Events were held around The Laker/Lutz News region to pay homage to Veterans Day, a federal holiday on Nov. 11 to mark the anniversary of the end of World War I and to honor those who have served in the military. Here’s a look at the Field of Flags, which was organized by the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon. The display was put up in front of the Tampa Premium Outlets, located on one of Pasco County’s busiest roadways. The breeze lifts this flag, at just the right moment, to show off its features. The stripes represent the original 13 colonies; the stars, the 50 U.S. states. The colors have meaning, too. The white symbolizes purity and innocence; the red symbolizes hardiness and valor; and the blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.
Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon
The death toll continues to climb, as rescuers search for the missing in areas hit hardest by Hurricane Michael.
The monstrous storm slammed into Florida’s Panhandle as a Category 4 hurricane, before making its way across Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, according to CNN reports.
As residents try to regroup in communities ravaged by winds clocked at up to 155 mph, storm surge and flooding — a groundswell of support has risen from across the nation, including local groups.
In Pasco County, Lakeside Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, 4608 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., Land O’ Lakes, is among those who have stepped up to help the hurricane victims.
The company emptied out a trailer and began collecting donations, so it could drive the items up to Panama City.
“We reached out to Lutz Elementary, as well as the Central Pasco Chamber who is assisting us in collecting donations,” Jacqueline Horruitiner, the company’s office manager, said via email. “Dade City Transmission is also collecting donations for us,” she added.
The Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce got involved, too, putting out the word that one of its members, Carlos Saenz with Ballantrae Dairy Queen, would be making a trip to the Panhandle with supplies. The chamber accepted donations, including such items as bleach, trash bags, water, personal hygiene products, nonperishable foods, diapers and feminine products.
The chamber also notified its members of Lakeside Heating, Cooling & Plumbing’s collection efforts.
Previously, the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon, the North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce and Wesley Chapel Nissan stepped up to collect donations and transport them to Port St. Joe, and Pasco County emergency personnel deployed to the hurricane zone to help in Hurricane Michael’s aftermath.
Area Goodwill stores and donation centers continue to accept donations for Hurricane Michael relief from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sunday, according to a news release from the organization.
Donations also are being accepted at Goodwill donation trailers from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.
Goodwill staff is working on arrangements for when and how donated items, such as bottled water and nonperishable food, will be delivered to help storm victims both at the Fasano shelter and in the Panhandle.
Items such as clothing and household items donated to Goodwill will be sold in its stores, and the proceeds will support Red Cross certificates redeemable in stores that will be given to storm victims, allowing them to select items they want and need.
Goodwill can accept almost anything for this effort, but is focusing on clothing, shoes, towels, linens and other household goods.
For Goodwill donation locations, visit Goodwill.org/donate-and-shop/donate-stuff.
If people would like to make monetary donations to Hurricane Michael relief efforts, visit RedCross.org.
Published October 24, 2018
In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, some local efforts are underway to help the storm’s victims.
Hurricane Michael was monstrous, clocking winds at 155 mph and becoming the first Category 4 storm to slam into Florida’s Panhandle.
Its fierce winds and storm surge have reduced coastal communities to rubble, and after wreaking its havoc on the Panhandle, the destructive storm made its way through Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.
At least 18 deaths had been reported as of Monday, with eight in Florida, three in North Carolina, one in Georgia and six in Virginia, according to the website, Weather.com.
Authorities predict it will take some time, even years in some cases, for areas hit by Hurricane Michael’s fury to recover.
While being spared the storm’s wrath, the Tampa Bay region is responding with ways to help.
A local donation drive is being coordinated by the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon, the North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce and Wesley Chapel Nissan.
Donations can be dropped off through Oct. 19 at Wesley Chapel Nissan, 28519 State Road 54, in Wesley Chapel. The dealership’s hours are 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.
These are the items that are needed:
- Portable generators
- Insect repellent
- Bottled water
- Disinfectant wipes
- Latex gloves
- Large garbage bags
- Laundry detergent
- Hand sanitizer
- Feminine products
- Baby wipes
- First aid kits/supplies
“We’re going to pack trucks on Saturday, and if we can get in, we’ll leave on Sunday,” said Chris Casella, president-elect of the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon.
“We’re going to be delivering it to St. James Episcopal Church,” he said.
Thomas Dwyer, the pastor of the church, also serves as the president of the Rotary Club of Port St. Joe.
The Wesley Chapel club wanted to be sure it had a focused effort, with a local contact to make sure the supplies could be distributed there.
“Rotary District 6950 — which is Citrus County, Pinellas County, Hernando and Pasco — they sent out 1,900 emails to our members,” Casella said. “A lot of people are sending us checks, and we’re just going to go shop on Saturday.”
The effort is focused on providing practical items that people need that the Federal Emergency Management Agency doesn’t provide, such as cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items.
“Insect repellent is going to be huge. These people are going to be outside all day long,” Casella said. Plus, there’s no electric, so the windows are open.
“The focus on television has been Mexico Beach and Panama City. You don’t hear about Port St. Joe, at all,” Casella said. “A small town like Port St. Joe will get neglected.”
Two of the Rotary Club’s Interact Clubs are also doing supply collection drives, Casella said. One of those clubs is at Wesley Chapel High School and the other one is at Cypress Creek Middle High School.
“The chamber (North Tampa Bay Chamber) has been incredible with this. They’re mobilizing local businesses,” Casella said.
Other Rotary Clubs are pitching in.
And, Wesley Chapel Nissan’s ownership and management has played a vital role by allowing the dealership’s staff to help and making room for the supplies in the dealership’s showroom, Casella said.
In addition to those efforts, Pasco County government is lending its assistance to hurricane victims, as well.
Troy Stevenson, of Wesley Chapel Nissan, said “we’re convoying up Sunday. We’ve got Wesley Chapel Nissan employees, Wesley Chapel Rotary and North Tampa Bay Chamber.”
“By the end of the week, we’ll probably be sending up two truckloads.”
One team from Pasco Emergency Services (911) was deployed to Bay County. The six dispatchers on the team are relieving and supporting the 911 center there, according to Brendan Fitterer, public information officer for Pasco County.
Pasco Emergency Management also has deployed the State of Florida Region 4/6 All-Hazards Incident Management Team (AHIMT) to Gulf County.
This group is made up of personnel from Pasco County Fire Rescue and Emergency Management, as well as personnel from Hernando, Sumter, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sanford counties, the University of South Florida and the Lakeland Police Department.
The all-hazards team is being deployed for both Emergency Operations Center support and field operations, as needed, Fitterer said, via email.
Published October 17, 2018
After being a satellite of the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon club, the Rotary Club of Land O’ Lakes has regained its independent status.
The Land O’ Lakes organization had existed for years, then merged with the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon, and then became a satellite club.
It took some time to reach the required membership level, but the Land O’ Lakes Club is a standalone club again, said Sandy Graves, president of the revived Land O’ Lakes Rotary Club.
“You have to have 20 to officially charter,” Graves said. “We’d get real close and then a couple would quit, or move or whatever.”
The group wanted to be on its own so it could focus on needs in Land O’ Lakes, as well as helping in broader efforts, Graves said.
“We need the Rotary in Land O’ Lakes again. Land O’ Lakes needs a strong civic organization,” Graves said.
Rotary provides the opportunity to do a lot of good, not only locally, but in the nation and the world, as well, Graves said.
Now that the club is official again, it is on the Rotary Club locator, which makes it more visible, she said. “People who are coming in that were Rotarians somewhere else, or want to join Rotary, they’ll be able to find us easier,” she explained.
The club meets on Fridays at 8 a.m., at Copperstone Executive Suites, 3632 Land O’ Lakes Blvd.
Meetings include breakfast and generally last for an hour.
Anyone who is interested in joining the club can come visit a few times for free to find out more about it before deciding if they want to join, Graves said.
“We want people who are committed,” Graves said.
Besides Graves, other officers of the club are Jim Englemann, president-elect; Barb Goiran, secretary; and, Elayne Bassinger, treasurer.
The group also has a membership committee, a foundation committee and a public relations committee, Graves said.
One of the club’s projects involves purchasing weather-resistant outdoor instruments, which will be placed at Land O’ Lakes Heritage Park, Graves said.
They’re oversized instruments, which can be played by children and have even been known to be played by adults, she said.
“These instruments are very good for kids with autism or Tourette’s Syndrome,” she said, because they can be soothing and can help them with their concentration.
Graves estimated it would cost about $10,000 to purchase the instruments, but added that could be more or less, depending on how many and what type of instruments are purchased.
The group recently raised $1,200 through a fundraiser.
The money came from a chance drawing for a five-hour scalloping trip for four, sponsored by Pasco County Commissioner Mike Wells Jr.
Graves hopes the club will be able to secure a matching grant for the funds it raises to help purchase the outdoor musical instruments.
The club also is planning to do a Land O’ Liberty Salute, which involves decking out trees in the median of Land O’ Lakes Boulevard with red, white and blue ribbons — as a gesture of patriotism, in time for the Fourth of July.
The club also will be involved with Traditions on the Green, at Land O’ Lakes Heritage Park, an annual tradition which features holiday music by local schools.
Graves encourages anyone who is interested in learning more about the Land O’ Lakes Rotary Club to come to a meeting.
Being part of the organization can be a rewarding experience, Graves said.
“It’s like anything in life. You know, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it,” she said.
Published June 13, 2018
Selena Schulz is growing up in a family that includes two dogs, and a guinea pig named Desmond.
Once in a while, there also are the stray dogs, cats and unexpected critters that her father brings home.
One time it was a chicken. But, more likely, it’s a friendless dog or cat that Kurt Schulz found on the side of the road. They are all in need of tender loving care.
“He’s a plumber, so he’s out and about,” said Selena’s mother, Jomary Schulz. “He brings them home and rehabilitates them. He and Selena give them baths. We call whatever rescue groups that can help.”
Loving animals is an embedded value for this Hudson family.
Selena, age 12, takes that to heart. She devotes hours of volunteer service to collect donations of supplies and money for animal shelters and animal welfare groups. She is also the author of three books. Donations for the books are split between various animal charities and the costs of printing more books to get more donations.
She will be at the Fourth Annual Oxford Exchange Book Fair in Tampa on April 29, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon recognized Selena in March as an “Everyday Hero” for her efforts on behalf of animal welfare.
“I’ve always been around animals,” Selena said. “There was never a time I didn’t have a dog. I’ve bonded with them. They’re my friends.”
There is Snowy, a Labrador/German shepherd; Cici, a Shar-Pei/boxer; and Desmond.
The sixth grader is a student at Countryside Montessori Charter School in Land O’ Lakes.
“My future goal is to be a CEO (chief executive officer),” said Selena.
And, to continue helping animals who need a friend and a home, she said.
It was on her eighth birthday that Selena found a way to combine her passion with volunteer service.
She celebrated with a party at Pasco County Animal Services. Instead of gifts, she asked for donations for the animal shelter.
The shelter received more than 120 pounds of dry dog food, 62 pounds of dry cat food, lots of toys and treats, towels, bedding, blankets and one leash.
Selena got the idea during a shelter visit.
“I saw that they weren’t having beds to sleep in,” she said. “They had newspaper piles.”
Birthday presents can be nice, but helping a dog or cat in need seemed more important, Selena said.
Selena has kept up with her volunteer efforts and found new ways to help out.
She has a website, Abedabuckabuddy.com, with links to the nonprofits that receive donations. She has written three books including “Cici’s Amazing Birthday.” Cats got equal time in her next book, “Purr-fect Friends Forever.”
Selena also wrote a song and created a music video.
For her 10th birthday, Selena hosted a community pet adoption event, again at Pasco County Animal Services.
Local businesses donated balloons and refreshments, including cupcakes. Her goal was for 20 dogs and cats (10 of each) to be adopted that day. She got her wish.
At the book fair, Selena will have her newest book, “The Squeaky Surprise,” on display. Desmond gets credit for this one.
She wanted to increase awareness that cats and dogs aren’t the only ones needing adoption from shelters.
One of her favorite charities is Cindy’s Pets. The nonprofit provides pet food to seniors who get meals delivered through Meals on Wheels.
Selena gives donations to the charity. She also helps package and deliver food for the seniors, and their pets.
Some seniors don’t have the means to buy or travel to get pet supplies, so Selena said, “some of the food for the seniors went to their animals.”
Since her eighth birthday, Selena has visited animal shelters across the country and in Canada. She also has been guest speaker at several schools.
“We’ve gone from looking for events to people asking her to be part of their events,” said Jomary Schulz.
What: Fourth Annual Oxford Exchange Book Fair
When: April 29, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: 420 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa
Details: More than 40 local authors will participate
Info: (813) 253-0222; ; or OxfordExchange.com
Published April 18, 2018
The crowd cheered.
The loudspeaker broadcast a quacking-good tune – “Disco, Disco Duck.”
And, with a quick dumping of about 2,000 rubber ducks into Lake Padgett, the flock of ducks floated off, with a push from a high-pressure fire hose squirted into the water.
Prizes went to donors whose ducks were among the first 68 to hit the finish line. But, the true winners were the community organizations that will receive donations from the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon.
More than 100 people came to the service club’s Duck Derby on May 21. Held for the first time this year, it is intended to become an annual event.
The all-day affair brought out families that shared shady spots on the lawn behind Hungry Harry’s Family Bar-B-Que, off Land O’ Lakes Boulevard.
They enjoyed live music and dined from a buffet of Hungry Harry’s barbecue, beans, chicken, and macaroni and cheese.
Ducks could be adopted at prices ranging from $5 for a single duck to $100 for a flock of 25.
Marcey Knight, 16, and Abri Woods, 17, worked at a drink table, taking tickets and handing out cool refreshments.
The Wiregrass Ranch High School students are members of Interact, a school-sponsored club that provides opportunities for community service.
Children bounced in the bouncy house, slid down an inflated slide or played carnival-like games for prizes.
Sales of the rubber ducks, barbecue and drinks went toward community projects, organizations or student scholarships.
“We support a variety of charities every year,” said Erin Meyer, club president.
Local and international projects and groups that receive the club’s donations include Pasco Education Foundation, Everyday Blessings, Farmworkers Self-Help, Habitat for Humanity, Sunrise Women’s Shelter and installation of water filters in third-world countries.
In all, 68 prizes were handed out including a $2,500 grand prize to Brian and Isabelle Dunleavy. Other prizes included a fishing trip for five with a charter boat captain, two nights at Saddlebrook Resort, a $250 certificate for automobile repairs from TWA Firestone, a wine basket, pet grooming, and bowling games from Royal Lanes.
Derby sponsors included Fun Services of Land O’ Lakes, Sam’s Club, Cash 4 Gold, The Laker/Lutz News, and Hungry Harry’s Family Bar-B-Que.
The Wesley Chapel Rotary Club Noon hosts fundraising events annually to aid local community organizations or projects. The duck derby is expected to become a yearly tradition.
“Things like this allow us to have fellowship as a club and also to give back to the community,” said Kelly Mothershead, past president of the club.
Events like the duck derby create a presence in the community, said Rebecca Smith, chairwoman of the club’s foundation.
“We kind of touch everybody, and the more the merrier,” Smith said.
The Webelos of Cub Scout Pack No. 149 in Wesley Chapel helped build the duck derby course. They practiced their skills in tying square knots to link together the colorful noodles that marked the course’s boundaries.
“It was fun,” said 6-year-old Andrew Holliday.
His family bought a few ducks the day of the race, and enjoyed a picnic lunch.
“We just wanted to see what it was like,” said Brian Holliday, Andrew’s father.
Brother Connor, 5, sat in a lawn chair, with a plate piled high with his favorite food – mac n’ cheese.
At the shoreline, children waded into the lake, splashing and tossing small pebbles into the water. Or, they wandered over to climb inside the cab of the fire truck parked nearby. Pasco County Fire Rescue provided the hose and water to get the duck derby moving along.
At the derby’s finish line, club members plucked the winning ducks from the water and popped them into plastic bags for identification. Each duck had a number printed on its belly.
The disco dance tune “Disco, Disco, Duck” kept the festivities bouncing along.
“Wasn’t that adorable?” said Smith, who is already ready to join in the fun next year.
Published May 25, 2016
When Jennifer Roberts returns to classes at Wiregrass Ranch High School next week, she’ll be a far different person than she was when she last attended classes there.
Roberts, who is entering her senior year, left the United States last September to take part in the Rotary Youth Exchange program, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon.
Roberts went to high school in Zaragoza, Spain — the country’s fourth largest city —situated between Barcelona and Madrid. The 17-year-old said the experience was nothing short of life-changing.
When she arrived there, Roberts barely knew enough Spanish to introduce herself and to say that she’s from Florida. “At first, it was really difficult,” she said.
Even a simple conversation was challenging.
“It makes you miss your native language, because you really have to think when you are speaking another language,” Roberts said.
She mastered some coping skills, to help her through.
“You learn how to just smile and nod,” Roberts said.
She was thrilled when her Spanish-speaking skills had improved to the point where she understood what was going on. When that clarity came, “You just get the moment of joy, ‘Oh, I can understand you,’” she said.
Despite the initial language barrier, Roberts said she felt welcome from the moment she arrived.
“I stayed with two different host families,” she said. “They were amazing. They just accepted me.”
The kids she met at school were nice, too. When they found out she was from the United States, some told her: “Oh, that is so cool.”
Some had misconceptions about Americans, Roberts said. Rampant media reports about guns in the United States have painted the wrong picture.
“They think that Americans just carry guns in their purses,” she said. Some even asked if she had a gun, and if she was carrying one around Spain.
“I was like, ‘I don’t actually know anyone that has a gun in their house,’” Roberts said.
Of course, because she’s a Floridian, some wanted to know if she had alligators as pets. When Roberts told them there was an alligator in the pond of her backyard, some wanted to know how she wasn’t killed by it.
On the pop-culture front, Roberts said, the music and movies are exactly the same. In fact, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” came out a week earlier in Spain than it did in American theaters.
Going out for dinner is different, though.
“It’s very expensive to go out to eat, so typically people don’t go out unless they’re wealthy,” Roberts said. “There, when you go out to eat, it’s a three-course meal. When you order off the menu, it has three options for the courses. It’s a set price for everything.”
Meals are leisurely affairs, too.
“If you go to lunch, it’s usually a four- to five-hour process,” she said. “Or if they’re trying to rush it, it would be two hours.”
Other differences? There are no drink refills or ice, Roberts said.
While in Spain, she craved fast food and Starbucks.
“Before I left, I was not a big fast-food person, but after you’re away, you kind of miss it,” Roberts said. “You kind of miss things like Chick-fil-A.”
She was never so happy to see a taco in her life as she was when a Taco Bell opened in the Spanish city where she lived.
“The only time I got to go to Starbucks was when I was in Madrid, Barcelona or at the airport,” Roberts added.
During the school year, she studied nine subjects, with different classes on different days. At her school, the students stayed in a group together throughout the day, while teachers changed classrooms.
Besides her time in Spain, Roberts had the chance to tour other European countries, including stops at the Berlin Wall, and in Paris where she got to see the Eiffel Tower and the “Mona Lisa.”
As she traveled about, Roberts noticed how similar Spanish is to French and Italian, and now she wants to learn those languages, too.
Roberts thinks her experiences abroad will help her in a future career, whether it be law, politics or international affairs.
She thinks they will help in her day-to-day life, too.
“After being an exchange student, you don’t sweat the little moments,” Roberts said.
Published August 13, 2014
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