City dedicates park in honor of 91-year-old community advocate

Winter Garden hosted a Juneteenth community celebration where the Charlie Mae Wilder Park was dedicated, named after the longtime east Winter Garden resident.

The city of Winter Garden hosted a Juneteenth community celebration at the newly named Charlie Mae Wilder Park on June 15.
The city of Winter Garden hosted a Juneteenth community celebration at the newly named Charlie Mae Wilder Park on June 15.
Photo by Sam Albuquerque
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The Winter Garden City Commission, at its Thursday, June 27, meeting, approved a resolution officially dedicating the city-owned park at 1203 E. Plant St. as the Charlie Mae Wilder Park, named after 91-year-old community advocate Charlie Mae Wilder

Wilder has lived in the east Winter Garden community since 1976. 

She is one of the neighborhood’s biggest advocates, and she has memberships in multiple organizations and boards designed to promote and improve the community.

“The resolution expresses a tribute to honor a remarkable resident of Winter Garden with a steadfast, life-long track record of public service and community development,” Economic Development Director Marc Hutchinson said. “Ms. Charlie Mae Wilder has served, and continues to serve, many organizations in various capacities in both Winter Garden and Central Florida, including as a former Winter Garden commissioner and is a current board member of the Winter Garden CRA. She is a respected pillar with a unifying voice for both the Historic East Winter Garden Neighborhood and the entire Winter Garden community.”

“I cannot think of a more deserving, loving person than Ms. Wilder,” Mayor John Rees added.

Charlie Mae Wilder Park is located at 1203 E Plant St.
Photo by Sam Albuquerque


Wilder works with One Winter Garden, an organization created to support unity and participation and advocate for the historic community. The group works alongside the city of Winter Garden, West Orange Habitat for Humanity and other organizations to meet the community’s needs and goals. 

She has received many accolades for her work and service. Recently, she was part of an exhibition paying tribute to local women who have made a difference in their community that was curated by the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation called “West Orange Women: Making History Part I.” 

Wilder organized the Winter Garden Community Garden in 2009, and she maintains her plot and continues her service as garden executive director. A few years ago, she was chosen as the Winter Garden Christmas Parade grand marshal and greeted parade attendees from a convertible as she cruised through downtown. 

She was named a Citizen of Distinction in 2010 by the local Culture Keepers organization, won a Heritage Builder Award from the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation in 2016 and received a Kitty J. Ellison Service Award in 2019. She helped open the Mildred Dixon Community Center and its Neighborhood Center for Families, founded the Young at Heart Seniors Inc. group, and served as president and executive director. She organized the East Winter Garden Community Development Co-op Inc. and reorganized the West Orange Citizen Action Coalition Inc., which she also was president and executive director of. 

She worked hand in hand with another east Winter Garden activist, Mildred Dixon, and together they made great strides in the community. Dixon was a Winter Garden city commissioner, and when she died while in office in 2006, Wilder was appointed to fill the seat for the remainder of Dixon’s term. She chaired the city’s Code Enforcement Board and served with the Community Redevelopment Agency and the Recreation Board. 

She organized the Community of Love Outreach Ministry, which continues today. Every Thursday, she shares God’s word and then serves lunch from tables set up in her yard. Any leftover food is packed up and delivered to shut-ins.


During the commission meeting, the CRA convened and approved the city manager executing a Commercial Revitalization Grant funding agreement between the city of Winter Garden and the James E. Dyson Revocable Trust to include related site improvement work on adjoining city-owned property in an amount not to exceed $704,000, which includes a 10% contingency. 

The agreement is being executed for the Dyson’s Plaza property — located at 209, 215 and 231 Center St. — for the purposes of renovating and improving both the building shell and the site to support the planned commercial revitalization of the Historic East Winter Garden Neighborhood and the broader community redevelopment area. 

The CRA said its goal is to stimulate economic opportunity on Center Street, as it once was in the area’s prosperous time. 

As a condition to this grant funding, the property owner also has agreed to a 10-year mortgage lien against the property, a right-of-way easement agreement and a cross-access easement agreement. 

The total grant funding to the Dyson property will be $625,000, inclusive of a 10% contingency, and reflects cost for interior/exterior building construction improvements for $384,000 performed by CPWG Constructors LLC and site work (parking lot) construction improvements for $241,000 performed by TD Thomson Construction Company.

Additionally, and related to the above agreement, is the necessary site improvement construction work on the city-owned property right next to or adjacent to the Dyson’s property, located at the northeast corner of the Tenth Street and Center Street intersection, specifically 143 Tenth St. 

This site work is tied both to the Dyson Plaza renovation, allowing egress cross access to their parking lot, and tied to the planned streetscape right-of-way improvement work at that intersection. The required site work includes the construction of a stormwater pond and the paved access that connects the two properties. 

The total cost for the required site work on adjacent city-owned property, including a 10% contingency, is $79,000 to also be performed by TD Thomson Construction Company.



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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