Assessing Greater Sun City Center area

By PHYLLIS HODGES

Community Foundation of Tampa Bay President and CEO Marlene Spalten and the Foundation’s South Shore Council Chair Rick Rios were on hand at a meeting to explain the study being conducted by the Florida Institute of Government at USF of SCC’s assets and challenges.

Community Foundation of Tampa Bay President and CEO Marlene Spalten and the Foundation’s South Shore Council Chair Rick Rios were on hand at a meeting to explain the study being conducted by the Florida Institute of Government at USF of SCC’s assets and challenges.

What makes the Greater Sun City area such a great place to live? What are its assets? What are the challenges? We all have opinions and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay/South Shore Council wants to know what they are. Why?

According to the Foundation’s President and CEO Marlene Spalten, the Foundation grants millions to nonprofits in four Florida counties each year. Recipients include such organizations as SCC’s Emergency Squad and the Mary Petro Food and Medicine Fund in southern Hillsborough County. To gather residents’ views of specific community needs, the Foundation has commissioned the Florida Institute of Government at the University of South Florida to conduct a seven-month study.

At a meeting with SCC residents March 3, Spalten explained, “This study will give us concrete data that will allow us to direct resources to the areas of greatest need in Greater Sun City Center. Over our 25-year history, we have built significant resources that are used to help make our communities stronger and more vital. This formal study is to document needs in an objective way.”

Also at the meeting was South Shore Council Chair Rick Rios and the University of South Florida team that is conducting the study. Rios, who lives in SCC, reiterated Spalten’s remarks, further expressing the desire to refine the Foundation’s grant-making decisions for the Greater Sun City Center area.

Dr. Robin Ersing, who is leading the project, explained the process and timing. She said planning started in November. They have gathered all public information and had one-on-one interviews with local “stakeholders ” identified as being community leaders/activists familiar with key community systems, such as health, safety, housing, etc.

The current phase involves the formation of eight-to-12 focus groups representing various demographic, social and cultural groups in the community. Data acquired at these group meetings will then be compiled and analyzed. They expect to complete the study and report to the Foundation by early July.

This phase gives residents the opportunity to participate in USF’s research. The project team is asking for focus-group volunteers, as well as input on community components to be considered for specific discussion.

The researchers already had a list started, generated from their previous stakeholder discussions.  Others suggested by meeting attendees included newcomers, mental health professionals, snowbirds, environment, handicapped and age spread.

The team anticipates having 10 people in each group. Debbie Caneen volunteered to serve as the contact for anyone wishing to offer a suggestion or to serve in a group. She can be reached at: dcaneen@suntowersretirement.com.

While the Foundation covers four Florida counties —Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Pinellas — its South Shore Council covers only the area south of the Alafia River. Queried as to why the study is covering only the Greater Sun City Center area, Rick Rios cited availability of funds as the primary restricting factor. “We will be better equipped to look for creative solutions when we have a full picture of the needs. We need that so the Council members can be good stewards of the funds entrusted to us,” he said.

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