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Wizards Talk Middle School to Parents

On Friday, Feb. 2, Westchase will celebrate the grandparents of students in Kindergarten through Grade 2 starting at 8 a.m. with a light breakfast in the MPR. Following the breakfast, grandparents will head to their grandchild’s class, where they can enjoy reading a favorite story with the class.

Do you have a fourth or fifth grader? Also on Feb. 2, the PTA will host Coffee and Conversation at 8 a.m. in Room 201. This presentation will focus on answering parent questions about middle school. We will have Principal Arena from Davidsen Middle School – Center for the Arts, and Mr. Murrillo, Area 2 Superintendent.

Look for information coming home regarding our Spring ASE classes. Registration will open on Feb. 7 and will again be online. The process is first come, first served. The eight-week session will start on Feb. 21-22 and run through April 18-19 (there are no classes during spring break).

Please be sure to support our Spring Box Tops drive, running through Feb. 16. Simply clip your Box Tops and send them to school in a plastic bag. Remember to include your child’s name, teacher and grade to get credit. The class who collects the most Box Tops will win a pizza party. We’re hoping to surpass the $1,300 raised in the fall drive!

Frames, Folk and Fitness is a great family fun night at Westchase. Come and see your child's framed artwork displayed in the MPR. You can purchase the artwork for $25 (cash or check only), and all proceeds go towards supporting the art department. While you are there, let your kids show off the folk dancing skills they are learning in music. There will also be fun activities on the covered courts conducted by our wonderful P.E. coaches.

The Sweetheart Dance will be held on Saturday, Feb. 24 from 1-3 p.m. at the Westchase Recreation Center (9791 Westchase Dr.). All students and their parents/caregivers are invited to join us for light refreshments, a DJ and fun! This free, family event is brought to you by the Westchase PTA and the Westchase Recreation Center.

For more information, please visit http://www.westchasepta.org and like us on Facebook.

Westchase’s February Events

2          Grandparents Breakfast and Read to Me Day, 8 a.m.
2          Coffee and Conversation (Middle School), 8 a.m. in Rm 201       
7-8       ASE Registration (Classes begin Feb. 21 – 22) 
8          Conference Night      
15        Frames, Folk and Fitness Night, 6 p.m.
21-22  ASE Classes Begin
24       Sweetheart Dance, 1 p.m. in Rec Center

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Can You Lend a Wing?

The Stork Club is looking for a volunteer willing to greet Westchase’s newest residents.

One of Westchase’s dedicated Stork Club volunteers is retiring and a replacement is needed to help greet Westchase newborns home from the hospital. The current volunteer covers Berkeley Square, The Enclave, Keswick Forest, Radcliffe and The Shires. The new volunteer does not need to live within those neighborhoods, however.

When called, the Stork Club volunteer posts a stork in the newborn’s yard and drops off a birth-announcement form for publication in WOW. After a few days, they return to pick up the stork.

If you can spare a few minutes each month to help build a stronger community, please contact either Stork Club Chair Nancy Gerovac at wishyouwerehere@tampabay.rr.com.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Westchase Soccer Association Registration Feb. 3

The final open registration opportunity for Westchase Soccer Association’s Spring 2018 season will be held on February 3.

Please visit http://www.westchasesoccer.org for registration information and program offerings. WSA also offers volunteer opportunities for students to complete community service hours.

We anticipate Under 5, Under 6, Under 7, Under 8, Under 10 and Under 12+up age groups providing we have enough volunteer coaches. Age divisions are determined by the Florida Youth Soccer Association’s (FYSA) cutoff date of Jan. 1 (not the date the programs begin). Please refer to the Age Divisions chart on our website for participant eligibility. New and some returning participants in the U7, U8, U10 and U12+up age groups must participate in a mandatory 15-minute skills assessment in February to complete the registration process.

A MiniWee program will be offered to children who are 3½ to 4½ by the FYSA cutoff date of Jan. 1.

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

Submitted by the WSA Board of Directors

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Catch Twenty-Three Fake Ad Contest Continues, January 2018

January’s fabulous fakery, The Shamerator on page 70, was inspired by all the social media shamers on Westchase Neighborhood News (the real group, not the fake one).

Did you know a photo of you cutting off someone on Linebaugh appeared online in December?

Because taking and posting pictures of bad drivers instead of keeping both hands on the steering wheel keeps us all safer.

After a handful of shaming doorbell videos were also posted, the group administrator, the victim of education by nun, posted a post shaming the shamers. He proclaimed that social media shaming was thereafter banned. In response, posters shamed the editor for promoting only positive and nice posts. It made the beleaguered editor long for a simpler, pre-digital world, when the only things we had to worry about were polio, smallpox and world wars.

(It was self-preservation actually. It was just a matter of time before a photo of the editor privately nose-mining at a Westchase red light was posted.)

Fortunately, something good came of it. Of all the correct fake ad entries, the entry submitted by Robin Marks of Woodbridge was randomly selected by the fake ad gods. As the result, Robin will be safely cutting you off on her way to dinner at Catch Twenty-Three, courtesy of its proprietor, Rob Wickner. Thanks, Rob!

Contest Rules: Tucked somewhere in this month’s WOW is a fake ad for a fictitious business or service. Email your guess, including the fake company name and its page number, along with your name and address by the tenth of the month to editor@westchasewow.com. Write Fake Ad Contest as the subject. One correct entry will be randomly chosen as winner each month.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Westchase Reclaimed Water Off Jan. 16-18

Hillsborough County has informed the community that Westchase’s reclaimed water service will be shut off from Tuesday, Jan. 16 through Thursday, Jan. 18. The system will be shut down to enable Westra Construction, which installing the new reclaimed pipe on Linebaugh Avenue, to tie in that new pipe to existing reclaimed pipes at Gretna Green Drive and Montague Street.

The tie-ins are one of the last parts of the reclaimed pipe’s installation. Once the new pipe is connected and tested successfully, Westra will wrap up construction and begin the Linebaugh median restoration process.

Matt Hester, project manager for Westra Construction, estimated that the original Linebaugh traffic pattern will be restored by Feb. 19.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Marina’s: Simple, No Frills and Delicious

A local pizza shop offers a taste of Italy in our own backyard.

Most of you have already heard of Marina’s Pizza & Pasta. Located adjacent to Publix, it’s convenient enough to stop in for a quick dinner or pick up takeout on your way home from work.

But there are surely neighborhood newbies (or not-so-newbies, like myself) who haven’t tried it yet. This was a great excuse for me to finally take the plunge after living in Westchase for more than 5 years. I have friends who rave about it and get takeout at least once a week, but for one reason or another, I had never made it in.

Now that I have, I can tell you that I will be back.

The décor at Marina’s is simple and no-frills, but if you opt to dine in (on my visit, there was a steady stream of takeout customers but not many sit-down diners), it’s clean and welcoming. The servers are attentive, prompt and thorough.

We started with the Mozzarella Sticks ($5.95). They’re breaded and fried, and honestly not much different than most other mozzarella sticks you will encounter at any Italian restaurant. What makes this version stand out, however, is the accompanying tomato sauce. Clearly house made and fresh, it was really good.

On the suggestion of the waitress, I selected the Penne Alla Boscaiola ($13). A mound (and I mean mound) of penne came smothered in a delicious creamy tomato sauce containing ground sausage, sautéed mushrooms and peas. Tangy and very filling. My dining partner went traditional with the Lasagne Napoletana ($12.95). This is the stuff… so cheesy and meaty. Baked and still bubbling when it arrived, it was, as the Italians would say, incredibile. And enormous. Like my entrée, this dish can easily serve two. Finally, we tried the Linguini Alfredo with Chicken ($14.99)—another rich, creamy and filling dish that tasted amazing.
Our choices were all from the dinner menu. Marina’s also offers traditional pizzas (small cheese starts at $8.75; large supreme goes for $21), which I have on good authority are quite delicious; specialty “Brazilian-style” pizzas; hot subs, including Meatball ($6.99) and Philly Cheese Steak ($8); cold subs; and salads. The dinner options are served with bread and a dinner salad (with a fabulous house dressing) and as noted are likely enough for two.

To wrap things up, we shared an order of Tiramisu ($3.99). I’m not sure if it’s house made or not, but I could not stop eating it – it was that good. Other dessert options include Cannoli and Chocolate Cake ($3.99 each).

One interesting tidbit about Marina’s is that it doesn’t serve alcohol; however, customers are invited to “BYOB,” including wine and beer. Conveniently, there’s a liquor store (and a Publix) right next door. Marina’s has also recently added a delivery option (with a three-mile delivery area). You can even order takeout or delivery online.

If you’ve lived here for ages or are new the world of Westchase, stop by and give Marina’s a try.

By Melanie Casey

Marina’s Pizza & Pasta
4 STARS
http://www.marinaspizzatampa.com
12121 W. Linebaugh Ave.

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WOW Visits Utah and Niagara Falls

Over the summer WOW headed north and west.

Wycliff’s Matt and Melinda Lewis headed with their trio of kids to Utah while Vineyards resident Amanda Wynne visited Niagara Falls and Lake Ontario for a women’s half marathon.

The first photo is of Emerson, Allie and Ivey Lewis at Arches National Park in Utah. They are standing in front of the park’s famous Double Arch.

Arches National Park is a 120-square mile fantasy land of 2,000 natural stone arches located in eastern Utah near the Colorado River. Visitors to the park can hike among soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks.

The main source of erosion for the park’s geologic shapes has been water. Water wears away sides of 65 million-year-old sandstone cliffs, creating fins that jut outward. Over years, potholes in the sides of the fins grow until arches are formed.

Do any ever fall?

You bet. All are destined to give way to gravity and 43 arches fallen since 1977. On Aug. 4, 2008, Wall Arch, which wasn’t very thin or even noticeably cracked, gave way and collapsed. It woke campers in nearby Devils Garden Campground with a sound like thunder.

The park really only came to the Park Service’s awareness in the 1920s, when a railroad employee suggested it might be good for tourism. President Herbert Hoover declared in a national monument in 1929. Later expanded in size by two other presidents, Arches was declared a national park by President Richard Nixon in 1971.

Meanwhile June saw Amanda Wynn on a weekend trip north to Niagara Falls. “One of my girlfriends and I ran the sixth annual Niagara Falls Women's Half Marathon yesterday,” Amanda wrote WOW on June 5. “The race is a partner event with Kathrine Switzer's organization, 261 Fearless.”

Switzer, you may recall, was a barrier breaker for women. She was the first woman to compete with a bib in the Boston Marathon in 1969. She was the subject of a famous photo of a race official attempting to grab her and seize her bib, before the official was shoved out of the way by Switzer’s boyfriend, allowing Switzer to finish. Women were not officially permitted to run in the race until two years later in 1972.

“Kathrine was on hand at packet pick-up to take photos and sign autographs,” wrote Amanda, who added Switzer high-fived runners during the race. “It was such an honor to meet her in this, the 50th anniversary year of her historic Boston Marathon run.”

Amanda also did some touring of the area. “We spent a day in Niagara Falls State Park (US), including going to the Cave of the Winds,” she wrote. “We also spent quite a bit of time in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area, touring the adorable town, taking in the views of Toronto across Lake Ontario, and visiting a few of the dozens of local wineries.”

Take WOW on Your Winter Trips!

Please remember to take WOW or WOW Northwest with you on your winter trips outside of Florida. Send in a photo of you or your family holding WOW in an interesting place, and you will receive between $60 and $100. Simply send the photos to Editor@WestchaseWOW.com with a few sentences about your trip and the location of the photo(s).

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Westchase Recreation Center Programs: January

Adult

Zumba
Join Greg and Peggy to dance and enjoy Caribbean rhythms.
When: Sat, 10 a.m.
Cost: $7/Class

Insane Fit Girls
Small group fitness training exclusively for women and tailored to your personal fitness level and goals in a supportive and safe group setting. Please email elaine@insanefitgirls.com.
When: Tue, Thu, Fri, 9:15 a.m.
Cost: $3/Class

Badminton
Recreational play for adults to socialize, exercise and have fun!
When: Wed, 6-9 p.m.
Cost: Free

Seniors

Senior Field Trips
The first Thursday of every month seniors are offered a chance to take a variety of destination trips. To reserve your spot please call 964-2948. We are always looking for new ideas!

Thu, Jan 4: SS American Victory Ship
Thu, Feb 1: Disney Springs Orlando
Thu, Mar 1: Strawberry Festival

Seniors Outdoor Active Recreation (S.O.A.R.)
Seniors will have the opportunity to enjoy our beautiful parks and resources with a guided tour.
Tue, Jan.9: Honeymoon Island
Thu, Feb. 8: Cockroach Bay

Ballroom Dancing
No experience or partner required. Enhance your social skills and exercise while having fun!
When: Mon, 10 a.m.
Cost: Free

Aerobics Lite
A fun movement class designed for active seniors who love to stay fit while exercising to music.
When: Tue, 9:30 a.m.
Cost: $2/Class

Yoga
Come to the gentle yoga class and learn how to tone and stretch your body while incorporating ancient practices to calm the mind and rejuvenate the spirit.
When: Thu, 9:30 a.m.
Cost: $3/Class

Chair Yoga
Chair Yoga is designed for those who find it challenging to get up and down from the floor. It is also appropriate for those with balance issues. In this class, classical yoga poses will be taught with the aid of a chair.
When: Thu, 10:45 a.m.
Cost: $3/Class

Pickleball Instruction Beginners*
Learn the fundamentals and rules of the game. Please call to schedule: 964-2948.
When: Mon and Wed, 10:30 a.m.-11 a.m.
Cost: Free

Pickleball Open Play*
Pickleball is a racquet sport combining the elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. You’ll have a blast!
When: Mon, Tue, Wed, 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Cost: Free

Pickleball League Play*
Compete against other players at your skill level in league play. Please email kingsburym@hcflgov.net for more details.
When: Fri, 10:30 a.m.
Cost: Free

Senior Tone and Stretch
Exercise to build strength and flexibility and increase range of motion.
When: Mon, Wed, Fri, 9 a.m.
Cost: Free

Walking Club
Rain or shine, the gym is open. Join your friends and track your progress.
When: Mon-Fri, 8:30-9 a.m.
Cost: Free

Appy Hour
Bring your cell phone or tablet and learn how to use the latest apps.
When: Mon, 10 a.m.
Cost: Free

Youth

Playing with Clay
Explore multiple ways to create, and decorate works of clay art. All creations will be kiln fired and painted the following class. Parents must stay and help children under 5.
Ages: All ages
When: Fri,
Cost: $10+$2 materials fee per class; each project requires 2 classes

Hip Hop with a Purpose
Exploring the rich history and culture of Hip Hop dance. Start Date: Fri, Jan. 12.
Ages: 8+
When: Fri, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Cost: $7/Class

Young Engineers
Join our fun and enriching science class where you’ll study a principle of physics, mathematics and mechanical engineering through experiments using original and motorized LEGO bricks. For more info email tampafl@e2.youngengineers.com.
When: Tue, 6-7:30 p.m.
Cost: $15/Class plus one-time $10 registration fee.

Arts and Smarts
Hands-on enrichment classes featuring a variety of topics. Visit http://artsandsmartsinc.weebly.com or email artsandsmartsinc@gmail.com for class topics and registration information. It’s fun and learning – together.
Ages: 8 and up
When: Thu, 6-7:30 p.m.
Cost: $15/Class

Pure Art
While working with a variety of materials and techniques, learn about famous artists (http://www.purearttampa.com).
Grades: K-5
When: First and third Sat, 9:30 -10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.-noon
Fee: $10/Class

Eagle Claw Kung Fu
Come and learn an effective, combat-proven martial arts form and stay fit while participating.
Ages: 8 and up
When: Tue, 6:15-7:15 p.m.
Cost: $5/Class

Karate Do
Increase fitness, strength, flexibility and awareness. Karate teaches practical self-defense while reducing stress and tension and improving self-confidence.
Ages: 4-up
When: Mon, Wed, 6:15 p.m., and Sat, 11:15 a.m.
Cost: $5/Class

Karate Do Black Belt Society
All black belts are welcome!
Ages: 15-up
When: Sat, 2 p.m.
Cost: $5/Class

Girls Elementary Volleyball
Learn the basic skills and fundamentals of competitive play and have lots of fun!
Ages: Grades 3-5
When: Tue, 6-7 p.m.
Cost: $10/Session plus one-time $15 admin. fee (includes a T-shirt)

Girls Middle School Volleyball
Join our character-based program teaching volleyball skills, fundamentals and footwork.
Ages: Grades 6-8
When: Tue, 7-8 p.m.
Cost: $10/Session plus one-time $15 admin. fee (includes a T-shirt)

Tots

Toddler Time*
Activity zones are placed throughout the gym for toddlers to explore and socialize and play on with parent participation.
Ages: 5 and under
When: Thu, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Cost: Free

Basketball*

Middle-School Basketball Skills and Drills League
Learn the essential skills of middle school basketball. For more information email mehdi@mbsportscamps.com or visit http://www.mbsportscamps.com
. When: Fri, 6-9 p.m., and Sat. 2-4 p.m.

Family Open Gym
Gym is open to families
When: Sat, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Cost: Free

Adult Open Gym*
When: Thu, 6-9 p.m., and Sat, 7:30-11 a.m.
Cost: Free

*Online account required to participate.

Coming Soon for Tots:
Music and Mi
This mommy and mi class is a fun and educational approach to social, cognitive, self-esteem development. Classes include nursery rhymes, music and movement, sensory play, and much more. Visit http://www.facebook.com/musicandmi/ or contact dunialr@gmail.com for more information. Starts Mon, Feb. 5
Ages: 10 months-4 years
Cost: $3 Registration. $5 per session.

All activities take place at:

Westchase Recreation Center
9791 Westchase Dr.
Tampa, FL 33626
(813) 964-2948

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Robinson Band Named Junior League of Tampa Grant Recipient

The Robinson High School Band Boosters, a 501(c)3 organization, has been selected as a 2017 grant recipient from the Junior League of Tampa.

Founded in 1926, the Junior League of Tampa is a volunteer organization dedicated to impacting the people, families, and communities of Tampa Bay through volunteerism and collaboration with community partners. The Junior League Enabling Fund provides financial assistance to organizations that provides a community need outside one of the core issue areas of the League. This year’s Enabling Fund Grants provided a total of $30,000 to 17 organizations.

The Robinson High School Band Boosters plan to use the funds for instrument purchases, repair and maintenance.

Robinson High School’s International Baccalaureate (IB) Program is one of Hillsborough School District’s zoned magnet IB schools. Several hundred students attend the program from the Westchase area, and IB students make up almost half of the RHS band, music and guard programs. Robinson High School is located in South Tampa.

You can learn more about the Robinson High School Band Boosters at https://www.facebook.com/RHSBandBoosters

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By Beth Edwards

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Westchase Rec Center Features New Bike Repair Station

Nothing can ruin a bike ride quicker than a flat tire or loose chain.

Dedicated cyclists and occasional bike riders can now easily make basic bike repairs at the new bike repair station located at the Westchase Rec Center at 9791 Westchase Dr.

In November the center became one of 10 Hillsborough County Recreation Centers or parks to have a bike repair station. The station is equipped with tools including screwdrivers, Allen wrenches, a headset wrench, a pedal wrench, box wrenches and tire levers. The screwdrivers and wrenches are on swivel connectors for easier use.

The station also has a heavy-duty universal air pump. The station makes it easy to perform basic repairs and maintenance, from changing a flat to adjusting brakes or derailleurs. A bicycle can be suspended from the fix-it station’s hanger arm, allowing pedals and wheels to spin freely while making repairs. The hanger arms can be mounted at 12, 3, 6, or 9 o’clock and are ADA compliant. A QR codes allows smart phone users to access a comprehensive bike repair web site.

The bike repair station is located on the patio behind the Rec Center. “Anyone in the community is welcome to use it,” said Recreation Program Supervisor Dona Smith.

A water bottle filling station is located in the same area. The bike repair station is accessible even when the Rec Center is closed.

Other nearby recreation centers with bike repair stations include Keystone Recreation Center and Northdale Park and Recreation Center.

By Marcy Sanford

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Bridges Resident Finishes in Top 20 in International Competition

In late August, Bridges resident Monika Cassidy represented her country in an international athletic competition.

Cassidy competed with Team USA’s triathlon team at the ITU Multisport World Championships in Penticton, Canada.

Cassidy was in the top 20 for her age group overall and in the top eight in her age group for Team USA. “It was a hard, mountainous course. It was amazing to experience,” said Cassidy. “If you’re a triathlete, you are always trying to get to an event like this. It was a dream come true.”

Cassidy has always been athletic. She competed in track and field while growing up in Hungary and played European handball. She has run in the Boston Marathon and has been an instructor and personal trainer at the YMCA for many years.  She decided to take on the challenge of a triathlon seven years ago and has been hooked ever since.

First, however, she had to overcome one major hurdle – she did not know how to swim.

“I grew up out in the country and was always outdoorsy and biked to school but I never learned how to swim. Hungary is a landlocked country and I did not have access to a swimming pool.”

Cassidy taught herself to swim as an adult but realized that she needed more instruction if she was going to compete in a triathlon. “It was a very humbling experience to be a good runner and then jump into the pool and sink. I took lessons with Kareem at the YMCA three times a week.”

Now Cassidy is a certified USA Triathlon coach and is hoping to pass along her love of triathlons to others. “I want everyone to try to do it, especially if you are already a good swimmer. It is a challenge and a wonderful achievement.”

Cassidy estimates that she trains 15 to 17 hours a week when she is training for a triathlon but says most of that time is spent on the weekend doing five to six hour bike rides. During the off-season, she works on her technique and speed and focuses on any other areas that need improvement.

For now she will continue to train herself and others and compete in local races. She is also looking forward to trying out for the 2020 World Championship in Spain.

If you’d like to join Cassidy’s triathlon training group, email her at monika.cassidy@gmail.com.

By Marcy Sanford

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Eighteen Healthy Suggestions for ‘18

The New Year is symbolic for new beginnings.

In a tip to 2018, here are 18 suggestions for achievable New Year’s resolutions and better health.

Be consistent with weekly meal planning. Select a day of the week when you will get your perishables like fresh fruit and vegetables; that same day, or a different day, prep meals and snacks for the week.

Try a new recipe once a month. If you are bored with your present menu, change it up by finding new, quick and healthy recipes.

Fast from eating meat one or more days each week.

Reduce sodium intake to 2,300 mg or less per day.

Reduce portion sizes of meals and snacks.

Eat at least seven fruits and veggies per day. Keep a bowl of fruit visible, make smoothies, and prepare or purchase organic dips of hummus, salsa and guacamole to make this an easy practice.

Drink eight glasses of water per day. Start and end each day with a glass of water; six more to go!

Take a good quality daily supplement.

Avoid late-night snacking. Have a cut-off of two hours before bedtime.

Consider a different exercise. Explore a new format, location, style or time.

Add more strength training to your workout regimen. Use free weights, machines, or your own body weight for resistance.

Get all medical check-ups, such as annual physical, dental and vision exams.

Use a tool like an iWatch or Fitbit for accountability.

Physically move three miles or 7,000 steps each day at a minimum.

Commit to 30 minutes of physical activity three to five days each week and 10 minutes of daily stretching.

Avoid obsessing over weight. Only get on the scale once a week or once a month.

Turn off the television and get adequate sleep each night.

Smile. Don’t take this suggestion lightly. I am not referring to a fake smile, but one that comes from the heart because of a change in perspective.  Focusing on what you have to be grateful for and treating others as you would like to be treated can add to your health and well-being. 

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

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By Shannon Thigpen

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Westchase Kindergarten Round Up Jan. 19

Happy New Year Westchase! We have one more week until the kiddos return to school, and I hope you are able to relax and enjoy this downtime with your family.

On Friday, Jan. 12, our fourth graders will travel to St. Augustine. They have been learning all about Florida’s history, and they will get a chance to tour the fort and jail and take a trolley ride around the town and Flagler College. This trip is definitely a highlight of their fourth grade year.

Don’t feel like cooking?  Please join us on Monday, Jan. 15 at Chipotle for our Spirit Night from 4-8 p.m. Fifty percent of the proceeds will be donated back to Westchase!

Jan. 16 is club picture day. If you are in Chorus, Orffins, World Drums or any other club, please remember to wear your club’s shirt on Tuesday. These pictures will be available for purchase, and they will also be put in the yearbook.

If you have a rising kindergartener and are interested in learning more about Westchase Elementary, please plan to attend the Kindergarten Round-Up on Friday, Jan. 19 at 8:30 a.m. in the school cafeteria (MPR). Attendees will hear from administration, kindergarten teachers, PTA and guidance. The morning will wrap up with a tour of the campus with a PTA volunteer. Please feel free to bring your future Wizards along!

Our Spring Box Tops Drive begins on Jan. 22 and runs through mid-February. The class who collects the most Box Tops will win a pizza party. Congratulations to Mrs. Barrett’s fifth grade class for turning in 868 Box Tops during the fall drive. Overall, Westchase raised $1,345.90. Please be sure to support our Spring Drive. Simply clip your Box Tops and send them to school in a plastic bag. Remember to include your child’s name, teacher and grade to get credit.

On Thursday, Jan. 25 the PTA will host our second general meeting of the year. PDQ is providing dinner, which will be served at 5:30 p.m. and is free to all PTA members. Not a member? No problem! We will have memberships for sale at the door ($8 for individuals and $25 for families). The meeting will begin at 6 p.m., and there will be supervised games on the covered courts for the kids. We will give an update on our progress for the year, and administration will discuss “celebrating differences.”

Last, registration for our Spring ASE will begin in early February. For more information, please check out http://www.westchasepta.org and like us on Facebook.

Westchase Elementary January Events

12 Grade 4 Trip to St. Augustine
15 Chipotle Spirit Night, 4-8 p.m.
16 Club Pictures 
19 Kindergarten Round-Up, 8:30 a.m. in MPR  
22 Spring Box Tops Drive Begins
25 General PTA Meeting, 5:30 p.m. in MPR

By Kathy Curé

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Abbotford Resident Changes Life in Sri Lankan Village

Abbotsford resident Nipuna Weerapperuma has visited family in Sri Lanka every few years since his birth.

Yet a chance side trip during one of his visits led to a service project that is helping an entire Sir Lankan village. 

“During one of my last visits, I noticed two young girls carrying pots on their heads walking down the road. When I asked them why, they told me they were collecting water from a well and they had to travel more than three kilometers.”

Once back home to Westchase, Nipuna decided to do something to help. He began researching ways the village could access clean water. A senior in Middleton High School’s STEM program, Nipuna has been interested in water extraction and engineering problems for several years. Through his research he discovered that a tube well could provide clean water.

Nipuna chose the school in the village as the site of the well. “The school has about 60 students and 10 to 15 teachers. They had a problem retaining teachers because many were leaving because not only did they not have easy access to drinking water, but they also did not have toilets or other basic sanitation needs.”

Nipuna used an online platform called CrowdRise to ask friends and family to fund the project and within months raised enough to build the well.

He visited the village for the well’s opening ceremony, complete with a parade and speeches. “When we went back to the school after the well was complete. They were so grateful. They children all thanked me. It was very humbling. It made me realize how big of an impact a person can make.”

Nipuna participated in the Mayor’s Youth Corps in Tampa but this was the first time he had undertaken a service project of this magnitude. While he’ll be headed off to college next year, he wants to continue to help others and the Sri Lankan school. “When I was there for the well ceremony, I noticed an issue with their music program. They do not have enough instruments. I talked to the principal about collecting instruments and right now we’re in the planning stages.”

By Marcy Sanford

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MOMS Club Gets in the Holiday Spirit

It truly was the most wonderful time of the year!

The MOMS Club of Westchase stayed festive and bright through the whole month of December. We kicked off the month with a moms’ night out Christmas party at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, where we enjoyed tasty beverages and delicious food. We got our sugar fix, and then burned it all off, at an open play Christmas cookie exchange at the Westchase Recreation Center.

Two of our play groups, the Starfish and Seahorses, had holiday pajama party play dates, and our Guppy play group wrote letters to Santa. We continued the fun with a lunch bunch at the International Plaza food court, and a side of holiday shopping and Santa greeting. We ended December with a Noon Year’s Eve party open play at the playground at Highland Park. We look forward to many more adventures in the new year!

Last month our philanthropy outreach included a financial contribution to Toys for Tots, dedicated to providing a tangible sign of hope to economically disadvantaged children at Christmas. We also supported New Beginnings of Tampa, which offers transitional housing and homeless recovery program that provides unaccompanied women, men and young adults over the age of 18 with a safe place to live and an individualized, gender-responsive program of guidance and job training programs to help them stabilize their lives.

In January, we are donating to Kind Mouse, whose mission is to assist families in transition and their chronically hungry children while developing the next generation of volunteers to carry on the mission of The Kind Mouse.

We are always looking to connect with new moms and local businesses. If you have a business or a babe, please visit http://www.momsclubofwestchase.com to get in touch. Interested in becoming a member but not ready to commit? Attend an event before joining. We’re sure you’ll want us for keeps!

By Heather Dagostino

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Troop 46 Celebrates Newest Eagle

BSA Troop 46 congratulates one of their newest Eagle Scouts, Wyatt Howell, for achieving Boy Scouts of America’s highest rank and honor.

Wyatt, the son of Elizabeth and Jim Howell, 17-year residents of Bennington, has been in Scouting for nine years. He began as a Cub Scout with Pack 46 in Westchase and demonstrated his leadership first as webmaster, then as a patrol leader for the Honey Badgers and finally as an assistant senior patrol leader for the troop.

His community Eagle project consisted of creating organic grow boxes with a timer regulated irrigation system for the Westtown Church Preschool off Racetrack Road. The boxes included herbs like basil and vegetables like eggplant and kale. Scouts constructed them on site for use by the preschoolers. Wyatt’s project overcame a challenging water connection. The yield from the first crop was bountiful and future growing looks very promising.

Wyatt, 15, is a sophomore in the International Baccalaureate program at Robinson High School in Tampa.

Earlier this year, the Greater Tampa Bay Council celebrated the achievement of 113 Eagle Scouts in attendance at an event at MacDill Air Force Base’s Surf Club, where General George Norwood, USAF (Ret.) was also recognized with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. A total of 374 scouts achieved the rank of Eagle during 2016. The 2018 Eagle Scout Banquet, celebrating 2017 Eagle Scouts, is scheduled for May 10, 2018.

The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law. Helping youth is key to building a more conscientious, responsible and productive society.

Troop 46 meets most Monday evenings at the First Baptist Church of Citrus Park on Gunn Highway. Stop by any time and speak to any adult wearing a brown shirt about the opportunities of Scouting or visit http://www.troopwebhost.org/Troop46Tampa/ We ar.e a member of the Greater Tampa Bay Area Council of BSA and the Fort Brooke District.

Our Scoutmaster is David Smith, our Troop Committee Chairperson is Kim Smith, and our Chartered Organization Representative is Elizabeth Howell. Wyatt’s father, Jim Howell, has been an Assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 46 for many years and his cooking-themed campouts are legendary, especially the annual pig roast.

By Tristan Goodrich

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January Programs at the Maureen B. Gauzza Public Library

FAMILY PROGRAMS

Baby Time (Ages 0-18 months): Mon, Jan. 8, 22 and 29, at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Toddler Time (Ages 18 months to 3 years with caregiver): Tue, Jan. 2, 16, 23 and 30, at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; Tue, Jan. 9 at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Storytime (Ages 3-5): Wed, Jan. 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31, at 10:30 a.m.
Wee Artists (Ages 2-5):  Thu, Jan. 4, 11, 18 and 25, at 1:30 p.m.
Block Party (Grades K-5): Mon, Jan. 8, at 3:30 p.m.
• Use the library’s LEGO blocks to build unique creations.
Polymer Clay Mini Monsters (Grades K-5): Thu, Jan. 11, at 4 p.m.
• Use polymer clay to design a 3D Silly Monster.
Robotix Blox (Children and Teens): Tues, Jan. 23, at 6:30 p.m.
• Participants will work together on robot building and coding.
Crochet Club (Ages 10 and up): Wed, Jan. 24, at 6 p.m.
• Learn the basics of crochet to create a unique item.
Pirate and Princess Party (Grades K-5): Thu, Jan. 25, at 4 p.m.
• Go on a journey filled with princess and pirate-themed games and crafts.

TEEN PROGRAMS

Teen Advisory Board: Thu, Jan. 4, at 6 p.m.
• Get involved with the library’s teen programs and earn community service hours.
Arm Knitting (Ages 16 and up): Wed, Jan. 10, at 6 p.m.
• Learn how to knit using only your arms in just a few simple steps. Registration required.

ADULT PROGRAMS

Intro to Ukulele: Wed, Jan. 3, at 6:30 p.m.
• Introductory Ukulele Strum & Sing Jam hosted by Tampa Bay Ukulele Society. Beginners are welcome, but encouraged to arrive early.

Thai Chi with Bonnie Birdsall: Thu, Jan. 4 and 11, at 1:30 p.m.
Sahaja Meditation: Sat, Jan. 6, 13, 20 and 27, at 10:30 a.m. (Advanced) and 11:30 a.m. (Beginner)
Fiber Arts Group: Mon, Jan. 8, 22 and 29, at 10:30 a.m.
• Gather with friends to knit and crochet.
DIY Crafting: Heart Book Folding (Ages 13 and up): Wed, Jan. 31, at 6:30 p.m.
• Learn how to transform an old book into a fun piece of art like a heart. Registration required and all materials provided.

Computer Classes:
Walk-in Tech Help: Tue, Jan. 2, 16 and 30, at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.; Tue, Jan. 9 and 23 at 2:30 p.m.
• Ongoing training in computer and software basics.
One-on-One Tech Help: Thu, Jan. 4, 11, 18 and 25, at 2 p.m.
• Register for a personal technology appointment to answer your questions.
3D Design TinkerCAD Open Lab (All ages): Mon, Jan. 8, at 3:30 p.m.
• Experiment the basics of 3-D modeling with TinkerCAD, a free web-based application. Valid e-mail address required to participate.


LIBRARY HOURS

Sun, 12:30-5 p.m.; Mon-Thu, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Jan. 1 and 15.

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Life’s Unwritten Rules

The chief chaperone for Bus #2 (the friendly one who speaks in italics) sidled up to me.

Approximately 8.2 inches too close.

Compelling me to step back without appearing like I was stepping back.

“Well, that was a memorable experience.” Her italics made clear she was making a dramatic, unclear statement that compels a man to stop and listen.

Even though his bladder is screaming at him for drinking that second large cup of coffee waaaay back in Tampa before foolishly boarding an early morning charter bus to Orlando.

It was an IB middle school band trip to an invitation-only music clinic at Disneyworld. Perhaps the 40 young Mozarts on her bus had broken into a soaring, transcendental, acapella version of In Dulce Jubilo before annotating War and Peace and releasing a joint study announcing a groundbreaking Grand Unified Theory of Physics.

Or they had just behaved like 40 middle schoolers on a bus.

She heaved an italicized sigh. (The world would apparently be waiting for its Grand Unified Theory.)

She stepped forward. “There was a rather PG-13 version of Truth or Dare.”

I stepped back. “At six in the morning?”

Step forward. “And one of the boys stole one of the girl’s purses, removed a feminine product and began passing it around the bus.”

Step back. “Strawberry sparkle lip gloss?” (I was now pinned against a Disney hedge.)

Step forward. “No, the other feminine product,” she said. “How was the behavior on your bus?”

Nearly toppling over hedge. “Oh, it was great. The kids were very well behaved.”

At least that’s what my mouth said.

Meanwhile my brain was seriously rethinking the last 90 minutes.

Had the largest hole in my head spoken truthfully, it would have said, “Actually, I was sitting in the front of Bus #1 comfortably reading the paper and commenting to another chaperone that the bus driver clearly didn’t color inside the lines as a child because he certainly couldn’t drive inside them as an adult. And, frankly, the eighth graders could have stuffed the sixth grade bassoonist down the bus toilet and I wouldn’t have even noticed.”

Fortunately, I have a very active social filter and only say about 40 percent of the foolish things that flit through my skull.

She nodded. “Probably because the band teacher was on your bus,” she said.

I politely overlooked the fact that my own highly intimidating presence received no credit for the perhaps entirely fictional superior behavior on my bus. “Well, she even terrifies me, so you may be on to something there.”

Then I sprinted to the Disney bathroom.

Because, as everyone knows, you NEVER use the bathroom on a charter bus.

At least everyone apparently knew that except me.

In 2011 I once boarded a charter bus for a 9-hour trip to Sea Camp in the Florida Keys. And when I emerged from the bus bathroom, I encountered a red-faced, sputtering bus driver. “WHO USES THE BATHROOM ON A CHARTER BUS?!” he screamed.

I had violated an unwritten rule. Bathrooms on charter buses are like those expensive, fancily printed napkins on the sink in your neighbor’s guest bathroom.

You’re never supposed to use them.

(Important note to guys: Just shake your hands vigorously over the sink and wipe them dry on your buttocks.)

And here I was, chaperoning the precious offspring of real adults again, and I’d made another major misstep.

No one told me that chaperones were actually supposed to watch the kids while they were on the bus.

It frankly seems rather counter-intuitive. What farmer watches 40 free range chickens once they’re jammed into a small cage?

Apparently a good middle school chaperone does a lot more than repeatedly count to six or seven at Hollywood Studios and grumble, “For the love of gahd, would you people make up your minds?”

That’s the problem with society. It has a lot of unwritten rules you magically have to know.

Like when you step into an elevator full of strangers. You’re supposed to mutter a number and immediately whirl 180 degrees, facing the closing elevator door.

No exceptions.

You should never just board and keep facing all of the strangers. And then, to break the growing tension, loudly ask, “So what d’yall think of the president?”

Another unwritten rule?

Fifty-one year old men should not go into Disney parks alone.

Which is exactly what I had to do for three full hours before all the free-range chickens joined me at lunch.

“Awesome!” I first thought, speed-walking toward Toy Story Mania in Pixar Place. “I have three hours to do whatever I want to do at Disneyworld!”

Then I stopped. 

Because it was going to play out one of two ways.

I was going to climb into a single car all by myself.

And slooooowly roll past all the other people in line staring at the 51-year-old man riding the Toy Story 3D shoot-em game all by himself.

Or I was going to sit next the 8-year-old son of some couple from Italy. And, when I scored 150,400 to his 88,000 points, I would be screaming, “IN YOUR FACE!” in incomprehensible English to a complete stranger child instead of one of my own daughters.

I couldn’t figure out which made me feel more pathetic.

So I searched the town square for an empty park bench.

To keep me safe from all the ole-people scooters out in force, hunting potential victims that morning.

And because there is an unwritten rule that you just don’t sit down on a park bench that another person is already sitting on unless it’s longer than five feet.

Finally finding an empty one, I sat.

So that I looked like a proper dad waiting for his kids to get off a ride that started making him feel motion sick once he turned 40.

And I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Until another guy came up.

And plopped into the park bench beside me.

Long, awkward pause.

“An absolutely beautiful day, isn’t it?” he italicized.

The bottom quarter of my face smiled. And I slowly, subtly and incrementally slid away, politely wedging myself into the corner of my bench.

Because that’s what the other rule says.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Meet Lucy!

Lucy, a.k.a. Lu Lu, the Loving King Charles Cavalier, turned 10 years old on Sept. 2. Lucy resides in The Greens with the Pasquale Family after moving to Tampa five years ago from upstate NY. Lucy drove all the way from New York to along alongside owner David Pasquale and has since made herself at home in Westchase. Wrote Gina Pasquale, “Lucy  loves sunbathing in her lounge chair by the pool with her favorite magazine, WOW.”

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Davidsen Ends 2017 on High Note

The Davidsen Middle School (DMS) Center for the Arts closed 2017 with a variety of dance, chorus and band performances.

Our Dragons performed in the very first DMS dance recital on Dec. 1, and a winter concert was held on Dec. 7 featuring the Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced and Jazz Bands. The Jazz Band also provided entertainment during the Santa Pre-Flight Parade festivities at West Park Village on Dec. 9. Our teachers and students worked very hard to prepare and it showed in the level of their performances.

Several Davidsen students received awards at the Hillsborough County PTA/PTSA Reflections Awards Ceremony on Dec. 10 at Jefferson High School. Andrew Foster (Grade 7) received an Award of Excellence in the Musical Composition category. Kaitlyn Heinzelmann (Grade 8) received an Award of Excellence in Visual Arts. Stephanie Abrev (Grade 8) received an Award of Merit for Visual Arts. Award of Excellence recipients will advance to the state Reflections competition.

The Davidsen Boys Track team tied for first place in Hillsborough County. Darwin Cotto blew away his competition and wowed the spectators as he won first place in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the long jump. He is quite possibly the first person in the district to win three individual events at the county level! Reakwon Hopkins ran his personal best in the 800-meter run, finishing second in the county and setting a new school record. The 4x200 relay team, consisting of Angel Rivera-Garcia, Michael Rivera-Garcia, Advaith Pramod, and Kyrie Neverson, had a seventh place finish out of 22 teams. Serena Mercer had a new personal best in the 400-meter run, finishing second place in the county. Masqal Pierre, Nick Miguel, Lillian DiBacco, Lucy Montiegel, Abbie Kohler, Allyssa Bartolo, Joy LaMountain, Claudia Horvath and Mikaila Longway joined the county team in this fantastic finish.

Eighth Grade students are invited to attend “Move Up Night” at Alonso High School on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 6 p.m. Attendees will have an opportunity to hear from the Alonso administration and faculty, enjoy a band performance and attend an Elective Fair.

Mark your calendars for the annual Dragon Blast on Jan. 26 from 2 to 4 p.m. This carnival-type event is for students only. There will be games, food, music and prizes. Donations of gently-used stuffed animals can be turned into the office to be used as prizes at this event. All proceeds will directly benefit Davidsen Middle School. Flyers will go home with ticket order forms soon. You can also purchase tickets online at: https://squareup.com/store/davidsen-middle-ptsa/

.

Thanks to those who generously supported Deputy Noland’s holiday toy drive to benefit the Mary Lee House, a facility committed to protecting, respecting and healing the children of abuse and neglect. Thanks also to those who supported the Davidsen Middle School Angel Tree.

For more information on any Davidsen Middle School programs or events, email president@davidsenptsa.org  and be sure to “like” Davidsen Middle School PTSA on Facebook.

Important January Dates

9     Students Return from Winter Break
15   Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: No School
17   Eighth Grade Move Up Night at Alonso High School, 6 p.m.
26   Dragon Blast, 2-4 p.m.

By Carolyn Reynolds

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Real Estate Round Up, January 2018

Address

Sale Price

Days On Market

Price
Per
Sq. Ft

Beds

Full Baths

Half

Baths

Sq. Ft. Heated

Pool

Westchase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11616 Highbury Way

268,000

15

155.18

3

2

1

1,727

N

10706 Needlepoint Pl.

277,500

5

176.98

3

2

1

1,568

N

9006 Spring Garden Way

308,000

60

187.80

3

2

1

1,640

N

10014 Bentley Way

335,000

13

166.42

3

2

1

2,013

N

9915 Hartwell Bridge Cir.

345,000

103

146.06

4

2

1

2,362

N

10509 Greensprings Dr.

420,000

380

126.47

4

4

0

3,321

Y

9207 Woodbay Dr.

420,000

140

175.15

4

3

0

2,398

Y

9306 Rockport Pl.

440,000

173

182.27

4

2

1

2,414

Y

9617 Royce Dr.

452,000

29

185.86

4

2

0

2,432

N

10413 Brentford Dr.

468,500

3

178.95

4

3

0

2,618

Y

9406 Woodbay Dr.

469,250

9

184.67

4

3

0

2,541

Y

10458 Greendale Dr.

525,000

29

168.22

4

2

1

3,121

Y

10115 Parley Dr.

549,000

102

189.90

4

3

1

2,891

Y

9908 Emerald Links Dr.

563,000

140

178.50

4

3

1

3,154

Y

10028 Brompton Dr.

580,000

20

169.69

4

3

1

3,418

N

12106 Marblehead Dr.

597,000

64

194.78

4

3

1

3,065

Y

Highland Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11508 Splendid Ln.

457,000

37

163.21

4

3

0

2,800

N

14641 Canopy Dr.

540,000

116

139.43

4

3

1

3,873

N

11710 Lake Dagny Ct.

850,000

227

180.01

7

4

0

4,722

Y

Westchester

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11318 Cypress Reserve Dr.

270,000

137

153.58

3

2

0

1,758

Y

11529 Cypress Reserve Dr.

290,000

3

164.96

3

2

0

1,758

N

11919 Northumberland Dr.

340,000

37

162.06

4

2

0

2,098

Y

12026 Northumberland Dr.

359,900

88

166.62

3

2

1

2,160

Y

12207 Coldstream Ln.

387,500

7

164.47

4

2

1

2,356

Y

West Hampton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12926 Castlemaine Dr.

550,000

78

157.82

6

3

0

3,485

Y

Westwood Lakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14440 Pepperpine Dr.

300,000

67

174.42

3

2

0

1,720

N

12837 Tar Flower Dr.

362,500

26

188.21

3

2

0

1,926

Y

12820 Tar Flower Dr.

398,000

9

172.52

4

3

0

2,307

Y

Windsor Place

               

11145 Windsor Place Cir.

200,000

5

157.23

2

2

1

1,272

N

11229 Windsor Place Cir.

221,000

12

131.31

2

2

1

1,683

N

 

Information provided by Doug and Nancy Wood of Smith & Associates

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33626 Crime: November 2017

Battery-Simple

11/1

11900 Cypress Hill Cr.

Drugs/Narcotics

11/3

7900 Gunn Hwy.

Drug Paraphernalia

11/3

7900 Gunn Hwy.

Fraud-Other

11/4

11200 Windsor Place Cr.

Battery-Simple

11/4

W. Linebaugh Ave./Gretna Green Dr.

Battery-Simple

11/5

11200 Countryway Blvd.

DUI

11/6

Sheldon Rd./Citrus Park Dr.

DUI

11/6

Sheldon Rd./Westwind Dr.

Theft From A Vehicle

11/7

12600 Race Track Rd.

Fraud-Swindle

11/8

8900 Promise Dr.

Disorderly Conduct

11/8

7900 Gunn Hwy.

Public Peace Crimes

11/8

7900 Gunn Hwy.

Theft Motor Vehicle Parts

11/8

8700 Hampden Dr.

Theft Vehicle & Other Mobile

11/8

10700 Preserve Lake Dr.

Theft From A Vehicle

11/8

12000 Tuscany Bay Dr.

Burglary Residence/Forced

11/9

10000 Tate Ln.

Battery-Simple

11/9

9600 Lakechase Island Wy.

Battery-Simple

11/9

8400 Gunn Hwy.

DUI

11/10

Sheldon Rd./Old Linebaugh Ave.

Battery-Simple

11/11

9700 Meadow Field Cr.

Battery-Simple

11/13

11200 Countryway Blvd.

Fraud-Impersonation

11/13

12500 Bronco Dr.

Petit Theft-All Other

11/14

11200 Windsor Place Cr.

Fraud-Credit Card

11/14

11200 Windsor Place Cr.

DUI

11/14

8500 Fawn Creek Dr.

Grand Theft-All Other

11/16

12400 Race Track Rd.

Fraud-Impersonation

11/16

11900 Middlebury Dr.

Shoplifting

11/17

12100 W. Linebaugh Ave.

Prescription/Drug Fraud

11/17

7900 Gunn Hwy.

Warrant Out Of County

11/17

Nine Eagles Dr./Race Track Rd.

Trespass Misdemeanor

11/17

7900 Gunn Hwy.

Battery-Simple

11/18

10400 Sheldon Rd.

Public Intoxication

11/18

12900 Race Track Rd.

Theft Motor Vehicle Parts

11/19

13000 Race Track Rd.

DUI

11/19

W. Linebaugh Ave./Lake Aston Ct.

Fraud-Impersonation

11/20

12200 Glencliff Cr.

Fraud-Other

11/20

10500 Castleford Wy.

Fraud-Other

11/21

10100 Bennington Dr.

Fraud-Impersonation

11/22

10600 Tavistock Dr.

Battery-Simple

11/25

9100 Otter Ps.

Theft From A Vehicle

11/26

12000 Tuscany Bay Dr.

Curtilage With Theft

11/26

11700 Cypress Nk.

Criminal Mischief Misdemeanor

11/28

8800 Key West Cr.

Theft From A Vehicle

11/28

8800 Key West Cr.

DUI

11/28

Sheldon Rd./Fawn Ridge Blvd.

Battery-Simple

11/29

10600 Sheldon Rd.

Fraud-Impersonation

11/30

12500 Shirebrook Ct.

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Raven Band Honors Veterans at Pearl Harbor

For the Alonso High School band, December’s trip to Hawaii was the experience of a lifetime.

It was filled with enduring friendship, excellent food, unforgettable vistas and two meaningful performances.

The band, which was selected to participate in the annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance ceremony, had 30-minute concerts at the Polynesian Cultural Center and on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri battleship.

“We made memories that will never be forgotten,’’ Alonso band director Melanie DuBay said.

After applying to the program and a great deal of fundraising, 80 Alonso students – about half of the band members – made the trip, along with nine chaperones. DuBay brought her husband and their 15-month-old daughter, Emily.

On the morning of departure, Dec. 6, the band members reached the Tampa International Airport at 4 a.m. After traveling to Houston for a brief layover, it was an eight-hour flight to Honolulu.

“Once we got to Hawaii, everybody was really tired from the trip,’’ said Alonso junior Ray Andresen, who plays alto saxophone. “But then we stepped outside and saw all the mountains and scenery. That gave us energy. We were so fired up to actually be there.’’

The Alonso students loved seeing Waikiki Beach, the Dole Pineapple plantation and the view of Diamondhead, along with participating in a luau. They enjoyed a trip to a “secret island,’’ where there was kayaking and wake-boarding.

But the trip’s greater meaning wasn’t lost on anyone.

“I think it gave everyone a better appreciation for our veterans,’’ DuBay said of her students. “They need a good dose of history in their lives to appreciate what they have. I think this trip really helped in that respect.’’

Each year, there is a somber remembrance of Dec. 7, 1941, the day that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and sent the United States into World War II.

“I’m not sure I could describe what it was like to be part of it,’’ said Alonso junior Will Anderson, who plays tenor saxophone. “It was very patriotic. It was a chance to give back to all the fallen. It was humbling and breathtaking at the same time.’’

“It all meant a lot to me,’’ Andresen said. “It was very flattering and very gratifying that we were picked to do this. I’m sure I’ll remember it the rest of my life.’’

After the two musical performances, reality set it. The Alonso band returned home, traveling through the night and landing in Tampa at mid-afternoon.

The next day, they were back in school.

“That was part of the deal,’’ Andresen said. “We promised our principal that we wouldn’t miss any more time (than necessary). It’s hard, but making this kind of trip was well worth the sacrifice.’’

“Some of the people who made the trip had never even been on a plane,’’ Anderson said. “It was unforgettable to see all those mountains and the crystal blue water. We were still in Hawaii and many of us already had the feeling of how much we were going to miss it.’’

It was the trip of a lifetime.

By Joey Johnston

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Dedication and Celebration of the Maureen B. Gauzza Public Library

With the start of a new year, the Maureen B. Gauzza Public Library (MGL) is completing a transition to its new name.

You’ve probably already noticed changes to the Friends’ logo, Facebook and forms. Recently the library signage on Countryway Boulevard was updated to reflect the change. On Thursday, Jan. 25 the Hillsborough County Library Board will hold its regular meeting and the dedication ceremony there.

In recognition of the library’s 12th birthday and our new name, the Friends will hold a free Ice Cream Social on Saturday, Jan. 27. While it lasts, the ice cream will be served sundae style and you can choose your toppings. During this event the Gazebo Bookstore will also hold another sale.

As I begin my third year as president of its Friends chapter, I am grateful for a core group of committed volunteers as well as our increased membership. Your paid memberships, the purchase of leaves on the beautiful bronze tree in the lobby, as well as book donations and purchases from the Gazebo Bookstore provide funding for the programs and materials requested by our fantastic librarians. Thank you for your support.

Please join us at the dedication event and the free Ice Cream Social. Be sure to like and follow us on Facebook for details and reminders.

We look forward to seeing you and hope you visit and enjoy your library during the coming year.

By Bobbie Muir, President of the Friends of the Library

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Westchase Q and A: What Are Your Resolutions?

This month we asked residents: What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

Jason Pithers, West Park Village
I make resolutions every year. Usually they are in the areas of health and fitness. This year I really want to spend more quality time with my family. Our son is a rising senior and he's already been accepted on a soccer scholarship to the University of Michigan. It's making us really aware that 2018 will be our last year with him home and we want to make the most of it. Of course, I also make business goals. One is to continue to keep Westchase as the preeminent residential community in Tampa. We've lived here since 2004 and love it.

Rick Goldstein, Woodbridge
I always set goals for myself. My 2018 resolutions are pretty much the same always: to be a good person; love and serve my community; enjoy family life; and to accomplish my personal goals. I work out with a personal trainer four days a week and I definitely plan to continue that. When you get older, it's important to stay physically active. It's true what they say about using it or losing it. Physical fitness adds so much to the quality of your life. We love to travel. In April we're traveling to Ireland. I guess you might call it a sort of a "bucket list" thing. 

Safet Shareknapa, West Park Village
I don't make annual resolutions; that's not really how I operate. I set mid-range and long-term goals in key areas of life regarding finances and family a long time ago. They really don't change much from year to year. For me, it isn't about starting new things so much as it is continuing to work on the goals I set years ago. I don't think you need resolutions as much as you need a commitment. We are originally from Sarajevo in Bosnia and are so happy to be in the States and live in Westchase. I would like to find ways to help my community. Now that I'm getting a little older and more settled, there are some things I would like to do. I would like to take my family to visit Europe.

Cindy Fry, West Park Village
I don't have any specific resolutions. I always have things I want to accomplish but I don't need to wait until the New Year to get started. It's just a date. You can start anytime. I want to continue being more mindful, to be aware of what's happening here and now. I'm looking for inner peace and I think practicing mindfulness is the way to attain that. We're all here in this world together and we have to help each other, not fight among ourselves. I've always enjoyed nature and plan to continue supporting causes and organizations that are working to safeguard and improve the environment for everyone.

Mary Anne Kirsch, The Fords
I don't usually make resolutions but I do like to challenge myself and my clients. A lot of people will start the new year by making goals to join a gym and or start exercising. That's great but goals like that are hard to sustain over the long term. If you stop, you feel like you’re a failure and it may be hard to start over. I think short term, even daily challenges are better. I guess I do have one resolution. I always say I want to get more sleep.

By Phil Dean

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Art Museum Tour and New York Deli Lunch

The Westchase Seniors will tour the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art on Saturday, Jan. 20. 

Evelyn Colon has arranged for a docent guided tour for Westchase Seniors at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs. The tour will cost $6 and start at 10:30 a.m. Car pools will depart the old St Joseph's Health Center parking lot at 10909 W. Linebaugh Ave. at 10 a.m. After the museum tour, the group will enjoy a New York style lunch at the famous Lucky Dill Deli on Highway 19, advertised home of the sandwich that ate Brooklyn. The museum is located at 600 E. Klosterman Rd, Tarpons Springs, and Lucky Dill is located at 33180 US-19, Palm Harbor. You may address questions about this Westchase Seniors outing to Evelyn Colon at evycolon@verizon.net or call her at 854-5922.

Christmas Party Pictured here are toys given to children at the Shriners Children's Hospital in Tampa. The toys were contributed by Westchase seniors attending the 2017 Westchase Seniors Group Christmas party. We wish to thank Beverly Mask for organizing this party at Catch 23 restaurant.

Day Trips Join us for the upcoming senior day trips, sponsored by the Hillsborough County Westchase Recreation Center:

On Thursday, Jan. 4 a bus will depart the Westchase Recreational Center at 9:30 a.m. to go tour the SS American Victory Ship in downtown Tampa. There is a $6 charge for the tour of the ship.

On Tuesday, Feb. 1 a bus will depart the Westchase Recreational Center at 9 a.m. to go sightseeing, shopping, and have lunch at Disney Springs in Orlando. There is no charge for this bus trip.

In March the Westchase Recreation Center will also be offering a trip to the Strawberry Festival in Plant City. The date, time, and cost of this trip will be provided in the Westchase Seniors article in the February WOW.

Please make reservations by calling 964-2948. Space is limited so reservations should be made as soon as possible. You will be notified a day or two in advance if there is insufficient space for you. Unless noted otherwise, bring money for your lunch.

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 any food purchase and the conversations are enjoyable. Grab your breakfast and join us. You can’t miss us – we are the “older” but “young at heart” people laughing and having a good time.

Put Life in Your Years If you are a Westchase resident over 55 years old and looking to enjoy life, join the Westchase Seniors Group and add some fun to your life. To get emails about Westchase Seniors events, send your name, address, and phone number to westchase.seniors@gmail.com or call Lewis and Rama Patterson (926-5473). It only costs a smile to join and the dues are just as cheap.

By Lewis and Rama Patterson

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Veterans Expressway Opens New Express Lanes

Tampa’s rush hour has seemingly become more manageable during congested periods. The Veterans Expressway – a vital artery – has added an express lane.

But the opening represents the first step of the project and the new express lane’s benefits for Westchase residents are indirect.

While using the Linebaugh Avenue ramp, the most common path out of Westchase to the southbound Veterans, there is no access to the express lane.

The southbound Veterans express lane has an entrance just before Wilsky Boulevard, making Gunn Highway the first accessible ramp before the express lane entrance. It’s a much more viable route for drivers living north of Westchase.

Once drivers enter the southbound express lane, they must remain there until the designated exit at State Road 60, about six miles ahead. The express lane is separated from the other lanes by plastic poles.

In other words, there’s no merging into the express lane in midstream. And there’s no leaving the express lane until it ends.

For drivers heading northbound, the express lane begins just after Hillsborough Avenue and continues until Gunn Highway.

For now, the Veterans Expressway express lane is accessible at no additional charge.

Beginning this spring, using it will come at an additional price to the standard toll.

That’s when the express lane will be extended to Dale Mabry Highway, making it a 9-mile-long option.

The express lane’s toll price? Great question. And it’s one that doesn’t have a specific answer.

But there will be an express-lane toll (in addition to the $1.06 one-way fee during that stretch of the Veterans). Previously, Florida Department of Transportation officials said it would be an additional 25-cent fee.

Now, however, the additional express fee will be determined through “dynamic pricing,’’ meaning the toll price will rise and fall based on demand. If there’s heavy traffic, the express lane will have a higher price. The price will be set to maintain express lane traffic at a minimal 45 mph.

Ultimately, only one thing is certain.

The fully functional express lanes will only be available to drivers with a Sun Pass transponder. The toll-by-plate option, available to other motorists on the Veterans, will not be offered on the express lanes.

Further, only two-axle vehicles are allowed in the express lanes. Vehicles pulling boats or trailers are not permitted.

The Veterans Expressway widening and renovation project began in 2013. It will conclude later this year. Total cost: $380-million.

By Joey Johnston

Image courtesy of Florida Department of Transportation.

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Home of the Month: 12011 Brewster Dr.

Harbor Links resident Susan Hirsch has more than 1,000 varieties of plants in her yard.

That is even more amazing when you consider that the first time the New York native ever had a garden was when she moved to Tampa as an adult. “I lived in New York in the city my whole life,” Susan explained. “We moved here when my husband Larry got a position with the Lightning as a broadcaster doing the radio play-by-play. I had always lived in an apartment. I did not know how to drive. It was culture shock, but I always loved plants and animals and was so excited to have my first garden at our place in Carrollwood.” 

Susan’s current garden is considerably larger then her first one; however, it did not start out that way. “I was here every day during the construction of our house. When it came time for landscaping, I did not really know what to do.”

Shortly after moving into their new home, the Lightning was sold and Larry left the team. According to Susan, it was a very difficult time and she vowed to herself that when, “everything is better, every window I look out of is going to be beautiful.”

Fortunately, it did not take long for their fortune to turn and once she started picking out new plants for her flowerbeds, it became an obsession. Now, she sees the beauty even in the weeds that sprout up in her flowerbeds and has become adept at bringing unhealthy plants back to life and sharing the bounty of her garden with others. In addition to the front and back flowerbeds, she has ones around every tree and has made it a point to have something flowering during every season. “I like to mix plants and love variegated plants for their color and impact. I mix tropical with traditional and love unusual, exotic plants. I’m always looking for something new.”

A visit to Susan’s yard will certainly introduce you to new and unexpected plants. In addition to daisies, crown of thorns and vincas, she has a dainty Chinese Cap Tree that produces hat-like blooms in the spring, two types of bleeding hearts, red, blue and white lilies, a white weeping hibiscus and towering trees that started as saplings. “The birds have been good to my yard,” said Susan, who never throws any plant away until it has had a chance to grow and bloom and earn a spot in her garden. “I’m a big fan of the discards sections at Lowe’s,” she added. “I feel bad for the plants with nowhere to go.”

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

Variegated Bougainvillea

A native of Brazil, Bougainvillea is a great way to add winter color to your garden. It likes well-drained soil. A woody vine, it can be trained to grow on a trellis or fence or in a pot or hanging basket. In other parts of her garden, Susan has up to two different vines growing on the same trellis to provide color throughout the year.

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

By Marcy Sanford

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A Couple Committed to Giving Back

After nearly 60 years of marriage, West Park Village residents Wil and Sylvia Coudriet continue to find joy in helping others help themselves.

While most married couples would never attempt to work with one another, the Coudriets are certainly an exception. Together they have owned several successful businesses, from donut shops to KFC franchises, even working with “The Colonel” himself. Along the way, Wil went in search of an opportunity to serve his community. Since 1977, he has served both his local community and impoverished areas around the world through his involvement with Rotary. Sylvia joined the organization in 1995 and together they helped establish new branches of the organization and served in leadership roles as well. Though now retired, the couple remains active in Rotary Club of Tampa-Westchase and has no plans to retire from that any time soon.

The couple met in 1959 when Wil was managing food services at West Virginia University. While glancing through the yearbook, one particular senior caught his eye. “That’s the girl I’m going to marry,” he declared when he saw a photo of Sylvia among the graduating class. It must have been fate that led her to his office soon thereafter to discuss a social event she was planning at the school. “I couldn’t believe it. There she was in my office!” he recalled. He wasted no time in asking her out for dinner. She said yes to his request and six weeks later, they were married! “It really was love at first sight,” he said.

“One of our first ventures together was a KFC franchise,” he explained. Getting in on the ground floor of the company in the early years gave them the opportunity to be trained by The Colonel. “He turned chicken into fast food when he came up with a system to cook it in eight minutes,” he said. Wil shared that even before he was famous, The Colonel dressed as he was seen on TV marketing the brand. The Colonel once told Wil of the company’s success, “We got mama out of the kitchen and she ain’t never going back!” When asked if he was ever privy to the secret recipe, he said he was not. “He did tell me that all 11 spices are common ones in everyone’s cabinet,” Wil said.

At age 55, Wil joined Rotary. “I decided we’d been ‘takers’ and I wanted to get out and give something back,” he shared. Rotary appealed to him because of the broad pallet of opportunities to serve. Through community, international, youth and vocational services, the couple has traveled to 15 different countries as Rotary representatives to work on projects including clean water and polio vaccines for children. “Being a member of Rotary really makes you grow as a person,” Sylvia said. Until a ruling by the Supreme Court in 1989, women were not allowed to join Rotary. Wil recalled the first time women were allowed into his group. “Several men got up and left the meeting,” he recalled. Today more than half of the 1.2 million Rotary members are women. Wil served as President of The Rotary Club of Vero Beach 1985 and as Governor of District 6930 in 1994. Sylvia served as President of the Asheville West Rotary Club in North Carolina, which was named Club of the Year.

The couple explained Rotary Club of Tampa-Westchase is quite active. Anyone looking for an opportunity to serve can surely find what they’re looking for with this group. Community service projects include a used bike collection drive after the holidays. “Kids get new bikes and then we collect the ones they don’t need anymore,” he said. The bikes are donated to children in need of a bike or adults who need a bike for transportation. Other favorite projects include their work with Trinity Café feeding the homeless and Rotary’s Camp Florida for children with cancer and other illnesses. To include high school students, Rotary sponsors high school Interact Clubs. “We work with students from Sickles and Alonso and we’ve really enjoyed our time with them,” he said. The Interact Club at Sickles has more than 150 members and was recently rated one of the top clubs in the world when they received an International Award for Service from Rotary. When they aren’t helping high school students earn service hours, they can often be found with a different type of senior as they host Bingo Night at nearby Aston Gardens.

According to Wil, the philosophy of Rotary is, “A hand up, not a hand out.”

He added, “We teach people how to improve themselves,” he said.

Many thanks to Wil and Sylvia for providing many “hands up” in their years of service to so many others. 

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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Catch Twenty-Three Fake Ad Contest Continues, December 2017

We all have those moments during the holidays.

You know. When the thought of hiring a potentially dangerous biker gang to wrap all the gifts seems like a perfectly reasonable option.

Hells Elves Mobile Gift Wrapping, December’s fabulous fakery, offered just that service. They promised to wrap while you nap. Best of all?

They love Westchase moms.

Alas, it didn’t convince some of our Frozen Pizza Eaters (WOW’s euphemism for the Fake Ad Contest’s unwinners). Brentford biker Marty Hamilton observed, “Far be it from me to ever disrespect any motorcycle club, but for fear of coming home to find the ol’ lady with a bow on her head, I’m going to avoid Hells Elves (pg 58) for my mobile wrapping needs this year.”

The editor politely reminds Marty that he should never judge a motorcycle gang by their threatening looks and large knives.

Meanwhile, we congratulate Westwood Lakes resident Rosemary Jassoy, who kept her head over the stressful holidays. Her randomly selected correct fake ad guess won her a free dinner at Catch Twenty-Three to help launch her new year, courtesy of its proprietor Rob Wickner. Thanks, Rob!

Get your January guesses in today, fake ad fans!

Contest Rules: Tucked somewhere in this month’s WOW is a fake ad for a fictitious business or service. Email your guess, including the fake company name and its page number, along with your name and address by the tenth of the month to editor@westchasewow.com. Write Fake Ad Contest as the subject. One correct entry will be randomly chosen as winner each month.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Past Meets Present at Egmont Key

You’ll find a little something for everyone on this hidden gem.

Located off the shore of Fort De Soto Park, Egmont Key features a lighthouse and remains of a military fort for history lovers, shells galore for shell collectors and crystal clear waters for snorkelers. We took a half-day tour with Calypso Cat out of the Tierra Verde Marina for our visit to this secluded island that is only accessible by boat.

The first stop on our tour was just to the west of the island where you can snorkel around remains of Fort Dade, a former military community of 300 people that remained active until 1923 and is now submerged by water and erosion. Neat corals and sponges have grown along the walls, attracting fish. Our tour included noodles, masks, snorkels and fins. The average depth of the water is 12 feet and it was easy for everyone in our group, from the 8 year old and up, to snorkel around the area. 

When we reached the island, we had plenty of time for hiking. We followed a trail to the lighthouse built in 1858 that still guides boats in and out of Tampa Bay, and walked along 100-year-old brick roads past more remains of Fort Dade.

Designated as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1974, Egmont Key is home to protected populations of gopher tortoises and box turtles, as well as several species of nesting birds. The water surrounding the island is very shallow making it easy to find and collect different types of shells. We even spotted a manatee swimming.

Another highlight of our trip was the boat ride home, as we were joined by many different pods of dolphins and our boat driver was willing to stop the boat to let us admire them.

There aren’t any stores on the key so whether you travel by private or tour boat, you want to be sure you have plenty of drinking water and sunscreen on hand. There are picnic tables on the island if you want to bring lunch or snacks.

If you’ve never visited Egmont Key and are interested, you might want to add it to your list of things to do this spring or summer. During the boat ride, our guide mentioned that the key is eroding and in 2017 the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation listed it as a threatened historic property. About 60 percent of the island has eroded since the 1850s. Once 400 acres, the island is now about 160 acres and is only two miles long and a half-mile wide.

Egmont Key
http://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Egmont-Key

By Marcy Sanford

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Weather Postpones Jan. 12 Movie in the Park

Tonight's Movie in the Park, which was to be Moana, has been postponed until next Friday, Jan. 19, due to rain. The movie is shown on the Montague Street green in West Park Village.

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Weather Postpones Jan. 12 Movie in the Park

Tonight's Movie in the Park, which was to be Moana, has been postponed until next Friday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m. due to rain. The movie is shown on the Montague Street green in West Park Village.

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WCA Board Touts Tennis Tournament Success and Resolves Estoppel Fees

January’s WCA Board meeting saw directors praise organizers of the Westchase Open and resolve a five-month discussion on fees surrounding estoppels.

The Jan. 11 meeting also saw board members withdraw support for a West Park Village resident who has complained about music coming from Seafood Exchange’s patio.

Appearing before the board was Westchase Open Tennis Tournament organizer Eric Pogue and Westchase Charitable Foundation President Sean O’Donnell, the beneficiary of the event that worked with Pogue to organize it.

“Gentlemen,” said Westchase Community Association (WCA) President Ruben Collazo,
“That really was a great event.”

Collazo added, “You and your team pulled off one of the best events we have had here in a very long time.”

The tournament, held the weekend of Jan. 6, raised $15,000, three times its goal, to benefit the WCF, a local non-profit that assists families that have experienced medical or other emergencies. O’Donnell mentioned that a portion of funds raised was already assisting a family with a member in ICU due to a tragic car accident. “So this money is going right to use,” he said.

“We had a great committee,” said Pogue. “We just had a real family feeling. It turned out so well.” Pogue added, “We just have too great a community for it to have turned out otherwise.”

The meeting, however, opened with WCA directors discussing the recent estoppel issue with Ryan Greenacre, the owner of their management company, Greenacre Properties, Inc. (GPI). In the fall GPI informed the board that it would be charging between $250-500 to home buyers and sellers for estoppel fees and other closing charges.

Estoppels are requested by title agents on behalf of home buyers to ensure that titles of purchased homes will be transferred free of liens, judgments and fines and to ensure association dues and capital contributions are paid in full.

The charge prompted the board to get a quote from their own attorney from Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick (SLK) for estoppels/closing costs and they responded with $175.
WCA Director Brian Ross led with a motion to accept the SLK bid, but it went down in a 2-5 vote.

Subsequently board members considered a counteroffer from GPI for a flat $225 charge. Ross, however, stated he was displeased with how a GPI official handled a meeting with board members, citing disparaging remarks the officer made about directors. GPI President Ryan Greenacre, present at the meeting, addressed the matter by stating of his employee, “No harm was meant by the remarks.”

With other directors citing their happiness with GPI’s Debbie Sainz and Charlotte Adams, who work in the Westchase and were not involved in the meeting, board members ultimately voted 5-2, with Ross and WCA Director Ashley Wait opposed, to approve the Greenacre estoppel and closing charges.

Making her report, Association Manager Debbie Sainz stated that it would take a while for ordered light poles for the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center to arrive. Later in the meeting, she offered for painting companies bids for repainting both swimming pool buildings and the WCA office building and directors chose the lowest bids for all three, from Harrison Contracting.

In other actions, directors reviewed imposed fines for deed restriction violations, imposing some, waiving others and granting one resident present an extension to address a violation for missing a row of hedges. They also transferred surplus funds from previous years into their appropriated fun, which contains six months’ operating expenses. WCA Director Forrest Baumhover also praised the performance of Facilities and Operations Manager Kelly Shires, asking Shires to detail what tasks he’s undertaken to save homeowners money. Reviewing Shires’ reported hours worked, Directors Brian Ross and Ruben Collazo directed him to take a vacation and reduce his time to strike a healthier balance in his life.

Director Ross also cited GAC Chair Rick Goldstein’s remarks at a recent CDD meeting where Goldstein and a Kingsford resident petition described the GAC and WCA as representing the sole voice of Westchase. Mentioning that the WCA solely represents homeowners in Westchase and not its businesses or community organizations, Ross encouraged Goldstein to embrace more caution in future language.

Rounding out major action, directors heard from Seafood Exchange owner Tony Bartolo. A number of directors praised Bartolo’s restaurant and thanked him for his willingness to address complaints about music from the restaurant patio, which Bartolo said he’s been assured by the county’s Environmental Protection Agency and sheriff’s office is in compliance with county codes. GAC Chair Goldstein informed Bartolo that the association had withdrawn its cooperation and support from a nearby resident who had complained about the music and subsequently sent a letter containing personal threats to Bartolo.

Directors adjourned at 8:07 p.m.

WCA Board’s December Meeting

The WCA’s December board meeting occurred after deadline for the January WOW and is available here. Among major actions the board took in December were:

• Directors removed Bridges resident Barbara Griffith from the GAC.
• Directors approved the Variance Committee’s ability to consult with CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart as needed for cases.
• Directors voted 4-3 to refund a homeowners Variance Committee application fee after she belatedly realized she did not have to seek a variance.
• Directors voted 5-2 to deny a homeowners’ request to put out his trash can early due to his work schedule’s conflict with HOA requirements for trash container storage.
• Discussing GPI’s proposed estoppel fees, directors voted 5-2 to counter with a proposed $150 fee for estoppel and other closing costs.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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VMs Hear About Westchase Crime and Road Repaving

The Jan. 9 Westchase Voting Members (VMs) meeting began with Hillsborough County Master Deputy Jeff Carson from District III providing a crime tips for Westchase.

Carson explained that residents need to check that all doors and windows are locked and advised. He said that it is a great idea to record serial numbers for items that might be stolen because after the theft, the sheriff’s office can check serial numbers in the pawnshop database. Residents should also take pictures of items like electronics and jewelry.

Carson advised residents, “Be the eyes and ears in your own neighborhood.”

Carson said that 70 percent of auto burglaries are to unlocked cars. He said that juveniles periodically roam neighborhoods checking for an unlocked car. Residents should also remove valuables from their cars and their garage door openers, which can be used to burglarize your home.

Carson concluded by detailing the sheriff department’s crime search map and its Tip 411 app for cell phones and tablets, offering a free, anonymous way to contact the sheriff’s office. To find it, simply search HCSOSHERIFF in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Westchase Community Association (WCA) Vice President Rick Goldstein, who also serves as Woodbridge VM, chaired the meeting due to the WCA president’s illness encouraged residents to use the sheriff’s office’s vacation watch service and touted doorbell video cameras while Carson touted inexpensive game cameras as effective ways of catching criminals on video.

VM Eric Holt (Radcliffe) asked if there was a way to see crime resolutions. Carson responded that each victim or complainant is given a case number and they can call at any point in time to get an update and know whether the case is active or closed.

Goldstein then introduced Stephanie Agliano of Hillsborough County Neighborhood Relations. She introduced David Vogel, project manager for the Westchase resurfacing projects. He explained that the $1.2 million Westchase repaving project should begin at the end of January. That project and schedule will be detailed in February’s WOW.

Subsequently, VMs quickly approved the initial guideline amendment for Woodbay, allowing rain chains in lieu of standard downspouts.

VM Mary Griffin then asked VMs to get the word out about a community meeting on Jan. 18 from 6-8 p.m. about the Guardian Ad Litem program. She described it as an orientation session. She added she had been a volunteer in the past and would be starting again. She explained that there is a huge shortage of volunteers right now for the program, which has almost 8,000 children in some form of care in Hillsborough County and only 800 volunteers to help them navigate their dealings with the court system.

Goldstein announced that the Westchase Open Tennis Tournament was a huge success, with it raising far more than its $5,000 goal. Goldstein noted, “We have a great senior division with some players in their mid-80s.”

Last, VM Gerald Pappa (The Greens) stated that turn lane issues on Linebaugh have caused people to enter the Greens gate as visitors simply to make a U-turn to cross the street and enter The Fords. “We’ve almost had people run over and they are backing up the gate house. This is a big problem,” he said. Pappa asked VMs to send an email to their residents requesting they not do this. Pappa also said that CDD Field Supervisor Doug Mays told him that Christmas trees were showing up in the canals and in the woods. Pappa said, “You can’t dispose of your tree by throwing them in the canal.”

VMs adjourned at 7:53 p.m.

By Brenda Bennett

Posted Jan. 12, 2018

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WCA Board Removes GAC Member

At the December meeting of the Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board, WCA Directors Forrest Baumhover recommended that Community Development District (CDD) Supervisor Barbara Griffith be removed from the WCA’s Government Affairs Committee (GAC).

Baumhover said that Griffith had taken some liberties with her position and had undermined a Kingsford resident’s discussion with county officials seeking solutions for safety and traffic issues at Kingsbridge Road and Montague Street during Davidsen Middle School’s dismissal. Director Rick Goldstein, the GAC chair, agreed that Griffith was not a good fit for the committee. Director Brian Ross asked if Griffith knew that her position on the committee was going to be discussed at the meeting. He said he felt there should be some preliminary discussion or notification. Goldstein said he had had discussions with Griffith and that she had said she did not care about politics but wanted to do what she thought was right.

Directors voted 4-2, with Director Joaquin Arrillaga and Board President Ruben Collazo casting the dissenting votes, to remove Griffith from the committee.

All voted in favor of Ross’ suggestion to add CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart as a consultant to the Variance Committee.

A previous WCA Board determined that the WCA keep six months of operating funds in reserve. Directors discussed moving $20,000 from pre-paid assessments to the reserve fund but decided to table the discussion until January so they could consult with the accountant. Arrillaga pointed out that the WCA’s budget is $1.5 million and gave kudos to the board and community association manager for managing the money so well.

A Woodbay resident asked the board to give her more time to fix problems with her lawn. She said her sprinkler was broken and that now there were areas of dead sod but that she had talked to someone who said he could have it looking good in 30 days. A few directors questioned if it was reasonable to expect grass to grow during the winter but Ross pointed out that the situation had been ongoing since August. All voted in favor of his motion to table the appeal for 30 days and uphold the fine if the situation is not remedied in that time.

Stockbridge residents also were at the meeting to appeal their fine for a vehicle parked on the street. They said that their daughter worked until late at night but that they usually stayed up to move cars around so that her car would not be blocking their cars in when they had to leave for work in the morning. They promised that she would not park in the street overnight again. All voted in favor of their appeal.

A Woodbay resident asked the board to refund her Variance Committee fee. She said she had installed rain chains instead of downspouts at her house and that after she received a violation, she went to the Modifications Committee, where her request was denied. She then took the issue to the Variance Committee and submitted an application along with the $150 fee. She said, however, she realized within minutes of being at the meeting that the Variance Committee was not the correct forum for her request. She has since submitted a guideline amendment for her neighborhood, which would allow rain chains. Collazo pointed out that there is a line on the Variance Committee application that says, “Click here for more information,” and asked why she did not read the information herself. She said she relied on the information given to her at the Modifications Committee. Directors voted in favor of her request 4-3 with Director Keith Heinemann, Collazo and Arrillaga casting the dissenting votes.

Directors denied a homeowner’s request to put his trashcan out early because he had to be at work during the time when it is permissible to have trashcans on the street. Goldstein suggested they talk to the man, who is a firefighter, about getting a larger trashcan so he will only need to put it out once a week. Arrillaga said that the other request to put out a trashcan early was because of a disability and therefore had to be approved but that this situation was different. Directors voted 5-2 to deny the homeowner’s request, with Director Ashley Wait and Goldstein casting the dissenting votes.

Directors discussed the vending machines at the West Park Village and Swim and Tennis Center facilities. They noted that the machines were often broken and had never been profitable. Arrillaga said the machines had been installed after a resident won a WCA contest that encouraged residents to submit suggestions for ways to make Westchase better. Community Association Manager Debbie Sainz said she had heard from someone who wanted to take over the operation of the machines and said she’d get more information for the next board meeting.

Directors have been discussing estoppel fees for several months. Over previous months they have questioned the fees Westchase’s management company, Greenacre Properties Inc. (GPI) charges to issue the certificates. Ross asked the association’s law firm, Shumaker Loop and Kendrick (SLK), for a bid for issuing the certificates. SLK said they would do them for a flat fee of $175 each. Collazo asked if the association would be in breach of contract if they went with another company. Ross said he would not suggest the association do something that would put it in breach of a contract but if it did, they could make the effective date later in the future.

Directors discussed the possibility that GPI would increase their management fees if they were not able to make money from the estoppel certificates and Goldstein said that if they did that, then perhaps it was time to get bids from other companies. Arrillaga responded that he did not think they would be able to find another company that manages as well as GPI. Baumhover said he had reservations that if there were already issues with GPI, that bringing SLK into the process could have a potentially negative outcome. Wait said she did not think that the WCA should be held in fear that GPI would not work well with others.

Directors ultimately voted 5-2, with Wait and Goldstein dissenting, in favor of authorizing the board president to approach GPI about issuing estoppel certificates for a flat fee of $150 with a 10-day turnaround time. Directors then defeated a motion, 3-4, to begin using SLK if GPI declined the offer, with Ross, Arrillaga, Heinemann and Baumhover casting the dissenting votes. A motion to begin requesting proposals from other management companies was withdrawn after several directors pointed out that the process would need to be more formally planned out.

By Marcy Sanford

Posted Jan. 10, 2018

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Baybridge Park Playground to See Temporary Closure

The Westchase Community Development District (CDD) has informed WOW that Baybridge Park’s playground will be closed Jan. 16-19 for repairs.

In recent months the park’s rubberized play surface has peeled back in areas. The vendor who installed the park has committed to repairing and replacing its surface under the playground’s warranty. At recent CDD meetings, Field Supervisor Doug Mays stated the vendor believes the peeling was caused by applying the top layer too thinly.

From Tuesday, Jan. 16 through Friday, Jan. 19, the playground in Baybridge Park will be closed for the repairs. All residents are asked to keep children from playing on the playground’s surface during repair work and the time it needs to cure.

Baybridge Park’s field and walking trail, however, will remain open during that time. Glencliff Park and its playground will remain unaffected and open.

Baybridge Park is located in The Bridges.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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CDD Meeting Addresses County Sewer Project and Kingsford Complaints

The Jan. 9 meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) saw supervisors tackle a number of projects in addition to their potential purchase of the Westchase golf course.

“As we can see this evening, we have residents with things on their minds,” said CDD Chair Jim Mills.

To handle the crowd of at least 75 folks attending the meeting to address various topics, Mills stated he had divided the agenda into three parts and residents wishing to address each one would be permitted in for that portion of the meeting until the room reached capacity.

With the golf course discussion third on the list (WOW’s coverage of the golf course appears here), supervisors first heard from Hillsborough County staff members about the current Northwest Wastewater Treatment Plant’s expansion. That project, which will be detailed in February’s WOW, will affect the Linebaugh/Sheldon intersection for roughly five months. “The idea is to start in May and finish in September,” Bill Harrington of Hillsborough County Public Utilities said of the intersection work.

In order to both bore new sewer lines and a new reclaimed water line beneath the intersection, lanes in each direction will be altered in five stages of 30 days each. In all cases, two through lanes will be maintained and there will be a dedicated left turn lane. Right turns will still be permitted but, in some cases, a dedicated right turn lane would temporarily not exist. Speaking to supervisors, Harrington also stated that while pipe installation along Sheldon Road north of Westchase would be done by open trenches (the cause of the recent removal of oaks in the Sheldon median outside of Fawn Ridge), the installation of a new reclaimed water line down Westchase’s median from Sheldon Road to the entrance of Westchase Elementary would be accomplished by underground directional boring, approximately 20 feet beneath existing landscaping. “There will not be open excavation,” he said. “It will be under the median.”

Harrington added, “Where we cause damage, of course, we have to restore it.”

Supervisors thanked the county representatives and turned to their second agenda item, which saw ten residents in the room from Kingsford. Joining them were Government Affairs Committee (GAC) member Joe Odda and GAC Chair Rick Goldstein.

Kingsford’s Derek Rotolo, who lives near the intersection of Kingsbridge Avenue and Montague Street near Davidsen Middle School, read a lengthy petition signed by dozens of Kingsford residents. It complained that CDD Supervisor Barbara Griffith, who was absent from the meeting, had contacted Hillsborough County as a CDD supervisor and requested the county remove the traffic control barrier that permits only a right turn from Kingbridge onto Montague and prevents any Montague traffic from entering Kingsbridge Avenue. The petition expressed support for keeping the traffic barrier, stated that the Westchase Community Association (WCA) represented the voice of Westchase and requested that supervisors direct Griffith to cease and desist from representing her personal causes under the guise of the Westchase CDD.

Kingsford’s Brian Bobrovetski also voiced support for keeping the traffic barriers. “I don’t want it turned into another Countryway or another autobahn,” he said.

Describing the impact that Davidsen Middle School traffic already has on the neighborhood, Bobrovetski added, “We don’t need to make it a through street and add to the chaos.”

GAC Chair Goldstein, who successfully requested that the WCA Board remove Griffith from the GAC in December, stated, “Westchase speaks with one voice. That voice is the WCA.”

CDD Chair Jim Mills told residents that he was a former Kingsford resident who spearheaded the installation of the traffic control device 15 years prior to deal with the impact that Davidsen’s opening had on the neighborhood. He stated that only the same region of Kingsford could successfully request the traffic control device’s removal. He concluded, referencing District Manager Andy Mendenhall, “I will ask Andy to have a conversation with Ms. Griffith.”

WOW reached out to Griffith for comment but she stated she was departing for travel out of state and would be unavailable to discuss the matter until next week. “There are a lot of moving parts here,” she wrote.

Supervisors then turned to discussion of the potential Westchase Golf Course purchase, which WOW has covered here.

At their January meeting supervisors also heard from CDD Engineer Tonya Stewart, who stated M/I Homes had still not completed paperwork to transfer permits and actual ownership of the large lake between West Lake Townhomes, Stonebridge and east side of Sturbridge. She stated time was short before the association transferred over to resident control in March. CDD Attorney Erin McCormick, however, stated that it was unlikely the transfer could successfully happen in the time before its residents gain control of that association.

Supervisors also briefly discussed Stewart’s recommendation that the board members approve Best Management Practices for aquatics management and communicate them to A & B Aquatics, their aquatics management company. She also recommended incorporating them into the district’s contract with the company. Supervisors directed Stewart to proceed with developing the guidelines.

Making her report, CDD Attorney Erin McCormick stated she had spoken to Dynamo Canada, the company who installed the Glencliff playground. She stated a representative would visit Westchase to examine and honor a playground surface warranty claim and discuss the potential addition of a small slide to the Glencliff playground.

Supervisors also voted 4-0 to approve the Westchase Soccer Association’s use of Glencliff Park fields for their spring and fall seasons, running March 3-May 19 and Sept. 8 to Nov. 17.

Supervisors also passed a motion authorizing Field Supervisor Doug Mays to hire Windows Depot install new windows and doors to the Greens guardhouse for $14,782.

Mays also stated he had obtained bids for two permanent shade canopies, each measuring 8’ x 20’, for the far side of Glencliff Park’s soccer field at a cost of $16,318. The project was recommended last month by Supervisor Griffith to offer shade for soccer teams of the Westchase Soccer Association. Supervisor Lewis offered to inquire with the Westchase Soccer Association to determine if they were in support of the installation of the shade structures. CDD Supervisor Brian Ross asked if staff planned to check if Glencliff residents had any objections, but Field Supervisor Doug Mays assured those present that if there was Glencliff opposition, staff would receive feedback once residents read the district’s meeting coverage in WOW.

Director Ross asked his fellow supervisors if there was a board willingness to convey their unhappiness with Davey, their landscaper, and OLM, their landscape reviewer, for failure to maintain a proper appearance of hedges in parks and along Linebaugh and Countryway. Supervisors concurred. Field Manager Mays added that after Davey heard of Ross’ concerns from him, Davey replaced about 30 hedges that had died due to its failure to maintain the irrigation systems in the areas.

CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte stated that the county had agreed to provide new signage for West Park Village and she was currently seeking bids for new sign poles for West Park Village, which uses specialty fixtures. She stated she would likely have bids by the district’s Feb. 6 meeting, which will be held at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center instead of its usual venue, the WCA office building on Parley Drive.

Mills added that supervisors needed to keep their eye on the calendar in preparation for bidding out the district’s landscaping contract for the new budget year, which begins in October. That bid preparation and acquisition process usually takes about six months.

Supervisor Ross concluded the meeting by stating the day after Christmas he walked out of his West Park Village home to see multiple neighbors and their children playing in the park across from his house. Calling it a “great advertisement for Westchase,” Ross added, I just want to tell you guys we live in a great community.”

Supervisors adjourned at 7:27 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Posted Jan. 11, 2018

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CDD Consideration of Purchase of Westchase Golf Course Postponed to Feb. 6

It was one of the most crowded, most contentious Westchase community meetings of the last decade.

The Jan. 9 meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) was dominated by Harbor Links and Greens residents’ reactions to news that the district would vote on a letter of intent to purchase the Westchase Golf Course. More than two dozen residents packed the small meeting room in the Westchase Community Association (WCA) office building on Parley Drive for a meeting that typically sees no more than two or three residents attend on average each month.

Outside there were as many as 40 more residents who wished to enter but were prevented due to the building’s legal capacity.

Under public notice requirements for the meeting, the district could not switch to a larger venue at the last minute. This left a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy and CDD staff to manage the outside crowd, which provoked a controversy of its own. The following day on WOW’s Facebook News Group, Westchase Neighborhood News, residents such as Amanda Siftar, Maria Kletchka and Sebastian de Almanara,  who showed up at the meeting but were not permitted to enter due to space constraints, insisted CDD staff members asked them to leave their names and told them the meeting had been postponed a week. This contradicted a notice on the building door that stated the meeting would address three topics and residents attending for each one would be allowed to enter as space permitted. When asked by WOW, CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte stated she hadn’t told waiting residents the meeting was cancelled. She stated she had informed them that no formal vote on the matter would be held in the Jan. 9 meeting but would instead be considered at the district’s Feb. 6 meeting, which will be re-noticed as occurring at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center, whose meeting room can handle a bigger crowd.

Contrary to impressions CDD staff left with residents who departed, the meeting was held, with the golf course purchase one of three major topics supervisors addressed. While many of those residents left, more than two dozen like de Almanara remained and eventually filled the meeting room to capacity when CDD supervisors turned to discussion about the course.

Upon the meeting’s start, supervisors did, however, briefly entertain the possibility of continuing the meeting to a later date at a site with a larger capacity. They ultimately elected to postpone any consideration of a formal motion about the golf course until Feb. 6.

Relying on conversations with CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney on Monday, Jan. 7, WOW Online reported that supervisors intended to vote on a letter of intent to purchase the golf course, triggering a six month period of due diligence before they held a formal vote to close on the purchase. Subsequently, CDD Attorney Erin McCormick informed supervisors that because the topic had not been put on the meeting’s previously announced agenda, no formal vote could be taken that day.

Instead supervisors addressed concerned residents’ questions, misconceptions and their motivation in considering the purchase.

Opening discussion of the agenda item, CDD Chair Jim Mills, who identified himself as a Greens property owner living on the golf course, joked with the audience. “After 20 years of living here, it’s amazing when something gets someone’s attention, you do take time and show up at the meetings.”

Mills observed that in the fall supervisors voted on the district’s sizeable budget establishing homeowners’ assessments and not a single resident was present for the public budget forum.

“We trusted you,” a resident shouted from the audience, triggering laughter.

The comment aptly captured the sentiment of the room, which appeared rooted in a level of distrust about the district’s handling of the golf course matter. “Could you tell us the truth of what’s happening?” another resident immediately pressed.

Supervisor Greg Chesney then described what the district had done thus far regarding the course. Chesney stated he was tasked by the board at its November meeting to meet with the golf course owner, Nick Neubauer, after Supervisor Brian Ross stated he had heard the course was for sale.

During the meeting, Chesney, and the WOW reporter present (when an audience member requested it), delineated subsequent district actions and discussions. In mid-December, Chesney, the district’s engineer and Westchase Community Association (WCA) President Ruben Collazo took a tour of golf course property. Subsequently Chesney and Collazo met with Neubauer over lunch to discuss potential terms of a sale. At December’s meeting, Stantec landscape architect Neal Stralow, present to discuss potential plans for re-landscaping Westchase neighborhood entrances, also touched on whether the golf course could be turned into a linear park of bike and hiking trails if the district purchased the golf course and determined maintaining it as a course was no longer financially feasible.

Subsequently, Chesney emphasized, the district acquired more financial information about the course that gave him greater confidence that the golf course could be made more profitable with proper investments. He emphasized to residents present that there were no current plans for the district to purchase the course and immediately turn it into park space.

This didn’t fully mollify residents. The most vocal among them were Edward Titan and Todd Marks of The Greens; Larry Hirsch and Paul Fraleigh of Harbor Links; and Ken Blair of Glencliff. Hirsch and Titan demanded assurances from the district that if they moved forward with the golf course’s purchase that the district first guarantee that they be operated as golf courses in perpetuity.

In reality, the WCA Board and the CDD Board cannot bind future boards to any decision.

When Greens resident Sebastian de Almanara inquired how the district thought it could pay for the purchase, Chesney responded, “I believe we have the financial resources to pay for it.”

Chesney stated the district’s bank had informally assured him of a 20-year line of credit to cover the purchase. Chesney added, “We don’t think there will be any change to the assessments of any residents.”

Chesney added the district was in its last year of paying for recent park improvements, after which it had approximately $340,000 to $350,000 in capital funds available. Later, Chesney stated his initial calculations for the course’s purchase, its maintenance and the investment of $350,000 in upgrades would represent $65 per year of each Westchase home’s overall CDD assessments.

While Supervisors Mills echoed CDD Attorney Erin McCormick’s announcement that no formal decision would be made at the meeting, residents present still pressed a number of issues.

Hirsch insisted that as an original owner on the golf course, he and other homeowners were guaranteed that their properties would always be adjacent to a golf course. He insisted supervisors research original documents to discover homeowner guarantees of golf course property. “It’s our investment. And our money. It’s why we’re here,” he said.

Titan, who attended the meeting with a golf club, inquired about the course’s current zoning. McCormick stated it was zoned for a golf course and that residents could always weigh in should another owner attempt to change its zoning with Hillsborough County.

Chesney emphasized that while he had acquired some information about formal restrictions on the golf course’s future use. He added, however, “We are still in the process of determining what can be done there.”

Historically, however, despite the area being zoned for a golf course, Westchase’s developer was able to win county approval for the construction of Saville Rowe on what once was golf course property.

Chesney also addressed another resident’s concerns that the district was just acquiring the golf course to turn around and sell it to developers and Marks’ question about whether the district would be precluded from developing the land itself. Chesney responded, “We would be unable to develop it.”

McCormick clarified that under Florida law, residential and commercial land development is not included in a CDD’s permitted responsibilities.

Chesney also emphasized that historically the Westchase CDD had never sold land. Instead, he stated its practice has been to acquire land to protect the community from future development. He acknowledged that the district could get rid of land it owned but stated that the process was complicated.

Stating he supported the district’s research into the purchase, Harbor Links resident Terry Schechinger offered a cautious note to residents speaking out against it. He stated a previous community he had lived in decided to sell its golf course to a private owner to save residents money. “It went to hell,” he said. “It was not the same kind of environment or same kind of place.”

Residents in the back of the meeting room asked what the district’s rush was. One emphasized that the course had been for sale for years. “If he could have sold it to a developer for more money, he would already have done it,” one insisted, referring to the current owner.

Fraleigh emphasized that the district had to carefully lay out its rationale for the purchase, weighing whether it made more sense for the WCA to instead purchase the course. He offered an ominous warning unless communication was improved. “This is going to explode,” he said.

Supervisor Brian Ross then weighed in, saying there was no rush. “You guys are on mile 15 of a marathon and we’re on mile one,” he stated. He cautioned the residents present that the district’s desire for putting the property under contract was merely designed to give them time to investigate the possible purchase without undue pressure or competition from another potential buyer.

Addressing the concerns of Woodbay’s Ken Blair, who insisted it would be markedly unfair to owners on the golf course to change it to any other use, Ross added that he found it personally difficult to tell a golf course homeowner the property’s use would be changed. He added, however, that he had heard from other homeowners who would be equally assessed for the property, that they supported turning it into a park. “What do I tell them?” he asked.

Mills observed, “Less than ten percent of the community lives on the golf course.”

He added that if the district announced it was purchasing the golf course and maintaining it as a course simply to benefit the homes along it, the room could very well be filled the following month with residents opposed to footing the bill.

When Blair reemphasized that he bought his home many years ago specifically because it was on a golf course, Mills stated the district’s goal was to avoid the experience that golf course owners in Walden Lake in Polk County experienced. “They bought on golf course property. It failed,” Mills said. Saying those owners now lived adjacent to an overgrown, unmaintained mess, Mills said, “They’re screwed.”

Explaining his motivation in encouraging the board to investigate the course’s purchase, Ross stated, “I don’t want a bad outcome. I don’t want a bankruptcy there.” He added, “That’s not fair to those homeowners. That’s not fair to the community.”

Ross added, “I want to get it under contract,” stating that would allow the district to its research. At any time during the due diligence period, Ross added, the district could pull out of the deal having expended money only on its own legal counsel. “That is a good deal for the Westchase community.”

In recent years, the district has repeatedly approached the golf course manager to address falling maintenance standards along the rights of way and near Westchase’s residential properties. A repeated cause of concern had been the golf course’s previous management, its neglect of its ponds and its effect on nearby homeowners and the district. In recent months, supervisors have even expressed a willingness to approach the course and request a maintenance easement along course property lining Countryway and Linebaugh so that the area can be maintained to Westchase standards and not undermine them.

In recent discussions about the purchase, supervisors’ comments have made clear that, based on the course financials they have seen, the Westchase Golf Course has repeatedly lost money in recent years.

Closing discussion, CDD Chair Greg Chesney stated that while the district initially discussed turning the course into a linear park of trails, his exploration of costs associated with turning the golf club around and running it as compared to the expense of converting the course into parkland and maintaining that made him far less interested in the park idea. “It’s just a colossal expense,” he stated.

The conversation concluded when Mills announced the stenographer recording the meeting needed a break.

Marks requested that the next CDD meeting be scheduled after 5 p.m. to enable more folks who work to attend. While supervisors declined to change the traditional meeting start time, they did commit to holding discussion of the golf course issue toward the end of the February meeting, allowing those who arrive late from work to weigh in.

Supervisors may discuss the matter if they hold a yet-to-be determined workshop on Monday, Feb. 5, at the Maureen Gauzza Public Library on Countryway Boulevard at 4 p.m. During a workshop, however, they cannot take formal votes or actions. Thus, the next opportunity for supervisors to approve either a purchase contract or a letter of intent to purchase the golf course is at their monthly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6, at 4 p.m. Due to expected larger attendance, the meeting venue has been switched to the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center meeting room on Countryway Boulevard. All residents may attend.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Editor's note: Due to the length of the meeting and the significance of issues covered, this article represents WOW's coverage of only that part of the CDD meeting that addressed the golf course purchase. The balance of topics addressed at the Jan. 9 meeting appears in a separate article about the CDD meeting.

Posted Jan. 10, 2018

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Westchase CDD to Hold Jan. 9 Vote on Possible Purchase of Westchase Golf Course

At the Jan. 9 meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD), the district’s five supervisors could make one of the most important and consequential decisions in the history of Westchase.

At that meeting, supervisors are expected to consider a vote on letter of intent to purchase the Westchase Golf Course for $4 million. Over the weekend, emails began flying in Westchase about the matter. WOW has closely followed the district’s negotiations with the owner since November. Appearing below, WOW attempts to answer significant questions about the potential purchase, the details surrounding it and the district’s motivation.

How am I hearing about this now? When did this all happen?

At the Westchase Community Development District’s (CDD’s) November meeting Supervisor Brian Ross stated he had heard the course was for sale. Supervisors voted 4-1, with Supervisor Barbara Griffith opposed, to have Supervisor Greg Chesney reach out to the current owner, Nick Neubauer of Chicago, to explore the issue. WOW covered the matter in its CDD news coverage in the December WOW. Subsequently, both Chesney and Westchase Community Association (WCA) President Ruben Collazo have worked closely on researching the matter, touring the grounds and negotiating a potential sale with its owner.

What are the details of the potential purchase?

The details won’t be finalized until the CDD Board votes to approve a letter of intent to purchase, which may occur at the Jan. 9 CDD meeting. That meeting will be held at 4 p.m. at the WCA Office Building on Parley Drive. According to details shared by CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney, the purchase price is $4 million, considerably lower than the price Neubauer originally paid for the course. Mr. Neubauer has expressed an interest in holding the note for the purchase of the site, with payments to him spread out over approximately 13 years.

If the CDD votes for the letter of intent to purchase, is the purchase a done deal?

No, not by any measure. Here is an important thing to remember about the letter of intent to purchase: It simply secures the property from sale to another potential buyer while the district investigates whether it wishes to close on the property. Supervisors have requested a due diligence period of six months to make the final decision. During this due diligence period, depending upon community support and their further research of the property, the district can elect to abandon the purchase with no penalty to the district.

Why would the CDD be interested in buying a golf course?

As the popularity of the sport has shrunk in recent decades, hundreds of golf courses across the United States have closed, opening up many of them for housing and office developments. According to financial records provided by the owner to the district, the Westchase Golf Course is losing tens of thousands of dollars annually. Some CDD Supervisors are interested in exploring the acquisition of the course to protect it from development into additional homes, apartments and townhomes or commercial developments. Owning it would also resolve a constant headache in recent years: the proper maintenance of ponds that are owned by the district but which lie adjacent to Westchase homes and the proper maintenance of the golf course property along Westchase’s right of way, which have been in some supervisors’ view, below Westchase standards.

Are there other CDDs in the state that own golf courses?

Yes, Westchase District Manager Andy Mendenhall manages another CDD that recently purchased its golf course in order to keep it from being sold to another entity. CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney has studied that sale and has approached the company that that district hired to determine that golf course's potential for profitability. It is likely the Westchase district will use a similar agreement with the company to study the financial impact of the course's acquisition.

Would the WCA ever own it?

WCA President Ruben Collazo is a strong advocate for getting the course property under control by Westchase residents to prevent its development. He has stated that if the CDD doesn’t purchase it, the WCA certainly would consider doing so. There are pros and cons for ownership by each entity. WCA ownership would allow the club house and property to be closed to anyone who is not a WCA member. CDD ownership, however, would mean that no property taxes would have to be paid on the property, lowering its cost to homeowners although it may mean, like other parks owned by the CDD, that is it open to the public if it is ever used as a park.

If the CDD owned it, would it still be operated as a golf course?

That is a question whose answer may not be determined until after the letter of intent is approved or even after its purchase. In the short term, based on supervisors’ comments at their December workshop on parks, it is likely the district will continue operating it as a golf course. During that timeframe, the district will investigate what investments it would have to make to ensure the course operates profitably or at a smaller loss. The CDD would not manage the course; that would be left to a management company they would hire. If supervisors determined maintaining it as a course is not financially feasible, it would cease operating as a course.

If the district decides to stop using it as a golf course, what would it become?

Supervisors of the district have expressed no interest in developing the property or selling it to a developer. The only non-golf option they have discussed is the potential for turning portions of it into walking, biking and hiking trails and converting some greens back into forest or conservation lands. Every supervisor who has spoken on the matter has emphasized the importance of taking the concerns of homeowners who purchased properties adjacent to the course into consideration when determining the district’s long-term use of the property. The short discussions of converting it to trail use have emphasized the importance of protecting homeowners’ privacy.

Will my CDD assessments go up if the CDD purchases the course?

While the answer to that question depends upon the land’s future use, supervisors have noted two issues that should help minimize the purchase’s impact on Westchase homeowners’ CDD assessments. First, with the conclusion of the renovation of Westchase parks, the coming year will see approximately $370,000 in assessments that are not yet committed to any project. These funds could be applied to the purchase of the course or to new landscaping plans the district is currently entertaining. Second, between 2017-2018, CDD debt assessments for homeowners in The Fords, The Greens and The Bridges, representing almost half of Westchase homes, will come to an end, lowering CDD assessments by $600-$1,000 or more. Even if the district did purchase the golf course and had to increase its Operations and Maintenance Assessments to cover the purchase costs, these homes would still likely see an overall CDD assessment decrease.

Why hasn’t WOW covered this better?

WOW has actually closely followed the negotiations and Chesney and Collazo have regularly shared updates with WOW staff. Once WOW learned that significant negotiations for a letter of intent to purchase were underway it instituted its typical policy for handling CDD land purchases. It committed to placing a temporary news embargo on the matter to give the district time to negotiate a purchase. WOW did so with the provision that the letter of intent included a long enough due diligence period so that affected homeowners could respond and weigh in on the matter prior to the execution of the sale. WOW staff implemented the embargo to protect Westchase homeowners. When the Harbor Links VM circulated an email about the purchase this weekend, WOW informed supervisors that there was no point in continuing the news embargo.

WOW has used a news embargo when covering CDD acquisition of property in recent years because of a past incident. Approximately a decade ago, the CDD entered into negotiations with Westchase’s developer over the purchase of land at the southern tip of Montague Street in West Park Village for the developer’s asking price of $160,000. In its news coverage, WOW mentioned these negotiations. A Greens resident, reading WOW’s coverage, contacted the developer, purchased the parcel for the full price of $160,000 and then turned around and offered it to the CDD at a premium. The CDD declined to make the purchase. That land, originally considered for a CDD-owned community dog park, is now owned by a developer who has announced his intent to build townhomes.

WOW held off on publishing the Westchase Gold Course purchase news to ensure the district could conclude its negotiations in the most advantageous way for the community. With the embargo lifted, WOW will now provide information as it becomes available.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Davidsen Dancers Make Theatrical Debut

It began with an idea last year.

Take a Westchase middle school and give it a new opportunity and focus.

Thus, Davidsen Middle School became an attractor school for the arts, open to every middle schooler in Northwest Hillsborough who is interested in music, dance and art.

In December, Davidsen’s new experiment burst into creative reality.

Seventy-five seventh and eighth grade students from Davidsen Middle School Center for the Arts presented their Winter Dance Showcase on Friday, Dec. 1 at Alonso High School’s Theater. Dance Director Julie V. Mac choreographed three dances for the showcase. “The dances highlighted what the students have been learning this semester. While some had taken dance in the past, it was the first time for many of them. I’m so proud of how hard they have worked and what they have accomplished in this first semester. I can’t wait to see how we grow in the future.”

Late last year Davidsen’s dance program enthusiastically greeted the completion of its new dance studio, featuring mirrored walls, a padded floor and two dressing rooms.

Yet the dance department at Davidsen is so new that Mac had to borrow costumes from Orange Grove Middle Magnet School. She is hoping to start a booster club at Davidsen to help the group with needs like costumes and backdrops. “Costumes are very important for dancers because they help the girls get into performance mode and add a professional element to the show. The right costume can help the dancer express the message of the dance. I’m hoping we’ll be able to form a booster group to help us build a costume closet and get dance uniforms for those who can’t afford them.”

In addition to the dance performances, attendees were able to bid on baskets created by each class. Each student brought in an item to include in the themed baskets. 

Dance classes at Davidsen follow a state curriculum for academics. All students learn about the history and cultural importance of dance as well as vocabulary and will have to take end of semester exams. In addition to the academic side of dance, students have four days of dance class, including ballet barre, ballet center and modern or jazz. Fridays are reserved for trying out different types of dance, including hip hop, salsa and African. One of Mac’s class periods is reserved for students with special needs.

The students’ next performance will be held at the end of the spring semester on May 7 at Alonso High School’s Theater.

This is the first year of the dance program. Davidsen was named an arts attractor school at the beginning of the school year. In addition to the new dance program, the school also added an addition art instructor. “Attractor programs such as the Davidsen Middle School Center for the Arts provide additional specialized options for students,” said Hillsborough County Schools Marketing Support Advisor Joe Humphrey.

Humphrey added, “The Davidsen Middle School Center for the Arts offers students a vast canvas for expression in visual, performing and practical arts. Students can study art, play in the band or orchestra, sing with the chorus, cook in culinary arts or build dance training into their daily schedule. Davidsen, located in the heart of Westchase, also offers a challenging curriculum including a variety of high school-credit classes.”

By Marcy Sanford; Cover Photo by James Broome Photography

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A New Year With New Goals

Welcome to a better and happier 2018!

December was great fun in Westchase and its surrounding neighborhoods. From the Westchase Charitable Foundation’s Pre-Flight Parade for Santa on Dec. 9 in Westchase to the tree lighting in Highland Park and the fabulous home decorations in Mandolin Estates, our neighborhoods were filled with great holiday traditions.

WOW brings you our coverage of these great traditions and we ring in January with a New Year’s tradition of our own.

For many the New Year brings a moment of reflection about the coming year’s goals. Frequently this prompts some thought about improving health and fitness habits. This month, in a nod to greater health, WOW writer Marcy Sanford looks at some fun, new ways our readers can incorporate greater physical activity into their lives – including our youngest residents. In a toast to a new year filled with interesting, fun and new activities, we chose a particularly apt symbol – Davidsen Middle School’s first ever dance recital – to feature on our first cover of the new year.

This past year Davidsen Middle, located in The Bridges in Westchase, began its transition to an attractor school for the arts. This includes the construction of a new dance facility. The talented Dragon dancers made their stage premier on Friday, Dec. 1 at Alonso High School. Whether your child has interests in band, orchestra or dance – or even a high quality middle school’s standard curriculum – Davidsen hopes to be your school of choice in the new year. Speak to any family with a child at Davidsen Middle School. The Dragons are a proud, accepting, talented and accomplished family.

WOW also has new goals for the coming year. This month we welcome two new staff members to help bring those goals to reality. Stephanie Montini lives with her husband and children in Keswick Forest. She believes in Westchase and its northwest neighbors and believes in the power of effective, local news coverage – like residents find monthly in these pages. She’ll be handling WOW’s advertising sales and our new social media push into the new year.

WOW also welcomes longtime WOW contributor Karen Ring, who is expanding her role with WOW to assistant editor, with a special focus on our new WOW Northwest edition. Karen lives with her husband and two sons in The Bridges. Those familiar with Karen’s work know her to be witty, empathetic and passionate. Expanding Karen’s role will help ensure WOW’s expansion area gets the time, attention and care it deserves. If you live in Highland Park, Mandolin, Westchester, Westwood Lakes, Windsor Place or West Hampton and you know a person or story that WOW should feature, please reach out to Karen at wownw@westchasewow.com.

Please remember that WOW receives no financial support from your HOA or CDD. We entirely depend upon our advertising revenues to bring you high quality local news and fund our non-profit charitable endeavors. Please let our advertisers you see them in WOW and appreciate their support of your community.

Happy New Year!

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WCF Seeking Candidates for Tampa Bay Woman of the Year

The Westchase Charitable Foundation is looking for candidates for its Woman of the Year award.

And winning the title entails all the candidates to fundraise for a great cause.

The Eighth Annual Tampa Bay Woman of the Year fundraiser to support the Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF) will take place on Friday, March 2, at the Sheltair jet hangar from 6:30–11:30 pm. The event will feature a “Jetsetter” theme and include live music, delicious food from some of the best local restaurants, complimentary drinks all night, free valet service, a tour of private jets, networking, an exclusive VIP lounge with special perks, a 50/50 raffle, silent and live auctions and more!

The WCF is currently seeking candidates to compete for the 2018 title.

What does it mean to be a candidate? Over a dozen women invite friends to attend the event, collect silent and live auction items, obtain in-kind donations, sell sponsorships, and host their own mini fundraisers over an eight-week period. The top four women to raise the most money and/or donations are announced live on stage in front of more than 400 attendees. The winner receives a featured billboard, a crown and sash, one year of free hair care, a convertible ride in the 2018 Westchase Christmas Parade, a celebratory dinner for eight, gift certificates and more. More important, each woman can say they had a small part in helping WCF raise funds to continue helping deserving families.

Any women interested in serving as a candidate should attend the Kickoff Event at Donatello’s on Thursday, Jan. 4 at 6:30 p.m.

The WCF is a 501(c)3 non-profit charity that provides financial assistance to Tampa Bay families that have children battling a serious illness or that have faced a devastating family tragedy. The foundation relies completely on fundraising events, like the Tampa Bay Woman of the Year, as well as private and in-kind donations to help raise funds for its mission. One hundred percent of WCF event proceeds go directly to helping families most in need.

Visit http://www.TampaBayWoman.org more details.

If you have any questions, please contact Trey Corish at (813) 545-8122 or trey@corishinsurance.com.

By Kimberly Wander

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Pet Complaints Common at WCA Manager’s Office

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and happy and safe New Year!

By now you should have received and paid your 2018 annual Westchase Community Association (WCA) assessment notice of $275, due Jan.1, 2018. If you have not yet done so, please 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. Feel free to drop off your payment (checks or money orders only) to our office. You can also make an online payment. If you need the information on how to do so, please contact our office and we can mail you the instructions. Also, if you have not received your notice, please contact our office immediately so we can print a duplicate statement for you.

As of November, our Village pool went into our winter part-time hours: Monday-Friday, 3-8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Occasionally we post our most common complaint sent to us by WCA residents. These last few months have pertained to dogs. We have gotten numerous complaints about owners walking their pets off leashes, with a rare occasion of a pet being aggressive towards another or towards a resident while being off the leash. Other complaints were made about pets being left outside to bark incessantly. The most common complaint has been about owners not picking up their pet’s waste off a neighbor’s property.  We ask each resident to please be aware of your pet’s actions and to please obey the law and our documents and pick up all pet waste. Community and county rules also prohibit cats from being left to roam the neighborhood.

And don’t forget our Movies in the Park. Our Jan. 12 showing of Moana on the Montague Street green could be a chilly, so don’t forget those blankets and that cup of hot chocolate or tea.

As always, we are here to serve Westchase residents. Please drop by our office or contact us at 926-6404 or through email at manager@wcamanager.com.

By Debbie Sainz, CAM, CMCA

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Radcliffe Enjoys Oktoberfest

Radcliffe residents enjoyed their annual block party hosted by Radcliffe Voting Member Eric Holt and his wife Tammy on Oct. 21.

A crowd of some 60 neighbors and perhaps 30 children took time to mingle, hoist ein Prosit, and snack on a real German-style spread.

Eric and Tammy provided the main victuals, featuring brats, potato salad, brotchen, sauerkraut, beer and soft drinks. Neighbors brought their own potluck to add to the spread, and everyone had plenty of great food.

Newcomers, original residents and anyone in between got to reacquaint themselves in a relaxed autumn afternoon.

The Holts have been hosting the block party for a number of years, and we, the loyal neighbors, salute their hospitality.

By Keith Heinemann

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Westchase Colts Win National Championship

On Friday, Dec. 8 the Westchase Colts JV football team brought home the big trophy.

The team won the national championship game against Connecticut’s West Haven Seahawks to become the Pop Warner D2 JV National Champions.

Head coach Kurt Wilder led the team.

“They have had a remarkable season to get to the national championship games,” said mom and team volunteer Heather Clute.

The Colts ended their regular season on Oct. 28 with a division title win against teams from across Tampa Bay. Also impressive, the team went the full regular season without being scored on by another team. They won all four games of the Southeast regional playoffs and had a 32-0 score for their final game.

“Westchase should be proud to have these kids representing our great area in a national championship game,” said Clute. “We have traveled all over the state representing Westchase over the past few months. Everyone asks, ‘Where is Westchase?’”

This is the first year the Westchase Colts have been a part of the Pop Warner division. Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc. (PWLS) is a non-profit organization that provides youth football and cheer and dance programs for participants in several states and countries around the world. Consisting of approximately 325,000 young people ranging from ages 5 to 16 years old, Pop Warner is the largest youth football, cheer and dance program in the world.

Pop Warner was founded in 1929. It continues to grow and serve as the only youth football, cheerleading and dance organization that requires its participants to maintain academic standards in order to participate.

Westchase Colts Youth Football was founded in 2001 and now has more than 200 families as members. The Westchase Colts is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides an extensive youth tackle football and cheerleading program to children ages 5-14 across Tampa Bay. The program stresses learning lessons about self-discipline, teamwork, concentration, friendship, leadership and sportsmanship.

Registration is open for the Fall 2018 season. For more information, visit http://www.westchasecolts.com

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By Marcy Sanford

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GAC Update: Parking, Traffic and Power Outages

With the arrival of a new year, I offer an end-of-the-year report of GAC’s activities for 2017.

The Government Affairs Committee (GAC) of the Westchase Community Association (WCA) was involved in 16 projects during 2017. These included West Park restaurant noise, parking and traffic issues, a community clinic, low-income affordable housing, Glencliff and Westchase Swim Tennis Center crosswalk signals, and representation to the FDOT Transportation Working Group for Northwest Hillsborough County.

An interactive Transportation Forum was held in Westchase in November for our neighbors to voice their concerns and objections to proposed state and regional transportation systems.

I am pleased to report that construction on the Citrus Park Drive Extension will begin in January 2018 and Joe Odda continues to follow this project.

Two major issues consumed most of GAC’s activity: TECO and parking/traffic issues.

The GAC initiated dialogue with the county last year to develop a comprehensive Westchase traffic and parking study. I hope to view aerial photos within the next few weeks. Major concerns are delays to emergency vehicles because of vehicle obstruction. This is of paramount importance in West Park Village and the Woodbridge gated entrance, where overflow parking prevented vehicles from entering and leaving Woodbridge; and in Kingsford, whose residents are impacted by parking and speeding by Davidson Middle School parents. These are just the GACs’ beginning areas of concern.

As reported on the Westchase Neighborhood News Facebook page, WCA President Ruben Collazo and I met with TECO representatives to discuss Westchase power outages. The post-Irma power outage was due to debris knocking down wires and flooding of the substation. Special equipment was required and we had to wait for our turn (TECO triages power restoration sequences.). Ruben and I inquired about their priorities  and procedures and we found them to be reasonable. We further discussed ongoing power outages, including seconds-long power lapses. These normal minor outages are designed to prevent actual power outages due to overloads, peak times, etc. They result from a safety mechanism during which the system self-corrects. Longer power losses concern not only us but also TECO. TECO’s engineer explained that TECO is researching when, where, and how long these outages occur. I hope to have the study’s results soon.

We asked about connecting western parts of Keswick Forest, Glenfield and Woodbay to the Westchase grid. Due to the loss of power over longer distances and its negative impact on existing Westchase areas, a new substation would be needed for the connection and construction of a new substation is not economically feasible.

I remain in regular contact with TECO to work toward a satisfying and acceptable solution.

By Rick Goldstein, GAC Chair

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From the President, January 2018: WCA to Host Former Association Leader

A very special guest will come to visit us in January.

The Honorable Daryl M. Manning of the Hillsborough County Thirteenth Judicial Circuit will be presiding over the Voting Members’ (VMs) January meeting.

You might remember Daryl Manning as a former Westchase resident and former president of the Westchase Community Association. As a former Judge Advocate General, Daryl has adopted a new mission in life: helping veterans with legal problems navigate the judicial system in Hillsborough County. He will be speaking to the VMs and telling us all about this new mission, his successes and what life is like after the Westchase homeowner’s association. Daryl is a great leader and a fun guy. The meeting should be very interesting and fun too. Please make a note to attend the VM meeting on Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center on Countryway Boulevard.

If you haven’t yet paid your annual assessment, now would be a good time do so – because no one likes late fees or worse! Please make your payment while you’re thinking about it. I’ve written about this before and I think it’s worth repeating. Your HOA depends on you to keep things moving along by making a timely payment of your annual assessment. Fortunately for us we mail very few late notices to unpaid accounts. Even better, we have very few delinquencies, but it does happen. Be aware that in those cases that are late or even delinquent, I have seen legal costs, late fees, interest and penalties add up to hundreds and even multiple thousands of dollars.

My questions are: Really? Why?

Why would anyone allow a $275 annual assessment get away from them to the tune of several thousand dollars? It leaves me shaking my head in utter disbelief when it happens. As president it is my obligation to collect on those assessments. And trust me when I tell you that is pains me terribly when I have to pull the trigger on legal action, up to and including foreclosure. It is so unnecessary and so stressful on the parties involved. Including me! I get no joy out of doing that part of this volunteer job. So please don’t let this happen to you. Please mail your $275 payment on time.

Last, as we begin the New Year, we have a lot on our HOA plate. This includes potentially adopting a new metal roof guideline, planning a Veterans Day event, building a new Westchase mobile app and, of course, executing a charitable tennis event and perhaps even planning a charitable swim event.

It is going to be a busy year indeed and I’m really looking forward to it.

By Ruben Collazo, WCA President

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Westchase Open Tennis Charity Exhibition Jan. 4

The Westchase Open Tennis Charity Exhibition, featuring an evening of tennis and charity, is Thursday, Jan. 4 from 7-9 p.m. at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center.

The event benefits the Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF), which assists families experiencing a crisis, and consists of a fun weekend of tournament play for local youth and adults.

This special event will feature live tennis with top open level tennis players, food, beverages, a silent auction, raffle prizes and family fun. One hundred percent of proceeds from this exhibition will go to the WCF.

Whether you are a tennis enthusiast or someone looking for a fun event, we welcome you to join us! Admission to this event is included with all tournament player entry fees. A donation of $15 is suggested for additional guests and spectators. For more information, visit http://www.westchaseopen.com

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By Kristen DeAngelo

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Public Notice of Woodbay Guideline Change

At their Jan. 9 meeting, Westchase Voting Members will consider an amendment to rules governing Woodbay’s gutters and drainage.

The potential change only affects rules in Woodbay.

The guideline amendment, if approved, would permit rain chains as alternatives to downspouts within Woodbay.

In addition to standard gutters and downspouts defined in Residential Guidelines Section 2.1.25s, rain chains would be allowed in Woodbay only as follows:

  1.  All Rain Chains must be tied into gutters and extend to the ground and secured at the bottom.
  2.  Rain Chains must not cause flooding or erosion to neighbor's yard as outlined in Section 2.1.25 Gutters and Drainage of the Westchase Residential Guidelines.
  3.  Rain Chains are limited to four in front of the house.
  4.  Rain Chains must be made of copper or aluminum.
  5.  Various designs and styles may be allowed by the Modification Committee .

The intent of this amendment is to add an additional option to the standard downspouts.

Once approved by its subassociation or a majority of its neighborhood’s residents, each guideline change has to be considered and approved by a supermajority of VMs at two meetings. It will be considered for the first time on Jan 9.

By Debbie Sainz, CAM, CMCA

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Westchase Street Parking Enforcement Temporarily Suspended

In a nod to the holidays, Westchase Community Association (WCA) President Ruben Collazo announced today that the association’s enforcement of a ban on street parking will be temporarily suspended.

The street parking ban, which exists in all WCA neighborhoods outside of West Park Village, will not be enforced from Friday, Dec. 22 through (and including) Friday, Jan. 5.

“We’re doing it because of all the kids coming home from school, all the holiday parties and all the gatherings,” said Collazo.

Enforcement of the no-street parking rule will resume on Jan. 6.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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VMs Learn of Coming Traffic Delays at Sheldon Road Intersection

The Dec. 12 Voting Members (VMs) meeting began with Government Affairs Committee (GAC) Chairman Rick Goldstein introducing county representatives.

County staff detailed the upcoming River Oaks Wastewater Diversion Project, which will impact Westchase’s eastern entrance this summer. The goal of the project is to retire two outdated wastewater treatment plants, expand the Northwest Regional Water facility and reroute sewage flow. Staff announced its new route will go up Sheldon Road through Linebaugh’s intersection, and construction of the line will impact traffic.

Goldstein asked “We already have traffic problems on Linebaugh. Now this will cause additional problems. How much longer will the Linebaugh [reclaimed water] project be?”

Project Control Manager Bill Harrington answered, “It will finish before we start this project.”

Harrington stated they were targeting a summer start and detailed the project's impact on the Linebaugh/Sheldon intersection, projected to last from May through September. Several VMs complained about the issues that will arise at the very busy intersection of Linebaugh and Sheldon. While work will occur at that intersection over the five month period, Harrington stated the most disruptive time period will last 35 days when the left hand turn lane on Linebaugh Avenue will be closed for the work. To compensate, the eastbound lanes will be reconfigured to still permit left turn lanes. The current left lane for through traffic will be turned into a  left turn lane. Meanwhile the dedicated right hand turn lane will be converted into an additional through lane to compensate for the loss of the left lane. Residents will still be able to make left and right turns, although traffic may see greater disruption because the right most lane will be shared by through traffic and drivers turning right onto southbound Sheldon Road.

When VM Nancy Sells (Harbor Links/The Estates) inquired if work could be done at night, Harrington replied “If we do it at night, the risk goes up and we don’t get more production.”
More information about the project can be found online at hcflgov.net/WWC.

Addressing power outages in western villages, Goldstein announced WCA President Ruben Collazo and he met with TECO representatives. Goldstein said that TECO explained that Hurricane Irma produced a lot of debris that knocked down power lines and they could not easily access the substation due to flooding. Goldstein reported that TECO is currently researching the outages to pinpoint their location and frequency.

VM Brian Loudermilk (Keswick Forest), whose residents are now experiencing outages, asked how many homes were impacted and how much it would cost to put his village on a different grid. Goldstein said that he is actively working with TECO on the items and that they are sending a representative to the February VM meeting.

Collazo then presented Joe Odda with the Nathan Lafer Good Neighbor Award. Collazo noted that Odda had spearheaded the Northwest dog park project, led the street paving effort and volunteered for a number of Westchase roles, including board member, VM and GAC chair.

Touting others’ support in writing emails to support the projects, Odda accepted the award saying, “I have so many people to thank so I accept this award for them as well as myself.” He added, “My successor, Rick Goldstein, is an extraordinary leader. I also appreciate Ruben Collazo for his leadership. Thank you.”

In October Director Brian Ross, Chair of the Variance Committee, had brought up suggested changes to committee rules. During that meeting, VMs voted to ask the board and legal counsel to review the proposed changes before VMs considered them. Ross stated at least one proposed change sought to address an increasing tendency of homeowners to undertake expensive projects without association approval and then seek relief from the Variance Committee when they are found in violation. Ross explained that he had consulted with CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart, who suggested the committee needed to be consulting with an engineer or a landscape architect for some projects. He added two more homeowners were now seeking variances for non-permitted projects on the sides of homes.

Goldstein commented, “In this case, we have incurred thousands of dollars in legal fees.”

In response to the continued violations, many VMs voiced concerns about deterrents for not following the process. Other questioned why homeowners would not follow rules and regulations that they agreed to when moving into Westchase.

After much more discussion, VMs voted to approve Ross’ proposed amendment, which sought to allow the Variance Committee to suggest an acceptable alternative to disallowed projects with the consultation of a technical expert (rather than have the owner pass through the modifications process a second time). VMs, however, voted to reject the second proposed change, which would have barred the homeowner from attempting to go to the Variance Committee after they were already found in violation of community rules. VMs felt that the committee should follow the existing process.

In closing the meeting, Collazo said that there were already two volunteers for the Metal Roof Guideline Committee, but they wanted at least one more. He added there is also an opening on the Covenants Committee. Interested residents can contact the association manager at 926-6404 or manager@wcamanager.com.

VMs adjourned at 8:35 p.m.

By Brenda Bennett

Editor's note: The original version of this article described the impact of the Linebaugh/Sheldon intersection work as lasting 30 days. County staff subsequently reached out to WOW to state this was inaccurate. The county stated that the intersection will see impacts from the construction of the sewage line from May through September. WOW regrets the error.

Posted Dec. 14, 2017; corrected Dec. 15, 2017

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WOW’s 2017 Holiday Decorating Contest Winners Light Up the Night

Cool temperatures swept into the bay area just in time!

It felt a lot more like Christmas as judges took to streets Dec. 9-10 to determine the winners of the annual WOW Holiday Decorating Contest. With an expanded territory to include the readers of the the WOW NW issue, their task this year was even greater.

The Westchase individual home winners saw last year’s winners jockeying for different positions. Having taken second place in 2015 and 2016, Summer Sanacore of 10451 Green Links Dr. in Village Green literally jumped for joy upon hearing the news of her family’s first place win this year. Her Classic Holiday Movies theme featured nostalgic window displays stuffed with items from movies, including Polar Express, Elf and Rudolph. She was even able to track down a fishnet tight covered leg lamp and pink bunny suit as seen in the movie A Christmas Story. “Watching these movies are part of a lot of families’ traditions so I wanted to go with that this year,” she explained.

Second place for 2017 went to Daniel Good and Robert Franceskino of 12428 Bristol Commons Cir. Their display included Santa and his reindeer, one more than he had last year, atop the roof. The lawn display included handmade decorations, toy soldiers lining the sidewalk and plenty of lights. Their efforts to include their neighbors also won Westchase Best Neighborhood Winner for Bristol Commons Cir. in Woodbay. Stringing lights from tree to tree and crossing the strands back and forth over the road was not an easy task. Neighbors pitched in with extension cords to help power the display. “Every house on the street decorated this year and it’s so much fun to see everyone else really get into the spirit of holiday,” Good said.

Third place went to the Moyer family of 10002 New Parke Road in West Park Village. Their “Believe” theme featured a huge handmade wooden sleigh, a dancing Santa on the second-floor balcony and post box for letters to Santa. “The concern now is where am I going to put this sleigh?” said dad Jeff of the massive display. “If anyone needs a sleigh ride in June, just let me know,” he added with a chuckle.

The WOW Northwest contest included stiff competition this year as well. The Mauldin family of 11305 Minaret Dr. in Mandolin Estates took First Place. “It’s all Jeff,” said Heather of her husband’s effort in producing the massive light display adorning their home. Viewing the home from the street, finding anything on the house or lawn that did not have a light attached to it was a challenge. Their display was also part of the reason Mandolin Estates took NW Best Neighborhood Winner award. The homes at 11305, 11307 and 11309 Minaret Dr. together prompted the judges to deem the united display neighborhood winner worthy.

Pablo Smith of 11307 Minaret Dr. explained the guys had to go up in a bucket truck this year to cover the trees and hang the enormous lighted ornaments from the high tree branches. His garage houses the hub and controls for all the extension cords and synchronized music set to the twinkling lights that the combined display features.

Second place winners, Dean Blair and Kwang-Sun Cho Blair, were thrilled with their second-place win! Their home at 11633 Renaissance View Ct. featured a spectacular show of lights as well. “The blue lights along the roofline are a tribute to our Jewish friends because we wanted to include everyone,” he said.

Third place went to the LoRusso family at 12021 Mountbatten Dr. of Westchester inside Newcastle. Their lawn decorations were all handmade wooden structures, including candy canes, wreaths, trees and a snowman. “It’s all built from scratch and he takes great pride in his decorations,” Legina said of her husband Philip.

Congratulations to all our winners and the honorable mentions!

Westchase Individual Home Winners

First Place: 10451 Green Links Dr. (Village Green)
Second Place: 12428 Bristol Commons Circle (Woodbay)
Third Place: 10002 New Parke Rd. (West Park Village)

Westchase Individual Home Honorable Mentions
10315 Seabridge Way (The Bridges)
9946 Stockbridge Dr. (The Bridges)
10740 Chelmsford Dr. (The Fords)
12014 Wandsworth Dr. (Radcliffe)
10719 Ayrshire Dr. (The Shires)
10743 Ayrshire Dr. (The Shires)
10709 Sierra Vista Pl. (The VineyardS0
10016 Seymour Way (West Park Village)
12421 Bristol Commons Circle (Woodbay)

Westchase Best Neighborhood Winner
Bristol Commons Circle in Woodbay

Westchase Best Neighborhood Honorable Mention
Seymour Way in West Park Village

WOW NW Individual Home Winners

First Place: 11305 Minaret Drive (Mandolin Estates)
Second Place: 11633 Renaissance View Ct. (Mandolin Estates)
Third Place: 12021 Mountbatten Dr. (Westchester inside the Newcastle entrance)

WOW NW Individual Home Winners Honorable Mention
14621 Galt Lake Drive (Highland Park)

NW Best Neighborhood Winner
Mandolin Estates (11305, 11307, 11309 Minaret Dr.)

By Lisa Stephens; Home photos by James Broome Photography

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Finding the Right Fit for Fitness in 2018

Losing weight and eating better are among the most popular New Year’s Resolutions made every year.

Unfortunately, many of us – up to 92 percent according to some polls – have forgotten about those good intentions by February. According to Fords resident Mary Anne Kirsch, Group Exercise Coordinator for the Northwest and West Park Village YMCAs, the best path to success will be different for every person.

One key, however, is true for many: if you find an activity that you enjoy, you are more likely to stick to it.

“If you hate gyms, don’t join a gym,” said Kirsch. “Try hiking or biking or join a run club. If you need someone to be accountable to, maybe joining a gym or hiring a trainer would work best. Find something you love do.”

Fortunately, plenty of options exist for all ages right here in the Westchase area. What are some exercise options that might prove a good fit?

Over the past few years the number of boutique workout studios in the area has blossomed. Now you can easily find a class that meets your interests, whether it’s yoga, Pilates, cycling, jazzercise, boot camp, boxing, barre or martial arts. Drive down Racetrack Road and you’ll see several studios devoted to personal or small group training. Most will allow you to take one free class so you can try it out. Sometimes you can find package discounts on Groupon or Social Living sites.

The Northwest and West Park Village YMCAs offer many different classes throughout the week as well as personal training and cardio and weight machines. Kirsch recommends that if you join any gym, you ask for an orientation. “Many people are intimidated when they walk into a gym. Ask for help and make sure you get an orientation for the equipment so you are not afraid.”

Some of the newer classes at the Y include Piyo, a combination of Pilates and yoga, Cize Live, a dance class, and Insanity, cardio and plyometric drills combined with strength, power, resistance and core training. They also have small TRX classes, developed by a former marine. The suspension training equipment used in the class allows you to use your body weight to create resistance and is good for your core, balance and stability. 

The Westchase Rec Center offers classes for all ages throughout the week. All are less than $10 and some are free. They have a walking club that meets daily, a small group fitness class just for women, adult open gym basketball, badminton, pickleball and zumba.

Additional the Rec Center has a very active senior program. One of the newest offerings for seniors is ballroom dancing. “Our seniors requested it and we found two volunteers who teach every Monday at 10 a.m.,” said Recreation Program Supervisor Dona Smith. “You don’t need a partner and you don’t have to have any experience.”

Smith said the program started in November and that they already have about 15 regular participants. In addition to ballroom dancing, the Rec Center offers stretch and tone and aerobics light classes for people 50 years and older. Smith says they will be adding chair yoga this year.

The local YMCAs also have popular senior programs. In addition to monthly social gatherings, they offer water aerobics, stretching and ab, intro to zumba and yoga classes geared specifically for seniors.

If the gym or rec center is not for you, you might want to try taking a hike or riding your bike. Both are exercises that all ages can enjoy. There are plenty of sidewalks and bike lanes around Westchase if you just want to start from your front door. If you’re willing to travel a bit, there are plenty of great hiking and biking trails around the Tampa area.

Bridges resident Monika Cassidy, who competes in and trains others for triathlons, says that the Suncoast, Upper Tampa Bay and Courtney Campbell trails are among her favorite area bike trails. “You can do a 100-mile ride on the Suncoast Trail, the Upper Tampa Bay is good for shorter rides and Courtney Campbell is 16 miles from Ben Davis Park to Clearwater,” she pointed out.

Many of the trails have stops along the way where you can use the restroom or refill your water bottle.

Hillsborough County has more than 100 recreational parks and hundreds of miles of hiking trails. For the second year in a row, the county is promoting its Hiking Spree program to encourage residents to go hiking. One of last year’s participants, Claire Brantley, credits the program with helping her to lose weight and finally introducing her to exercise she enjoys. “I needed to lose weight. I had been successful with the Weight Watchers program in the past but have never combined exercise with the program because I’ve never enjoyed exercise,” she said. “I am klutzy, have never found a sport I enjoyed playing and would rather be reading than working out. But a friend took me on my first hike last year and I loved it.”

Through March 31, people who register with the program and hike any eight of 19 designated trails will receive a medallion to put on their hiking stick or an Access Hiker patch.  All the hikes are ranked by level of difficulty, making it easy to choose one that works for you.

Once you’ve found an exercise you love, you may want to motivate your child to do so as well. If your teenager is not interested in sports, it might seem like an uphill battle to get them interested in working out, but Kirsch says the Y offers options for tweens and teens.  The age limit varies for each class but at the West Park Village Y children 8 years and older can walk on the treadmill after they’ve attended a youth fitness orientation, provided their parent is on the one next to them. Teens 15 and older can use free weights.

The Rec Center also offers clinics and classes for children of all ages who are interested in a specific sport as well as open gym time. Lori Goede, co-owner of Westchase Jazzercise says they have had children as young as 11 attend class with their moms. Green Locus Yoga offers a weekly yoga class for tweens.

Think creatively to get those kids moving. Davidsen Middle School now offers dance classes as part of the curriculum, no experience required. You can’t beat – or avoid – exercise built right into the school day.

Just find an activity you love.

That’s the key to finding your right fit for fitness in the New Year.

By Marcy Sanford

2018 Health and Wellness Guide Summaries

WOW thanks the following physicians and health/fitness businesses for helping to bring you the Health and Wellness Special. The listings on these pages represent paid advertisements in conjunction with the Health and Wellness Special. Look for their ads in our special section; page references are available in the business directory. Paid advertising is not an endorsement by WOW, Inc. Interested residents should contact the businesses and ask all relevant questions prior to engaging their services.

Advanced Chiropractic & Rehabilitation
(813) 925-1700
http://www.AdvancedCenters.com
Excellence in family chiropractic treatment with on-site massage therapy and physiotherapy. In-network with most insurance companies. Auto accident treatment relief.

Centra Care - Florida Hospital Urgent Care
(813) 792-2550
http://www.CentraCare.org
As a hospital affiliated urgent care provider, operating over 30 locations, Centra Care provides patients with fast and convenient care for urgent, non-emergency medical needs.

Essentials Massage & Facials
(813) 475-6996
We currently have 28 locations throughout Florida and Essentials continuously has repeat business from clients due to our spa experience, service, ambience, and our incredible prices.

The Eye Institute of West Florida
(813) 518-6038
http://www.EyeSpecialist.com
The Eye Institute of West Florida is a multi-specialty ophthalmic practice offering surgical and non-surgical vision care for every eye disease with six locations serving Tampa Bay.

Florida Hospital Carrollwood – Surgical Services
(813) 932-2222
http://www.FHCarrollwood.org
Florida Hospital Carrollwood is nationally recognized for patient safety and offers comprehensive surgical services, including weight-loss, orthopedic, spine, general, women’s and urology surgery, in a state-of-the-art facility.

Florida Hospital Physician Group
(844) DOC-2DAY
http://www.FHPhysicianGroup.com
With nearly 200 providers, in over 60 locations, representing more than 30 medical specialties, we provide a broad range of primary care, specialty and surgical expertise to help our patients live healthier and happier lives.

Internal Medicine & Pediatrics of Tampa Bay
(813) 961-2222
http://www.MyTampaDoc.com
Offering acute care and preventative healthcare for all ages. Our doctors and nurse practitioner are all board certified or eligible.

The Oasis at Tampa Community Hospital
(Alcohol & Drug Recovery Center)
(813) 933-3869
Tampa Community Hospital is one of the few hospital-based, medically supervised detox units in the country. We treat addiction as a disease not as a weakness. Please call for more information.

Pam Velez – Yoga
(813) 362-6909
Curious about yoga?  No flexibility required.  Get stronger, reduce stress and gain flexibility with private yoga lessons customized to work with your injuries and limitations.

StretchRX
(813) 382-2363
http://www.StretchRxFlorida.com
Stretch Rx offers Therapeutic Stretching, Exercise and Massage. Customized sessions can help people decrease pain, increase flexibility, improve posture, tone muscles and lose weight.

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CDD Board Hears Road Preservation Pitch

The Dec. 5 meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) saw a presentation on road preservation.

At the session, supervisors also addressed Glencliff Park playground repairs and considered an inquiry from Woodbridge HOA about the district’s willingness to take ownership of its gates and roads.

The meeting opened with a presentation by Lenn Morse of Whittaker Construction Company. Morse pitched the application of sealer on roads offered by the district as a way of prolonging their lifespans. Many of the district’s roads, consisting of West Park Village alleys and roads tucked behind gates, have been repaved in recent years. CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart encouraged supervisors to consider hiring the company to apply the material. Both Morse and Stewart stated a management plan to shut down the roads to allow them to be resealed would have to be worked out and effectively communicated to residents. Rather than bid out the project, Stewart stated supervisors could explore piggy-backing on an existing bid won by the company for work in Orlando, bringing the price for the Westchase work to $295,000, which would be paid for out of road reserves. She recommended the project, however, be completed sometime between January and May, to avoid the rainy season.

Returning to a topic the district has discussed for months, Stewart stated she was still working with Betty Valenti of M/I Homes, who built the West Lake Townhomes development across the lake from north side of Stonebridge and east side of Sturbridge. Stewart stated the townhome board had approved the property transfer of the lake to the district, which has, in the past, flooded Stonebridge and prompted privacy concerns from its residents about folks accessing the area through West Lake Townhomes and fishing. She stated the developer was eager to transfer the lake and surrounding land to the CDD before turning control of the townhome board over to its residents.

Prior to transfer, Supervisor Ross requested that the developer write restrictions into the townhome HOA documents limiting its residents’ access to and recreational use of the lake.

Supervisor Barbara Griffith, however, questioned why the district was so eager to limit the residents’ use of the lake and even acquire its ownership. “I kind of get the theme we have to  own everything.”

Field Supervisor Doug Mays responded that owning the lake was the only effective way the district could control its outflow structures and water levels to prevent flooding.

“We’re so afraid of what might happen,” Griffiths countered. When she added she didn’t understand why the district would buy the lake, supervisors corrected her and stated M/I Homes was not selling the parcel to the district but transferring the lake ownership so that it was not responsible for its maintenance.

“I’m absolutely convinced it’s in the best interest of the Westchase community to get control of it,” concluded Supervisor Brian Ross.

Stewart then updated supervisors on her efforts to build comprehensive print and digital maps of Westchase and the district’s property and encouraged supervisors to ensure that best management practices for the maintenance of pond banks, essential to reducing erosion, be incorporated into the landscaping and pond contracts to ensure contractors observe them.

Making her report, CDD Attorney Erin McCormick stated she had reviewed the contract for the Glencliff Park renovation and concluded its two-year warranty provided a legal basis for the the district to send a demand letter to the contractor to address the peeling rubber surface around the merry-go-round feature.

Echoing advice he gave at November’s meeting, Supervisor Brian Ross suggested that, rather than dealing with the recalcitrant subcontractor who is refusing to honor the warranty, staff reach out to Dynamo, the Canadian company who undertook the contract and hired the subcontractor.

Supervisors then briefly addressed plans to replace West Park Village’s street signs and traffic signs, which no longer meet county or state codes. Supervisor Brian Ross district staff if they were motivated to make the change more for esthetic or safety reasons. When Office Manager Sonny Whyte responded it was for greater safety, Ross responded, “If we think there is a safety issue, I’d really like to hear quite a sense of urgency.”

In response, staff stated they would meet with the county engineer to determine how much of the signage the county would be willing to cover (Hillsborough County’s standard signage is far simpler and less expensive than West Park’s decorative signage.) Once Whyte has final numbers, staff can determine whether the project would require bidding based on state thresholds.

“Why wouldn’t we want to go out and bid it?” asked McCormick.

“I would be in favor of that,” added Supervisor Griffith.

Supervisors then touched on the ability of the district to also assess the West Park Village Apartment complex, whose residents depend on the signage, as well as West Park residents for their estimated $200,000-$250,000 replacement cost. McCormick observed that she saw no legal obstacle to doing so.

Supervisor Griffith then raised a few issues. She stated she had investigated the continuation of the sidewalk or a mulched path on the west side of Montague Street from its current end at Westchase Drive to the Linebaugh intersection. Supervisor Chesney cautioned that the district had planted the area with a number of trees and hedges to encourage students walking from Davidsen to use the school district’s designated crosswalk rather than walk down the grassy stretch. “We’d essentially be undoing what we did,” he said, adding it was done to keep kids on the sidewalk and prevent them from darting into traffic.

Citing her inability to get a crossing guard for middle school students at Westchase Drive, Griffith also suggested the district might consider a speed bump on Montague Street to slow traffic down. “I’m committed to getting mobility in Westchase to be safe,” she said.

Chesney cautioned that putting a speed bump on Montague Street would likely prompt strong resident opposition.

CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte assured Griffith that she would speak to the county the next day to explore the extension of a safe path. 

Supervisor Chesney then inquired about whether McCormick found a requirement that the Westchase Town Center along Linebaugh had a requirement to provide a continuous sidewalk along its front. Its current sidewalk is used as outdoor seating for a number of restaurants along the commercial strip.

McCormick, however, stated the requirement for the sidewalk could only be enforced by the now defunct Westchase Commercial Association. She added that due to limitations on the district’s easement along the Linebaugh right of way, which was limited to wall building and maintenance, if the community wanted a continuous sidewalk on the south side of Linebaugh Avenue from West Park Village to Sheldon Drive, the next step would be to figure out a proper alignment to avoid wetlands and have the Westchase Community Association’s Government Affairs Committee (GAC) advocate for its installation by the county.

Office Manager Sonny Whyte then stated she had been approached by a representatives of the Woodbridge homeowners association, who asked whether the district was open to being transferred ownership of that gated neighborhood’s gates and roads for the districts to maintain and assess Woodbridge residents for. Supervisors expressed a willingness if Woodbridge residents supported the transfer.

Closing the meeting, Supervisor Griffith asked if the district could construct a shed at Glencliff Park in which to store the soccer goals to improve their appearance over the current practice of chaining them to a tree. Field Supervisor Mays, stated, however, the structure would have to be quite large to fit the goals.

A volunteer coach with the Westchase Soccer Association (as is Griffith), Supervisor Lewis cautioned that the goals were quite heavy. “You don’t want to carry it too far.”

“They’re an eyesore,” Griffith said. “They’re just an eyesore.”

Griffith also inquired whether the district could provide more permanent shade structures for parents using the field but Mays cautioned that a previous plan to shade the existing bleachers prompted significant opposition from Glencliff residents. He did, however, commit to exploring possible shade options for the other side of the field.

Supervisor Ross requested that staff also reach out to Glencliff’s voting member to give the neighborhood notice about the proposal.

Supervisor Matt Lewis concluded the meeting by requesting that staff explore the possible addition of a slide to Glencliff Park. Stating there was room within the playground for a small slide for younger children, Mays responded, “It’s doable.”

In other matters:

Supervisors gave their blessing to putting up some holiday decorations on The Enclave’s gate and entrance. Owned by The Enclave’s HOA, the district has historically left its decoration to that community, but CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte stated the community’s property manager was out on medical leave.

Supervisor Matt Lewis asked CDD staff to inquire with the county about the possible installation of blinking lights that are activated by residents wishing to use the crosswalk on Countrway Boulevard between Keswick Forest and The Westchase Swim and Tennis Center.

CDD Dec. 4 Parks Workshop

Westchase Community Development District Supervisors met for a workshop at the Maureen Gauzza Public Library on Monday, Dec. 4, where they tackled a number of topics related to parks.

At a workshop, supervisors can hold discussions but cannot vote on motions or make official decisions.

Among other matters, supervisors addressed West Park Village resident George Doster’s proposal to turn a portion of the West Park Village Town Center green on Montague street into a small, fenced dog run or dog park. CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney stated that Jordan Petras, manager of the West Park Village Apartments and commercial area, had conveyed to the district the preference that the area not be converted to a dog park.

While supervisors took no formal vote, the conversation suggested the idea lacked supervisor support for that location. Supervisor Barbara Griffith, however, expressed support for shifting the location to an area under TECO’s high voltage wires adjacent to the parking lot for the David Weekley Townhome development, just south of Fifth Third Bank. Griffith stated she had received tentative support for the idea from the property owner, Alan Charon of Real Property Specialists. Supervisors encouraged Doster to inquire with TECO about its willingness to allow a dog park on the area, with some suggesting the location no longer made it a CDD matter. Other supervisors suggested the district might hammer out a use agreement with Charon.

Supervisors also discussed the development of a landscaping plan to redesign and replant Westchase’s neighborhood entrances with Field Manager Doug Mays and Neal Stralow of Stantec, the district’s engineering firm. Stralow committed to developing some CAD drawings and recommendations with the assistance of Mays, who estimated that landscaping could be redone for between $1,000-$3,000 at each subdivision entrance.

Supervisors closed with a brief discussion of the planned replacement of street signage in West Park Village.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Posted Dec. 11, 2017

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Are You Complicating Your Child’s College Transition?

With winter on its way college students only have one thing on their mind:

It’s generally: “When will this semester be over?”

Despite long nights in the library, many underclassmen find themselves reflecting on the past three months and realizing how their parents’ responses to their college transition this fall or even last year complicated their college experience.

While college is one of the most difficult and enjoyable times in a young adult’s life, students face challenges adapting to living on their own away from their family for the first time. The struggles they encounter can help them grow into adults. If not correctly handled, however, the transition can trigger distance among student and parent.

Transitioning to being a college student is difficult. It isn’t just about learning to be responsible; it’s about learning who you are without the guidance of parents.

This is no easy task, and can become especially difficult with parents interfering in students’ day to day life. Parental interference in the college transition is unavoidable, and can sometimes even be positive. There are, however, some transitional mistakes that Westchase college students found particularly straining on both their collegiate and home lives.

Parents and students are regularly told that going home too often is a mistake.

Going home is said to create a toxic cycle in which you either end up getting homesick each time you return, or you never quite find your place at school because you’re consistently at home.

Going home conditions a student to rely on parents and high school friends rather than committing to college life. Parents who are eager to prepare their child for everything don’t necessarily help.

“Having parents who prepare you for college is good, but at a certain point you realize they can’t prepare you for everything,” said Virginia Howell, a University of Florida freshman and Bennington resident.

The issue with going home too often is that it makes parents feel like they can and should do everything for their college student. Simultaneously, students are caught between one world in which they must fend for themselves, and another in which they’re taken care of.

Going home means that mom and dad cook meals, do your laundry, and buy you groceries for back at school. Or they at least have the opportunity to do so, making the student less likely to learn for themselves.

Another common mistake for parents is micromanaging. Even when they aren’t there to monitor their child’s every move, some call and text obsessively to find out.

“Many parents don’t think their kids are capable of managing themselves on their own. They call or text to remind you to do the smallest things,” Brett Steinfeld a UF sophomore and resident of The Fords said. “My mom even called me a couple times last year to remind me to eat.”

While parents have the best interest in these scenarios, students grow quickly annoyed with frequent phone and text reminders. It’s a sign to back off and let the student grow in independence.

Choosing and sticking with a major is one of the biggest challenges college students face, especially when feeling pressure from a parent to stick with something about which they’re not passionate.

“I felt a lot of pressure to stay in a major I didn’t really enjoy because my parents confused the stress associated with that major with being overwhelmed by the whole college transition. They thought that things would get better with time,” Lindsay Peterson, a Georgia Tech sophomore and Greens resident said.

Luckily, these kinds of issues often resolve with time and communication.

“Now that I’ve changed to a degree path I’m more passionate about, I see positive changes in my college life and relationship with my family,” Peterson said.

Although some parental college mistakes are larger, even small assumptions can end up being false.

For instance, most parents and students imagine college dorms to be shoeboxes with hardly enough space for one person, let alone two. Contrary to popular belief, spacious dorm rooms aren’t completely unheard of.

“When I was packing for college I remember my mom telling me not to pack too many clothes. She told me not to bring anything I didn’t need since we assumed I’d have a tiny closet. But when I moved into Springs (a UF dorm), I ended up having a huge closet and even brought clothes back from home to fill up the empty space,” Kristen Gajewski a UF freshman and Harbor Links resident said.

While many students feel their parents made mistakes in the college transition, overall most feel the transition was successful.

“Honestly my mom supported me in getting prepared for college, and although the transition wasn’t easy last year, I think that any tension we may have had then is gone now,” Olivia Granaiola a UF sophomore and Fords resident said.

During the transition to college life, it’s important for parents to keep in mind that mistakes will happen.

Nevertheless, supporting your child through these challenges will decrease tension and make for a happier and more successful college student.

By Julia Andreson

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Catch Twenty-Three Fake Ad Contest Continues

Yes, automated cars can do amazing things, but can they perpendicular park?

The editor doubts it.

That’s why you need to hire Wild Milly’s Driving School (page 64 of November’s WOW) for your new teen driver.

Call Milly now before learning to drive a car goes the way of Morse Code.

Milly was inspired by the editor’s mother, who recently ripped another side view mirror off her Honda. (She’ll probably just duct-tape that one back on too.) Mama is, however, an accomplished perpendicular parker and dismissive hand gesturer.

Alas, in the celebrated history of the Fake Ad Contest, Milly represents the second fake ad for driving lessons. Five years ago, right after the conclusion of the third season of Downtown Abbey, the editor ran a fake ad for the Matthew Crawley School of Driving.

He still has neighbors who won’t speak to him after that one.

Meanwhile, because Woodbay resident Debbey Pittinger’s correct fake ad guess was randomly selected by the fake ad gods, Debbey will be carefully driving over to dinner at Catch Twenty-Three, courtesy of its proprietor Rob Wickner. Thanks, Rob!

Get your December guesses in today, fake ad fans!

Contest Rules: Tucked somewhere in this month’s WOW is a fake ad for a fictitious business or service. Email your guess, including the fake company name and its page number, along with your name and address by the tenth of the month to editor@westchasewow.com. Write Fake Ad Contest as the subject. One correct entry will be randomly chosen winner each month.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Meet Chief!

Chief lives with mom Ashley and dad Devin in West Park Village. He’s a frequent visitor to Ashley’s parents’ house in The Greens. Chief is a rescue lab/cattle dog mix who loves spending time with his family, especially his "Aunt" Marti, a Jack Russell that has been spotlighted in WOW before. Chief also loves the beach and swimming in his grandparents’ pool. He is happy to call West Park Village home with all the wonderful walking areas.

Chief got his name because he is a loyal FSU fan. He is a spoiled only child! He even enjoys decorating their Christmas tree.

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Alonso Softballers Sign College Commitments

After growing up through Little League, four Alonso High School softball players signed their college scholarship papers in the most appropriate way.

They were side by side at their Nov. 8 signing ceremony in Alonso’s media center.

Second baseman Caila Weisman (University of North Florida), pitcher Jodi Handler (Georgia Southern University), catcher Madison Coutts (University of Dallas) and third baseman Erin Hale (Missouri Valley College) wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We’ve known each other forever,’’ Hale said.

“Lots of great memories … from the time we were 8 and maybe even before that,’’ Coutts said.

“We’re kind of like family,’’ Handler said.

“We might be going in different directions, but we’ll always be close,’’ Weisman said.

Weisman, who made a big name for herself in helping the Ravens to the 2016 Class 9A state championship game, said she fell in love with the atmosphere at UNF. “Everyone is so close there,’’ Weisman said. “I’m looking forward to experiencing a new lifestyle. I know I’m going to enjoy that school … and I get to play softball!

“I’m excited to start new and fresh in a new state,’’ Handler said. “Georgia Southern is a lot different than Tampa, but it still felt a lot like home.’’

Coutts said she was impressed by University of Dallas’ small-town nature. “It’s hard for me to change and go that far from home, but it will be OK,’’ Coutts said. “The academics are very good and it has the best of both worlds. It seems like a smaller school, but it’s a big city.’’

Hale said she will adjust to the distance from home and Missouri’s winter. “It will be a new life for me,’’ Hale said. “Yes, it will be cold. It will be something new to get used to. But it has been a dream for me to play softball in college, so I’m excited and can’t wait to get started.’’

Now, through staying in touch and playing the game they love, the four will always be together.

By Joey Johnston

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WOW Across Two Continents

In recent months the Hough family of The Fords took WOW to two different continents.

Few families in Westchase have been as dedicated to taking WOW on their travels as Paul and Karen Hough of the Fords. In recent months, along with their daughter Paula, they have shared photos of their trips to both Europe and Africa.

In April Paul sent some photos from a trip he took to South Africa with his son, Christopher. There Paul competed in Ironman South Africa. The first photo shows Paul holding WOW in Port Elizabeth, South Africa with Nelson Mandela Bay in the background. “This is a deep water port and you can see the ship-loading arms,” He wrote. “The Ironman swim (2.4 miles) was in the bay and I was happy not to encounter any great whites!”

Later in June Paul traveled to the UK with his wife Karen and daughter Paula. The Houghs drove extensively across the north of England and submitted a number of shots from Paul's favorite stop, Whitby, including one of his daughter Paula standing amid the ruins of the Whitby Abbey.

Paul mentioned some of the monastery’s history, including that Whitby Abbey was actually sacked by the Danes in the ninth century. The ruins in the photo, however, date to the monastery’s reestablishment in the 13th century. They fell into ruin when King Henry VIII, seeking to reduce the influence of the Catholic Church and establish supremacy of the English crown dissolved England’s monasteries and seized their assets.

While in Scotland, Karen and Paul renewed their wedding vows. “While Gretna Green is the major thoroughfare for The Fords and The Greens, I wonder if many know that it is a famous town for elopements,” he wrote.

Paul explained, “In 1754, England passed a marriage act requiring that anyone under 21 require parental approval to marry.  However, in Scotland, the law required only that a boy be 14 and a girl 12,” Paul was also no need for parental agreement. “The legal differences led to a huge number of English teens running away to Gretna Green.”

Paul added a photo description. “We renewed our vows at the most famous place of all within Gretna Green, the Blacksmith's Shop…[Appearing are] Karen and I, our daughter Paula, Karen's mother Rosemarie, and our bagpiper, Alan,” he said. “Yeah, we went all in.”  

We thank all the Houghs for sharing their travels with WOW.

Take WOW on Your Winter Trips!

Please remember to take WOW or WOW Northwest with you on your winter trips outside of Florida. Send in a photo of you or your family holding WOW in an interesting place, and you will receive between $60 and $100. Simply send the photos to Editor@WestchaseWOW.com with a few sentences about your trip and the location of the photo(s).

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Westchase Artists Society Ends Great Year

In 2017 the Westchase Artists Society had a very successful year in which our membership increased.

As a group, we have become partners sharing stories of our journeys in the pursuit of artistic accomplishment. We are fortunate to have the talent and willingness of the members to inform, teach and share artistic knowledge.

As well, we have participated in various charitable endeavors in our community and will continue to do so in the coming years.

Our Oct. 24 meeting of the Westchase Artists Society featured a fascinating presentation of the art of glass fusion by member artist Christa Moody. Christa brought some beautiful pieces of her work to show members. Christa was inspired by internationally known local artist, Lisa Vogt, and showed a video by Vogt demonstrating the glass fusion process.

We are pleased to share in the recent successes of our members, including Elizabeth Fontaine-Barr who has an exhibit at TECO through December. Christa Moody and Jennifer Joyner will both have work on display in “Stolen Art” show through December at the St Pete at Creative Soul. They also have work on display in Safety Harbor called “Female Frames; 6 Perspectives,” running in conjunction with Art on Main Street’s third Fridays.

Our Nov. 28 meeting, occurring after deadline, featured a presentation by Jorge (Jay) Trujillo on his exhibit shown through November at the Maureen B. Gauzza Public Library. For the November meeting we also planned a presentation on the art of Salvador Dali.

If you would like to partner with us in our journey and to further your own artistic development, please join us on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Maureen B. Gauzza Public Library on Countryway Boulevard.

Please visit us on Facebook and at http://www.westchaseartists.com We ar.e open to all interested visual artists from the Tampa Bay area.

We look forward to meeting you and to another exciting New Year!

By Marilyn Chaulk

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Charity Tennis Tournament Hits Westchase Courts Jan. 4

Attention, Westchase tennis players. It’s time to get your game on for charity!

The Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF) is hosting the Westchase Open to benefit the foundation. The foundation, founded and led by Westchase residents, supports families who have either children or parents battling a serious illness and assists people in the community who are faced with a family tragedy. On Nov. 9, the WCF was granted permission by the Westchase Community Association WCA for the use of their courts.

The tournament will kick off Thursday, Jan. 4 at 7 p.m. with an evening gala. where tournament participants and charity supporters will enjoy an open-level doubles tennis exhibition match, hors d’oeuvres, wine tasting and a silent auction. The tournament will feature singles, doubles, and mixed competition for all age and skill levels. 

The WCA Board of Directors voted to approve the first tennis charity event in Westchase. Ruben Collazo, President of the WCA, is very excited about the event. “I like big ideas” Collazo said. “Big ideas deserve a place in Westchase.”

Tournament organizers have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from Westchase residents. “Westchase is a tennis community,” said Heidi Pogue, a Westchase resident and doubles tennis player. “We are very excited about the event and are thrilled to be using our sport to benefit the WCF.”

Sean O’Donnell, president of the WCF, was also enthusiastic about the upcoming event. “Hosting an event that brings together a community to benefit one of its own is what we are all about. We are very excited about the upcoming tournament and appreciate the WCA for allowing us to utilize their courts.”

Private Label Skin, a provider of manufacturing and fulfillment services, and Laser Locators, a distributor of new and used ophthalmic equipment, are the initial corporate sponsors for this event. Event organizers are actively seeking additional corporate sponsors and are hopeful that corporate sponsors, individual donors, and tennis participants will help the foundation reach its fundraising goal of $10,000.

For additional information regarding the event, or to become a corporate sponsor or donor, please visit the Westchase Open web site at http://www.westchaseopen.com For m.ore information about the WCF, visit http://www.westchasefoundation.org

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Editor’s note: As December’s WOW went to print, WOW received word from the WCA that the WCA attorney had concerns about insurance coverage for the event, which could lead to the event’s postponement. Contact Event Chair Eric Pogue at eric.p@privatelabelsk.in to confirm the event’s date and time.

By Eric Pogue

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MOMS Club Tours the Farm

Old McMicky’s was a farm, and on that farm there was a MOMS Club!

To kick off the month, we ventured to Odessa to visit Old McMicky’s Farm. Situated on picturesque Crescent Lake, the farm is part of the historic Camp Keystone, where Burt Reynolds was once a camp counselor. The farm reopened in 2013, and now introduces farm life to the masses, one guided tour at a time.

Guided by the expert employees of the farm, the kids were amazed as they got up close and personal with farm animals like goats, sheep and chickens. The tots (and moms!) learned so much, and embraced getting out of the suburbs. The hay and horse rides were both a highlight of the day, but milking a cow might be the most memorable. Some of our kids dove right in to try it, while others said, “I am NOT doing that!” We capped the day off having a picnic lunch by the beautiful lake.

But the fun for the month didn’t end there. We followed up our farm visit with a patriotic trip to Mission BBQ to celebrate Veterans Day. We got back outdoors with a play date at Baybridge Park, where we collected nonperishable food items for our November charity. We ended the month with a moms’ night out to see Bad Moms Christmas at Regal Citrus Park. We are looking forward to lots of festive holiday activities in December.

Our November philanthropy was a monetary donation and a non-perishable food drive to benefit Feeding Tampa Bay, as well as a monetary donation to the Children’s Board Heart Gallery of Tampa Bay, dedicated to finding forever families for Tampa’s foster children. In addition, our Guppy and Starfish play groups teamed up for a pajama drive to benefit Voices for Children Tampa Bay, which works with Guardian ad Litem volunteers to provide support and advocacy for children in the area.

We are always looking to connect with new moms and local businesses. If you have a business or a babe, please visit http://www.momsclubofwestchase.com to get in touch. Interested in becoming a member but not ready to commit? Attend an event before joining. We’re sure you’ll want us for keeps!

By Heather Dagostino

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Westchase Q and A: Holiday Bests and Worsts

This month we asked residents: What are the best and worst things about the holiday season?

Jay Sharma and Ashish, The Shires
We are from India but love the American holiday customs. We just celebrated the Hindu festival of Diwali. It's a festival of lights. Soon we will celebrate Christmas. We are planning a trip to India to visit our family but we've scheduled it so that we can be back in Tampa two weeks before Christmas. We really like exposing our 2-and-a-half-year old son Ashish to many cultures. The Christmas decorations are so beautiful and holiday food is the best. People are so friendly. There's nothing I don't like about the holidays. I know some people probably put too much emphasis on shopping. I think, whatever your culture, the emphasis should be on giving thanks and spending time with the ones you love.

Jackie Barbitta-Shepherd, Keswick Forest
I love seeing Christmas through the eyes of our children. Our oldest daughter is so excited about Santa coming. We usually go to North Carolina to celebrate with family but this year we're staying home so that Caroline and Marideth can start making their memories. Sadly, we're moving to Raleigh in January. We're really going to miss Westchase. When we moved to Tampa, everyone told us this was the best place to live. They were right. I think the only down side to the holidays is how easy it is to get over extended.

Richard Roberto with sons Russell and Nathan, Abbotsford
The best things about the holidays is getting together with family and passing on the traditions you enjoyed as a child to your children. We are part of a large Italian family and tradition is very important to us, especially the food. On Christmas Eve we always celebrate with the Feast of the Seven Fishes. We also make the traditional Italian honey ball cookies called Struffoli. I hope my sons carry this on when they have their own families. I know the holidays can get a little hectic so it's important to relax and take time to really enjoy this special time of the year. We still have family up north in New Jersey and wish we could see them all at Christmas.

Shannon Thigpen, Castleford
The holidays are my favorite time of the year. I love the family time and time with friends. I love the lights and decorations. It's such a happy time but I know there are lots of people who are going through tough times, especially with the loss of loved ones. That can make the holidays hard. A lot of people get stressed at this time of year and that's not good. The stress can lead to excesses in eating, drinking and spending. That makes you feel guilty, which causes more stress. It can be a vicious cycle. I'm a fitness instructor and I tell my clients the holiday season is all about joy, not guilt, so be joyful and take good care of yourself. The idea is to enjoy the parties and food but don't over indulge. Don't go to parties hungry. A lot of people will not eat anything all day so they can enjoy the party food. Being hungry is the way most of us put on the extra pounds. Another tip to help avoid overeating is to stay hydrated. Drink lots of water and it will make portion control much easier.

By Phil Dean

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Local Stars in Upcoming Holiday Shows

Your favorite carol can put you in the holiday spirit and timeless classics like The Nutcracker are a must-see during December.

There are dozens of holiday concerts and shows being performed across Tampa Bay this season. Here are a few shows featuring future stars from Westchase and surrounding neighborhoods.

Merry and Bright – Holiday Concert
Dec. 9, 7 p.m.
Lake Magdalene United Methodist Church
2902 W. Fletcher Ave.
$10 General Admission (Children 5 and under free); $15 Reserved Seating
http://www.luminayouthchoirs.com

Celebrate the joyous sounds of the holidays with familiar songs and carols performed by the Lumina Youth Choir during their annual Holiday Concert. If you go, be on the lookout for Fords resident Alyssa Kobel, an eighth grader at Davidsen Middle School Center for the Arts.

The Nutcracker
Dance Theatre of Tampa
Dec. 15-17, 7 p.m. and 2 p.m.
University of South Florida
College of Arts Theater 1
(800) 745-3000
Tickets, $25 - $28
NewTampaDanceTheatre.com

This will be the first time Deer Park Elementary student Valentina Vivera will be performing in this iconic ballet. She will be dancing the part of a soldier.

Next Generation Ballet’s Nutcracker
Dec. 21-23, 7 p.m. and 2 p.m.
Straz Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets, $30 and up
(800) 955-1045
StrazCenter.org

This will be Vineyards resident Zoe Gallagher’s second year performing in Next Generation Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker. She will perform as a Snow Maiden and a member of the Flower Corps. A sophomore at Blake High School, Zoe is a dance major who also plays the cello in the school’s orchestra.

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker
Dec. 28, 3 p.m.
The Mahaffey Theater
400 1st St. SE, St. Petersburg
Tickets, $32.50-$189.75
727-893-7832
http://www.themahaffey.com

Vineyards resident Natalie Wynne has been dancing for 10 years but this will be her first time performing with the Moscow Ballet. She will be dancing the part of a Snow Maiden.

The Nutcracker
Tampa Ballet Theatre
Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m., and Dec. 10, 2:30 p.m.
Central Park Performing Arts Center
105 Central Park Dr., Largo
$34.50 - $39.50
(727) 587-6751
http://www.largo.com

Dec. 23, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Ruth Eckerd Hall
1111 McMullen Booth Rd., Clearwater
Tickets, $28 - $78
(727) 791-7400
http://www.rutheckerdhall.com

This is the third year that Westchase Elementary second grader Mallory Livingston will be performing The Nutcracker with the Tampa Ballet Theatre. This year she’ll be dancing the parts of a soldier, an angel and Polichinelle.

Entertainment Revue’s Christmas Kaleidoscope Show
Dec. 9
(813) 395-3612
http://www.entertainmentrevue.com

Be on the look out for Shires resident Cristal Grace Mangune. A Westchase Elementary student, she is the youngest member of this professional song and dance ensemble.

By Marcy Sanford

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Alonso Theatre Department Proudly Presents Frayed

What do Elvis, the Vietnam War, and the patriotic music of World War II have in common?

On Thursday, Dec. 14 and Friday, Dec. 15, they all come together as the Alonso Theatre Department proudly presents Frayed.

Those who attend will enjoy three, one-act plays for just $10.

The production, which is actually a series of one-act plays, begins with Graceland, an introspective look at two obsessed Elvis Presley fans as they eagerly await the mansion’s grand opening to the public. Asleep on the Wind, while second in the lineup, is actually a prequel to Graceland and provides insight to the origins of the main character’s obsession. Sentimental Journey, the third and final play, uses beautiful harmonies and intricate choreography to explore the patriotic music of the 1930s and 1940s.

Frayed will be held at 7 p.m. in the Dr. Sandy Bunkin Auditorium at Alonso High School. Tickets are just $10, and can be purchased at the door or online at https://alonsohighschooltheatre.ticketleap.com/frayed-3-one-act-plays/

By Les Young

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33626 Crime: October 2017

How can you avoid becoming a victim of crime in the 33626 zip code?

Our most common crimes are theft of valuables from vehicles and thefts from open garages. Always remove valuables from vehicles at home and while visiting at parks, schools, preschools and shopping centers. At home park your car in your garage. And keep your garage closed when you are not working outside.

Burglaries of homes, while rarer, do occasionally occur. Home break-ins most commonly happen between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when homeowners are at work. If you are around during the day, keep your eye out for suspicious vehicles in your neighborhood. Snap photos of them and their license plates if possible. Nosey people scare thieves away.

DUI

10/1

South Mobley Rd./Gunn Hwy.

Theft from a Vehicle

10/2

10000 New Parke Rd.

Theft from Elderly/Disabled

10/2

11700 Lake Aston Ct.

Battery–Simple

10/2

13500 Fawn Ridge Blvd.

Kidnapping

10/2

13500 Fawn Ridge Blvd.

Obstructing Courts

10/2

13500 Fawn Ridge Blvd.

Burglary Residence/Forced

10/4

12000 Wandsworth Dr.

Theft from a Vehicle

10/5

11200 Cypress Reserve Dr.

Fraud–Credit Card

10/5

11200 Cypress Reserve Dr.

Burglary Business/No Force

10/5

14400 Carlson Cr.

Shoplifting

10/6

8500 Gunn Hwy.

Curtilage With Theft

10/6

10100 Parley Dr.

Theft from a Vehicle

10/7

10800 Needlepoint Pl.

Theft from a Vehicle

10/9

9600 West Park Vlg Dr.

Burglary Residence/No Force

10/9

9800 Montague St.

Warrant In County

10/15

Gretna Green Dr./W. Linebaugh Ave.

Drugs/Narcotics

10/25

W. Linebaugh Ave./ Countryway Blvd.

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Westchase Recreation Center Programs: December

Adult

Zumba
Join Greg and Peggy to dance and enjoy Caribbean rhythms.
When: Sat, 10 a.m.
Cost: $7/Class

Insane Fit Girls
Small group fitness training exclusively for women and tailored to your personal fitness level and goals in a supportive and safe group setting. Please email elaine@insanefitgirls.com.
When: Tue, Thu, Fri, 9:15 a.m.
Cost: $3/Class

Badminton
Recreational play for adults to socialize, exercise and have fun!
When: Wed, 6-9 p.m.
Cost: Free

Seniors

Senior Field Trips
The first Thursday of every month seniors are offered a chance to take a variety of destination trips. To reserve your spot please call 964-2948. We are always looking for new ideas!

Thu, Dec. 7: Botanical Gardens Holiday Lights.
Thu, Jan 4: SS American Victory Ship

Seniors Outdoor Active Recreation (S.O.A.R.)
Seniors will have the opportunity to enjoy our beautiful parks and resources with a guided tour.

Tue, Dec. 12: Emerson Point Reserve

Monday Morning Creative Corner
Express yourself in these classes devoted to various creative activities. We will be making textured acrylic paintings. 
When: Mon, Dec. 4, 10 a.m.
Fee: $5/Class plus $3 for supplies

Ballroom Dancing
No experience or partner required. Enhance your social skills and exercise while having fun!
When: Mon, 10 a.m.
Cost: Free

Aerobics Lite
A fun movement class designed for active seniors who love to stay fit while exercising to music.
When: Tue, 9:30 a.m.
Cost: $2/Class

Yoga
Come to the gentle yoga class and learn how to tone and stretch your body while incorporating ancient practices to calm the mind and rejuvenate the spirit.
When: Thu, 9:30 a.m.
Cost: $3/Class

Pickleball Instruction Beginners*
Learn the fundamentals and rules of the game. Please call to schedule: 964-2948.
When: Mon and Wed, 10:30 a.m.-11 a.m.
Cost: Free

Pickleball Open Play*
Pickleball is a racquet sport combining the elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. You’ll have a blast!
When: Mon and Wed, 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Cost: Free

Pickleball League Play*
Compete against other players at your skill level in league play. Please email kingsburym@hcflgov.net for more details.
When: Fri, 10:30 a.m.
Cost: Free

Senior Tone and Stretch
Exercise to build strength and flexibility and increase range of motion.
When: Mon, Wed, Fri, 9 a.m.
Cost: Free

Walking Club
Rain or shine, the gym is open. Join your friends and track your progress.
When: Mon-Fri, 8:30-9 a.m.
Cost: Free

Appy Hour
Bring your cell phone or tablet and learn how to use the latest apps.
When: Mon, 10 a.m.
Cost: Free

Youth

Young Engineers
Join our fun and enriching science class where you’ll study a principle of physics, mathematics and mechanical engineering through experiments using original and motorized LEGO bricks. For more info email tampafl@e2.youngengineers.com.
When: Tue, 6-7:30 p.m.
Cost: $15/Class plus one-time $10 registration fee.

Arts and Smarts
Hands-on enrichment classes featuring a variety of topics. Visit http://artsandsmartsinc.weebly.com or email artsandsmartsinc@gmail.com for class topics and registration information. It’s fun and learning – together.
Ages: 8 and up
When: Thu, 6-7:30 p.m.
Cost: $15/Class

Pure Art
While working with a variety of materials and techniques, learn about famous artists (http://www.purearttampa.com).
Grades: K-5
When: First and third Sat, 9:30 -10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.-noon
Fee: $10/Class

Eagle Claw Kung Fu
Come and learn an effective, combat-proven martial arts form. You will also stay fit while participating.
Ages: 8 and up
When: Tue, 6:15-7:15 p.m.
Cost: $5/Class

Karate Do
Increase fitness, strength, flexibility and awareness. Karate teaches practical self-defense while reducing stress and tension and improving self-confidence.
Ages: 8-11
When: Wed, 6:15 p.m., and Sat, 8:45 a.m.
Ages 12 and up
When: Wed, 7:30 a.m., and Sat, 11:15 a.m.
Cost: $5/Class

Karate Do Black Belt Society
All black belts are welcome!
When: Sat, 2 p.m.
Cost: $5/Class

Girls Elementary Volleyball
Learn the basic skills and fundamentals of competitive play and have lots of fun!
Ages: Grades 3-5
When: Tue, 6-7 p.m.
Cost: $10/Session plus one-time $15 admin. fee (includes a T-shirt)

Girls Middle School Volleyball
Join our character-based program teaching volleyball skills, fundamentals and footwork.
Ages: Grades 6-8
When: Tue, 7-8 p.m.
Cost: $10/Session plus one-time $15 admin. fee (includes a T-shirt)

Tots

Toddler Time*
Activity zones are placed throughout the gym for toddlers to explore and socialize and play on with parent participation.
Ages: 5 and under
When: Thu, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Cost: Free

Basketball*

Middle-School Basketball Skills and Drills League
MBSC, the largest sports camp in the world, is now coming to the rec center. Its mission is to spread the joy of sports. Its highly qualified coaches, who either played sports professionally or are still playing college sports, cater to every level. For more information email mehdi@mbsportscamps.com or visit http://www.mbsportscamps.com
. When: Fri, 6-9 p.m.

Family Open Gym
Gym is open to families
When: Sat, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Cost: Free

Adult Open Gym*
When: Sat, 7:30-11 a.m.
Cost: Free

*Online account required to participate.

All activities take place at:

Westchase Recreation Center
9791 Westchase Dr.
Tampa, FL 33626
(813) 964-2948

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Home of the Month: 12104 Marblehead Drive

Joe and Lynn Lufkin loved the house their friend had bought in Harbor Links but not the yard.

“We moved here in 2004 for work,” said Joe. “My friend had bought this house without his wife seeing it first and she never liked it. We liked the house a lot but not the landscaping. We tore everything out from one end to the other. It was not to our taste. It had no pizazz.”

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, the Lufkins had moved around several times for Joe’s job and were used to learning a new set of gardening rules with each move. “We didn’t know what to plant at first or what was indigenous to Florida so we made a few mistakes along the way,” said Lynn.

The Lufkins love gardening but not necessarily the critters you come across while doing it. “We moved in on the last day of August,” said Lynn. “In March we were walking around weeding and pruning when our cat found a water moccasin. I’m still scared when I walk out the front door.”

Now they make sure they rattle something before plunging in hand-first to prune or weed.

One of the biggest adjustments for the Lufkins has been the year-round upkeep that Florida yards require. “We have to do maintenance almost every day,” said Joe, who tries to get out in the early morning hours to beat the heat.

One adjustment that is welcome is the variety of shrubs and plants that flourish here. “In Ohio most shrubs are dark green,” said Joe. “Here you can get shrubs in all different shades of green and yellow. We like the crotons because they are so colorful and add beautiful pops of color.”

Amazingly the Lufkins have hydrangeas that flourish. They admitted they do have to water them a lot and said they add food coloring to the soil before the plant blooms to give them an extra boost of color. “We love our hydrangea,” said Lynn. “It is in a very shady spot that only gets morning sun but it blooms all summer.”

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

Hydrangea

I thought you could only grow hydrangea in the zones north of Florida. But there are some varieties that will stand up to Florida’s heat. They are shade lovers and can grow up to several feet in height and three to five feet wide. Hydrangeas that are planted in acidic soils will produce blue flowers, while those planted in alkaline soils will have pink flowers. When I lived in Memphis, I added coffee grinds to the soil of our hydrangeas to turn the flowers blue.

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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A Fire Hazard is Growing in Your Home

Your life can completely change in 15 minutes.

On Oct. 30 while I was drying a few couch slipcovers, I noticed a bad smell coming from the dryer. Thinking that it was just the old dryer overheating from exertion, I took the covers out, hung them up outside to dry and went upstairs for a few minutes. 

When I returned downstairs, the house was a bit smoky, so I went to check on the dryer. When I opened it, smoke came out. Still thinking that it was just overheating, I opened our back door. Within minutes, however, the smoke was much thicker. Again I checked the dryer. This time I saw a red glow in the bottom and decided to call 911. The operator told me to get out of the house.

Within 10 minutes the fire department arrived.

I saw the firemen take the large firehose into my house and I thought, “Wow, that’s going to be messy.” Yet I still thought all I was going to be facing was a burnt out dryer and a smoky smell.

The destruction that was caused within 15 minutes was sobering.

Our laundry room is completely gone. The kitchen ceiling and cabinets burned to a crisp. Even the top of the refrigerator is warped from the heat. Upstairs our walls are soot covered and the beige carpet is now black. The renovation company says they will have to completely gut the house and it will take four to six months to put it back together.

My neighbor who works for an insurance company said that dryer fires are the number one cause of house fires. He’s right. According to statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration, an estimated 2,900 home dryer fires occur each year. They cause, on average, five deaths, 100 injuries and $35 million in property losses. More than 30 percent of the fires are due to failure to clean the dryer.

While I am very diligent about cleaning out the lint trap between each load of laundry, I have no idea how many years it had been since the dryer had been fully cleaned. Truthfully, we’re from Tennessee and the dryer in every house I’ve previously lived in vented directly to the outside. It never occurred to me that we would need to have our dryer vent professionally cleaned.

Yet many of the houses in Westchase and surrounding neighborhoods have vents like ours. Hot air from the dryer is routed up through the wall of the laundry room to just below our outside roofline (or to a curved vent on the roof). While the fire inspector who investigated the fire could not tell me the exact cause because of confidentiality, he said there was a lot of lint in the vent.

There have been many times I have started drying a load of laundry and then run up to the YMCA or to Publix. I feel lucky that I was at home that day; otherwise, my neighbor in a connecting unit might also be out of a home. And there probably would not have been anything to salvage from ours.

My husband and I have joked that we will be the cautionary tale of West Park Village. We’re willing, however, to be it for the whole area –  especially if it can save a family from the destruction we’ve been through.

In short, never leave a clothes dryer operating when you leave your home, especially if you have pets.

What are some signs that you may have dangerous lint buildup in your dryer?

• Clothes take longer to dry or don’t dry fully.
• Clothes are hotter than normal at the end of the cycle.
• The outside of dryer gets hot.
• The outside exhaust vent flapper does not open very much.
• The laundry room is more humid than usual.
• Your laundry room has a burning smell.

If your dryer is showing any of these signs, deep clean your vent (there are kits for sale at Lowe’s, Home Depot or on Amazon) or call a company to do it for you.

Your home and your life may depend upon it.

By Marcy Sanford

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Tips to Minimize Holiday Stress

Holidays are exciting, festive and energetic.

Yet holidays can also be stressful. According to Healthline, nearly 50 percent of stress is due to finances, with eating and fitness habits coming in a distant, but relevant, second place. Family issues and long work hours, especially in the retail and service industries, are the top four stressors.

To make the most of the holidays, here are a few suggestions to minimize stress and increase joy and well-being.

Stay within your budget. Will Rogers said, “Too many people are spending money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, for people they don’t like.” Being creative and staying within your budget will save you from heart palpitations when the bills come rolling in next month.

Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Alcohol impairs judgment. The more people who are gathered and drinking heavily, the more likely drama will ensue. Someone needs to be level-headed. Why not you?

When you are drinking, keep in mind the calories. One gram of alcohol equals seven calories while one gram of protein or carbohydrate is four calories and one gram of fat is nine calories. Also consider the mixers you put in drinks.

Give grace to the visiting family members and friends that you don’t necessarily like. If you can strive to see things from their perspective, you may have more empathy and understand they are only behaving from their level of awareness.

Avoid going to parties hungry. By eating healthy foods and snacks, you will be more likely to enjoy smaller portions of rich, decadent, fried, sweet and salty foods.

Walk, bike, swim, row, box and dance whenever you can to release tension. It produces endorphins and helps to manage weight gain.

Get rest during the holidays when people are often exhausted from their busy schedules.

Practice mindfulness daily. Have some quiet time where you can focus on breathing and slowing down your thoughts – even if it is for five minutes.

Carve out quality time to spend with loved ones. Remember to smile and consciously turn away from the computer, phone, and television when engaging with children, spouses, partners, loved ones and colleagues. Be present when you are together.

And always remember to express what you are grateful for each day.

Shannon Thigpen 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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Picture Perfect Rainbow River

The photos I took when we visited Rainbow River State Park look like something from a postcard.

They’re real and unedited – no filter needed at all.

While the beaches around us offer pristine views of beautiful water, if you travel north to the middle of the state, you’ll find crystal clear springs and rivers surrounded by towering trees dripping with Spanish moss. Rainbow River State Park is about an hour and a half drive northeast from the Westchase area. Located in Dunnellon, the Rainbow River gets its spring water from the Rainbow Springs, ranked fourth in the state for volume of discharge. The gently winding river is 5.7 miles long and merges with the Withlacoochee River.

The area was developed as a tourist attraction in the 1930s and was very popular in the 1960s when they began to offer glass-bottomed boat rides, riverboat rides, log raft rides, a gondola/monorail system, a horse rodeo and submarine boat tours. Once Disney World opened and Florida visitors began using the interstate instead of the smaller highways for their travels, however, crowds lessened and the attraction eventually closed in 1974. The state purchased the area in 1990 and opened the state park in 1995.

By Marcy Sanford

You won’t find horse rodeos or log raft rides anymore but the park and the surrounding area does exude old Florida charm. It has a quaint historic downtown and plenty of diners offer country cooking and fresh made pies.

At the state park, you can rent canoes or kayaks, swim in the headsprings or hike along nature trails to see the original man-made waterfalls and the newly added butterfly garden. There are also picnic areas with grills and pavilions.

If canoeing or kayaking sounds like more energy than you want to expend on a day off, you can opt to tube down the river. While it is not allowed in the headsprings area of the park, you can rent tubes and use a shuttle service to drive you nine miles up river and then float back down.

We found the drive there and back to be easy to do in the same day, but if you do want to spend the night, you can camp at the park. We also saw lots of nice houses along the river while we were canoeing. A quick Google search of Rainbow River Vacation Rentals brought up quite a few that seemed to be near the park and relatively inexpensive during the winter months.

If you want to stay closer to home but enjoy the great outdoors this time of year, join in Hillsborough County’s Hiking Spree 2018. This is the second year the county has sponsored the program. Hike at least eight of 20 designated trails from now until March 31, 2018, and you’ll receive a medallion commemorating your accomplishments.

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Village Voices, December 2017

The Bridges

OK, are we all adults here? There are growing complaints in The Bridges, especially on Lightner Bridge, about dog poop left in yards. Please pick up after your pets. Why? It’s the rules, it’s sanitary, it’s polite – you choose. Leaving dog poop lying about pollutes your neighbor’s yard, our ponds and our homes. It may contain worms and other yucky vermin we don't need. Lawn equipment runs through it and deposits it on sidewalks. Your children and you walk on the sidewalks then wear your shoes on your carpet where your children and pets roll around. Ewww. Nuff said.

Have you discovered the WOW community Facebook page, Westchase Neighborhood News, and the Nextdoor app? Both are really good resources for learning more about your neighborhood: schools, restaurants, crime, items for sale, etc. Westchasers and surrounding community are constantly asking and answering questions for each other.

Whatever you are celebrating, have a very happy, merry, wonderful winter holiday season. Don't forget, holiday decorations must be down in Westchase by Jan. 15. Decorations displayed after that date will likely get you a violation. Also, with spring holidays coming, keep in mind that the window for other holiday decorations is seven days before and seven days after the holiday.

Please send an email to bridgesvm@gmail.com and include your home address if you would like to receive updates by email.

By Cynde Mercer, The Bridges VM

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Davidsen Middle School Celebrates Victories

The first nine weeks of the 2017-18 academic calendar were a huge success for the Davidsen Dragons.

Over 500 students made honor roll while 230 achieved the highest honor – Principal’s Honor Roll. We are proud of their commitment to excellence.

Our students’ high marks would not be possible without our dedicated teachers. This month we honor Ms. Worme, Mrs. Wilton, Mrs. Frey, Ms. Shelton and Mrs. Romera for achieving Outstanding Academic Results (OAR). We thank them for going above and beyond for all of our students every day.

Eighteen Davidsen Dragons passed the Microsoft Office Specialist in Word. It is the first part of the MOS Bundle Industry Certification.

Congratulations to our PTA Reflections winners in Music Composition and Visual Arts. Their entries have been submitted to Hillsborough County for judging. Awards for Hillsborough County will be announced on Dec. 10 at Jefferson High School. The school winners were Andrew Foster (Grade 7) for Music Composition. Visual Arts winners included Satra-ayon Crear, (Grade 7), Kaitlyn Heinzelmann (Grade 8), Shannon Cermak (Grade 8) and Stephanie Abrev (Grade 8).

The Davidsen Middle School Boys’ Volleyball Team went undefeated this season and continued into the playoffs. They played their hearts out and only lost by two points in a dramatic season finale. Go, Dragons!

The Eighth Grade continues its fundraisers for their end-of-year festivities. This month, they will host the Holiday Store in the cafeteria from Dec. 11-15. Dragons may shop for gifts for their loved ones during their lunch period. There will also be another Doughnut Sale on Dec. 15.

Mark your calendars for the annual Dragon Blast on Jan. 26 from 2-4 p.m. This carnival type event is for students only. There will be games, food, music and prizes. Donations of gently-used stuffed animals can be turned into the office to be used as prizes at this event. All proceeds will directly benefit Davidsen Middle School. Flyers will go home with ticket order forms soon. You can also purchase tickets online at: https://squareup.com/store/davidsen-middle-ptsa/

For more information on any Davidsen Middle School programs or events, email president@davidsenptsa.org and be sure to “like” Davidsen Middle School PTSA on Facebook.

Important Davidsen Events

December
10 County Reflections Winners TBA
11 Holiday Store to benefit Grade 8 opens
15 Doughnut Sale to benefit Grade 8
25 Winter Break Begins

January
9 Students Return from Winter Break
15 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: No School
26 Dragon Blast

By Carolyn Reynolds

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Lives Upended: Hurricane Maria Brings Puerto Ricans to Northwest Hillsborough

Adriana Figueroa quietly stood among a group of Sickles high school students who were volunteering for The Great West Chase.

Picking up his race packet, a Spanish-speaking runner was struggling to communicate in English.

That’s when she stepped forward, quickly resolving the issue in fluent Spanish.

“Where did you learn your Spanish?” someone asked.

“I’m from Puerto Rico,” she said.

In fact, she had arrived just two weeks before.

She has that in common with Ricardo Arrillaga. On Aug. 25, Ricardo, 49, celebrated the beginning of a new life when he married his wife, Dafne Courtier, 47, in Puerto Rico. One month later, their new life in San Juan, Puerto Rico was upended.

You’ve likely read about Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico when it made landfall on Sept. 20.

Adriana Figueroa, 17, and her sister, Victoria, 10, lived through it. They, and the Arrillaga clan, are now part of the vast Puerto Rican migration to Florida, which, according to the Governor Rick Scott’s office, has brought over 160,000 new residents to the state in less than two months. “I arrived Oct. 11,” said Adriana. “I left because of Hurricane Maria.”

Adriana Figueroa is one of the bravest young women you could ever meet. A senior in high school who faced losing a year and being unable to go to college on schedule, she instead left her parents and her other sister behind and flew to Tampa.

Victoria and she left because their own school was still without power and water nearly a month after the storm. Adriana now attends Sickles High School while her sister Victoria attends Mary Bryant Elementary.

When the storm hit, Ricardo Arrillaga was practicing law with his brother Rene in a small firm in San Juan. He handled family and civil law. One hurricane and six weeks later, he’s now studying to take the exam to become a Realtor in Tampa.

On Sept. 20, Puerto Rico fell victim to one of the worst natural disasters in its history when Hurricane Maria, an explosive Category 5, dropped slightly in intensity and slammed into the eastern part of the island as a high Category 4 storm.

The Figueroa sisters rode out the storm in the home her mom, Carmen, and step-dad, Omar. “It started around 2 a.m.,” said Adriana, who didn’t sleep during the storm. “You could hear the wind inside the house.”

Through the kitchen window, they could see the family’s 23-foot boat. “It looked like it was going to fly away. We were afraid it was going to tip onto the house.”

Around them trees were crumpling to the ground. Their front yard turned into a lake. “I started getting scared because all the drains got clogged up so all the water was coming in,” she said. “My stepfather had to go out of the house to unclog the pipes. Water just kept coming in.”

Adriana credited the neighborhood’s magotes – small hills that speckle the island – for offering the house some protection from the storm’s wrath.

When the storm passed, she ventured out. “It looked like an atomic bomb fell and destroyed the vegetation. It looked like there had been a forest fire. The trees looked so burned,” she said. Nearly every road was blocked from fallen trees. “Just seeing everything destroyed. That’s what struck me the most.”

At 3,500 square miles, Puerto Rico lies just east of Cuba and Hispaniola, the island home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The island of Puerto Rico has been part of the U.S. since the Spanish-American War in 1898, when the U.S. seized it from Spain. Its 3.4 million residents are U.S. citizens.

A trip east to west takes over two hours by car. Traveling from San Juan in the north to Ponce in the south takes at least an hour. In a few hours Hurricane Maria crossed the island at an angle, passing just south of the island capital of San Juan. The island’s fragile infrastructure, long neglected as Puerto Rico wrestled with crushing debt and bankruptcy over the last decade, crumpled. The electrical and telecommunications grids were utterly destroyed. Water service collapsed. Countless mountain roads disappeared beneath mudslides and fallen trees.

In the days afterward lines formed as Puerto Ricans waited hours for the most basic supplies. Islanders dependent on dialysis, oxygen and cancer treatments died when their clinics and hospitals had no supplies, electricity or fuel for generators. People outside the capital took to bathing in streams and drinking from mountain springs. Life was set back more than a century and the economy ground to a halt.

While the official storm death toll was still under 100, in the weeks that followed the number of Puerto Ricans who died jumped by more than 400 over the typical mortality rate.

Those who remained now faced a daunting financial reality.

“Before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico had an economic problem with large debt. And things were not going well for solo practitioners. I had no contracts with any bank or any client,” said Arrillaga. “After Maria, we still, today, have no electricity at the office,” he told WOW on Nov. 5. “The courts have been closed nine weeks. They just opened last Thursday.”

Without power, Arrillaga couldn’t email. He couldn’t even print out a motion to file in the closed courthouse. “I had no salary,” he said.

His wife Dafne was in the same boat given the largely shut-down economy. “My wife was in advertising but who wanted to advertise in Puerto Rico? So we had no money.”

Meanwhile Adriana and Victoria’s school, Piaget Bilingual Academy, a school for just over 700 students in grades K through 8, shuttered its doors. Nearly a month after the storm, it opened experimentally, trying to hold school in buildings with no electricity or water. “I didn’t want to take a chance,” said Adriana “I wanted to finish my senior year.”

When WOW spoke to Figueroa on Nov. 4, Piaget Academy, where her youngest sister still attends, still had no power or water.

A week into November thousands of Puerto Ricans were still homeless. Sixty-two percent of folks on the island still had no electric power. Twenty percent of Puerto Ricans – 680,000 people – still had no access to clean water. Thirty percent of Puerto Ricans were still without phone service more than a month and a half after the storm. And 50 percent of schools were still closed.

Arrillaga cited a friend who works for the government’s labor department. “Right now we have about 40 percent of Puerto Ricans without jobs, so the economy will be very, very tough for the next couple of years.”

In contrast, Figueroa’s stepdad, Omar, found himself with steady work. He has yet to catch a breath because he fixes and maintains cell towers for a living. “He has been working non-stop,” said Adriana.

Yet without phone service, it took nearly a week for Adriana to learn her own father was safe.

Those initial days after the storm were hardest. The Figueroa family rationed use of the generator to a few hours a night to preserve its propane. “I was driving myself nuts because my dad lives near the coast. On the sixth day after the storm, I was able to speak to him just one minute,” she said.

Finally learning he was safe, Adriana ventured out to see her father the next day. “You could see people on bicycles on the highway just getting gas. Just standing in lines. One of my dad’s employees made a 15 hour line for $15 worth of gasoline,” she said.

That’s when her father broke the news to her. “When I first talked to him, my father said, ‘Adriana, I bought you some [plane] tickets. This doesn’t look good.’” Figueroa added, “My first thought was “I don’t want to leave my family behind.’ And I said, ‘No, Dad! No, Dad!’ I didn’t want to leave my family in times like this.”

“But a week later the topic rose again,” said Adriana. “I did a pro and con list and I thought it was better for me to come here.”

Adriana landed in Tampa on Oct. 10 with her stepmother and her sister, who rented a small apartment. Because the apartment lacked room for her, Adriana now lives with her aunt and uncle, Bonnie and Angel Rivera, in Hampton Lakes. She goes back and forth, trying to support Victoria, who begs her to stay in the small apartment. “She has made friends. I worried this wasn’t going to be easier,” Adriana said. “I think she’s doing pretty good under the circumstances.”

“We flew to Tampa for just 10 days as a short vacation,” said Arrillaga. Seeking a brief respite from the storm’s impact, his wife and he came to visit his brother, Joaquin, a current member of the Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board of Directors. It was a reunion of sorts as Ricardo’s son, Gabriel, 21, was already living with Joaquin’s family and attending the University of South Florida (USF).

Once in Tampa, Arrillaga found it a challenge to get back home. Jet Blue cancelled their initial return trip, postponing it a week. “A close friend of mine offered a job for Dafne and I returned to Puerto Rico,” he said. Once there, he encountered a dispiriting situation. “I found the same scene that I left. There were still cables on the ground and no electricity,” he said. “And I decided, ‘Let me return to Tampa.’”

He paused. “I will begin tomorrow at real estate classes to work with Joaquin,” he said. “Joaquin has a real estate office and he wants me to join him.”

To practice law here, Arrillaga would have to pass the Florida Bar exam. “The law that I know in Puerto Rico doesn’t apply here in Florida. I need to study about a year and I’m not in that position right now,” he said.

His daughter, Marielena, 19, will soon join Dafne and him in Tampa. A student at a Puerto Rican university, she has 30 credit hours, but can’t transfer into USF without either taking the SAT or earning another 30 credit hours. She’ll begin classes at Hillsborough Community College in January to gain the needed credits.

All Puerto Ricans moving to the mainland are faced with a dramatic transition from an island where the majority speak Spanish and live lives that would be more familiar to many in Latin America than to folks in Florida.

Figueroa stays positive, however. “It has been easy in some ways for me to adapt.”

She acknowledged she’s lucky to live with relatives. “But at night I start thinking about my family. It’s not easy leaving them in times like these. I wish they could come but they have to stay over there.”

Arrillaga also consider himself one of the lucky ones. He could afford to make the move. “I have an empty room here and my son already lives with Joaquin. That made my decision easier,” he said. “I began my routine with a borrowed room and a borrowed car and I could start looking for a job.”

He added, “I’ll be thankful to Joaquin my entire life.”

What’s been the hardest part of the transition?

“Leaving my island. Leaving my daughter. My family. I left everything. I came here with my clothes. I’m really beginning again,” he said.

Figueroa’s transition to Sickles from her much smaller Puerto Rican school has also been a bit jarring. “In Sickles in my graduating class there are 1,200 students. I am not used to being in such a big school.”

“Being in such a big place, that’s what’s shocked me the most,” she said. She adds, however, that she feels safe there. “It’s just hard for me because I only have one friend at school because I’ve only been there three weeks.”

In the meantime, she continues to work hard to make her dream of college come true, allowing her to follow in the footsteps of her parents, who both finished at Puerto Rican colleges. “I’ve always wanted to go to college,” she said. “I’m still undecided but I’m still going to apply to a couple here in Florida and a couple in New England.”

She added, “I want to study law.”

In seven years, where will she call home?

“That’s a really difficult question. Home will always be Puerto Rico no matter how bad it may be. It will always be the place where I grew up.”

When asked if he plans a return to the island he has always called home, Arrillaga cited the long recovery his island faces. “In the short-term, I don’t think I’ll be back to Puerto Rico.”

But Adriana Figueroa pauses when she’s asked if she sees herself returning to the island after graduation after law school. She too is aware of the island’s current economic struggles. She even voices her own concerns about crime on the island.

“My parents have always told me not to get stuck in a place and always travel,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to live in Europe.”

She reminisced about a European vacation that left her wanting to live in Denmark someday. Yet her new life in Florida has made her less certain. “I thought I wasn’t that attached to my mom,” she said. “But it turns out, I really am.”

For now, while relatives and friends rebuild back in the island, the Arrillagas and Figueroas are building new lives for themselves.

Twelve hundred miles away.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Seafood Exchange: A Good Start to Build On

I know what many of you are thinking: “Let’s see how long this lasts.”

After all, in the past few years, the location of the new Seafood Exchange Bar & Grill in the Westchase Town Center has housed Patio 6, The Great Spiedini, Little Greek, Bollywood and a Quiznos. It seems like such a primo spot that it’s difficult to imagine why anything located there would go under. Yet lately, that seems to be the rule.

Based on a recent visit, coupled with online reviews and neighborhood Facebook feedback, I think this place might just make it. It’s got a little bit of work to do (more on that in a bit), but the foundation – good food, a good atmosphere, pleasant servers and good prices – is there.

The Seafood Exchange Bar & Grill touts itself as New Orleans/Cajun/creole, and like Mardi Gras, the atmosphere is welcoming and pleasant. My dining partner said it reminded her a bit of Pat O’Brien’s, the famous Bourbon Street watering hole.

This is a place where you should sit outside. The patio area has been expanded a bit with a longer bar, more tables and a few games of cornhole.  It’s casual, comfortable, kid-friendly and, with a full bar and a fantastic weekday happy hour, it could become a Westchase go-to.

The menu weighs heavily toward seafood with options like oysters, shrimp, catfish, salmon and grouper. But there are plenty of choices for landlubbers, too, including Andouille sausage, roast beef, burgers, pork, steak and chicken.

Seasoned and in the shell, the Peel and Eat Shrimp ($12.99) is a safe starter choice. It comes hot with drawn butter and a terrific tangy cocktail sauce, and there’s plenty for a table to share. We also tried the Fried Gator Bites ($10.99), which my server assured me are, indeed, made from actual alligator. Surprisingly tasty, they were flavorful enough not to need the accompanying Creole dipping sauce. 

My dining partner opted to try the Seafood Gumbo ($8.99 for a bowl), which she said was flavorful with a bit of a kick. It was undeniably hearty. Also up was the Blackened Cajun Burger ($10.99). Well-cooked without being dry and topped with cheese, onion straws and jalapeños, it was definitely different! I tried the Grilled Salmon ($16.99). The portion was huge, and the Asian-inspired citrusy glaze was delicious. The accompanying red beans and rice were not at all mushy (as they can sometimes be) and good.  We also tried the Roast Beef Po Boy ($11.99), which was more like an open-faced sandwich but enjoyable nonetheless.

While the food and the prices at the Seafood Exchange Bar & Grill are pretty good, there were a few hiccups during my visit. Our server was attentive, but the wait for our food was agonizingly slow. Let’s just say it’s a good thing there was a decent happy hour to keep us occupied.

Said server also forgot to put our appetizers in first, so everything came out at once. In addition, other wait staff tried to deliver someone else’s order to our table at least four times (they clearly need a table numbering system), and I was charged twice for the same item.

I will say this – give the Seafood Exchange a chance. It needs some time to work out the kinks with the kitchen and the service. But the food is good, the prices are reasonable, and the atmosphere can’t be beat. If in six months it still has the same issues, I would wager the countdown to closure has likely begun. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

The Seafood Exchange Bar & Grill
3.5 stars
9648 W. Linebaugh Ave.
Hours: Mon-Thu, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sun, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
http://www.seafoodexchange-wc.com

By Melanie Casey

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Broadcasting Couple Committed to Greater Good

Local broadcasters Natalie Taylor and Walter Allen bring stories and news into the homes of Tampa Bay residents every day.

While they bring hope and assistance through their charitable work.

Taylor is host on the lifestyle and entertainment show, Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend on ABC. Allen sits at the news desk as anchor to Fox 13’s Good Day Tampa Bay. Common careers make it easy for this couple to talk shop with one another after work once they return home to their Greens residence in Westchase.

The couple met as she was being interviewed for a position in Columbus, Ohio. During the interview, Allen came in get approval on a script for a story he was covering at the time. Taylor made the decision then, if offered the position, she would certainly accept.

Since graduating from Bowling Green State University, Taylor spent time as reporter, host and anchor for Fox Sports. “As a female reporter covering sports, I always felt I had to prove myself,” she explained.

To prepare for interviews and stories, Taylor made sure to know the stats and records of those sports personalities she covered, which included basketball greats Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley and NASCAR drivers Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Her professionalism earned her a spot as one of the first female ringside reporters in the National Hockey League.

Allen graduated from Metropolitan State University. He began his career with an NBC affiliate in Casper, Wyoming. While there, he was named Best Reporter and Anchor Person of the Year by the Wyoming Association of Broadcasters. As a reporter and anchor, Allen enjoys bringing recognition to stories of those who touch the lives of others and who often go unnoticed. “I like giving a voice to the voiceless,” he said of the people he calls “extraordinary ordinaries.”

Married in 2013, the couple moved to Florida when Allen accepted his position with Fox 13 in 2014. Originally hired as the weekend anchor, he was later promoted to morning anchor of Good Day Tampa Bay, which airs at 4 a.m. An early rise means early to bed for Allen, who retires for the evening by 7:30 p.m. Up at 2 a.m., he arrives at the station by 3 a.m. to review scripts and social media and is camera ready by 4 a.m. “Saturday is my sleep-in day, “he chuckled.

On Saturday he is up at 7:30 am to help with infant daughter, Alexandra. Fortunately, for new mom Taylor, she doesn’t have to begin quite so early. Up at 6 a.m., she is at the station by 8 a.m. Taylor describes her show as a lifestyle show featuring chefs, entertainment news and community events. “It’s my dream job,” she said of the positions she has held for over a year.

Community service is important to both Taylor and Allen and they work with organizations close to their hearts. Both are board members of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. “My dad has suffered with Crohn’s and he’s been through the worst of the worst,” said of the disease.

The couple serves the organization in various ways such as silent auction events and serving as emcees at fundraising and awareness functions. The Humane Society is another organization important to the couple. They volunteer each year at the Tuxes and Tails event, which features adoptable dogs.

Allen expressed his interest in the Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch as well. “Their mission is to get veterans up and back to what they loved to do before their injury,’ he said. Allen works closely with founder, Mike Delancey, Jr., a wounded warrior himself, who was injured during a sniper attack. “It’s really all his doing, and I just help out,” Allen shared.

The couple also spends time volunteering for Special Olympics. Representatives of the Special Olympics have appeared on Taylor’s show. “We want to use our platforms to give these 501c3’s a voice and we’re always glad that we’re able to do that,” she shared.

The couple is especially excited about the upcoming holiday as this will be their first with daughter Alexandra. The day will be all about spending time with family.

Taylor recalled her favorite holiday memory to be when her family gathered at midnight to open gifts. For Allen, it was all about the food. “I’m from an Italian family so we ate like kings at Christmas!” he said.

Happy holidays to this broadcasting couple, who use their career roles to help bring a greater good to others.

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 to Enjoy Holiday Party

The Westchase Seniors Group will celebrate the Christmas season this year on Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m.

Beverly Mask will be hosting this year’s celebration and dinner at Catch 23 restaurant on Montague Street in West Part Village.  This party is always a big hit and well attended so it is necessary to make your reservations by contacting Beverly Mask at bmask5@verizon.net or (850) 209-3244, by Dec. 7 to assure a place at the table. Catch 23's famous Sunset Special and other tasty menu options will be available for your choosing. In lieu of a gift exchange, it is suggested that this year attendees bring an unwrapped gift that will be given to children at the Shriner's Children Hospital in Tampa.

Dinner Theater In November Westchase Seniors attended the Early Bird Dinner Theater in Clearwater to see "A Nice Family Gathering," a sequel to the play by the same name we saw last year. Again, the play was hilarious and most enjoyable. We want to thank Jose and Nevenka Rios for planning and coordinating another enjoyable Westchase Senior Group outing to the Early Bird Dinner Theater. Pictured above are some who participated in this Westchase Seniors Group outing. 

Seniors Day Trips Seating is limited so reservations must be made in advance by calling (813) 964-2948. Buses will leave from the Westchase Recreation Center and you should bring money for your lunch and any other activity you plan to participate in.

Botanical Gardens Christmas Lights: Thu, Dec. 7, at 3:30 p.m. (free)
Emerson Point Reserve: Thu, Dec. 12, time TBD (free)

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 any food purchase and the conversations are enjoyable. Grab your breakfast and join us. You can’t miss us – we are the “older” but “young at heart” people laughing and having a good time.

Put Life in Your Years If you are a Westchase resident over 55 years old and looking to enjoy life, join the Westchase Seniors Group and add some fun to your life. To get emails about Westchase Seniors events, send your name, address, and phone number to westchase.seniors@gmail.com or call Lewis and Rama Patterson (926-5473). It only costs a smile to join and the dues are just as cheap.

By Lewis and Rama Patterson

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Wizards Plan Fun and Busy December

The holidays are upon us, and we’re starting out the month with some family fun. On Friday, Dec. 1 please bring your family out to our Winter Movie Night, featuring a screening of The Emoji Movie. Attendees are asked to bring a toy or monetary donation for Toys for Tots. Toys for Tots only accepts new, unwrapped toys. There will be snacks, pizza and a limited number of Spirit Sticks available for purchase. Be sure to bring blankets and chairs to watch the movie on the covered courts! For more information, contact Mary Kate Smith at mksmith2007@gmail.com.

All donations for the Giving Tree need to be dropped off at the school by Wednesday, Dec. 6. If you would like to contribute, please go to http://www.westchasepta.org to see what items are still needed. We have 28 families who would appreciate your generosity this holiday season.

Our Holiday Shop will be open from Dec. 11-15, and students will be able to pick out gifts for family and friends during school. Prices range from $0.25 to $5, and the shop is cash only. More information will be sent home with your child regarding the class schedule and volunteer opportunities.

On Wednesday, Dec. 13, the chorus will be performing at the Chick-fil-A on Waters Avenue. The second grade Little Wizards will start the night off at 5 p.m., followed by the Blue and Gold Chorus at 5:30 p.m., and concluding with the third grade Little Wizards at 6 p.m. Then, there will be two Winter Music Concerts on Thursday, Dec. 14, in the MPR. The first concert will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will include performances by the Little Wizard Chorus and the Orffins. The second concert will begin at 7:15 p.m. and feature the Blue and Gold Chorus and the World Drumming Ensemble.

Calling all bakers! On Tuesday, Dec. 19, we will again host our Cookie Exchange for our teachers and staff. Please look for a sign up opportunity coming soon.

Our fifth graders have been learning about the economy, and on Dec. 22 they will head to JA Biztown where they will be assigned a job for the day, from Mayor of Biztown to banker, newscaster or McDonald’s employee. This trip always proves to be fun and memorable!

The Wizard Walk Committee would like to extend its special thanks to all our Business Partners. Our Business Partners gave $10,000 to Wizard Walk, and we would like to recognize our Platinum members: Durrett Orthodontics, Impact Martial Arts, Mother’s, The Red Ranch, Sylvan Learning, Vology, Westchase Law, PA Todd Marks, Westchase Music School and Westchase Smiles Institute. Overall, Wizard Walk netted just over $70,000 (including 2016/2017 rollover funds from the PTA). We are currently working with the school to determine where the funds will have the greatest impact regarding new technology and school improvements.

Last, we thank the Davidsen Music Department who joined with Westchase for a great performance at our Veterans Day Program.

Westchase December Events

1          Movie Night, 6 p.m. on covered courts 
6          Giving Tree Donations Due  
11-15   Holiday Shop
14        Winter Music Concert, 7:15 p.m. in MPR
22        Grade 5 at JA Biztown

By Kathy Curé

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2018 WOW Sylvester Scholarship Application Deadline Is March 4

Have you shown a commitment to academics and community service during your high school career?

If so, WOW encourages you to apply for its WOW Sylvester Community Service Scholarship.

The WOW Sylvester Community Service Scholarship recognizes Westchase students whose high school careers reflect a commitment to both academics and community service. The scholarship commemorates Greens resident Ernie Sylvester, whose life reflected a commitment of service to his country and to his beloved Westchase community.

The WOW Sylvester Community Service Scholarship is open to Westchase residents who are high school seniors (or home-schooled students) and who will attend their first year of college in 2018. Eligible Westchase students have a parent or guardian residing within the boundaries of the Westchase Community Association (WCA). Residents of the West Park Village Apartments and Lexington apartments are also eligible.

Since the inception of the program in 2006, the WOW Scholars program has awarded dozens of scholarships, ranging from $1,000 to $2,500, to Westchase college-bound students. Last year WOW awarded nine $2,500 scholarships (scholarship awards may vary based on WOW income). The 2017 winners were featured in our June 2017 cover story.

Interested students must fill out an online application, a link to which can be found by logging onto http://www.WestchaseWOW.com and clicking on the link for WOW’s Sylvester Scholars, located at the very bottom of the homepage after WOW Info.

The direct link is: https://westchasewow.formstack.com/forms/scholarship_application_form_template_copy

The application and supporting materials must be completed and submitted by March 4.

Supporting materials for the application include certified copies of the student’s high school transcript; copies of  SAT and/or ACT score reports; two character reference letters, one of which must attest to community service; and a personal essay including information about the student’s community service, academic achievements, other achievements, personal goals, and any other information or factors, including need, that the student believes bears upon why he or she should receive a scholarship.

For more information, contact WOW Publisher Chris Barrett at 920-9809 or e-mail editor@westchasewow.com.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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How Can You Follow Santa on Saturday?

Santa’s coming, Westchase! This Saturday, Dec. 9, Santa’s PreFlight Parade begins at 2 p.m. and culminates in the West Park Village tree lighting at 7:30 p.m. How can you follow Santa and figure out when he’ll land in your neighborhood? Read on…

You can follow Santa by visiting the Santa Tracker at http://glympse.com/!westchasesanta The t.racker will become active at the parade’s start.

If you're attending the parade, be sure to bring a present to give to Santa and his helpers to help a less fortunate child this holiday. They will collect new and unwrapped toys, games, books, bikes and all sizes of batteries.

For more details about the event, be sure to see your December WOW! A link to a digital copy of December’s WOW can be found here: http://www.westchasewow.com/uploads/issues/1217_WOW_WC_e.pdf

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Honoring Veterans and Remembering the Holidays

On Veterans Day I had the most fortunate opportunity to attend Oldsmar’s annual Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Park in Oldsmar.

There was quite a turnout. I counted over 200 people on that sunny, warm day. But more important, the ceremony itself was thoughtful, dignified and well executed. It left me wondering if wasn’t time that Westchase should host a Veterans Day ceremony of our own in 2018. Let me know what you think. I’d be especially interested in knowing if you would volunteer for a committee to plan and run such an event. Email me at theshires@verizon.net.

By now you should have received your Westchase homeowner’s association annual assessment reminder, along with a copy of our budget. As you can see from our budget, there is no fat in this organization. Every penny of the $275 assessment has a purpose for the common good. And every penny is carefully scrutinized by me, our treasurer, Forrest Baumhover, our vice president, Rick Goldstein and our property manager, Debbie Sainz. This organization is a well-managed, well-oiled machine.

But this machine depends on you to keep things moving along by making a timely payment of your annual assessment. Fortunately, we ultimately have to mail very few late notices to unpaid accounts. And even better, we have very few delinquencies. But it does happen. Be aware that in those cases that are late to extremely late, I have seen legal costs, late fees, interest and penalties add up to hundreds and even multiple thousands of dollars. My question is this: Really? Why?

Why would anyone allow a $275 annual assessment get away from them to the tune of several thousand dollars? It leaves me shaking my head in utter disbelief when it happens. As president it is my obligation to collect on those assessments. And trust me when I tell you that is pains me terribly when I have to pull the trigger on legal action, up to and including foreclosure. It is so unnecessary and so stressful on the parties involved. Including me! I get no joy out of doing that part of this volunteer job. So please don’t let this happen to you. Please mail your $275 payment on time.

Last, I want to wish you all a merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah and a happy New Year. It seems that the older I get, the faster time flies. It seems like yesterday that I took down last year’s tree and packaged up all the recyclable gift wrapping materials. Our most valuable asset isn’t our homes or our nice cars or our 401Ks, is it? It is the time we’ve been given with our loved ones.

So I wish you peace and joy with your loved ones this holiday season. And may you experience many, many more happy holidays to come.

By Ruben Collazo, WCA President

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Westchase’s Wonderful December Traditions

How many other neighborhoods – let alone towns – have such a wonderful tradition as Westchase’s Santa parade?

We have Santa and his elves from the Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF) to thank for this great event, which returns on Saturday, Dec. 9.

WOW is particularly proud to be its presenting sponsor, underwriting all of its costs. It’s one of the important ways we direct our revenues to help build a stronger community in Westchase.

My daughters, ranging from seventh grade to college, still love the parade. Please join my family in saying a big “thank you” to the WCF by bringing Santa some unwrapped presents to help ensure less fortunate kids in Tampa Bay also have a happy holiday.

As I write this, I am a few days from what will be another successful Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive. It occurred after this WOW went to print so we’ll have results and photos from the drive in January’s WOW. In recent weeks scores of enthusiastic residents and a significant number of Scout Troops have contacted me to volunteer. It makes me proud to call Westchase my home! If you made a donation on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, thank you.

At the end of October, WOW held another of its charitable endeavors: The Great West Chase. We saw over 1,000 runners participate in the three races. As the result, we will be able to make a generous donation to Davis Elementary, at Title I school, at the end of the year. This donation was made possible by dozens of hard working volunteers and dozens of other generous sponsors who helped ensure a top-notch event. I thank our volunteers and sponsors, all the residents who ran and all of Westchase for patiently accepting the delays and inconveniences of race morning. I especially thank the race chair, Tracy Urso, who took time from her family in Tennessee to travel down to organize the event again.

During the race I met an amazing young woman – one of our race volunteers. Adriana Figueroa is her name. When I met her, she had been here only two weeks. Hurricane Maria recently destroyed her island of Puerto Rico and shut down her school. Rather than lose the year, she bid farewell to her parents and moved to a relative’s home in Hampton Lakes to finish her senior year at Sickles. More than 130,000 Puerto Ricans like Adriana have landed in Florida in the last two months. We spoke to two local families and tell their moving stories on page 18.

This month’s WOW is filled with fun events and traditions, from the Westchase Artists Society’s Holiday Market to WOW’s Holiday Decorating Contest. Kick back with a hot cup of cider or cocoa and enjoy!

I wish all of our readers a happy Hanukah, a wonderful Kwanzaa and a merry Christmas!

And remember, no matter how dark the world may seem, it is always made brighter when we remember to be the light.

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Santa’s Float Fanatic

For Abbotsford’s Alan Shabott, Santa’s arrival in Westchase each December is a tradition not to be missed.

In the week leading up to Dec. 9, Shabott, a 20-year Westchase resident, will pull out his hammer and tacks again.

But he’s not an elf working in Santa’s workshop.

Instead, he’ll construct another Abbotsford float that will travel the nearly six hour parade behind Santa.

Santa’s Pre-Flight Parade was the brainstorm of former Abbotsford resident Dan O’Brien. O’Brien, along with his son Brandon, still organize the parade each year with Abbotsford resident Ralph Caputo for the Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF).

Way back in the parade’s early years, the duo roped Shabott and other Abbotsford neighbors, into helping to build a neighborhood parade float.

And while many of the original builders have moved away or have turned their attention elsewhere, Abbotsford has been represented every year in the parade since. “I started helping with their float and then went off on my own to doing the float,” Shabott said. “Each year I still have Abbotsford on it.”

Shabott’s talents have grown with experience. The first Abbotsford float, he recalled, consisted of a Santa workshop/Gingerbread Home theme surrounded by a picket fence. It was raised on a trailer rented from U-Haul. And the neighbors simply lifted the house onto the float from someone’s garage.

There have been so many float themes, he has trouble keeping them straight. “This past year was the Grinch float and the year before was the Baby Jesus crib or the Minions castle.”

He added, “This next year I’ll probably do Grinch another time.” He paused as if he might change his mind. “We haven’t really nailed that down yet.”

Shabott has some reliable helpers who return annually to help. “Calley Scanlon is my daughter and she helps consistently.”

Her husband Mike also pitches in.

Then there is Joe Gras, a resident of The Bridges. “He’s always a very strong supporter and helper,” Shabott said.

And there’s another friend named Ray and Brian Salek, another Abbotsford resident. “Brian usually helps a lot.”.

The float isn’t just thrown together, however. “It’s usually about a full week. There’s usually a whole lot before that spent prepping.

“The actual building of the float is three to four days,” he said.

Shabott said his crew takes pride in reproducing scenes or objects from the movies accurately. “We really take a lot of time to making sure the size is appropriate. We really try to spend a lot of time and effort to make it look decent.”

He used to rent a U-Haul trailer for the event, but no more. “I went and bought a utility trailer. It gives me a lot more flexibility and time to put it together.”

The trailer alone cost him $1,000.

Each year, between lights, materials and costumes, he estimated he spends about $500.

As the result of his participation over the years, he’s developed an interesting collection. “I have a roomful of costumes people use throughout the year,” he said.

There’s Elmo, a Mickey Mouse and Gingerbread Man; a couple different Rudolphs;  an elaborate dress worn by Princess Elsa and an angry bird and a minion.

The costumes also make appearances in the parade. They’re generally worn by other folks riding in the trucks in the parade.

What keeps him coming back?

“It’s always when you see people and they say, “Wow!” he said. “It’s the expression of the people who can appreciate what you put into it.”

Shabott added that serving as the float driver gives him an advantage. “I usually get a firsthand visual of all those kids when they see and yell out to all those characters. And the adults who yell out, ‘Look, there’s Elmo! Look, there’s Mickey!’ Every year, when I look out, that’s what it’s all about.”

For Shabott, it’s also a work of faith.

“I do try to put a little of my Christianity in it,” he said. Other than the more obvious nativity scene one year, he tries to add a subtle touch to capture his faith. In a corner of the float, for example, he’ll put a cross in gold. “It’s not just about the holidays. It’s about the cross. I still try to put my faith into the work.”

Shabott is looking forward to the culmination of the parade, when Santa lights the tree in West Park Village and all the characters in costume dance with the kids to the DJ’s music. “You get hundreds, just hundreds of the kids up there taking pictures with the characters. Just to see the kids that involved and that excited is always what just does it for me.”

His one Christmas wish?

That everyone takes a little time to get involved in some way to capture the spirit of the holidays.

“There is always room to do something for the Christmas season. You find something and actually do something. You don’t just sit back and watch everyone else do something for society,” he said.

“This is just my little way of doing something.”

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Popular Westchase Artists Market Returns Dec. 10

You don’t want to miss it!

The eighth annual Westchase Holiday Market will be held on Sunday, Dec. 10, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Westchase Golf Club. All net proceeds from special raffles and silent auctions will be donated directly to Autism Speaks. Last year’s market raised $4,600 for this great charity!

The artists’ market is fun for all ages! Let’s start with the shopping. It’s the perfect place to pick up incredible one-of-a-kind gifts, and dazzling, unique stocking stuffers. Original paintings, photography, drawing, jewelry and glassware, along with handmade craft items such as wine bottle art, crochet, clothing, and woodworking are among the many types of artwork that you can expect to find. Specialty food vendors – everything from cupcakes to Fido’s treats – will also be covered.

Let’s not forget the little ones! Santa will arrive to hear wish lists and pose for pictures from 1-4 p.m. Creative face painters will be on hand from noon to 4 p.m. “Best of Show,” first and second juried prizes will be judged and awarded throughout the day. Grab a tasty bite from the grill at the beautiful Westchase Golf Club while listening to fabulous holiday music, including Rockatar from 2-3 p.m., and John Barr, Classical Guitar, from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

Raffles and silent auctions this year will include incredible prizes from members of the Westchase Artists Society, as well as generous donations from the Dali Museum, Lowry Park Zoo, Clearwater Aquarium, Tampa Bay Rays, Vigo Importing Company, C & C Painting, Florida Orchestra, Big Cat Rescue and Ruth Eckerd Hall, to name only a few! We offer our special thanks to our Title Sponsor, Anne Hart of Florida Executive Realty, and our Gold Sponsors, Global Imaging Systems and the Westchase Artists Society.

Join us as we ring in the holiday season! For more information, check out our Facebook page at Westchase Holiday Market.

By Jennifer Joyner

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Davidsen Middle Debuts New Dance Studio

There have been quite a few changes at Davidsen Middle School this fall.

For starters, there’s a new name, Davidsen Middle School Center for the Arts. But the school also has a new principal, Stacy Arena, a new dance program and a newly hired dance instructor.

And now Davidsen’s new dance studio is complete.

This year sixth grade students can choose dance as an elective while seventh and eighth grade students have the option to choose it as an elective or take it instead of PE class.

Dance Teacher Julie Mac, who is building the dance program, says she is amazed by the progress of the students, many who are taking dance for the first time. Her students will be showcasing what they’ve learned this semester on Dec. 1, at 7 p.m. at the Alonso High School Theater. “I want to be known as the place to come for dance – one where students can get a full dance education,” she said. “We want to be known for students who have dance knowledge, have positive attitudes and are creative. We welcome all levels of students.”

The dance classes follow a state curriculum for academics. All students learn about the history and cultural importance of dance as well as vocabulary. They will have to take end-of-semester exams. In addition to the academic side of dance, students have four days of dance class weekly, including ballet barre, ballet center and modern or jazz. Fridays are reserved for trying out different types of dance, including hip hop, salsa and African. One of her class periods is reserved for students with special needs.

Mac said that all students can benefit from dance. “Dance requires discipline. You have to focus. It is good for your health and your posture and involves patterns and memorization which can cross over to other classes.”

Originally from Clearwater, Mac holds a Bachelor of Arts in Dance Studies with a minor in Theater from the University of South Florida, where her studies included Choreography, Music for Dance, Dance Kinesiology, Dance History and Stage Practicum. She worked as a dancer at Busch Gardens, appearing in their main stage shows before moving to New York City to expand her horizons. There she served on the Dance Faculty of Broadway Training Center and was the dance instructor for the Fordham University Fitness Center as well as Company Director for the Steffi Nossen Dance Foundation in White Plains.

After the birth of their second child, Mac and her husband started thinking about moving back to the Tampa area. She knew the time was perfect when the opportunity at Davidsen came open. Mac said the new dance studio is, “a dance teacher’s dream with three mirrored walls, a large cushioned dance floor, curtains and two dressing areas.”

Now. she would like to build a booster group to support the dance program’s needs, like costumes. “We are borrowing costumes from Orange Grove because we don’t have a budget for costumes, but I’m hoping we’ll be able to form a booster group to help us build a costume closet and get dance uniforms for those who can’t afford them.”

The dance program at Davidsen makes it a choice school for the district, meaning any student in the county can apply to the school if they want to join the dance program.

"We are excited to add a dance program to our Center for the Arts,” said Arena. “This is another way to meet the diverse needs of our learners."

“Anyone can dance,” said Mac. “Everyone should.”

By Marcy Sanford

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WCA Office Welcomes Duncan!

Please drop by the management office with your pet to say hi to Duncan the Southeastern Guide Dog statue!

With the help of CDD Field Manager Doug Mays, Duncan was relocated in October to the management office property located on Parley Drive next to the Village pool. It has been so much fun peering out my window to see little children pet Duncan and pose with him for a photo, or even see big dogs walk a large path around Duncan (thinking he’s real). Our office even has doggie treats for your fur-babies if you’d like to stop by just to say hi.

You should have received your annual assessment notice in November for the 2018 fee of $275. If you have not received it, please stop by our office or email us so we can provide you with a copy. Payment is due Jan. 1. Feel free to drop off your payment at our office (along with the coupon please), and we will be sure to deliver it to our accounting department.

Our monthly movies in the park are back and will run through March 2018. Please see http://www.westchasewca.com for the dates and movie listings

The West Park Village pool has started its fall/winter hours of Monday through Friday, 3-8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. The Countryway Boulevard pool remains open seven days a week, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Christmas Day it is closed.

As always, we are here to serve Westchase residents. Please drop by our office or contact us at 926-6404 or through email at manager@wcamanager.com.

By Debbie Sainz, CAM, CMCA

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Old St. Nick Returns Dec. 9

Yes, Santa is coming to your neighborhood on his vintage firetruck to visit your block parties and high-five the kids.

He wants your smiles. He wants your letters. And he wants your help.

Santa’s Pre-Flight Parade returns to the Westchase on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 2-7 p.m. The event culminates in the annual PreTree Lighting ceremony on Montague Street in West Park Village upon Santa’s arrival there between 7-7:30 p.m. Holiday music and activities will start in West Park Village Town Center at approximately 6 p.m.

WOW is proud to help make this event possible through a donation of $5,000 to cover its costs.

Most important, Santa wants your help. To help make his visit extra special, he hopes you will be Santa Clause to some less fortunate kids. Along his parade route Santa will collect unwrapped gifts for Michelle’s Kids, a charity that helps needy children and families throughout Hillsborough County. Santa and his helpers hope to collect new and unwrapped toys, games, books, bikes and all sizes of batteries. They will also accept monetary donations to purchase batteries or additional, needed toys. Checks can be made out to Michelle’s Kids.

Each year Santa parades through Westchase in an event organized by Dan O’Brien, Ralph Caputo, Santa and other volunteers from the Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF). The WCF is 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. Residents interested in participating in the parade by putting together a float can still contact parade organizers Ralph Caputo at thecaputos@yahoo.com or Dan O’Brien at djobrien638@gmail.com.

Tracking Santa

Residents hoping to track Santa’s progress through Westchase can do so through their smartphones and computers. Simply save the following link, http://glympse.com/!westchasesanta to yo,ur phone or your computer and click on it at noon on Saturday, Dec. 9.

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.

Michelle’s Kids

As Santa parades through Westchase, he’ll be collecting hundreds of toys to benefit Michelle’s Kids.

Founded in 2010, Michelle’s Kids (http://www.michelleskids.foundation) collects toys for needy military families at MacDill Air Force Base and to poor children who have been referred to the organization by their teachers. Monetary donations towards the drive can be sent to Michelle’s Kids Inc., 8710 W. Hillsborough #114, Tampa, FL 33615.

So grab your neighbors and organize your block party. And, reflecting the great and generous neighborhood Westchase is, let’s work together to help Santa bring a happy holiday to less fortunate kids!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher; Photos by James Broome Photography

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Food Drive Shopping List Available

The Westchase/WOW Thanksgiving Food Drive is Sunday, Nov. 19 at 1 p.m. And we have uploaded the shopping list flyer here for you to use at the supermarket.

Click here to open the list.

This year, in addition to collecting in Westchase, WOW will bring the food drive to 1,600 more homes in areas that receive WOW Northwest. Metropolitan Ministries’ staff and WOW hope the residents of Highland Park, Mandolin, Windsor Place and Westwood Lakes embrace this generous tradition for a great cause.

To enhance participation, WOW is offering to pay $300 for a holiday block party for the top performing neighborhoods. This year two neighborhoods with the highest percentage of homes donating frozen turkeys will win $300 for a holiday block party. One prize will be offered in Westchase and another in the top subdivision that receives WOW Northwest. WOW is also offering $250 for a holiday block party to the Westchase neighborhood that shows the greatest improvement in overall participation in the food drive over last year.

Business Matchers

To further encourage residents to participate, a number of generous businesses have committed to making corporate matches. They will match portions of your contributions so you can have an even bigger impact.

Our longest committed corporate matchers, Josh Butts of Cornerstone Insurance and The Wood Team of Smith & Associates are both returning. Cornerstone Insurance has committed to donate one turkey for every four donated. The Wood Team has committed to matching one can of food for every home that participates in the drive.

Also returning this year are Clinical Psychologist Dr. Maria Aranda and Pediatrician Dr. Christine Armstrong of Children’s Medical Center of Westchase. Both have committed to matching one can for every turkey donated by residents.

This year we also welcome three new business matchers. Maria Kletchka of Keller Williams Tampa Properties will donate 50 cents to Metropolitan Ministries for every home that participates in the drive. Mathnasium of Westchase has promised to donate one turkey for every 100 resident-donated turkeys donated (up to four turkeys) and one can for every 25 homes that participate (up to 150 cans). And Peter Prince of Royal Financial Tax has committed to matching1 turkey for every 100 donated up to 4 and 1 can for every 10 homes participating up to 100 cans.

How to Help?

To join the community effort, simply purchase as many of the food items as you wish from the list running with this article and place them out on your driveway at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 19 (West Park Village and Highland Park residents, however, are asked to place donations out by their mailboxes at the curb rather than in the neighborhood’s alleys).

Whether you can afford only a few cans or an entire meal, we welcome your participation. If you are donating from your pantry, please check expiration dates before placing items out for donation. As part of the drive, food is sorted and expired items have to be discarded.

Items Requested: The Thanksgiving Box of Hope

1 frozen turkey
1 box of cereal (hot or cold)
2 cans of fruit
2 cans of yams
2 bags or boxes of stuffing mix
1 loaf of fresh bread
4 cans of vegetables
1 jar of peanut butter
2 bags or cans of black beans
1 bag of rice
2 cans or boxes of potatoes
2 cans of cranberry sauce
2 cans or packets of gravy
1 package of cookies or pastries
1 family box of flavored gelatin or pudding

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Raven, Gryphon and Knight Marching Bands Win Top Marks at MPAs

Hitting all the right notes, the marching bands at Alonso and Sickles High Schools scored straight superiors on Nov. 4 during the Music Performance Assessments (MPA).

Held at at Gaither High School, the MPAs also saw Robinson High School, the Northwest’s International Baccalaureate high school, receive superiors in all but one category.

“It’s what we strive for and our kids continued to show how resilient and incredible they are,’’ Sickles band director Keith Griffis said. “Each unit gets graded, every aspect from color guard to percussion. It’s a tribute to all of the kids and their preparation.’’

For Alonso, it was the best overall MPA performance in the four-year tenure of band director Melanie DuBay.

“I always tell them even though it’s great we got the best scores we’ve ever gotten, the most important thing to me is that they do the best performance they’ve ever done,’’ DuBay said. “It’s really just the opinions of six individuals (judges) for eight minutes in a one-time performance.

“The scores in the end don’t really matter to me. Do they kids feel like they are improving every time they are performing? They definitely felt like it (MPA performance) was their best. And I agree.’’

Under the direction of drum majors Patrick Boatman, Katie Morello and Ashley Loudermilk, Alonso’s MPA performance was entitled “Shades of Jazz,’’ employing various jazz music genres and colors.

The Alonso band performed “Estancia,’’ a Latin jazz song, with a backdrop of oranges and yellows in props, flags or dancer costumes. Next was “Fever,’’ a swing tune that featured reds, including red shiny jackets worn by the dancers. The finale was “When A Man Loves A Woman,’’ represented by blues and purples.

“A lot of bands do different things,’’ DuBay said. “Some are about very difficult techniques. Others are about pleasing the audience. We want to do something in the middle, something that’s hard enough to give them something to strive for, but very enjoyable for the spectators.’’

Under the direction of drum majors Kitan Adeniji, Gage Morgan and Immanuel Santos, the Sickles MPA performance featured songs from heavy metal rock groups. The performance featured “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’’ from AC/DC, “Master of Puppets’’ from Metallica and a Lynard Skynard selection.

“The awesome part was half of our band members knew that music and couldn’t have been more excited to perform it, while the other half didn’t know that music at all,’’ Griffis said. “But after we got into it, everyone fell in love with the music and got very passionate about it.

“I went to the top of the stands to watch, so I could really enjoy it. When you turn it over to them to perform, you have to kind of sit on your hands and let them do it. It was awesome. They did a great job and they had fun putting the whole process together.’’

Griffis, former drum major for Florida State University’s “Marching Chiefs’’ band, said it was one of Sickles’ most rewarding MPA performances.

“There is not such a thing as a perfect performance because there’s always a way to get better, but there is such a thing as awesome musical moments,’’ Griffis said. “Knowing where the kids started and how far they’ve come is a great reward. And it began back in the summer band camp. It’s definitely a process, a lot of work and dedication.’’

Under the direction of Robinson Drum Majors Bryce Buckland, Dillon Williams and Jamin Liu, the Robinson Marching Knights performed their show titled The Underdog, featuring selections from On the Waterfront, The Boxer and Rocky. Following six years of straight superiors, the Robinson ensemble again won an overall rating of superior and received superiors in all subcategories but one, Auxiliary, where they received a rating of Excellent. Their band director, Chris Revett, was unable to comment by WOW’s deadline.

DuBay remembers the Alonso band camp in the heat of summer, along with the interruption provided by Hurricane Irma. On MPA night, all the work culminated in an award-winning performance.

“To me, being part of the band is so much more than music education,’’ DuBay said. “It’s important for them to learn life skills, more than just learning music and how to march.

“You’ve got to work together. You’ve got to work through conflicts. Problem-solving. Being responsible for yourself and others. Showing up on time. Most of my students aren’t going to be music majors or professional performers. But that’s not the goal. I think it’s more about teaching them how to be hard-working, respectable members of society.’’

Sickles had five musicians who received all-state recognition – Isabel Difiore (oboe), Anna Held (horn), Rachel Held (piccolo), Jolie Miracle (trumpet) and Melissa Perotin (flute).

Alonso’s Rebekah Mahusay was selected to the all-state honor band, while Grace Colaguori won the Fred Gebhardt Leadership Scholarship when her essay was chosen from a group of musicians who attended a leadership camp at the University of Tampa.

From Robinson, Adam Finley (trumpet) and Shea Greenberg (percussion) were selected to the all-state band.

All the all-state musicians will rehearse and perform during the Florida Music Education Association Clinic and Conference in January at the Tampa Convention Center.

By Joey Johnston

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WCA Board Hears Noise Complaints; Approves Tennis Tournament

At the November Westchase Community Association (WCA) meeting directors heard complaints about noise and approved a tennis tournament.

Their discussion over the estoppel fees charged by their management company, Greenacre Properties Inc., however, continued for the third straight month without a clear decision. 

Several West Park Village residents told directors that they were concerned about the noise level from Seafood Exchange, the new restaurant in the Westchase Town Center. They said that noise had been an issue with many of the previous tenants, which had bands play on the patio or played loud music over the patio speakers. They asked directors to come up with an immediate short-term solution but said that there needed to be a long-term solution as well. “It’s not about the management company,” said one resident. “It is the fact that a bar/grill is not suitable for the location.”

The other resident said that she could not block the noise out even when she turned her television up and said that you could often hear the thump from the music in the alley behind her townhome as well as the townhomes behind hers. Board Vice President Rick Goldstein said that he had talked to Hillsborough County and relayed the issue and that they were supposed to be calling him back with possible solutions. [Editor’s note: While the WCA has deed restriction enforcement power over association homes, its authority does not extend over commercial properties. Thus, the association traditionally works with county agencies to address resident complaints about commercial properties.]

Goldstein also reported that road construction on Linebaugh Avenue was supposed to be completed by February 2018. In the shorter term, the next phase of the project to replace an 18-inch reclaimed water line would include construction at the intersections of Linebaugh Avenue and Gretna Green Drive and Linebaugh Avenue and Montague Street.

Community Association Manager Debbie Sainz reported that annual assessments were sent to households earlier in November and that the West Park Village pool was operating on winter hours. She said she would be getting bids for painting the facilities and replacing pool chairs. Board President Ruben Collazo commended Program and Facilities Manager Kelly Shires and his crew for replacing straps on the chairs so that they could be used for several years but agreed that it was time to replace them.

All directors agreed to table a Shires homeowner’s appeal for 60 days while the homeowners wait for approval and permits from the county.

All agreed with Board Secretary Keith Heinemann’s suggestion to appoint Jeffrey Seligsohn to the WOW, Inc. Board of Directors.

All voted in favor of giving year-end gifts to association staff and non-staff.

After hearing more information from Westchase residents Eric Pogue and Sean O’Donnell about a Westchase Charitable Foundation tennis tournament that Pogue has proposed to bring to Westchase, directors voted 4-2 in favor of allowing Pogue to proceed with planning the program. The motion allows alcohol only at the gala event for two hours, permits use of the Westchase logo for one time and appointed Goldstein and Director Ashley Wait as liaisons between the board and the event organizers. Arrillaga and Heinemann cast the dissenting votes. Arrillaga said he was against the event because he didn’t think the facilities should be blocked from resident use for that period of time and added that he did not like the precedent it would create.

Director Wait, however, responded, “How many times have people asked to do these types of things? If it has never happened, it is very unlikely that it will happen again.”

Directors approved Goldstein’s motion to allow the Westchase Seniors Tennis Program to reserve Court 8 in West Park Village on Tuesdays and Thursday from 9 – 11 a.m. Director Brian Ross asked Goldstein how he had come to the decision when there had been a complaint from a resident about the standing reservation (that resident also asked how they could get the same treatment). Goldstein asked, “Have we fallen so low that we’re going to listen to someone who is jealous of 80-year-old tennis players?” He said it would be nice if people were more concerned with helping others than tearing down a group.

Directors once again began discussing the estoppels issued by Greenacre Properties, Inc. (GPI) and once again agreed that they needed more information before making a decision. Estoppels are requested by title agents on behalf of home buyers to ensure that titles of purchased homes will be transferred free of liens, judgments and fines and to ensure association dues and capital contributions are paid in full. All voted in favor of Director Ross discussing the matter with legal counsel to see how much their fees would be if his firm handled the communication. Subsequently Collazo will meet with Greenacre representatives to discuss the matter.

By Marcy Sanford

Posted Nov. 15, 2017

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Will Your Neighbors and You Win a Holiday Party?

The judges are coming! The judges are coming! (But you have to remember to invite them!)

It’s time to haul out the ladder, your five miles of icicle lights and all the tinsel your toddler can eat!

Judges for WOW’s 19th annual Westchase Holiday Decorating Contest will be hitting the road the weekend of Dec. 9-10! This year the best decorated subdivision, street or group of homes (our definition of “block”) will win annual bragging rights and $300 to throw a New Year’s block party. So get your neighbors organized today. (Hint: Shaming helps.)

The first, second and third place individual winners for best decorated house will also win a prize package to be determined (The individual home prizes are usually gift cards to home improvement stores so you can buy more holiday swag on discount after the holidays.)

One set of prizes will be awarded in Westchase; another set will be awarded within those neighborhoods receiving WOW Northwest.

Judging will take place the weekend of Dec. 9-10 (regardless of weather) and winners will appear in January’s WOW. Judging will take place in the evening after dusk so make sure your lights are on! To have judges look at your home, a neighbor’s home or your block (group of homes), please email the neighborhood name and house address(es) to advertising@westchasewow.com by Thursday, Dec. 7.

After judging, a list of the area’s best homes will appear on http://www.westchasewow.com so that all residents can take a holiday light tour.

As a friendly reminder for our Weschase readers, decorative lights may be displayed between Thanksgiving and Jan. 15, according to the Westchase Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions.

Good luck to all!

Want to Win?

This year, in order to give the judges time to do their holiday shopping, we’re not going to make them drive by every single house (It takes more than seven hours!). If you’d like your home, a neighbor’s home or a group of homes considered by WOW’s Decorating Contest judges, please email the neighborhood name and house address(es) to advertising@westchasewow.com by Thursday, Dec. 7. You can submit your home or that of a friend. Don’t be shy!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher; Photo by James Broome Photography

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Autism Speaks Honors Contributions of Westchase Holiday Market

On Aug. 21 Jennifer Joyner, Director of the Westchase Holiday Market, and her husband, Jackie Joyner, attended the 2017 Tampa Bay Autism Speaks Walk Awards Reception.

The event took place at the Ray’s Club at Tropicana Field, and celebrated the Tampa Bay walk teams, walkers, sponsors and volunteers who contributed to the Autism Speaks Walk Fundraiser this year. The December 2016 Westchase Holiday Market raised over $4,600 for the cause through raffles and individual donations.

Several members of the market team also participated in the Autism Speaks Walk this year, which was held in April at the Tampa Bay Bucs Stadium.

Thank you to all the vendors, artists, volunteers and shoppers who helped raise the donations for this year’s Holiday Market! The 2017 Holiday Market will be held on Sunday, Dec. 10, at the Westchase Golf Club!

By Jennifer Joyner

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Artists Experiment with Pencil Art

The Sept 26 meeting of the Westchase Artists Society featured a presentation by Frida Morales.

Frida gave an entertaining and enthusiastic presentation of the art she chose to exhibit at the library in September and furthered our understanding of the people and culture of her native Bolivia.

Not missing a step, Diana Ranstrom quickly moved into teacher mode with her lively demonstration of colored pencil art. She provided the group with materials for us to
experiment with as she explained their properties and uses as well as various techniques used in colored pencil art.

Our Oct. 24 meeting, which occurred after WOW’s deadline, promised a presentation of Jay Trujillo’s exhibit and a presentation by Christa Moody on glass fusion.

The 2017 Westchase Holiday Market, sponsored by the Westchase Artists Society, will be Sunday, Dec. 10, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Westchase Golf Club. Proceeds will benefit Autism Speaks. We look forward to sharing some holiday cheer with you.

We also hope you will join us for our Nov. 28 meeting for a presentation of the Dali Museum in St Petersburg, Florida.

The Westchase Artist Society is open to all visual artists from the Tampa Bay area. You are invited to attend a meeting at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month at the Maureen B Gauzza Public Library on Countryway Boulevard.

For more information visit our website, http://www.westchaseartists.com and o,ur Facebook page.

We look forward to meeting you.

By Marilyn Chaulk

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Westchase Seniors Head to Dinner Theater

All Westchase Seniors are invited to plan now to meet at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11, to go to the Early Bird Dinner Theater

The play A Nice Family Gathering is the sequel to the hilariously funny comedy that the Westchase Seniors enjoyed last year. The buffet dinner before the play includes a full salad bar, ham, pork, roast beef, salmon, chicken, meatballs in marinara sauce, baked ziti, vegetables, potatoes, rice, assorted rolls, coffee, ice tea and desserts. The cost is $36 at the door and may be paid only with cash or check. Reservations are required by Nov. 7 and must be made by contacting Jose and Nevenka Rios (852-1046 or nevenkar@aol.com). We will meet at 3 p.m. at the old St Joseph's Health Center parking lot at 10909 W. Linebaugh Ave. to form carpools for our trip to the theater. Dinner service starts at 4 p.m. and the play begins at 6 p.m. The theater is located at 13355 49th St. North in Clearwater.

Getting to Know You The Westchase Seniors Group’s potluck dinner in October was a great opportunity to learn interesting and unique experiences about our Westchase peers while enjoying a great meal together. As always, the food was spectacular and plentiful. We want to thank all who brought the delicious food. And we want to extend our special thanks to Anita Steinfeld for organizing this Westchase Seniors activity and Beverly Mask for providing the fall decorations for our tables.

Westchase Recreation Center Activities for Seniors Hillsborough County’s Westchase Recreation Center is sponsoring the following activities for seniors in our area:

Seniors Tone and Stretch Classes: Mon, Wed, Fri at 9 a.m. (free)
Seniors Aerobics Lite Classes: Mon at 10 a.m.; Wed at 6 p.m. ($2/class)
Pickleball: Courts available Fri 5-7 p.m. and Sat 2-4 p.m. (free)

Seniors Day Trips Seating is limited so reservations must be made in advance by calling (813) 964-2948. Buses will leave from the Westchase Recreation Center and you should bring money for your lunch and any other activity you plan to participate in.

News Channel 8 WFLA Tour: Thu, Nov. 2, at 9:30 a.m. (free)
Wilderness Park: Tue, Nov. 14, time TBD (free)
Botanical Gardens Christmas Lights: Thu, Dec. 7, at 3:30 p.m., (free)
Emerson Point Reserve: Thu, Dec. 12, time TBD (free)

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 any food purchase and the conversations are enjoyable. Grab your breakfast and join us. You can’t miss us – we are the “older” but “young at heart” people laughing and having a good time.

Put Life in Your Years If you are a Westchase resident over 55 years old and looking to enjoy life, join the Westchase Seniors Group and add some fun to your life. To get emails about Westchase Seniors events, send your name, address, and phone number to westchase.seniors@gmail.com or call Lewis and Rama Patterson (926-5473). It only cost a smile to join and the dues are just as cheap.

By Lewis and Rama Patterson

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Wizards Celebrate Veterans Nov. 9

Congratulations to all Wizard parents!

If you are reading this, you survived October!

As we turn the calendar to November, we think of cooler weather and our veterans. On Nov. 1-9, the PTA will also host its annual Veterans Penny Campaign. All proceeds will benefit “Stay in Step SCI Recovery,” a local, non-profit recovery center that assists individuals with spinal cord injuries, including veterans. Visit http://www.stayinstep.org for more information.

Our annual Veterans Day Program will take place on Thursday, Nov. 9, starting with a Hospitality Breakfast for veterans and active military personnel only from 8:00-8:45 a.m. in the cafeteria. The breakfast, sponsored by The Grind, will be followed by a patriotic school-wide celebration on the covered courts at 9 a.m. All parents are invited to attend this very special salute, which includes a flag ceremony and performances by the Blue and Gold Chorus and Drum Corps, as well as the Davidsen Middle School Jazz Band, Chorus and Orchestra. Veterans and active military personnel may R.S.V.P. to the breakfast by emailing Tracy Christensen at christensendt@msn.com.

Conference Night is also Thursday, Nov. 9, and the PTA will sell spirit sticks, apparel and memberships on campus. Take advantage of this opportunity to pick up some new spirit gear. When you buy a PTA membership, your child is eligible to receive quarterly rewards and free admission to the International Festival and the General Meetings.

Each year Junior Achievement is taught in our classrooms by wonderful parent volunteers. JA is focused on providing kids with the tools they need to be financially literate and responsible adults. Kids learn about different types of businesses in their community, entrepreneurship, and more! Each teacher, K-5, needs a parent volunteer to facilitate this program for their class.

JA provides amazing and easy to follow materials for you to use. The materials are broken into five sessions, and they are tailored to grade level, interactive and fun. A training session will be held on Nov. 15 at 8:15 a.m. For more information about JA, visit http://jatampabay.org and p,lease email Clare Himes, clare.himes@gmail.com, if you are interested in helping.

Last year our guidance counselor, Ms. Rivenburg, launched a new anti-bullying campaign called Kindness Counts. This year, she is joined by Guidance Counselor, Ms. Rosado, and they are continuing the campaign with the theme, “Kind is Cool!” Students were introduced to the theme in October, and activities related to being kind to others, the Earth, and oneself were held throughout Red Ribbon Week. The theme will be carried over into multiple events during the year. If you would like to help with any Kind is Cool event, or have creative ideas on incorporating this concept into the lives of our families, please email Clare Himes at clare.himes@gmail.com.

Calling all parents, grandparents or family friends! Please join us for the Great American Teach-In on Nov. 16. Our little Wizards would love to hear all about your job, talents or hobbies! Please sign up for a time slot with your child's teacher. The PTA will be serving refreshments for all our volunteers so remember to stop by Room 201 before you leave.

As the holidays draw near, please look for the Giving Tree sign ups in November. All donations are due at school on Dec. 6.

Last, you can stay informed by visiting http://www.westchasepta.org and liking the Westchase PTA page on Facebook.

Westchase’s November Events

9         Veterans Day Program, 9 a.m. on the Covered Courts
10       No School: Veterans Day 
14       Picture Retakes  
16       Great American Teach-In
20-24  No School: Thanksgiving Break

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Freebooters Put the Fun in Fundraiser

Sept. 16 brought a successful fundraiser for the Westchase Krewe of Freebooters at the Westchase Golf Course.

Now you can mark your calendars for their next fun event.

The 18-hole fundraiser featured more than 70 Krewe members, friends, and family (and a few mermaids) and raised more than $6,600. Portions of the proceeds will be donated to the Ocean's Daughter Conservation Alliance and will fund a variety of causes throughout the year, including promoting, protecting and preserving marine life and empowering the general public with ocean literacy awareness campaigns.

The Krewe's next fundraising event will be a poker tournament on Dec. 2 at the Tampa Bay Downs Silks Room. Participants will enjoy a private buffet dinner, a cocktail reception and a professionally staffed poker tournament.  The top three players will earn an estimated $500 each in cash prizes!  This event is open to the public.  The entry fee is $100 per person. To register, please send an e-mail to freebooterskrewe@gmail.com or call Eric Holt at 727-2019.

By Melanie Casey

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Westchase Teen Author Debuts First Novel

If you’re looking for a new supernatural series to read, check out local teen author Sarah Frank’s first novel One Chance.

This fall it will be published by BeaLu Books, a Tampa indie children’s book publisher. A resident of the Greens, Frank will be introducing the book at the Tampa Bay Area Writing Projects Fall Conference on Nov. 4.

One Chance is the first in a planned series of thrillers that combine mystery, magical powers and time travel. The idea for the series first came to Frank while she was still in elementary school. The novel centers around the main character, Sandy, who, after her parents disappear, finds herself in an orphanage run by two dark and mysterious sisters. Sandy makes new friends and with their help discovers a mysterious magical rock that allows her to travel in time. Sandy realizes that the rock is the key to saving her parents and changing her life.

It has taken Frank four years and many rewrites to get to the final version of her story. “One Chance, was a long road,” said Frank. “I wrote the first draft in fifth grade in a red spiral notebook. In sixth grade, I rewrote the entire novel on my computer and made quite a few changes. Once seventh grade began, I decided it was time for another total rewrite. I’ve been editing it for about and a year and a half and the improvements are incredible.”

“Readers expect happy endings and expert their beloved heroes and heroines to succeed,” added Frank. “I gave them a good ending but not the expected one. It’s an emotionally complex story of love, deadly sacrifices, family, friendship and the burden of disabilities.”

While her first novel, it is not the first published work for Frank. Now a freshman in the Creative Writing Program at Blake High School, Frank published a collection of poems, What Really Happened in Elementary School, when she was in fifth grade at Westchase Elementary.

Frank is available for author visits and presentations as her school schedule allows. In mid-November you’ll be able to purchase a copy of One Chance online at BeaLu Books, http://www.BealuBooks.com and other online realtors.

By Marcy Sanford; Photo by Jen Bravo

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Raven Hoopsters Shooting for State Title

After a record-breaking season, the Alonso High School girls basketball team has lofty goals and unprecedented expectations.

The players welcome both challenges.

“The expectation of success is now the norm with this program,’’ Ravens senior forward Veronica Diaz said. “It’s exciting. We need (championship) banners in this gym.’’

Last year became a banner season, indeed.

Alonso defeated Newsome 42-41 to win the program’s first-ever district championship. The Ravens also captured a playoff game, defeating Orlando Oak Ridge 55-52.

But the season came to a bitter end in Alonso’s gymnasium when the Ravens fell against Orlando Olympia 60-41 in the region semifinals, getting outscored 26-7 in the fourth quarter.

Even though Alonso finished 21-7 — a proud accomplishment — the last game has lingered.

“It’s one of those things you never really forget,’’ said Ravens senior guard Ariel Scott. “It was a shock. It was hard to deal with. But it caused us to refocus. We know our goals and we’re ready to go after them. That hasn’t changed.’’

One thing has changed with the program.

There’s a new head coach, Hannah Kotzen, last season’s assistant. Former head coach Bamar Lewis departed after getting a job opportunity in Atlanta.

The transition has been smooth under Kotzen, a former Gulf High School standout who played junior-college ball, then two seasons at Warner University.

Kotzen, whose college point-guard career was highlighted by games of 39 points and 18 assists, has embraced her new role and believes the Ravens will continue their upward trajectory.

“They know what I expect of them and how I coach,’’ Kotzen said. “I place a lot of demands on them. This team can go as far as it wants to go. The only obstacle is themselves.

“We have talked as a team and they want a state title. That’s a great goal. We have to stay humble and take every game as it comes. They saw how close we were last season to Lakeland (site of the state’s final four). Losing like we did was crushing. But I think it has motivated them.’’

Kotzen said she expects the offense to run through Scott, a six-footer who creates matchup problems in the backcourt, and sophomore Carly Price, daughter of Alonso’s boys basketball coach, Todd Price.

Scott averaged 13.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game last season. She has committed to a scholarship with the University of North Florida.

Meanwhile, Price’s work ethic has impressed Kotzen.

“I’ve never seen a girl shoot the way Carly can and I’ve been playing a very long time,’’ Kotzen said. “She’s the kind of player who gets here at five in the morning and stays long after practice, just working on her game.

“Sometimes, we’ll have competitive shooting games and she will beat me. So she’s going to be a weapon for us, no doubt about it.’’

The Ravens welcome back six-foot senior center Alyssa Jones, who missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

“Her raw talent is ridiculous,’’ Kotzen said. “She can dominate. She would’ve really helped last season. In the playoffs (against Orlando Olympia), they had a big (player) and we didn’t (inside). And that cost us.

“Now I think we have a great inside game and great outside shooting. It’s the kind of versatility you need.’’

The Ravens have added senior 5’ 8” point guard Jacquelyn  LeVay, a transfer from Sickles who started for the Gryphons. The presence of LeVay, who led the Gryphons in scoring (15.9 points per game last season) allows Price to play at shooting guard, strengthening the lineup.

Kotzen also is high on freshman six-footer Lilly Barns, who was girls athlete of the year last season at Davidsen Middle School.

“Lilly is a huge pickup for us,’’ Kotzen said. “When she gets in the weight room and develops more physically, I think she’s going to be something else. She will be huge for us next year, but I think she’s going to contribute a lot the season as well.’’

Price said the lineup looks solid. Now the Ravens have an important intangible — confidence.

“We had big goals last season and we were able to achieve some of them,’’ Price said. “It pushes you to go further and work even harder.’’

Alonso begins its regular season on Nov. 28 with a home game against Wharton.

By Joey Johnston

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Westchase Recreation Center Programs: November

Adult

Zumba
Join Greg and Peggy to dance and enjoy Caribbean rhythms.
When: Sat, 10 a.m.
Cost: $7/Class

Insane Fit Girls
Small group fitness training exclusively for women and tailored to your personal fitness level and goals in a supportive and safe group setting. Please email elaine@insanefitgirls.com.
When: Tue, Thu, Fri, 9:15 a.m.
Cost: $3/Class

Badminton
Recreational play for adults to socialize, exercise and have fun!
When: Wed, 6-9 p.m.
Cost: Free

Seniors

Senior Field Trips
The first Thursday of every month seniors are offered a chance to take a variety of destination trips. To reserve your spot please call 964-2948. We are always looking for new ideas!
Thu, Nov. 2: News Channel 8 Tour
Thu, Dec. 2: Botanical Gardens Holiday Lights.

Seniors Outdoor Active Recreation (S.O.A.R.)
Seniors will have the opportunity to enjoy our beautiful parks and resources with a guided tour.
Tue, Nov. 14: Wilderness Park
Tue, Dec. 12: Emerson Point Reserve

Monday Morning Creative Corner
Express yourself in these classes devoted to various creative activities. We will be making textured acrylic paintings. 
When: Mon, November 13, 10 a.m.
Fee: $8/Class plus $5/supplies

Aerobics Lite
A fun movement class designed for active seniors who love to stay fit while exercising to music.
When: Tue, 9:30 a.m.
Cost: $2/Class

Yoga
Come to the gentle yoga class and learn how to tone and stretch your body while incorporating ancient practices to calm the mind and rejuvenate the spirit.
When: Thu, 9:30 a.m.
Cost: $3/Class

Pickleball Instruction Beginners*
Learn the fundamentals and rules of the game. Please call to schedule: 964-2948.
When: Mon and Wed, 10:30 a.m.-11 a.m.
Cost: Free

Pickleball Open Play*
Pickleball is a racquet sport combining the elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. You’ll have a blast!
When: Mon and Wed, 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Cost: Free

Pickleball League Play*
Compete against other players at your skill level in league play. Please email kingsburym@hcflgov.net for more details.
When: Fri, 10:30 a.m.
Cost: Free

Senior Tone and Stretch
Exercise to build strength and flexibility and increase range of motion.
When: Mon, Wed, Fri, 9 a.m.
Cost: Free

Walking Club
Rain or shine, the gym is open. Join your friends and track your progress.
When: Mon-Fri, 8:30-9 a.m.
Cost: Free

Appy Hour
Bring your cell phone or tablet and learn how to use the latest apps.
When: Mon, 10 a.m.
Cost: Free

Youth

Young Engineers
This is a fun and enriching science program! Each class includes the study of a principle of physics, mathematics and mechanical engineering through experiments. Participants will implement the principle using original and motorized LEGO bricks. For more info tampafl@e2.youngengineers.com
When: Tue, 6-7:30 p.m.
Cost: $15/Class plus one-time $10 registration fee.

Arts and Smarts
Hands-on enrichment classes featuring a variety of topics. Visit http://artsandsmartsinc.weebly.com or email artsandsmartsinc@gmail.com for class topics and registration information. It’s fun and learning – together.
Ages: 8 and up
When: Thu, 9:30 a.m. (Homeschool); Thu, 6-7:30 p.m.
No class the week of Thanksgiving
Cost: $15/Class

Pure Art
While working with a variety of materials and techniques, learn about famous artists (http://www.purearttampa.com).
Grades: K-5
When: First and third Sat, 9:30 -10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.-noon
Fee: $10/Class

Eagle Claw Kung Fu
Come and learn an effective combat-proven martial arts form. You will also stay fit while participating.
Ages: 8 and up
When: Tue, 6:15-7:15 p.m.
Cost: $5/Class

Karate Do
Increase fitness, strength flexibility and sharpen awareness. Karate will help reduce stress and tension, improve self-confidence and learn practical self-defense.
Ages: 8-11
When: Wed, 6:15 p.m., and Sat, 8:45 a.m.
Ages 12 and up
When: Wed, 7:30 a.m., and Sat, 11:15 a.m.
Cost: $5/Class

Karate Do Black Belt Society
All black belts are welcome!
When: Sat, 2 p.m.
Cost: $5/Class

Girls Elementary Volleyball
Learn the basic skills and fundamentals of competitive play and have lots of fun!
Ages: Grades 3-5
When: Tue, 6-7 p.m.
Cost: $10/Session plus one-time $15 admin. fee (includes a T-shirt)

Boys Middle School Walk-In Volleyball
Boys Middle School Volleyball is now an official Hillsborough County sport. Join this walk-in program designed to develop skills in preparation for this fall’s season.
Ages: Grades 4-8
When: Tue, 7:15 p.m.
Cost: $10/Class plus one-time $15 admin. fee (includes a T-shirt)

Girls Middle School Volleyball
Join our character-based program teaching volleyball skills, fundamentals and footwork.
Ages: Grades 6-8
When: Tue, 7-8 p.m.
Cost: $10/Session plus one-time $15 admin. fee (includes a T-shirt)

Tots

Toddler Time*
Activity zones are placed throughout the gym for toddlers to explore, socialize and play. Active social time for children with parent participation.
Ages: 5 and under
When: Thu, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Cost: Free

Basketball*
Family Open Gym

Gym is open to families
When: Sat, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Cost: Free

High-School Basketball*
When: Fri, 7-9 p.m.
Cost: Free

Adult Open Gym*
When: Sat, 7:30-11 a.m.
Cost: Free
West Hillsborough County Basketball Fall League are beginning soon. Roster will consist of a 10-player maximum and every player must be at least 18 years of age. Spots are limited to the first eight teams to register. Cost is $425 per team. Officials will be provided and the winning team will receive a trophy. If you have any questions, please email Coach Chris at harrisonc@hillsboroughcounty.org or call 964-2948
*Online account required to participate.

All activities take place at:

Westchase Recreation Center
9791 Westchase Dr.
Tampa, FL 33626
(813) 964-2948

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