Rotary Club builds pavilion for Rawlings Elementary

Pinellas Park Rotary Club President Josh Astarita cuts the ribbon during an Aug. 31 ceremony dedicating a new pavilion the club built for Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Elementary School.

The Pinellas Park Rotary Club has had a long-term relationship with Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Elementary School, predominantly by donating money to teachers for classroom supplies and volunteering at events.

But last year, the club approached the school’s principal Rebecca Moore and told her they’d like to do “something big” for the school as their annual project.

“One of our staff had a brilliant idea to [build a pavilion,]” she said. “I was like, I don’t know’ that’s a big project. But they did say huge, and lo and behold, they came through.”

She added, “I can’t say thank you enough for their generosity and what it’s doing for our campus and the children, most of all.”

The pavilion, which includes 12 picnic tables, was completed this summer just before the new school year began. It’s already been put to good use, Moore said.

Each month, the school hosts Lunch Bunch, where families are invited to join their children for lunch.

“It’s one of our biggest events,” she said. “We usually have 200 or more parents or grandparents come out and eat lunch with them.”

In the past, the school set up small umbrellas for families to picnic under.

“We just had these little tiny umbrellas that we would space out. But it covered such small areas with shade,” she said. “And it’s so scorching hot. Now, even if it’s lightly raining and there’s no lightning, they can sit out here comfortably.”

Students also use the pavilion to meet with mentors, the after-school art club meets there and outside groups, such as the Boy Scouts, utilize the space.

“It’s a nice venue, centrally located on campus, and it’s getting lots of use,” she said.

Rotary Club president Josh Astarita said the $16,000 to fund the project, which was built by ACS Aluminum in Pinellas Park, came from proceeds from its annual April Bowl-a-Thon, which raised around $25,000.

The funds from that event are used to support a variety of community organizations and projects, he said, including Girls Inc. of Pinellas, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Rotary Club’s Student of the Month award.