Even though I’m a Charter member of the “Rotary Club of New Tampa Noon,” which meets at the same time as one of the two Wesley Chapel-based Rotary Clubs, I came to the realization a couple of weeks ago that I had only attended one meeting of either of the two Wesley Chapel clubs. And, that was a meeting of the Wesley Chapel Sunrise Rotary and it was at least three or four (or maybe more years ago).

But, whether I belong to another Rotary Club or not, I still feel as though I should have spent at least a little more time with these two very diverse groups of local business people (and a few retirees), so I decided to attend at least one meeting of each club and tell you a little about each in these pages.

So, since I had never yet attended a Wesley Chapel Noon Rotary meeting… and since the newer of the two Wesley Chapel clubs is now meeting Wednesdays at noon at the new Ciao! Italian Bistro (which has replaced Pagelli`s) at the Shops at Wiregrass mall, I figured I’d start there. You folks know how much I love checking out the new restaurants in our area and I really wanted to see what kind of spread Ciao! puts out for Rotary. And so far, I haven’t been disappointed with the yummy food at Ciao! at all.

For those who don’t know, Rotary International is the world’s oldest and largest service organization, with millions of members in literally hundreds of countries. Rotary is the organization that has played the leading role in the nearly worldwide eradication of polio and the organization’s mantra is “Service Above Self.” The two Wesley Chapel clubs are both in Rotary District 6950, which includes the clubs in Citrus, Hernando, Pinellas and Pasco counties. Every club gives money back to Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation, as well as to recipients the clubs choose for themselves.

For example, at the meeting I attended, which featured an awesome guest speaker who takes people skydiving at Mt. Everest, of all places, club president Greg Lenners of the Shops at Wiregrass mall passed around the holiday “wish lists” of about 30 children in need who attend Seven Oaks and Veterans Elementaries in Wesley Chapel. The club members were invited to select one or more of those children to purchase the toys and gifts they asked for.

“People think, when you live in a relatively affluent area, that there aren’t many kids who won’t have a merry Christmas without a little help,” Lenners said to the 40+ members in attendance of the 54-member club, many of whom signed up to help whole families or more than one child on the list. “But sadly, there are, so I know you’ll want to help.”

And, considering that many of these kids were only asking for fairly low-cost items like Legos and even clean socks, the club members — a group of local business leaders, including several I’ve known for several years — it was easy for me to get caught up in the fellowship of these dedicated people. And, I can assure you that whether a club has 100 members or less than 20, you get the same feeling at virtually any Rotary meeting you attend.

The meetings — and there are clubs that meet for breakfast and even after work, too — usually also feature great speakers (the week after I first visited, the Wesley Chapel Noon club’s guest was a polio survivor), “Happy Dollars” or “Brag Bucks,” where members and guests fork up some cash to help the club and its causes in exchange for being able to brag about everything from their kids to awards they’ve won or just to acknowledge beautiful weather), networking and more.

And, here in Wesley Chapel, you have two great clubs from which to choose. I will visit another Wesley Chapel Sunrise Rotary meeting on an upcoming Friday at 7:15 a.m., at the newly revamped Quail Hollow Country Club and update you on both clubs a little more often in the future.

See the Community Calendar on page 10 of this issue for contact information about both Wesley Chapel clubs.

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