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Westchase Road Repair Petition Awaits Your Signature

Residents, visitors, neighborhood business owners (as well as their employees and patrons) and families attending our local public schools have all witnessed the erosion and degradation of public roads in Westchase. Numerous discussions have taken place with Hillsborough County Public Works and our county commissioners. The delay in re-surfacing and repairs was attributed to reduction of tax revenue during the recession. Only a few streets have received attention, but many more are in critical need of work.

The Westchase Community Association (WCA), with the support of our concerned residents, has subsequently prepared a petition calling for the repair and resurfacing of our Westchase public roads. It will be presented to County Commissioner Sandra L. Murman, with a copy to the other six commissioners. The petition is conveniently accessible online, and explains fully our concerns and offers a requested solution. (Your voting member will also have a petition in hard copy for signing by those who do not use Internet services.) Persons of voting age from any of the groups listed in the first line of this article may conveniently sign the petition electronically – signing only one time, of course.

Here is how:

Go online through by clicking on this link

Then:

• Study the background and petition.
• Enter your name and required information.
• Do add a brief comment as to why you are signing the petition, indicating your neighborhood. Both actions will help make the response even more impactful.
• Submit your signature.
• Plan to respond before Feb. 24, 2015. The petition will be presented immediately thereafter.

Hard copies of the petition are also available at both pools for residents without Internet access.

Please participate in this important effort.

By Joe Odda

COMMENTS

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VMs Endorse WCA Petition for Westchase Road Repaving

While the main focus of the Jan. 13 Westchase Voting Members meeting was community roads, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) opened the session by introducing their new District III leadership team.

District III recently underwent a change of command, with Chad Chronister now serving as the district’s major. Westchase’s Community Resource Officer Deputy Phil Acaba began by describing his role as handling community issues and serving as a resource to assist residents.

Acaba introduced the rest of the District III leadership team – Corporal Kris Gundersen, Sergeant Chad Frisco, Lt. Darrin Barlow and Major Chronister. Chronister spoke of the importance of having residents lock their garage and car doors. “Let’s not make it easy for anybody. There are people who will check every door to see if it’s locked and every car door. They will try 30 cars and find one unlocked,” he said.

Chronister explained that the HCSO is helping residents by moving traffic boards into our community that will remind people to lock their doors. We will also see some bicycle units in our neighborhood.  Chronister said that the bikes are much better for sneaking up on people since the patrol cars can be seen at a distance.

Chronister spoke of some of the challenges of body cameras, which may cause privacy concerns because the films will become public records which others can request. He said they also have a large staff shortage right now that they are trying to fill without lowering their rigorous standards. He concluded, “If you see something or someone who doesn’t belong, say something. We are encouraging you to call.”

Chronister opened the floor for questions. Referring to the major’s suggestion to call, VM Eric Holt (Radcliffe) asked if residents should call the non-emergency number. Chronister replied “Yes, that is the best way. If it is an emergency, call 911.”

VM Don Costello (Stamford) suggested that the HCSO group meet with the Community Development District (CDD). Chronister said they are happy to meet with any interested groups. VM Leslie McCluskie (Keswick Forest) raised a concern about signs instructing vehicles to yield to pedestrians and added, “There isn’t much yielding going on.”

Deputy Acaba said he would follow up on the concern.

Thanking the sheriff’s office, WCA Board President Joaquin Arrillaga remarked,“Officer Gundersen has been great. Everyone is very friendly. Every time we call, somebody is there. We appreciate all of that."

Gundersen supervises the CDD's off-duty deputy patrol.

After the HCSO representatives departed, VMs quickly and unanimously gave their initial approval to the new exterior color palette guidelines for the Classic Townhomes, Traditional Townhomes and Townhomes of West Park Village. The changes will need VMs second approval in February to ensure their official adoption.

VMs then reviewed the printed version of the Owner Brochure created by the Rental Committee led by VM Cynde Mercer (The Bridges). Arrillaga said, “The idea with the brochure is to have them put it in the welcome packet and the Voting Member or the Welcoming Committee can hand them out. They will also be in the office and we will put a PDF copy on the WCA Web site.”

VMs unanimously approved the brochure and thanked Mercer for the time she invested in helping create it.

The final item around the Revised Road Paving Petition generated the most discussion. Arrillaga explained that at their last meeting, the WCA Board had voted to have the association promote the petition. VM Carlos Quiros (Villas of West Park Village) said that the petition looked good but suggested having the board sign off on their support for road repaving and communicate that to the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) immediately.

Describing the history of the petition, Director Joe Odda stated, “Eric and I both attended a meeting with (County Commissioner) Sandy Murman back in September. Eric made an eloquent speech about the issues with his street. We posted the question to her if it would be useful and effective for us to develop a petition and she said that it was always good to come forward with that level of participation and interest in the problem.”

Mercer (Bridges) asked, “Have we decided how we will collect signatures?”

Arrillaga responded that we will collect electronic signatures and use Mailchimp for e-mail notifications. He added that the WCA already has 1,000 residents signed up to receive mailings. An article in World of Westchase will include electronic links to the petition. The petition will also be available in hard copy at both pools and at the WCA office.

Arrillaga noted that Commissioner Murman was to meet with some residents in Radcliffe on Jan. 26 so that she can see the problem herself. VM Ralph Caputo (Abbotsford) asked, “Why are we doing it this way instead of the way Carlos (Quiros) suggests, where the board signs the petition to represent Westchase? There is a lot of labor involved (in getting signatures) and we might only get one half the amount of residents’ signatures. As Carlos suggests, if we have the board sign off, it could be done tomorrow.”

Arrillaga agreed, saying they could do this if the VMs request but the signatures are the “icing on the cake.”

VMs ultimately voted unanimously to approve the motion to have the board sign off initially on the petition and send it to the BOCC as a precursor to the actual petitions with signatures from the community.

Director Kathy Carlsen added, “The biggest thing to understand is that these commissioners are looking for votes. Seven board member signatures don’t represent 3,600 voter signatures. They will look at the individual signatures and want to have those votes. The signatures mean that the individual voters are saying, ‘This is an issue in our community.’”

Referring to the board’s decision to support the petition, VM Patrick O’Brien (Glenfield) remarked, “I am new to Glenfield. Being here five years and just speaking with people, they don’t see a lot of good things coming from the WCA office as far as violations go, so this will be good to show them in terms of getting some support.”

Arrillaga closed the discussion by saying that Holt is helping decide the petition deadline but they hope to conclude the signature drive by the end of February.

VMs adjourned at 8:15 p.m.

By Brenda Bennett

COMMENTS

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WCA Board Debates Road Repaving Petition

The bulk of the Jan. 8 meeting of the Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board of Directors was dedicated to discussing the Government Affairs Committee’s road paving petition – and the extent of the WCA’s involvement in it.

Several voting members (VMs) attended to express their views about the petition.

Board members had previously discussed the proposed petition at length during their November meeting, when Government Affairs Committee (GAC) Chair Joe Odda’s motion, requesting that the association to ask residents to sign a WCA petition concerning the condition of Westchase roads and then send the petition to County Commissioner Sandy Murman, failed to pass. Board members ultimately voted 5-2 in favor of Director Brian Ross’ motion that the petition language be changed so that the petition was not from the WCA but included everyone who uses and has concerns about the public roads in Westchase. Further, Ross’ motion stipulated that association resources not be used to administer the petition.

WCA President Joaquin Arrillaga said the discussion was being revisited at a VM’s request. When the VM recently requested assistance with the petition from WCA management staff, he was told that the request did not comply with the approved motion.

Radcliffe VM Eric Holt said that it was his understanding that the board was not willing to advocate for the county repaving nor formally put their stamp on the project.

However, WCA Vice President Ken Blair responded, “The board is 100 percent behind the resurfacing. We did not want the petition to be just from the WCA Board but wanted to include businesses, commuters, and residents.”

Blair added, “Part of our issue with the administration was the issue of paid staff spending their time administering the petition because we had questions about how much time they would have to spend and too many questions about how the process was going to work and be administered.”

Holt then volunteered to administer the petition but said he wanted reassurance that the board would present it to Commissioner Murman and communicate with homeowners to request their participation in the petition.

Pithers echoed Blair’s concerns that the reason they did not want association employees to administer the petition was that there were too many questions about how much time it would take and directors did not want to spend the association’s money on it. She said, “The WCA has always supported the petition. We just can’t financially support it.”

Holt responded that road repaving was a huge, community-wide issue that should be pushed by the association. He said he felt that if the WCA was behind the petition, they should be willing to administer it. He added that the WCA’s support meant nothing if they weren’t willing to supply resources. “I think a lot of people will draw the same conclusion if you say you support it but you aren’t willing to allocate any resources.”

Weighing in, Director Ross said all present wished to move forward with the petition and have the county to fix the roads in Westchase. He added, “We expanded the language of the petition presented to us to include everyone who travels the roads in Westchase because we want to expand it to include other people.”

Pithers reiterated Ross’ comments, “I think something has been lost in the semantics but there was never no support for the petition. We thought it was best for the community to include more signatures.”

Glenfield VM Patrick O’Brien said he believed it was important for the WCA Board to support the petition. He said he felt house prices were depreciating because of the condition of the roads. O’Brien suggested that the association should partner with the county and invite them to come talk.

Ross observed that County Administrator Mike Merrill had come to Westchase to talk to residents in December and only 15 people showed up.

Odda made a motion that the WCA support and sponsor the road-paving petition with the stipulations that it be undertaken by the WCA on behalf of homeowners, businesses and all who use Westchase roads; that it be administered online by Greenacre Properties (GPI) staff (the WCA management team) or a volunteer; that the petition be expedited through the use of WCA/Westchase Community resources and information outlets; and that the petition language could be modified.

Blair immediately amended Odda’s motion that administration of the petition not be the responsibility of GPI staff because they had no idea how many hours that would involve. Holt said that he estimated it would take four to six hours to set up and maybe an hour a week after that. He added, “I will put the Web site up if the association owns it and if all communications come from the association.”

Director Kathy Carlsen volunteered to help.

VM O’Brien added, “Here’s an opportunity for you (the WCA) to show the community you are for them and are doing something for them instead of just giving notices. I think this will generate goodwill.”

Ross said that he stood by his original comments and thought they might need to check with the WCA attorney to make sure they could undertake the petition as a not-for-profit organization. He added that at least three times in the past year, the board had said that GPI was not doing its job, which focuses mainly on deed restriction enforcement. He asked if anyone had even checked with GPI to see if they would allow it.

Arrillaga said he understood that association employees would simply be forwarding e-mails and sending out communication, which should not require a lot of time.

Odda amended his motion so that the administration of the petition be by a volunteer but that the association would publicize the petition and forward e-mails. Director Keith Heinemann then asked that the motion be revised to strike language widening petition participation to “others that travel and use the public roads of Westchase.”  Odda accepted his amendment.

Odda’s revised motion passed 4-3 with Carlsen, Ross and Pithers casting the dissenting votes. Pithers stated her vote was not because she doesn’t support the petition but because she thought “what happened tonight was a semantic battle that was unnecessary.” She added that the petition should have been started 60 days ago.

All voted in favor of Blair’s motion to allow the WCA president to advocate on behalf of the petition in any way, including going to county meetings.

In other actions:

All directors voted in favor of re-appointing Dale Sells to another two-year term on the Modifications Committee, which reviews requested changes to home exteriors and yards.

Community Association Manager Debbie Sainz reported that the tennis courts in West Park Village were being resurfaced and should be complete by mid-January. She said they would begin work on Courts 1 and 2 at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center next. She also reported that there were 313 house closings in Westchase in 2014.

Although a few board members thought the language might be a bit too harsh and the font too big on the new program waivers developed by the association’s legal counsel, directors voted unanimously to approve them. Ross asked staff to tell directors of any resident feedback and to ensure that a responsible person be in charge of the waivers so that the correct waiver is given to participants since the waivers are program-specific.

Directors asked association staff to look into developing an online survey to send to residents to get input about Westchase programs and facilities.

Directors suspended the fines for two homeowners for unresolved deed restriction violations with the understanding that the violations not reoccur within 24 months. The Woodbay residents who came to the meeting to appeal their fine had weeded and added mulch to their flowerbeds, which they said had gotten out of hand because their landscaper quit on them unexpectedly and they traveled frequently. The homeowners assured directors that it would not get out of hand again.

The yard of a homeowner in The Vineyards was still in need of new grass but she said by phone that she did not think that she should be responsible for the condition of her grass since the Vineyards Association handled lawn care. Directors told her that, according to The Vineyards, its lawn service only mows and edges yards and residents are responsible for any bare spots in their yard. Directors agreed to suspend her violation as long as the yard was re-sodded in 14 days.

All directors voted in favor of WCA Treasurer Dyan Pithers' motion to open a Wells Fargo simple business account to be used for vending machine funds.

The WCA Board meetings are open to the public. The next one is scheduled for Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at the WCA offices at 10049 Parley Dr.

By Marcy Sanford

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Newcomers Luncheon Feb. 19

The Newcomers of Northwest Hillsborough will gather for lunch this month on Feb. 19.

They’ll meet at 11 a.m. at the Floridan Palace, 905 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, 33602.

Guest speakers from Tampa Preservation Inc. will give Newcomers information on their work preserving local history, especially historic structures and neighborhoods in Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County.

Reservations should be made by Thursday, Feb. 12, by calling Norma Puglisi at (813) 746-5575.

The Newcomers of Northwest Hillsborough invites women who would like to form new friendships and get to know the area better to join them.  For more information, visit http://www.newcomersnwhillsborough.com

.

By Rose Ann Lorenzo

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The Wolf Pack Names a Rooster

Darcy shifts in the minivan seat. “Does it hurt?”

Elf thinks on this. “Well, I went to a birthday party, shot the boy whose party it was in the head and he cried.”

“Hmm,” Darcy says. “But was the pain worth the fun?”

Elf nods enthusiastically. “Oh, yeah!”

Having exhausted paintball as a topic, the Wolf Pack Carpool turns to more pressing matters:

Deciding which of The Wiggles’ songs represents the group’s most brilliant work.

Because while retro takes at least three decades for adults, it’s merely six years for middle schoolers.

We’re shooting across Race Track Road – my daughter Elf, 9, occupying the second row with fellow nerd-athlete Darcy. The third holds fellow sixth grader, Astrid, Reigning Queen of Carpool Non-Sequiturs, and The Eighth Grader, who’s in a committed, long-term relationship with her Sols.

What are Sols?

Retro music headphones the size of Rhode Island.

Then there’s me, their eavesdropping driver, drowning in the middle school Stream of Consciousness.

The Sixth Graders are singing along to a YouTube video of Fruit Salad. Astrid pipes up. “My mom once told my sister that she’d hold a pillow over her head until she stopped struggling.”

It just kind of hangs out there a moment.

“You know, until you really listen to The Wiggles, you don’t realize just how gooda singers they are.” Elf says.

“PUNCH BUGGY PURPLE!” Astrid plugs Elf.

“Wait!”

“What?”

“It wasn’t a purple! It was white. The light just made it look purple.”

Astrid [vulgarity] her fist. “Is that a do-over?”

“No way!” says Darcy.

“OK,” agrees Astrid. “Plus, that’s the same punch buggy that comes out of that same neighborhood every morning at the exact same time.”

“You mean you can’t punch buggy the same punch buggy even on different days?” I ask.

“NO!” they cry.

“I once saw a Tesla,” says Darcy. “Did you know Teslas have seats in the trunk? What kind of parents would put their kids in the trunk?!”

“All of them,” the driver says.

Nervous, polite laughter.

We stop beside a utility box with a red blinking light.

“It’s gonna blow!” cries Darcy.

Giggles.

“My house alarm beeps faster and faster until you finally turn it off,” observes Astrid. “Once our house alarm went off and my neighbor showed up at our front door with a shotgun.”

Elf, battling a cold, snorts. “I sound like Darth Vader.”

The trio trades effective mouth-breathing strategies.

Astrid: “You know Helena?”

“Perfect Hair Girl?” says Elf. “I can’t figure out if she’s nice or a snoot.”

Darcy sides with snoot: “She always ditches me!”

Astrid sides with Nice Girl: “But you always move back to talk to Quinten!”

Near the school entrance a rooster crows.

“We should name him!” cries Elf. I like Rafael.”

“No,” says Darcy. “Gus.”

“Guster,” Astrid counters.

“How ‘bout Dinner?” Elf offers.

Laughter.

We pull up to school and the door slides open.

“Do you know what Ms. Jensen said yesterday when Ethan had the hiccups?” Astrid says.  “Hold your breath for 10,000 seconds and see if it helps.”

They tumble out laughing hysterically. The Eighth Grader turns to close the door.

“Thank you,” she says.

---Two Weeks Later---

“This is how my morning went.” Darcy heaves her Zombie Apocalypse Backpack into the minivan. “I went down the stairs and stepped into something icky and gooey.”

Collective groan.

“I didn’t want to tell my mother because she was already all riled up.” Darcy continues. “My dog is really stupid,” “Once we threw him a stick. He went to pick it up but he dropped it coming back. Then, when he got back, he opened his mouth but couldn’t figure out where it was.”

Astrid: “Maybe you confused him by naming him Bambi.”

“Sixth grade boys are the worst!” announces Elf. “Yesterday they just kept laughing at the Kingdom of Kush and Napoleon Bonaparte.”

Pause.

“Because they sound like the Kingdom of Tush and Napoleon Bonafart.”

Darcy giggles.

Elf giggles. “Napoleon Bonafart,” she repeats. “Hey, have you noticed how Kiera trips kids during track practice and then blames other runners?”

“At basketball practice,” Darcy says, “Kiera once threw a really hard passed to me and missed it!”

Darcy shivers with laughter. “And the ball crashed right into the back of the head of a little girl standing in line behind me! Then Kiera just turned and pretended she didn’t throw it!”

“What happened to the girl in line?” asks Astrid.

“IT WAS LIKE THE DOMINO EFFECT!” screams Darcy.

Hysterics.

Elf: “Did you know Kiera is Hawaiian?”

Darcy guffaws. “She’s not Hawaiian. She’s Chinese! But she told everyone you actually believe she’s Hawaiian and we shouldn’t tell you.”

Elf cries in protest. In 10 seconds she dramatically sways from outrage to pure admiration.

I chime in. “Maybe you should call Kiera, um, what’s that Hawaiian girl’s name from Lilo and Stitch?”

The sixth graders’ eyes collectively roll. “Lilo,” they cry.

“I suppose that makes sense.”

Astrid: “Anyone ever watch Curious George?”

“That was my childhood!” cries Elf.

“How creepy was the Man in the Yellow Hat?” Darcy says. “Who dresses like that?”

Astrid: “He’s supposed to look like a banana.”

Elf whirls in her chair.  “OH MY GAHD! I just realized…!”

The rooster crows.

“There’s Rafael!” she cries.

“We did NOT name him Rafael,” insists Darcy. “I like Gus.”

Astrid: “What about Rufus?”

“Let’s compromise!” Elf throws open the door. “We’ll call him Grafeus!”

They tumble out laughing.

The Eighth Grader turns to close the door.

“Thank you,” she says.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

COMMENTS

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Wizards Take Chess Trophy

Four Westchase Elementary students won second place at the 2014 Mary Bryant Fall Gran Prix, a countywide chess tournament, this past October.

Fourth grader Carter Casey and fifth graders Harrison Colangelo, Liam Pivnichny, and Aiden Shaw all take lessons from their chess coach, Michael Young.

“We are really proud of their hard work,” said Nikki Pivnichny. “They were competing against schools that have formal chess programs. They have taken lessons together and all work very well together. The boys really wanted to win a team trophy for their school.”

According to Coach Young, children who learn how to play chess receive many benefits. “It helps you learn how to plan and as you begin to understand the game, your confidence grows. Playing chess teaches you patience and discipline. It also allows you to use your imagination and creativity.”

Aiden Shaw, who has been playing chess since he was in first grade, commented, “Chess is a really fun sport.  I like it because it is a strategy game and you really have to think about your opponent’s next move and how you will react, sometimes thinking several moves ahead. Chess has helped me learn to focus, which has also helped me in my classes at school."

This spring Carter, Harrison, Liam, and Aiden will put their strategic skills to the test again as they try for another trophy at the 2015 Mary Bryant Spring Gran Prix.

By Marcy Sanford

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Alonso Ravens Welcome New Principal

Kenneth Hart, the new principal at Alonso High School, will celebrate his 68th birthday in February. Retirement? He tried it once.

It wasn’t for him.

He’s a former wrestling coach who works out, almost daily, a voracious reader who maintains an ambitious intellectual pace. He’s perceived as a hard-nosed taskmaster, a reputation that he doesn’t seek to cultivate. “But I don’t try to uncultivate it, either,’’ he said.

If his presence keeps people on task, he’s fine with that. He wants to represent a culture of nonstop accountability. But he said there’s another side to him.

“I try to smile once a day,’’ he said, laughing.

Actually, Hart loves his weekly date-night with his wife, Hulia, an assistant principal at Lennard High School in Ruskin. He enjoys a good joke and a glass of white wine. He grew up a fan of the Yankees and Giants, but has traded in all his gear and now avidly follows the Rays and Bucs. He believes in having a life outside of his job. But he’s also driven to excellence – one of his favorite books: “Good Is The Enemy of Great’’ – and celebrating the successes of his students. 

Hart, the former Monroe Middle School principal who was approved for the Alonso position by the Hillsborough County School Board on Dec. 9, said he’s as passionate for his career as ever. He’s excited to help the Ravens reach new heights.

“I never have a time when I get discouraged or say, ‘You know, I just want to go sit on my dock and not do this anymore,’ ‘’ said Hart, replacing the retiring Louis Diaz at Alonso. “There’s always something to bring you back the next day. Just being around the kids, seeing the smiles on their faces, seeing them learn, seeing them mature into the best people they can be, that’s the reward.’’

When Hart arrives at Alonso on Jan. 5, he said his first task will be to listen. He will meet with administrators and department heads, collectively and individually. He will hold all-day coffee and tea socials, so faculty members can express their opinions. He will seek feedback from students and parents. He doesn’t expect drastic changes.

“I don’t have a monopoly on right answers or good ideas,’’ Hart said. “It’s not my school. It’s our school. It’s not my goal. It’s our goal. We’re all in this together.

“Alonso is an A-rated school. They did well before I got here. They will do well after I’m gone. My goal is to be part of making things even better.’’

It’s much different than the task he inherited at Monroe, a middle school near the Port Tampa section of South Tampa, in 2012. Monroe was languishing, sinking to D-rated status. It had a poor reputation.

From the moment he arrived, Hart told everyone that Monroe was chasing an A rating. He put in place a series of initiatives – from emphasis on discipline and a student uniform policy to teacher training and student mentoring. Monroe is now a B-rated school, just missing A-rated status.

“Mr. Hart is awesome, just awesome,’’ said Cookie Floyd, Hart’s former secretary, who has worked at Monroe for 29 years (with five principals). “Alonso is so lucky to have him. He’s a leader. He cares. He knows how to build a great team, but he’s the one in charge. He does that very well.’’

Hart attributes his leadership skills to participation in athletes. He grew up in New Jersey, where he became a standout wrestler, his varsity sport for four years at Milligan College in the mountains of Northeastern Tennessee.

He returned to New Jersey, where he became a teacher and wrestling coach, then an assistant principal, an assistant superintendent and a high-school principal. When his responsibilities increased, he switched from wrestling coach to wrestling official, never losing his passion for the sport. Following a 30-year career in education and a two-year stint working for a company that recruited international teachers to the United States, Hart retired to Apollo Beach.

He was bored stiff.

For a time he volunteered as a mathematics teacher in the prison system, working at a juvenile detention center in Wimauma under the direction of the Hillsborough County School District. He made some contacts, got the itch and soon accepted a teaching position at Eisenhower Middle School. After two years, that was parlayed into an assistant-principal opportunity at South Tampa’s Madison Middle School before he was hired at Monroe.

Now it’s back to high school, which was his exclusive educational domain in New Jersey.

“I’ll be sad to leave Monroe because we accomplished some great things, but excited to go to Alonso and get back into the diversity of a high-school setting,’’ said Hart, who has two children and four grandchildren. “I believe very strongly in solid fundamental instruction, behavior and expectations. That’s how things should run.

“I also believe in the value of the extra-curricular activities, the athletics, the music, the drama, the ROTC, all of it. We are there to teach them, help build their character and get them ready for the next chapter of their lives.’’

Hart’s style can be viewed in two manners.

He’s old-school.

Or he’s just plain old.

He won’t argue with either.

But to him, age is just a number.

“That’s what the calendar says,’’ Hart said. “I don’t feel that way. Nobody guesses that’s my age. I have endurance, vigor, tenacity, determination, more than I’ve ever had, and I attribute it to keeping in good shape. I’d stack myself up against a 40-year-old any day.

“I think I have a lot still to contribute. I think we can make it the best Alonso High School it can be. But it’s not just me. It’s all of us. And that concept is why I keep coming back, why I love this. I can’t wait to get started.’’

By Joey Johnston

COMMENTS

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Resolving to Avoid Dietary Confusion

With a new year upon us, we have a chance to start fresh once again. 

What to eat or what diet to begin pose dilemmas for many.

With the ever-expanding Internet, dietary confusion is becoming a significant source of frustration for many of my clients, friends and family. 

Let’s lift the veil of confusion on a few universal and proven dietary truths to focus on what really matters.

Our western diet increases the risk for many serious diseases. The western diet is characterized as being high in sugar, meats, fat, and processed grains while at the same time low in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. Those who adopt a typical western diet have much higher rates of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, the top three killers in the U.S.

Focus on significantly reducing your intake of western foods that cause disease. Instead, follow the timeless wisdom of Michael Pollan from his classic book, Food Rules: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Eat a lot of plant-based foods, especially whole fruits and vegetables. You can greatly reduce your risk for a multitude of diseases when you choose a diet rich in plant foods. Select a variety of different colors of fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables. Eat as much as you can of the vegetables, salads, and greens. When possible, choose organic, local and seasonal. Don’t forget other plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds, beans, peas, lentils, sweet potatoes, winter squash and whole grains such as brown and wild rice or quinoa.

Eat unprocessed foods. Many foods are so altered that people have lost touch with what an unprocessed food actually is. Unprocessed food is made by nature, not by a factory. Think of apples, almonds, fish, or whole stalks of oats waving in the wind. Even these stellar foods can be factory transformed into apple juice, an almond cookie, fried fish sticks, or a pack of sugar-laden instant oats. Food manufacturers tinker with the salt, sugar and fat content of foods to create what is known in the industry as a “bliss point.” These foods often cause us to over consume – great for the manufacturer’s bottom line, but bad for ours.

Embrace these truths and find 2015 full of joy and health!

By Christine Miller, RD, LD/N

A Registered Dietitian and a Certified Diabetes Educator, Christine Miller owns Advanced Nutrition Concepts at http://www.advancednutritionconcepts.com<./p>

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County Administrator Merrill Talks Transport and Taxes in Westchase

County Administrator Mike Merrill spoke to nearly two dozen Westchase-area residents on Dec. 4 and presented a three-fold message:

First, Hillsborough County is about as small and efficient as it can get. Second, new tax revenue is badly needed to cover the county’s woefully underfunded transportation system. Third, he wants to know which of your transportation priorities to include to get you to vote “Yes” on a sales tax referendum in 2016.

Merrill talked transport and taxes at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center to a receptive crowd of Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board members, Westchase Voting Members, and residents of Westchase and nearby communities like The Eagles.

He was introduced by WCA Vice President Ken Blair, who stated the association had invited Merrill to address Westchasers’ pressing transportation issues. Citing the expansion of apartment and housing complexes impacting traffic through the community, Blair observed, “The whole area around here has gotten so congested.”

Merrill opened by detailing the hour and a half he spent commuting to the session by car. He cited the county’s transportation shortcoming and missed opportunities and Tampa’s national reputation as being one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Of an EMS vehicle delayed by rush hour traffic on Kennedy Boulevard, Merrill observed, “If I was the one waiting for that EMS wagon for my family, I would not be very happy.”

He even cited underutilized railroad tracks that could have quickly gotten him into West Park Village. “I could lie on those tracks all day and never get hit by a train.”
Merrill then made a sobering presentation of the county’s budget.

Merrill, who took over as county administrator at the height of the Great Recession in 2010, had to eliminate 1,900 county positions and make tough calls about changing after-school programs at the county’s recreation centers. Faced with plummeting tax revenues, Merrill stated he cut waste, sought efficiencies and shrank the size of county government by 26 percent. “We made the tough choices,” he said.

Merrill pointed out that administrative overhead, essentially county staff salaries, is a competitive 12 percent of the county’s budget. “We have pared down the government as much as we can without reducing services to people,” he said.

In other words, no sizable chunk of fat remains that he can lop off to fund the county’s pressing transportation needs.

According to Merrill, Hillsborough County’s geographic area and population size make it bigger than a couple of U.S. states, yet its spending is smaller than those states’ budgets. Presenting a series of PowerPoint graphs, Merrill pointed out that two-thirds of Hillsborough County’s nearly $2 billion budget covers essential services associated with safety and well-being such as the sheriff’s office and courts, fire and rescue and water and sewer services.

The other third funds a myriad of social needs such as senior services, indigent healthcare, and parks and recreation. From this total, Merrill also has to find funds to repair and expand the county’s biggest physical asset – its road network.

It’s not as simple as robbing Peter to pay Paul, however. Certain tax proceeds, like the Community Investment Tax (CIT) and the Indigent Care Tax, are dedicated to funding particular programs by law. “I can’t take the indigent care tax and pave roads,” he stated.

As for the CIT, a 30-year, half-cent sales tax passed in 1996 to fund firehouses, sidewalks, libraries, Raymond James Stadium and some transportation projects, Merrill observed, “It was never intended to be a solution to transportation problems.” He added, “The CIT has been committed from now to when it expires.”

According to Merrill, the county’s cuts since 2010 have profoundly impacted transportation funding. Over 20 years, the growing county has spent $1.3 billion on transportation. “Despite the $1.3 billion and the $316 million, we can’t keep up.”

The reason, he said, is transportation funds have contracted by almost one-third to $316 million annually. Merrill observed, “There are over $750 million of backlogged repaving projects in the county.”

County staff also included a large poster featuring a map of Westchase area roads, all colored red. According to county engineers, this indicated all of the roads had surfaces that had failed or were near failing.

For Merrill, finding a way to expand transportation funding – and create a modern transportation system in the county – is key to expanding residents’ quality of life, ensuring the safety of the county’s kids, keeping USF and University of Tampa graduates from relocating to more attractive urban areas and building an infrastructure that will convince the country’s top 1,000 corporations that Hillsborough County is worth relocating to.

Merrill referred to a recent survey of 750 of the 1,000 biggest U.S. corporations about their feelings about relocating to Hillsborough County. “We got glowing reviews in everything but transportation.”

Limited by an outdated transportation network, county residents, according to Merrill, have to answer some basic questions: Do you want kids and bicyclists safer on streets? Do you want to enhance the economic well-being of the county by expanding jobs? And do you want to spend more time with your family or in your car?

While stating he wasn’t committed to any particular sized sales tax or even the inclusion of rail into the referendum, Merrill stated a one cent sales tax increase, which would cover a bevy of items on Tampa Bay’s wish list, would run residents roughly 50 cents per day.

He emphasized that prior to adopting a rail system, the county had to first build a more extensive, more flexible bus network that would build ridership. That would then translate into rail ridership. If rail becomes part of the discussion, he emphasized the network had to be designed with enough comfort and convenience to convince residents to leave their cars at home.

Merrill’s talk, like 35 other similar ones he’s given recently, was meant to educate residents about the county’s pressing needs and ask for input about projects residents are willing to pay for. Each area, from the City of Tampa to Sun City Center, has its own particular needs and wish lists.

For Westchase area residents in attendance on Dec. 4, including WCA officials who spoke, the biggest priority was the Citrus Park Drive extension, which would connect Sheldon Road near the Citrus Park mall to Countryway Boulevard. The $50 million dollar project, which Merrill described as a high priority, would hinge on the passage of the sales tax referendum. It’s been the focus of Government Affairs Committee (GAC) Chair Joe Odda, who is working to build a Citrus Park Drive Extension Advocacy Group among Northwest Hillsborough’s neighborhoods.

The extension would provide another east-west corridor between Linebaugh Avenue and South Mobley Road, providing a straight shot to the mall area from Pinellas County and neighborhoods north of Westchase while alleviating the growing traffic burden on Linebaugh Avenue.

Observed one resident of The Eagles in attendance, “It would be good for business.”

Bridges resident Dave Horwitz, however, pressed Merrill on whether the county had actually done any cost-benefit analysis for the road. “Have we done any of that before sinking money into engineering schematics?”

Merrill answered that a study by engineering firm Parsons Brinkerhoff had ranked roads on their return on investment. They identified the Citrus Park Drive extension as a high priority.

Concluding, Merrill reminded residents that the county will kick off the process that will produce its two-year budget in June. Budget discussions will then run through September. With Merrill keeping his fingers crossed that residents will support the county’s upcoming transportation plan and its bid for a successful sales tax referendum, he stated, “At that point, you’ll want to make your feelings known.”

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Westchase Shout Outs

On Dec. 11 Westchase Elementary held its first ever National Geographic Bee, which was organized by Brendan Barrett and hosted by Mrs. Vicki Bollinger.  The contestants included: (back row, l to r) Liam Pivnichny, Carter Casey, Graham Holt, Rohan Kumbkarni; (Front row, l to r)  Lila Barrett, Harrison Colangelo, Sophia Lopez and Ryan Winslow.  Congratulations to Liam Pivnichny, who was the school GeoBee winner!

Kudos and our huge thanks to the organizers of Dec. 13's Santa’s Pre-Flight Parade, Ralph Caputo, Dan O’Brien and Steve Darr as well as to all the other paraders who put together such fun floats. Westchase is grateful!

WOW thanks Westchase Elementary Principal Eric Holley for graciously allowing the community to use the school’s front parking lots for the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive. The arrangement helped make the whole drive so much safer for all who participated!

WOW wants your Shout Outs, short messages saying congratulations, well-done, thank you or “hey, we have some good news.” Shout Outs should be no longer than 75 words and can include a high resolution photo (JPEG attachments please). Send by e-mail by the fifteenth of the month to editor@westchasewow.com.

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Catch Twenty-Three Fake Ad Contest Continues, January 2015

“Ah, serenity through pharmacy,” began Frozen Pizza Eater Marty Hamilton.

“Thanks to Sedate and Style Me (page 54 of December’s WOW), I can finally say goodbye to those do-it-yourself Brazilian wax kits,” Marty added. “Ditto for the home ear hair removal laser. Now it's as easy as counting backwards from 100 to 93 and awakening with nary an unruly follicle.”

Among other things, Marty added, “With Sedate and Style Me's ‘Dr. Conrad Murray Turn Your Head and Coif’ package, you'll receive a sublime pampering and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.”

Dr. Conrad Murray, as you may recall, was The Thriller’s sleep specialist.

Marty therefore threw in a helpful asterisk. “*Requires signed liability waiver. Sedate and Style Me not responsible for sleep periods lasting for eternity.”

While Marty didn’t win, we congratulate wide-awake Bridges resident Joshua Willeke, 9, upon whom the fake ad gods smiled in December. As the result, Joshua will be taking the salon aficionado most in need of sedating to Catch Twenty-Three, courtesy of its proprietor Rob Wickner. Thanks, Rob!

Get your New Year’s fake ad guesses in today!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Westchase MOMS Club: Offering Fun, Friendship and Outreach

Looking for a play date?

The Westchase MOMS Club is a chapter of the International MOMS Club, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Boasting a membership of over 100 dynamic moms, the Westchase MOMS Club is committed to connecting local moms, participating in a variety of engaging activities for our children, and – most important – having fun.
Our members include both full-time at-home moms and moms who work outside of the home, full-time or part-time.     

If you visit any of the playgrounds around Westchase regularly, chances are that you’ve run into a MOMS Club playgroup or two. Our club offers weekly playgroups based on school age, so members connect with other moms who have children the same age. We also host open plays monthly, which are open to the entire membership regardless of the age of your children – a great opportunity to connect with all of the moms in the club.

We plan child-focused activities that support local businesses, including lunches at local restaurants, tours of the fire station and others. We support other moms through a variety of channels, including our Sunshine Committee, which arranges meals for other members who have recently had a new baby or may be going through a difficult time. And because moms need a break once in a while, we hold monthly Mom’s Night Out events.

Our club is also committed to supporting the community and charities important to our members. In November we held a canned food drive to help support the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive for Metropolitan Ministries. In December we held a toy drive to support Toys for Tots and raise donations for underprivileged families. This month we will hold a clothing drive in support of a Catholic Charities USA program, which provides relief to families in extreme need. 

The Westchase MOMS Club is a wonderful way to get involved in our community and meet new friends. We will have an open house and Valentine’s Day event on Feb. 13 at 10 a.m. for local moms who may be interested in joining the group. In addition to the open house, any moms considering membership are welcome to try out two events prior to joining. For more information, please visit http://www.momsclubtampa.com

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By Erin Kosoy

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On a Roll in 2015

If you’re searching for an excellent activity to begin in 2015 or to take fitness to the next level, it’s time to put your foot to the pedal!

Biking is an amazing sport that helps keep you lean and fit and offers the exhilaration athletes enjoy. Florida residents can enjoy both indoor and outdoor riding year round.

Biking is also non-impact so it can provide cardiovascular exercise without the strain on your knees and ankles.
Bridges resident and competitive cyclist Monika Cassidy offered some helpful advice. “If you have an existing bike in the garage, dust off the old bike and begin using it.”

She suggested you acquire the appropriate gear, including proper shoes and a helmet. For the next step, consider your goals and select the appropriate bike. “A mountain bike, for example, may not be the best choice if your goal is to road train and race,” Cassidy said.

If you are just starting out and are not sure if you will stick with it, consider investing in a second-hand bike. “Brand new bikes can be quite expensive” said the cyclist.

Bike enthusiast John Harrison suggested finding a friend who rides and is willing to teach you the basics. Bike specialty shops can be very helpful in selecting the proper bike. They are also good resources for local trails and events. Some biking clubs offer services for beginners too.

For novice riders trails are far safer than streets. The nearby Upper Tampa Bay Trail and the Suncoast Trail are two options.

Experienced riders can stay motivated by either setting goals for time, speed and distance or entering races. They can develop a regular schedule for consistency and join riding clubs and races to stay motivated.

While you can somewhat simulate outdoor cycling riding indoors, for Cassidy, who started indoor spinning classes before advancing to competitive outdoor cycling, indoor spinning is a totally different experience.

Whether you are considering purchasing a bike (like I am) with a cute basket and bell, or your goal is to do a half ironman like Cassidy (56 miles of biking along with 13.1 miles of running and a 1.2 mile swim!), go for it!

As Harrison said, “Most of all, enjoy the sport!”

By Shannon Thigpen

Shannon is a Certified Personal Trainer and Weight Loss Specialist who teaches at the YMCA and trains privately. Visit http://www.shannonthigpen.com<./p>

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Suzi France Named Tampa Bay Woman of the Year

On Nov. 22 the Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF) crowned the Tampa Bay Woman of the Year, recognizing an amazing fundraiser.

The WCF’s annual Tampa Bay Woman of the Year (TBWOY) event is a premier event that culminates a nine-week fundraising competition for families in need. During the competition, candidates raise funds from individuals and businesses that go directly to grant recipients throughout Tampa Bay. The candidate who raises the most money at the end of the event is crowned Tampa Bay Woman of the Year. 

Nineteen women, each nominated by WCF board members, competed in this year’s event. Suzi France took home the crown. The runners-up included Yngrid Garcia, Hollie Christmas and Beth Cupari. “We are thankful for the amazing candidates who rose to the challenge to help families in need,” said WCF board member and chair of the TBWOY event, Trey Corish.

The event, which was held at the Tampa Jet Center, took on a Havana Nights theme featuring cultural performers, VIP cabana-style lounging, and a fashion show presented by Tampa boutiques Lending Luxury and Urban Body for Men. Over 400 guests attended this year’s event. Best in the bay restaurants provided endless hors d’oeuvres and an open bar. Guests were also entertained with live music, massages, a 50/50 raffle, and both a live and silent auction.

Also in attendance at the event were two families with 10-year-old children, both suffering from serious illnesses. These families received a special gift from one of the candidates, Ms. Hollie Christmas, who provided each family with a mini-Disney Vacation. The children were recipients of grant checks at the event, showcasing the purpose of the competition. Todd Marks, WCF board member, said, “Seeing lives changed for the better as a result of this annual event is the most rewarding aspect of serving on the WCF Board.”

The WCF Board was proud to call this year’s event another success. Ahmed Bhutta, WCF’s Treasurer, noted that the event grossed over $80,000. WCF President Sean O’Donnell said that he was proud of all the candidates this year, the support shown from the greater Tampa area, and the overall growth of the event. “Thanks to all of the candidates and participating businesses for their hard work and tremendous dedication to give back to our community,” said Mr. O’Donnell.

The Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, managed solely by volunteers, to support families facing a personal tragedy and families with children battling serious illnesses. The WCF will be hosting its next event, the Twelfth Annual Westchase Cup Golf Outing, in May 2015.

For more information about the WCF, visit http://www.westchase foundation.org.

By Todd Marks

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Everly Hopkins, The Little Girl Who is Beating the Odds

In August WOW brought you the story of Everly Hopkins, the little girl defying the odds given her at birth.

Everly was born on Feb. 20, 2014. Six days later, she was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a life-limiting chromosomal condition. Her parents, Shires residents Crystal and Jimmy Hopkins, were told that Everly would likely only live a matter of weeks and the best thing would be to take her home and love her until the end. Ten months later, Everly continues to prove that she will not be defined by her prognosis.

Shortly after we last heard from the Hopkins family, Everly turned six months old. Crystal admits that milestone was a turning point for the family. The days are now filled with more hope than fear. “The doctors were preparing us for the fact that Everly was going to die, but not for the possibility that she might live,” Crystal said.

While the veil of fear has lifted to an extent, the Hopkins family understands that Everly’s diagnosis will never change. Every day is treated as a gift and Everly continues to check items off her bucket list. Most recently, she took a trip to Georgia to see the fall colors, enjoyed a trek on the Appalachian Trail and took a ride on a pontoon boat. Everly also made her first appearance in the family’s Christmas card and, most important, she has now celebrated the birthdays of all of her family members – her parents and big brothers, Garren and Kendan.

Crystal is amazed by how many people have heard Everly’s story and reached out to the family – friends, neighbors, mothers who have lost children…even complete strangers who simply want to let the family know that Everly is in their prayers. Members of the Westchase Swap & Shop Facebook group are constantly on the lookout for cute outfits and size one diapers (at 10 months, Everly weighs just 12 pounds) for Everly. And it never ceases to amaze Crystal when people stop her and her daughter during their regular walks and say, “Oh, this must be Everly!” 

“The outpouring of love and support has made this journey so much easier,” Crystal said.

That support was especially appreciated when Everly spent several weeks in the ICU in November recovering from pneumonia. Everly is now home and looking forward to that next big milestone – her first birthday. For now, the Hopkins family is taking their lead from Everly. “I am so uplifted that she is writing her own story,” Crystal said. 

To learn more about Everly, visit her Caring Bridge page at
http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/everlyhopkins and her Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/EverlyHopkins

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By Karen Ring

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Sparkles for the New Year

Can you believe it’s 2015?

Where did 2014 go? I had so much fun last year and I can’t wait to see what the New Year has in store! Who’s with me?

I have an idea! Let’s sparkle this year! We have 12 months left to do some amazing things. I, for one, always feel more inspired when I feel fabulous in what I’m wearing. Not much else makes me giddy like sparkles do.

Now you may think that sparkles should be reserved for the holidays only. Yet they don’t have to be limited to holiday wear alone. In fact, I’m a big fan of rockin’ sparkles all year long…and pretty much any time of day. It’s no surprise that Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of my all-time favorite flicks, right? Holly definitely favored daytime sparkles and I think of her anytime I put on a statement necklace before breakfast, but I digress…

How can we wear sparkles this winter? Let me count the ways...Wait, I can’t! There are countless ways you can insert a little glitz into your winter looks! Although I couldn’t possible lay out all your sparkle options, I’m going to share a few of my favorite ways to rock them.

I’m all about the statement necklace, the glitzier the better. I love their versatility! Sure, you can wear them with a [vulgarity] dress, but you can just as easily rock one with a casual look. Hello, sweatshirt chic! It’s so much fun to take a plain old sweatshirt from [vulgarity] hum to hot with a sparkle-filled necklace.  As much as I heart my statement necklaces, I’m an equal opportunity sparkle lover. To be honest, I’m all about any kind of candy and that includes ear candy.

Let’s not forget about statement earrings. Wear your hair up in one of this season’s trendy pony tails and really let those statement earrings shine. They can dress up your outfit just as well as a statement necklace does. I particularly love them with bare shoulders, so if you have a sleeveless or strapless evening look, let those statement earrings fly!

I’m also a big fan of adding some glitz and glamour with belts as well. Try dressing up your simplest little black dress with a glittering belt. I’ve found some amazing belts at my favorite vintage haunts. So, if you aren’t able to find one that’s up your alley at your go-to brick and mortars, try going the vintage route. Stop by Misred Outfitters in St. Pete and tell them Kristin sent you. You’ll love their offerings!

Finally, if you’re feeling bold, just throw caution to the wind and go for full on sequins. I have a sequin bedecked frock that has been waiting to come out and play and I think 2015 is the year it’s going to make an appearance.

Happy New Year, lovelies!

By Kristin Swenson

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Swim and Tennis Staff Greet New Year

We start into a new year and look forward to the new additions and improvements to our tennis courts.

Our tennis program is going strong with adults and the junior teams playing at high levels. If you would like to get involved, please drop by the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center courts or sign up online.

Our swim team continues to grow but we still have a few spots still open. If your child is interested in swimming in a team environment, please drop by the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center pool for a swim test and speak with our coaches. Both pools will remain heated throughout the winter months at a toasty 84 degrees.

For additional program information log onto http://www.westchasewca.com or call 855-0662.

By Kelly Shires, Operations Manager

Shires is the WCA’s Operations Manager and can be reached at wcacenter@wcamanager.com.

The Benefits of Competition

Sunday, Dec. 6, was a good day for Westchase tennis. We were named the best junior tennis team in Hillsborough County. It was a benefit of competition.

In my opinion, the three important parts of competition are:

Leadership: Leadership forces players to be prepared and take responsibility. It shows them not to blame anyone, and teaches them to be their own coach on the court.

Tennis Becomes Your Vehicle: Competition will take you many places. It can take you towards a healthier lifestyle, further your education, and better your social skills. Competition will not only take you places in tennis, it will also take you where you need to go in life.

The Process: Competition is not about coming in first or second place. It is about the steps and process you must take to achieve your goals and make it to the finish line. As a coach I have to work with my players to help find their best styles of play: baseliner, aggressive, offensive, etc. In this process you build the technical, mental, and physical player that you are. During this process, you make daily changes and choices while building skills. Players show their commitment by finding time when there is none. You are incomplete if you don't compete.

By Roberto Calla, Westchase’s Tennis Pro

Calla, Westchase’s tennis pro, can be reached at callatennis@hotmail.com.

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Go Ahead. Rub It In.

We’re getting close to national Hate Florida Day when people in the rest of the country start posting the state’s weather forecasts on Facebook.

It must be really frustrating to be stuck inside your house for days on end and see a bright yellow sun posted over Florida. If you want to make sure your friends and relatives up north really dislike you, brag about how January is a great time to visit one of the many local parks and commune with nature – no humidity, fewer bugs than normal, and plenty of sunshine.  

Phillipe Park in Safety Harbor will give you a lot to brag about: a beautiful view of Old Tampa Bay, a one-mile paved trail for biking or hiking, and two cool playgrounds for the kids – or adults who really enjoy mini climbing walls and a bouncy, tot-sized T-Rex. In addition to all this, Phillipe Park is also a park with historical interest. 

Phillipe Park is the oldest park in Pinellas County. The 122-acre park is named after Count Odet Phillipe, the first permanent, non-native settler on the Pinellas County peninsula. Count Phillipe was a successful businessman who introduced cigar making and citrus to the region in the 1800s. Phillipe Park is located on land that was part of his original citrus plantation.

Before Count Phillipe, the Tocobaga Indians made the area their home. The Tocobaga Indian mound found inside Phillipe Park is registered as a National Historic Landmark. You’ll find plaques and signs with more information about both Count Phillipe and the Tocobaga Indians inside the park.

Almost as soon as you enter Phillipe Park, you’re greeted with a lovely view of Tampa Bay. There is an embankment next to the water with enough room to sit and enjoy the view. Spread out a blanket and have a picnic, or roll out your yoga mat and do some sun salutations. As you walk around the park, you’ll find lots of lovely views of both the water and huge, curving, twisting oak trees. Not just eye candy, the trees also provide plenty of shade for you to appreciate while you are exercising, playing or just hanging out.

Phillipe Park has other amenities including a boat ramp, fishing areas, eight picnic shelters, and restrooms.

So this January make it your New Year’s Resolution to explore a state or county park you’ve never before visited.

Don’t worry if the rest of the country hates you. Enjoy our winter weather while it lasts.

By Marcy Sanford

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A Little Snorkeling With Dinner

Escaping from giant roast turkeys over Thanksgiving, my family stayed at the Guy Harvey Outpost, a hotel that’s part of the Tradewinds megaplex on St. Pete Beach.

I had the “opportunity” to watch Tanked, the Animal Planet show about two Las Vegas goofballs who design and manufacture immense fish tanks. It was running on a continuous loop on the hotel television. The reason for the promo, of course, was that they built a 33,500 gallon salt water aquarium across one end of the Guy Harvey Rumfish Grill restaurant and it features a variety of native Gulf species. It’s so big that guests can pay to take a dip in the tank while diners ogle them through the glass.

Once we get in vacation mode, my normally active family all turn into a bunch of slugs. My interest to see the tank was piqued, but it was located all the way across the parking lot.

In the end, we were too lazy to go anywhere else for dinner, and I really wanted to see the aquarium. Alas, the ubiquitous pictures and T-shirts featuring groups of dolphin and grouper in Disneyesque proportions did not heighten my expectations. I’ll admit it. I can be a bit of a food snob.

To my surprise, however, the food was really good. We started out with the Baked Oysters, expertly flavored with spinach, leeks, Tasso ham, and cheese. They were a nice rendition of Oysters Rockefeller.

After eating a giant hunk of delicious smoked mackerel for lunch at Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish, I was kind of fished out for the evening. The Pan Roasted Natural Chicken Breast I ordered was crispy and perfectly seared underneath a brick. It did the trick. The crunchy black bean risotto cake and sautéed spinach proved great companions. The Seafood Brochette was a giant skewer of Mahi Mahi, scallops and gulf shrimp hanging from a hook, which were all nicely grilled. It came accompanied by squash and gingered faro salad, which was serviceable, but not a standout. A third meal sampled was the Pecan Crusted Mahi Mahi with creole corn succotash and pan-fried greens. It was almost as if I got in my Thanksgiving fix, but with some prime seafood as a surrogate for turkey.

The yummy dinner did not stop us from roaring through the desserts, holiday style. I rarely make my husband’s favorite, Coconut Cake, so he was delighted to try their version. The kids were smitten with the Molten Chocolate Lava Cake topped with sea salt caramel ice cream. They practically licked their plates clean. The Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding with toasted hazelnuts was decadent and delightful and came with a sticky caramel glaze. We didn’t miss Grandma’s pumpkin pie at all!

The atmosphere in the restaurant, apart from the ginormous aquarium on one end and two smaller ones on the sides, was attractive and showed more restraint than anticipated. Clientele included mostly extended families and a few romantic couples. They probably had just gotten married at the resort, so overall it’s a pretty familial kind of place.
The wine list is fairly extensive and reasonably priced. It’s kind of a metaphor for the whole resort: fun, inexpensive and not pretentious.

It’s awesome to live less than an hour away from a Caribbean style beach resort. Where else can you go snorkeling in a restaurant?

Guy Harvey Rumfish Grill
http://www.rumfishgrill.com
6000 Gulf Boulevard
St. Petersburg Beach, FL 33706
(727) 329-1428
Hours: Mon- Sat, open breakfast lunch and dinner; Sun, open breakfast and brunch

By Jill Chesney

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Westchase, 2014: The Year in Review

The year brought significant changes to Westchase’s governing documents, the rezoning of 32 acres at Westchase’s eastern entrance, and preparations for a major capital improvement program for Westchase playgrounds.

And it wouldn’t be Westchase without a touch of drama.

The first WCA Board meeting of the year saw Stockbridge Voting Member Joe Odda’s appointment to the Westchase Community Association’s (WCA) Board after former Director Edward Santiago relocated to North Carolina. January also had WCA Directors discussing the proposed Costco development at Westchase’s eastern entrance while the WCA’s Documents Committee, led by Harbor Links resident Dale Sells, geared up for changes to the association’s rules.

In January directors also heard that the United States Tennis Association (USTA) was still reviewing the association’s grant application, aimed at landing $40,000 to defray expenses related to constructing a Tennis Cabana and a handful of new kids-sized courts at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center. When the USTA pointed to drainage problems with the plan, directors hired a contractor to install a French drain. The board also presented Greens resident Ernie Sylvester with the 2013 Nathan Lafer Good Neighbor Award, recognizing Sylvester’s service to the community.

At their January meeting Westchase Voting Members (VMs) amended rules governing their Variance Committee, which hears appeals of Modification Committee denials. VMs also took WCA Board to task for failing to invoke self-help and undertake basic maintenance of a long-neglected Greens home in foreclosure. VMs also heard from WCA Director and Costco Committee Chair Joaquin Arrillaga, who described his committee’s efforts to get M&M Realty, the Costco parcel developer, to accept WCA preferences for traffic signal locations, building aesthetics and parking lot street lights. While they were scheduled to make a January presentation about the project to residents, M&M Realty, however, postponed it after WCA directors, at a Jan. 9 special meeting, declined to endorse M&M’s submitted memorandum of agreement. Directors cited the fact that the agreement contained language describing it as non-binding.

January’s CDD meeting saw supervisors wading into a neighbor dispute and voting to install a fence along a Castleford pond to block a shortcut people were using to cut through homeowners’ yards. They also approved a contract to undertake drainage work and road repaving in Saville Rowe. Supervisor Brian Ross closed the session by raising concerns about the appearance of a vacant parcel of land beside Fifth Third Bank on Linebaugh Avenue, rented out by its owner, Real Property Specialists, to holiday tent vendors selling pumpkins, Christmas trees and fireworks.

February’s WCA Board meeting saw more discussion about Costco negotiations and the WCA’s self-help policy. Directors also criticized WOW Publisher Chris Barrett, who had e-mailed them and Westchase Voting Members to express concerns about both declining home maintenance in his neighborhood, particularly among rental homes there, and the growing number of rentals. Directors criticized some of the early data Barrett had shared with them about rentals in Westchase and declared that WOW’s March real estate edition, which had not yet been published, would not be an accurate reflection of Westchase. That month, WOW President Jonathan Stein and Barrett met with WCA President Nancy Sells and Director Ken Blair to hear their concerns. The magazine, however, declined the WCA president’s request to review the article prior to publication in an effort to preserve WOW’s editorial independence.

February’s CDD meeting brought an announcement that roads within the gated communities of The Greens and Stonebridge would see repaving in the coming year.
March saw the WCA dramatically step up deed restriction enforcement, shuffling management staff and increasing hours. The result was thousands of deed restriction violation notices going out to homeowners over the spring months. During the drive, management staff reported encountering aggressive homeowners, triggering the board to grant staff the discretion of not using the WCA magnet identifying them as doing deed restriction inspections.

At their April meeting VMs debated proposed amendments to Westchase governing documents but postponed their approval for a month to seek resident input on proposed rules for retractable awnings on the rear of homes.

At March’s CDD meeting the district engineer reviewed an audit of Westchase’s two biggest parks and reported that their play areas and equipment were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This triggered supervisors’ decision, later in the year, to undertake a Capital Improvement Project that would bring the parks into compliance and create a 20-year master plan for Westchase parks and green spaces.

Addressing supervisors’ requests that they explore possible uses for newly acquired property with no public road access between Stonebridge and The Vineyards, CDD staff reported that pedestrian access might be provided by a $125,000 boardwalk along the large lake beside Westchase Elementary School. Ultimately further discussion of its possible uses would wait until completion of the master parks plan in 2015.

March 6 brought the long-awaited rezoning filing by M&M Realty for the 32-acre parcel at Westchase’s entrance, slated for a Costco, a gas station, a pharmacy, a bank, a sit-down restaurant and a drive-thru restaurant. Plans filed with the county illustrated that the developer had incorporated a significant number of the WCA’s requested aesthetic changes to make it compatible with the community, including preservation of a pond on its northwest corner, the use of brick or brick-like materials in the Costco facade, the incorporation of West Park Village style streetlights and raised berms on the edges of the parking lot and improved landscaping. Plans also committed the developer to not incorporating a bar or nightclub. Sticking points that remained between M&M Realty and the WCA included opening hours, which could impact rush hour traffic; the percentage of alcohol sales permitted in restaurants; and an agreement to maintain adjacent street medians to Westchase standards, an issue pressed by Shires VM Ruben Collazo. The issues would continue to be negotiated until the days prior to the June rezoning hearing.

April brought news to the Westchase CDD that its landscape contractor, Mainscapes, was not interested in renewing itscontract at the same price, triggering a bid process that supervisors expected would bring a significant increase in maintenance costs.

At their April meeting WCA Directors heard from Director Joe Odda of the Dog Park Task Force. Odda announced that plans to put a park on vacant land adjacent to the UTB Regional Library hit a snag when the county determined the land was owned by the library. He stated he would explore alternate locations. Meanwhile Director Dyan Pithers called for staff to speak with Westchase USTA team captains who were not abiding by Westchase rules and playing non-residents ahead of residents. 

April also saw VMs approve the Document Committee’s proposed amendments to the Westchase Bylaws and Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CCRs). Among others, the amendments aimed to strengthen the association’s ability to place liens against homes for unpaid fines for deed restriction violations and change VMs’ terms to two-years. They also sought to alter rules for portable storage containers, retractable awnings on the rear of homes and tree removal. The proposed amendments went out to homeowners for polling.

April’s VM meeting also saw discussion of rental properties and some VM criticism of a WCA Board letter that had criticized WOW Publisher Chris Barrett for his e-mails to them on the subject. After significant discussion, VMs named a Rental Committee, chaired by Cynde Mercer of The Bridges, to study the matter further and make recommendations.
The end of May brought the ribbon cutting for the year-long expansion of the UTB Regional Library. The month also brought news that Costco and the county would not agree to the WCA’s request for an agreement banning the proposed store from opening prior to 9:30 a.m. WCA Board members, with two directors opposed, thus threw their support toward a second solution. They endorsed a proposal to use the WCA attorney to set up meetings with Hillsborough County Commissioners to lobby for construction of the Citrus Park Drive extension between Sheldon Road and Countryway Boulevard. The use of the WCA attorney for political lobbying – and its associated costs – would later become an issue during the association’s fall budget workshop and subsequent board elections. In May the board also raised the pool party deposit to $250 (with $100 non-refundable). Directors cited issues with parties that left messes behind, invited too many guests and failed to supervise young children.

May saw VMs reject a Berkeley Square exterior paint guideline that would have violated what some VMs’ argued was a long-held WCA practice that forbid neighborhood-specific guidelines from being more permissive than master, Westchase-wide rules. VMs, along with some residents, also expressed reservations about some proposed changes to the community’s governing documents. The proposed rule granting the association emergency powers to enter properties to address maintenance issues and subsequently bill the homeowner for them received strong pushback.

May’s CDD Meeting found supervisors wrestling with teen trespassing issues at Baybridge Park, resolved when the district targeted the park with their off-duty deputy patrol. That meeting also saw supervisors address the initial draft of their budget, which featured a significant assessment increase to bring Baybridge and Glencliff Parks into compliance with the ADA and an expected rise in costs associated with a new landscaping contract.

June 2 marked the county’s public hearing regarding the rezoning of 32 acres at Westchase’s entrance to permit a Costco and five other outparcels. Leading up to the meeting, the WCA board gathered in a special meeting. Announcing that they had reached agreement with M&M Realty on the three outstanding issues – restrictions on opening hours and alcohol sales and an agreement that the developer would maintain the adjacent road medians to Westchase standards – the WCA voted to take a position to “not oppose” the rezoning request.

Subsequently, when WOW requested the legal agreement signed by M&M Realty and the WCA, it found that the document, while committing the Costco building to not opening during morning rush hour, did not address alcohol sales and median maintenance. When WCA President Nancy Sells stated she had a separate agreement regarding median maintenance, WOW requested it three times but it was never turned over by the association.

With minimal opposition at its rezoning hearing, M&M successfully won rezoning of the parcel on July 22. Work was expected to commence in roughly 18 months.

In June Westchase VMs also tackled amendments to Westchase Single Family Home guidelines, another set of rules for yards and homes. New rules were passed permitting backyard bench swings; backyard outdoor kitchens and firepits; and solar tubes and skylights on the rears of homes. They established guidelines for screening Westchase’s newer garbage cans and placed tighter restrictions on colors for driveways, sidewalks, patio pavers and mulch. Other rules expanded permission for tree removals and backyard retaining walls and updated rules for materials and construction of fences and screen enclosures. VMs, however, did reject a handful of proposed rules, including one that would grant the WCA emergency powers to go onto residents’ properties, complete work and bill them for it. They also rejected rules that would have permitted backyard, retractable awnings; expanded the Variance Committee’s ability to overturn Modification Committee rejections; and redefined the scope of guidelines applying to less than all of Westchase.

June saw WCA directors approve a bid for their $86,000 Tennis Cabana, but further delays in winning a USTA grant to cover 20 percent of the tennis project’s costs resulted in the bid winner informing the association later in the year it was no longer interested in the work. With their work on the Costco project complete, directors named Director Joe Odda to head up an advocacy group to encourage nearby neighborhoods to join a lobbying campaign for the Citrus Park Drive extension. They also moved forward with a plan to establish a community-wide e-mail communication portal to disseminate news and information about the association’s programs.

June also saw the automatic reelection of CDD Supervisors Greg Chesney and Mark Ragusa when no other district resident filed to run and the CDD discussing the best ways to prequalify companies interested in bidding on the district’s landscaping contract.

After resident complaints about fireworks, July’s meeting of the CDD saw supervisors talk of erecting a wall or landscape barrier along a vacant lot adjacent to Fifth Third Bank – the parcel frequently rented out to tents selling pumpkins, Christmas trees and fireworks. The following month the parcel’s owner, Alan Charron of Real Property Specialists, attended the district meeting, where he expressed concerns about the issue and heard supervisors state their preference that the tents go away. Through year’s end, the parcel held no more pumpkin patches or Christmas tree tents and Charron lowered its utility stub outs so they were less visible from Linebaugh Avenue.
The fall saw the WCA gearing up for a significant project remaking Westchase tennis, with the construction of the proposed Tennis Cabana, the addition of two new QuickStart courts for kids and the resurfacing of existing courts – a project first proposed by the Two Year Master Plan Committee in June 2012. In July the board even debated the name of the proposed tennis structure, with Director Dyan Pithers requesting it be called the Tennis Clubhouse; directors, however, stuck with the Tennis Cabana. The year, however, concluded without a groundbreaking when a USTA grant, expected to pay up to $40,000 for the project, came in at $10,000. The WCA board then sought a new bid to construct the 616-foot Tennis Cabana (the second bid came in a bit lower) and sought VMs’ informal approval to instead pay for it with surplus funds.

Late August found the WCA hammering out its 2015 budget. It occurred on the eve of board elections in which four incumbents, WCA President Nancy Sells and Directors Keith Heinemann, Joe Odda and Darrick Sams, sought reelection from Westchase VMs. Arising from budget discussions, however, were two issues that appeared to impact the elections. A handful of VMs were unhappy to hear that the board had spent an estimated $20,000 in legal fees during negotiations with M&M Realty over the Costco development, with some VMs citing the fact that the resulting legal document simply forbid Costco from opening at time earlier than its current nationwide opening hours.

Further, some VMs expressed concerns about the association’s spiking budgeted legal costs. This was due in part to funds budgeted for political lobbying for the Citrus Park Drive extension, which the board supported unanimously at the WCA’s Budget Workshop despite opposition from a majority of VMs present, and legal firm Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick’s 12 percent increase in hourly fees. Continued opposition to budgeting funds for lobbying led the board to remove some funds from the legal line and redirect the money toward pool shade covers. The 2015 budget assessment for homeowners thus came in three dollars lower than in 2014. Directors subsequently insisted no funds were budgeted for paid political lobbying.

The matter, however, still percolated through the VMs’ board election questions. Further, the candidates’ answers illustrated differences of opinion between many of the incumbent board members and their challengers, Brian Ross of West Park Village and Glencliff VM Kathy Carlsen. Ultimately, Ross and Carlsen placed at the top of VM balloting. VMs also returned to the board incumbents Odda and Heinemann. In their subsequent organizational meeting, board veteran Joaquin Arrillaga was returned to his former position of WCA President.

August also found the CDD fine-tuning its budget, lowering projected assessment increases when the landscaping bids, expected to rise by as much as 15 percent, actually decreased slightly. The winning bidder was Davey Tree at $726,159. (Davey Tree commenced work Nov. 1.) The $400,000 budgeted for major park work, however, still ensured supervisors eventually passed a budget with an increase in operations and maintenance assessments of roughly $100, or 25.5 percent.

The remaining fall months found CDD supervisors preparing for $35,000 in pond bank erosion repairs on a handful of Westhchase ponds and debating the best approach to undertaking needed park work. Ultimately supervisors unanimously agreed to hire a designer to compile a Master Parks Plan and design specific, ADA-compliant improvements to playgrounds at Baybridge and Glencliff Parks. In December supervisors ultimately awarded the contract for the design work to Stantec, the district’s current engineering firm, for an amount not to exceed $19,500.

The year ended with some drama for Greens residents. When their gatehouse company, Securitas, approached the CDD with an 87 cents per hour increase to cover employee health insurance, Securitas also pitched another money-saving option – using a remote, tele-access system for overnight shifts Sunday through Thursday nights. CDD supervisors thus sought Greens residents’ preferences. After Greens VM Jerry Pappa took a homeowner poll showing overwhelming support for keeping the gatehouse manned around the clock, however, he subsequently e-mailed Greens residents that the CDD had rejected the poll results and residents had to appear at the December meeting to have their voices heard. While supervisors unanimously insisted they had done no such thing, they were deluged with e-mails from angry Greens residents. Their December meeting was packed with more residents than anyone could remember at a community meeting in at least a decade. Ultimately, supervisors voted to accept the 87 cent hourly increase and keep the gatehouse manned.

Year’s end also found the VMs Rental Committee reporting that it did not find an excessive number of rentals in Westchase. The committee, however, recommended the publication of a resident orientation manual to familiarize newcomers with Westchase maintenance and rules.

The last months of 2014 also saw the WCA board accepting a new bid for the Tennis Cabana, defeating a motion calling for bidding out the WCA’s 6-year-old contract for legal work, and accepting a bid for installing new shade structures at both Westchase pools. Directors also closed the year by preparing a community-wide petition calling on the county to repave Westchase’s aging roads and jointly awarding the Nathan Lafer Good Neighbor Award to Nancy and Dale Sells of Harbor Links.

As the holidays approached, GAC Chair Joe Odda also welcomed County Administrator Mike Merrill, who made a presentation on county budgeting, its transportation plan and its hopes on hearing about Westchase priorities for possible inclusion in a 2016 transit sales tax referendum. 

With one of its busiest years in recent memory under its belt, Westchase stood poised and confident on the cusp of 2015.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Inspiration for a New Year

If getting healthy is at the top of your resolution list for 2015, Keswick Forest resident Larry Smart might be a healthy source of inspiration.

In October Smart ran his way to victory and nabbed first place in both the 5K and 10K races in the 2014 Great West Chase, which raised $22,000 for math and literacy programs at Bellamy Elementary School. The races hosted nearly 1,000 runners.

Originally from Virginia, Smart graduated from George Mason University, where he received his degree in math. “Math was easier for me than the other courses,” he said.

Smart parlayed those math skills into a career as an actuary, forecasting risk for WellCare Health Plans, Inc. That career, he said, is difficult to get into as the pass rate for the exam is quite low. “All I had time for was work, kids and study,” he said of his life before passing the exams.

Once he passed, his interests broadened. Although he was mentally fit, he found himself to be physically out of shape. “I started lifting weights and then I played flag football with a group of guys until people started getting hurt,” he recalled.

At age 36, he turned to running.

He admits to taking the challenge lightly at first. “I thought, ‘How hard can it be?’”

At his first attempt, he took off running. His sprint lasted about a quarter of a mile before he realized it wasn’t quite as easy as he had imagined. He then adopted a run/walk routine as he built up his running distance. Once he took running seriously, Smart started entering 5K races.
He explained that once he had distance built up, a college friend taught him the things he needed to do to get faster.

Running successfully, he said, is very technical. “What I love about it is that you cannot cheat and you have to work hard to do it well,” he shared.

According to Smart, the key to a successful start in running is to build a base. This, he said, can take up to a year and a half to develop. Once his base was set, Smart began to work with a running coach. “It’s easier to have someone do your schedule for you,” he said of his workout routine. For beginners, his advice is simple and straightforward: build a base, set a goal, be consistent and stick with it.

That routine consists of several different types of workouts he does every week. A “Tempo Run,” includes two easy-paced miles, then six or seven at a 10K pace, then two more easy-paced miles. This, he said, helps build strength.

For speed training, he does an “Interval Run,” which consists of alternating fast-paced running and recovery periods.

For distance training, he does a long run, which totals 12 to 14 miles or 18 to 20 as he nears the date for a longer distance race.

Smart enjoys the friends he has made and the motivation he receives as a member of two local runners’ clubs. That fellowship, along with a running coach, help keep him striving for personal goals.

Running is also therapeutic for Smart. “I couldn’t do my job without it,” he explained.

Smart is quick to reveal how he overcomes the temptation not to work out. “I don’t let my mind go there and it is very rare that I will miss it,” he said.

Temptation also comes in the form of food occasionally. “If I come home to Publix fried chicken, I just go straight to my room,” he said with a chuckle.

He explained his diet consists of lots of oatmeal with fruit in the mornings, kale salads for lunch and tuna and broccoli for dinner. He will treat himself to pizza or a burger after a marathon.

The results of hard work and dedication have paid off for Smart. He has competed in more than 150 races, finishing more than 1,400 race miles, including 5Ks, half marathons and marathons. His goal for 2015 is to improve on his Boston Marathon time of 2:36:26. “I’m truly lazy at heart,” he revealed. “I don’t do this naturally. It’s punishing but there is a reward to it.”

When he isn’t training, Smart enjoys time with wife Lori and daughters Kailey and Jordan. They enjoy Tampa Bay’s pro football, baseball and hockey games. He also occasionally likes to take his chances on a different type of race when he watches the horses at the track.

While his dedication to running brings Smart the healthy benefits we all strive for in a New Year, the return on his investment makes it all worthwhile.

By Lisa Stephens

Stephens, a resident of West Park Village, is always looking for interesting Westchase residents to profile. She can be contacted at lmsfla@verizon.net.

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Westchase Holiday Market a Success

With Santa, live music, face painting, raffles and shopping galore, both vendors and shoppers had a wonderful day.

On Dec. 7 members of the Westchase Artists Society welcomed holiday shoppers to the Westchase Golf Club for their Fifth Annual Westchase Holiday Market. The indoor/outdoor event featured artwork and unique gifts for enthusiastic shoppers.

Santa stopped by to visit and posed for pictures with area children. Deirdre Rivera, a mixed-media artist, was awarded Best of Show by Chris Barrett of WOW. In the afternoon, live music was provided by students and instructors from Rockatar Music Academy. Face painting and gift basket raffles rounded out the day, which helped raise over $1,000 for Autism Speaks.

“To me, the market has always been about two things: allowing local artists the opportunity to showcase their artwork and raising money for a great cause,” commented Jennifer Joyner, event chair for the Holiday Market. “The customers I spoke with really enjoyed the variety of vendors present and thought it was great that the market was so close to home. I am really looking forward to seeing everyone again next year.”

For more photos of the event, please see the hardcopy WOW.

By Teresa Trubilla

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Westchase Artists Wrap Up The Year

Members of the Westchase Artists Society ended 2014 with their fifth annual Westchase Holiday Market and the opening of their group show, “Expressions.”

The Holiday Market was held on Sunday, Dec. 7 at the Westchase Golf Club and helped raise over $1,000 for Autism Speaks. (See page 88.)

Expressions, their first group show in over a year, opened on Thursday, Dec. 11, at the Upper Tampa Bay Library. This show was the first exhibit to use the new art hanging system and gallery space donated by World of Westchase. The exhibit will be on display during regular library hours through the end of January.
“It was a very exciting experience for me to see people’s positive reaction to my paintings since this is the first time I have shown my work,” commented Jeanne LaPensee. “Being part of the Westchase Artists Society has been so enriching and inspirational to me.”

The Westchase Artists Society is open to all types of visual artists from Upper Tampa Bay. Those interested in learning more about the group are invited to drop by a monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Upper Tampa Bay Library on Countryway Boulevard. Please bring your creativity and a sample of your artwork to share.

The next group meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. at the Upper Tampa Bay Library. The evening’s agenda will include election of new officers and annual registration and dues. Please see http://www.westchaseartists.com for more information. You can also friend the group on Facebook to stay updated on group activities.

By Teresa Trubilla

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Westchase Junior Tennis Teams Named Best in County

The fall tennis season saw two Westchase junior tennis teams win Best in County awards in their age groups.

After winning five team matches and 30 mini-matches for a total of 263 points, thus placing second by a single point, The Westchase Instinct entered the 16A playoffs with two teams from Tampa Palms, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Rolling Stones. The Westchase Impact, however, edged both teams in the championship round to take first place.  The Impact, named Best in County, consisted of Matthew Thomas, Aryan Tomar, Sofia Arevalo, Victoria Ramakrishan, Talia Semaan, Cason Joyner and Elizabeth Ray.

Playing in the Intermediate Yellow Ball group, the Westchase Impact consisted of Aiden Bai, Andreas Wang, Fernando Bauermeister, Max Al-Ali, Nate Prabahakaran and Santiago Cardenas. On its way to victory in the 12A Yellow Ball Division, the team won six matches and 36 mini-matches to score 278 points, 75 more than the second place team from Hunters Green.

Congratulations to the Impact and the Instinct. You’ve put Westchase Junior Tennis on the map!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Westfield Citrus Park Greets New Tenants

Westchase’s mall has recently made some big changes.

It’s welcomed new retailers, added new seating areas and refurbished its fountains.

Two of the biggest newcomers are A’GACI and H&M. Texas based A’GACI opened a 12,000 square foot store in November. The retailer caters to women with trendy clothes, shoes, and accessories. H&M, a Swedish multinational retail-clothing company, is planning opens a 19,000 square foot store later this month with clothes and accessories for women, men and children.

“Shopper demands and requests are always evolving and Westfield Citrus Park periodically surveys shoppers to better understand these demands,” said Dawn Arvidson, Westfield Tampa Bay Marketing Director. “In recent surveys, shoppers have requested a wider selection of food, women’s fashions, and a toy store. Over the past few years we have used these findings to better align the center with these requests by adding new restaurants, fashion choices such as A’GACI and H&M, and the toy store, Learning Express.” 

According to Arvidson, Pandora, ST Menswear, Pholicious, Sleep Number, Hallmark, Justice & Brothers, Le Macaron French Pastries, and Little Greek are among the other stores and eating establishments that have opened over the past year at the Citrus Park mall.

In addition to the new stores and restaurants, Paul Mitchell, The School opened this past fall. A full service salon and school, Paul Mitchell, The School teaches cosmetology. Its customers can get a wide variety of hair salon services performed by supervised students.

“Westfield Citrus Park caters to the families living in the neighborhoods surrounding the center,” said Arvidson. “A’GACI and H&M both recognize the value of having a store at the center that caters to their core shopper. Once both of these stores are open, Citrus Park mall will have an almost 100 percent occupancy rate.”

Arvidson added, “The mall has been open since 1999 but we are constantly updating and renovating. We recently refurbished the fountains inside the mall and added new seating and lounge areas. We also have many seating areas where people can relax and hang out and have added a new teen dwell space. We are committed to being a family friendly mall.”

By Marcy Sanford

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Scouts Enjoy Camping Trip

Over the last month, Troop 46 has been working to achieve merit badges and rank advancements.

In November, our camping trip was no ordinary one. The main goal for that campout was to roast a whole hog on a spit for the Troop to enjoy as Saturday’s dinner. In the meantime, Scouts played assorted sports such as football, capture the flag, and Frisbee chop chop (dodgeball with Frisbees).

Before Thanksgiving we attended the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive for Metropolitan Ministries. Scouts helped unload cars and sort food such as turkey, pudding, and crackers. We were impressed with all of the donations, and, in particular, Cornerstone Insurance, which donated 100 turkeys.

By Drew Hatch

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TBAY Enjoys Holiday Potluck

The TBAY Westchase swim team took a dive into the New Year after having made a big splash to close out 2014.

The club celebrated its success over the past year and toasted its upcoming 2015 goals (with soft drinks and water, of course) at the annual Holiday Potluck at Baybridge Park. “The team had a great fall season in every age group,” said head coach, Alex Richardson, who recently celebrated his two-year anniversary at the helm. “We are looking forward to refocusing throughout the holidays and then gearing up for a great meet schedule this spring!”

It certainly felt a lot like the holidays as the TBAY Westchase swimmers braved chilly temperatures in the 40s during their morning practice that preceded the bash. The potluck included a gift exchange and a donation drive that benefited a terrific cause – the Tampa Bay Humane Society.

The 2014 calendar year ended with some huge successes for the team. At the year-ending YCF Almost Turkey Meet in Orlando, 8-year-olds Paige Easton and Liam Malony earned high-point championships in their age group. Paige placed first in every event except 25 back, where she was third, while Liam took first or second in every event in which he logged a time. London Palmer placed third for 6-and-unders.

In addition to those fantastic finishes, a dozen swimmers placed in the top eight in at least one event. Those athletes were Richie Bui, Danny Harris, Richard Harris, Aly Johnston, Nico Libreros, Alina Lytvynenko, Gwenyth Martin, Isabel Minnis, Gavin Nolan, Margaret Parker, Sam Prabhakaran and Jake Key, who broke his elbow at a baseball tournament the next day!

Impressive time drops were posted by Francesca Bonanomi, who cut 45 seconds in 4 events; Danny Harris, who dropped in all seven events he swam (29.04 seconds total); and Libreros, who dropped 47.44 seconds over six events.

Easton also won high points for 8-and-unders at the LOLL meet the weekend before, where Tito Borromeo captured high points among the boys in the same age group. Tito’s brother, Rafael, dropped 45.5 seconds in the 500 free, Danny Harris dropped 44.52 in the 1,000 and Sam Williams dropped a-minute-and-a-half in his 1,000 free. Top-three finishers were Tito, Paige, Richie Bui, Daniel Harris, Tyler Henry, Nico Libreros, Dylan Nolan, Margaret Parker, Summer Senior, Gregory Tilzer, Nicole Tilzer and Sam Williams.

“Our last few meets of the season were a great success across the board for our team,” Richardson said. “Many of our swimmers had outstanding finishes in their age group and others showed huge improvements individually.”

High school season also wrapped up on Nov. 7, with Robinson junior Maddie Strasen qualifying for finals in the Class 2A state swim championships. The Knights captain finished 14th in the 100 breaststroke.

Coming up Jan. 17-18 TBAY Westchase is co-hosting a meet with SPA in St. Petersburg.

Be sure to like TBAY Westchase on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @tbaywestchase!

By Jean Strasen and Alex Richardson

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Wizards Slate Jan. 30 Kindergarten Round Up

If your child is ready for Kindergarten next year, the Westchase Wizards invite you to join them Jan. 30.

All parents with children starting Kindergarten in the fall are encouraged to attend the annual Kindergarten Round Up on Friday, Jan. 30, at 8:30 a.m. in the multipurpose room. All incoming Kindergartners and their parents are invited to join us for an information session and tour of the school.

In the coming months Westchase Elementary will once again offer its After School Enrichment (ASE) program. Get ready for more fun, interactive and skill-building classes. It’s all done for you – great instructors, popular topics, and the convenience of having it right at school! Plus all profits from After School Enrichment go to the school. Kids have fun and learn something new. Parents enjoy the convenience of enrichment directly after school. And the programs help Westchase Elementary.

Classes are nine weeks and include topics like Chess, Hands-On Science, Lego Building and Theater. Look for more information to be coming home with your student the end of January. Classes will begin in February and are held Wednesdays and Thursdays, 2:20-3:30 p.m.  except during spring break. If you have ideas for a future class or if you are an instructor interested in participating, please contact Lynne Katzman at lynn1210@msn.com.

There will be no school Jan. 19-20!

By Jennifer Arnold

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A Passionate Reimagining

Some novels are difficult to classify. Lily King’s Euphoria is one.

King is a virtuoso at combining history, character analysis, romance and adventure to blur fiction genres and create a tightly written, witty, intensely smart tale.

Euphoria is a historical novel based on Margaret Mead’s 1933 anthropological research in New Guinea. Initially, the author closely follows recorded details of the collaborative field experience of Mead and both her current and future husbands. But King moves beyond the facts to devise a riveting story with a strikingly different ending.

Nell is a best-selling, controversial American ethnographer. She is married to Fen, a less productive fellow researcher, jealous of Nell’s success. In a chance encounter Nell and Fen meet English anthropologist Bankson, who has become isolated and frustrated by his solitary work. When Bankson persuades Nell and Fen to study an interesting new tribe several hours upriver from him on the Sepik River, the emotional and professional divide between Nell and Fen widens, putting in motion actions that have disastrous consequences.

Yet, this book is also an insightful character study. The use of Bankson’s retrospective narration interleaved with excerpts from Nell’s journals keenly portrays Nell, Fen and Bankson as both scientists and very human beings. The author contrasts the philosophies of Nell and Fen that typify their interactions with the remote tribe they are studying. She also focuses the tangled love story on the professional aspirations and personal passions that both link Nell, Fen and Bankson and end up endangering their careers and lives.

The novel’s storyline generates relentless suspense. I was riveted from the opening paragraphs. King’s masterful foreshadowing ensures the reader knows something bad will happen – just not what. I found the immersive sense of place fascinating. Vivid depictions of both the backwater living conditions of Nell, Fen and Bankson and of the customs and rituals of the indigenous people of New Guinea transform the ordinary into peculiar and make the strange seem reasonable.

This is the best sort of book – a novel of ideas whose plot, characters and setting absorb and transport the reader. At times, you may wonder, “Could this part really happen?”

But you will always want to keep reading.

By Carol Collins

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Davidsen Celebrates Math Bowl Teams and Reflections Winner

Recent months saw Dragons notching some impressive successes in both math and art.

We congratulate all of our talented Math Bowl teams! In the Hillsborough County Regional Math Bowl, the Seventh Grade Math Bowl took third and the Eighth Grade Team took second place.

Meanwhile seventh grader Hailey Marquez was awarded an honorable mention in the Reflections Art Program by Hillsborough County PTA/PTSA. They recognized her music composition, "When the sun is up." The county saw 62 schools and over 900 students participate. Congratulations to Hailey and to all of the Davidsen students who submitted a Reflections entry this year. For those who want to get a jump start on next year’s Reflections, the theme will be: "Let your imagination fly."

Before winter break, the Davidsen PTSA worked with area businesses to ensure that the teachers and administrators were treated to a bit of holiday cheer.

On Dec. 17 the PTSA hosted a holiday buffet for teachers, staff, custodians and bus drivers – 120 people in all. They enjoyed an assortment of special holiday treats. The PTSA also held a 12 Days of Holiday Giveaway, where gift cards for area stores and restaurants were given away to teachers and staff members every day for 12 days. PTSA members donated many of the gift cards. In addition, McDonald’s generously donated 120 free food vouchers, Olive Tree gave four $5 gift cards and Bakery Melange donated two free treats.

Another area supporter, Westchase Pizza & Pasta, offered a generous discount on the food for the PTSA’s annual holiday dinner, held on Dec. 11.

These are just a few examples of the ways in which area businesses support our school, for which we are extremely grateful. We would also like to take a moment to thank our business partners whose contributions are greatly appreciated: World of Westchase, Orangetheory Fitness Westchase, Kitchell Group, Westchase McDonald’s, Biven’s Orthodontics, Real Athletic and Wellness (RAW) Health Club, Dr. Goodnight, Orthodontics, Power Learning and Miche Fashion Purses

On Jan. 21, another loyal supporter, Burger 21, will be donating a portion of the proceeds from sales that day to Davidsen’s Eighth Grade Class. Be sure to stop by and support our school.

During Feb. 2-27, Davidsen will hold another Box Top Drive. Students can turn their Box Tops in to their homeroom teachers. Gift cards will be awarded to one student and one teacher for participation.

It is also time to start thinking about the event every Dragon looks forward to each year: The Medieval Fair!  The Medieval Fair is a parent/teacher run festival for students only. It will take place on Friday, March 6. Volunteers are needed to help make this event a success. Contact Elaine Ragan at elaineragan@gmail.com to find out how you can help.

Please note that the PTSA will hold a meeting on Jan. 6. There is no school Jan. 19-20.

By Karen Ring

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New Ravens Hurler a Special Delivery

The Alonso High School baseball program, known for its consistent success and a long line of quality pitchers, received a special delivery this season.

He’s Nick Kennedy, a 6-foot, 200-pound left-hander whose fastball has topped out at 91 miles per hour. Kennedy moved this school year from College Station, Texas, where his father, Dave, was the strength and conditioning coach for Texas A&M.

When his father accepted a similar position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kennedy was offered the chance to stay with friends in Texas to compete his career at Station High School. But he preferred to live with his family and finish his high-school career in a new town.

Kennedy is delighted to be here.

“I love the city, I love all the things you can do here, I love Alonso and I think it’s a great place to be for baseball,’’ said Kennedy, whose family had been living in an apartment, but moved into a Radcliffe home in December.

Kennedy, who begins practicing with his Alonso teammates this month in preparation for the spring season, missed last year after undergoing surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome, a genetic condition that caused compression and pain because his top rib was positioned too close to his collarbone. Kennedy said he’s now 100 percent after pitching in some fall games for Alonso.

Alonso coach Landy Faedo said he’s happy with his team’s new addition.

“Quality left-hander, throws 91 (mph), great kid, nice family … yeah, I was pleased when I heard he was moving to our area,’’ Faedo deadpanned.

Since the school was established in 2001, Alonso baseball has always been known for pitching. The most visible performer was Jose Fernandez, a first-round pick who became the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year with the Miami Marlins. But several Ravens enjoyed success and earned college scholarships, including Alex Faedo, Alex Panteliodis, Tommy Toledo, Thomas Dorminey, Ray Delphey and Michael Harley.

Before throwing his first pitch for the Ravens, Kennedy already joined that club. In November, during a signing-day ceremony at Alonso, Kennedy inked a scholarship with the University of Texas, a perennial powerhouse in college baseball. With his Ravens teammates gathered around, everyone flashed that patented Texas “hook-em’’ hand signal.

“The fact that Nick signed with Texas tells you what kind of pitcher he is,’’ Faedo said.

Interestingly, Kennedy liked the Longhorns, even though he lived in the town of Texas A&M, the hated rival. But he had acquired the Texas taste much earlier. While living in Nebraska, another of his father’s career stops, Kennedy often attended the College World Series in Omaha, a regular stop for the Longhorns. He remembers buying Texas caps and that preference remained when he moved to the state.

“I got a lot of heat (in College Station) for that choice because I actually (orally) committed there when I was a sophomore,’’ Kennedy said. “You can’t get away from the rivalry thing. But Texas has such an incredible combination of academics and athletics. I just couldn’t pass it up.’’

For now, though, Kennedy is concentrating on becoming a dominant pitcher for the Ravens. His future with the Longhorns – or perhaps an opportunity at professional baseball – is somewhere in the distance.
Although it has been awkward leaving friends just before his senior year, Kennedy said he already has made lots of new friends at Alonso and feels right at home. His baseball reputation may have preceded him, but he expected that.

“The guys on my team are cool and I think I’ve been able to fit in,’’ Kennedy said. “Moving, at least for me, maybe wasn’t as big of a deal as it could’ve been for somebody else. Because of my father’s career, this is the fifth state I’ve lived in (his father also worked at Pittsburgh and Ohio State), so getting used to a new place has kind of been my way of life.

“I’m sure people will look at me and wonder (how I’m going to pitch). That’s just part of it. I’ve been on other teams where we’re looking at the other guy, saying, ‘We heard all about him. He’s getting all the hype. When you commit somewhere, you’ve got to be able to handle all of that. At the end of the day, I just have to do what I have to do to get outs. It doesn’t really matter what they have to think about it.’’

Kennedy, who has a younger brother (Eric) playing as a freshman at Calvary Christian and an older brother (Ben) already playing at Texas, said he’s accustomed to expectations. For now, though, he’s enjoying his new surroundings. He calls Westchase “a very beautiful, very relaxing community’’ and is relishing his year in Tampa.

“I love being here,’’ Kennedy said.

Faedo and the Ravens certainly love having him.

By Joey Johnston

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Exciting Year in Store for Westchase GirlTalk Group

Last month’s holiday party was a festive evening filled with food, wine and friendship for members of GirlTalk.

The Dec. 19 gathering was hosted by GirlTalk founder Lori Shaw.

Bakery Melange was on hand to lead the group through a demonstration on how they make their amazing holiday shortbread sugar cookies! The ladies had a wonderful time decorating their individual cookies to create the perfect holiday treat. Thanks so much to Bakery Melange for taking the time to join the party!

Looking ahead into 2015, GirlTalk has some exciting events that will get the New Year off to a great start. On Jan. 14, Shaw will host a fun, informative evening led by Holistic Health Coach, Pam Velez. Velez will lead an interactive discussion on sleeping better, increasing energy, improving digestion and decreasing brain-fog.

On Feb. 11 Glow Beauty & Skincare will treat the group to a Night of Beauty. Located right here in Westchase, Glow Beauty & Skincare offers quality professional skincare, massage and beauty services performed by licensed and certified professionals. This is the perfect opportunity to get great skincare tips from the experts.

In the coming months, the GirlTalk group will enjoy an evening with Fidelity Financial Planners who will lead the group through some helpful financial planning and budgeting tips. Coldwell Banker will offer a talk on real estate and how to prepare your home when it is time to sell.

These are just of a few of the fun and informative events for the coming year. “It’s going to be an exciting year!” Shaw said.

For more information on upcoming events or to find out more about the group, contact Lori Shaw at loriella@tampabay.rr.com. Also, be sure to follow them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/girltalktampa The g.roup is free to join and is open to anyone interested in fun, friendship and a fresh perspective.

By Karen Ring

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UTB Gallery Welcomes Art Gallery Space

The Westchase Artist Society celebrated the opening of their exhibit, “Expressions,” at the Upper Tampa Bay Library’s new art gallery space Thursday, Dec. 11.

The exhibit, running through January, features artwork from members of the Westchase Artists Society. The gallery renovation was made possible due to a grant from WOW.

“I am grateful to World of Westchase magazine for their generous donation that made this gallery space and hanging system possible,” said Westchase Artists Society President Teresa Trubilla. “It provides a wonderful venue for local artists to showcase their work.”

According to Trubilla, it’s been more than a year since the group’s last exhibit. This one features artwork from most of the members including watercolors, acrylics, mixed media, photography, pencil, and pottery. “The Westchase Artists Society is open to any artist in the area,” said Trubilla. “This exhibit features artwork in various mediums that represent our members’ varied interests.”

“Before the library’s renovations, the only hanging space was in the front conference room, which did not provide security,” said Westchase Artists Society member Judy Freeman. “The new space is wonderful. As long as the room is not in use, it is open to the public and even when it is in use, you can still see the artwork through the windows.”

The exhibits inside the gallery space will change monthly. “We want to support local artists,” said Regional Library Manager Suzy George. “There is an ongoing call for artist applications. We have a committee that will review the applications and set up the schedule. We’ve already had a lot of interest from artists who want to show their work in the space. We want to bring shows that will appeal to the community and give them another reason to visit the library.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity to show our work,” said Westchase Artists Society member Marilyn Chaulk. “I’m thrilled to be part of the show and have my artwork displayed in such a beautiful building.

If you are an artist who is interested in displaying your artwork at the Upper Tampa Bay Library, application are available at the information desk.

By Marcy Sanford

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WOW in the United Kingdom

This past summer WOW found itself traveling with the Hough Family to Stamford.

Not THAT Stamford, silly. The original one!

Paul and Karen Hough, who live in Westchase’s Stamford, brought their daughter, Paula, back to the United Kingdom, where she was born as an American citizen. “We left before she was 1-year-old,” explained Paul Hough. “This was her first trip back. We took in all the typical London attractions before renting a car and touring the country.”

Paul continued, “Karen and I had actually been to Stamford before and stopped by again after visiting the nearby Burghley Estate. The attached photo is taken on the road into Stamford and shows why the town is famous as a well-preserved stone market town. So here is Stamford, Westchase-resident Paula Hough standing in Stamford, UK, the land of her birth.”

The second photo is of Paula, standing in front of a home most famous for the children’s nursery rhyme written there – a poem set to a French folk song whose tune later inspired Mozart to pen several variations.

“We took Paula to see the Abbey ruins in Bury St Edmunds because her birth certificate is recorded there and it is the site where the Magna Carta was signed 800 years ago,” wrote Paul. “Not too far south from Bury is Lavenham, an ancient wool town famous for its well preserved homes many over 500 years old. This photo is of the home known as Shilling Grange which was built in 1425 and is famous because Jane Taylor wrote “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” in 1792 while living there with her family.”

The third photo, the London Eye, may be recognizable to most readers. “Karen and I were most interested in the London Eye and the Millennium Bridge as neither of these existed in the two years we lived in England,” Paul explained of his visit there. “We took this photo across the river from the London Eye after we had been on the ride. I would say it's a must do for any visit to London.”

As someone who’s spent a good deal of time both in and outside of London in the U.K., Paul offered some helpful cultural advice. “We did try to impress upon Paula that visiting London only and thinking you understand England would be like visiting New York City and thinking you had a good understanding of America. Both are just too cosmopolitan to get a grasp of the national culture.”

Paul concluded, “We were fortunate to have experience with driving on the left-hand side and spent most of our time visiting attractions outside of London as well as seeing old friends.”

We thank the Houghs for sharing their adventures with WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Westchase Swimmer Notches Top State Time

Keswick Forest’s Austin Sellers recently made quite a splash at the Florida State Swimming Championships on Nov. 14.

Competing on his 18th birthday, Sellers earned one of the best presents around: the best time for the 100 Yard Breaststroke in all of Florida and a gold medal.

He competed at the state championships in Stuart, Florida, as his parents, Trae and Rachel Sellers, and his sister, Lauren watched.

“My time in the 100-yard breast stroke was 54.90,” remarked Austin. “That would have been the state champ among all state classifications.”

Sellers was describing the fact that the state divides schools among different classifications so students compete against others from comparably sized schools.

Sellers, who began swimming at age 8 in Westchase’s swim program, currently swims as a senior at Jesuit High School. Jesuit competes in Class IIA.

Sellers came away from state championships with a chestful of medals, specifically a gold and three silvers. “I also did the 200 Yard IM, which I got second in,” he said.

Sellers also grabbed silver in the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay.

His fellow swimmers on the relay teams were Jesuit students Sam Sands, a freshman, and juniors Byrne Litschgi and Tommy Shaffer.

“I’m just happy that our team did well,” he remarked.

Sellers was quick to credit Coach Bill Shaffer and his parents for his success. He swims 20 hours a week during swim season. “When it’s not high school season, I swim with my club team,” he said.

His current club is Academy Aquatic Club at Academy of Holy Names.

As for the future?

“I’m just taking it one step at a time,” he remarked. “I’m being recruited by some schools and will make a decision after that.”

Among them are University of Florida, University of North Carolina, University of Indiana, Virginia Tech and Auburn. Sellers plans to major in Business.

Congratulations to Austin on an impressive accomplishment!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Photo provided courtesy of Jesuit High School.

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Westchase Seniors Keep The Good Memories Rolling

The Westchase Seniors Group will have a party at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center on Jan. 10 at 6 p.m. to celebrate the first 14 years of the third millennium.

Our kickoff party this new year will celebrate our good times and memories of years 2000 through 2014.  In January 2010 Bette Vance, Anita Steinfeld, and Phyllis Kanik hosted a party for the Westchase Seniors Group to celebrate the 1950s.  Everyone had such a good time remembering and sharing fond memories and stories from that decade that Betty, Anita and Phyllis have been compelled to host a decade celebration party each year ever since.  Bette will start the discussion this year by taking our minds back to some memorable events in the first 14 years of this millennium.  This "time travel" always spurs thoughts we enjoy sharing of our own personal experiences during the time.  Please R.S.V.P. to Bette (792-2999), Anita (926-6211), or Phyllis (920-4245) by Jan. 9 so they will know much pizza to order, and please bring $7 to cover the cost of food, drinks, and paper goods. 

The holiday party in December was the one of the best attended holiday parties the Westchase Seniors Group have had.  The food was great, the time spent with friends was delightful, and gift exchange was enjoyable.  The photographs with this article show only a few of the Westchase seniors who were able to enjoy the 2014 holiday party.  We extend a big thank you to Anita Steinfeld, Phyllis Kanik, and Lillian Unger for planning and coordinating this past year’s Westchase Seniors Group holiday party at Catch 23.  Thank you, ladies!  

Tuesday Morning Coffee Each Tuesday morning from 9-10 a.m. Westchase seniors are invited to meet at the Westchase McDonald’s Restaurant for coffee, breakfast and friendly conversation. The coffee is free with a food purchase and the conversations are always enjoyable. Grab your coffee and join us. You can’t miss us. We are the “older” but “young at heart” people laughing and having a great time.

Join The Fun If you are a Westchase resident over 55-years-old and looking to enjoy life, join over 200 of your neighbors who make up the Westchase Seniors Group and add more life to your years. It only costs a smile to join and the dues are just as cheap. Members participate in only what they are interested in and pay their own way. To receive e-mails about Westchase Seniors events, send your name, address, and phone number to westchase.seniors@gmail.com or call Lewis and Rama Patterson (926-5473).

By Lewis and Rama Patterson

The Pattersons are residents of Kingsford and can be reached at westchase.seniors@gmail.com or 926-5473.

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CDD to Install Fountain in Countryway Boulevard Lake

Supervisors of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) saw their first meeting of 2015 adjourn in less than an hour – but not before making a splash.

The abbreviated session addressed three items, including the purchase of a fountain for a lake near Westchase’s fire station.

Supervisor Bob Argus was absent.

The remaining four supervisors present, however, gave their final blessing for the installation of a pond fountain in the lake beside the fire station and Westchase Swim and Tennis Center on Countryway Boulevard. The fountain itself will cost $11,500 while an additional $2,800 was approved to extend electrical utilities to the pond. Quarterly maintenance is expected to run $127.50. Staff stated their only estimated cost was the annual electric bill for running the fountain. Staff stated that the fountain in the lake across from Westchase Elementary School costs $6,000 per year. The smaller fountain for Countryway Boulevard, they estimated, would cost half that. Supervisors ultimately voted 4-0 to install the fountain, expected to occur in the next two months.

While supervisors waited for CDD Attorney Erin McCormick to arrive, they heard from Kathy Carlsen, who sits on the Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board. Carlsen encouraged CDD staff to explore the greater use of Florida Friendly and native Florida plantings in the community’s beds. Citing the entrances to the Citrus Park mall as featuring beautiful, yet less common options, she stated, “They are eye-catchers.”

With McCormick’s arrival, supervisors turned to the remaining item of business, the contract for a Parks Master Plan design with Stantec, their engineering firm. CDD Chair Mark Ragusa stated that his signature on the contract had been held up by a couple of issues. McCormick stated that as of 1:30 p.m. that afternoon, Stantec and she had come to an agreement on contract language related to liability and indemnification.

In their final action, Supervisors voted 4-0 to authorize the finalization and the chair’s signature on a contract with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department over the district’s hiring of their off-duty deputies for the CDD’s privacy patrol.

Supervisors adjourned at 4:51 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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WCA’s Jan. 9 Movie in The Park is The Nut Job

On Friday, Jan. 9, Westchase’s free family movies in the park return! Bring chairs, blankets and snacks to the West Park Village Town Center Green on Montague Street. The movie begins at 7 p.m. (Depending on the temperature, don't forget your insect repellant!). January’s movie is The Nut Job (PG).

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Costco Developer Requests Sign Variance

In late December, Hillsborough County posted a sign near Westchase’s eastern entrance announcing the owner of land slated for a Costco had requested a code variance for the property.

The Jan. 20 meeting concerns the recently rezoned 32.25 acres at the southeast corner of Sheldon Road and Linebaugh Avenue. M&M Tampa Citrus Park has announced plans for a multi-use commercial project at the corner, including a 155,000 square foot Costco big box store, and five additional outparcels, including a Costco-related gas station, a pharmacy, a bank, a sit-down restaurant and a fast-food restaurant.

According to Kim King, a Hillsborough County Project Manager for Development Services, the variance, if granted, would permit both the big box parcel, slated for a Costco, and its associated gas station canopy, to display commercial signs larger than those currently allowed by county sign codes.

Under current rules, a building the size of the proposed Costco would be allowed 200 square feet of signage on each side or elevation. M&M’s variance requests 506 square feet on the northern elevation, which would face toward Linebaugh Avenue. The main Costco sign would be 382 square feet and would be 10 feet, 3 inches high by 37 feet, 3 inches long. The entrance to the Costco would be in the northwest corner of the big box parcel. Any sign there, however, would also be credited to the northern elevation’s sign limits. M&M is requesting an additional 124-square foot sign for that entrance, running 5 feet, 10 inches high by 21 feet, 4 inches long.

No signs are requested for the Costco’s eastern elevation. M&M is also requesting a similar 382 square foot Costco sign for the southern elevation, facing Old Linebaugh Avenue, and its western elevation, facing Sheldon Road. In addition, M&M is requesting that the Sheldon side also feature a 31-square foot “Tire Center” sign measuring 1 foot, 9 inches by 17 feet, 4 inches.

Signage related to the adjacent gas station canopy is dictated by the size of the smaller gas station building. Under code, each side of the canopy would typically be permitted eight square feet of signage. While the eastern and western elevations won’t exceed this limit, M&M is also requesting a variance allowing 20 square feet of signage on the northern and southern elevations of the gas station canopy, consisting of signs running 2 feet, 4 inches high by 8 feet, 5 inches long.

According to King such variance requests for signage are not unusual. “For large, what they would call big box stores,” she stated, “they can be common.”

King added the county’s current sign codes date to 1985. “The codes have never changed since then.”

Residents wishing to convey their opinions to the county regarding the variance can do so by e-mailing hearings@hillsboroughcounty.org and noting VAR 15-0174 in their communication at least two business days prior to the hearing.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Westchase Crime: November 2014

Thanksgiving celebrations along Magnolia Blossom Drive were interrupted on Nov. 27 as the result of a five-hour armed standoff that culminated in the death of resident Matthew Cormier.

Alerted by a member of Cormier’s family, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputies appeared at 9641 Magnolia Blossom Drive in the rear of West Park Village to check on Cormier’s well-being. Cormier responded, however, by threatening to kill the deputies and insisting they would have to kill him. Cormier also fired shots from a window, striking a police cruiser.

Nearby condominiums were evacuated for safety.

After five hours of negotiations, a SWAT team fired on Cormier, who had appeared in a window with a gun. Cormier died at the scene.

Burglary Residence/Forced

11/3

12400 Berkeley Square Dr.

Battery – Simple

11/3

12400 Berkeley Square Dr.

Theft From A Building

11/3

9800 Montague St.

Burglary Residence/Forced

11/4

9800 Gingerwood Dr.

DUI

11/8

10400 Countryway Blvd.

Criminal Mischief Misdemeanor

11/10

12000 Royce Waterford Cr.

Theft From a Vehicle

11/11

9400 Cavendish Dr.

DUI

11/15

W. Linebaugh Ave./Sheldon Rd.

Theft From a Vehicle

11/24

10200 Millport Dr.

Drugs/Narcotics

11/26

Sheldon Rd./W. Linebaugh Ave.

Other Weapon Violations

11/20

10500 Montague St.

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WOW Gives Back –  On Your Behalf

Each year I share with you some of the other work WOW does on your behalf.

As we begin 2015, I’m proud to share with you WOW’s 2014 charitable giving, much of which recently occurred.

It may sound like I’m just tooting our own horn. I hope, however, my real intent becomes clear. You, dear reader, played an integral role in making this happen. And we need your continued support to do the same in 2015.

WOW is quite unusual among homeowners’ association publications. The cost of most HOA publications is usually borne, in some way, by the association’s homeowners through their annual HOA assessments. WOW, however, is different. The Westchase Community Association (WCA) and Westchase homeowners don’t provide any funding at all for the magazine. Instead WOW is entirely supported by its advertising revenue.

Each time you pick up and read WOW – each time you call its valued advertisers and let them know you’ve seen them in WOW – you help keep WOW strong in a very challenging marketplace for print media.

And it is a very challenging marketplace.

WOW is a non-profit corporation whose mission states, “The Westchase community as a whole will profit from the magazine as revenues beyond expenses and reserves will be distributed to deserving community beneficiaries and projects.”

In December WOW marked another year in which it made significant donations to support schools that teach Westchase children – and poorer schools that feed into Davidsen Middle School, for which all of Westchase is zoned.

After requesting wish-lists from our schools, WOW made nearly $50,000 in technology grants, with $1,900 going to Robinson IB, $1,900 to Alonso, $9,800 to Davidsen, $6,200 to Walker IB Middle and $10,000 to Davis Elementary. Westchase Elementary received $7,000, Lowry received $6,500 and Lavoy Exceptional Center, serving special-needs children, received $5,000.

In addition, we were able to give Bellamy Elementary, a Title I school, $22,000 in proceeds from The Great West Chase.

WOW made an additional $35,000 in contributions. We invested $12,000 in our WOW Scholarship program, recognizing students for commitment to academics and community service. WOW also made a number of other contributions to worthwhile organizations such as Kaye Prox Food Bank ($2,000), the JCC Food Bank ($2,000), the Children’s Home ($2,500), the Hillsborough Education Foundation ($2,500 for school supplies for poor children) and The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation ($920).

WIW donated $2,500 to the Gulf Ridge Council to support disadvantaged Scout Troops and $500 to our local Boy Scout Troop 46. WOW also gave $500 contributions to homeless veterans, Jacob’s Touch, the American Cancer Society and Meals on Wheels. WOW’s $5,000 donation to the Westchase Charitable Foundation even helped cover costs associated with last month’s Santa parade through Westchase.

It is because of you, our dedicated readers, that we were able to assist these schools and organizations. And the donations were made in Westchase’s name.

Help us remain strong. Keep reading and keep telling our advertisers you’ve seen them on these pages.

Happy New Year!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher 

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Have You Mailed Your WCA Assessment?

Happy New Year!

We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and a safe New Year celebration.

In November 2014 the annual payment notice for the 2015 assessment was mailed to all Westchase owners for payment due on Jan. 1 in the amount of $319. As a reminder, failure to pay the assessment by Jan. 31 will result in a late fee of $25. Please remember to include the payment notice containing your account number along with your payment in the return envelope provided to you. While you can drop off your payment at the association office, that will delay posting of the payment to your account. You also have the option of making an online credit card payment. For information on credit card processing, please contact the association management office. If you are a new owner and did not receive your coupon, please contact our office immediately.

For neighborhoods holding their annual neighborhood meeting this month to elect their voting members and alternates: please be sure to return your proxy cards to our office immediately upon receipt. It is imperative that each neighborhood be represented at the monthly Westchase Voting Members meetings.

If you have gotten your palm scan done for pool and tennis court access, please visit the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center’s pool office or the association management office. Be sure to have your photo ID available. If you are a new owner or a renter, you will need official documentation verifying residency, such as a warranty deed (new owner) or a lease agreement and utility bill (renter). Within the next few months, the additional palm scanners will be installed at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center.

As always, we are here to serve Westchase residents.  Please feel free to drop by our office or contact us at 926-6404 or via e-mail at manager@wcamanager.com.

By Debbie Sainz, CAM, CMCA

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Fitness and Nutrition: Separating Fact From Fiction

Ah, January – the month when millions of Americans resolve to establish healthier lifestyles.

Whether the intention is to exercise more, eat less or both, a little planning and research will go a long way in making changes that have lasting results. To help get our readers off on the right foot and avoid confusion when it comes to establishing a healthy routine, we’ve taken a closer look at some of the common fitness and nutrition misconceptions.

A regular detox is necessary to cleanse toxins from your body. After weeks of holiday indulgence, a detoxification diet or “detox” can seem like an enticing option to give your body a fresh start for the New Year. Detox methods vary, ranging from the colon cleanse to the two-day juice fast, but the goal is typically the same – to rid the body of excess toxins. The fact is, the body comes equipped with its very own detox system: the liver, the kidneys and the spleen.

Those turning to detox diets for weight loss may be pleased with the initial results, but disappointed with the long-term effects. Initial weight loss is primarily due to water loss. Weight loss is about much more than a number on a scale; it is about maintaining an ideal body fat/muscle ratio by burning more fat than muscle. This can be difficult to achieve on restrictive diets, like a juice fast, that can leave dieters feeling dizzy, lightheaded and fatigued and, therefore, unable to perform the physical activity necessary to strengthen muscles. In addition, if severe calorie restriction is sustained for more than a few days, the body may sense impending starvation and release stress hormones that cause fat stores to break down rapidly – a response that, paradoxically, may increase circulating toxins.

A better approach is to focus on "clean" eating that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein – in other words, whole foods with minimal processing. This approach boosts the body’s natural detox system and offers more lasting weight loss results, especially when coupled with a regular exercise regimen.

A gluten-free diet can benefit anyone. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, has been getting its fair share of publicity in recent years. With the growing number of gluten-free products hitting the store shelves, it is easy to understand why consumers may think they are beneficial for everyone. In fact, they are truly intended for those who suffer from celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the body can’t digest gluten and is marked by damage to the small intestine that leads to deficiencies when nutrients aren’t absorbed properly. A blood test is used to diagnose celiac disease. NCGS, on the other hand, may be diagnosed when abdominal distress, and sometimes fatigue, regularly occurs after consuming gluten – and when celiac disease has been ruled out.

“Just switching from cookies to gluten-free cookies, or going to processed gluten-free bread, waffles and rice pasta does not offer benefits unless someone has true celiac disease or NCGS,” stated Christine Miller, registered dietician and owner of Advanced Nutrition Concepts. “Technically, [a gluten-free diet] is fine for anyone who chooses to try it, but only if they eat REAL food, not processed, gluten-free substitutes,” she added.

Those who suspect they may have a problem with gluten should consult their physician before going gluten-free on their own. It is much more difficult to get a definitive medical diagnosis of celiac disease once a person has stopped eating gluten.

Organic is always better. No definitive ev¬idence exists that organic foods have any significant nutritional benefits over conventional foods. On the other hand, foods certified as organic must be produced without antibiotics, growth hormones and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, which means less exposure to potentially toxic substances. And because organics are grown and produced using sustainable, regenerative farming methods, many are good for the soil and the planet…for the most part.

The environmental benefit of organic foods decreases significantly when they accumulate “food miles,” the distance food has to travel from the farm to the store. The higher number of food miles traveled, the greater amount of energy consumed and pollution released – both of which contribute to global warming. The best way to avoid food miles is to choose locally grown foods. Choosing seasonal produce and shopping at area farmers’ markets are great ways to find local options.

Organic can also equal expensive. When it comes to produce, Miller refers her clients to the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists. The Dirty Dozen highlights 12 additives like as nitrates and artificial colors that represent some of the greatest failures of our regulatory system. For a complete list, visit http://www.ewg.org/research/ewg-s-dirty-dozen-guide-food-additives The C.lean 15 highlights the cleanest conventionally raised fruits and vegetables based on pesticide use. For a comprehensive list, visit http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/ Focus.ing on organics for the more pesticide-laden produce and looking for traditional offerings with fewer additives can help pinch pennies. In the end, it is important to remember that the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.

Eating after 8 p.m. will make you gain weight. At some point in time, the notion caught on that eating in the evening results in weight gain. The truth is: calories are not any more or less powerful based on the time of day. All foods are made up of calories, which provide the fuel the body needs to function optimally. When the food consumed contains more calories than the body needs to function, the excess is converted into fat, which is stored for later use. For every 3,500 extra calories consumed, the body produces one pound of fat. This process does not change once the clock strikes 8 p.m.

The problem that arises with late night snacking is simple: when a person is relaxing at the end of a long, exhausting day, he is more likely to overeat. To compensate for fatigue, the brain tells the body to eat more, which can lead to unhealthy, calorie-dense snacking. It’s not that the body gains more weight in the evening; it’s that people may be eating the wrong foods. When hunger strikes late at night, opt for healthy, high-fiber foods that will satisfy hunger without packing lots of calories.

Vegetarians are healthier than meat eaters. For some, following a vegetarian diet is a personal choice based on deeply rooted beliefs. For others, it is simply viewed as a healthier way to eat. According to Miller, this is not necessarily the case. Vegetarian or non-vegetarian, the key to healthy eating is maintaining a balanced diet. Both vegetarians and meat eaters need to eat a well-rounded diet that limits the consumption of added sugars, sodium, saturated and trans fats and refined grains. Furthermore, it is crucial that vegetarians incorporate adequate protein into their diet. Soy products, lentils, beans, peas, nuts and whole grains are great sources of protein for vegetarians.

That being said, meeting the body’s protein needs by eating plant-based foods can be healthier than consuming animal products, which are typically high in saturated fat. This is where a vegan approach has an advantage over both vegetarian and meat-inclusive diets. Saturated fat raises levels of cholesterol in the blood and can increase the risk for heart disease. Full-fat cheese and other dairy products, chicken, beef and fatty meats are among the top sources of saturated fat in the typical American diet.

“For those with cardiovascular disease, a properly balanced vegan diet with exercise and meditation is proven to be most effective,” Miller added.

The other thing to think about when it comes to eating meat is the impact it has on the environment. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of the total release of greenhouse gases worldwide (more than the entire transportation sector) and cattle breeding is a major contributor to these greenhouse gas emissions. A cow releases between 70 and 120 kilograms (kg) of methane per year. Methane is a greenhouse gas that has a negative effect on the climate that is 23 times higher than the effect of carbon dioxide. Therefore, the release of about 100 kg of methane per year for each cow is equivalent to about 2,300 kg of carbon dioxide per year.

Overall, the choice to eat meat or not eat meat is a personal one. Those who opt to go vegetarian still need to follow a well-rounded diet rich in protein and those who choose to eat meat would do well to limit their consumption of red meat for the sake of their health and the environment.

Where there is no pain, there is no gain. It is the age-old mantra chanted in gyms and sports complexes across the nation: No pain, no gain! But is it really wise to work through pain? “The truth is: there is beneficial pain and there is detrimental pain while working out,” stated Carrie Bell, a personal trainer with the YMCA. “Beneficial pain comes when you feel your muscles burning towards the end of a set. You begin to fatigue and your body shakes while holding a plank position, or the exercise you are performing becomes uncomfortable because it's difficult,” Bell explained. Under these circumstances, it can be beneficial to push through the pain in order to see progress.

“Joint pain, severe burning or shooting, sharp pains are detrimental pain and are a signal from your body that something is wrong,” Bell added. Continuing a workout under these circumstances can end up doing more harm than good. “Most people come into the Y with some sort of issue or injury in their body. Learning how to workout with it and knowing when to stop or modify can be tricky. This is what I help my clients with everyday!” Bell said.

The more you work out, the better. “This can be true and false,” Bell said. “Being active five to six days a week is a clear benefit to overall health. When a person begins a new workout routine to reach a specific goal, such as weight loss, the more you workout for the first six to 12 months or so will yield results and can be better. However, once you reach those goals, a level of maintenance activity will need to take over,” she added. The key is finding the right balance. “A person can definitely over do their level of activity. I stress to my clients that their rest days are equally as important to their overall health as their active days,” Bell added.

You should always stretch before you work out. In order to understand the basics of stretching and how they apply to a workout, it is important to note that there are two main types of stretching: dynamic and static. “Dynamic stretching is the type of stretching that should be done before you work out. This is where you do a toned down version of the workout you are about to perform. If you are going for a run, then do some brisk walking, walking lunges or soldier marches,” Bell said.

Dynamic stretching allows the muscles to get warm and loosen up without fatiguing them.

Static stretching is a method of stretching a muscle beyond its normal limits, then holding the stretch anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Contrary to popular belief, this type of stretching should be saved for the end of a workout. “This is when your muscles are tired, yet warm. Static stretching is a very important component to maintaining flexibility, which can ward off injuries. Static stretching, when done properly, will further fatigue the muscle, which is why it is best performed at the end of your workout,” Bell explained.

Bell also noted that there is a third type of stretching known as facilitated stretching, which involves flexing or engaging a muscle group at the same time it is being stretched. “I perform this with some of my clients at the Y at the end of their workouts. Facilitated stretching helps give a deeper stretch and better hold than can be done alone,” Bell stated.

Lifting heavy weights will bulk you up. A common misconception, especially among women, is that lifting heavy weights will result in a bulky, body builder–esque physique. The truth is, bodybuilders spend hours and hours in the gym lifting extremely heavy weights. They also eat a very strict diet that promotes muscle gain. The average person's workout and diet will not yield the same results.

“Lifting weights (heavy weights) benefits women just as much as men. A lot of women that come into the gym are looking for ‘definition.’ In order to achieve definition, you need to lift heavy weights. Lifting heavy weights not only will produce a long, lean, defined look for women, but will boost metabolism, allowing your body to burn more calories while completely resting,” Bell explained.

Lifting weights not only promotes long, lean muscles; it can also dramatically increase weight loss results over cardio alone.

Crunches are the best way to achieve flat abs. Six-pack abs are the holy grail of the workout world and the abdominal crunch is the exercise most relied upon in the quest for abs of steel. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that simple. “Achieving flat abs requires more than crunches. Diet is a huge contributor!” Bell said.

In addition to a balanced diet, there are many other exercises that produce a much higher calorie burn than the crunch. According to Bell, among these are the woodchopper, the plank, stability ball pikes and cable torso twists. “Burning more calories will facilitate the loss of overall body fat, which will help produce flatter abs. When someone joins the Y, they get two free appointments with a trainer, which is a great time to learn how to properly perform these result-driven ab exercises!” she added.

The New Year is a great time to make a commitment to a healthier lifestyle. The first step is separating fact from fiction in order to set fitness and nutrition goals that will last.

By Karen Ring; Photo by James Broome Photography

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From the President, January 2015: Resolutions, Assessments and Violations

Resolutions, resolutions, resolutions.

OK, this year I will lose all those extra pounds and will exercise (My doctor is a resident of Westchase and will say, “Yeah, right.”). I’ll eat right and be a better father, husband and person, etc.

Listen to yourself when you know you are saying the right things.

I sadly need to listen better to the little voice on my shoulder, the one with the guy dressed in white, not the one in red and black.

Our community offers incredible facilities and activities. For swimming we have two half-size Olympic pools and 10 tennis courts. We offer free use of all of them and very affordable quality programs and lessons. All of this costs only $319 a year. What a bargain!

Still we have residents who decide not to pay this little amount. At the end of the first year of non-payment, you could be on the hook for over $1,000. If you have any problems paying this amount or if you have not received the bill, contact our management office and we will help you. Please don’t ignore it. 

Many Westchase Voting Members and Westchase Community Association (WCA) Directors have been asking for more strict inspections within our community. During the past year we have been increasing violations and some months we have issued between 400 and 600. Among them are dirty driveways and sidewalks, discolored mailboxes, discolored homes, dirty and/or discolored roofs, weeds, other landscape issues, and more. 

Our community is over 20-years-old and it looks incredible because we keep up our properties. If you receive a violation, it is not personal. Our management team is doing their job. If you need to talk with them and ask extra time or to tell them you already took care of it, please call the office. They are friendly and eager to help. There is no need to let it get to the Covenants Committee process to act.

Trust me. Our management team is friendly and loves to help our residents.

Have a great year!

By Joaquin Arrillaga

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Westchase Soccer Association Announces Spring Registration

Grab your cleats! Registration for Westchase Soccer Association’s Spring 2015 season will be held in January. 

Please visit http://www.westchasesoccer.org for registration information and program offerings.

WSA also offers volunteer opportunities for students who need to complete community service hours.

We anticipate Under 5, Under 6, Under 7, Under 8, Under 10 and Under 12 age groups.  Age divisions are determined by the Florida Youth Soccer Association’s (FYSA) cutoff date of July 31, 2014 (not the date programs begin).  Please refer to the Age Divisions chart on our Web site for participant eligibility. 

New and some returning participants in the U7, U8, U10 and U12 age groups must participate in a mandatory 15-minute skills assessment in February in order to complete the registration process. 

A MiniWee program will be offered to children who are 3½ to 4½ by the FYSA cutoff date of July 31, 2014 (not the date the program begins). 

An original legal birth certificate is required for all new participants and returning participants who last played prior to 2013. The participant’s original legal birth certificate must be presented during one of the open registration opportunities (and a legible photocopy must be retained on file with WSA). Parents may make arrangements for a friend or relative to register their child(ren) on their behalf; however, please refer to the instructions on our Web site to ensure the required information and waiver are provided to the individual who will be registering the child(ren).

Information regarding WSA programs is subject to change without notice; please visit our website, http://www.westchasesoccer.org for t,he most current information.

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Village Voices, January 2015: Decorations and VM Elections

The Bridges

Happy New Year! I hope that your holidays were very happy and that the new year brings you happiness, health and hope for an even better year.

Don't get a nastygram from the Westchase Community Association (WCA) for having your holiday decorations up past Jan. 15. Take them down at your first opportunity.

All homeowners should have received a yellow postcard from the WCA with your ballot for the Bridges Voting Member election by now. The return postcard/ballot is return-addressed and stamped. Please take a few minutes to sign it and drop it in the mail. If you are prepared to vote or have a write-in nomination, do it at that time, but please, please, just sign and return the ballot. If we do not have a quorum returned by mail, then we will be walking around the neighborhood asking you to sign and turn in a ballot prior to our annual meeting. You are not required to attend our annual meeting, but it is an opportunity to meet and greet your voting members and WCA staff. Usually the WCA president also attends.

Speaking of annual meeting, go ahead and mark your calendar for The Bridges Annual Meeting on Thursday, Jan. 22, at 6 p.m. at the WCA Office at 10049 Parley Dr.

Please send an e-mail to bridgesvm@gmail.com and include your home address if you would like to receive updates by e-mail or if you have any items that need my attention.

By Cynde Mercer, The Bridges VM

The Greens

Happy New Year! Here we are into another new year, 2015. Wow, the years seem to be flying by!

Have you completed and returned your 2015 voting member proxy ballot to the Westchase Community Association (WCA) office? If not, please do so today. We must have a quorum to have a completed election for the voting member of The Greens.

Are you all aware that if you lease your Westchase property out to tenants, you must advise the WCA manager, and provide a copy of the executed lease, or you may be subject to a violation and a fine? Contact the WCA manager for details.

On a final note, I propose putting together a committee of Greens residents to assess the feasibility of creating a new database of resident e-mails. Please let me know if you are interested in being part this committee.

By Gerald (Jerry) Pappa, The Greens VM

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UTB Library Programs, January 2015

FAMILY PROGRAMS

Toddler Time (Ages 2-3 with caregiver): Mon, Jan 5, 12 and 26, at 10:15 a.m.; Tue, Jan 6, 13, 20 and 27, at 10:15 a.m.; Wed, Jan 7, 14, 21 and 28, at 11 a.m.

Story Time (Ages 3-5): Tue, Jan 6, 13, 20 and 27, at 11 a.m.

Baby Time (Ages 0-18 months): Tue, Jan 6, 13, 20 and 27, at 1:15 p.m.; Wed, Jan 7, 14, 21 and 28, 1:15 p.m.

Wee Artists: Thu, Jan 8, 15, 22 and 29, at 1:15 p.m.

LEGO Block Party: Mon, Jan 12, at 3:30 p.m.

Tale Spinners Storytelling Club: Tue, Jan 13 and 27, at 4 p.m.

  • Learn about storytelling and how to choose a good story.

TEEN PROGRAMS

Teen Advisory Board: Tue, Jan 6 and 20, at 4:30 p.m.

Tokyo-a-go-go: Mon, Jan 26, at 4:30 p.m.

  • Fold origami, learn to write in kanji, participate in chopstick races, try trivia, watch anime and more.

ADULT PROGRAMS

Job Support Group: Wed, Jan 14, at 10 a.m.

Book Discussion: Thu, Jan 8, at 6:30 p.m.

  • Join us to discuss Tip and the Gipper by Chris Matthews.

Sahaja Meditation: Sat, Jan 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31, at 10:30 a.m..

Book Discussion: Mon, Jan 12, at 11 a.m.

  • Join us to discuss A Constellation of Vital Phenomena  by Marra Anthony.

Master Gardener Series: Daylilies: Wed, Jan 14, at 6:30 p.m.

  • Learn about the many varieties and how to propagate them in your garden.

Family Center on Deafness Telephone Distribution: Fri, Jan 9, at 10 a.m.

Computer Classes:   

Tech Boulevard: Tue, Jan 6, 13, 20 and 27, at 2:30 p.m.

  • Ongoing training in computer and software basics.

Microsoft Word–Tables: Tue, Jan 6, at 6:30 p.m.

Adobe Photoshop Elements–Getting Started: Tue, Jan 13, at 6:30 p.m.

Adobe Photoshop Elements–Organizing Photos: Tue, Jan 20, at 6:30 p.m.

Online Photo Editing: Tue, Jan 27, at 6:30 p.m.

LIBRARY HOURS

Sun, 12:30-5 p.m.; Mon-Wed, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Thu, noon-8 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Holiday Hours: The library is closed on Mon, Jan 19, in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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Rotarians Annual Bike Drive Jan. 10

If Santa brought you some new wheels, why not donate your old ones to a great cause this month?

On Jan. 11 the Westchase Rotary Club will be holding their Sixth Annual Charity Bike Drive benefitting God’s Pedal Power Ministry. Rotarians will be on the corner of Race Track Road and Countryway Boulevard in the Flying Fish Bikes parking lot from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. that day.

They will be collecting all used men’s, women’s and children’s bikes. God’s Pedal Power Ministry will then refurbish the bikes and give them to local children’s homes and needy adults at a local homeless ministry. Westchase Pizza will be donating a $25 gift card to everyone who donates an old bike.

Thanks to a dynamic group of local individuals, the Westchase Rotarians are helping change the lives of people globally and locally. In 2015 they will focus on growing their membership and encouraging new applicants to join their group in order to make a difference in the community. They welcome visitors every Wednesday morning at their 7:30 a.m. breakfast meeting at the Westchase Golf Club.

To find out more about their club, please visit http://www.westchaserotary.org

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By Christy Young

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Public Notice of Classic Townhomes, Traditional Townhomes and Townhomes of West Park Village Guideli

The Westchase Voting Members (VMs) will consider a request to adopt a neighborhood-specific exterior paint palette for Classic Townhomes, Traditional Townhomes and the Townhomes of West Park Village (WPV) at their Jan. 13, 2015 meeting.

As required for neighborhood-specific guideline changes in neighborhoods with sub-associations, the HOA boards of the Classics, Traditionals and Townhomes of WPV have indicated their support for the adoption of the new palette, which is based upon the Westchase community-wide master palette. The Classics, Traditionals and Townhomes of WPV neighborhood guideline must also win approval of two-thirds of the West Park Village VMs in addition to two-thirds of the VMs present in person or by written consent at two distinct VM meetings called to consider the changes. 

For a complete list of individual unit/building colors specified for body; trim; and doors and shutters, please contact the WCA manager at manager@wcamanager.com or see the WCA Web site, http://www.westchasewca.com

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By Debbie Sainz

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Nancy and Dale Sells Win WCA Good Neighbor Award

A familiar Westchase couple has been named recipients of the 2014 Nathan Lafer Award.

“I can only think of one couple that has been as generous in giving of their time and support to all things Westchase,” said Westchase Community Association (WCA) Director Kathy Carlsen, who nominated the Nancy and Dale Sells for the award, chosen at the November WCA Board meeting. “They have represented their neighborhood, served on numerous committees, and supported many events held for the benefit of not only Westchase residents, but Hillsborough County residents as well.”

The Sellses were the first residents on their Harbor Links street 19 years ago. Nancy originally began volunteering for the Westchase community as a voting member. Since then she has also served on the WCA Board as president, secretary, treasurer and the board liaison to WOW. Dale has been a member of the Modifications Committee and chair of the Documents Review Committee.  “We find it very fulfilling to volunteer,” said Nancy. “We have met many people we wouldn’t know otherwise and have formed great friendships. I would encourage all Westchase residents to become involved with our community whether it is attending a meeting or volunteering for a committee.”

“They are super people, who have given much to Westchase over the years,” said WCA Director Keith Heinemann, who also nominated the couple. “It seems especially appropriate to recognize them after this past year, with Nancy having served as Westchase's first female HOA president.” He added,  “Dale has done yeoman work on the Modifications Committee for a number of years, and chaired a vital and extensive project on our Documents Review Committee.”

“I grew up in a small town in Nebraska where you were always looking for ways to be involved,” said Dale. “It is very fulfilling to be able to volunteer. You are always learning and meeting new people.”

The Nathan Lafer Award was established in 2006 to recognize Westchase residents who are good neighbors whose volunteerism improves the Westchase community.

For more information about the award, visit the WCA Web site http://westchasewca.com/

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By Marcy Sanford

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Alonso Welcomes Principal Hart

On Jan. 5, Alonso Ravens will welcome a new school leader!

Alonso High School’s Principal Louis Diaz retired in November and we thank him for his tireless commitment to the school and its students and wish him the best of luck in his retirement! Ken Hart will take the position of principal when the students return from Winter Break. We welcome him to Alonso High School and look forward to a continued relationship with Alonso High School and Mr. Hart. For more on Mr. Hart, please see page 16.

Alonso’s programming season for the 2015-2016 school year has begun. This is the time when students have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with their guidance counselor to discuss their plans for future courses of study. It is imperative that you look over the programming sheet that your student brings home and double check the electives your student has chosen to ensure that you approve of his or her choices. There will be no schedule changes due to the Florida Class Size Amendment and the school’s inability to adjust teacher units.

Please keep in mind that, though a student may mark an elective as his or her tenth choice, the student may very well end up in that class. Furthermore, please engage in a conversation with your student regarding Advanced Placement courses, their rigorous course content, and their required time commitment beyond the normal school day. Too often students bite off more than they can chew with Advanced Placement classes. Alonso wants your student to be successful in every course in which they enroll. Remind them that signing up for Advanced Placement courses is about quality not quantity.

Should you have any questions regarding programming or courses offered in the 2015-2016 school year, please visit the school’s Web site at http://alonso.mysdhc.org and look under the Forms and Docs section to download the Curriculum Guide.

The next Booster Club/PTSA/SAC meeting will be held on Jan. 14 at 5:30 p.m. in the Media Center.

Go, Ravens!

JANUARY

6 G/B Basketball @ Freedom
7 G/B Basketball vs. Bloomingdale
9 Wrestling @ Manatee
9 G/B Basketball vs. Wharton
9 Cheer @ RHS
9 G/B Soccer @ Middleton
10 Saturday Success Academy, 11 a.m.
12-16  Girls Soccer Districts @ Steinbrenner
13-16 Exams
16 End of Second Quarter
16 G/B Basketball vs. Riverview
16 Boys Soccer vs. Leto
19 No School
20-23 Boys Soccer Districts @ East Lake
21 G/B Basketball @ Jefferson
22 Orchestra All County Rehearsal
23 Reg Cheer @ Plant City
23 G/B Basketball vs. Sickles
23-24  All County Orchestra
24 Wrestling Divisionals
26 Boys Basketball vs. Blake
27 Boys Basketball @ HHS
27-30  Girls District Basketball Tournament
29-31  State Cheer @ Kissimmee
31 Wrestling @ Steinbrenner
31 Saturday Success Academy, 9 a.m.

Visit the school’s website (http://alonso.mysdhc.org/) for more information. For a complete Alonso events calendar, visit http://alonso.mysdhc.org/

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By Belinda Krauss

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Westchase Food Truck Rally Jan 30

Westchase, loosen your belts!

The community’s next Food Truck Rally is Friday, Jan. 30, from 5-8 P.M. in the front parking lot of Westchase Elementary School.

Westchase resident and Robinson High School student Brett Steinfeld has organized the rally to raise money for his school's debate club. Many Westchase high schoolers attend Robinson’s International Baccalaureate Program. A variety of trucks are scheduled to attend, including trucks serving Mexican and Japanese food, cheesesteaks, barbecue and cupcakes. There will be something for everyone in the family! Please come out with the whole family and enjoy great food while helping local high school students attend their state debate conference this spring!

By Debbie Steinfeld

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Meet Copper!

Copper is a 5-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback and resident of The Bridges. Copper belongs to the Pydeski family. He loves to be chased, play with other dogs, and sunbathe.

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Holiday Decorating Contest Winners Glow

Westchase was certainly all aglow as competition for the 2014 Holiday Decorating Contest took place in December.

Topping the list are two newcomers to the winners’ circle, although their displays looked like veteran contest competitors. According to one judge, the top winners were all within a few points of one another. Scoring was based on four criteria: theme and design, creativity, effort and overall appeal.

West Park Village resident Debbie Chiaramonte took first place honors with her home at 10105 Parley Dr. The gingerbread and candy-themed décor is something she always wanted to do. “This year, we made it happen,” she said. Daughter Marissa Wilkins helped create the delectable display featuring giant lollipops, gumdrops, multicolored candies and gingerbread men.

Second place went to Bridges resident David Rojas, Jr., of 9946 Stockbridge Dr. His patriotic theme captured the eyes and hearts of this year’s judges. The Rojas display featured American flags, a camouflage clad Santa and a wish list for the patriots serving our country. With relatives serving in the military, Rojas said the sacrifices they made inspired him to honor current and past military personnel. “It’s a tribute to the troops,” he stated of his elaborate display.

Third place winners, Philip and Maria DeCampos of The Fords, are no strangers to the victory circle. With too many previous top three wins to count, Philip continues to take to the roof with lights and decorations that certainly set his house apart from any on his street. The newest addition to the multitude of inflatables at 10740 Tavistock Drive is a 15-foot Santa on a sleigh. “He is really, really tall,” DeCampos chuckled.

The DeCampos display also features a mailbox exclusively designated for letters to Santa, which are quick to receive a timely response.

Best Neighborhood award went to Bennington’s Talbot Place. “Believe in the magic of Christmas,” was the theme for this year’s winning assortment of holiday displays, appearing in each lawn along the street. The main orchestrator of the decorating effort is Charlotte Birck. “We call her Number One Elf,” said neighbor Amy McDermott.

Another neighbor, Mike Ingraham, is referred to as Number Two Elf as he had a big part in pulling it all together as well. “It has been a wonderful tradition that gives us much joy and sore muscles,” McDermott said. She added that her neighbors plan to donate the prize money awarded for a block party to the Wounded Warriors Foundation.

Congratulations to all our 2014 Holiday Decorating Contest winners! Thank you for making Westchase merry and bright!

Honorable Mentions

12102 Marblehead Dr.
12014 Wandsworth Dr.
10451 Green Links Dr.
11926 Derbyshire Dr. (Star Wars Theme)
10719 Ayrshire Dr.
10205 Talbot Pl.
12213 Glencliff Cir.
10448 Greendale Dr.

Other Notable Neighborhoods

Brentford
The Estates
The Shires
Seymour Way in West Park Village

By Lisa Stephens

COMMENTS

By William Burroughs on Thursday, December 18, 2014 @ 10:33am

The 9946 address does not exist in the Shires.  I believe this was our house since we are the only ones with a Star Wars Theme?  11926 Derbyshire Dr.

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From the President, January 2015: Resolutions, Assessments and Violations

Resolutions, resolutions, resolutions.

OK, this year I will lose all those extra pounds and will exercise (My doctor is a resident of Westchase and will say, “Yeah, right.”). I’ll eat right and be a better father, husband and person, etc.

Listen to yourself when you know you are saying the right things.

I sadly need to listen better to the little voice on my shoulder, the one with the guy dressed in white, not the one in red and black.

Our community offers incredible facilities and activities. For swimming we have two half-size Olympic pools and 10 tennis courts. We offer free use of all of them and very affordable quality programs and lessons. All of this costs only $319 a year. What a bargain!

Still we have residents who decide not to pay this little amount. At the end of the first year of non-payment, you could be on the hook for over $1,000. If you have any problems paying this amount or if you have not received the bill, contact our management office and we will help you. Please don’t ignore it. 

Many Westchase Voting Members and Westchase Community Association (WCA) Directors have been asking for more strict inspections within our community. During the past year we have been increasing violations and some months we have issued between 400 and 600. Among them are dirty driveways and sidewalks, discolored mailboxes, discolored homes, dirty and/or discolored roofs, weeds, other landscape issues, and more. 

Our community is over 20-years-old and it looks incredible because we keep up our properties. If you receive a violation, it is not personal. Our management team is doing their job. If you need to talk with them and ask extra time or to tell them you already took care of it, please call the office. They are friendly and eager to help. There is no need to let it get to the Covenants Committee process to act.

Trust me. Our management team is friendly and loves to help our residents.

Have a great year!

By Joaquin Arrillaga

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WCA’s Dec. 12 Movie in The Park is Prancer

On Friday, Dec. 12, Westchase’s free family movies in the park return! Bring chairs, blankets and snacks to the West Park Village Town Center Green on Montague Street. The movies begin at dusk (Don’t forget your insect repellant!). December’s movie is Prancer (G).

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Who Wants to Track Santa on Saturday?

This Saturday, Dec. 13, Santa returns to Westchase in Santa’s Pre-Flight Parade. Details of the parade and Santa’s route are contained in this month’s WOW. This year residents who wish to track Santa throughout the day can do so quite easily…

While the hardcopy WOW encourages residents to send a text with their phone numbers to parade organizers to receive a link, organizers subsequently developed an easier way to track your favorite elf. Simply save the following link to your phone or your computer and click on it at noon on Saturday, Dec. 13: http://glympse.com/!westchasesanta

Residents are encouraged to share the link with their neighbors. While you are encouraged to click on the link at noon, the cursor marking Santa’s whereabouts won’t become active until roughly 2 p.m., the parade’s official start time.

The parade is annually organized by the Westchase Charitable Foundation, a volunteer organization of Westchase residents who work to improve the quality of life in the community by raising funds to assist families with seriously ill children and families faced with tragedies. WOW is the parade’s presenting sponsor and underwrites the major costs for the event.

Residents who come out to greet Santa’s parade are asked to bring at least one unwrapped gift. They will be given to Michelle’s Kids, which helps less fortunate children to have a wonderful Christmas.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Greens Residents Flock to CDD Meeting to Keep Manned Gatehouse

The Dec. 2 meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) saw dozens of Greens residents in attendance to express support for keeping their gatehouse manned around the clock.

More than 40 squeezed into the foyer and meeting room of the Westchase Community Association’s Parley Drive offices, where the meeting was held. More stood outside the door.

All appeared after a call to action from Greens VM Jerry Pappa, who informed Greens residents that the CDD rejected his poll results on the gatehouse and had required residents to attend the meeting to weigh in. [See related story below.]

CDD Mark Ragusa began the meeting by addressing some misconceptions.

Faced with an increase of 87 cents an hour to provide health insurance coverage to gatehouse employees from Securitas, The Greens security company, CDD supervisors decided in November to weigh if Greens homeowners preferred paying the increase in order to maintain existing coverage by current employees. An additional option, pitched by Securitas, would have lowered costs by trimming 32 hours of manned coverage. That approach would have eliminated the eight-hour overnight shifts Sundays through Wednesdays and added a tele-entry system to remotely handle visitors. The CDD Board asked WOW to run an article in November announcing the options and requesting Greens residents communicate their preferences to supervisors.

Pappa subsequently polled his residents in an e-mail that offered the two options. He later reported to CDD supervisors that poll results showed overwhelming Greens support for maintaining a fully manned gatehouse.

“I have received probably 60 e-mails and received five or six phone calls on the issue,” said Ragusa.

The chair began by discussing his inability, under the Florida Sunshine Law, to communicate about the issue with other supervisors outside of publicly noticed meetings. “This is not a homeowners association.”

Ragusa, echoed by Supervisor Bob Argus, also emphasized that the remote coverage option was not a plan hatched by supervisors but an option presented by Securitas.

“It is my suggestion, based on resident input…that there is no interest in going forward with the Securitas unmanned proposal,” Ragusa said. He added, “What we needed to improve upon is the way we communicated with the community.”

Ragusa noted that in recent years the district had passed a number of different budgets and made some significant purchases. “This was the one issue that drew the most notice and input.” He said of the gatehouse issue. “You guys responded in droves. You were really passionate.”

Ragusa also stated the increase, according to Securitas, was needed to insure they kept full-time guards at the gate rather than rely on part-timers with higher turnover. “I’ve been extremely impressed with the people in that guard gate,” he stated, “that’s what I heard from people.”

The increase, Severn Trent’s Alan Baldwin stated, would likely be about $14-15 annually per Greens home. It comes with a two year price guarantee. Severn Trent is the CDD’s management company.

Ragusa added, however, that coverage of the matter had prompted a Westchase resident who is working for GS4, another security company, to offer a cheaper proposal to man the Greens gatehouse around the clock. “That proposal is roughly $1,135 less than our current budget.”

When a Greens resident inquired how the service of the new company would differ from the current one, Ragusa responded, “I don’t know.”

Speaking, Pappa stated while he thought the district’s decision to keep the gatehouse manned overnight was great, he offered a caveat and encouraged consideration of the GS4 proposal. “I believe the competition is good.” Pappa also took issue with Ragusa’s calculated savings. “There is an annual savings of $9,000.”

CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney stated he only recently received the proposal while he was on vacation and Baldwin had not yet had the chance to run a financial analysis to determine cost differences accurately.

Ragusa added, “I’m hearing people are willing to pay 87 cents more to keep the current vendor.”

Chesney suggested the board accept Securitas’ proposed increase and then consider the alternate bid once it had been properly reviewed.

Stating there was obviously a lot of miscommunication on the matter, Village Green Michael Turnbull stated, “It is worth a cup of coffee or two to be safe.” He added, “We know our guards. They know us.”

Turnbull concluded, “We want to see the savings. But absolutely – safety first.”

The Greens crowd broke into applause.

After other comments, supervisors voted unanimously to accept the Securitas increase and keep the gatehouse manned overnight. Ragusa concluded the matter with a commitment about future gatehouse security business. “The residents will be given the opportunity to weigh in on whether it should be bid out.”

Closing major action, supervisors voted unanimously to finalize a contract with Stantec Senior Project Manager Neale Stralow to compile a parks master plan and a proposal for bringing Baybridge and Glencliff Parks’ playgrounds into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The design work, to be completed within 90 days, was set not to exceed $19,500.

In other matters:

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy Kris Gundersen, who supervises the district’s off-duty deputy patrol, spoke briefly with supervisors about a deputy who recently told Glencliff residents that she did not have the power to enforce park rules when a group of park visitors became noisy and played amplified, offensive music. Under the the district agreement with the HCSO, however, deputies do have enforcement powers. “I apologize for that,” said Gundersen. “That shouldn’t have happened.”

Gundersen said he would communicate with deputies about the matter and CDD Attorney Erin Larrinaga committed to continuing her discussions with the HCSO’s legal team.

Supervisors heard from a Greenpointe resident about damage a broken street sewer was doing to his driveway apron. In The Greens, a gated community, the CDD owns the right of way and storm-water system. The right of way includes the sidewalks in front of residents’ homes and their driveway aprons. The Greenpointe resident, however, expressed concern that the district’s repair of the storm sewer and driveway apron would cause the newer concrete not to match the rest of the driveway. He asked for the district’s cooperation in ensuring aesthetic continuity. Supervisors requested he return in January with a formal proposal.

Following November’s general election, supervisors reconstituted their officers, again unanimously naming Ragusa the district chair and Chesney the vice chair.

Supervisors voted 4-1 to award their annual year-end holiday staff bonuses, set by a formula determined by the length of their employment. Chesney was the sole vote against, stating he felt the field maintenance staff should receive a larger bonus than proposed and Field Manager Doug Mays and Office Administrator Sonny Whyte a lower one.

Supervisors took no action on a staff proposal to pay a holiday decorating company to light the four large palm trees adjacent to the West Park Village bell tower. After Greens resident Mary Young suggested supervisors explore recognizing other holidays in their decorating, Ragusa requested that staff discuss the idea with the company they hire to erect the district’s current decorations.

Field Supervisor Doug Mays committed to following up with the Westchase Golf Course regarding damage to an entrance monument and stop sign, which went missing following a recent accident at the course’s entrance.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Misunderstanding or Miscommunication?

It was the largest showing of agitated residents at a community meeting in recent memory.

And it left Westchase Community Development District Supervisors (CDD) scratching their heads.

The Dec. 2 meeting of the Westchase CDD, held in the small community meeting room in the Westchase Community Association’s (WCA) offices on Parley Drive, filled to overflowing by 4 p.m. While at least 40 Greens residents could be seen and counted in the meeting room and building entrance, more stood outside the door. Many had left work early to attend, some even bringing children along.

They were rallied by Greens Voting Member Gerald (Jerry) Pappa, who sent a number of e-mails to Greens homeowners describing a proposal to possibly change security coverage at the Greens gatehouse. Faced with an increase of 87 cents an hour to provide health insurance coverage to gatehouse employees from Securitas, CDD supervisors wished to weigh if Greens homeowners preferred paying the increase in order to maintain existing coverage by current employees. An additional option, pitched by Securitas, would have lowered costs by trimming 32 hours of manned coverage. That approach would have eliminated the eight-hour overnight shifts Sundays through Wednesdays and added a tele-entry system to remotely handle visitors. The CDD Board asked WOW to run an article announcing the options and requesting Greens residents communicate their preferences to supervisors.

Pappa subsequently polled his residents in an e-mail that offered two options. One option: “Do you want to keep the Greens Gatehouse manned 24/7 [at] a proposed  increased cost that will be assessed in your 2015 tax assessments by roughly $18.10 per year per household?” (Pappa’s estimate of $18.10 was taken from WOW’s article; the CDD clarified at the Dec. 2 meeting that the actual cost would probably be just under $15 per home annually.)

Pappa’s second option was, “Or do you want to eliminate having the Greens Gatehouse manned 24/7, i.e., Sunday through Wednesdays, thus reducing the cost by roughly $40.80 per year per household.”

Pappa later reported to CDD supervisors that of the 182 residents responding to his e-mail poll, all but three voted to keep the gatehouse fully manned around the clock.

When Pappa shared the poll with CDD Chair Ragusa, Ragusa offered his thanks via e-mail and added about the poll questions, “What I did not see is a detailed explanation for what hours would not be covered by a manned guardhouse.  As you know, the proposal is to eliminate the third shift on Sunday through Wednesday evenings.  These eight (8) hour shifts run from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.  Your second question is not clear and I wonder if the exact hours would make a difference.” 

Pappa responded, “The residents want the gatehouse manned 24/7 at the proposed added cost, period…no ands or ifs about it…WE have the heartbeat of this community, and they want no disruption to 24/7 manned service.” He concluded, “If you intend on doing anything but maintaining 24/7 manned service in the Greens Gatehouse, I want to know ASAP.”

“Again, thank you for your input,” Ragusa responded. “I do not know what the supervisors are going to do at the December meeting.  I am sure they will hear lots of input from residents.  You are welcome and encouraged to attend and participate in the resident input portion of the discussion.”

The Westchase CDD is an independent, quasi-governmental agency that is not part of the Westchase Community Association (WCA). Under Florida Sunshine Law, supervisors may not discuss any matters under consideration among themselves outside of a publicly noticed meeting. Thus, the earliest CDD supervisors could discuss or collectively consider Greens’ residents input was at the Dec. 2 meeting.

Five hours after Ragusa’s e-mail, Pappa sent an e-mail to his Greens e-mail distribution list. “I have some very disturbing news to report to each and every homeowner living in both The Greens and Village Green. After the Voting Member of The Village Green and I conducted a very extensive survey with regards to whether our residents want to maintain staffing The Greens Gatehouse 24/7 with security guards, and subsequently reported the results of the survey to The CDD today, I was told by The CDD that they will not accept our survey as the direction that the residents of The Village Green and The Greens want to take.”

Pappa continued, “While they requested the survey for direction, and we complied, they now feel it necessary to inconvenience and insult homeowners of both the Greens and Village Green by requesting attendance at their Tuesday December 2, 2014 meeting.”

Pappa closed by encouraging all residents to attend the meeting.

CDD supervisors were taken by surprise by the subsequent deluge of e-mails from Greens residents asking why they had to take time off from work to attend the meeting, beginning at 4 p.m., rather than letting them weigh in via poll or e-mail.

At the Dec. 2 session, CDD supervisors voted unanimously to keep the Greens gatehouse manned around the clock.

When contacted by WOW, all five supervisors stated they had not told anyone they would not respect the Greens’ poll results. They also stated they had never insisted residents had to attend the meeting to be heard. Supervisors Bob Argus, Brian Ross and Brian Zeigler stated Pappa had not discussed the matter with them at all by e-mail or phone.

Providing the string of e-mail messages he had exchanged with Pappa, Ragusa stated via e-mail, “This Supervisor never told the VM that the poll results were unacceptable to the CDD. This Supervisor merely asked what information was conveyed and what question(s) was asked to gauge the results.  I wanted to make sure the results were based on accurate information. I also wanted to see if both issues were presented to the residents.”

When WOW asked Pappa what exchange led him to draw the conclusions that CDD supervisors had rejected his poll and were instead insisting residents attend the meeting to  weigh in, he responded, “This is all water under the bridge, and it stems from Mark not keeping in touch with [Village Green VM Bobbi Pitcher] and I….We believe the residents of both the Village Green and the Greens have made their intentions known clearly.”

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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County Administrator Visits Westchase Dec. 4 to Talk Transportation

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill will appear at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center on Thursday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. to discuss the county’s new approach to addressing its long-term transportation needs. Merrill will address the topic “Transportation for Economic Development Comprehensive Mobility Proposal Initiative.” All residents are invited to attend to share their questions and comments. For further information contact Government Affairs Committee Chair Joe Odda at joeodda@hotmail.com or 391-5706.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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“Virtual Library” a Fantastic Alternative to Google for Research

If your children resemble mine, when given a research assignment, their first response is to type their subjects into Google’s search bar.

Then they begin aimlessly scrolling through hundreds of Web sites and randomly clicking on them to obtain the facts needed for their research paper. Not every Web site is the best source of information for our K-12 students, however, and some sites are even laden with harmful malware.

Hillsborough County Public Schools offers a much better alternative to the Google search – the Virtual Library! The Virtual Library is free for every student in Hillsborough County. You can access several Gale Databases, and World Book Online, where you will discover thousands of reliable, credible, and current academic journal articles, videos, news reports, and numerous age-appropriate Web site links on unlimited subjects. This is a safe place for students to search for research topic information on the Web and it is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In addition to the Gale databases and World Book, you also have access to two online libraries, which include MyOn and Axis 360. Many students used MyOn in elementary school, but there are hundreds of eBooks on the middle school level as well. Axis 360 is truly a “virtual library,” where students can check out their favorite titles to read on their own personal mobile devices any time of day for free! EBooks can be checked out for two weeks at a time, and they will automatically be removed from their device at the end of their checkout period. Please click on the Axis 360 directions button on any virtual library page for setup directions. To access one of the virtual library collections go to: http://www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/doc/list/library-media-services/resources/69-266/ or access the Davidsen Middle School homepage and click on the Media Center tab to locate the Virtual Library link.

Give the Virtual Library a try. Remember that it is always free, safe and available. For information on usernames and passwords, please contact Mrs. Supple at Davidsen Middle School’s Media Center.

By Merle Supple, Media Specialist, Davidsen Middle School

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Programs at the UTB Library, December 2014

FAMILY PROGRAMS

Toddler Time (Ages 2-3 with caregiver): Mon, Dec 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29, at 10:15 a.m.; Tue, Dec 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, at 10:15 a.m.; Wed, Dec 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31, at 11 a.m.

Story Time (Ages 3-5): Tue, Dec 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, at 11 a.m.

Baby Time (Ages 0-18 months): Tue, Dec 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, at 1:15 p.m.; Wed, Dec 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31at 1:15 p.m.

Wee Artists: Thu, Dec 4, 11 and 18, at 1:15 p.m.

Silly Sam the Music Man: Sat, Dec 6, at 2:30 p.m.

  • Dance, sing and play to holiday songs.

LEGO Block Party: Mon, Dec 15, at 3:30 p.m.

Winter Tales: Wed, Dec 17, at 3:30 p.m.

  • Join us for a puppet show telling three stories.

CoderDojo: Teaching Kids to Code: Sat, Dec 27, at 11:30 a.m.

TEEN PROGRAMS

Teen Advisory Board: Tue, Dec 2 and 16, at 4:30 p.m.

ADULT PROGRAMS

Job Support Group: Tue, Dec 2, at 10:30 a.m.

Book Discussion: Thu, Dec 4, at 6:30 p.m.

  • Join us to discuss A Curious Man by Neal Thompson.

Tai Chi with Bonnie Birdsall: Thu, Dec 4 and 11, at 1:30 p.m.

Sahaja Meditation: Sat, Dec 6, 13, 20 and 27, at 10:30 a.m.

UTB Library Art Gallery Opening: Thu, Dec 11, at 6 p.m.

  • Join us for the opening of the library’s new art gallery, featuring work of local artists. Funding for the gallery was provided by WOW.

Book Discussion: Mon, Dec 15, at 11 a.m.

  • Join us to discuss The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

Family Center on Deafness Telephone Distribution: Fri, Dec 12, at 10 a.m.

Computer Classes:   

Tech Boulevard: Tue, Dec 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, at 2:30 p.m.

  • Ongoing training in computer and software basics.

Microsoft Excel–Introduction: Tue, Dec 2, at 6:30 p.m.

Microsoft Excel–Basic Calculations: Tue, Dec 9, at 6:30 p.m.

Facebook: Tue, Dec 16, at 6:30 p.m.

Computer Tutor: Tue, Dec 30, at 6:30 p.m.

LIBRARY HOURS

Sun, 12:30-5 p.m.; Mon-Wed, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Thu, noon-8 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Holiday Hours: The library is closed on Thu and Fri, Dec. 25-26, in observance of Christmas and Jan. 1 in observance of New Year’s Day. The library will close at 6 p.m. on Mon-Wed, Dec. 22-24, and Wed, Dec. 31.

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WOW Events Calendar, December 2014

Check out these free (or nearly free) events for December.

TAMPA’S DOWNTOWN ON ICE
Date: Daily through Jan. 4
Time: see Web site for rink hours
Price: $10 per person (includes skates)
Location: Curtis Hixon Park, Tampa
For more information: http://www.tampasdowntownonice.com/
Ages: All

Who says Floridians can’t enjoy a little winter fun, too? Head to Curtis Hixon Park and enjoy outdoor skating in the park! Admission cost covers a 90-minute skating session and skate rental.

HOLIDAYS AT THE VILLAGE
Date: Wednesdays through Sundays, through Jan. 4
Time: Wednesdays to Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday, 1-4 p.m.
Location: Heritage Village, Largo
Price: Free
For more information: http://www.pinellascounty.org/Heritage
Ages: All

Share the holiday season at Pinellas County’s Heritage Village, enchanting visitors to this 21-acre living history museum. Historical houses will be decorated true to their time period, locality and lifestyle, from an elaborately decorated Victorian home to a simply adorned 1852 log cabin.  

HOLIDAY CLASSIC MOVIE SERIES
Date: Friday through Sunday, through Dec. 28
Time: See Web site for show times
Location: Tampa Theatre, Downtown Tampa
Price: $10, $8 members/children
For more information: http://tampatheatre.org/
Ages: All

During the month of December, enjoy select holiday classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” with special pre-show festivities.

HARBOR ART & SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
Date: Sat, Dec. 6 and Sun, Dec. 7
Time: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (until 4 p.m. Sun.)
Location: Florida Ave., Downtown Palm Harbor
Price: $3 per person or 2 for $5; Children 12 and under Free
For more information: http://www.palmharborcc.org
Ages: All

There is something for everyone at this Fine Art Festival. Enjoy a food from local vendors and musical performances while taking in the Juried Art Show. There will also be activities to keep the little ones entertained.

WINTER BLAST
Date: Saturday, Dec. 6
Time: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Location: 6001 Webb Rd., Tampa
Price: Free
Ages: All ages

Bring the family and “chill out” at this winter wonderland festival hosted by Tampa Community Hospital. The festival will feature ice sculptures, snow and sledding, animated characters, food, music, fun and games. The public is invited to come and meet the staff, which plans to offer a warm welcome at this chilly event.

WESTCHASE SUNDAY MORNING MARKET
Date: Sundays, Dec. 7-28
Time: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Price: Free admission
Location: Westchase Town Center
Ages: All

Stock up on all of your favorite organic produce, cheese and baked goods at this weekly market. The road will be blocked off between Tijuana Flats and Burger 21 to make way for up to 40 vendors. In addition to food, there will also be handmade soaps, all natural pet snacks and allergen-free cosmetics.

MOVIES IN THE PARK
Date: Fri, Dec. 12
Time: Dusk
Price: Free
Location: West Park Village Town Center Green on Montague Street
For more information: http://westchasewca.com/
Ages: All

Westchase’s free family movies in the park continue. Movies start at sundown. Bring chairs and blankets and settle in for a great movie night. December’s movie will be Prancer.

HONEYMOON ISLAND WALK
Date: Sat, Dec. 20
Time: 11 a.m.
Location: Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin
Price: Free (walk); $8 per carload up to 8 people, $4 one person in car, $2 walking (park entry).
For more information: (727) 469-5942
Ages: All

Explore all of the beauty of Honeymoon Island’s trails and beach areas while being led by a park ranger.

TEDDY BEAR ROUND UP
Date: Fri, Dec. 26
Time: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Location: Museum of Science and Industry, Tampa
Price: Free children’s admission with Teddy Bear donation
For more information: http://www.mosi.org
Ages: All

Bring a new Teddy Bear to MOSI to donate to the Rough Riders and get one free children's admission free.

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Lowry Elementary to present Holiday Heroes

This year Lowry Leopards are working on being heroes in their school and community. 

Lowry’s Winter Concert, Holiday Heroes, was written by Michael and Jill Gallina and explores how children can make a difference in other’s lives. Encouraged by “real” cartoon superheroes, the children discover that music is the way to share joy, embrace differences and give to those who need it most. In addition to the 175-member chorus, Lowry’s winter concert showcases Lowry Orff Ensemble, Lowry Drum Corps and the newly created Lowry World Drumming Group. Join us for the concert on Wednesday, Dec. 3, at Sickles High School, where there are sure to be some heartwarming surprises.  The show starts at 7 p.m.

If you are not familiar with the music programs at Lowry Elementary School, take a look at what we offer! Spotlight Singers and Little Leopards chorus for Grades 2-5 provide students opportunities for singing and dancing, acting, small groups and solos. Our choral students have been chosen for the prestigious All State Chorus every year for the past eleven years. Students at All State are conducted by world-renowned composer/directors and perform before thousands at the Tampa Convention Center during the Florida Music Educators Conference each January.

We participate in the Hillsborough County Fine Arts Festival for chorus and Orff,  held each spring at the Straz Center’s Morsani Hall. Lowry boasts one of the few elementary drum lines in Hillsborough County elementary schools.  Our music teachers, Jia Leikensohn and Lorri Naylor, are both Little Kids Rock or LKR-trained teachers and offer the hugely popular rock and roll and modern band groups.  Students do not have to be in an ensemble to take advantage of these great musical opportunities because drums, Orff instruments (xylophones and metallophones), guitars, bass guitars, singing, dancing  and acting are all part of what we do each day in the Lowry music program.

Don’t miss the fun in the snow when we perform at Chick-fil-A, located at Waters Avenue and the Veterans Expressway, on Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m.

By Lorri Naylor

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Ready… Set… Shop!

Are YOU coming to the Westchase Holiday Market?

The fifth annual Westchase Holiday Market will be held on Sunday, Dec. 7, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Westchase Golf Club. All net proceeds from the event, along with ticket sales from special raffles, will be donated directly to Autism Speaks.

Last year’s market raised over $2,000 for this great charity.  Raffles this year will include incredible prizes from members of the Westchase Artists Society, as well as generous donations from Catch 23, RocketFizz, Ybor City Food Tours, Publix, and the Westchase Golf Club, to name a few!  We offer our special thanks to our Gold Sponsor, Anne Hart and Toni Cason of Florida Executive Realty.

This year’s event promises to be exciting for all ages!  Santa will arrive to hear wish lists and pose for pictures from noon until 3 p.m.  A “Best of Show” juried prize will be judged and awarded.  Artist demonstrations will take place and you can grab a tasty bite from the grill at the beautiful Westchase Golf Club while listening to fabulous holiday music! Face painters will also be on hand from 1-4 p.m.

Let’s not forget the shopping!  You’re sure to find the perfect gift to complete your holiday list. Original paintings, photography, ceramics, jewelry and sculpture, along with handmade craft items such as cork work, crochet, glassware and woodworking are among the many types of artwork that you can expect to find.  

Join us as we ring in the holiday season!

By Teresa Trubilla

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A Westchase Icon Sees Renaissance at Open House

The former Westchase Welcome Center – now the Ross Building – saw an Oct. 17 Open House that revealed its extensive renovations.

Ten months ago, in Oct. 2013, the proud building, featuring an impressive portico and Georgian architecture, had reached its nadir. Abandoned, badly neglected and rattling through foreclosure, the building was stained from leaks, crumbling from wood rot, and overgrown with invasive Brazilian pepper trees. 

The building, located at 10311 Radcliffe Drive, formerly served as the Westchase Welcome Center. In the 1990s it was often the first stop for buyers that became Westchase’s original homeowners. When the WCA balked at the purchase price asked for it by Westchase’s developer more than a decade ago, the building was purchased by a Realtor.

After tracking the 2,250 square foot building through bank repossession for two years, West Park Village residents Brian and Wendy Ross snapped up the former Welcome Center in foreclosure on Dec. 20, 2013. Brian Ross, a lawyer who serves on the Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board of Directors and the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) and Wendy Ross, a Realtor with Florida Executive Realty, have called Westchase home since 2001. They immediately began to rehabilitate the property, cutting back the overgrowth, cleaning up the lot, replacing its leaking tile roof, shattered by errant golf balls, with less susceptible asphalt shingles.  The interior also saw major work and the impressive but badly damaged windows overlooking the Westchase golf course were replaced.

“We definitely spent six figures repairing the building,” observed Wendy Ross. “I think it turned out great. We’re pleased with the outcome, that’s for sure.”

The West Park couple soon announced that the structure, renamed the Ross Building, would serve as the fifth branch of Florida Executive Realty brokerage and Wendy Ross’ real estate office.

“The overall concept for the building was not just to have a business there but to be part of the community,” explained Ross. “I am most excited about restoring a piece of Westchase history. And making it into a thriving business in the community.”

On Oct. 17, Ross and Florida Executive Realty owner Doug Loyd, threw open the doors for an Open House. Visitors were impressed with the extensive work, which restored the former Westchase Welcome Center to its previous beauty.

“The Westchase opportunity reminded me of where we started in 1992 in Tampa Palms, where we occupied the original welcome center,” commented Loyd on his newest brokerage. “We played an integral role in Tampa Palms and we hope to do the same in Westchase.”

Ross is a full-time agent and shareholder in the new Westchase office.

Loyd added, “Like Tampa Palms, Westchase is a great place to live work and play and we’re very happy to be a permanent part of the community.”

“The building was integral to the start of Westchase,” said Loyd. “I think it’s been restored to its full function and beauty and we invite the local Westchase community to stop by and visit.”

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Ulele: Delicious Hometown Pride

Enter a magical world of Ulele, the true American Indian princess behind the Pocahontas story.

The Gonzmart family, Tampa restaurant royalty, has used their funds, political clout and unabashed love for the city to create an innovative restaurant that celebrates our roots.

During our recent visit to Ule, Tampa’s most heralded new restaurant, our eager beaver servers were completely knowledgeable about the building’s renovation and Ulele’s menu. So happy were they to share information they seemed like Disney cast members. Inside, the restaurant’s brick, loft-like space was scattered with interesting iron sculptures from local artists. It’s a little loud and chattery, but the energy of the diners comes from finally have scored a reservation – a hot commodity.

Due to some unforeseen but fortunate circumstances, we arrived 45 minutes early for our reservation. Sliding up to an earlier time slot was an impossibility, so we were ushered to the outside beer garden on the restaurant’s far side. We witnessed a spectacular Tampa sunset, complete with wedding party photos along the river. The adjacent natural spring, which flows into the Hillsborough River, has been lovingly restored. The place gives off a positive urban vibe, with a small water splash park and amphitheater next door. A bike tour of twenty-somethings pulled up, sampled the craft beers brewed on site, and enjoyed the mellow atmosphere. The beer garden also includes chic roof seating, but no food service is yet available.

Our dinner was a celebration of our native Florida bounty, and we tried as many of Ulele’s interesting sides as we could. We started with a small appetizer, the Oyster Cabbage Boats, citrus-glazed oysters from the Gulf of Mexico. Next, we moved on to Florida Jumpers, crispy fried frog legs in sherry garlic aioli, which brought me back to past trips to the Seminole reservation. The Okra Fries, tossed in lime juice, were very tart, and might appeal more to okra lovers like myself. Match up the Native Florida Chili with alligator, wild boar, venison, duck and ground chuck with a Jalapeño Cheddar Grit Cake for a hearty winter meal. Last but not least, the decadent Mac and Cheese came topped with generous amounts of lump crab meat.

The center of the open kitchen is a giant ten-foot barbacoa grill on which most of the meats are prepared. Watching the giant, 2.2 pound kilo Porterhouse being grilled was like watching a meat inferno. The shrimp, scallops, crab and lobster in my Seafood Special had a lovely smoky taste from the grill, which paired well with its tomato saffron bed.

Growing up on guava pastries, I had to try Fortune Taylor’s Guava Pie for dessert. With its shortbread cookie crust, whipped cream and guava reduction, it did not disappoint. Next time I am definitely trying the Candied Duck Bacon Maple Fried Ice Cream, which sounds decadent.

Five different beers are brewed on premises. The Magbees Honey Lager, produced with locally sourced Florida honey, was smooth and featured a malty base. Three others, Ulele Light, Water Works Pale, and Rusty’s Red, will please any hop-head. There is also a Wedding Beer, a cold-brewed fruit lager. A wide variety of wines and craft [vulgarity] are also available.

With our day-to-day prepackaged lives, it’s easy to overlook the sheer variety of native culinary items Tampa Bay has to offer. Visiting Ulele, I felt the same level of pride about my hometown as when I visited the Tampa Bay History Center.

Come out and experience the local foods our local Native Americans and settlers experienced. It’s magical.

Ulele
1810 North Highland Ave.
Tampa, FL 33602
999-4952
Hours: Sun-Thu, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 11a.m.-11 p.m.

By Jill Chesney

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Westchase’s Popular Helper Elf

As the holiday season rolls into December, Brentford resident Steve Darr anxiously awaits two events Westchase residents have come to love.

The events are the Westchase Charitable Foundation’s Santa’s PreFlight Parade and WOW’s Holiday Lighting contest. At the ripe old age of 10, Darr took on the honor of being responsible for his family’s holiday lights. And while Darr isn’t always easily recognized among the crowd of volunteers upon the fire truck, the Westchase Santa parade wouldn’t be the same without him.

Originally from St. Louis, Darr enjoyed an active childhood. As a wrestler, he maneuvered his way to state level competition twice. His involvement with BMX racing was the result of building and jumping his own bike ramps with his brothers. Between wrestling matches and bike races, Darr met future wife, Michelle, while they were in junior high school. “We dated for eleven years with a few sabbaticals. So I guess it would equal to about eight,” he chuckled.

Accepting a job with a communications company in Oldsmar brought him to Florida. It was during one of their “sabbaticals” that Darr received a call from Michelle. “She told me, ‘Break up with your girlfriend, I’m moving to Florida,’” he explained.

He did so, and of course, the rest is history. Darr turned his experience with sports into opportunities to spend time with kids Brittany, Jacob and Adria. Over the years, he coached their soccer, baseball, softball, football and wrestling teams. “I do it to be closer to my kids,” he explained.

Son Jacob inherited his dad’s love of wrestling. Dad proudly explained Jacob has earned first through sixth place positions at state level championship competitions. Darr works with the wrestling team at Sickles and especially enjoys working with beginners. “I like introducing the sport,” he shared.

Daughter Adria dared to venture into one sport Darr isn’t much help with – competitive cheer. “I’m not much help with that, but when I’m able to attend her events, I’m blown away at what they can do,” he said.

When he isn’t on a playing field or wrestling mat, Darr enjoys a few rounds of poker. He developed his poker face while working the night shift at a gas station as a teenager. “We would lower the lift in the garage and put a piece of plywood on top of it and play,” he explained.

Those late night poker games turned into a profitable hobby. He now enjoys playing locally at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino and the Tampa Bay Downs. When asked how much he might have won or lost over the years, Darr remains ever the optimist. “Let’s focus on what I’ve won,” he slyly grinned.

He recalls 2008 as his best year ever with winnings around $40,000! The most he ever won in one sitting was $5,800. His card playing skills have also won him trips to Aruba and Las Vegas with paid flights, hotels and buy-in fees.

For the holiday, the Darr family will stick to tradition as they open gifts on Christmas morning. Once the wrapping paper stops flying, they hop into the car for a quick trip to Marco Island to visit family. We have a great meal that evening with filet mignon and a good glass of wine,” he explained.

His favorite childhood memory is the responsibility he had for the family’s lights. “I started doing it myself when I was about 10, and I just couldn’t stop. I did it until I moved out,” he recalled.

Hosted by the Westchase Community Foundation, Santa’s PreFlight Parade is a favorite among many Westchase residents. Darr accepted the request to become a major player in carrying off this event. During the parade hundreds of gifts each year are collected from residents and donated to a local charity. He explained special stops are also made to children with special needs and the elderly. Over the years, the route has been revised from the original 80 street-trek down to 40 because of the challenges of navigating the large truck through tight spots along the streets.

The last stop Santa makes is in West Park Village, where the streets are lined with folks awaiting their arrival to the Christmas tree at the center of the village. Once the last gift is collected and the final photo snapped, Darr revealed Santa sometimes makes his way to a local eatery for a cheeseburger and cold beverage.

It’s a long day for Santa and the other volunteers on the truck but it’s one Darr couldn’t miss. The PreFlight Parade this year will be held on Dec. 13. He encourages everyone – both naughty and nice – to be watching for Santa.

By Lisa Stephens

Stephens, a resident of West Park Village, is always looking for interesting Westchase residents to profile. She can be contacted at lmsfla@verizon.net.

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Westchase Seniors Holiday Party Dec. 14

The Westchase Seniors Group will celebrate the holiday season this year on Dec. 14 at 5 p.m.

Catch 23 in West Park Village is the place to be for good food, good friends and good times. Anita Steinfeld, Phyllis Kanik, and Lillian Unger will be hosting this year’s celebration and dinner at Catch 23 Restaurant on Montague Street in West Part Village. The restaurant's famous Sunset Special and other tasty menu options will be available for your choosing.

This party is always a big hit and space is limited, so make your reservations by Dec. 12 by contacting Phyllis at pkanik@tampabay.rr.com or 920-4245, Anita at anitatrilevel@hotmail.com or 926-6211, or Lillian at fishtaleslil@me.com or 926-7706. If you would like to participate in the gift exchange, please bring one wrapped item per person, with a suggested value of about $5. It may be a useful gift or a white elephant gift that will bring a smile or chuckle to the recipient.

Miracle on South Division Street We thank Jose or Nevenka Rios for planning and coordinating another enjoyable outing to the Early Bird Dinner Theater in November. We enjoyed good food and reserved seats right up next to the stage. Jose and Nevenka couldn't have planned it any better!

Tuesday Morning Coffee Each Tuesday morning from 9-10 a.m. Westchase seniors are invited to meet at the Westchase McDonald’s Restaurant for coffee, breakfast and friendly conversation. The coffee is free with a food purchase and the conversations are always enjoyable. Grab your coffee and join us. You can’t miss us. We are the “older” but “young at heart” people laughing and having a great time.

Join The Fun If you are a Westchase resident over 55-years-old and looking to enjoy life, join over 200 of your neighbors who make up the Westchase Seniors Group and add more life to your years. It only costs a smile to join and the dues are just as cheap. Members participate in only what they are interested in and pay their own way. To receive e-mails about Westchase Seniors events, send your name, address, and phone number to westchase.seniors@gmail.com or call Lewis and Rama Patterson (926-5473).

By Lewis and Rama Patterson

The Pattersons are residents of Kingsford and can be reached at westchase.seniors@gmail.com or 926-5473.

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Nope. You Can’t Use Fireworks in Westchase

Each New Year’s Eve the explosive celebrations prompt Westchase complaints.

Since it’s “legal” to buy fireworks in Hillsborough County, it must be all right to use them in the community, right?

Think again.

Under state law, it’s illegal to buy, sell or explode fireworks in parks, beaches or even on your own property except under very specific circumstances. What are they? In unincorporated Hillsborough County you need to be using them to scare birds from your farm or fish hatchery or to light or clear a path for your train.

They don’t mean the one beneath your Christmas tree.

When you buy fireworks in the state, you even sign a waiver promising you’re buying them to do those things. If you violate the waiver, you’ve broken the law.
More specific restrictions exist closer to home. When all Westchase homeowners buy houses, they sign a legally binding agreement that they will abide by all Westchase Community Association (WCA) deed restrictions. Article XII, Section 11 of the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions specifically states, "Fireworks that explode, move or make noise are prohibited anywhere within the Properties."

Homeowners who use fireworks – or whose children or renters do so – can face significant fines from the Westchase Community Association (WCA). When neighbors bring complaints, the association enforces the rule.

In a 2012 WOW survey about homeowner habits that annoy neighbors, a resident’s use of fireworks ranked highly as an action sure to earn their neighbors’ disdain. While 28 percent stated they didn’t care, 39 percent reported that a neighbor’s use of fireworks bothered them somewhat and 43 percent stated it bothered them a great deal.

Over the years, residents have attended meetings of the Westchase Community Association to complain about fireworks waking children or frightening pets. Others have brought complaints of holes burned in lanai screens and even damage to cars.

While you might be tempted to become the neighborhood entertainment committee, it’s safer and smarter to leave the fireworks to the professionals.

Your neighbors – and wallet – will thank you for it.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Snow and Sparkle in Tampa This Month

While there is zero percent chance of real snow in Tampa, the fake stuff can thrill kids at several of the holiday festivals this month.

If fake snow and sliding down huge ice slides don’t appeal to you, you can still enjoy a land or sea parade or admire one of the light displays that will make December sparkle and shine.

LIGHT DISPLAYS

Florida Botanic Garden Holiday Lights
12520 Ulmerton Rd., Largo
http://www.flbg.org/foundation.htm
Date: Nightly through Dec. 31, 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Cost: $4 donation (13 and older)

Laser lights, decorated trees, a 7-foot gingerbread house with more than 600 lights, a 3-foot tall white swan, and a 5-foot tropical parrot light up the Florida Botanic Gardens. There will also be holiday entertainment and visits from Santa Claus.

Nights of Shimmering Lights
215 Sydney Washer Rd., Dover
http://www.nightsofshimmeringlights.com
Date: Nightly through Dec. 30, 6-9 p.m.
Cost: $15 per car weekdays, $20 per car weekends

Includes 2,000 beautiful light displays spread over two miles of illuminated tunnels, dancing LED lights, and more than a dozen themed areas. There is also a Christmas Village where families can drink hot chocolate, watch holiday movies, ride a toy train, or take a picture with Santa.

Symphony in Lights at the Shops at Wiregrass
28211 Paseo Dr., Wesley Chapel
http://www.theshopsatwiregrass.com
Date: Nightly through Dec. 31, 6-9 p.m.
Cost: Free

Enjoy a holiday light show choreographed to holiday music on the hour. The 55-foot tree is trimmed with more than 250,000 lights and 10 tons of holiday decorations. After the show the Center Court transforms into a winter wonderland of snow flurries.

Lowry Park Zoo’s Wild Wonderland
1101 W. Sligh Ave., Tampa
http://www.lowryparkzoo.com
Date: Dec. 6, 12-14, 18-23, and 26-30, 6:30-10 p.m.
Cost: $15 (12 and older); $13 (ages 3-11); free (2 and under)

The zoo is transformed into a whimsical world of holiday magic. Meet Santa and his reindeer and jump for joy in the Reindeer Games area. There are a million twinkling lights, a charismatic colony of African penguins, charming animated displays, Florida “flurries,” free zoo rides, and traditional holiday treats.

TREE LIGHTINGS, FESTIVALS and PARADES

City of Tampa’s Tree Lighting Ceremony and Santa Fest Parade
Curtis Hixon Park, 600 North Ashley Dr., Tampa
http://www.tampagov.net/special-events-coordination/news-and-events
Date: Dec. 5, 6 p.m.: Tree Lighting; Dec. 6, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.: Rough Riders Holiday Parade and Santa Fest
Cost: Free

Celebrate the holiday season at the City of Tampa's annual holiday festival and parade. The festival features kids' activities, make and take crafts, entertainment and Santa.

Safety Harbor Snow Fest
Safety Harbor City Park
http://www.cityofsafetyharbor.com
Date: Dec. 6, 4-9 p.m.
Cost: $1 (all ages); $5 (unlimited rides)

Slide down the giant 20' snow hill or make a snow angel while helping a good cause. The annual Elena Tresh Foundation's Snow Fest has live entertainment, carnival games, food, arts and crafts, and snow activities for all ages.

Westchase Santa Parade
Streets of Westchase
Date: Dec. 13, 2-7:30 p.m.
Cost: Free

Say hello to Santa as he travels through Westchase and then lights the tree in West Park Village. He’ll be collecting unwrapped gifts along the way for needy Tampa Bay area kids. 

Old Fashioned Christmas and Holiday Parade
Downtown Dunedin
http://www.dunedingov.com/
Date: Dec. 13, 4-9 p.m.
Cost: Free

Watch Santa Claus arrive in style during the Holiday Street Parade. After the parade, enjoy carriage rides, a snow slide, train rides, kids’ holiday crafts, old-fashioned games, live music, and snow flurries.

BOAT PARADES

Dunedin Lighted Boat Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony
Dunedin Marina
http://www.dunedingov.com
Date: Dec. 6, 6 p.m.

Get in the holiday spirit by watching boats parade through Dunedin Marina. There is also a festival with food, drink, and holiday entertainment.

28th Annual Illuminated Boat Parade
Vinoy Basin Waterfront, Saint Petersburg
http://www.stpeteboatparade.org/event
Date: December 13, 6:00 p.m.

The boat parade travels from Bayboro to the front of the pier and near the shoreline in and around the Vinoy Basin. A holiday festival begins at 3 p.m. with live entertainment, food, drinks, and a variety of children’s activities.

Twinkle in Tampa Bay: A Holiday Lighted Parade
Channelside District
Date: Dec. 20, 6:30 p.m.

Parade route goes along the water by Davis Island, Harbor Island, and the Channelside District.

By Marcy Sanford

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First UTB Library Art Gallery Exhibit Features Westchase Artists Society

Join us for an opening reception on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 at 6 p.m.

The Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library is opening its new art gallery space and its initial exhibit, “Expressions,” will feature artwork from members of the Westchase Artists Society. The work will be on display through January 2015.  The opening reception will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11. Light refreshments will be served courtesy of the Westchase Artists Society and the Friends of the Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library. There will be an opportunity to meet the exhibiting artists and discuss their work.
Funding for the beautiful new art gallery was made possible by a grant from the World of Westchase community newsmagazine.

“Our group members are really looking forward to sharing some of their new artwork with the local community at this, our first group show, in over a year,” commented Teresa Trubilla, president of the Westchase Artists Society. “The exhibit will feature artwork in various mediums including oils, acrylics and pastels as well as photography, pottery and jewelry.”

“The Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library is excited about the new gallery and that our first show is in partnership with the Westchase Artists Society. We were honored to have been the recipient of the generous contribution from the World of Westchase, Inc. that enabled us to create this unique space,” said Regional Library Manager, Suzy George.

The Westchase Artists Society is open to all types of visual artists from Upper Tampa Bay. Those interested in learning more about the group are invited to drop by a monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Upper Tampa Bay Library on Countryway Boulevard. Please bring your creativity and a sample of your artwork to share.

No group meeting of the Westchase Artists Society will occur in December, but there will be a group holiday party in early January. Please visit http://www.westchaseartists.com for more information. The next group meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. at the Upper Tampa Bay Library. The evening’s agenda will include annual registration and election of new officers. You can also friend the group on Facebook to stay updated on group activities.

By Teresa Trubilla, President

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New Westchasers, December 2014

David and Carolyn Hardy of Harbor Links welcomed John Austin "Jack" Hardy on August 16 at 5:39 p.m. Jack weighed 9 pound, 3 ounces and measured 21 inches. He was welcomed home by big sister, Samantha, 2, and furry sister, Lucky, 9.

Residents who have not received or who have misplaced a Stork Club form to fill out to ensure publication of a birth announcement in WOW should e-mail their announcements to editor@westchasewow.com. High resolution photos may be e-mailed to that same address for possible publication here.

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Santa Preparing for Dec. 13 Parade through Westchase

Westchase’s favorite annual visitor returns this month! He’s got news about his Westchase naughty and nice list – and how to track him!

To track Santa on Saturday, Dec. 13, simply click on the following link at noon on Sat., Dec. 13 and you will be able to track Santa's progress when the parade begins at 2 p.m.: http://glympse.com/!westchasesanta

Santa Claus recently dropped by to discuss his upcoming parade on Saturday, Dec. 13, with WOW Editor Chris Barrett, who pitched him questions submitted by residents, both young and old.

Each year Santa travels through Westchase to greet all the children in a parade organized by Dan O’Brien, Ralph Caputo, Santa and other volunteers with the Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF), a volunteer organization of Westchase residents who work to improve the quality of life in the community by raising funds to assist families with seriously ill children and families faced with tragedies.

Along the route Santa will collect unwrapped gifts for Michelle’s Kids, a charity that helps needy children and families throughout Hillsborough County.

The parade will culminate in the PreTree Lighting ceremony in West Park Village. The event, attended by hundreds of Westchasers and happy children, is a sight to see. The West Park Village festivities are expected to begin at approximately 6 p.m. and will include holiday music and activities.

The estimated times for Santa’s visit in each village are:

2-3 p.m.: The Vineyards, The Shires and The Enclave
3-4 p.m.: Villages along Countryway Boulevard
4-6 p.m.: Harbor Links, Radcliffe and The Greens
6-7 p.m.: The Fords, Tree Tops, The Bridges and West Park Village Center

Click here to view the parade map.

This year residents who wish to track Old Saint Nick through Westchase simply have to send an e-mail with their cell phone number to WestchaseSanta@yahoo.com. Please write “Track Santa” in the subject line. E-mails should be sent by the evening of Friday, Dec. 12 (Why not send it now so you don’t forget?). On parade day you will receive a link on your phone. Simply click on it to follow the parade’s progress.

While the parade costs are primarily underwritten by a $4,000 contribution to the WCF by World of Westchase, other donations and sponsorships are still needed and welcomed.

What did Old St. Nick have to say to WOW?

“It’s wonderful to be back!” Santa remarked. “I am so very much looking forward to seeing all of Westchase’s smiling children and adults!”

Santa brought along letters Westchase children have handed him over the years during the parade. Some belonged to children now likely in middle or even high school. They all had one thing in common: each earnestly communicated he or she had been a good boy or girl this year.

Writing his letter on bright green paper, one youngster named Steven, began, “I have been so good this year!”

Steven requested an Optimus Prime Helmet and a Transformer movie.

His brother Ty took a different approach. “I want some robots and big cars,” he began.

As for behavior?

“I will be good,” Ty cagily promised.

Meanwhile their sister Madison requested “lots of baby princess stuff.”

For Santa, some things, like the excited children with their whispered and written wishes, remain the same with each parade. Other aspects have changed over the years. “Seven years ago no one had cell phones out. Now everyone is filming it!” Santa observed with a hearty chuckle.

Santa said he gets a kick out of the unscripted moments – when residents, upon hearing his fire truck’s siren, rush into the street. While his favorite parade participants are the kids, he has a second group he’s particularly fond of.

“I love the enthusiasm of Westchase’s elders,” Santa said. “They’re really fun! They run out of their house! They’re in their robes and pajama pants!”

Much like Christmas Eve, Santa’s PreFlight Parade through Westchase is a long, demanding haul. He feels some aches the next day from waving for hours. Even his legs are sore from repeatedly climbing up and down his fire truck. The biggest challenge, however?

Florida’s heat. The North Pole resident, whose clothes and beard are meant to keep him warm, just isn’t accustomed to it. “I hope for cold weather every year,” he said of the parade. “One year I really thought I was going to pass out.”

When asked to submit questions for WOW to ask Santa, one Westchase child asked, “Do you have a fan up there?”

The short answer?

Nope.

Yet despite the physical challenges, Santa keeps returning – likely because of the parade’s touching moments.

The children who, while whispering wishes into his ear, hand him a coupon they’ve clipped to help Santa keep costs down.

The kids who fervently offer important details about their homes, with cries like, “My house has the red door!”

“They want to make sure I know specifically where they live,” Santa said.

Santa heaped praise on the parade’s organizers, honorary Christmas elves Dan O’Brien, Ralph Caputo and WCF President Sean O’Donnell. “Every year I’m impressed with their organization,” Santa said. “Each year at its end everyone is happy with how it’s gone.”

He’s also grateful for the special hand certain generous Westchasers lend every year. He cited Terry and Geoffrey Wright of Radcliffe, who allow Santa to use their home to cool off, have a drink, eat some lunch and recharge for the second half of his trip. “They let me blast into their house. They’re a completely cool couple,” Santa observed.

Santa simply offered a happy smile when he was asked if the Wrights supply him with a little Christmas cheer for the road.

Santa particularly enjoys the fact that so many visitors show up in West Park Village to greet him for the tree lighting. He knows many of the children and parents there come in from outside of Westchase.

Santa is thrilled the parade lets the community see the WCF for the great, charitable organization it is. He hopes it has an affect outside of Westchase. “I hope it inspires other communities to hold similar events for the kids.”

In addition to his favorite groups, Santa has some favorite moments. Each year, he makes an extra effort to spend a few minutes visiting with neighborhoods that host block parties. He also makes special stops at the homes of kids with special needs.

One stop in The Greens, however, is personally important. For Santa, the Westchase parade is an opportunity for him to collect gifts from generous Westchase families to present to needy kids. There is, however, a single Westchase child for which he brings a present each year during the PreFlight Parade.

Several years ago, after a hard fought battle, a young Greens resident lost his father to cancer. That year, Santa made a special stop at the boy’s home. The boy ran into his mother’s lap.

The second year? “He ran inside,” said Santa with a laugh.

The third year?

“He turned his head.”

“We’re coming up on this year,” Santa said of Dec. 13. He looks forward to seeing what reaction he’ll get now that his young friend is in first grade.

WOW’s interview with Santa included a number of questions submitted by Westchase adults and kids. The jolly give and take follows:

WOW: Welcome back to Westchase!

Santa: It’s wonderful to be back. I love the palm trees down here. Perfect for Christmas lights!

WOW: OK, then, here’s the first question one child asked: How can he participate in the actual parade?

Santa: I welcome everyone! All interested paraders can join my journey through Westchase by building their neighborhood float. Just call my honorary Christmas elves, Dan O’Brien at 679-2364 or Ralph Caputo 503-9943, for more information about how to build your float.

WOW: Here’s another: “I loved how everyone used to throw beads from the fire truck, Santa. Why did you stop?”

Santa: A great question! A year or so ago, my fire truck driver and I were getting very worried about how some very excited children would dart in front of the truck to catch the beads we were throwing. I was starting to worry so much, I realized I wasn’t having as much fun. We decided we had to put the children’s safety first. So, when we see big groups, we try to stop, get down and hand out beads. Now we’re all able to enjoy the parade a whole lot more.

WOW: Does Santa have a Christmas wish?

Santa: My parade is held every year so every Westchaser can be Santa for a less fortunate child. I’d ask everyone who comes out to greet the parade to bring at least one unwrapped gift. They will be given to Michelle’s Kids, which helps less fortunate children to have a wonderful Christmas. That’s Santa’s first Christmas wish – that everyone in Westchase bring a smile to another child’s face this Christmas. My second wish is for cold weather.

WOW: If someone is out of town for the parade, is there another option to still contribute toys?

Santa: There is! Starting Dec. 1 a drop-off location for unwrapped toys for Michelle's Kids will exist at Jason and Dyan Pithers' Coldwell Banker office at 10108 Montague St. in the West Park Village Town Center.

WOW: Here’s another question: My Elf on a Shelf seems a little psychotic. Is he dangerous and should I be worried?

Santa: Oh my! I know exactly which one he means. That particular elf spooks me too – always seems to be staring at everyone all the time. [Santa whispers.] Between you and me, that’s why I sent him away from the North Pole. But I’m sure he’ll be fine if they just keep feeding him candy canes.

WOW: How do you seem to be everywhere at once – the mall, block parties and the parade?

Santa: A good question with two answers. On the one hand, there are particularly busy times when Santa relies on helpers. These are highly accomplished elves who have earned the honor of being Santa by being the kindest, most generous elves at the North Pole. I wouldn’t be Santa without them so they very much are Santa as well. On the other hand, Santa has a number of crack elf scientists who have discovered ways to bend the rules of time, space and gravity that everyone else on earth finds so limiting.

WOW: Any hints how that works?

Santa: Hmm. How can I put this in a simple way? If you take the number of time zones on all the solar system’s planets, multiplied by the rotation of the sun, divided by the square of the number of dimensions inherent in quantum mechanics, you’ll have the Primary Prime, a digit as powerful as pi but as simple as cake. Because the name pi was already taken, my crack elf scientists have named it Cookie. In short, the Cookie is key to unlocking the constraints of time and space. So Santa can now be nearly everywhere at once, even without taking a nap. But I can see I’m causing your eyes to glaze over.

WOW: Another middle school child asks, “How do all the world’s presents fit into one bag? And don’t tell me magic. I want hard science!”

Santa: Hmm, another skeptic who needs a cookie. A lot of holiday shows and movies have gotten this one wrong. My toy bag isn’t big at all. Again, the Cookie is key. Is the Cookie science or magic? While your grandmother finds her cell phone’s high technology a bit confusing, wouldn’t George Washington find a cell phone magical? That’s because science is magical. But because your eyes are glazing again, here’s my short and sweet answer about my toy bag: It’s bigger on the inside.

WOW: What’s your favorite cookie?

Santa: While I love all cookies, my favorites are snickerdoodles. I even wear Snickerdoodle cologne. Very important to remaining fresh smelling during hot and steamy Florida parades. Did you know they have Snickerdoodle cologne at Bed, Bath and Beyond?

WOW: I think that’s room spray.

Santa: Not anymore.

WOW: How do you keep track of all the homes you visit on Christmas Eve?

Santa: For many years that was a real challenge. I once left two different mixers at the home of Mary Strudel, who lives in the Michigan peninsula, and two flatscreens at Thomas Penobscott’s home up in Maine. Voila, eBay was born! Fortunately, now my friends at NORAD help out. You should check out their Santa tracker on Christmas Eve. But you need to know something: I’m far better looking than their satellite cameras make me appear.

WOW: Do you feel jetlag the day after Christmas?

Santa: While I’m a bit tired, there’s no jetlag involved because I start and return to the exact same spot in 24 hours and am quite busy in between. I do, however, power nap while crossing the oceans.

WOW: Is there a particular native Florida plant your reindeer like eating?

Santa: Here’s a secret: Deer eat anything. They love all the carrots kids leave out, but they particularly love sprinkles. Oh, and glitter. But glitter makes them jumpy. I’ve got to cut them off by Malaysia or things get entirely out of hand.

WOW: How long did it take you to grow your beard?

Santa: Ahh! I’ve had it so long, I don’t recall. Mrs. Claus helps me keep it properly trimmed. I’d be lost without her.

WOW: OK, a bit embarrassing, but an adult asked this question: Boxers or briefs?

Santa: Clearly someone from my naughty list. Hmm, how can I answer honestly? By the time I reach the Sahara, briefs begin riding up higher than Rudolph on glitter. So I’m a boxers man.

WOW: Which brings us to our last question, which is from a concerned child: “How big is Westchase’s naughty list this year?”

Santa: [Takes out his spectacles and an iPad to check the list.] Hmm, with the exception of a few Moms’ Night Out groups, you Westchasers appear to be doing pretty well. [taps his iPad] Here’s the truth about Santa’s Naughty list. It’s the act of trying to be good that counts. But Santa does like to see both adults and children make an effort. If you really want to be on Santa’s nice list, bring an unwrapped toy to the Dec. 13 parade. Together, you and I can bring a smile to a child’s face on Christmas morning!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Catch Twenty-Three Fake Ad Contest Continues, Dec 2014

It’s grosser than having to wrestle away a partially consumed Tootsie Roll your dog scams from the sidewalk the day after Halloween.

In Florida little is scarier than picking up your carved jack o’ lantern when the festivities are done.

That’s why November’s fabulous fakery offered an alternative. Rumpkin’s biohazard removal experts (page 76) promised to pick up your pestilential pumpkin and repurpose it in time for Thanksgiving.

Frozen Pizza Eater Teresa Keefer of The Greens captured the process in poetic prose.
“Yes, it’s true that a pumpkin carved too soon down South,/Will start to look a bit down in the mouth./Humidity is not a gourd’s best friend,/In fact is spells a rather premature end./But have no fear as you wave goodbye,/That dear sweet decoration is now your pie!”

Pass the Spray-o-Whip, baby!

While we thank Teresa for the most meaningful sentences to appear in WOW in months, we also congratulate Lydia Mauritson of The Greens, upon whom the fake ad gods smiled in November. As the result, Lydia will be taking her favorite pumpkin remediator to Catch Twenty-Three, courtesy of its proprietor Rob Wickner. Thanks, Rob!

Get your December fake ad guesses in today!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Westchase Shout Outs, December 2014

Lucas and Joseph Trim of Bennington competed against each other for the first time in their college careers at the Lehigh Invitational Golf Tournament. Joseph, a freshman, along with his Fordham University team, bested Lucas, a sophomore, and his Villanova University team for fourth place out of 13 teams by four strokes.

Kudos to the Wizards of Westchase Elementary! Goodwill’s Bookworks recently placed a donation bin at the school. The students, teachers and staff did a wonderful job filling the bin with over 1,100 books! The books went directly to children in Head Start West Central Florida. Thank you, Wizards!

WOW wants your Shout Outs, short messages saying congratulations, well-done, thank you or “hey, we have some good news.” Shout Outs should be no longer than 75 words and can include a high resolution photo (JPEG attachments please). Send by e-mail by the fifteenth of the month to editor@westchasewow.com.

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Alonso Wins Five Star School Award

The Florida Department of Education has once again awarded Alonso High School the Five Star School Award.

The Five Star School Award was created by the Commissioner's Community Involvement Council and is presented annually to schools that have shown evidence of exemplary community involvement. In order to earn recognition, a school must document that it has achieved 100 percent of the established criteria in the categories of: Business Partnerships, Family Involvement, Volunteerism, Student Community Service, and School Advisory Councils.

With the Five Star School Award in mind, the Alonso PTSA is still open to new members; please consider joining the Booster Club, the PTSA and the School Advisory Council to continue the tradition of exemplary community involvement. Visit http://www.alonsoboosterclub.com for more information. Thank you for your support!

The Alonso golf tournament fundraiser at the Westchase Golf Club on Saturday, Jan. 3, at 1 p.m. is still seeking golfers and sponsors as well as donations of food, drink, and door/raffle prizes. All donations are tax deductible and checks should be made payable to the AHS Booster Club. The price for an individual golfer is $100, which includes greens/cart fees, dinner banquet, golf awards, and door prizes. Non-golfers can purchase dinner-only tickets. There will be additional contests and raffles that golfer can buy on the day of the event. Several levels of sponsorships are also available, ranging from $100 to $2,500, including hole sponsorships, Alonso baseball field corporate banners, and others.  For more information, registration and sponsorship applications, or to make any type of donation, please contact Cathy Fahrman at (813) 508-6242. Thanks in advance for your support of these great baseball players and Alonso High School Ravens Baseball program.

Congratulations to two Alonso swim team members, who went on to Regional competitions; Chase Psinakis for the 200 IM and 100 freestyle; and Paige Carter for the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke. Paige also went on to States for the 50 yard freestyle. Congratulations to Chase and Paige for their achievements!

Go, Ravens!

Important Dates

DECEMBER

4 B/G Basketball @ Bloomingdale, 6 p.m.
5 Wrestling @ Chamberlain; B/G Basketball vs. TBT, 6 p.m.; G/B Soccer @ Gaither, 6 p.m.
6 JROTC Raiders @ USF
8 G/B Soccer vs. Freedom, 6 p.m.
9 G/B Basketball @ Wharton, 6 p.m.; AP Parent Night, 6:30
10 G/B Basketball vs. Gaither, 6 p.m.; Cheer @ Leto, 6 p.m.
11 Orchestra Concert, 7 p.m.
12 G/B Basketball @ Riverview, 6 p.m.
13 Wrestling @ HHS, 9 a.m.
15 Band Concert, 7 p.m.
16 G/B Soccer vs. Steinbrenner, 6 p.m.
18 Cheer @ Leonard, 6 p.m.; G/B Soccer @ Sickles, 6 p.m.
19 Girls Basketball @ Plant, 7 p.m.; Wrestling @ Chamberlain
20 Wrestling @ Chamberlain
22  No School: Winter Break Begins

JANUARY

2 Girls Soccer Tournament
3 Girls Soccer Tournament
5 Schools Resume: Winter Break Ends

For a complete Alonso events calendar, visit http://alonso.mysdhc.org/

By Belinda Krauss

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Meet Joey and Khalessie!

Joey, a 7-year-old Dachshund, and his sister, Khalessie, a 2-year-old Australian Kelpie, live at the Baugh residence in The Bridges. Joey loves sunbathing in the backyard while Khalessie loves to play fetch. After moving to Westchase earlier in the year, Joey, Khaleesie and their owners are settling in nicely and enjoying all that Westchase has to offer.

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Holiday Shopping for Little Ladies

If you have a little girl to shop for this holiday season, this column is definitely for you!

I don’t mean to leave out the fellas. I just so happen to have finished the majority of my shopping for my daughter, so I have lots of gift ideas for girls right now – and they all can be found at local Tampa area shops! I didn’t set out to stick with a certain theme, but I found myself gravitating to classic pieces versus what’s hot right now.

If you read last December’s article, you might remember that Pottery Barn Kids was one of my go-to holiday shopping stops. That didn’t change this year. There I picked up the most darling Madeline book and doll set. Madeline was the first book that my baby girl really gravitated to and I figured it was time to trade in her baby board book for a big girl version. This hardback beauty is sure to please any little girl for years to come.

I also found a faux fur, doll-sized version of the Pottery Barn Kids fan-favorite Anywhere Chair. My daughter lives in her Anywhere Chair, so I know she will love having one for her favorite dolls and stuffies. She has a large and in charge Jellycat stuffed animal collection and they always have to have a seat next to her! Now they’ll have an über plush seat. Lucky ducks.

The doll shopping didn’t end with Pottery Barn Kids. That same day, I visited one of my favorite kids’ boutiques, Little Peeps, and found a Rosalina Baby doll complete with her own smocked dress. If you know me in real life, you know I’m somewhat obsessed with smocked dresses. My lil’ lady bean has more than her fair share and now her dolly will have them too! Did I mention I also picked up an extra dress for said doll? A girl has to have options! Ha ha!

And finally we come to my favorite pick...Christmas jammies. Every year on Christmas Eve my sister and I opened up one present and it was always pajamas. I’ve continued that tradition with my own kiddos and I found the sweetest little nightgown during that same Little Peeps shopping trip. Though I may cheat and let her open one toy too. She happens to be obsessed with a set of Russian nesting dolls that my mom has and I found a beautiful set at another beloved Tampa area boutique, Smarty Pants. As you can see, I’m off to a great start with my holiday shopping!

So, if you’re looking for gifts for the little ladies in your life this holiday season, I highly suggest Pottery Barn Kids, Little Peeps and Smarty Pants in South Tampa. I daresay you’ll find more than you need!

Happy holidays, everyone!

By Kristin Swenson

Kristin Swenson loves fashion and is one half of the BonBon Rose Girls, Tampa’s hottest fashion, shopping and lifestyle blog at http://www.bonbonrosegirls.com<./p>

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Ditching the Big Ask

Grab the marmalade. Homecoming season is toast.

Shelve the sequined dresses, the purple dress shirts, the manicures and the dinner parties.

That tremendous whoosh at the beginning of November?

It was all the high school guys heaving a sigh of relief.

HoCo is done. You can now safely enter the cafeteria.

I feel sorry for high school guys today.

In addition to all that strange peer pressure to wear Chubbies, it’s not good enough for a guy to have his palms get clammy and his heart nearly explode as he screws up the courage to furtively beg a young woman to spend a mere four hours with him.

Nope. He must stage an elaborate production requiring more creativity, more effort and more anxiety than applying to 18 highly competitive colleges and FSU as his safety school.

It may also require the renting out of a dirigible or exotic animal petting zoo. Or, if funds are tight, bungee jumping off the high school gym into a vat of 6,000 cafeteria tater tots all individually hand-painted in sparkly nail polish with The Question:

Homecoming?

Furthermore, the guy must do all this in front of hundreds of other students to prove he will risk even suicidal mortification to win the right to have the love of his life stand radiantly beside him in the HoCo Grind Line.

At least judging from all their mamas’ pictures on Facebook.

You know it’s all true. You’ve gotten carpel tunnel from clicking Like so quickly.

In recent years I’ve seen a guy who convinced 30 of his best friends to stage a Flashmob at the mall food court. The production culminated in the guy falling to his knees and popping the big question.

Right before it culminated again with mall security slapping plastic cuffs on him. (It was more mob and less flash.)

Another guy painted an entire wall in the girl’s bedroom with the question “Homecoming?” Then he filled the room with an ocean of balloons and hid beneath them to surprise her.

Because totally cool parents are apparently totally OK with a guy totally hiding in their daughter’s bedroom.

Another guy cut out 72,000 black footprints. He put Hershey’s kisses on each one of them in a trail leading to the girl’s room, where he placed a big poster that said: Now that you know I kiss the ground that you walk on, will you go to Homecoming with me?

Now that you’ve finished gagging, answer me this: Is anyone else concerned this always ends up in the girl’s bedroom?
If your Facebook friends don’t offer enough ideas to steal, hundreds of Web sites offer tips to make your son’s Homecoming invitation preparations simple and easy.

One suggests he spend several hours before daybreak – on five consecutive days – sketching anonymous chalk drawings and messages on the girl’s driveway, culminating in drawing himself and her touching fingers like God and Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Another suggestion?

He can write, illustrate, self-publish, print and mail his hoped-for date an entire book titled Reasons You Should Go to Homecoming With Me.
If he selfishly needs to keep his Homecoming preparations to something less than a full-time job, he can ask the local pizza delivery franchise to deliver a pizza with the big question, “Homecoming?” spelled out in pepperoni.

Then, when she winds up at HoCo with the Papa Johns’ driver, he can have another sent to his own house topped with the word “Idiot.”

What’s The Big Ask standard? If his HoCo video fails to go viral on YouTube, the photos still must get at least 100 Likes on his mama’s Facebook page.

Does something strike you as suspicious?

No adult male is this romantic let alone high school guys who wear the same unwashed clothes to sports practice all semester long without realizing that they started smelling dead back in October.

These Big Asks require preparation, careful thought and creative planning.

Having taught high school for a dozen years, I assure you that the only thing high school boys carefully plan in advance is their farts.

There’s only one explanation. The Big Ask is just another production brought to you by Moms With Too Much Time on Their Hands, Inc.

Women who use HoCo Season to get warmed up for this month’s Elf on a Shelf Facebook competition.

There are dramatic social consequences to courting on steroids, ladies. The average American guy is getting married far later. Or he’s simply skipping that walk down the aisle altogether.

Likely because he’s yet to figure out a bigger and better way to ask his HoCo date to marry him.

The Times Square newsfeed and the First Lady are booked through 2016.

Even if the newer and hipper Pope tweets his marriage invitation, there’s still the silver wedding anniversary to worry about.

You see where this is going.

We’re creating monsters.

So, moms, back off. And, sons, if your mother won’t back off, just hide her smartphone until she completes FB detox and wanders off to Trader Joe’s.

Then, in an unexpected romantic twist, be yourself. Buy a bouquet of flowers from Publix for $4. Jam it into your sports bag and lie to your buddies that it’s just your basketball stuff. Nearly ask her in Chem class but chicken out at the last minute. Screw up the courage and approach her one last time before the school bus arrives. Turn red and thrust the crushed flowers at her, stuttering she’ll make your day by going to Homecoming.

She’ll still think you’re awesome.

And her father will love you for not hiding in her bedroom.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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A Seagoing Safari

Wow! What a difference two movies and a lot of P.R. can make.

When we moved here almost seven years ago, we visited the Clearwater Aquarium. After our first visit we thought it was a cute place doing very admirable work but saw no need to return anytime soon.

Cue the moving soundtrack to Dolphin Tale.

We are now proud season pass holders, we could probably guide tours of the aquarium, and at least one of my family members has tried to pet every stingray at the aquarium. We’ve watched Winter and Hope swim around and around and around, touched Winter’s prosthetic tail, departed impressed by how high Nicholas can jump, and examined every anemone in the touch tank. Every time we visit, we find new areas to discover and learn new facts about the amazing aquatic life.

On a recent visit, we climbed aboard Clearwater Aquarium’s Sea Life Safari to explore Clearwater’s intra-coastal waters. During the 90-minute boat ride, expert staff and volunteers tell you about the sea birds and marine life living in our area. I have a newfound respect for the cormorant after learning that it does not just stand around holding up its wings like they are broken. It can, in fact, dive up to 40 feet underwater. Also if you’re not an only child or first born, be glad you are not a snail. Newly born ones eat their siblings.

In addition to being able to entertain their guests with interesting facts, the aquarium staff uses the boat trip to collect data. About half way through, they throw out a net out to see what marine life they will collect. On our trip they were all very excited about the lizardfish they netted. After showing everyone the catch of the day and telling you a little bit about them, the staff returns the fish to the bay.  

The Sea Life Safari also takes you to a tiny shell island where you can get off the boat and search for seashells. On top of all this, if you’re lucky (and we were!), you’ll see dolphins. 

December should have plenty of days that are perfect for a boat ride. If you or someone in your family is interested in marine life, this is a great one. All of the staff and volunteers on board were knowledgeable and interesting. One young lady professed to be a geek about snails; another young man said sharks were his thing. Their enthusiasm was contagious.

The Sea Life Safari is a separate charge from the aquarium admission but you do not have to purchase aquarium admission to go on the boat.

Clearwater Aquarium Sea Life Safari Tour
http://www.seewinter.com/sea-life-safari-boat-tour
249 Windward Passage
Clearwater, FL
(727) 441-1790
Hours: 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m.

By Marcy Sanford

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Check Out Westchase’s Programs This Winter

Winter is here and we are enjoying the cooler months from a hot summer.

Don't hesitate to swim your laps in our heated pools or play a round of tennis. If your child is seeking an activity in which to get involved, please check out our tennis and swim team programming. We are fortunate to have great coaches that are producing and building local champions.

Sign up online at http://www.westchasewca.com or contact the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center for an appointment with the coach by calling 885-0662. You can also contact Tennis Head Pro Roberto Calla at tennis@wcamanager.com or TBAY Swim Coach Alex Richardson at swim@wcamanager.com.

By Kelly Shires, Operations Manager

Shires is the WCA’s Operations Manager and can be reached at wcacenter@wcamanager.com.

Tennis Lessons: Effective Doubles Poaching

There are five fundamentals behind effective poaching while playing doubles in tennis. In doubles, poaching represents an aggressive move where the player at the net moves to volley a shot intended for his/her partner. To be effective, you should show the fake poach first. Consider the following when poaching:

1.) When does the returner makes contact?
2.) Where is the returner when they make contact?
3.) Are they playing an outside stroke or an inside stroke?
4.) What are their tendencies?
5.) What have you shown them?

In my opinion the most important fundamental is the last: what have you shown them? It will make the difference between what I call a dancer and a statue. Being a dancer or showing them a fake poach helps you find out a few things, specifically their tendencies. By applying pressure with a fake poach, you can learn how they handle an outside shot. If the only time you move is when you’re going to poach, they’re going to see it and it’s not going to work.

To poach you have to move before your opponent makes contact. The way you do that is by establishing the fake poach beforehand. Don't forget that playing doubles effectively creates a guessing game. One of the biggest mistakes in doubles is poaching at a high ball, then, rather than hitting towards the outside T, close to the net player, you hit it towards the baseline player. Doing that will miss a lot of opportunities to finish the point.

There are many reasons why you need to hit towards the outside T or to the net player. The most important reason is that the net player has less time to react. Going towards the baseline player will only make it easier for them. At the net you should be a killer.

By Roberto Calla, Westchase’s Tennis Pro

Calla, Westchase’s tennis pro, can be reached at callatennis@hotmail.com.

USTA Tennis Team Registration Online

All USTA Tennis league players are to sign up on the WCA Web site at http://www.westchasewca.com prefe,rably before Dec. 1.

The remaining deadlines follow:

USTA 40 and over (Deadline: Feb. 15) – Season April-June
USTA Combo Teams (Deadline: July 1) – Season Aug.-Dec.

This online list will be used to determine interested players and establish USTA teams before each season starts. Anyone who signs up after the deadline listed may not get on a team. It is left to the USTA captain’s or co-captain's discretion based on the current situation and needs of the team.

Can't play in the daytime? Westchase is looking to start a ladies USTA 3.0 night team. Sign up if interested. Match play is Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m.

By Kyle Roberts

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Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Holiday Tips

With the onset of the holiday season, Sheriff Gee offers some holiday crime prevention tips.

The District III Holiday Initiative commences on Nov. 28 and concludes Dec. 26. During this time, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies will be conducting enhanced operations around the Citrus Park mall to deter criminal activity and ensure public safety. Throughout the holiday season deputies will educate the public on their personal safety and the safety of their property.

While out during this holiday season:

• Lock your car doors and roll up your windows.
• Limit the amount of cash/jewelry you carry.
• Use debit/credit cards.
• Place all packages in your trunk.
• Don’t leave items in your parked car where they can be seen.

During this time, the sheriff's office urges everyone in Westchase to remain vigilant and remember these residential security practices:

• Keep your garage door closed when the garage is not in use. If the garage is in use, never leave your garage unattended.
• Be sure to lock any garage interior doors.
• Lock your car doors and secure your garage door openers.
• Secure any valuable items that you keep in your garage.
• Be neighborly and spread the word!
• If you see any suspicious activity, call the sheriff's dispatch, (813) 247-8200. In the event of an emergency, dial 911.

Last, in preparation for the pending District III change of command, Major Chad Chronister is excited to attend the Jan. 13 meeting of the Westchase Voting Members. That meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center on Countryway Bouelvard. It represents a great opportunity for Westchase residents to meet the new district major for a question and answer session regarding Westchase community concerns. We hope to see you all there!

On behalf of Major Chronister and Sheriff Gee, we look forward to seeing you all Jan. 13.

Westchase’s Community Resource Officer
Master Deputy Phil Acaba
District III Community Resource Deputy
7202 Gunn Hwy. Tampa, FL 33625
(813) 247-0330
pacaba@hcso.tampa.fl.us

By Deputy Phil Acaba

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From the President, December 2014: WCA Posts Westchase Repaving Petition Online

Holidays are a great time for reflection and family time.

This year – and the upcoming holidays – should be no exception. I for one am grateful for my family, my lovely and beautiful wife, daughters who are growing to be very special young ladies (impartial party here getting extra points), my aunt, and my nephew, who moved in with us from Puerto Rico to attend USF. He is doing a magnificent job both as a role model for my kids and as a student in school.

Last year was one full of challenges and victories. With our extended family living with us, we had a great year and a better one to come. And all this occurred while living in what I believe is the best community in the world.

Let me mention a few reasons why I feel this way. When we say “it takes a village,” I believe we in Westchase all care about every child living here. We make sure we drive carefully around them. We ensure they are not getting in trouble and we strive to keep them safe on their adventures. We bring them holiday spirit when we decorate our homes and take pride in showing them to others. We donate greatly to deserving causes like The Westchase Santa parade and the Thanksgiving Food Drive. We are part of our community magazine, World of Westchase, which gives scholarships to community students, donates freely to schools and other organizations around the area while reporting our news. I ask that you patronize businesses advertising in the WOW as the money you spend will come back to our community.

We are all part of making these great things happen in Westchase. I am convinced we have one great, charitable community spirit. I challenge all of you to donate one moment of extra time, one extra dollar, one extra toy and participate in activities that engage in charitable work. If you are like many with no time to spare, then make sure you bring a gift to the Santa parade. Let’s make this holiday as special for others as we do for ourselves.

A bit of community news: a group of residents with the help of the Government Action Committee (GAC), the Westchase Voting Members, and residents alike started an online petition to all Hillsborough County Commissioners and decision makers to repave our streets, which are in dare need of repair. Look for it at our http://www.westchasewca.com and participate. As in any other petition like this, numbers are important and this is one of the most important issues we are facing and have no control over. Residents, businesses, and renters are welcome to participate.

On a separate note, I want to thank and recognize here Nancy and Dale Sells, recipients of the Nathan Lafer Good Neighbor Award. They have been volunteering for many years, giving their best to our community. We are lucky about all the leadership we received from both and because of them our community is better. It is an honor to call Nancy and Dale my friends.

It is time to go and enjoy a great holiday. Please give and volunteer!

By Joaquin Arrillaga, WCA President

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Wizards’ Gift Giving Tree Needs Generous Holiday Angels

The Westchase Elementary Holiday Gift Giving tree is up and filled with ornaments in the front office.

This is wonderful opportunity to help children and their families that attend our school. Each ornament contains the age, gender, size, and suggested gift for a child. If you would like to help a family in need during this holiday season, please stop by the office and select an ornament. Sign the log for your selected ornament. Then returned the wrapped gift under the tree by Monday, Dec. 8. With your help, this will be a magical holiday season for many families in our community.

The annual Jingle Bell Jog will be held Wednesday Dec. 17-19. Family members are encouraged to participate in this school wide activity. Join your student during their PE class to help us walk/jog our way to healthier bodies and improved cardio-respiratory endurance. This is a fantastic opportunity to be a physically active role model for our children!

The PTA would like to thank all of the students, parents, teachers and staff who helped make our 2014 Boosterthon Fun Run a huge success! Boosterthon is a healthy alternative to traditional product sales and it provided much needed funds for classroom technology. The nine-day program promoted the values of physical fitness, leadership and character in a very fun and meaningful way. This year’s theme was Rockin’ Town Live, which emphasized the character lessons of service, amplifying others, listening for feedback, playing hard and thanking your crowd.

We hope everyone has a safe and happy winter break! There will be no school Dec. 22-Jan. 2.

By Jennifer Arnold

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Kingsford Residents Honor the Memory of Gary Davidson

In recent weeks, yellow ribbons have fluttered in the breeze on Kingsbridge Avenue, a tribute to beloved neighbor Gary Davidson.

“The ribbons are a sign of honor and friendship as we lost a dear friend to cancer,” stated fellow Kingsbridge resident, Lisa Noel.

Gary and his wife, Terry, built their Kingsford home 16 years ago. There they raised three sons: Gage, Sam, who is a senior at Alonso, and Charlie, who is in the eighth grade at Davidsen.

Gary loved baseball, especially watching his sons play. Sam plays on several teams, as well as for Alonso High School. Gary also loved golf and could be seen at TPC many afternoons playing with Terry or challenging a neighbor.  Fine wine, cars and watches were also passions for Gary. But most important, he was extremely generous to organizations and teams – anyone who needed assistance.

“Gary was so loved by this community. I sent out a meal sign up and within 24 hours, all the spots had been taken.  I got e-mails requesting we add dates and I had to add additional spots two more times,” Noel said.

“He was a wonderful guy and will be missed by so many,” added Kristin O’Donnell, who also lives in Kingsbridge.

Our condolences go out to Gary’s family, friends and neighbors.

By Karen Ring and Lisa Noel

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GirlTalk Group Takes Time to Give Back

The GirlTalk group’s November meeting proved a family affair.

On Nov. 20 members teamed up with their children and spent the afternoon donating their time to Feeding America Tampa Bay, whose primary mission is to end hunger and nourish hope across the ten counties it serves. According to GirlTalk founder, Lori Shaw, GirlTalk volunteers inspected and assorted close to 5,000 pounds of perishable and non-perishable food donations, which equaled nearly 4,000 meals for families around Tampa Bay. It was a rewarding experience for all.

Now the group is gearing up for its Third Annual Holiday Party, which will take place on Friday, Dec. 19, at Shaw’s house in West Park Village. It will be an evening filled with food and drink and activities that will get everyone in the holiday spirit. The event is always the highlight of the year and the perfect opportunity to catch up with friends old and new.

Shaw is working on more exciting activities for the coming year. For more information on upcoming events, contact Shaw at loriella@tampabay.rr.com or find them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/girltalktampa The g.roup is free to join and is open to anyone interested in fun, friendship and a fresh perspective.

By Karen Ring

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Proxies, Assessments and the Dec 12 Movie in the Park

I wish all of Westchase a very happy holiday season and healthy new year!

The next two months are going to be some busy ones for us. Annual neighborhood meetings to vote for your neighborhood representative will take place between December and January. Please do not forget to mail us back your proxy card – or drop it off at the association’s management office. It is imperative that each neighborhood has representation at the voting member (VM) meetings. Your VM is your voice at these monthly meetings.

Included in your assessment envelope that arrived mid-November was an owner contact form. Submitting the form to management is voluntary. By completing and signing the form you agree to receive e-mails from our office for Westchase-related business. The e-mails will not be used to provide notice of violations or assessments that are due. It is only to provide Westchase residents with important e-mail blasts for anything related to Westchase as a whole. Be sure to note if you only want Westchase Community Association (WCA) business e-mails or if you want information on our programs as they come up.

By now you should have received your 2015 annual assessment notice of $319 due Jan. 1, 2014.  Be sure to mail your payment with the coupon to the address noted on the coupon no later than Jan. 31 in order to avoid additional fees. If you have not received your notice, please contact our office immediately.

Our Movie in The Park on Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. is Prancer. Now that we’re in December it might be a chilly night. Don’t forget those snuggies and that cup of hot chocolate when you join us on the Montague Street green in West Park Village.

As always, management staff is here to help Westchase residents with any questions or concerns. Please feel free to drop by our office, located next to West Park Village pool (10049 Parley Dr.), or contact us at 926-6404 or via e-mail at manager@wcamanager.com.

By Debbie Sainz, CAM, CMCA

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A Gift of Health

If you are still searching for holiday gift ideas, consider my top ten items promoting fitness and health.

Great for all ages, they range in price from under $20 to over $1,000.

10. Yoga or Pilates mat or gift set: For those that practice, investing in a durable mat like Manduka can be a wonderful gift. Carrying bags, straps and blocks are also wonderful options.

9. Bike: Whether you choose a road bike, a cruiser, or a hybrid, bikes are fun. They are easier on the knees, get you outdoors, and can be great for burning calories. (Indoor stationary bikes are another option.)

8. Resistance Bands: I love these for people on the go! Resistance bands are lightweight and take up very little room in a suitcase. Carry resistance bands and eliminate excuses for not working out because you are on the road.

7. NutriBullet: Here’s a quick and easy way to get fresh fruits and vegetable blends. Infusing all the nutrients including pulps and seeds, it lets nothing go to waste, and cleanup is easy.

6. Fitness Trackers and Watches: Some of the most popular items this year, these handy tools can remind you to exercise, help track eating habits, monitor steps and sleep, and more! Since there is way of knowing the long term effects of the EMFs (electromagnetic fields), they are not higher on my list.

5. Gym or Studio Package: Explore many disciplines and facilities! Some offer full service facilities while others offer specialized training like yoga or Pilates.

4. Water bottles: Many creatively designed water bottles are BPA free. Some come with their own filters. They help you stay hydrated and help you track how much water you are consuming throughout the day.

3. Wii Fit: Wii Fit combines fun and fitness for the entire family. Its programs challenge agility, strengthen and tone, work your core, and improve your balance, cardiovascular strength and endurance.

2. Standing workstation or treadmill desk: This is an excellent way to avoid sitting for hours at a time while working!

1. Fitness shoes: This continues to be my number one gift! Footwear is very important for walking and most exercise. Proper support can help protect hips, knees, and ankles.

Shannon is a Certified Personal Trainer and Weight Loss Specialist who teaches at the YMCA and trains privately. Visit http://www.shannonthigpen.com<./p>

By Shannon Thigpen

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Village Voices, December 2014: Neighborhood Watch, Home Maintenance and VM Elections

Bennington

I would like to make everyone aware that there has been a rash of break-ins in nearby Waterchase. It’s a good opportunity to remind everyone to please be diligent with our Neighborhood Watch.  If you see anything suspicious, someone going door to door through the neighborhood or a car that is parked randomly on the street with someone sitting inside, please contact the police and report your concerns.  The non-emergency number is 247-8200 (I’ve added this number in my cell phone for convenience). They will take down the information and send an officer to investigate.  Let’s make our neighborhood as uninviting as possible to potential criminals.

Please check out the Bennington/Woodbay neighborhood page on Nextdoor.com.  If you have not already joined this social Web site, I encourage you to please do so for updated information throughout the month.

Have a happy and safe holiday season!

By Jeanne Klimschot, Bennington VM

The Greens

Happy holidays! As we enter this most joyous time of the year, please remember to keep The Greens gatehouse apprised of all your holiday parties before they occur. Please provide them a guest list, so they welcome your guests, instead of backing up the entry by calling you with each arrival. Be considerate of your fellow residents.

If you lease your Westchase property out to tenants, you must provide a copy of the executed lease to the Westchase Community Association (WCA) manager, or you may be subject to not only a violation, but a fine. Contact the WCA office for details!

At the monthly Westchase Voting Members (VMs) meeting, each VM receives a list of violations from his/her neighborhood. This month again, The Greens’ top violation was discolored houses/roofs/driveways/sidewalks. If you received a violation letter, please act upon it at your earliest convenience; let’s work together on minimizing this list down.

The link to the Community Development District (CDD) and the gatehouse is http://www.westchasecdd.com/4.html There. you’ll find further information along with the resident form. Please update your resident file.

On a final note, I propose putting together a committee of Greens residents to assess the feasibility of creating a new database of resident e-mails. Please let me know if you are interested in being part this committee.

By Gerald (Jerry) Pappa, The Greens VM

Stockbridge

The Stockbridge Voting Member (VM) proxies have been sent. I am hopeful each of you completed the completed the voting process, including the mailbox question. Ryan Benson contacted me about becoming the Alternate VM and an e-mail was sent to the Stockbridge distribution list. My hope is that you took the time to write in his name for this position. Our annual neighborhood meeting will be held on Dec. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Westchase Community Association (WCA) office. While attendance is not mandatory, it would be nice to see some representation from Stockbridge.

I e-mailed the neighborhood about the fall block party and the lacking of time for planning. We will look toward spring for the next block party. Jen and I will host again unless we have a volunteer looking to do so.

I am sure most of you have noticed the influx of moving vans in Stockbridge. As we say goodbye to some of our neighbors, let’s also be sure to welcome our new ones.

Have a great holiday!

By Ed Siler, Stockbridge VM

Townhomes of West Park Village

Our association recently held its annual meeting on Oct. 30. Thank you to all who attended or submitted their proxy vote. I welcome two new board members, Ken Millman and Kent Bell, both long-time residents on New Parke Road. They were joined by Karen Harte and Mary McQuinn. I am quite excited that we have a full complement of board members. Thanks to all who agreed to serve! 

We had some very positive outcomes at the association business meeting following our annual meeting. Two new items will benefit our Townhome owners: (1) the board approved twice yearly mulching and (2) twice yearly pressure washing for our sidewalks. We voted to cancel our pest control contract with Orkin, as we felt it duplicated services to our homeowners. The savings offset the new services, which will begin in 2015.

If you have received a notice regarding your sidewalk, please take the appropriate action to address it, as we will announce our pressure washing schedule in the first quarter of 2015. The additional good news is our association dues will remain the same with no increase! 

By Debbie Dawson, Townhoms of WPV President

Villas of West Park Village

The year 2014 has been very good to our association and our finances are not only in order, but we have been able to accomplish every goal we set for this year within the approved budget. Recently we completed the second pressure washing of our sidewalks and curbs, front and back. We all can feel proud with the curb appeal of our units. It’s also good to announce that the monthly assessment during 2015 will remain the same as it was this year.

On Feb. 2 the Villas will hold our annual meeting, when two seats, each with two- year terms, will be up for election. The intent notices will be mailed Dec. 19 and members wishing to be candidates should return it by close of business Jan. 5.  The meeting notice will be mailed on Jan. 12.

Finally, on behalf of your board, I wish everyone the very best during Christmas. I hope 2015 brings health and happiness to all of you.

By Carlos Quiros, Villas of WPV President

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Alonso Baseball Hosts 11th Annual Golf Tournament

The Alonso High School Ravens Baseball, Division 6A State Champions in 2009 and 2011, will host a golf tournament fundraiser on Saturday, Jan. 3.

Held at the Westchase Golf Club, the tournament will begin at 1 p.m. The format is a four-person team, best ball scramble. Tournament awards will be given for the winning team, closest to the pin, longest drive and putting contest.

This is a great opportunity to support an award-winning baseball program in our local community. All proceeds will go towards building a new batting cage facility for the baseball program.

“We appreciate the community support of Alonso’s baseball over the years. However, we need to continue to raise funds to improve our program. Participating in our golf tournament fundraiser means you’re investing in both our program and more importantly our baseball players,” said Head Coach Landy Faedo.

The Alonso golf tournament is seeking golfers and sponsors as well as donations of food, drink, silent auction items and raffle prizes. Several levels of sponsorships are also available, ranging from $100 to $2,500, including hole sponsorships, GPS signage, Alonso baseball field corporate banners and others.

The price for an individual golfer is $100, which includes greens/cart fees, awards banquet and dinner. For those of you who don’t want to miss out on the great food, non-golfers can purchase dinner-only tickets for $15. It’s well worth the price as this tournament has become famous for providing a hearty and home-cooked, authentic meal.

Don’t delay, sign up today! Contact Team Mom Cathy Fahrman at (813) 508-6242 to register or get more information on sponsorships. Thanks in advance for your support of these great baseball players and Alonso High School Ravens Baseball.

By Ronda Woble

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Former TBAY Coach Allen Remembered

Two years after the tragic death of former TBAY Westchase Swim Coach Kelley Allen, all seven TBAY branches gathered at their respective pools to honor their beloved mentor with a moment of silence. “I remember seeing Kelley when I was a young swimmer and thinking he looked like a pirate,” said TBAY Westchase coach Alex Richardson. “Then he came over to TBAY and it was just fitting, because now he really was a pirate [the club mascot]. To get a chance to work with him – to know him as a friend and mentor – he had a great impact on all of us.”

Swimmer Maddie Strasen recalled how Coach Kelley used to race up and down the pool deck, trying to see everything at once. “If everything happens for a reason, and if he had to be taken from us so soon,” Strasen said, “it was so that he could be somewhere where he can see everyone at once.”

Even Coach Kelley might have had trouble keeping up with a frenetic TBAY Westchase schedule over the last month. The team raced at the WFLA Halloween Invitational in Largo, an annual stop on the calendar, and the SPA Penny Per Yard meet in St. Petersburg. In addition, several high schoolers competed at district and regional meets, with two qualifying for the state championships.

At the Oct. 17-19 Halloween meet, Rafael Borromeo, Sam Prabhakaran and Sydney Senior posted 10-second drops in their respective events while Paige Easton and Aly Johnston recorded top-five finishes. Prabhakaran and Savannah Trezza cut 10 seconds in the Nov. 2 SPA meet, while a long list of top-five finishers included Easton, Prabhakaran, Johnston, Armando Destrade, Noah Hall, Tyler Henry, Nicolas Libreros, Liam Maloney, Elizabeth McDonough, Gavin Nolan and Gregory Tilzer.

The club’s high school athletes had been training for peak performances at the district and regional meets that lead to the state championships, and the hard work paid off for several of them. Abby Rose of Sickles made the Class 3A state meet in three events – 50 free, 100 free and the 200 free relay. Strasen, Robinson High School’s captain, made the Class 2A state meet for the second consecutive year in 100 breaststroke while also qualifying for senior championships with her regional 200 free time.

In addition to that pair, Richie Bui, Danny Harris, Isabel Minnis, Tiffany Quach, Ben Brown, Johnny Dang and sixth-grader Summer Senior all qualified for high school regionals, while Erykah Farrant and Katelyn Rosenblum competed at districts.

“Our high school swimmers did a great job this season,” said Richardson proudly. “It’s hard work to represent your school and continue to train with our program. I am very proud of the two ladies who made it to the state competition. They had big goals this season and they really stepped up to the challenge.”

Before taking a week off at Thanksgiving and getting back at it in December, TBAY Westchase was looking forward to the LOLL/TBAY Fall Challenge in mid-November, when the club’s younger swimmers were slated to compete in distance events for the first time. About 40 club swimmers were also scheduled to participate in the YCF Almost Turkey Invitational in Orlando Nov. 21-23. Also coming up is our annual holiday party and lots of holiday training!

Be sure to like TBAY Westchase on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @tbaywestchase!

By Jean Strasen and Alex Richardson

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Picture Perfect Holiday Picks

Picture books can make us wish we were kids again.

This year my holiday gift-giving suggestions include picture books for children and teens. Yet the selections will amuse and captivate adults as well.

Traditional picture books are short and engaging while blending stories with art. Here is a sampling of my favorites.

Press Here, written and illustrated by Hervé Tullet, defies categorization. It is an interactive book without tabs, windows or flaps, yet it’s as engaging as an iPad app without a single electronic component. Press the dots, tilt the book or shake the pages to see what happens next. This book will bring a smile to most any kid – or adult. It’s recommended for ages 4-8 but fun for anyone.

In the next story, a box of crayons goes on strike. When Duncan gets ready to color, the crayons are missing. Instead, he finds hand-written notes explaining why each crayon has had enough! Every hilarious epistle matches one of Duncan’s drawings, illustrating how the young artist has misused the crayon. The Day the Crayons Quit, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, is a funny and fresh addition for children 3-7.

Most of us know Keith Richards as a member of the legendary rock band, The Rolling Stones. He shows a different side as the author of Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar. His daughter, Theodora, illustrates this tender story of the bond between Richards and his grandfather with charming pen-and-ink collages. A bonus CD features the author reading his story and playing a sample of “Malagueña,” the first song he learned from his grandfather. It’s suggested for preschool and early elementary ages.

Anyone who has struggled to write an essay or story has likely turned to Roget’s Thesaurus for inspiration. The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, by Jen Bryant, is the story of how young Peter Mark Roget came to create his book of lists, which evolved into the essential reference work. Melissa Sweet’s elaborately designed illustrations layer watercolors over a patchwork of classic images and old-time fonts, drawing the reader back again to each page. It’s perfect for the upper elementary reader.

The final two recommendations are not typical of the genre. They are longer and targeted to preteens and teens. Nevertheless, they are essentially picture books with illustrations that enhance the story or add depth to the text.

A Caldecott Award winner, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, written and illustrated by Brian Selznick, is the basis for the 2011 magical film, Hugo, a tale of mystery. The novel, set in Paris in the 1930s, is just as enchanting. Selznick’s sections of silver-toned pencil drawings, interleaved with narrative, bring the feeling of a silent film to the page.

In The Story of Buildings: From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond, Patrick Dillon celebrates what ingenious architects and builders designed and constructed. Stephen Biesty's meticulous illustrations integrate with the text to invite readers to start wherever they wish. Reminiscent of David Macaulay’s books, The Story of Buildings may be intended for junior readers, but it will engage grownups.

Make your gift of a picture book memorable by adding a promise to read it together. Milk and cookies optional!

As a holiday treat, four readers can win one of the featured books – Press Here, Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar, The Invention of Hugo Cabret or The Story of Buildings. To enter the drawings, e-mail editor@westchasewow.com by Dec. 10 with the subject, “Book Drawing,” and include the name of the book you want.

By Carol Collins

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Westchase Recreation Center Programs: December 2014

Adult

Zumba
Combine Latin, American and international music with a fun, effective workout.
When: Mon, 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $6/Class

Jazzercise
Combine elements of jazz dance, resistance training, flexibility and fun.
When: Mon-Fri, 8:20-9:20 a.m., 9:30-10:30 a.m., Mon-Thu, 5:30-6:30 p.m., 6:40-7:40 p.m. Sat,  8:20-9:20 a.m., 9:30-10:30 a.m., 10:40-11:40 a.m.
Cost: $10/Session

Badminton
Recreational play for adults to socialize, exercise and have fun!
When: Wed, 6-9p.m.
Cost: Free

Adult Open Gym Basketball
When: Thu, 6-9 p.m.;  Sat, 8-11 a.m.
Cost: Free

Senior Activities

Senior Pickle Ball
Pickle ball is a racquet sport combining elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. You’ll have a blast!
When: Mon, Wed, Fri, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Cost: Free

Senior Tone and Stretch
Engage in social activity while exercising to build strength, flexibility and increase range of motion.
When: Mon, Wed, 9-10 a.m.
Cost: Free

Field Trips
Adult Senior Field Trips
When: First Thursday of every month
Cost: Call center for details.

Toddler Activities


Pint-sized Picassos
Each week focuses on an element of art and offers a unique project that is sure to be a keeper. On December break; will return in January.
When: Tue, 8:15-9 a.m.; 9:15-10 a.m.
Ages: 3-4
Cost: $7/Session

Broadway Babies
Introduction to performing arts, songs, and dance that all become part of mini-musical number students perform at a later recital.
When: Wed, 1-1:45 p.m.
Ages: 3-5
Cost: $7/Session

Grade 5/Middle School/Teens

Girls Volleyball
Character-based program teaching volleyball fundamentals with age-appropriate strength and conditioning.
When: Tue, 7-8 p.m.
Cost: $10/Session

Boys Competitive Volleyball
Focus on learning ball-handling skills and competitive games
When: Tue, 8-9 p.m.
Cost: $10/Session
Ages: Grades 5-12

Girls and Boys Instructional Basketball
Focus on learning ball-handling skills and competitive games. Character-based program teaches basketball fundamentals with age-appropriate strength and conditioning.
When: Mon, 6-7 p.m.
Cost: $10/Session
Ages: 11-14

Art in the Park
Learn creative new art projects while making new friends. On December break; will return in January.
When: Thu, 6 p.m.
Cost: $10/Session
Ages: Grades 5-12

Show on the Road
Learn the art of acting, play production, back stage and prop preparation while having fun.
Ages: 13 and up
When: Tue, 8-9 p.m.
Cost: $10/Session

Youth

Girls and Boys Instructional Basketball
Focus on learning ball-handling skills and competitive games. Character based program teaches basketball fundamentals with age-appropriate strength and conditioning.
Grades: K-8
When: Mon, 6-7pm
Cost: $10/Session

Girls Elementary Volleyball
Learn the skills and fundamentals of competitive play and have fun.
Ages: Grades 3-5
When: Tue, 6-7 p.m.
Cost: $10/Session

The Young Apprentice
Each week focuses on an element of art and offers a unique project sure to be a keeper. On December break; will return in January.
When: Sat, 9-10 a.m.; 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Grades: K-5
Cost: $10/Session

Looking for Volunteer Line Dance Instructor or one who enjoys sharing their love and knowledge for Line Dancing. Call the Rec Center. Dodeball2YOU coming selected Fridays in January!

All activities take place at:
Westchase Recreation Center
9791 Westchase Dr.
Tampa, FL 33626
(813) 964-2948

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Westchasers Got Talent!

On Nov. 2, a number of Westchase residents put their musical talents to the test at the “America’s Got Talent” open call auditions held at the Tampa Convention Center.

Unlike other televised talent competitions like “American Idol” and “The Voice,” AGT is a variety show – people of any age and any talent are welcome to audition for their chance to vie for the top prize of $1 million.

It wasn’t about the money for Westchase residents Ray Chiaramonte, Casey Banales and Josh Willeke, who all headed down to the convention center looking for an experience.

Bridges resident, Josh Willeke, 9, had a special incentive to audition. Tampa Bay Music Academy, where Josh has taken piano lessons for the past three years, partnered with AGT and in turn they were able to offer their students front of the line passes to audition. That was far too good an opportunity to pass up, according to Josh. He paired up with his cousin, Samantha Smith, 11, who plays the classical guitar, and fellow student, Hendon Haley, 13, who sings, to form the musical trio We R Unstoppable. With roughly a month to prepare, Josh practiced his piano every day. “I don’t usually practice that much, but I was really motivated,” he said. 

On the day of the auditions, the trio arrived at the convention center bright and early and, as promised, went straight to the head of the line. They were among the first 50 to audition. The group got a glimpse of some of the other talents on display that day. “We saw a group dancing with birds,” Josh said.

The musical groups were led into an audition room nine at a time, and there they performed for a lone producer. Both Samantha and Josh admitted that their nerves kicked in as they waited. “I play better when I am nervous,” Samantha said.

The trio performed “All of Me,” by John Legend and felt good about their performance. “There was one act in our group that was better than us, but we hung in there!” Josh declared. “Even if we don’t make it, it was a great experience,” he added.

Ray Chiaramonte, who lives in West Park Village, headed to the auditions on a whim – in much the same way that he began singing in the first place. Ten years ago, Ray took a trip with family members to visit the village in Italy from which his grandparents hail. There, during a festival, his cousin’s wife convinced him to get up in front of the crowd and sing Sinatra’s “My Way.” “I hated that song. It is so depressing,” Ray laughed.

Nonetheless, his performance was a hit with the crowd and a rush for Ray. He has been singing gigs, from private parties to corporate events, ever since. He has also grown to love Sinatra.

The AGT auditions appealed to Ray, 64, because they do not restrict by age. Ray arrived at the auditions at 2 p.m. and, after filling out a slew of paperwork, he was finally handed his audition number: #1292. Needless to say, it was a long day. Ray recounted that as he scanned the room during his wait, he could easily spot the serial auditioners, the nervous first-timers and the overzealous stage moms – there was even a guy in a spandex chicken suit. Ray considered leaving a few times, but then he thought to himself, “How often does this kind of thing come to Tampa? I might as well have one crazy experience!”

That kind of  “Why not?” attitude has guided Ray since he beat cancer four years ago. Now Ray admits that when he is contemplating taking a risk, he just asks himself, “Is this going to kill me? No!”

When his number was called, Ray performed  “Feeling Good” by Michael Bublé. While he felt good about his performance, he admits he learned a lot about strategy that day. “I’m not afraid to do it again, now that I’ve got the lay of the land.”

Like Ray, Casey Banales of The Greens made a spontaneous decision to head to the AGT auditions. At age 13, Casey is no stranger to performing in front of an audience. In the seven years she has been singing, she has sung “The National Anthem” at The Big South volleyball tournament in Atlanta in front of a whopping 36,000 people and at a minor league baseball game at Tampa’s Yankees Stadium.

The AGT auditions offered a different type of performance atmosphere. “There were cameras everywhere and so many people!” Casey said. Her wait time was roughly five hours and she took advantage of that time to just enjoy the whole experience. “The auditions were a lot of fun. I met so many talented people. I met a hip-hop dance group and a really good magician in line. It made the day go by quickly and made it fun!” she said. “I think I did well but most of all it was a great experience.”

Tampa was AGT’s first stop for their initial audition rounds. Auditioners will be notified in March or April if they will be moving on to the next round. We wish Josh, Casey and Ray the best of luck and thank them for sharing their experience with us!

By Karen Ring

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Davidsen Girls Basketball Team Ends Season Undefeated

Congratulations to the Davidsen Girls Basketball team, who finished the season with an impressive second place finish at the Hillsborough County Tournament.

This after an equally impressive showing in their regular season, where the Dragons went undefeated, 6-0! Davidsen faced off against Martinez in their final game of the season. Both teams came into the game 5-0. Davidsen trailed Martinez until the last minute of the game. In the last 43 seconds, Davidsen tied the game and in the final seconds of the game they pulled ahead to win!

Davidsen went on to beat Benito in the semifinals and then lost to Rampello in the finals.

“Special thanks to Coach Lindsay Windell for all her dedication and exemplary demeanor on the sidelines as she led the girls to victory,” said Gail Frank, whose daughter, Sarah, is a sixth grader on the team.

Congratulations are also in order for all of our PHD students for the first quarter. On Nov. 7 188 students who earned straight A’s were treated to breakfast. We also commend all of our students who completed an entry for this year’s Reflection’s theme, “The World Would be a Better Place If….” Those students were treated to breakfast on Nov. 14. Seventeen Davidsen students will advance on to the Hillsborough County finals, to be held on Dec. 6 at Hillsborough Community College.

In upcoming news, Davidsen’s next conference night has been scheduled for Dec. 3 from 5-7:30 p.m. Westchase’s “Walk to Davidsen Day” for fifth graders will be held on Dec. 11 at 9:30 a.m. Parents can meet at Davidsen for a tour. Spirit shirts and uniform shirts will be available for purchase.

Also, don’t forget about our monthly Spirit Night at McDonald’s, held on the first Tuesday of the month between 5-8 p.m. (dine-in, take-out or drive-thru and no flyer is needed). This is a great way to support our graduating eighth graders. We hope to see you there!

Thanks to all of our PTSA volunteers, our wonderful Davidsen teachers and staff and our business partners for their support in making the first half of the year a success. We wish all of our students and their families a happy holiday season!

By Karen Ring

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Westchase Crime: October 2014

Some notable changes are evident in October’s crime statistics.

First, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) has stopped including accident statistics. Second, there’s been a noticeable spike in thefts from cars. 

Deputy Kris Gundersen of Westchase’s off-duty privacy patrol reported that most of these were quite avoidable. Seventy to 80 percent of the cars’ owners left valuables in the cars and didn’t lock them. Gundersen reminds residents to keep garage doors closed. If you can’t park in your garage, remove all valuables from cars and lock them.

The HCSO’s District III office has a new leader. Major Chad Chronister will attend the Jan. 13 Westchase Voting Members meeting, where he hopes to field questions and concerns from interested residents. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center.

Aggravated Assault

10/5

10000 Tate Ln.                                                                                

Battery-Simple

10/2

9700 Montague St.                                                                            

Battery-Simple

10/3

9500 W. Linebaugh Ave.                                                                          

Battery-Simple

10/5

10000 Tate Ln.                                                                               

Battery-Simple

10/10

10100 Radcliffe Dr.

Battery-Simple

10/15

10500 Montague St.

Battery-Simple

10/29

10500 Gretna Green Dr.

Burglary Other Structure

10/4

11600 Countryway Blvd.                                                                          

Burglary Residence/No Force

10/21

10000 Bentley Wy.

Fraud-Credit Card

10/3

10000 Tate Ln.                                                                                

Fraud-Other

10/19

12000 W. Linebaugh Ave.

Drugs/Narcotics

10/21

W. Linebaugh Ave./Gretna Green Dr.

Drugs/Narcotics

10/29

10500 Montague St.

DUI (Driving Under Influence)

10/22

9500 West Park Vlg Dr.

Theft From A Vehicle

10/4

9800 Montague St.                                                                            

Theft From A Vehicle

10/22

10700 Ayrshire Dr.

Theft From A Vehicle

10/28

10600 Weybridge Dr.

Theft From A Vehicle

10/28

9500 Cavendish Dr.

Theft From A Vehicle

10/28

10600 Weybridge Dr.

Theft From A Vehicle

10/29

10800 Sierra Vista Pl.

Theft From A Vehicle

10/29

10700 Spring Mountain Pl.

Theft Vehicle & Other Mobile

10/24

10500 Castleford Wy.

Criminal Mischief Misdemeanor

10/26

10000 Brompton Dr.

Obstructing Courts

10/17

10100 Kingsbridge Ave.

Warrant In County

10/26

Countryway Blvd./Oaksbury Dr.

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Pamela Conguta: Running the Race of Her Life

Every day, scores of runners take to the streets of Westchase.

Each has a personal reason for pushing themselves to the brink of exhaustion. For Lake Chase resident, Pamela Conguta, running is her way of fighting back against a devastating disease.

Two years ago Pamela was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s Disease, a progressive, neurodegenerative disease marked by muscle rigidity, tremors and changes in speech and gait. She was just 42 at the time.

Pamela began displaying Parkinson’s-like symptoms while pregnant with her son, Jude; however, because she was pregnant, her doctors could not conduct the necessary tests to determine the cause. Shortly after she gave birth, tests confirmed that she did indeed have Parkinson’s. Pamela was crushed…and then her son’s doctor delivered another blow. Jude had been born with Trisomy 9 Syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder that can cause developmental delays.

Pamela spiraled into depression. For nearly a year, the Parkinson’s was winning. “Those were the darkest days of my life,” Pamela admitted.

Then her husband, Alex, began running on a regular basis and Pamela saw the effect it had on his overall health. Inspired, she picked herself up and began walking laps around the track at Lake Chase. In time, walking turned to jogging and, eventually, running. To increase her strength, Pamela enlisted trainer Michael Altieri of Westchase Fitness, who put her on an intense weight-training regimen. It was in the gym that Pamela truly regained her confidence.

“It was not easy to go in the gym when I first started to lift weights. There were some days when I was doing arm curls, by my third set, my legs started bouncing and I had to push through. One time, I’ll never forget,  [Michael] just stood on my foot and said ‘Finish!’”

Pamela admitted that pushing through that strenuous workout was a turning point. “I had balance. I felt good,” she said. More important, those muscles she was building gave her the strength to be able to pick up Jude – something she had struggled with before. “I want him to see me as strong,” she said of her 2-year-old son. 

Pamela founded the Facebook support page, Young Faces of Parkinson, in hopes of inspiring others to get up and fight back against the disease for which there is no cure. She began posting her progress at the gym and on the running track in photos and video clips. Responses poured in. “Just wanted to thank you for your videos... Inspired me to make some much needed changes....” wrote one follower.

“You have inspired me so much. I just ran for the first time in years! Freedom!” wrote another.

Reactions like those gave Pamela even more motivation to keep running.

As her strength and confidence grew, Pamela began running faster. “When I am running, that is the time in my life that I forget I have Parkinson’s. I’m moving. I’m floating. I’m free,” Pamela stated.

Two months ago, Pamela set out on a mission to run in her first 5k and she signed up for The Great West Chase, held Oct. 25.

Her initial goal was to finish in 45 minutes. The morning of the race, Pamela hit the gym for one last confidence boost. As the starting time approached, Pamela watched Alex cross the finish line of the 10K portion of the race. Without missing a beat, he joined Pamela at the starting line for the 5k race and stayed by her side every step of the way.

During the last mile, fatigue set in and Pamela found herself struggling to finish. “Alex wouldn’t let me give up. He literally pushed me to the finish,” Pamela said.

Pamela did end up finishing the race, Alex’s arm around her waist. Her time: 32 minutes.

While she admits The Great West Chase was a challenge, Pamela is ready to start training for her next race. Her goal is to run in the 26th Annual Say No To Drugs Holiday Classic in Clearwater on Dec. 20 and finish under 30 minutes. Beyond that, Pamela is taking life one day at a time: “I’m enjoying the now and, at the moment, I am winning the fight!

By Karen Ring

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WOW in the Grassy Great White, Kinda North

Over the summer WOW had the chance to visit some currently snow-covered, rather chilly reaches of the North.

Susan and Ron Wilson of The Greens visited Newfoundland, Canada this past summer, an area definitely in the north. “It is a beautiful place,” wrote Ron, “and we especially enjoyed the views from Signal Hill, a Canadian National Historic Site.”

Susan Wilson is shown holding May’s WOW at the base of the hill, which features Cabot Tower. The hill and its tower overlook St. John’s in the Canadian province, Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundland is an island and Labrador sits on the Canadian mainland. Newfoundland is located well north of Maine on the northeast coast of Canada, just across the North Atlantic from frigid Greenland. When the Wilsons visited Newfoundland this summer, however, they enjoyed the sunny, grassy hills in the area.

Signal Hill was the site of the final battle of the Seven Years’ War, known as the French and Indian War in the U.S. That war, ending in 1763, resulted in the British takeover of Canada from the French. The war debt from that conflict led Britain to tax their American colonies, which paved the way for the American Revolution.

Signal Hill took its name from its role in signaling ships approaching St. John’s port. Located on the island of Newfoundland, the fort represented a strategic outpost overlooking the entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The late Gothic Revival Cabot Tower was constructed beginning in 1898, the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland. In 1901 it was the site of the first transatlantic radio transmission, by radio’s inventor, Guglielmo Marconi. It was used to signal passing ships by flag until the 1950s.

While Colorado arguably isn’t very north, it’s quite kinda north from Florida’s perspective. Its Rocky Mountains are famous for snow and winter sports. This past summer also found the Sidwell family of West Park Village standing on the grassy slopes of one famous Colorado site. Wrote Susie Sidwell, “When people think of Vail, Colorado, they typically think of world class skiing.  However, local Coloradans know that Vail in the summer is one of the most beautiful places on earth! Temperatures stay cool (averaging 70-85 degrees) and the mountains are green and lush thanks to the water from the snow melt.” 

The Sidwells visited to take advantage of the resort villages’ great summer deals – and to do some hiking and mountain bike riding.

“Our family tackled our biggest hike to date,” wrote Susie. “It was a four mile up-hill hike to the top of Vail Mountain. We started at 8,000 feet and ended at 11,000 – quite an accomplishment for a family coming from sea level.”

The Sidwells allowed a week to enable them to adjust to the higher altitudes, a wise choice. Their hike to the beautiful peak took two and a half hours. And afterwards? “We were well rewarded with a gondola ride back down the mountain,” said Susie.

Now North America’s third largest ski mountain, Vail’s resort opened in 1962. While welcoming thousands of visitors each winter, the town of Vail has a population of just around 5,300.

We thank the Wilsons and the Sidwells for sharing their travels with WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Great West Chase Raises $22K for Bellamy Elementary

A little algebra for you: Take 5K and add 10K and what do you get?

In the case of The Great West Chase, that would be $22K.

The last Saturday in October produced another perfect race day as The Great West Chase expanded its 5K race and Children’s Fun Run to include its first 10K.

The Oct. 25 event saw a total of 930 dedicated runners cross the finish lines. The events were made possible by a host of generous sponsors and a slew of dedicated volunteers that spent hours stuffing race bags, ensuring a smooth packet pick-up, and setting up and cleaning up after the race.

In total The Great West Chase raised $22,000 for math and literacy programs at Bellamy Elementary on Wilsky Boulevard. Bellamy is a Title I school with a large percentage of impoverished kids. Bellamy is one of the feeder schools for Davidsen Middle School, which serves Westchase.

In an impressive feat, Keswick Forest resident Larry Smart, 45, took first place among nearly 200 runners in the Great West Chase’s inaugural 10K, with a time of 34:51. Less than 30 minutes later, Smart sprinted off again in the 5K race, where he also placed first of nearly 638 runners with a time of 17:28.

The 10K’s second and third places went to Matthew Farrell (36:14) and Michael Rivera (36:47). The 10K’s top three female finishes were Beth Atnip (44:06), Sally Watkins (48:21) and Kristen Prentice (48:36).

In the 5K, second and third place finishers were Nicholas Zivolich (18:10) and Blair Burnett (18:11).

The 5K’s top three female finishers were Jennifer Palermo (20:16), Kate Greenough, (20:45), Marianne Pienias, (20:55).

The top three finishers in all age groups appear below. For complete results, see http://www.coolrunning.com

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For runners’ photos please visit James Broome Photography’s impressive gallery, http://photos.jamesbroome.com/The-Great-West-Chase/2014/

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A short video documentary of the event can be found on http://www.youtube.com Simpl.y search for “Great West Chase 2014” then select the video by Philip Dean. We thank Philip Dean Communications for taking the time to compile this wonderful depiction of a great community event.

WOW also thanks all the runners, the race sponsors and the race’s generous volunteers who made the events possible. We hope to see you next year!

10K Age Group Winners

Female Overall Winners
1 Beth Atnip, 44:06
2 Sally Watkins, 48:21
3 Kristen Prentice, 48:36

Male Overall Winners
1 Larry Smart, 34:51
2 Matthew Farrell, 36:14
3 Michael Rivera, 36:47

Female Masters Winners
1 Sheila Bode, 49:39

Male Masters Winners
1 Scott Flint, 40:57

Female Grandmasters Winners
1 Kathleen Chitester, 52:37

Male Grandmasters Winners
1 Ynris Barrios, 46:44

Female 9 to 10
1 Stefanie Hernandez, 1:02:25

Female 13 to 14
1 Reagan Ware, 1:02:51

Female 15 to 19
1 Kailey Smart, 56:50
2 Victoria Cannella, 1:13:45

Male 15 to 19
1 William Santeiro, 53:09

Female 20 to 24
1 Gina Hayduke, 51:17

Male 20 to 24
1 Nicholas Forth, 57:57

Female 25 to 29
1 Ashley Morgan, 51:52
2 Veronica Gaucher, 55:15
3 Roseanne McIntosh, 56:23

Male 25 to 29
1 Joseph Simon, 43:20

Female 30 to 34
1 Rebecca Pfeiffer, 51:04
2 Kerrie Bass, 52:38
3 Heather Highfield, 52:43

Male 30 to 34
1 James Rankin, 43:15
2 Jason Colizzo, 44:30
3 Derek Brunette, 47:22

Female 35 to 39
1 Michelle Hoffman, 49:09
2 Cindy Trautmann, 49:09
3 Cecilia Bidwell, 51:08

Male 35 to 39
1 Luiz Silva, 40:03
2 Jason Jones, 41:39
3 Shayne Stokes, 44:36

Female 40 to 44
1 Amy Hodges, 52:53
2 Leslie Dowdy, 55:07
3 Susan Klinefelter, 56:33

Male 40 to 44
1 Keith Harcombe,42:52
2 Mike Dodson, 44:49
3 Michael Kraft, 45:06

Female 45 to 49
1 Christine Kwan, 51:03
2 Christina Pereyra, 53:42
3 Mailissa Cavanaugh, 54:43

Male 45 to 49
1 Jeffrey Sievers, 45:13
2 Adam Corwin, 45:57
3 Brian Kobel, 48:20

Female 50 to 54
1 Jennifer Fehr, 1:06:41
2 Veronica Rojek, 1:11:57
3 Shelley Ward, 1:13:07

Male 50 to 54
1 Paul MacLean, 49:20
2 Kirk Sexton, 56:56
3 Michael Levine, 59:17

Female 55 to 59
1 Kathy Peluso, 55:03
2 Sherry Bencetic, 1:00:43
3 Shirley Risler, 1:01:27

Male 55 to 59
1 Joe Rogers, 47:55
2 Robert Cooper, 49:09
3 Tom Miller, 56:48

Female 60 to 64
1 Sue D'Auria, 56:06
2 Marie McGlynn, 1:33:15

Male 60 to 64
1 Gerard Morda, 52:02
2 Bruce Simpson, 56:52
3 David Chitester, 1:04:43

Female 65 to 69
1 Joan Wells, 1:12:39
2 Carol Mastrandrea, 1:48:21

Male 65 to 69
1 Dan Thomas, 1:01:43

Female 70 to 74
1 Lenore Rupert, 1:06:47

Male 75 and Over
1 Patrick Zier, 58:58
2 C Cooper, 1:33:13

5K Age Group Winners

Female Overall Winners
1 Jennifer Palermo, 20:16
2 Kate Greenough, 20:45
3 Marianne Picnias, 20:55

Male Overall Winners
1 Larry Smart, 17:28
2 Nicholas Zivolich, 18:10
3 Blair Burnett, 18:11

Female Masters Winners
1 Heather Bilotta, 22:40

Male Masters Winners
1 Sebastian Hernandez, 18:59

Female Grandmasters Winners
1 Elizabeth Anderson, 22:50

Male Grandmasters Winners
1 Jose Vasquez, 19:24

Female 8 and Under
1 Kate Anderson, 34:47
2 Kaitlyn Chan, 34:57
3 Makinna Jolly, 40:49

Male 8 and Under
1 Jack Kouwe, 24:14
2 Leonardo Venditto, 24:29
3 Liam Maloney, 25:26

Female 9 to 10
1 Ella McKee, 28:28
2 Tristan Stavish, 30:04
3 Abby Armstrong, 30:29

Male 9 to 10
1 Ryan Winslow, 22:28
2 Braxton Legg, 22:29
3 Colin Corwin, 23:03

Female 11 to 12
1 Emma Barrett, 27:28
2 Claire Armstrong, 28:28
3 Sarah Anderson, 28:35

Male 11 to 12
1 Jacob Key, 26:37
2 Jeigh Ives, 27:44
3 Nathan Hardie, 27:54

Female 13 to 14
1 Caroline Maggi, 22:02
2 Makenna Kirsch, 26:50
3 Margaret Parker, 28:38

Male 13 to 14
1 Dylan Vandall, 19:34
2 Trevor Stanley, 19:45
3 Pedro Hernandez, 20:42

Female 15 to 19
1 Annie Phifer, 27:20
2 Kaitlyn Corwin, 27:58
3 Bailey Jones, 28:22

Male 15 to 19
1 Zack Benham, 20:48
2 Lucas Gordon, 23:32
3 Brendan Rouge, 25:08

Female 20 to 24
1 Becca Garner, 24:27
2 Erica Bruggeman, 25:58
3 Gabriela Aizcorbe, 26:55

Male 20 to 24
1 Kyle Vuksich, 18:30
2 Fabiano Almeida, 20:42
3 Matthew Farnum, 21:41

Female 25 to 29
1 Anna Harwick, 24:50
2 Katie Colucci, 25:22
3 Korisa Kulda, 26:31

Male 25 to 29
1 Bo Partin, 21:16
2 Wesley Mazac, 22:43
3 Brian Dimaculangan, 25:41

Female 30 to 34
1 Marcia Florencio, 22:27
2 Jaye Duncan, 22:51
3 Jackie Larson, 24:19

Male 30 to 34
1 Nick Radner, 19:54
2 Greg Witte, 20:47
3 Travis Hoffman, 23:15

Female 35 to 39
1 Katti Dienhart, 20:58
2 Sonja Olsen, 24:49
3 Pia Trujillo, 24:59

Male 35 to 39
1 Jeff Beck, 21:20
2 Shane Warner, 21:56
3 Justin Gore, 22:03

Female 40 to 44
1 Maria Aranda, 25:13
2 Danyell Diruggiero, 25:14
3 Mai Vo, 25:26

Male 40 to 44
1 Tom Keller, 20:59
2 Craig Comperatore, 21:04
3 J Scott Green, 21:30

Female 45 to 49
1 Sue Kouwe, 24:24
2 Michele Weinstock, 25:25
3 Kristie Crouse, 27:53

Male 45 to 49
1 Martin Colan, 21:32
2 Max Dang, 22:05
3 Charles Bauder, 22:38

Female 50 to 54
1 Kim Thomas, 24:08
2 Connie Garrison, 24:21
3 Beth Roosen, 28:41

Male 50 to 54
1 Gregory Dodson, 20:35
2 Jon Carter, 23:15
3 David Herman, 23:44

Female 55 to 59
1 Debra Donald, 23:26
2 Kathleen Crowley, 24:26
3 Kathy Peluso, 27:54

Male 55 to 59
1 Paul Tavernier, 22:28
2 Steve Hershberg, 24:58
3 Grady Lenski, 25:14

Female 60 to 64
1 Diane Spicer, 31:35
2 Norma Jamie, 32:18
3 Janny Wind, 38:01

Male 60 to 64
1 Bob Wind, 29:23
2 Robert Serneels, 30:09
3 John D'Auria, 34:29

Female 65 to 69
1 Linda Hill, 48:15
2 Nancy Fraser Carrier, 56:37

Male 65 to 69
1 Gar Flise, 22:07
2 Folkert Koelman, 25:02
3 William Geiger, 46:48

Male 70 to 74
1 Bruce Shephard, 23:56
2 Silky Sullivan, 24:59
3 Patrick Gross, 29:27

Female 75 and Over
1 Rose Ann Hammock, 47:20

Male 75 and Over
1 Joe B., 21:57
2 Don Hendry, 28:12

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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December 2014 Programs at the UTB Library

FAMILY PROGRAMS

Toddler Time (Ages 2-3 with caregiver): Mon, Dec 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29, at 10:15 a.m.; Tue, Dec 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, at 10:15 a.m.; Wed, Dec 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31, at 11 a.m.
Story Time (Ages 3-5): Tue, Dec 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, at 11 a.m.
Baby Time (Ages 0-18 months): Tue, Dec 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, at 1:15 p.m.; Wed, Dec 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31at 1:15 p.m.
Wee Artists: Thu, Dec 4, 11 and 18, at 1:15 p.m.
Silly Sam the Music Man: Sat, Dec 6, at 2:30 p.m.
• Dance, sing and play to holiday songs.
LEGO Block Party: Mon, Dec 15, at 3:30 p.m.
Winter Tales: Wed, Dec 17, at 3:30 p.m.
• Join us for a puppet show telling three stories.
CoderDojo: Teaching Kids to Code: Sat, Dec 27, at 11:30 a.m.

TEEN PROGRAMS

Teen Advisory Board: Tue, Dec 2 and 16, at 4:30 p.m.

ADULT PROGRAMS

Job Support Group: Tue, Dec 2, at 10:30 a.m.
Book Discussion: Thu, Dec 4, at 6:30 p.m.
• Join us to discuss A Curious Man by Neal Thompson.
Tai Chi with Bonnie Birdsall: Thu, Dec 4 and 11, at 1:30 p.m.
Sahaja Meditation: Sat, Dec 6, 13, 20 and 27, at 10:30 a.m.
UTB Library Art Gallery Opening: Thu, Dec 11, at 6 p.m.
• Join us for the opening of the library’s new art gallery, featuring work of local artists. Funding for the gallery was provided by WOW.
Book Discussion: Mon, Dec 15, at 11 a.m.
• Join us to discuss The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
Family Center on Deafness Telephone Distribution: Fri, Dec 12, at 10 a.m.

Computer Classes:
Tech Boulevard: Tue, Dec 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, at 2:30 p.m.
• Ongoing training in computer and software basics.
Microsoft Excel–Introduction: Tue, Dec 2, at 6:30 p.m.
Microsoft Excel–Basic Calculations: Tue, Dec 9, at 6:30 p.m.
Facebook: Tue, Dec 16, at 6:30 p.m.
Computer Tutor: Tue, Dec 30, at 6:30 p.m.

LIBRARY HOURS

Sun, 12:30-5 p.m.; Mon-Wed, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Thu, noon-8 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Holiday Hours: The library is closed on Thu and Fri, Dec. 25-26, in observance of Christmas and Jan. 1 in observance of New Year’s Day. The library will close at 6 p.m. on Mon-Wed, Dec. 22-24, and Wed, Dec. 31.

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