On The Ground storytelling project launches in Wimauma

To read this story in Spanish, please follow this link.
What do you know about Wimauma?

Perhaps you’ve seen the exit sign off Interstate 75 on your way through Florida east of Tampa between Brandon and Bradenton.

Perhaps you know it’s a center of the state’s remaining agriculture industry and home to migrant farmworkers who labor in the fields to ensure fresh citrus fruit, berries and other produce reaches your dining table.

Perhaps you know it only as a unique sounding word created by the town’s founder who decided to name the place in honor of his daughters, Wilma, Maude and Mary, by combining the first few letters of their names to get Wi-Mau-Ma. 

But beyond that, chances are pretty good you know little or nothing about the Hillsborough County neighborhood that is home to about 6,500 people living in a mostly rural setting, one of the least dense and lowest income areas in the state -- yet one that is facing the prospect of encroaching development, shrinking agricultural production and the need for jobs that support families and enhance the local economy.

That’s why 83 Degrees Media -- with funding from the Allegany Franciscan Ministries -- is launching a special storytelling project called “On The Ground’’ that is designed to help educate readers and raise awareness about the people and places of Wimauma.

Further, the idea is to increase the communications capacity of the organizations and nonprofits working in the neighborhood, as well as to call attention to the innovations and investments that are helping move the community forward.

The intended impact includes spurring additional “solutions oriented” media coverage, engagement and ultimately understanding of the neighborhood, resulting in additional awareness and investments that can contribute to the vitality and prosperity of the community. 

Introducing Imelda Dutton

To lead the project, 83 Degrees and our parent company, Issue Media Group, are enlisting the journalistic expertise of Imelda Dutton, a bilingual veteran reporter and editor. 

Dutton, a native of the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, has extensive expertise in Spanish communications. For more than two decades, she reported on Latin American issues for Mexican and American media, including El Universal de Mexico. She has also written for and edited Spanish and English publications, including Visión Latina, formerly a weekly publication of The (Lakeland) Ledger and The New York Times, and Ágora, a bilingual quarterly military magazine published by U.S. Northern Command. 

For the past decade she has been a strategic communications consultant for international companies, such as Booz Allen Hamilton and Jacobs Technology; and in 2014, she founded CrossoverComm Inc., her own content development and communications agency. Dutton is currently the Tampa Bay area correspondent for El Sentinel newspaper and enjoys looking for ways to promote diversity and cultural awareness among Americans.

Read Dutton’s explanation of her role and enthusiasm for the “On The Ground’’ project in a related story that you can read by clicking on this link.

She will be working with a team of storytellers, including 83 Degrees Managing Photographer Julie Busch Branaman, bilingual USF college students and other feature writers who regularly contribute to 83 Degrees.

Branaman is a multimedia photojournalist based in the Tampa Bay region. Before joining 83 Degrees as managing photographer in 2009, she worked as a journalist with The Tampa Tribune and News Channel 8. Prior to arriving in Tampa, she freelanced in the Seattle area, working on national and international stories. She earned a BA in photojournalism from Western Kentucky University. When not on assignment, she and her husband James are likely to be found hiking, kayaking or snorkeling around Florida and its waterways.

Funding for the project

The “On The Ground’’ project is being underwritten by the Allegany Franciscan Ministries “Common Good Initiative,” which is designed to “mobilize communities towards better health and wellness through community engagement, a long-term commitment of resources, and increased collaboration of citizens and stakeholders.’’

Quoting from Allegany’s website: “In keeping with the legacy of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany and with our mission to serve together in the spirit of the Gospel as a compassionate and transforming healing presence within our communities, this initiative will bring hope, inspire residents to embrace opportunities to improve their health and wellness, and make a transformative and measurable impact for the poor and underserved.’’

The project series of stories taking a deeper dive into Wimauma begins this week.

If you represent a foundation, business or organization that would like to fund a similar story telling project in another Tampa Bay area neighborhood, please contact 83 Degrees Publisher Diane Egner by sending an email to [email protected] Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

To read more stories from the 83 Degrees Media On The Ground storytelling project, follow these links for English and for Spanish.

The 83 Degrees Media On The Ground storytelling project is supported by Allegany Franciscan Ministries.

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Read more articles by Diane Egner.

Diane Egner is a community leader and award-winning journalist with more than four decades of experience reporting and writing about the Tampa Bay Area of Florida. She serves on the boards of the University of South Florida Zimmerman School of Advertising & Mass Communications Advisory Council, The Institute for Research in Art (Graphicstudio, the Contemporary Art Museum, and USF’s Public Art Program) Community Advisory Council, Sing Out and Read, and StageWorks Theatre Advisory Council. She also is a member of Leadership Florida and the Athena Society. A graduate of the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism, she won the top statewide award for editorial writing from the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors while at The Tampa Tribune and received special recognition by the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists for creative work as Content Director at WUSF Public Media. Past accomplishments and community service include leadership positions with Tampa Tiger Bay Club, USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy (WLP), Alpha House of Tampa Bay, Awesome Tampa Bay, Florida Kinship Center, AIA Tampa Bay, Powerstories, Arts Council of Hillsborough County, and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Diane and her husband, Sandy Rief, live in Tampa.