Members of the Willis Peters Exceptional Center with a $27,378.07 giant donation check received from the Plant City Lions Club.

Recently, the Florida Strawberry Festival presented $177,000 total to 11 local groups that managed the parking lots during the recent festival. One of those recipients was the Willis Peters Exceptional Center (WPEC).

WPEC is part of the Hillsborough County Public Schools system and provides educational programs and support for students with a wide range of disabilities between the ages 3-22. Included at WPEC are programs for students with visual impairments, dual sensory impairments, physical handicaps, emotional/behavioral disabilities, and moderate to significant intellectual disabilities. Students are placed based on their individual needs.

WPEC is affiliated with the Plant City Lions Club, which helped the center receive money from the Strawberry Festival parking.

“Willis Peters became affiliated with the Plant City Lions Club after I approached them and offered the use of our vacant grass lot for parking,” said Verna McKelvin, past president and current member of the Plant City Lions Club. “They were using some of our neighbors’ yards to make money for the needs of the school, but I felt that our grass lot at Dignity Memorial could serve a great purpose for them.”

McKelvin is the community relations manager at Dignity Memorial in Plant City.

“Rebecca Nance of WPEC came to one of our weekly meetings and told us of the school, what they do and who they serve,” McKelvin said. “I will say that Frank Cummings took the ball for the Lions Club and really grew the relationship after it was introduced. Under his presidency of the Lions Club, we were able to raise enough money, separate from parking, to have the school playground covered. We raised half the funds to have the cover done and put in fans and Lions Club International matched it.”

McKelvin and the rest of her club members were excited to help WPEC.

“This year, we present WPEC with a check for $27,378.07,” McKelvin said. “WPEC receives everything that is collected from parking on the lot. There are no fees or anyone else who gets any of the proceeds. This was their biggest year. Before this year, the highest was $25,000.”

If you’d like to learn more about the Willis Peters Exceptional Center, you can visit its website at The center is located at 2919 Nelson Ave. in Dover.

If you’d like to learn more about the Plant City Lions Club, you can visit its website at

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Libby Hopkins
Libby Hopkins has been a part of the Brandon community for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of USF with a degree in journalism. She has been a freelance writer for The Osprey Observer Newspaper since 2008. She also the Executive Director of Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association. She is a dog mom to her rescue dog, Marshall. She loves being a part of the Brandon Community and she loves sharing positive news about our community.