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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Director of Northdale OWLS keeps group moving

TAMPA – There's not a rocking chair anywhere in Northdale that can hold Bill Castens. He won't stand for it.

Castens is the director of the Northdale Owls, a senior organization with more than 800 members in the Northdale area. Owls stands for Older, Wiser, Lively Seniors. He's put the last 10 years of his life into the Owls and doesn't plan to stop anytime soon. In fact, he has some major plans for the seniors of Northdale.

He might be 68, but he is a young 68, vibrant and on the run. His wife, Anne, describes him as Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up.

“I can't sit in a rocking chair,” Castens said. “I have some money in the bank and I am happy, so I always keep on the move. I am having a great time.”

Castens moved to the Tampa Bay area in 1981 from Ohio and has no intention of ever looking at snow again. Here's just part of how Castens spends his time: he's a trustee for the taxing district, held office with the Tampa Orchard Club, volunteers with the Northdale Community Association, is treasurer of the APL, and participates in almost all of the Owls events.

He even has his own nickname in the Owls community. He is the “Head Hoot.”

When it was time to retire, Castens said he chose staying busy. He's been in Northdale for 34 years and is involved in many facets of the community. When the new gymnasium opens at the Northdale Recreation Center, which is the home of the Owls, he plans to make sure the group makes full use of the place. He coordinates most of the Owls activities, and there are plenty of them from things to do at the center to field trips all over Tampa Bay. He wanted to turn the Owls into something big and he got his way.

“You have to think about it when you are young,” Castens said. “I never thought about it and then, after I retired, I asked myself what I could do for seniors.”

In 2003, he decided it was time to step up.

“I just didn't know what to do,” Castens said. “I decided to get some seniors together at my house. It all grew from there.”

He and Anne talked about it and figured that they could host about two dozen people for the first meeting. They wondered if that many would show up.

More than 40 people wanted to attend, so Castens figured it was time for a bigger venue. He ran with the idea of the Owls and decided to make it the largest senior program in all of Hillsborough County. His relentless energy made him the right person for the job.

“I wanted this to work and when we got 66 reservations for the first meeting and more than two-thirds wanted to show up, we knew we had something.”

At first, dues were $1 a month. Now it is $15 a year. The Owls get donations from vendors and sponsorships and almost all of it goes to local charities and organizations. Castens said the Owls are simply trying to break even. Money from the Owls goes to organizations such as charities supported by the sheriff's department, the fire department and others.

Next comes Castens' pet project. He wants a senior center in Northdale, something similar to the one in Town 'N Country. He said he knows he can get it done. He has more than 800 dues-paying members in the Owls who need to spread their wings.

With his commitment to Northdale, Castens said he has no doubts.

“We need a senior center and I am going to get it done,” he said.

To become involved with the Owls, call Bill Castens at (813) 963-3539

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