For 40 years, Wilder has served Winter Garden on a variety of city boards, as well as at her church
WINTER GARDEN Since 1976, Charlie Mae Wilder has loved on the people of Winter Garden.
And with her long list of accomplishments, it was almost no surprise when she was nominated for and won this year’s Heritage Builder Award from the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation.
“She has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the residents not only in Winter Garden, but also in West Orange County,” said Cynthia Cardona, executive director at the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation.
Wilder’s story began when she first moved to Winter Garden in 1976 and became immersed in the community of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church where her husband, Frank, was a pastor.
With Bible verses always dancing on the tip of her tongue or a hymn ready to be sung, Wilder became known for her faith and love.
But love isn’t love until you show it, Wilder said.
Her love of Winter Garden became evident as she served the people of the community from the first day she arrived.
“She’s a godly person, a nice person,” said Winter Garden Mayor John Rees. “We’ve been blessed to have her here in our community.”
Wilder’s list of accomplishments are many.
She was chair of the Code of Enforcement Board, served with the Community Redevelopment Agency and the city’s Recreation Board, and when the District 3 City Commissioner seat became vacant in 2006, Wilder stepped in to fill the role. Her reasoning, she told city leaders back then, was to serve the people.
But her service of Winter Garden didn’t end there.
She helped open the Neighborhood Center for Families at the Mildred Dixon Activity Center. In 2008, she created the community garden on Ninth Street. She also spent 54 years as a Sunday school teacher.
And Wilder did all of this while furthering her own education.She received her associate’s degree in business administration in 1997 followed by her bachelor’s in 2010 at the age of 77. Even now, she’s considering going for a master’s degree.
“If I’m here long enough, I’ll get my Doctorate,” Wilder said.
Her energy and involvement is something many of her friends have become familiar with over the years.
“She’s always been one who can’t sit still; she’s never in one place,” said Annie King Morris, a close friend of Wilder. “And she’s still rippin’ and runnin’ around.”
But for all her running around, there is only one accomplishment that Wilder is most proud of - helping her special needs granddaughter, LaKaye Danielle Drummer.
“I’ve worked with her, prayed for her,” Wilder said. “When I leave here, she will be self-sufficient.”
When Wilder received word about the Heritage Builder award three weeks ago, she said she could hardly believe the heritage foundation had selected her.
“I wondered if I deserved it,” she said.
But everyone at her award ceremony last week said there was no one more deserving in the community than Wilder.
“We could not have chosen a better person to honor,” said Morris. “She is such a humble person.”
Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected].