled it over for many, many weeks. It wasn’t a decision made lightly, I can assure you,” said Annette Bellingar, president of the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club.
Ultimately, said Pat Serio, a club board member: “We had to choose the safe route.”
Bellingar said: “When we thought about it, we thought there is just no way that we’re going to get people to be doing the proper social distancing at an event such as this.
“Can you imagine having all of those people there and saying, ‘You’ve got to be 6 feet apart?’” Bellingar said.
The close quarters between people raised concerns, Serio said. Plus, she noted: “In the usual extreme heat we have on Fourth of July, even mask-wearing could be difficult.”
Still, canceling the festivities was not an easy choice, Serio said.
The event has been an annual tradition for many families.
Generally, the parade featured widely known local organizations, such as the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club, the Little Women of Lutz, the Lutz Civic Association, Boy Scout Troop 12 and the North Tampa Lutz Cadet Squadron.
Local businesses, churches, law enforcement agencies, schools, military organizations politicians and candidates for the honorary Lutz Guv’na are mainstays, too.
It’s been a parade that features antique cars, fire trucks, sheriff’s patrol cars, belly dancers, martial arts groups, churches, military jeeps, tiny dancers and kids riding bicycles.
It’s also a parade where it’s not unusual for someone in the parade to break ranks and rush out to hug someone in the crowd.
Traditionally, once the parade ends, a new Lutz Guv’na is sworn in over a copy of Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham,” and the bidding war begins over baked goods that were entered into the annual Cake Bake Competition.
But, none of that will happen this year.
“It really is heartbreaking because we know how important it is to the community. People love it. It’s a throwback to all of our childhoods, small-town America,” Serio said.
Ultimately, the event had to be cancelled, organizers said.
“Sad as it is, I know, I really, really know, that we’ve done the right thing,” Bellingar said.
“It would be so sad that if something like this was held this year and then following that, it brought to the surrounding area a huge spike in people coming down with the virus and maybe even passing from it,” the club president said. “We just thought that would be the most atrocious thing, ever, to happen.
“Next year, we are hoping that everything would be truly wonderful, and it would be bigger and better in 2021,” Bellingar said.
Published June 03, 2020
Laughter echoes throughout the Lutz Community Center, as women — some donning purple spray paint in their hair — settle in for some friendly games.
These women have come to a benefit, organized by the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club, to support Sunrise of Pasco County, Inc., a domestic and sexual violence center.
Sunrise provides free counseling, advocacy, and support services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence. It also serves family or friends that have been affected by violence through its outreach program.
Many of those attending the event came bearing bags of all shapes and sizes, filled with items intended to help those arriving at Sunrise’s shelter.
The donated goods included soaps, shampoos, hair products, lotions, fragrances, socks, toothpaste, cotton swabs, hand sanitizers and other items.
Annette Bellingar, first vice president of the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club, said some women brought in bags filled with stuff. Others just brought in items off the list, and there were others who donated money or gift cards, she said.
Amanda Markiewicz, chief programs officer for Sunrise of Pasco County, Inc., said “we’ve had collaboration with this club and a lot of the other GFWC clubs in the area for a long time. We appreciate the support.”
The event was timed to coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is in October.
“We have a 40-bed shelter,” Markiewicz said. “We provide them (people at the shelter) with anything you would think is in a household. Basic hygiene items. Clothing.
“We’re able to help them with support services, crisis counseling, advocacy, help with finding jobs or housing or any kind of case management.”
Nearly all of the ladies at the brunch wore purple, in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
While raising $900 in contributions — including a $15 donation per person for the brunch, the ladies also donated enough items for the shelter to fill an SUV and another car.
Besides doing good, they had fun.
They played games and socialized. And, they dined on a homemade brunch buffet that included everything from French toast, to chicken salad sandwiches, to fresh fruit, hash browns, casserole dishes and more.
To learn more about Sunrise, call (352) 567-1681 or visit SunrisePasco.org.
Want to help? Here’s a list of items needed at Sunrise of Pasco County Inc.
Shelter items needed
Forks, spoons, cups
Headphones, ear buds
Ibuprofin (children and adult)
Published October 09, 2019