LAND O'LAKES — A handful of Pasco and New Tampa girls could have just watched a makeover show on TV. Instead, the teenagers chose to do their own makeover, a community service project that spanned two years and was recently named tops in the state and No. 1 in the country.
The Little Women of Lutz, the junior club of the Lutz-Land O'Lakes Woman's Club, earned the awards because of its efforts in landscaping two buildings at the Lutz Volunteer Fire Department at the corner of Lutz Lake Fern Road and U.S. 41 in Lutz.
Christian Nunez, a Freedom High School senior and Little Women club president, got the news about the national honor by way of a call from Washington, D.C. She could hardly wait to tell club advisers Marilyn Wannamaker and Annie Fernandez.
"This is huge to win this award out of all the groups in the country," Nunez said.
Nunez and Wannamaker will accept the award, which comes with $250, in June at a national conference in Chicago. The club will also be considered for additional money awards to be announced later. The money received goes back to the club for future projects.
It all started on a sunny Saturday in March 2006. A handful of girls gave up a spring vacation day to turn over hard-packed ground with shovels, dig big holes and set large plants into place at the station in Lutz.
They planted 35 pots of podocarpus, Indian hawthorne, laurel oaks and more, transforming a drab, dusty area into a well-landscaped lawn.
Wannamaker and Fernandez worked as hard as the girls did, and a couple of parents and a boyfriend or two chipped in their efforts.
SaraCharles Stevens, a retired landscaper of 27 years and friend of Wannamaker, helped plan the project and offered advice on plants that would fit the space, allow for proper growth and be easily maintained. Husband Randy Stevens got involved helping install a sprinkler system.
"Each year, there is a state project theme and for 2006 it was "Honoring Our Heroes," Nunez explained. That's when club members considered landscaping the Fire Department.
The choice was made a bit easier since Wannamaker, incoming president of the local Woman's Club, serves on the board of the Fire Department.
The labor for the project came without charge, but there were expenses for the purchase of plants and supplies for the sprinkler system. Club members drew up a plan.
To fund the $1,400 project they searched for grants and did fundraisers, one of which was wrapping packages at a Barnes and Noble bookstore at Christmas. J.P. Morgan contributed a $500 grant and the Woman's Club chipped in funds.
The area surrounding the fire station took on a new look and in December 2007 another crew of Little Women returned to spruce up the place.
Jay Muffly, president of the Lutz Volunteer Fire Department helped with laying a walkway. Luis Rivera came with his daughter and club member Karianne Rivera to help out. Rivera, club parliamentarian, worked alongside Maritza Mulkay, club treasurer, setting flowers into place.
In another flower bed, twin sisters Kimberly and Laura Walter, pulled weeds.
After the finishing touches, the details of the project were compiled into a notebook to submit as application for possible awards. Then it was sit back and wait time.
Nunez who will attend Florida State University this fall, with plans to eventually be a lawyer, recently turned over her duties as president to Emily Cantrell who will lead the group of about 30 next year.
Nunez, reflected on the project: "This is definitely a project the group will keep up with in the future. We all worked hard on this. It shows that community service does not have to be boring."