Even though he’s a well-spoken politician, Wilton Simpson was at a loss for words.
“It was very … surprising,” the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture said. “This is all so … humbling.”
The Trilby resident, and former state senator, was in awe that the new CARES (Community Aging and Retirement Services) senior center coming to Dade City in 2024 will be named in his honor.
It made sense to name it the CARES Wilton Simpson Senior Center, since he can be credited with making it happen.
“I had to name it after him,” said Jemith Rosa, CEO of CARES. “It wouldn’t have happened without Mr. Simpson.”
About two years ago, when Simpson was still Senate president for the Florida Legislation, Rosa initially came to him looking for state funding for a new senior center. She was asking for $1.5 million to help build the $2 million, 6,000-square-foot facility, which will provide a one-stop senior facility with an adult day care facility for 60, multi-purpose, senior enrichment and recreation areas and administrative offices.
However, Rosa needed more and never expected Simpson to provide it.
“Well,” Simpson recalled, “Jemith visited me and said they wanted to build a new facility, and I’m familiar with the current one as I’ve lived here all my life. She said now she needed land, too.
“And I was like, ‘Well, I’ve got some land right across the road from your building.’”
“It never dawned on me that this property was his, even though he has a lot of land in Dade City,” Rosa added. “I had about three minutes with him and asked him for the $1.5 million to build the facility. He said, ‘Jemith, I owe the land right behind (the CARES) building (on Fifth Street) – do you want it?’
“And we shook hands — done deal. Fastest deal I have ever made in my life.”
Fast forward about two years and Simpson, Rosa, city and county officials, and CARES board members all ceremoniously broke ground for the new facility on Fourth Street on Jan. 30.
The nonprofit organization has helped older adults stay at home, independent, connected and informed through health, social and support services for the past 50 years.
Ryman Construction will start work soon, with Rosa hoping for a grand opening of the new facility by late January 2024.
“Everyone and every city needs a Wilton Simpson,” Dade City Mayor James Shive said. “Just what he has done for this town and area is truly incredible. He definitely deserves his name on this facility.”
The new facility will double the capacity of seniors in adult day care, from 30 to 60, while CARES will sell off the old building on Fifth Street.
Simpson said the upgrades and additional space that are provided by the new facilities are needed.
“You need this type of facility to make your community complete,” he said. “Especially in Dade City, to handle the volume of seniors. A lot of times these things don’t happen until after the growth happens, when it’s well beyond the need of what the community is projecting.
“We’re very fortunate to get a little ahead of the curve, and this facility is really going to change the quality of life for many families and seniors,” Simpson added.
“The stars just aligned, and we were able to get it done for this community.”
CARES Wilton Simpson Senior Center
Where: On Fourth Street in Dade City, behind the CARES Crescent Center, which is on Fifth Street.
Details: A 6,000-square-foot center will be built on a 1.7-acre site donated by Wilton Simpson, who is now the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture. The facility will provide a one-stop senior facility with an adult day care facility for 60, multi-purpose, senior enrichment and recreation areas and administrative offices.
CARES (Community Aging and Retirement Services) has been providing services since 1973 to help older adults stay at home, independent, connected and informed through health, social and support services. For more information, visit CARESfl.org.
To receive state-based CARES in-home care services, seniors or caregivers must first apply through the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas at AgingCareFL.org.
Published February 08, 2023