Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New center will serve Tommytown's youth

Margarita Romo and her staff at Farmworkers Self-Help collected $70,000 to buy a building, which had previously been a pool hall, and turn it into a community center.   


Margarita Romo and her staff at Farmworkers Self-Help collected $70,000 to buy a building, which had previously been a pool hall, and turn it into a community center. 

DADE CITY — Residents along Tommytown's Calle de Milagros consider themselves a tight-knit community. They have a park for gatherings and children's activities, a family clinic with three volunteer doctors and sanctioned festivals, including one on Cinco de Mayo.

And now, they have a community center.

It wasn't easy to raise the money in one of Pasco's poorest communities, but Margarita Romo and her staff at Farmworkers Self-Help collected $70,000 to purchase the building and start the center.

People donated various amounts to the cause, including several anonymous donations, but Romo is proud of raising all the money locally.

"Especially in these economic times … we want to thank them because (this effort) was a walk of faith," she said.

The 2,000-square-foot community center will provide a home for the Dream Team, a youth group created in 1987 to keep kids on a successful path. Romo said the center was previously a pool hall wrought with shady activity, but now it will provide a quiet place to do homework and get tutoring. Kids can also gather to play soccer and other sports with their peers.

Thirty years ago, "Everyone was in the fields working," Romo said. Today she sees more people finishing school and going to college, and the community center will help their efforts.

For the center to survive, however, Romo said the youth must step up and do their part.

"They have to learn how to cherish it and take care of it," she said.

Those allowed inside the center must be a part of the Dream Team or productive young members of the community, she said.

To ensure safety, everyone must empty their pockets before entering and submit to random drug tests from time to time. "Hopefully, (the children) see there is so much fun inside, they will want to go in," she said.

Visitors must also be regular churchgoers at the congregation of their choice.

"We want them (the children) to have everything they need, including spirituality," Romo said. She believes a spiritual foundation can produce young children of virtue, which can help the future leaders of the community.

One of those future leaders is Carlos Segovia, a senior at Pasco High School. He plans to go to college and major in business management. He credits Farmworkers Self-Help with helping get him there.

"They have opened a lot of doors," he said.

Last year, Segovia went with Farmworkers to Tallahassee to see the inner workings of the Capitol and attend various conferences, as well as speak at the University of South Florida at an event for Hispanic youth.

The community center will provide others with the same opportunities, he said.

"It's going to show youth that there is someone here that cares about you," he said. "If you have a goal, they'll push you."

Student like Segovia are determined to make it to college, and Farmworkers is trying to help.

"Right now, we are working on the funding, but we need more donations," said Romo.

Segovia remains confident that things will work out: "If I can't get in through the front door, I'll have to go in through the back, and if that is closed, I'll find a window."

The community center is another step toward improving the conditions in Tommytown. The community sprouted in the 1940s and 1950s as families came to work at the then-booming Lykes Pasco packing plant. By the time the citrus plant closed in 2004, Tommytown was home to the working poor, many of them migrant workers.

Farmworkers Self-Help has spent the past three decades educating and advocating for the community's workers. Its efforts are far-reaching, from breast cancer awareness programs with the Susan G. Komen Foundation to immigration and other legal assistance.

County officials recently completed an overhaul of Tommytown's infrastructure, including 7 miles of paved streets, new sidewalks, sewers and stormwater drainage. The county also knocked down 15 blighted houses.

Romo said the improvements were inspired, in part, by the local youths.

"Our kids invited (County Commissioners to the neighborhood), so that they could walk with us and see where the kids had to live," she said.

Romo hopes all these efforts help shape the future of the community.

"We want people to understand that you can still do something," she said.

>>if you go

Opening day

Farmworkers Self-Help will hold a celebration starting at 3 p.m. Saturday, with a ribbon-cutting at 4 p.m., to mark the opening of the community center at 37240 Calle de Milagros in Dade City. For information, call (352) 567-1432.

New center will serve Tommytown's youth 02/24/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 24, 2011 8:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Cavern' closes westbound lanes on E Fletcher Avenue in Hillsborough County


    Westbound lanes of E Fletcher Avenue are closed near the Hillsborough River to repair what the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office terms a "cavern" that formed under the roadway.

  2. Joss Whedon's ex-wife accuses him of cheating, being 'hypocrite preaching feminist ideals'


    Joss Whedon made his name directing cult television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and big-budget action movies, which often featured women in empowering roles. Many applauded him for being a champion of women, a feminist in an industry accused of misogyny and sexism.

    Joss Whedon at the screening of "Much Ado About Nothing" in 2014. Whedon's ex-wife Kai Cole alleged in an essay published by The Wrap on Sunday that Whedon had multiple affairs during their 16-year marriage. (Associated Press)
  3. Pasco school's parents, principal seek compromise on behavior plan


    Leaders of a Pasco County elementary school that has come under criticism for its new behavior plan have offered an alternative model that sticks to its goals while also better considering younger children who might not understand the original terminology.

    This is the revised discipline chart that Deer Park Elementary is working on.
  4. Jon Gruden, Rex Ryan meet with Jameis Winston on 'Hard Knocks'


    One of the interesting guest stars on HBO's "Hard Knocks", which covers every minute of the Bucs' training camp and preseason, has been Jon Gruden. The legendary former Tampa Bay coach has popped up from time …

    In a teaser clip from episode 3 of "Hard Knocks", Jon Gruden and fellow former coach Rex Ryan meet with Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston to discuss his past and future in the NFL. [HBO/NFL FILMS]
  5. German police seize thousands of 'Trump' ecstasy tablets


    BERLIN — German police say they have seized thousands of tablets of the party drug ecstasy in the shape of Donald Trump's head, a haul with an estimated street value of 39,000 euros ($45,900.)

    This undated  picture provided by Polizeiinspektion Osnabrueck police shows an ecstasy pill. German police say they have seized thousands of ecstasy pills in the shape of President Donald Trump's head, a haul  with an estimated street value of 39,000 euros ($45,900). Police in Osnabrueck, in northwestern Germany, say they found the drugs during a check Saturday evening on an Austrian-registered car on the A30 highway. [Police Osnabrueck via AP]