I remember getting the phone call last April.
A recruiter with Patch was on the line. She gave me the good news: I had been hired as the local editor of Temple Terrace Patch.
I was excited to help build the site. I gathered business listings for the Directory, found talented writers to help tell the community’s stories and got to know the interesting people that make up this amazing city.
I went full speed right up till the moment the site officially launched. That was just the beginning. I did a happy dance, took a breath, and then got back to work.
It’s hard to believe that was a year ago.
This job is more than just a 9-to-5. I live and breathe Temple Terrace, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
I’m so thrilled about everything Temple Terrace Patch has accomplished in our first year, and I look forward to what’s still to come. Before our birthday party today, 4-6 p.m. at Café Kili (stop by for coffee and cupcakes!), I’d like to look back at five of our first stories and give a brief update on each one.
Elia Wilkinson’s Corner
This is one of my favorite stories. Last year, we told you about Elia Wilkinson, a member of the Temple Terrace Garden Club since 1964, who had been toting water jugs from her home to a nearby piece of property to water plants there.
Last May, the City of Temple Terrace approved a request from the garden club to install a spigot on the city-owned parcel, which is bordered by Riverhills Drive, Springdale Place and Bahamas Avenue.
In October, 86-year-old Elia got the keys to the spigot, ending her nine-year water-toting ritual.
And now, the triangle-shaped property has a sign that marks “Elia Wilkinson’s Corner.”
Yes, it’s another special corner in Temple Terrace. Café Kili owners Patrick Gachau and Rose Waruinge have to be two of the nicest people I know. They’re so positive and cheerful that you’d never think they lost a child, a son brave enough to fight for our freedom as a U.S. Marine.
Lance Cpl. Kevin G. Waruinge and 13 other Marines gave their lives fighting in Iraq. They died in a troop carrier explosion on Aug. 3, 2005. Afterward, Patrick and Rose created the Heroes Corner in their coffee shop to honor the 14 men.
In April, Kevin Waruinge was honored as one of nearly 50 fallen soldiers featured on the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office website. The page includes the name, military branch and photograph of each of the soldiers who have died.
Café Kili was closed on Memorial Day this year so Patrick and Rose could commemorate the special day. Patrick said they went to a parade in Lakeland.
Lady Ashley Designs
The very first business we ever profiled was Lady Ashley Designs, which was located in the River Run Preserve shopping center until it closed its doors May 26.
But just because there is no longer a brick-and-mortar store doesn’t mean owners Elizabeth and Randy Sullivan aren’t selling gift items and home décor. They’ve simply moved all sales to the Lady Ashley Designs website.
In an interview about the transition, Elizabeth told me the change will give the couple time to participate in shows, travel and visit family out of state.
Elizabeth said she also plans to continue being part of the Greater Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce. She ran for a seat on the board earlier this month, and ballots were due last week. New board members are installed in August.
Masque Community Theatre
When Temple Terrace Patch launched, Masque Community Theatre was preparing for a play called “Greater Tuna.” This year, they’ve already produced “Bus Stop” and “Godspell,” and now they’re getting ready for their upcoming youth summer musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” which will run Aug. 9-13 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Masque used to have a permanent space located in the old buildings in the downtown redevelopment area. Those buildings have since been torn down to make way for residences. The theater company is currently having auditions and shows at the Lightfoot Recreation Center. They expect to move back to the redevelopment area in the fall of 2013 when the Temple Terrace Arts & Education Center is slated for completion.
Busch Gardens’ Kasi & Mtani
Who doesn’t love the cheetah and dog who have become best friends since being introduced at Busch Gardens last April?
Kasi the cheetah, whose name means “one with speed,” came to Busch Gardens in March 2011 from the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. His mother was older and unable to produce enough milk for him.
Cheetahs are very social animals, and they form coalitions in the wild because they find more success and protection with each other. But the park’s other cheetahs were too old for Kasi, so a few weeks after the cub’s arrival, Busch Gardens brought in Mtani the yellow Labrador, whose name means “companion.”
By October 2011, Kasi and Mtani had grown fast. They played together and with their trainers.
They celebrated their first anniversary as BFFs on April 16, and they visited students at Temple Terrace Elementary School on May 24. For being an outstanding student throughout the year, third-grader Parker Bennett got a special treat during the pair’s visit: He was allowed on stage with Mtani and got her to wave her paw for students. He described the experience in one word.
“Awesome!” he said.