By Derek Maul
Hillsborough County Sherriff David Gee presented Cindy Wilson of Brandon with the department’s 2013 “Volunteer of the Year” award.
The citation used buzzwords like dedication, support, and volunteerism, but the real story resides in Wilson’s lifelong devotion to helping others; her 25 years at the Sherriff’s office is just one piece of a rich history.
Born in Chattanooga, Wilson was orphaned at seven and raised by grandparents in their late 60’s. At 16, she moved to Florida with her aunt and uncle, but was kicked out shortly after graduation from Plant High School.
She knocked on doors until an elderly Hyde Park lady took her in and taught her how to cook.
“When I was in an apartment and working for the Police Department, cops took me out to eat every night,” she said.
Wilson volunteered at Tampa General Hospital when she worked for the Police; she volunteered at the Police Department when she worked at the Public Defender’s office; she volunteered at the Sheriff’s Department after she moved to Brandon in 1973.
Wilson earned “Hhonorary Deputy” status under Sheriff Henderson and Gee. She was invited to squad meetings, was known as “Squad Mama,” and participated in “ride-alongs.”
“What I love is the people,” she said. “I met some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life. They’ve been wonderful to me over the years.”
Wilson is also an administrator with Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay, where she serves on the board and is state officer representing the region.
“If you could see the stats,” Wilson said. “People have no idea how much goes on. Crime Stoppers provides a way to turn in information, remain anonymous and be eligible for cash rewards.
Wilson is a cancer survivor of over ten years, and refuses to let anything inhibit her commitment to volunteer.
For many years, the woman who left home not knowing how to cook fixed holiday meals for deputies who had to work.
“They’ve always treated me like family,” she said. And maybe that’s the best tribute of all.