Every municipality goes through the constant need to upgrade infrastructure to meet the needs of its population, but an integral part of making the Village of Wellington work for its people is the Community Services Department.
With a tightly knit group of individuals dedicated to helping their community, Community Services Director Paulette Edwards is proud of her team and the work being done every day.
“We’re a family that has come together to put our capes on and get out there and serve our citizens. They come up together with innovative ideas and always come to me with potential solutions, not just problems,” Edwards said. “I am the coach. I draw up the plays, and they go out and execute. They are passionate about what we are doing. It’s not just a job.”
Originally from Milwaukee, Edwards worked for almost 20 years with the City of Orlando, where she learned about some great programming initiatives and was excited to bring new ideas to Wellington.
Her team includes all demographics and ages, and the diversity reflects the population of Wellington itself. To meet the goal of becoming an inclusive community, the staff takes on a variety of tasks, including knocking on doors to help citizens in need. It was just such a case that led to Community Services Specialist Jenifer Brito saving a woman’s life.
“We got a call from village hall, and that’s when I started to go and check on her. We developed a relationship, and we went over and saw she had a really bad leg wound. I always take a fellow team member because we saw changes in her,” Brito explained.
Despite calling Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue, the woman refused assistance and headed to New York. “The hospital in New York contacted me because she listed me as a contact and had my business card,” Brito said. “She was discharged back to Florida on a Thursday. I worried about her all weekend. On Monday, we needed to go check on her.”
That visit ended with emergency aid and the woman being rescued after being unable to get up from the floor for more than 36 hours. Brito discovered that had they not called for help, the resident would not have survived much longer.
Supporting Brito in helping the woman was Community Service Program Coordinator Kyle Ostroff. It all happened on his first day with Community Services. After being with the village for nearly 10 years, coming over from the Wellington Aquatics Complex, Ostroff has found that his work in a new department has changed his point of view.
“I grew up in Florida since fifth grade, and working here has been eye opening,” Ostroff said. “When this position opened, I thought it was a match made in heaven, and I like working with kids. Right now, we are working on the SWAG (Students Working to Achieve Greatness) program, where we tailor internships toward the students’ interest.”
In all, communication remains key, and the long-term goal of Community Services is to be a one-stop shop for information regarding any programs and services offered throughout the Village of Wellington.
Project Manager Gloria Kelly, who focuses on neighborhood needs, is also the go-to person for social media and communication for the rest of the department. She spent time working for the village both in social media communications and the Wellington Village Council’s office. This experience gives her more than just a diverse foundation.
“I grew up in Wellington. This past August, I moved over to the Community Services Department,” Kelly said. “We want to be that first step, so people don’t have to go to village hall or a council meeting to voice their concerns. We want to make sure to have contact and make sure they are stopping by our office to learn what resources are there.”
In many cases, residents’ feel that they need to go to the top of the administrative chain to get help or answers, but Community Services is there to connect first-hand with individuals, whether they are seniors or youth, affluent or in need of help.
“Right now, I’m on a mission to make community outreach efforts to all of our neighborhoods,” Kelly said. “I work with Neighborhood Watch captains a lot, so there can be a liaison to our office.”
Whether the team members are new, like Program Coordinator Gus Ponce, or have years in service as Code Enforcement Officer Helen Archer does, the group works as a cohesive unit of people filled with passion for what they do.
“The project that I love is the food drive. I know where it is going. I know these tenants, who the residents are — seeing their kids, I know their parents — and it’s really great to bring a smile to their faces,” Archer said. “We have so much, and you really don’t know that there are people in our community who have so little. The relationship between them and the village, it’s great.”
Community Grants Coordinator Jim Fackrell has worked for Wellington for more than six years. His résumé includes massive projects in his former home state of Wyoming, but he finds that the work being done here yields great impacts.
“We fund youth programs, Americans with Disability Act improvements and now a housing rehab program,” Fackrell said. “The Great Neighborhoods Program is one of the more successful programs, in my opinion. The program provides a forgivable loan so residents can complete repairs and bring their home up to code with our help.”
Edwards is proud of both her team and the direction of the Community Services Department. As a leader with passion herself, it works well for the team in its proactive pursuit of reaching out to the community.
“We are the department that can let residents know about what services are out there to help them,” Edwards said.
For more information about Wellington’s Community Services Department, call (561) 791-4796 or visit www.wellingtonfl.gov/communityservices.