Many of us use the time-consuming act of balancing work, relationships, kids and more as an excuse for not giving back to the community. We have too much on our plate as it is, so how can we make time for community service? Well, the members of the Rotary Club of Lake Nona have put that excuse to shame.
Founded in 2009 by a group of businesspeople who wanted to give back to the new and developing community of Lake Nona, Rotary Club members show that there’s always time to put Service Above Self.
“The goal of the club is a couple of things; first and foremost, to support our area – the Lake Nona area – and to support and promote Rotary International’s endeavors on a large scale that goes beyond the community,” says James Twedt, president of the Rotary Club of Lake Nona.
Twedt, who is a marketing consultant for Dex One, saw the organization as a great opportunity to both network and give back to the community.
“I was looking for an organization where I could promote business networking and at the same time, get involved with community outreach efforts,” says Twedt.
Michael Valenzuela, vice president of the Rotary Club of Lake Nona, says that he joined the Rotary Club because he, too, wanted to help the community through philanthropic efforts.
“The beauty of Rotary is that we are a group of local leaders who have the mind-set to raise money and give back to the community,” says Valenzuela, who is also the senior vice president of CNL Bank.
Each year, the Rotary Club decides on four local charities that it would like to contribute to. This year’s chosen charities are the Central Florida Children’s Home, the Lake Nona YMCA, Valencia College and the UCF College of Medicine.
Past fundraisers include a community garage sale, which donated goods from the community were resold to raise money for the Central Florida Children’s Home, and a holiday pancake breakfast where families got to take pictures with Santa Claus for a minimum donation of $5.
More than 300 people attended last year’s pancake breakfast, which greatly exceeded the clubs expectations, so they will be hosting another one in early December. The proceeds from this year’s event will go toward a newly developed scholarship program for Valencia College.
The Rotary Club also held its first annual Texas Hold ‘em Tournament at the end of October, which sold more than 100 tickets for a minimum donation of $50. The proceeds from that event were split between the Central Florida Children’s Home and the Lake Nona YMCA’s after-school scholarship program for underprivileged kids.
Although the club is less than two years old, its membership has grown substantially during that time. Last year, the club had about 15 members; this year, it has about 25. Both Valenzuela and Twedt invite those interested in joining the Rotary Club to come to one of their meetings, which are held every Monday night from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Eagle Creek Country Club.
“Anyone is welcome to visit, and, assuming a visitor is a like-minded, community-oriented businessperson, we would love to ask them for membership,” says Twedt.
As for the future, Twedt is excited to be a part of a growing club in a growing community.
“Lake Nona is one of the fastest-growing areas in Central Florida and is really going to be an economic hotspot,” he says.
And Valenzuela expects that growing club to become a staple of the community.
“I expect it to be the cornerstone of the community,” says Valenzuela. “I envision Rotary as the cornerstone, the glue of the community.”
Article by Marisa Ramiccio