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.
GFWC Lutz-Land O' Lakes Woman's Club
Even when life is ‘normal’ — it’s not always easy to find the time, energy or resources to help others who are struggling to get by, or whose spirits need a lift.
During a pandemic when people are feeling pressures on all sides and many of life’s big moments must be delayed or canceled — the challenge is even greater.
But, ingenuity and generosity prevailed in The Laker/Lutz News region, providing a counterpoint to the sadness and loss, and injecting a bit of joy.
Here’s a condensed look at some of those not-so-random acts of kindness that occurred during 2020.
Let them eat cake
When the Sunlake High band program decided it had to cancel its annual banquet, Miriam’s Cakes, in Land O’ Lakes, sprang into action. The bakery provided an individual cake — featuring the school’s mascot — for each of the 29 seniors in the band program.
Ed DelValle and his wife, Miriam Ruiz, who own the bakery have been a band family for years.
They wanted to do something special for members of the Class of 2020, including their daughter, Erika.
“I know the banquet is the biggest event for the band program every year. All of the kids look forward to it because it’s kind of like a mini-red carpet,” DelValle said.
Marie Joles couldn’t stand the thought of high school seniors missing out on all of the special moments that make up part of senior year.
So, the dental hygienist, who wasn’t able to work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, came up with a social media way to create Senior Spotlights, showcasing individual graduates.
She solicited submissions, then tweaked them before created postings that provided a glimpse of their accomplishments, their ambitions, their interests and personalities.
It took work, but it was worthwhile, Joles said.
“I wanted to let them know we appreciate them,” she said.
A double dose of help
When Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey saw a news report about the Frontline Appreciation Group, she knew she wanted Pasco to get in on the idea.
The initiative purchases meals from restaurants — struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic — and provides the food to frontline health care workers engaged in the battle to help people who have been infected by the deadly virus.
The initiative was launched in New Jersey, but Starkey spearheaded a local chapter, called FLAG2020Pasco.
The effort has resulted in meals prepared by area restaurants, delivered to local hospitals.
Other local political leaders and government agencies also have stepped up to the plate, so to speak — in a number of other efforts to collect and distribute food. The county itself has created and managed new programs using federal funding to feed the hungry, and support local restaurants.
Spreading joy through bubbles
Blaise Ryndes, of Land O’ Lakes, a nationally known bubble magician, decided to take to the streets in his neighborhood to spread some joy amidst the pandemic. He put on a one-car bubble parade – making the way through the subdivision spreading what he calls, “little orbs of happiness and cleanliness.”
Grad bash funds go to feed the hungry
When Pasco 2020 Grad Bash was canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunlake High seniors decided to make a big donation from the money they’d raised to pay for event buses. They decided to help Keystone Community Church’s Second Serving program, which provides food for the homeless, operates a food pantry and helps people who are struggling, with other essentials.
Giving back to a giving community
The executive chef and founder of Nabruzzi Trattoria credits his restaurant’s success to the support it has received from the Lutz community.
So, when the pandemic hit, it stepped up to deliver free hot meals to firefighters and medical workers, and others, who serve the community.
“Every Wednesday we’re going to pick somebody in the area that has put themselves at risk, that are out there every day,” said Massimo Sabetti, the chef/owner of Nabruzzi Trattoria at 6062 Van Dyke Road in Lutz.
And, they delivered — to emergency department workers, firefighters and others.
Now, that’s what you call a chef’s special.
Keeping art alive
Lots of opportunities to do art and see art have been curtailed by COVID-19, but the Dade City Center for the Arts found a way to give artists a chance to express their talents, and art lovers a chance to view it through an outdoor public art exhibit.
The artists painted hay bales that were stationed in various places around Dade City.
Lifting spirits, at Halloween
Sid Simandl has been decking out his “Halloween House” every year for 18 years, and this year was no exception. But, because of COVID-19, he changed things up.
Instead of an enclosed Haunted House inside his garage, he created a haunted trail, instead.
Simandl, who lives in the Stagecoach subdivision in Land O’ Lakes, gets a big kick out of treating visitors to a haunted spectacle. Indeed, it’s his favorite holiday. He nicknames himself Mr. Halloween for the occasion, and dons a pumpkin sports.
Easing isolation blues
The Boomer Band was towed around on a trailer through the community of Keystone Place at Terra Bella, in Land O’ Lakes, so its senior residents could be entertained — from a safe distance, on their apartment balconies.
It was the senior living community’s way of easing the isolation blues.
The ‘green shirt’ ladies forge on
The GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club has been maintaining its commitment to helping a broad range of community groups and organizations. The club’s tradition of community service goes back for decades, and it has not allowed COVID-19 to stop it. There are many other clubs throughout The Laker/Lutz News region that also have been doing their part to help others who are struggling, especially during this difficult time.
Published December 23, 2020
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
Whether it’s sewing protective masks, printing free coloring books, holding prayer services, giving away pizzas or providing pallets of food — people across The Laker/Lutz News are stepping up to help others, in response to the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Linda Mitchell, of the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club, has organized a group of seamstresses who are using their skills to make protective masks.
Mitchell delivers the 100% cotton fabric and ¼-inch elastic needed to make the masks to the volunteer seamstresses, then beeps her horn when she drops off the materials in the volunteer’s driveways.
The staff at RP&G Printing, in Wesley Chapel, created youth activity and coloring books and adult coloring pages, as a way of giving back to the community — during these stressful times. They leave them outside for people to pick them up, and post pages to social media so people can print them, to avoid personal contact.
At AdventHealth Wesley Chapel, a group of “prayer warriors” arrived by caravan, to pray for the hospital’s care team and community. There were two mobile digital boards with scriptures, and the group honked their horns and flashed their lights before parking to pray, according to a news release from the West Florida Division of AdventHealth.
The group’s next planned stop was on March 28, at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point.
Meanwhile, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, donated 20,000 pounds of food on March 27, splitting the delivery between Lewis Abraham Lacoochee Boys & Girls Club and Metropolitan Ministries.
Pitching in at the Boys and Girls Club were State Rep. Randy Maggard, who represents District 38 in the Florida House of Representatives; Patrick Thornton, stake president for the church; Cassie Coleman, director of Boys & Girls Club; and Kathy Hunt, director of Restored Hope, which received 2,300 pounds of food to help people in East Pasco, according to Melonie Monson, who is involved with the church.
Life Church, in Wesley Chapel, has been providing ongoing help and remains committed to doing what it can, said Robin Granger, director of Life Community Center, which is operated by the church.
“Our pastors unequivocally said, ‘This is the time that we move forward and we press in and we don’t step back,’” said Granger, whose church is providing to-go meals instead of community lunches once a week and operating a drive-thru food pantry on another day.
It is willing to do more, she said.
“If there are folks who are sick and shut-in, I have a team of volunteers and we also have a team of folks from the church who would be willing to deliver boxes of food to them.
“If you know people who need someone to help organize donations, we have the team of people and the willing congregation to step in and be the hands and feet of who we say we are, and what we’re supposed to do,” she said. (Those needing help should call (813) 994-0685).
The church wants to help, but could use some help, too, Granger said.
It needs more food donations because grocery stores have less to give these days, Granger said.
Bubba’s 33, a restaurant in Wesley Chapel, also is stepping up. On March 27, it gave away 33 pizzas to the first 33 patrons waiting in line at 3:33 p.m.
The goal was to help feed hungry families, according to a news release.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is pitching in, too.
Deputies and other agency employees are making takeout purchases at businesses across Pasco County, to offer support during these trying times.
Donations also are coming from major companies, as well as individuals.
Florida Blue, for instance, is providing $100,000 to help the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA, YMCA of the Suncoast and YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg.
The money is being combined with donations by YMCA members to offer all-day youth relief care for essential workers at 21 Y locations across Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Citrus and Hernando counties.
The gift is part of $2 million that Florida Blue is using to address urgent health and safety needs in communities across the state.
There’s also a group called Together in Peace that wants to reach out to seniors who normally go to community senior centers during the week, but are unable to do so because the centers are closed.
“We will be calling them to say hello, have a friendly chat, and offer some social connection during this time of social distancing,” Sharon Hall, a member of the group, said via email.
“At this time we are just waiting for response back from Pasco County Senior Services, who we understand will connect us with seniors that have signed up/indicated they would like to be contacted,” Hall said.
Also, NAMI Pasco, a mental health care organization that provides programs and support groups, has temporarily ceased its programs. But, it is offering text peer support services to those with mental health conditions, from noon to 6 p.m., each day it is closed, with the promise of responding within one hour. To use the service, text (863) 223-6799, and provide your first name. Anyone with a mental health emergency should call 911.
Published April 1, 2020
It was a gorgeous day on March 7, as patrons streamed into the annual Fabulous Flea Market hosted by the GFWC Lutz Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club, at the Old Lutz School.
Crowds were lined up on both sides of the school, on U.S. 41, waiting for the sale to start.
Elaine Pittman, affectionately known as “The Plant Lady,” said she sold more plants in a single day than on all but one other day during numerous years she’s sold plants at the market.
But, her plans to sell additional plants at the Spring Market, hosted by Citizens for the Old Lutz School, were dashed when the event was canceled because of concerns about the potential spread of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).
Like a switch had been flipped, cancellations started happening all over.
The Taste of North Tampa Bay, The Land O’ Lakes Music Festival, The Jelly Bean Fling and numerous other events have been called off.
In the words of Pat Serio, who sits on the board of directors for the GFWC Lutz Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club: “Everything has completely shut down.
“I’m co-editor of the newsletter, and we cancelled our newsletter because frankly we had nothing to report because all of our calendar events for the next month would have to be listed as TBD (to be determined).”
Besides erasing opportunities for family fun and giving vendors a chance to make money — the cancellations have ripple effects.
Proceeds from Pittman’s plant sales, for instance, help to support Christian Social Services. That organization operates a food pantry within its thrift store, at 5514 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes.
The GFWC Lutz Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club and scores of other civic groups rely on fundraising efforts to help others. The woman’s club supports roughly 100 local organizations and charitable causes, Serio said.
The Spring Market and Fall Market are the fundraisers held each year to support upkeep of the Old Lutz School, said Stephanie Ensor, a member of Citizens for the Old Lutz School Building.
Besides raising money, the events help acquaint the community with the local historic landmark where generations of Lutz residents went to school.
Thirty-eight vendors had signed for the market. Proceeds from the event were intended to help pay for needed repairs because of termite damage.
Doors need to be replaced, Ensor said.
“The windows are rotting,” she added. “They are so expensive, we can only replace a couple at a time.”
Food pantries are feeling the pinch, too.
Robin Granger, of Life Church in Wesley Chapel, operates a food pantry and a weekly community lunch.
“The problem is, the stores that we get donations from, they don’t have very much,” Granger said.
“Typically, we pick up food from Costco three days a week and we have not gotten hardly anything at all,” she said.
Meanwhile, she said, “I know that folks that are under-resourced are really struggling.
“We did an emergency box for a single mom a couple of days ago. She worked at one of the local restaurants as a server, but they cut her hours. When they cut her hours, she was trying to get back on food stamps, but that’s a process. Meantime, she doesn’t have enough food for her kids,” Granger said.
“We’re a little concerned about having enough food for all of the folks that we serve.
“During this whole week, we’ve had emergency boxes of food going out.”
Concerns about the economic and health crisis prompted by COVID-19 are stressing people out, Granger said.
“There tends to be a lot of folks who are a little bit scared.
“I lead the single moms group at the church. Being a single mom and not having income is really, really frightening,” Granger said.
Published April 1, 2020
When Marie Ambrosino moved to Wesley Chapel last year, she wanted to join a woman’s club for her surrounding community.
After all, she had been involved with GFWC (General Federation of Women’s Clubs) organizations for nearly four decades — most recently with the GFWC Woman’s Club of West Broward in South Florida.
With the help of social media, word-of-mouth and some other GFWC connections, the GFWC Woman’s Club of Wesley Chapel came to life.
And, it happened in a mere matter of months.
The club was established in February with 12 charter members. That came less than a month after a group of six GFWC-minded women met for dinner with the idea of forming a new club that puts its focus on the burgeoning Wesley Chapel community. Many of the members had past affiliations with other GFWC clubs, such as the GFWC Pasco Junior Women’s Club.
The group is now in the process of seeking its 510c3 status, and is being sponsored by the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club.
The new club is actively looking for new members — women over 18 years old. There is no requirement to live in Wesley Chapel.
Though most members are Wesley Chapel residents, the club’s vice president, Shantel Meyers is a Lutz resident, for instance. “I could’ve joined (other) clubs, but I wanted to be a part of joining a whole new group,” Meyers said.
The group welcomes anyone who is interested, said Kim Hanscel, club treasurer.
“If somebody lives in Zephyrhills and wants to come here (to our club) because they travel here all the time, or whatever’s convenient for them, absolutely they’re welcome to come,” Hanscel said.
Kindness and helping others is the group’s purpose, club leaders say.
Ambrosino, the club’s parliamentarian, said the common thread among the ladies is this: “We are women who care about our communities, and that’s our mission.”
She added: “We share the same bond, and that’s just to make our world better.”
The GFWC Wesley Chapel Woman’s Club is dedicated to community improvement and helping those in need through volunteer service and fundraising events. The organization is likely to focus much of its efforts on domestic violence and awareness, homelessness, hospice, and foster care, among other community issues.
The group is currently brainstorming various club projects for those purposes, as well as fundraisers and events for other local charities, in the way of bingo nights, bunco nights, casino nights, golf tournaments, murder mystery games and so on.
“Everyone in the group is very energetic and looking forward,” club president Cindi Nalon said. “We all just want to jump in and get busy, and do things.”
She added, “I think we’re going to grow quick. We’ve started off quick with 12 members off the bat, and with everything we’ve got going, I think we’re really going to grow.”
Besides working to better the Wesley Chapel community, the group will be mixing in some social activities to build camaraderie — whether it’s seeing a movie, shopping or having dinner together. “We do have fun, as well,” Nalon quipped.
In her short time with the upstart club, Ambrosino has come away ecstatic with her new peer group.
Not only are they “very warm and welcoming,” she said, but they’re also go-getters ready to make a difference.
“This group of women are absolute doers,” Ambrosino said gleefully. “I’ve been thoroughly impressed with them, being in club work for a while and seeing how things go, these girls have jumped right on board.
“I keep telling my friends down south, ‘You’ve gotta meet these girls.’”
In Florida, there are over 9,000 members in over 230 GWFC-affiliated clubs, according to the state chapter’s website.
It’s the many lifelong friendships forged that make each club special, Ambrosino said.
“We help each other, we’re supportive of each other,” she said. “We’re there for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, deaths — the good times and the bad times, and that’s really what life is about.”
The GFWC Wesley Chapel Woman’s Club meets the first Wednesday of every month from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Parks Ford of Wesley Chapel, 28739 State Road 54, Wesley Chapel. The next meeting is April 1, which will feature guest speaker and member Amanda Markiewicz, director of outreach for Sunrise of Pasco County Inc. — Domestic & Sexual Violence Center.
Attendees are asked to wear teal as a symbol of sexual assault awareness.
Published March 18, 2020
The Fabulous Flea Market, hosted by the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club, will offer patrons plenty of choices.
The event will be held at the Old Lutz School at 18819 U.S. 41 in Lutz, and is set for March 6 and March 7, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day.
Classrooms will be stocked with items, including home décor, books, clothing, jewelry, linens, kitchen ware and appliances.
Outdoors, tents will house more items, such as seasonal decorations, florals, tools, children’s items and shoes.
Furniture will be sold, too.
If you’re hungry, you can indulge in items from a food booth, including various baked goods.
The local Woman’s Club, also known as the “Green Shirt Ladies,” will use proceeds toward causes that benefit the community.
For further information, call Pat Serio at (813) 948-4752, or visit GFWCLutzLandOLakesWomansClub.org.
Fabulous Flea Market
When: March 6 and March 7, both from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Old Lutz School, 18819 U.S. 41, Lutz
Cost: Free admission; items for sale
Details: The GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club is filling the indoors and outdoors of the school with various appliances, clothes and collectibles for the public to purchase.
Info: call Pat Serio at (813) 948-4752 or visit GFWCLutzLandOLakesWomansClub.org.
Published March 4, 2020
The GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club has been busy prepping for the 40th annual Juried Arts & Crafts Holiday Show, which features hundreds of vendors offering gift selections.
The annual event draws vendors from all over the country, and is the club’s biggest fundraiser of the year. It also draws shoppers who make the event an annual tradition, in their quest to find just the right gift for someone on their holiday list.
Over the years, the show has grown and changed locations — but it has always served as an important way for the club to raise money to support local scholarships and other causes.
The show is a big hit with families because it provides an outing to a festive holiday venue.
Items that will be sold include handcrafted jewelry, original artwork, photography, woodcrafts and metalwork, candles, soaps, plants and yard art.
The event will be Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Keystone Prep High School, 18105 Gunn Highway in Odessa. There’s a $5 charge for parking, which benefits the school. There is no admission charge.
Vendors also have the opportunity to win cash prizes and ribbons in a juried show.
40th annual Juried Arts & Crafts Holiday Show
Where: Keystone Prep High School, 18105 Gunn Highway in Odessa
When: Dec. 7, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Dec. 8, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free admission; parking $5 (Parking fee benefits the school)
Details: Over 300 vendors will be offering shoppers myriad options for unique holiday gifts and handcrafted items.
Info: Call the arts and crafts show director at (813) 833-3962.
Published December 04, 2019
It’s not every day that a new homeowner moves into a new Habitat for Humanity home, and it’s even less common for two housewarmings to take place on the same day.
But that’s exactly what happened on Oct. 2, as Debra Brown turned the key to walk the hallways of her new home. Charles and Megan Free with their children, who live next door, did the same thing.
They were celebrating along with Habitat of Humanity of East & Central Pasco, which held a double-home dedication on Blanton Street, in Dade City.
The event attracted scores of people to share in the homeowners’ joy.
Both homes were constructed through a program supervised by Habitat for Humanity of East & Central Pasco County.
Beyond celebrating the homeowners’ new dwellings, the Habitat for Humanity branch is celebrating its 25th year of building homes in Pasco County.
“These keys represent hours and hours of sweat, hours of work, hours of dedication [and] hours of love,” said Laurel Weightman, Habitat development director. “It doesn’t just take hands, it takes community support.”
There was a separate housewarming ceremony at each of the homes, with gifts for each household.
The gift baskets were filled, item by item, as a scriptural text was read, representing each gift.
The GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club contributed gardening supplies, a plant, books, food supplies, a first aid kit and fire extinguishers.
The club also gave back packs to each of the Free children, Keaton, Fallon and McKenna.
The East Pasco Quilters bestowed big, colorful quilts to the new residents of Blanton Street.
“We’ve had so much love and support from everybody all along the way,” Megan Free said, to the crowd assembled outside her home. “We really wouldn’t be where we are today without every one of you.”
In order to provide these homes, Habitat for Humanity relies on community partners, such as Catholic Charities, to help find the right candidates.
Habitat came across the Free family while they were being sheltered at a Catholic Charities facility.
“Our circumstances were not the best, not making the money to survive on our own, with the always increasing living rates,” Charles Free said.
The couple had never owned their own home, and at times depended upon family support, he added.
Brown also faced hardships after moving to Dade City from West Palm Beach.
The phlebotomist, who also is a first-time homeowner, lived with her uncle for some time.
She sought out assistance from the Tampa Bay Community Development Corporation (CDC) and was soon referred to its collaborative partner, Habitat for Humanity.
Jere Ferguson is the director for Volunteer and Family Services at Habitat for Humanity of East & Central Pasco County.
He helped to approve Brown and the Frees for newly constructed homes that were financially suitable for them.
“The mortgage payment is capped at 30% of their income when they apply, and that never changes for the life of their mortgage,” the director explained.
This ensures the payments are manageable, so they can have funds available for other needs as well, Ferguson said.
Habitat is always thinking about long-term prosperity and that’s why Blanton Street was a good location for the homes, Ferguson explained.
Getting homeowners integrated into a safe and friendly environment is a priority, he added.
“Now what we started to do is build houses together,” Ferguson said. “Whether it’s two or three houses together, or a community of 14, so that they have each other to support and to stand with.”
And that’s why Brown and the Free family are now next-door neighbors.
For a year, the homeowners were helping to construct their new residences along with volunteers and construction crews.
Shaunce Gwinn was one of those volunteers.
“As I was walking through, I said to myself, ‘These are actual dream homes that we’re building and we’re making people’s dreams come true,’” Gwinn said.
Seeing the smiles on the homeowners’ faces makes him smile, too, he said.
Besides working on their own homes, the neighbors helped each other.
The homes were finished and ready for entry in September – 10 months after construction began.
The two homes have a similar layout. Upon entering, wooden floors lead to the dining and living rooms, as well as the hallway. The tiled kitchen is decked with marble counters, a stove, fridge, a built-in microwave and cabinets.
The hallway leads to the laundry room already supplied with a washer and dryer, then to a single bathroom and three bedrooms. The master bedroom has its own bathroom.
Looking around her new home, Brown said, “It’s something I worked towards for a long, long time.”
“Now I know how to build a house – a little bit,” she added, laughing.
In the Free household, the kids raced from room to room.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s amazing,” Charles Free said as he stood in one room. “Words can’t describe the feelings that I’m experiencing right now. We can’t wait to get in – just to have a place for the children to run and play.”
Published October 09, 2019
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