Phyllis Hoedt quietly goes about helping to preserve a sense of community that residents cherish in Lutz.
Her activities on the evening of Dec. 17 offer a glimpse into the level of her involvement. It was then Hoedt was at the Christmas Card Lane celebration in downtown Lutz. The event featured over-sized Christmas cards made of plywood, representing local organizations and businesses. It also included a showcase of local talent.
The celebration attracted hundreds, and was the last in a series of special events the Lutz Centennial Committee planned.
After hanging out at Christmas Card Lane, Hoedt headed down U.S. 41 to Christmas House at the Old Lutz School. That free annual tradition draws friends and families to the historic school building to spend time together and enjoy the festive décor.
Long before the crowds arrive at Christmas House, Hoedt and other volunteers had spent weeks decking out the schoolhouse, inside and out, for the holidays.
On evenings the school is open to the public, Hoedt is there before spectators show up to get the coffee brewing and make sure things are in order, said Shirley Simmons, one of Hoedt’s long-time friends and another committed community volunteer.
In addition to those activities, Hoedt has been involved in the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club for 39 years.
She and Simmons are co-directors of the annual Lutz Arts & Crafts Festival, sponsored by the woman’s club. The event, at Lake Park each December, includes hundreds of vendors and attracts crowds topping 100,000.
The Old Lutz School is another one of Hoedt’s passions. She was involved early on in efforts to prevent the old school from being torn down or being used as a storage building. She was a leading force in ensuring the Old Lutz School remained available for community use.
The Hillsborough County School Board gave the building to the county, and The Citizens for the Old Lutz School Building Inc. leases it from them.
“We leased it for five years and that expired,” Hoedt said. “Then we leased it for 25 years and that expired. Now, we’re back again. We got a new lease, renewed. They do it five years. They kind of automatically renew it every five years.”
That building, which has become a community icon, is the setting for pioneer family reunions, Lutz Guv’na events, flea markets and other community gatherings.
Hoedt has her finger in many other pies, as well.
“She’s a close friend to the library,” said Suzin Carr, the current Lutz Guv’na. “She was right there for the centennial.”
When Hoedt pitches in — with such events as the annual Fourth of July Parade, or the Christmas House, or the Arts & Crafts Festival — she’s not looking for any personal gratification beyond the satisfaction that comes from knowing she’s helped bring friends and family together, Carr said.
“She has no expectation other than hoping that the people who come out enjoy themselves,” Carr said.
Simmons agreed. “She doesn’t want any recognitions. She doesn’t want any buttons.”
Hoedt grew up in West Virginia, but her late husband William grew up in Florida.
They both moved to Florida in 1968 so William could set up his land surveying business. Hoedt worked with her husband, handling office duties.
The couple had two children, Wally and Sarah. Over time, the family grew to include a grandson and a great-grandchild.
The Hoedts were married for 54 years before William died on Nov. 5, 2011.
Hoedt traces her community involvement back to around the time when her husband and son got involved in the Lutz Volunteer Fire Department. Her husband also was very involved in efforts to preserve the Old Lutz School.
In her younger years, Hoedt said she was more heavily involved in her church, Tims Presbyterian Church.
Hoedt is knowledgeable and hardworking, Carr said.
“She has been such an active, important part of the Lutz community. She is a walking billboard of Lutz history,” Carr said, noting she has benefited from working with Hoedt on various projects. “She has given me so much insight.”
Friends describe Hoedt as kind and generous.
“She’s got a heart that is so big, it encompasses all of Lutz,” said another friend, Marilyn Wannamaker.
When something needs to be done, Wannamaker said, Hoedt responds by rolling up her sleeves and asking, “What can I do to help?”
Simmons said Hoedt and other community volunteers like her want to preserve the small-town feel that Lutz enjoys. That’s why they continue to contribute their time and energy to community events and causes.
“That’s what small-town America is all about, doing these small projects and keeping people together,” Simmons said.
Published April 23, 2014
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