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Q&A: Rotunda Wilcox, Wimauma CDC President

To read this story in Spanish, please follow this link.

In many ways, Wimauma is just like every other rural town in the United States. Its heart is only about three square miles. Lacking infrastructure. There is no library, no police station, no bus depot, no hospital to serve residents.

Isolated from modern society by its lack of opportunities in every sector, including employment, Wimauma’s poverty rate stands at 40 to 45 percent.
 
Yet in one way, Wimauma is unlike many rural towns in the United States in that it has caught the eye of several philanthropic organizations and united them with one sole purpose: to lift Wimauma up and launch it into the forefront of development, with a better quality of life for its residents.
 
Among these groups is the new Wimauma Community Development Corporation (CDC). The Wimauma CDC works with community leaders and organizations seeking ways to create better living environments, jobs and educational and health opportunities for the residents in the Wimauma area. Though the organization has served the community since 1967, under a different name -- Wimauma Citizen Improvement League -- and vision, it recently changed its name to Wimauma CDC and narrowed its scope to three areas: Education, Affordable Housing and Economic Opportunities -- with hopes of yielding greater success in the lives of its residents. 

Here to share more about how the Wimauma CDC is working to transform its community is Rotunda Wilcox, Wimauma CDC President.
 
83 Degrees: What are your main responsibilities as president of the organization?

Rotunda Wilcox: I facilitate and schedule board meetings and community meetings, and attend various other outside meetings that could possibly have programs that could benefit our community. Then I bring that information back to our board members. I search for other programs and other resources on my own that could also benefit our community.
 
83D: What is the Wimauma CDC working on right now?

RW: One thing we are working on right now is creating partnerships, such as the one with Sister Sara from La Esperanza clinic, to bring more health services to more people in Wimauma. We are just waiting for La Esperanza clinic to transition to the old Fire Station in Wimauma.

We are also researching how we can help with transportation from one side of Wimauma to across Florida State Road 674. The idea is to help people who don’t have a car to cross that highway safely to get to La Esperanza clinic to receive healthcare assistance, once it opens its doors at the old Fire Station.

We are also working to create another partnership with another organization, Safe and Sound, to bring more opportunities to our community, not just the youth but also the adults.

We have a lot of things we are working on right now.
 
We also have a Summer Breakfast and Lunch program that feeds the children in our community. The lunch and breakfast program is for everybody. We have been doing that for two summers now and we are going to continue doing it. But we are seeing that the kids come for breakfast and then they go home and then they come back for lunch, so we want to provide something else to fill that gap. So, we also want to add a cultural arts program that will answer the need to fill this gap between breakfast and lunch. We will start surveying soon to decide which cultural arts programs fit the needs of the kids. We want to do something that the kids will be interested in doing.
 
83D: Is the summer program only available to the children of low-income families?
 
RW: The children that participate don’t have to be limited income kids. All children in our community are welcome. If they want to come, we’ll provide breakfast and lunch. 

83D: How many kids will benefit from these summer programs?

RW: I think we have the capacity to serve 50 elementary and middle school children.
 
83D: When will the programs run?

RW: We don’t have all the details now, but the Summer Breakfast and Lunch program will be for two-to-four weeks this summer.

Breakfast and lunch will be served everyday for the duration of the program. The art program will run four days a week, Monday to Thursday. Kids ages 5–13 will be accepted into the program and the instruction will be age appropriate. We are hoping the art program is well received, so the effort will be replicated next year.
 
83D: Where will this program take place?

RW: We signed up to use one of the churches in Wimauma, so hopefully we remain in the capacity to use that location. 

83D: How do you plan to tackle the need for affordable housing in Wimauma?
 
RW: As of right now, we have a couple of local developers and we are working with housing organizations such as the Florida Home Partnership and Florida Association of Housing. We have held community meetings and housing officials came out to learn the housing needs in Wimauma a little while ago and we will have them back to talk to our citizens about how they can make home improvements in the houses that they already own or build a home on land that they already have. 

We are looking to have a representative come out to one of our community meetings and present information to the citizens. 

There are programs that help build a home on the land that you already own. Many of our families don’t know how these programs work, they think they have to come up with a lot of money for a down payment and that’s not the case.

We will continue to work on nurturing partnerships and developing new ones to create opportunities for affordable housing in Wimauma.
 
83D: How are you creating economic opportunities in Wimauma?

RW: On this priority we are still working out our plan on how to get opportunities to our residents. Our vision is to have a place, something other than a community library, where our citizens can go in and learn how to build resumes, learn how to conduct an interview in a professional setting, how to dress for an interview. That’s in the works. Currently, we are referring, instead of being able to provide those services to the community.

Many of our people are going and working with Ms. Liz Gutierrez from Enterprising Latinas, who is finding those business opportunities for our residents and teaching women how to own their own business. The resource center that we are planning on creating will bring these types of programs to the Wimauma community.
 
83D: How do you envision Wimauma in 10 years?

RW: I want to see Wimauma better able to sustain itself. I want to see healthier citizens, physically healthy, providing for their families and for themselves, having jobs, those type of things.

I would like to see more trees, more roads taken care of.

We are a community, part of the citizens of Hillsborough County, as well, and we should like to be treated as such. We have presented our priorities to the county leaders and I think things are moving slowly, and we may have to push a little bit harder. 

Read more articles by Imelda Dutton.

Imelda Dutton is a Project Editor and writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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