With less than a month looming before Christmas, everyone is scrambling to buy gifts and prepare for Santa’s arrival. In St. Cloud, one such group of dedicated folks wants to ensure that Christmas is a great day for everyone, even those who are struggling to make ends meet. And so in an annual tradition that has been around for over 30 years, the proud members of The Rotary Club of St. Cloud come out to the local retail stores to purchase gifts for families in need living in St. Cloud. This past weekend, they came out to the local Walmart in town to give between 65-100 families a Christmas to remember.
The club president Jim LaRisa, said that the members come out at 7am to do large-scale shopping and then follow it up with wrapping shortly after all the items have been purchased. This year they’re purchasing almost $3,000 worth of gifts.
“We get the list from local schools – we talk to guidance counselors and they find us some families that might need extra support,” said LaRisa. “[We] deliver it all to these families a week before Christmas.”
LaRisa also said that besides delivering the toys, they also bring those families a turkey and other items. The club puts out the call in November for the families and guidance counselors work with them to develop a list of desired items. Those lists are then organized by the club secretary, printed and distributed to members on shopping day. Each member shops for 4-5 families with 15-16 Rotary Club members and their spouses participating.`1
Besides Christmas shopping, the Rotary Club is particularly dedicated to helping the residents of St. Cloud and supporting the local community.
Brian Capo, a Rotary club member, and former club secretary explained that throughout the year, the club does many things to contribute to the community – from a leadership camp for youths to scholarships for families in need as well as building ramps for the disabled and veterans in town. The club also supports local sports in schools and buys canoes for the Boy Scouts in St. Cloud.
“It’s all about the community,” said Capo. “The younger generation in the community and hopefully raising those folks up to become leaders and better leaders.”
The Rotary Club hosts a lot of events throughout the year – they are gearing up for the annual Spring Fling event in April – with a carnival, live music, and even a car show. They also sell beer at rodeos and the majority of their funds comes from those sales. The club raises the money to invest and give back to the St. Cloud community. All of the members volunteer their time and efforts so 100% of the proceeds, always go back to benefit the local public.
The club can be found on Facebook by searching for The Rotary Club of St. Cloud, Florida to find out how to contribute as well as to suggest any ideas to how the club can help the St. Cloud community.
“Make sure you type in St. Cloud Rotary Florida, not Minnesota,” clarified LaRisa