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The Tampa Bay area can expect strong downpours and possibly severe thunderstorms today as an area of low pressure in the Gulf of Mexico makes its way onshore.
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Bollywood actors are known to be very outgoing and interactive with the audience.
Bollywood awards are like ‘the Oscars on Steroids’
The Lightning could only watch as several shots got past goaltender Anders Lindback in Game 1, including this short-handed goal by Brian Gionta in the second period.
Bolts look to pick up pieces tonight

Simplicity Is His Secret

Posted Mar 9, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Mar 9, 2007 at 12:03 PM


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Kevin Newsome describes his recent award-winning photo as simple.

Yet that candid picture of his dog Lucy sniffing inside an old Nike tennis shoe earned him first place in January’s Professional Photographers of American competition.

About 35 photographers participated in Project Nike. One Nike shoe was shipped from photographer to photographer. Each participating photographer had exactly 24 hours to
take a photo and ship the shoe off to the next person on the list.

Since the competition, the Professional Photographers of America have published a book of those pictures and sent it to Nike in hopes the company might want to use some of the pictures or work with the photographers, said Newsome.

For Newsome, this is just more recognition for his life’s work. The business owner has become accustomed to participating in photography competitions and being recognized. He has a bulk of ribbons and awards to show for his work.

He credits his success to an eye for making ordinary images stand out.

At Newsome’s Studio of Photography, 13910 N. Dale Mabry Highway, simplicity is his goal, he said.

The 51-year-old and his wife, Kaye, have owned the business for 22 years and specialize in taking photos of families and children.

“Expression and body language are what excites me,” said Newsome. “I’m not a lover and heavy user of props. I want realism without clutter.”

Newsome said he was inspired to become a photographer after seeing the work of Eddie Adams, who is known for photographing a general executing a prisoner during the Vietnam War.

By 1978, he began his photography career working for a traveling portrait company. During that time, he attended the Art Institute of Photography. By 1985, Newsome and
his wife purchased the same photography studio that photographed their wedding that same year.

The studio, originally located in South Tampa, moved to Carrollwood nine years after the Newsomes’ purchased it.

In addition to running his own business, Newsome is a member of many photography organizations, such as the Tampa Area Professional Photographers Association, Florida Professional Photographers and the Southeastern Professional Photographers Association.

“Networking with other professionals at conventions and in associations is where all the education is,” said Newsome. “You get all the answers you can not get in the classroom.”

Newsome also volunteers his time to teach seminars on photography at various conventions. In the late 1990s, he earned the craftsman photography designation through the
Professional Photographers of America, a nonprofit association that provides photographers with education and networking opportunities.

He said he has traveled throughout America providing seminars on child photography and that is what helped him earn the designation.

“You do this long enough and begin to realize the value of these organizations,” he added.

Newsome also takes the time to give back to the community. He is one of the original photographers involved in the Heart Gallery of Tampa Bay, which showcases youngsters in search of adoptive and foster homes. The gallery was the creation of the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, The Children’s Home and Hillsborough Kids Inc. The
multi-media project includes a Web site – – and traveling displays. The goal is to find the featured children, and others like them, homes.

Newsome continues to take part in the project and recently won a third-place award for one of his shots included in the gallery.

Jill Bondurant, a Carrollwood resident, has been a customer of Newsome’s since she got married eight years ago. She now returns to his studio to have photos taken of her children.

“He is amazing,” she said. “He captures all aspects of personalities. The depth of the picture is so different. There is a level of professionalism without it being posed or superficial.”

For more information, call Newsome’s Studio of Photography at 968-2810 or visit

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Ice Skating Diva Is Warming Up

Posted Feb 28, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Feb 28, 2007 at 11:51 AM


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When Morgan Gamble talks about ice skating, a big smile spreads across her face and her eyes light up.

The 8-year-old ventured into the sport when a friend took her skating for the first time a little more than two years ago.

While her first experience included a lot of falls, it also sparked a passion, she said. Soon after, the Westchase resident enrolled in group lessons and then began working with a personal trainer.

Now two years later, the Westchase Elementary School third-grader has one trophy and more than 17 medals to show for her efforts. The collection of accolades is located on what she calls
her “wall of trophies,” which has a bright pink sign that says Ice Skating Diva.

“It feels good because you can exercise and have fun with friends,” said Morgan.

Morgan works on different types of ice skating ranging from solo programs to synchronized skating with The Starbrites, a competition team from Oldsmar.

Some competitions entail her having to listen to a song three times and then create a routine immediately.

Since the beginning, Morgan began practicing three times week at the Tampa Bay Skating Academy in Oldsmar and at Westfield Countryside Mall in Clearwater. And she attends different competitions throughout the year. The competitions taking her to places like Brandon, Orlando and Marlboro, Mass. Her next stop is in Ft. Myers for the City Of Palms Ice Skating Institute

“It takes lots of practice,” Gamble said. “One day you are doing easy things and the next you are doing spins and jumps.”

Bill Coyle, Gamble’s coach, said he attributes her success with their chemistry and her focus.

“She is a pleasure to work with,” Coyle said. “She is strong willed and focused. Anything you ask she does and she doesn’t get scarred or shy away.”

One of the more difficult jumps Gamble is working on is a change foot loop combination, which requires her to spin jump and spin again on the opposite foot she started with.

Now she can do it without a problem. She added many times she sees her coach do something new, and she is doubtful but then tries it, practices it and then learns it.

Coyle said most times he doesn’t even need to give Gamble feedback because she knows what she does before he can say something.

“Being focused has helped her accomplish so much,” he added.

Her journey in the last two years has not only earned her trophies, but she has learned a lot about the types of music that correspond to the programs. And she even has a whole section of colorful costumes she has collected for her routines.

Gamble agrees she is an over achiever. She has also played coed soccer, piano and the trumpet.

While she played soccer, she scored more than 74 goals in 20 games and was the leading scorer for three seasons, said her father, George.

These trophies also have a special place on Gamble’s wall.

While staying active with ice skating, Gamble still finds time to work on her studies.

She said every Monday she does her spelling and doubles up on her reading, so she can just ice skate on Tuesday.

Carol Gamble, her mother, said her daughter does this on her own. Without her parents having to remind her or make her keep up with her studies.

She manages straight A’s while being in a gifted program for the last three years, added George Gamble.

And although Morgan Gamble wants to follow ice skating and make it to national competitions, she says she wants to be an obstetrician when she grows up.

She said the fact that her mom is a dentist has a lot to do with why she plans to go into the medical field. 

In the meantime, her favorite skaters are Michelle Kwan and Kristi Yamaguchi. She added she doesn’t watch much ice skating on television because it’s difficult to watch it and not be able to do it.

During competitions, Gamble said, she does not get nervous anymore.

“I feel more experienced,” she said. “It’s not that scary because they (coaches) would not put you to do something you are not ready for.”

“It’s tons of fun to watch her,” said her mother. “It teaches her balance and discipline. I get more nervous watching her.”

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Students Propose What Should Be Law

Posted Feb 21, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Feb 21, 2007 at 10:58 AM


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Dressed to fit the part of legislators, students from Hillsborough County met recently to tell real lawmakers what they think should become law of the land.

Through the Ought to be a Law Student Bill Drafting Competition Feb. 10, 19 students representing their schools proposed what they believe should be the law State Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa and State Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa should submit this legislative season.

By the end of the almost five-hour competition, the legislative panel, which included Crist, Ambler, State Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, and State Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland decided on a winning bill, a runner up bill and announced all students get to be on the Legislative Drafting Council that travels to Tallahassee.

The third annual Ought To Be a Law program began after Ambler attended a Great American Teach-In at Gaither High School. With the help of the students, the program was designed to give students the opportunity to learn about the legislative process and drafting a bill.

Since its inception, the program has continued to expand every year including more Hillsborough County schools. Each school now has its own process on how to select the student and bill that represents the school in the competition.

The winning bill drafted by Jonathan Porat from Hillsborough High School is now set to be assigned to a committee and awaits its fate. The bill offers an incentive (tax break) for corporations that offer paid internships to Florida high school students.

“This bill had enough features and will have the most opportunity of success,” Ambler said. “I would probably put this bill at 90 percent success.”

Also selected was a first runner-up bill, which may be included as an amendment to another established bill. This bill was drafted by Gaither High School student Jennifer Madden. Her bill was to eliminate the use of Styrofoam in Florida school lunchrooms.

“I am really happy and surprised it (bill idea) made it this far,” said Madden, 15. She added her family began researching the environmental effects of Styrofoam and decided to do more research and create a bill for the Ought to be a Law project at her school.

And although only one bill was selected for the competition, Ambler announced to students that this year all the students will have the opportunity to be on the Legislative Drafting Council and travel to Tallahassee.

“This is an incomparable opportunity for an education you can’t get in class,” said Madden’s mother, Connie.

The students will now attend three meetings in which Ambler and his staff will teach them how to properly draft the bill, then how to lobby. They will learn the whole process the bill itself will undergo. Once the bill has been assigned to a legislative committee, the students will use all this new knowledge to help the winning bill make it
through the state House and the Senate.

Ambler said that thanks to the Hillsborough County Education Fund, the Hillsborough Association of School Administrators and some corporate sponsorship all the students will have a paid trip to Tallahassee.

Hannah Voltz, 16, and junior at Sickles High School, said she is excited about the trip. “It’s what I want to do in the future, go into law then work with the legislature.”

“It’s really fun and exciting,” said Stephani Plourde, 14, freshman at Alonso High School. “I hope to go to Tallahassee. I have worked hard staying after school and working at home.”

Plourde presented an idea about prohibiting the use of tobacco in recreational parks.

Each student will now collaborate and work on the bill selected.

“We have lots of details to work out like finding the costs,” said Ambler. But the main thing, the benefit, is the internships and it’s there.

How better to show others that ought to be a law is a great program then by supporting something that values learning by doing, he added. 

While not every idea was selected, students presented some major topics like the legalization of gay marriages, incorporating stress relief time into high schools, motorcyclists wearing a helmet and helping to decrease the time it takes to respond to a state of emergency.

“It’s amazing what we saw today with the spectrum of ideas that show the diversity of our county,” said Ambler, the day of the event.

The panel not only determined which bill to select but they also took the opportunity of teaching the students during the competition. Each student received information on how to improve their presentations in the future.

“You’ll learn how to speak to anyone and take criticism,” said Zack Ford, 16, a Sickles High School junior who participated in last year’s Ought to be a Law. “It’s a lot of time and effort, but it’s worth every second of it.”

“Giving the timing of this competition a list of bills have already been filed,” Ambler said. “But that does not mean if you don’t feel passionate about the issue you can’t still stay involved.”

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Citrus Park Wal-Mart Receives Recognition

Posted Feb 21, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Feb 21, 2007 at 10:56 AM


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Traveling several times a week to the Wal-Mart in Citrus Park is not uncommon for Angela Helenek.

The Town ‘N Country resident said although she has another Wal-Mart closer to her home, this Wal-Mart is more convenient because it’s a supercenter and her bank has a branch inside.

Helenek is not the only one who travels to the Wal-Mart at 6192 Gunn Highway. An estimated 100,000 other customers also shop at this store a week, said Charles Moore, general manager.

Due to its financial performance, amount of products stocked, as well as its level of customer service and community involvement, the store was recently selected regional store of the year.

Out of 4,022 stores throughout the United States, only 26 receive this distinction, said Moore.

“It’s really just recognition,” said Moore about winning the award.

The store was chosen for the honor, Moore said, because of its high performance on monthly surveys that query shoppers about such things as customer service. He also said the store has donated $35,000 within the last year to schools, civic organizations and charities.

“We are very interested in providing a higher level of customer service,” said Moore. “We do customer surveys every month to find out what customers need.”

The award was presented at a Jan. 31 meeting held in Kansas City, Mo., and a plaque was given to the store.

To recognize the efforts of all the store’s employees, a cookout was held Feb. 2.

The 20,000-square-foot Citrus Park Wal-Mart has about 400 employees. In addition to being a supercenter, it has an on-site optometrist, a SunTrust Bank and a McDonald’s located inside, as well as a gas station outside.

Moore also said the store was not the only one to receive an award. Judy Hobbs, marketing manager for the Tampa area, was selected as marketing manager of the year. She was unavailable for comment.

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Teams Needed For Relay For Life

Posted Feb 21, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Feb 21, 2007 at 10:52 AM


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Participating and working with the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life has become something Marie Monsky cannot stay away from.

After losing her father to cancer, Monsky decided to get involved in the fight against the disease by taking part in the first Upper Tampa Bay Relay For Life at the
Bayanihan Arts and Events Center last year. She has since made the annual event a priority.

In fact, she now serves as the team development chairperson for the Upper Tampa Bay relay committee, which handles all the teams for the Tampa Bay Downs event.
In addition to helping teams get started, she is recruiting for the event, as well.

So far, the relay has teams signed up from Sickles High School, Citrus Park Elementary, Farnell Middle School and more. But with a fundraising goal of $35,000 set for this year, Monsky said many more teams are needed.

“This really is a team building event,” said Laura Benitez, community representative of the greater Tampa Unit for the American Cancer Society. It can include teams of friends, families and co-workers.

Through the Relay For Life, participants can work together to raise money for the fight against cancer. Usually teams vary between 10 to 15 members and the cost of registering is $100.

Benitez explained once the groups have signed up, they are not required to raise a specific amount of money. However, groups are encouraged to try and find sponsorships or have other types of fundraisers. The money in turn goes towards helping cancer victims and survivors locally, she added.

Monsky said many of the teams send out sponsorship letters or e-mails or they have bake sales, car washes or other types of events to raise as much money as possible.

Many areas have a relay of their own; the Upper Tampa Bay Relay will take place at Tampa Bay Downs, 11225 Race Track Road, May 18-19. The relay begins at 6 p.m. and continues until 10 a.m.

Since they say cancer never sleeps, we do the event overnight and someone from a team is always on the track representing the team, said Benitez.

The relay also includes a candlelight vigil to honor the victims and survivors of cancer. Games, live entertainment and other activities also take place during the marathon event.

“It’s really fun to stay overnight and hang out with friends,” said Alex Holtzapple, 16, a Sickles High School junior. “And all the money you collect goes to a good cause.”

For information, contact Laura Benitez at 254-3630, Marie Monsky at 926-2694 or visit

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Criminals’ Money Given To Neighborhood

Posted Feb 21, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Feb 21, 2007 at 10:50 AM


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The bad guys’ loss is the community’s gain as the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office gears up to give out more than $35,000 in grants for area improvement projects.

The money to fund the annual Community Enrichment Grant program comes from confiscated property and cash the sheriff’s office seizes during the course of business.
Nonprofit organizations can sign up to cash in on grants of up to $1,500 as long as they have projects deemed worthy by a panel of deputies and residents. The deadline to apply is March 16.

The grant program was designed by the sheriff’s office as a way to have criminals pay to improve the community, said Deputy Michelle Branscomb, a community resource deputy for Town ‘N Country.

This year, the sheriff’s office has estimated there is $35,027 available to give out in grants to nonprofit organizations.

Each interested nonprofit organization, which includes schools, churches, civic associations and crime watches, must fill out an application that must be postmarked by
March 16. Grants are then awarded to as many eligible applicants as possible, with a preference on projects that involve improving parks, community buildings and so
on, Branscomb said.

Projects that encourage community involvement also receive special consideration, she added.

For the Hope Children’s Home, 11415 Hope International Drive, much has come of the grants they have received in the last two years.

Jason Roberts, outreach coordinator at the home, said they have been able to buy generators and upgrade the concession stand used during basketball and volleyball games at the home.

“The Sheriff’s Office Community Enrichment Grant has done a lot of good for so many,” said Roberts in an e-mail.

This year the home is applying again and hopes to improve the water supply in the boys’ dorms by purchasing and installing an external water cooler, said Roberts.

Branscomb said in the past anywhere from 120 to 150 organizations have received a grant within a single year.

She added the amount of grants awarded depends on how much money has been confiscated from criminals throughout the year. She also explained that grant amounts can vary and not all applicants receive the total $1,500.

Branscomb serves on a board of eight citizens and eight community resource officers that choose the organizations that receive the grants.

Community Enrichment Grant applications are available on the Web at or they can be picked up at 2008 E. Eighth Ave. in Tampa.

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Senior Stars Perform For The Community

Posted Feb 21, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Feb 21, 2007 at 10:47 AM


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The Town ‘N Country Senior Stars hope to shine bright during this year’s talent show.

This year’s performance, dubbed a “Musical Tour of the USA,” is a change from the group’s traditional talent show, which had each performer deciding which of their talents to showcase. This year, members of the group are working together to stage a musical comedy. Work on the production began in August.

The show opens to the public at the Town ‘N Country Recreation Center, 6039 Hanley Road, on March 1 at 7 p.m. Repeat performances are set for March 2-3 at 2:30 p.m.

The Stars have been around for more than 17 years. Members, ranging in age from 53 to 86, take part in events and classes at the recreation center. In addition to the talent show, group members, who come from all over the Northwest part of the county, also play host to an annual spaghetti dinner for the community.

Midge Machado, the shows producer, said the musical is part of the “Senior Star Triple,” an initiative designed to help seniors stay active, agile and alert.

“The main point of having this show is for retired seniors to put on a show for the community,” said Carmen Gutwirth, choreographer for the Kats’ Nine, a Senior Stars dance group.

“It keeps us active and in motion,” said Linda Mann, who co-wrote the musical’s script.

With a cast of 33, the show will consist of two 40-minute acts with one intermission.

“The entire show is a hoot,” said Machado.

The story centers on a “little old lady” whose husband has died, said Machado. The lady decides to travel all over the United States in her Chevrolet. The journey includes stops in Florida, California, Alaska, Texas and New York.

Along the way, she meets many people and gets herself in quite a bit of trouble, said Machado.
Tickets for the musical are $5.

Machado said attendants should buy tickets in advance since seating is limited for the event.

Since the event has not cost much money to put together, profits will go towards community programs at the Town ‘N Country Recreation Center, added Machado.

All costumes and props were made by members.

This will be a “fun raiser” not a fundraiser, said Machado.

For information on purchasing tickets for the musical, call the director Edith Traina at 884-4515.

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Youngster Helps Create Habitat

Posted Feb 21, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Feb 21, 2007 at 10:43 AM

Daniel Alberson, 17, a senior at Sickle High School, has been working to earn his Eagle Scout ranking. The Town ‘N Country resident is part of Troop 337, which meets in the Citrus Park area. To qualify for scouting’s highest rank, Alberson recently completed a community service project. The effort took place Feb. 10 at Rowlett Park, 2548River Hills Drive, where 2,000 plants were planted by Alberson and 64 volunteers.

How old were you when you began in Scouting?

I began Cub Scouts as young as when I started kindergarten. When I turned 12, I became a Boy Scout.

Other than scouts, what other extracurricular activities do you participate in?

Well, I am a member of the engineering club at my school, I am also the leader of the young men’s group at my church, and I have a part-time job at Publix.

What was your main motivation behind joining the Boy Scouts?

It’s simple – my friends.

What have you enjoyed the most about being in Boy Scouts?

Just the memorable pranks we would all pull on each other. I don’t think I’ll have that much fun again.

What major lesson will you take with you after completing your journey through Boy Scouts?

Don’t do anything to make any one else happy, just do it for yourself. The reward is so much greater.

How difficult was it to prepare for your Eagle Scout project?

Well, actually I thought it would be impossible. Then I decided I wanted to do it and I just dove in and followed the Eagle Scout project workbook and it was a breeze.

How did you come up with the project idea?

I actually have a friend that is the senior parks department manager and I just gave him a call and he gave me several projects to chose from and I decided I would love to restore a native Floridian habitat, so I did just that.

Can you provide a summary of what your project entailed?

Well, my project was restoring Rowlett Park with a native Floridian habitat. There were three specific tasks that had to be completed, such as planting several trees in the front of the park’s entrance. And at another location, landscaping the plants respectively, and then mulching around them. The mulching and planting in front of the park entrance was quickly finished. Thanks to my huge turn out of 64 volunteers, we quickly finished the project in three hours. Then we ate lunch, which was donated by Publix.

How many badges will you have once you earn Eagle Scout?

I am pretty sure I will have 31 by that time.

Which badge would you say is your favorite?

I must say the scuba diving badge was about the most fun and at the same time difficult to obtain. It really pushed my physical fitness to the limit. Scuba diving is an experience I will never forget.

– Compiled by Jessica Balanza

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Westchase Has Another Meeting Place

Posted Feb 19, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Feb 19, 2007 at 12:57 PM


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Westchase residents in need of administrative services or a meeting place can now go to the Community Resource Center.

The center was put together earlier this month by Town Chase Properties, 12005 Whitemarsh Lane, to provide area residents access to a copy machine, fax, conference rooms and notary services.

“It’s a real way of showing our community we want to be partners,” said Janelle Vann, owner and broker of Town Chase Properties.

Town Chase Properties is a 20-agent real estate company that opened in 2005 and offers assistance with the purchase and sale of homes, leasing, property management and mortgage services.

The 3,000-square-foot office opened earlier this month at the current location after having been located at 10973 Country Way Blvd.

Along with the services the center offers, it also has a play area for children with movies, a PlayStation and toys.

This is so parents can take care of business while the children are entertained, said Vann, a Westchase resident.

Originally the idea of having the Community Resource Center developed because Vann noticed many in the community had difficulty finding locations to hold meetings.

Jim Mills, spokesman for the Westchase Community Foundation, said the foundation was invited to check out the center to see if it suits its needs.

“We have been looking for a steady place to meet,” said Mills. “This is going to be a great central hub for the entire community and the foundation.”

Vann said all services are available on a first-come, first-served basis and all services are free.

All services are available to anyone who needs them. And three rooms of varying sizes are available for meetings or conferences.

We want people to come and see what we are all about, said Vann.

“It was designed to give back to the community and it has been a big success,” he added.

For more information about times and availability call 818-0044.

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Alonso High School Initiates New Tradition

Posted Feb 19, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Feb 19, 2007 at 12:55 PM


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Alonso High School’s PTSA is hoping the community will run to help students keep organized.

The PTSA is hosting the Raven Run on March 3 at 8 a.m. to raise money for purchasing student organizers, which are given to students at the start of the year.

Joanne Gastler, a member of the ways and means committee of the PTSA, said that each year the school, 8302 Montague St., orders about 3,000 planners for students and teachers.

Gastler said that the orders from last year wiped their funds out. Their hope is that the event will raise the money needed for next school year.

“Next year’s bill will be about $7,300,” said Gastler. “We hope to raise $7,000.”

While this is an inaugural kickoff, Gastler said she has seen the success enjoyed by the Great West Chase run. Her hope is that this could be the PSTA’s one event. But no matter how successful the race is, no one doubts the true value of the agendas.

“I use my agenda everyday and I think it’s a valuable tool,” said Christine Gastler, an Alonso senior who is hoping to support her school by participating in the run.

The run is open to all ages in the community. The event will feature a 5k run or walk and then a children’s 1k fun run. The 5k race will start at the Village Plaza in West Park Village, off of Linebaugh Avenue on Montague Street. The children’s fun run, for ages 6 to 12, will start at the Gables Clubhouse, 9902 Brompton Drive.

Presently, race co-chairs Gastler and Sue Bunevich are accepting pre-registrations.

According to Gastler, those who sign up before Feb. 19 will pay only $20, versus the $25 need to register after the Feb. 19. Pre-registration racers are also guaranteed to receive a race T-shirt, race bag, and coupons.

The cost for a child to participate in the fun run is $10, no matter when they sign up.

Currently, the run is estimated to cost $2,200, however Gastler said they have already received about $2,800 from sponsors like Kids R Us, Standard Pacific Homes,
Beck Construction, Town & Country Hospital and the YMCA.

Participants of the race will be separated into categories by age and gender, with the top three in each category receiving medals.
Gastler added that all participants will get a ribbon.

“This is a great way to support your local high school and support kids,” said Gastler. “Planners are such important tools they help students start organizing their life.”

For more information about the run call Joanne Gastler at 925-1296 or Sue Bunevich at 789-7528. Also on the web

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Resource Center To Help With Acculturation

Posted Feb 19, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Feb 19, 2007 at 12:45 PM


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The Hillsborough County public school system now has a resource center that refugee students can turn to for help.

The Immigrant Acculturation Center, located at Dickenson Elementary School, 4720 Kelly Road, is the result of a $280,000 grant given by the U.S. Department of
Education to assist with the acculturation of refugee students.

Hillsborough County was one of eight districts in Florida to receive the grant and so far the only one to create a resource center, said Mary Lou Whaley, project manager.

The center held its grand opening Feb. 2 and the grant money was first put to motion for the center in October.

Located within classroom 301, the center has enough space to accommodate about 30 students.

Whaley said the main focus of the center will be providing resources for both the refugees themselves as well as anyone who works with refugees.

“The intention is to create a resource center for teachers and tutors who help refugee students,” she explained.

Refugee parents will also be able to turn to the center and receive guidance about the naturalization process, employability skills and about other services.

Whaley said the center is working to pinpoint the needs of the refugee community. There are an estimated 1,000 students that fall within the refugee category, which
means that both they and their parents fled their native countries for political, economic or religious reasons.

Whaley anticipates future classes offered by the center for refugee parents will include English as a second language and other literacy-building programs.

“Most of our energies are to support students and schools,” said Whaley.

People seeking services will not be screened for refugee status because schools are considered a safe harbor, she said. This means school officials are not allowed to ask a person’s citizenship status as a prerequisite for services.

While many of center’s clients are expected to come from referrals, walk-ins will not be turned away. Organizations such as Career Recruitment and Instruction in Basic English (CARIBE); Catholic Charities, Diocese of St. Petersburg Inc.; Florida Department of Children and Families; Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services Inc.; and the
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office will refer refugees to the resource center.

“The center is definitely needed in the community,” said Jihi Bustamante, program manager of Refugee Youth and Family Program, a part of Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services Inc. “We are looking forward to working in conjunction to more holistically serve our clients.”

Whaley said the center’s motto is based on a saying by President Jimmy Carter: “We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”

“This really describes what we hope to do,” said Whaley. “To preserve their culture and give them the tools to better themselves in a free country.”

The center will have the same hours as the elementary school, 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. For more information 873-4779.

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80-Year-Old Becomes Writer

Posted Feb 19, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Feb 19, 2007 at 12:39 PM


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When Charles Curry began writing his memoirs he was torn by the fact that he could not embellish details of his life.

Instead, he jazzed it up by taking parts of his life and mixing them with a bit of creativity, turning his story into a fictional tale.

Years later he has completed three books and is working on his fourth. One has been published. A second one is on the way.

The 80-year-old’s first book, “Not Quite a Centenarian,” was penned about seven years ago. It was recently printed by Publish America. The story is a narrative by a
nearly 100-year-old man who reminisces about hanging out with his friends in a small town in Central Florida.

“I enjoy the fact that in novels you can make up things,” said Curry.

Curry said he never really considered himself a writer.

Throughout his life, Curry tried different careers. His working life started as a mechanic for F4U Corsair fighting planes in the Marine Corps during World War II. He then went to Georgia Institute of Technology and earned a degree in architecture.

While in school, he received commission from the Air Force ROTC program and was then called into active duty in the Korean War as an Air Force architect. His resume also includes working as an architect at Logan International Airport and later starting his own company, Curry Smith Jaudon Architects Inc. He ran that business for 40

Curry said he did a lot of writing related to architecture throughout his life, but it was not until he began writing his memoirs that he was inspired to flex his creative writing muscles.

Curry’s wife, Dorothy, said watching her husband of 61-years write books is like watching her husband during his college days.

“We started our marriage while he (Charles) was at Georgia Tech and all I saw was the back of his head and it’s been the case again,” she said.

“It has been a surprise,” said Dorothy. “I didn’t know he was inclined to write.”

So far all the books are based on accounts of his life, with embellishments. And one has to do with his wife’s life, Charles said.

“The most difficult was to create characters that represent my friends in real life,” he said about the characters he had to create to represent his fishing buddies in his book “Not Quite a Centenarian.”

Curry was born in Mississippi has traveled much throughout his life. He resides with his wife in Northdale. He has two sons Neil, 57, is also a writer, and Bryan, 53, is an engineer.

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Can Walk With Waiver Traffic Situation Still Not Safe

Posted Feb 9, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Feb 9, 2007 at 01:22 PM


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Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies stood on the side of the road at the entrance of both Bryant Elementary and Farnell Middle School, hoping to catch violators.

The deputies were not just looking for traffic violators, but also for students who were violating the school’s 100 percent bus policy, a policy that had just recently changed.

Gary Tait, in charge of Hillsborough County’s Bicycle Pedestrian School Safety program, said that until recently, students were not allowed to walk, ride a bike or skateboard to school due to the lack of sidewalks. However, some students are now able to get around the policy if their parent signs a waiver.

And some parents have. Community Resource Deputy Charity Arthur said children have been walking alone, riding a bicycle, or skateboarding – some have even been taken to school in a golf cart.

“Traffic goes any which way it wants and then you add kids walking and riding bikes it creates a bad situation,” she said. “Any number of things can happen.”

Presently Nine Eagles Road and Race Track Road are under construction. Turn lanes and traffic lights have been added to alleviate traffic when entering Bryant Elementary, 13910 Nine Eagles Road, and Farnell Middle School, 13912 Nine Eagles Road.

Karen Bass, principal at Bryant, said although the traffic has loosened up there are still safety issues due to the lack of sidewalks or barriers to safely separate pedestrians from traffic.

“The biggest complaint is parents wanting their kids to walk to school, but we need a barrier or sidewalk,” said Bass.

According to Bass, if she sees a child walking or riding a bicycle to school, she speaks to the parent and informs them of the dangers. If the problem persists, she said she would have to involve other personnel, such as the school’s social worker.

She added that so far she has not had an issue. All parents that have been notified have remedied the issue.

John Cobb, principal at Farnell, explained the situation at his school is different.

Some Farnell parents have complained about their child not being able to ride bike or walk, so parents have signed a waiver.

“I have tried to enforce it as much as I can,” said Cobb. “Parents have made their requests. It’s not safe there are no crossing guards.”

In fact, the intersection has no permanent traffic lights or crosswalk lights yet.

Cobb said he feels if parents picked their child up at the school or allowed them to ride a bus, not only would it be safer but traffic would run more smoothly.

“We would like the corporation of parents,” said Cobb. “It is so much quicker if parents don’t formulate or deviate from the plan.”

Bass said she hopes to work on getting grants to eventually get sidewalks added.

“It’s something I would like to see happen,” said Bass. “Getting sidewalks would not just be good for the school but for the community.”

The lack of sidewalks, however, aren’t the only traffic issues in the area. According to Arthur, there have been 14 accidents have been reported at the intersection of Race
Track Road and Nine Eagles Road within the last three months.

During the random traffic enforcement, drivers were observed speeding, changing lanes in the middle of the intersection, blocking the intersection and cutting through the school and shopping plaza next to school.

The deputies also spoke with children who were riding their bikes to ensure they had signed a waiver. Waiverless children were warned that they could be ticketed for not wearing a helmet.

“Parents need to be aware we will be enforcing (traffic rules) it won’t just be warnings but citations,” Arthur said. “My main concern is the safety of the children.”

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A Night Of Gambling Helps School Wish List

Posted Feb 9, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Feb 9, 2007 at 01:20 PM


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Westchase Elementary parents and teachers have decided to spend a night out gambling. The real winner will be the students, as proceeds will help pay for the school’s wish list.

The Westchase Elementary PTA is hosting A Casino Nite to Remember on Feb. 24 from 6:30 p.m. until midnight at the Bayanihan Arts and Events Center, 14301 Nine Eagles Drive.

This is the first time the school has hosted a casino event. The inaugural event is being coordinated by Tracy Urso, Kelly Campbell and Ronda Woble, all members of the ways and means committee.

But there are hidden benefits to the night as well. First, students won’t have to sell gift wrap to raise funds. Secondly, the parents, well, they have their reasons.

“We get a night out,” said Woble.

“We are such a strong committee,” said Urso. “Everyone has different strengths, so when the school year started everything started to come together.”

It was last year that the mothers came up with the idea of hosting the casino night, even choosing to go with a Mardi Gras theme. But this January was when the planning really started.

“We have done really well,’ said Urso. “The community has really come forward.”

The Westchase Community Foundation is helping with the casino games featured at the event. Additionally, many sponsors have supplied items for the corresponding auction.

The event is being catered by Amy Daner, PTA member and New Orleans native. And along with casino games like Texas hold’em, blackjack and roulette. The event will also include numerous raffles.

One of the raffles – know as the raffle a balloon – allows all participants to win. Those interested pay $20 for a balloon and each balloon contains a prize.

In addition, the auction includes gift certificates, spa packages, birthday party packages and more.

Some specific items to be auctioned include a teacher gift of time, allowing a child some fun time with a teacher. Or if being a member of the administration is more your fancy, a live auction will be held for the prize of being either the principal or vice principal for a day.

Urso said the event needs to raise at least $20,000, “to really make a dent in what we need.”

The money from the event will go towards the teachers’ wish list, a list that includes items like maps, globes, printers, Elmo projectors and a covered walkway.

Tickets for the event are set at $50 per person and $90 per couple. The cost of tickets includes 5,000 gambling chips and food. Staff and teachers can purchase tickets for $50 a couple.

According to Woble, many parents are paying for their child’s teacher to go, although it is not required.

“Anyone who comes, this will be worth their time,” said Woble.

Urso said the event is for adults only, but they are still trying to get children involved by having Mardi Gras themed events at the school.

Urso said the event is also for the community. And they have already sold tickets to student-less adults.

“As a Westchase resident I am extremely excited,” said Karen Cascioli, supporter of the school. “I support the community wholeheartedly and the children are our future.”

“We hope everyone can come,” said Urso. “This is a community driven, fun event.”

For more information or to sponsor call Westchase Elementary at 631-4600.

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Help Needed To Keep Station Open

Posted Feb 9, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Feb 9, 2007 at 01:18 PM


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Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy Charity Arthur is looking for a few people who don’t mind a little hard work.

As the community resource deputy for Keystone, parts of Odessa and the Race Track Road area, Arthur is charged with not only working with businesses and residents, but also operating the substation at 13260 McCormick Drive. The problem is simple – Arthur can’t keep the office doors open during regular business hours and patrol the community at the same time.

To remedy the situation, she’s seeking volunteers to help her keep the office open full time.

“It’s a good thing because I am serving the community, but it’s not good because no one is at the office,” said Arthur.

If the office were open full time, residents could come in to file some reports, seek assistance and even get fingerprinted, said Arthur. She added that now, most residents don’t even know the office is there, because it’s never open.

While there are three volunteers already, they can’t commit to a regular business hour schedule, she said.

“My goal is to serve the community and in order for me to do that I need someone in the office to help,” said Arthur.

Deputy Faith Nadel, who works in crime prevention and oversees the volunteers, said the sheriff’s office has about 120 volunteers.

“Anybody in the community wishing to volunteer and give back to the community (can) come to volunteer at the Sheriff’s Office,” said Nadel.

Arthur said once the office has volunteers, she hopes to have a grand opening to let people know its there.

Potential volunteers must be at least 19 years old and pass a criminal background and history check, Arthur said.

“This is great to earn community service hours or for retirees who need something to do during the day,” said Arthur. “Why not come out here and serve the community and make a difference?”

For more information on becoming a volunteer, call Nadel at 247-8223.

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