By PHYLLIS HODGES
After assessing the Sun City Center area’s assets and needs, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay (CFTB) presented its findings in a public meeting April 11. The foundation’s South Shore Council had requested the study to help them refine grant-making decisions for this area. The following represents a synopsis of the extensive report presented at the meeting.
Volunteerism/Wellness: Using input gathered from residents representing a cross section of the area, CFTB’s findings reconfirmed that the overarching asset of SCC is its residents, and a belief in volunteerism is the pulse of this community. A pressing concern, however, is the influx of “new” or “younger” residents whose priorities preclude physically participating in service-related activities.
While these newer and younger residents represent an opportunity for renewed community energy, many are still working and seeking a work-life balance. It would behoove community leaders and service groups to acknowledge the cultural shift and continue to make operating adjustments accordingly. Cultivating institutional linkages (using interns) or establishing funds for transitioning previously volunteer services to paid positions are possible avenues.
Health and wellness issues are a growing concern. Illness has an impact not only on the individual affected but others, particularly caregivers. Interviews identified the need for an adult day-care facility that would provide respite services beyond that now available through Samaritan Services.
Nutritional well-being of residents with financial/health difficulties was identified as a “hidden” problem. Sun City Center has a subpopulation that seeks out assistance from food pantries and other charitable organizations. There are many, however, whose pride prevents them from asking for help. Establishing some sort of “friendly” wellness check-in service may be helpful.
A clear need also surfaced for a case management service for following up on reported needs or wellness checks when an individual’s situation creates concern by a neighbor, friend, etc. Such a service could also assist residents with navigating systems of care, e.g. insurance plans, support services.
Financial Stability: Longevity of the SCC area population and maintaining financial stability emerged as an issue for individuals faced with outliving their income or adverse financial impact when losing a spouse. Such individuals would benefit from a service that could intervene early to avert dire financial situations threatening home foreclosure, the ability to buy food and medicine, etc.
Safety: Feeling safe was cited among the top reasons for choosing this area. Both the SCC Emergency Squad and SCC Security Patrol are recognized as highly significant to the quality of life. The coordination and communication between the local community and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Fire Rescue are perceived as a strong positive community asset.
Support Resource Information: Sun City Center has an abundance of resources geared to senior citizens, but it can be a challenge to find information about them. A communication channel that consolidates information into a one-stop-shopping source might be useful.
Regional Growth: Sun City Center is witnessing fast-paced growth in adjacent communities, particularly Ruskin and Wimauma. In some cases, this influx has resulted in new business opportunities. It has also resulted in resident frustration with increased traffic and presents a risk for the area’s golf cart privileges. Effective advocacy efforts with elected officials will continue to be essential to maintaining the kind of lifestyle offered in the Sun City Center area.
John Luper, president of the SCC Community Association, is hopeful that CFTB’s conclusions are useful in making grant decisions and believes the findings can be used by local groups as well. Walt Cawein, president of the Sun City Center Charitable Foundation, echoed Luper’s thoughts, adding that he applauds CFTB for undertaking such a study. “It is the first time that I have seen many issues that have confronted SCC residents for years compiled in one document. What will be needed in the future will be grants from both that foundation and ours to local charities and organizations addressing these issues,” he said.
The CFTB contracted with the Florida Institute of Government at the University of South Florida to conduct the year-long study. Dr. Robin Ersing, research lead at the USF School of Public Affairs, presented the findings.
After Dr. Ersing’s presentation, CFTB Chief Executive Officer Marlene Spalten and CFTB South Shore Council Chair Rick Rios addressed the audience. Spalten said she was excited about what the study will do in launching some significant efforts in this area. “We learned a lot about the Sun City Center area and are viewing the results with an open mind,” she said. Rios said the council is already using the study to decide what they can do to help this community. “The study gives us a clear direction in which to move,” he said.