Toastmasters Gets A Christian Twist

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By Carisa Biesecker

Most people have been there: You’re standing in front of an audience, and all of a sudden, your palms start to sweat, your mind starts to race and your heart beats so loud that you can hardly hear any thoughts that you had ready for the occasion. If this sounds familiar, then you may want to check out the St. Stephen Toastmasters Club.

Formed by St. Stephen Catholic Church’s Adult Education Program and Career Transitional Ministry (CTM), the club will initiate at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, located at 5049 Bell Shoals Rd. in Valrico, with a Kick Off Demonstration Meeting on Tuesday, March 16, at 7 p.m. Here, those having a fear of public speaking will be helped to overcome their fear through practice of the dreaded experience. Upon the club’s commencement with a prayer and the agenda, attendees will be given time for a two-minute, unrehearsed speech on various “Table Topics”, with two-three participants with prepared speeches taking center stage for five-seven minutes. From there, evaluations will be offered to foster speakers’ abilities.

“Each meeting has the opportunity for everyone to take an active role if they like,” states Cindy Wood, a member of Toast masters since 1991. “What is so worthwhile about Toast masters is that you watch others grow in their speaking abilities and their confidence. As an added benefit, with this faith-based club, everyone will grow in their faith as well.”

Wood credits Toastmasters with her going back to law school in her 40s, having excelled in the program and received the bronze and gold Able Toastmaster. From there, her belief in the nonprofit led her to create the Valrico Toastmasters Club, serving as its president. “I owe a lot to Toastmasters…Being able to share my faith is the most rewarding gift of all. St. Stephen Toastmasters has the ability to help others overcome their fear of public speaking so that they can realize that wonderful gift as well,” she adds.

Originated in the 1920s, Toastmasters has helped some 250,000 members master the art of public speaking, incorporating more than 12,000 clubs worldwide.With 20 members needed to charter the club, those interested are asked to call 684-7297 or e-mail cwood@ststephencatholic.org. There is a $20 new member fee and $5 monthly dues. To learn more regarding Toastmasters, visit www.toastmasters.org.