Hazel Wells views herself as a “second mother” to disadvantaged residents living in East Pasco County.
And, her years of community outreach throughout Dade City, Trilby and Lacoochee are evidence of her commitment.
She attributes her charitable drive, partially, to a wish that she’d been more engaged with her own children, as they were growing up.
“I realized that I wasn’t the greatest mother in the world,” Wells said. “I wanted to make up for all that I didn’t do.”
The Trilby resident said she witnesses the poverty that many in her region live with on a daily basis.
And, she has formed a bond with many of the young people in the community — particularly those attending her brother’s church, in Trilby.
There, she came across a young man who is paraplegic and has trouble getting to church.
Seeing that situation spurred Wells to make an appearance before the Pasco County Commission to request additional sidewalks around the building.
She has also noticed that some children attending her brother’s church lack proper clothing.
She doesn’t have the financial ability to expand their wardrobe, but she does pass along clothing donated by friends.
Both parents and children have been grateful for the help, Wells said.
Kids also drop by her home to visit, and for advice.
She said they know they are welcome there.
Wells offers a simple formula for developing a strong relationship with youths.
All it requires, she said, is “just loving them and listening to them.”
As she passes along precepts she’s learned in life, she’s also had a chance to learn from the youths.
She’s had a chance to observe many youth during her time as a Pasco County school cafeteria worker and on her job at a juvenile detention center.
Seeing troubled youths in the system made her realize that they lack much-needed love, Wells said.
To provide more opportunities for kids, Wells is on a quest to gain support for improvements to the Trilby Community Center.
Wells would like to use space in the center, which is currently closed, to engage youths in arts and crafts, sewing, crocheting, cooking and other activities.
She’s already made one appearance before the Pasco County Commission, and is encouraged by the support she’s received from other local women.
Another one of her initiatives was to persuade a barber to provide free haircuts for some of the area’s disadvantaged kids.
She said she’d also like to collaborate with Pasco County Sheriff’s Deputy Jessica Ziegler, who is known in the county as “Officer Friendly.”
Wells said Ziegler has been a strong advocate for youths in community outreach efforts.
Wells doesn’t limit her help to area youths.
She’s also involved in helping disadvantaged adults.
Wells and friends have helped distribute food, blankets and hygiene items to homeless people living within Dade City, Trilby and Lacoochee.
Her church has provided boxes of food, and a local Dade City restaurant has provided soup she can give to people on the streets.
Wells also has brought attention to people in the community who dedicate themselves for others.
For instance, she held a ceremony to honor the African-American instructors who taught her at the Moore-Mickens Education Center in Dade City.
She also presented certificates to Pasco County Firefighters, to honor them for their sacrifices.
One of her longtime friends was Capt. Charles “Bo” Harrison, of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, who was slain in 2003.
Wells was involved in the renaming of 11th Street in Dade City, to honor Harrison.
Besides providing recognition for her friend, the renaming reduced confusion for first responders.
The city previously had two 11th Streets and the renaming created clarity, she explained.
“I think Bo is still saving people’s lives,” she added, with a chuckle.
More recently in 2018, Wells worked with city officials to have June 1 proclaimed as Capt. Charles “Bo” Harrison Day.
Her future plans include rebuilding her nonprofit organization, Dade City Widow’s Mite.
Established in 2004, the organization relies upon community funding to provide financial help in times of emergency, help with home maintenance and educational resources.
And, as Wells continues her quest to improve community life, she wants to make the best use of her time.
“I want to do what I can before I leave this world,” the Trilby woman said. “I want to leave a legacy of honoring people and giving children a voice in this community.”
Published May 22, 2019