SEMINOLE — There’s a rumble in the jungle in the Rotary Club of Lake Seminole — but this time, everyone is fighting on the same team.
Newly installed president Gerry Cachia said his theme for the club this year is “Catch the eye of the tiger” — a theme that carried over to the club’s installation ceremony June 25, which boasted elaborate jungle décor.
Along with Cachia, this year’s officers include Dave Buzza, immediate past president; Karen Main, secretary; Glenn Stamm, treasurer; Karen Sherrets and Tom Hudgins, sergeants at arms; and president-elect Mark Vernick.
“I could go on and on about the amazing people in this club and the incredible work put forth by them,” Cachia said.
Signature events hosted by the club include First Friday in Seminole, a festival held the first Friday of each month at Seminole City Center, which co-hosts the event; a haunted graveyard; a holiday concert and tree lighting; and the annual Red Sled Initiative, a fundraiser that benefits foster children in Pinellas County through Eckerd Connects.
“There are nearly 4,500 foster kids throughout the Tampa Bay area where food and gifts are not a given during ‘the most wonderful time of the year,'” Cachia said. “The Red Sled Initiative was established to collect toys, clothes, bikes, and gift cards, all designated to help the foster kids of Tampa Bay.
“Since its inception, The Red Sled Initiative has donated over $300,000, and had its biggest year in 2020 collecting over $45,000 in donations during the pandemic,” he continued.
The club most recently secured a $11,000 grant for Horses for Handicapped Foundation of Pinellas County, to install a shock-absorbing and fluid-resistant mattress system in nine horse stalls at the facility.
“Rotary is a huge national organization,” Cachia said. “With our Rotary Foundation, you can apply for grants based on the needs of the community.”
Cachia said the club applied for the grant last year and was just recently awarded the funds.
Not only did Rotary provide the funding, but volunteers were also on hand to help lay the new padding in the stalls.
“For our club, it's not all about money,” Cachia said. “There's usually a lot of physical work involved. Our people are great about getting out there and getting their hands dirty.”
Leah Frohnerath, board president of Horses for Handicapped, said the grant and support will cut down costs for the organization in the long- run, as well as help with the physical toll on the group’s volunteers.
“We are very grateful that Rotary was able to make a request for a grant on our behalf,” Frohnerath said. “And we are grateful they have joined us, and our 100 percent volunteer supported organization.”
Rotary Club of Lake Seminole also takes part in international philanthropic efforts.
In February, 10 Rotarians will travel to Belize to help build playground sets at area schools. In addition, several club members travel to Peru to perform cleft palate surgeries, spearheaded by this year's Ms. Seminole, Dr. Sandra Lilo.
“The kids out there might never have an opportunity like this,” Cachia said.
Cachia said a priority for the upcoming year will be to grow the club, which is actively seeking new members. Cachia said the group has nearly 50 members, but there is always a need for helping hands.
"It takes a village, as you hear all the time,” he said. “We need every member to pitch in and help with all the things we are doing.”