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Wesley Chapel chamber names its unsung hero

Ellen Schroeder, an event coordinator at the New Tampa Publix, has volunteered for numerous county causes and served as the chamber's leader.

By MICHELLE JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 4, 2002

WEST MEADOWS -- Commitment is the key word in Ellen Schroeder's life. It reigns at home, at work and in her community activities.

"My parents brought me up to be committed," Schroeder said. "They were involved in volunteering, and I always saw them follow through, and I try to follow their example."

Schroeder, an event coordinator at the New Tampa Publix, was recently awarded the Unsung Hero and Ambassador of the Year Award at the Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet.

She received a special commemorative plaque for her three years as chamber president.

"She probably would have been elected president again if it was allowed in the bylaws," said Russ Miller, a member of the chamber's board of directors.

"She is a born leader. I respect her so much," he said. "She is a dynamic and very caring person."

Schroeder, 44, came to the Tampa Bay area in 1979 from Chicago. She moved to Zephyrhills 12 years ago. In February, she and Bob, her husband of 23 years, bought a home in Wesley Chapel.

They have two children: Justin, 22, and Jessica, 19.

When Schroeder moved to the Tampa Bay area, the center of Wesley Chapel was pastures, trees and one convenience store on the corner of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, formerly County Road 581, and State Road 54.

Now development is booming along both roads. The chamber is trying to meet the needs of this boomtown.

Last spring, the community carnival was a success after struggling for two years.

Schroeder started working for Publix in 1990. After a stint at the Wesley Chapel store, she moved to the one in New Tampa, where she is the event coordinator.

This year Publix recognized her talent and work ethic as well as her commitment to her community by giving her the Mr. George Award, named after grocery chain founder, George Jenkins. "He (Charlie Jenkins) is a wine connoisseur and brought some from his collection," she said. "I'm not a big wine drinker, but I enjoyed it that night."

Publix supports her endeavors, she said.

As part of the Mr. George Award, a $5,000 check was divided among charities of her choice, including Pasco United Way (she serves on its board of directors), the Arthritis Foundation and the Pasco Education Foundation, to provide playground equipment at Wesley Chapel Elementary School.

Some also went to the Lupus Association. She has a personal interest in the subject because she has a mild case of the disease.

"I have joint pain and the fatigue makes me not want to drag my butt out of bed in the morning," she said. "But, if I say I'm going to be someplace or do something, I will."

Her husband supports the fire that drives her.

"I couldn't do it if he wasn't supportive," she said.

Schroeder also works with the Coastal Cleanup, Keep Pasco Beautiful and the Walk-a-thon for the March of Dimes.

But her volunteer work for the chamber has consumed the most time.

Just 4 years old, the chamber started with 50 members. Most of the work was done out of the trunk of her car.

Now membership is up to 250.

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