By Matt Wiley

Although $65,000 is a lot of money, especially to just give away, raising money for local charities and giving back to the community is at the heart of Rotary International’s motto of “Service Above Self.” So, after raising money for the past year, the Rotary Club of New Tampa (which meets at 7 a.m. each Friday at Tampa Palms Golf & Country Club, located off Tampa Palms Blvd.) donated the funds raised by the club for the 2014-15 fiscal year to several local charities at its recent annual check presentation. 

On June 5, 27 local, state, national and international non-profit organizations were all on the receiving end of New Tampa Rotary Club funds, including the Boys Scouts of America (Gulf Ridge Council), Buddy Baseball, Community Stepping Stones, Faces of Courage, Feeding America Tampa Bay, the Fisher House at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital (located off Bruce B. Downs [BBD] Blvd., across from the University of South Florida [USF]), the Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel (FHWC) Foundation, Freedom High School Interact Club, Freedom High Naval Junior ROTC, God’s Pedal Power Ministry, Gracepoint Wellness, Helping Hands Pantry, Mort Elementary School (on E. Bearss Ave.), the New Tampa Family YMCA (on Compton Dr. in Tampa Palms), the OASIS Network of Tampa Bay, One Roof, Operation Helping Hand, Osher Lifelong Institute at USF, Relay for Life of New Tampa, Rotary Club of Harare, Zimbabwe (Africa), Rotary’s Camp Florida, St. Vincent DePaul, Sweetwater Farms, USF Bridge Project, USF Diabetes Care, USF Rotaract Club and VSA (Veterans for a Secure America) Florida.

“This is a day we all look forward to with anticipation; it’s one of the highlights of our club year,” said Rotary Club of New Tampa president Frank Moore. “Our club members work extremely hard all year on our various fund-raising projects, and it’s a real pleasure to see these funds go to great community charities and to help people with critical needs.”

The Club’s Fundraising Committee chair Eric Longphee said that he is proud of the money that was given back to the community this year, which also included $25,000 to help create the New Tampa Rotary Dog Park (located across from the New Tampa Rec Center on Commerce Park Blvd. in Tampa Palms), which officially opened in May, thanks to matching funds from the City of Tampa.

“We are truly making a difference for so many local charities,” Longphee said. “The members of our Club are professionals in our community and this is one way we can all give back to the less fortunate.”

Longphee also said that the majority of the money was raised during the club’s various fund-raising activities, including a sporting clay shoot, a bowling event, golf tournament and the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot. Other contributions were collected during regular meetings.

Longphee said that the charities were chosen by club members.

“Members of our (club) are encouraged to recommend local charities they feel should receive a portion of the funds we raise,” Longphee explained. The club’s Contributions Committee then votes on which charities will receive donations.

Longphee added that the club hopes to raise even more money next year.

“Generally speaking, we always want to raise more money each year and this year, we did raise more than we have in the last handful of years,” Longphee said. “However, the goal of Rotary is to give back to our local community by way of money and volunteering, and provide a good environment for fellowship. Our Rotary Club is able to provide all of these.”

New Tampa Family YMCA executive director Monica Mirza says that she was excited to receive another donation from the club.

“We’ve received a donation (from the Rotary Club of New Tampa) for the past several years,” Mirza said. “We’re extremely grateful for their continued support.”

Mirza says that the donation will go towards covering the costs of past and future swimming programs that teach swimming and life-saving skills to participants. This past spring, she says that the Y partnered with Tampa Palms Elementary (also located on Compton Dr.) to give swimming lessons to students in grades K-12 a few days each week. This summer, she says that the New Tampa Y also will once again partner with the University Area Community Development Corporation to give swimming lessons to kids from less fortunate areas near the University of South Florida.

The OASIS (Outreach Assisting Students In School) Network of New Tampa, which provides school supplies and other necessities to less fortunate children across the Hillsborough County School District, also was a donation recipient.

“We were so happy to be on the list again,” said OASIS executive director Ginger Bean. “It was a wonderful opportunity for us.”

Bean says that, since OASIS recently expanded to open its fourth supply site in the Brandon area, she expects that the group will be serving more students.

“Since we expanded, it has cost us more to keep all of our sites stocked,” she explained. “The money will go toward school uniforms, socks, underwear, hygiene items and shoes for students whose families can’t afford to purchase them.”Bean added that OASIS is thrilled to have received a donation from the New Tampa Rotary Club for more than 10 years. “(The Club) is a great partner,” she said.

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