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Thursday, Jul 31, 2014

Rotary Club donates $30,000 to charities


Published:   |   Updated: July 11, 2014 at 10:07 AM

— Sue Levitt regards the Rotary Club of New Tampa as one of the most active and generous service organizations in the community.

Her feeling may have something to do with the fact that she, as the development director for Quantum Leap Farm in Odessa, was on hand during a recent meeting to accept a donation to benefit the organization, which aims to help people with mental and physical disabilities by engaging them with horses.

“We sincerely appreciate this gift. The money will benefit wounded warriors and kids with cancer and other disabilities,” said Levitt. She noted that only 13 percent of money received by Quantum Leap Farm goes toward administrative costs.

The New Tampa Rotary’s contribution to the group was one among 23 donations to charitable organizations in the greater Tampa community. The amount totaled more than $30,000.

The recipients range from those who help feed the hungry, to a school in a poverty-stricken neighborhood, to a facility that houses families of wounded soldiers while their loved ones are undergoing medical treatment, and a nonprofit kids camp in need of repairs.

God’s Pedal Power Ministry, a grass-roots organization founded in 1996 and overseen by Mike and Karen Olsen and a team of other volunteers, was also among the New Tampa Rotary Club’s beneficiaries.

The group collects and repairs old bicycles in a shop on the grounds of University Baptist Church. The refurbished bikes are given to those who have no convenient means of transportation to their jobs and other places. Most recipients are referred by Metropolitan Ministries and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

“The money can go toward buying parts for the bicycles because we’re just common people who do our best to help people,” Mike Olsen said.

Ginger Bean, executive director of OASIS, or Outreach Assisting Students in Schools, was also thrilled to be at the receiving end of what she called a “generous” donation to the organization she represents.

It’s one that provides basic necessities such as clothing, shoes and hygiene items to underprivileged children in Hillsborough County schools.

The operation serves about 11,000 students a year at sites in New Tampa, East Tampa and South Tampa. Donated items are brought and sorted by a team of volunteers for school social workers to pick up and give to youngsters in need.

In addition, the organization purchases school uniforms, shoes and some hygiene necessities from the money it receives through private donations and contributions from foundations and civic groups.

“This money can go a long way,” said Bean, who earns a salary as the organization’s part-time leader. “Mostly it will go toward a new site we’re planning to open in Seffner.”

Operation Helping Hand, a project of the Tampa Chapter of Military Officers Association of America, is yet another beneficiary of the New Tampa Rotary’s generosity.

Its purpose is to help families of active-duty wounded and injured soldiers undergoing treatment at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa.

The organization relies on donations to help defray the costs of renting or leasing cars, bus and taxi fares, and gasoline. It also provides coupons to movies, amusement parks and area restaurants. In addition, the group hosts a free monthly dinner for families and patients in the hospital’s spinal cord injury and rehabilitation units.

“The Rotary Club’s donation to us is rewarding in that what we’re doing is just kind of a labor of love and a lot of the people who help out don’t get much recognition,” said president Bob Silah, noting that in its 10 years of operation more than $1 million has been given to the families, all thanks to donations from businesses and community service organizations.

New Tampa Rotary Club’s outgoing president Peter Gambacorta said the check-distribution day is the highlight of the organization’s year.

“‘Service Above Self’ is our motto and we at Rotary Club of New Tampa take this very seriously, and through our hard work and charity involvement we can make our community and world a better place for all,” he said.

Joyce McKenzie can be reached at joycecmckenzie@gmail.com.

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