Club History

Tampa Interbay Rotary was formed in December of 1953 by five men selected by the Tampa Rotary club and charged with the task of recruiting other charter members for the fledgling organization. These five were Byron Wilson, Bill Oldt, Harry Watrous, Norris Mullendore and Rex King who became the first President.

The Tampa Yacht Club was the scene of Interbay’s charter night on January 6, 1954. The assembly numbered close to 200, including Rotarians from around the state.

The Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club was the new club’s first meeting place. The initial task of the twenty charter members was to establish an organizational strategy and recruit enough qualified members to become an effective influence in the Tampa Interbay area and in the Rotary International community in the years ahead.

For many years Tampa Interbay Rotarians met weekly at the Egypt Masonic Temple. In the late 80’s meetings were moved to the Rusty Pelican. In the mid 90’s after trying a number of venues, we finally made The Centre Club our home.

Interbay’s first dream was for a Boy’s Club in the Interbay area. Although it was 1963 nine years later when, for the sum of $10,000, the property was purchased from the Hillsborough County School Board.

A second major undertaking was the funding of the Tampa Oral School for the Deaf. This project was initiated in 1965 and completed in five years. A house and property for the school was purchased in 1969.

During the 70’s, Interbay made contributions to the juvenile home at Lake Magdalene, the Port Tampa Girls Club, The Salvation Army, Lighthouse for the Blind, Seeing Eye Dogs and numerous others. Many of the charities Interbay Rotary supports started out with an idea or inspiration of one or two Rotarians who point out a need and follow it through.

The club has sponsored several students in The Rotary Foundation Scholarship Program which pays for a graduate student to study abroad for one year. Although not widely known, the Rotary Foundation Scholarship Program provides more scholarships than the more famous Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships combined.

We have additionally hosted members of The Group Study Exchange (GSE) Program where a rotarian leader and four team members 25-40 years of age move throughout the district for 4 to 6 weeks to expand their knowledge in their profession. The Club also supports a Youth Exchange Program where high school students attend 1 year in our school system or are sent overseas to various countries and are hosted by 3 or4 Rotary Families. We also Sponsors two students each spring to attend the Seminar for Tomorrow’s Leaders (S4TL). S4TL gathers high school students, who have been identified as leaders by their teachers, and helps them to improve their leadership and communication skills.

The 1980’s brought the formation of a fundraiser, the Western BBQ. Raising over $250,000 for local charities.

When it comes to time and talent, Interbay Rotarians give generously and aren’t afraid to sweat. In fact, they got out and swung hammers for the Senior Home Improvement Program, affectionately known as SHIP. Rotarians provide the labor to construct wheelchair ramps for elderly folks who otherwise would not be able to leave their homes. We’ve completed over 100 ramps.

In 1998 The Center for Women recognized Tampa Interbay Rotary for Outstanding Dedication to Service, for our efforts with SHIP. Additionally, our club has participated in the Mayor’s “Paint Your Heart Out Tampa” each spring and adopts a house. We complete minor repairs and paint the exterior.

No discussion of Interbay’s service projects would be complete without mentioning the Salvation Army Bell Ringing. For over 30 years, bell ringing involves Rotarians spending days in December manning the famous Red Kettle at the South Dale Mabry Publix. Interbay Rotary has been awarded the Salvation Army’s “Outstanding Civic Organization of the Year” five times.

Since the 1990’s, one of our charities has been Rotary’s Camp Florida. Located in Brandon, this camp was purchased and is funded by Rotary clubs throughout the state. The camp provides a summer camp and programs for special needs children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience a camp.

The club’s first international project was dubbed the “Guatemalan Venture.” Between 1968 and 1973, the club raised nearly $6,000 that was used to provide educational opportunities for three students selected from the interior hills of primitive Guatemala. In city schools, these students received special training to equip them to help others by carrying the advantage of education back to their communities.

Operation Toolshed launched the club on a joint venture with the Rotary club of Marsh Harbor, Abaco, Bahamas. In Marsh Harbor there was a high school with several hundred students who had very few tools with which to learn basic trade skills. An idea grew among Rotarians to round up hand and power tools of all descriptions. During a three-month collection drive, thousands of dollars’ worth of used woodworking and sheet-metal tools showed up. Along with the old tools, $4,000 worth of new tools was delivered in May 1982.

Other international projects have included: an eye clinic in India, eyeglasses for Africans, a project that sent hundreds of pairs of eyeglasses to Africa. We funded The Gift of Life program providing life saving heart surgery to children from Third World countries. Children are brought to the Tampa Bay area for just $5,000 per child. Clearly the true costs are more, but in a joint effort with the children’s home countries, Rotarians there and here, and the donated services of hospitals and doctors, much can be accomplished.

A Rotary International project known as “Polio Plus” has dominated the efforts of Rotary clubs worldwide since the 1980’s. It is a campaign of monumental scope whose goal is to wipe out polio worldwide by inoculating all children against the common childhood disease. Rotary International initially raised $242 million through the efforts of clubs around the world. Subsequent fundraising efforts by the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease control, and governments of recipient countries have pushed the total over a half billion dollars. Tampa Interbay Rotary’s initial pledge of $30,000 was completed in 1990 and for 2002-2003 the club pledged another $100 per member to the cause. Polio s been completely eliminated from the Western Hemisphere, and it is hoped that soon it will be eliminated from the Earth.

Steak and Corn is one of our longest-standing and most enjoyable social events. Held for many years, we venture throughout Tampa Bay as Rotarians graciously open their homes to us.

Last but not least, our club is proud to have sponsored two past presidents who became District Governors: Richard O. “Rick” Borgstrom in 1998-1999 and Kenneth L. “Ken” Hopkins in 2000-2001.