On Nov. 18, 2021, the Rotary Club of Brooksville held their Day of Giving luncheon. The Day of Giving recognizes the community organizations that were given donations as a result of the fundraising efforts of club members and matching grant money (through the Rotary International Matching Funds Grant). They distributed a little over $20,000.
The club’s largest fundraiser is the Radio Auction which takes place annually in March. Club President Sharon Twyman urges everyone to bid on the items donated by local businesses and community members because “that’s how we’re going to repeat this next year,” she said.
“So the more we bring in, the more we can ask for. We’ve already set our goal of $30,000 next year.”
Rotary Club of Brooksville members nominate local nonprofits to receive funding. Twyman explained, “We’re responsible for the funding we’re bringing in and we’re keeping them in our county. We’re not shipping it to other counties. What we raise stays here to change the lives of our citizens here.”
“So, our members are the ones who decide every year where our dollars go.”
She explained that one benefactor is the Hernando County School District. Every year all three Rotary clubs in the county work together to provide dictionaries for every third-grader in the school district. Rotary Club of Brooksville also sets aside funds for Hernando High School’s Interact Club.
Rotary’s Camp Florida, located in Brandon, received $3700 in funding for campsite improvements. Rotary’s Camp Florida is a 21-acre ADA compliant campsite that serves special needs children and adults and has 3000-5000 campers annually.
Representatives of the organizations receiving funding said a few words about what they do for the community and how they plan to use the donation.
People Helping People
Becky Burton, Executive Director of People Helping People, said their primary mission is to provide food to children, seniors and the homeless. They also run a free medical clinic on Tuesdays to help those who do not have insurance. Their community center on Kass Circle is a meeting place for several local organizations in addition to providing a place for the area’s homeless to shower and have lunch. GED classes and AA meetings are held at the Community Center as well. They are in need of volunteers and participants for their Chili Cook Off on Feb. 19th 11am – 3pm. “It’s a family fun day basically. I encourage you to put that on your calendar right now,” said Burton.
Children’s Advocacy Center
Jeanine Kell, Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center in Hernando County, remarked that they will be using the money for therapist training, costly therapy tools and meals.
Per their website, The Children’s Advocacy Center serves children who are victims of sexual or physical abuse, threatened harm, drug-endangerment, mental injury, neglect, and witnesses of domestic violence. Their goal is to “reduce a child’s trauma by limiting the number of times a child has to be interviewed regarding allegations of child abuse by providing comprehensive, coordinated multidisciplinary services beginning with the investigative process all the way through healing.”
Kell said that with this donation, she was able to buy a meal for a hungry eight year old girl who was at the center for four hours the day before. They aren’t able to use grant money for food, but Rotary’s funds can go towards providing food for children at the center.
LifeSouth Community Blood Centers
April Johnson-Spence with LifeSouth Community Blood Centers explained that they are the only supplier to all three local hospitals. Furthermore she said that while 70 percent of the population can donate blood, only 7 percent actually do. “One in three of you will need blood or blood products in your lifetime, so there is always a blood supply that is not quite at the level it needs to be,” said Johnson-Spence. They are active in the school system, educating students on the importance of donating blood as well as blood chemistry. They also work with local schools to conduct blood drives. At a local school they may have 60-70 students donate blood whereas the average bus has 10-15 people donating per day.
“We’re thankful for the extra money. It goes into our foundation so that we can provide the new school services,” Johnson-Spence said.
New Beginnings Youth Shelter
Erin Daley spoke on behalf of New Beginnings Youth Shelter. She explained that they are a youth shelter that assists children ages 10-17 who need a safe place to stay, whether it’s due to a runaway situation, transitioning between foster families or adoption. New Beginnings is operated by Youth and Family Alternatives. Improvements to the facility are underway with interior renovations so that they can better serve the roughly dozen children who reside there at any one time.
Dawn Center Executive Director Shannon Sokolowski explained that Dawn Center serves survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault though housing, employment search/financial safety planning, education, legal assistance to attain injunctions and domestic violence prevention. She said that their rotary dollars are going to purchase an app that will help with prevention. The app is called Safe Dates and it is a primary prevention curriculum for ages 11-17. They will be able to use this in middle schools. Any funding left over will go towards teen dating violence awareness month activities in February.
Brooksville’s Early Head Start Program
Family Advocate Jody Lopez for Brooksville’s Early Head Start program remarked, “We are a program that serves young children ages six weeks to the age of five.” She said that during the holidays a lot of their families struggle to provide gifts for their children and this is where their rotary money will go. Their goal is to provide presents for their students to take home with them and open during the holidays.
Hernando County YMCA
Hernando County YMCA Executive Director Amber Slusser stated, “Our purpose is to strengthen community and healthy living needs, development and social responsibility. And we do it for all ages, from six weeks, up to our oldest member [and military veteran] who just turned 102, last Thursday on Veterans Day.” (Thomas Rexford’s birthday celebration was covered in the Nov. 19 edition of The Hernando Sun.)
“But the donation from rotary today is actually helping our teen leadership program. It’s one of the longest standing teen programs across the Y, nationally, and it is a program that teaches employability skills, event planning, social activity planning for teens ages 13 to 17.”
Those teens help with community events and she hopes to put them to work in the South Brooksville YMCA program alongside the Hernando High Interact Club where they will provide after school tutoring and mentoring.
Operation Heart FELT
Operation Heart FELT is a backpack program that feeds homeless and disadvantaged kids in Hernando County. They provide three meals a day Saturdays and Sundays and on extended holidays. Danielle Tumaniszwili remarked, “Pattie [Stepbach] and I founded the organization 13 years ago and we strive to give every bit of the money we receive to the kids in the method of food.”
Stepbach said, “Every dime, dollar, penny of this check will go to buy food.” Addressing Jeanine Kell of the Child Advocacy Center, she stated, I want to let you know that if you ever have another situation where your child is hungry give me a call. You know my number, we’ll give a bag to that child.”
Jericho Road Ministries
Andrew Chamberlain, CEO of Jericho Road Ministries, said that Jericho has five shelters throughout Hernando County serving men, women and children. They run a feeding ministry on Tuesdays and Fridays. Every month they are providing thousands of pounds of food to people in need. They also run an addiction recovery program.
“These funds will go directly to our feedings. We feed thousands of individuals and so we are going to take this money, put it right back to those that are needing food, and be able to provide those resources so people have food,” Chamberlain said.
HPH Hospice Care
Andrea Arflack, Director of Philanthropy with HPH Hospice, shared that their organization provides loving and passionate care for anyone in need of some of that. They serve individuals affected by advanced illnesses offering home care, pediatric palliative medicine, hospice care and grief services. They are based in Citrus, Pasco, and Hernando counties, but for this grant, the money will be used to fulfill a wish for one of their Hernando patients named Mollie.
Molly participated in focus groups to create Harry Potter world over at Universal Studios.
“About 15 years ago I read all the Harry Potter books and saw all the movies. For over a year I
participated in online focus groups and surveys; helping to create the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando,” she wrote.
Her dying wish is to go to Universal Studios and ride the Hogwarts Express and experience it.
“Since the Hogwarts section opened in 2010, and the Diagon Alley section opened in 2014, it has been my heart’s desire to visit this world. I begged my husband repeatedly, for years, to take me; but he always said “maybe later, if we have more money.” But now I am running out of time, and it looks doubtful that Professor McGonagall will give me a Time-Turner.”
Universal Studios is donating 2 complimentary tickets, and HPH Hospice is paying for Mollie’s hotel, transportation, and food with the help from the $500 check they received from Rotary.
Arflack stated, “She has so many different ailments right now that I was worried whether or not she was going to make it. But she is scheduled to go there in a couple of weeks. We will be sharing photos of her on our facebook page and instagram. Of course we will be thanking all of the Rotary members, we really appreciate it.”
Chamber Education Training Association (CETA)
Morris Porton, Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce (GHCCC) President, and Jennifer Monaco, GHCCC Senior Administrative Specialist, represented the Chamber Education Training Association (CETA). They shared that the organization gives back to the community and our children by continuing their education. Jennifer explained that the money from the Rotary will be going to help teach kids the skills that aren’t taught in school. Such as, writing resumes, how to interview, how to dress for an interview, etc. 1400 emails were sent out with a survey asking the community what education and training they think our kids need right now. Jennifer stated, “On behalf of CETA we want to thank the Rotary, we will definitely be thanking you in all of those great ways and we appreciate being here.” CETA offers community support through education and training programs to aid in the development of a capable and qualified workforce.
Wayne Cordova, CEO of Ability Tree Florida, explained this is an organization that helps families impacted with disabilities, providing rest, recreation, education, support, and training. Cordova explains, “Since day one, the Rotary has been such a wonderful supporter of ours. We went from providing three hours of respite a month to opening up our clubhouse this past April and last month we provided 64 hours of respite to families impacted by disability. On a daily basis now, we’re open and able to serve families there, and the Rotary is a huge part in that. Last year, the highlight of the clubhouse was donated by the Rotary; Which is our sensory room. The sensory room is an amazing part of our aea. If you have autism or sensory processing disorder, sometimes things can get a bit overwhelming. So the sensory room is a great place to find some calm and relaxation.”
If you are a part of Ability Tree, they also provide recreation so the other highlight of their clubhouse is their big playroom. This year Rotary has provided the funds for the new Soft Play Tunnel Climber which will be delivered to the playroom in just a couple of weeks.
Cordova adds, “I want to tell you really quickly about one of my best buddies that’s at the clubhouse. He’s a little boy named Eddie, he’s actually a classmate of my daughter Emily. So Eddie comes to Ability Tree every single day and he’s very short on words but he says a couple of things really quickly when he shows up and the first thing he says is, ‘Sensory Room.’ And every time he goes into the Sensory Room he makes a big deal to say, ‘Thank you Rotary!’”
Eddie’s mom is an overnight nurse and they provide her with three hours everyday after school of respite.
“This group right here is such an amazing group of people. I’m honored and humbled to be a part of this amazing group,” says Cordova.