Author Topic: Turnaround Inc. (Winter Haven, FL)  (Read 2968 times)

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Offline Ursus

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Wilcox knows sorrow drugs bring
« Reply #15 on: May 12, 2011, 12:25:11 PM »
Quote from: "Ursus"
Coming up soon: an old profile on Rubie Wilcox, who is still, fwiw, a force to be reckoned with. A few years ago, she was campaigning to get mandatory drug testing of all high school students approved by the Polk County School Board.
So... this was a front page 'Monday Profile' on Polk County School Board member Rubie Wilcox, who also happened to be a co-founder of Polk County PRIDE, as well as being heavily involved with PRIDE's project Turnaround Inc.

Straight, Inc.'s former Director of Medical Research, Dr. Donald Ian Macdonald, is even mentioned (albeit sans said distinction :D ).

Caption for pic accompanying the below article reads:

    Rubie Wilcox's home on Lake Ned in Winter Haven is carpeted with azaleas, impatiens, philodendron and other foliage.
    Chris O'Meara/The Ledger[/list]

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    The Lakeland Ledger
    Monday, April 13, 1987

    Wilcox knows sorrow drugs bring

    By Kathleen Hill
    The Ledger

    School Board member Rubie Wilcox is having a tough time.

    She's spent hours poring over more than 100 anti-drug posters submitted by area students, and she's supposed to help pick out one that will be printed and distributed countywide.

    The trouble is, they all look good to her.

    Never mind that some are crudely drawn, with crayon smears and fingerprints. To Wilcox, it's the message that counts. One, in particular, captures her attention, despite its less-than-perfect lettering.

    On one side, a teen-ager is shown lying on his bed smoking marijuana. On the other side, the same boy lies in a coffin, surrounded by tearful family members. The caption reads, "Today's user, tomorrow's loser."

    "That has real meaning for me," Wilcox says softly. "I'll tell you, I bet they've had it in the family."

    She ought to know. Wilcox's own son died from an overdose in 1979 after a six-year battle with drugs that tore her world apart. His death, and the determination to save others from a similar fate, transformed the soft-spoken Winter Haven homemaker and one-time Army officer candidate into a determined anti-drug lobbyist and politician.

    Wilcox's one-woman war against drugs has taken her from drug paraphernalia shops in Polk County to the pages of Family Circle and into the living rooms of millions through an appearance on the television talk show "Hour Magazine."

    She's not all talk, though. Instead of just complaining about the lack of accurate drug information in the late 1970s, Wilcox co-founded PRIDE of Polk County, a drug information and referral service for parents.

    In 1984, she landed a seat on the School Board no small feat for a Republican in Polk County where she paved the way for a comprehensive drug-abuse education program that is a statewide model.

    "She's changed a lot of thinking around here," said her close friend and colleague Bennie Spanjers, with whom Wilcox founded PRIDE six years ago.

    Word of Wilcox's accomplishments has even spread to the nation's capital. Just ask Dr. Donald Ian Macdonald, President Reagan's adviser on drug-abuse issues, who appeared with Wilcox on "Hour Magazine" in 1984.

    "She's an absolute zealot," the former Clearwater pediatrician said. "She is enormously committed to this issue. But it's more than that. I think Rubie just sort of exudes love. You look at her and there's nothing phony about her."

    Wilcox, 60, is embarrassed by such praise. She discusses her work matter-of-factly, with a touch of self deprecation, as though she can't quite understand what the fuss is all about.

    "You don't really want to know all this, do you?" she asks frequently during interviews, when the conversation strays into her personal life. Wilcox would much rather talk about the anti-drug crusade that nearly has become synonymous with her name.

    But while she's reluctant to talk about herself, details sometimes speak for her. Take her favorite movie, for example, the Frank Capra classic, "It's a Wonderful Life." She loves the sentimental tale of a small town hero who puts the needs of family, friends and the community about his own.

    It's easy to see why.


    Patriotism and public service are nothing new to Rubie Fay Wilcox, who says that the importance of those things was impressed upon her from childhood.

    For Wilcox, those lessons began in Long Beach, Calif., where her parents, Richard and Celia Fay, taught Rubie and her two sisters to love their country and to work hard.

    Her mother, a registered nurse, left that field to start a dry cleaning business to help pay for her daughters' education. Her father worked for Mobil Oil as a gauger, a job that involved monitoring the oil level in huge storage tanks and running the pumps that sent petroleum into the refineries.

    Between the two incomes, Wilcox said, the Fay family made a comfortable living, and life in Long Beach was sweet.

    It was just a nice little neighborhood where you left your doors open because you didn't want to lock out your neighbors," she recalled. "That was the way it was until the war came. After that, as war does, it changed everything."

    For Wilcox, the bombs that fell on Pearl Harbor might as well have fallen on Long Beach. World War II began when she was 15, a sophomore in high school.

    "It wasn't your normal high school after that," she said.

    Serious business

    "Those were years when everybody worked and there weren't a whole lot of pleasures," Wilcox said. "When we went to school, it was serious business."

    The summer she turned 16, she got a clerical job at Douglas Aircraft, which was operating at full tilt to meet the war demand. Even then, Wilcox said, she was anxious to do her part for her country.

    "That was the feeling of the time," she said. "If you didn't fight in the war, you weren't much of an American."

    She was so gung-ho, in fact, that she lied about her age to join the Army at 19 a year before the legal age for enlistment during World War II a youthful indiscretion that she's embarrassed to talk about today.

    Back then, however, the Women's Army Air Corps was a gateway to the exciting places she longed to see, such as China, where she was stationed for a year shortly after the war ended.

    Her desk jobs there, recording awards and decorations and keeping tabs on personnel, weren't that exciting. But after hours, Wilcox explored Shanghai and Peking, driving around the countryside and making friends.

    "I look back on it now, and I think, 'Oh my gosh, when my daughter was 19, if she had been there I'd have been worried sick.' But I was as at home there as I am in Winter Haven ... It was fascinating."

    Seeing China whetted her appetite for travel. In 1946, the lure of free air travel led her to take a communications job with Trans World Airlines. For the next year and a half, she toured America on weekend jaunts, going "wherever the planes were going."

    Meeting Wilbur

    Tiring of travel, she moved back home in 1949 and took a stenography course at Los Angeles Business College. Friends arranged a date for her with Wilbur Dean Wilcox, a Marine Corps captain who was stationed near her home.

    "She was a fiery redhead then, and quite independent," said the man who became her husband six months later. "She had a good head on her shoulders."

    They married on Aug. 16, 1950. Ten days later, before they even had a honeymoon, he left for Korea. It was the first of many separations, and many moves, for the Wilcoxes.

    From the time they married to the time they settled in Winter Haven in 1970, the family moved 11 times as Wil Wilcox's orders changed. the nomadic lifestyle took its toll on the couple's children, Mark and Teresa.

    "He didn't move easily," Wilcox said of Mark, her eldest, a good-natured but fragile youngster who had trouble making new friends.

    When Wil Wilcox retired from the Marines, the family moved to Winter Haven, "a nice little Southern town," to escape the drug culture that was being glorified in California, Wilcox said. But the move proved to be ironic.

    "That's when my whole world fell apart," she said.

    The week the Wilcoxes settled here, Mark, 16, became friends with a boy who introduced him to marijuana. Soon he was smoking is six times a day, unbeknownst to his family, who attributed his sudden moodiness to adolescence.

    Wilcox said she and her husband had no idea their son was involved with drugs.

    "He was a water skier, he was a scuba diver, he learned to fly an airplane," Wilcox said. "He did all of these things, and he did all of them stoned. It's a miracle he didn't kill someone. But in the end, he just hurt himself."

    Son had problems

    Mark dropped out of Winter Haven High School two weeks before graduation, left home and was jailed for vagrancy in Fort Lauderdale. He spent the next four years in and out of mental hospitals, which weaned him from his dependence on marijuana, but not from tranquilizers.

    In May of 1979, he went out jogging and didn't come back. His body was discovered in an orange grove a mile and a half away from his parents' home near Lake Florence. The cause of death was a lethal mixture of alcohol and antidepressants. He was 25.

    Mark's death opened another chapter in Wilcox's life. At a time when her friends are thinking about retirement she is once again at war, this time against a much more insidious enemy. She is often angry.

    "Oddly enough, it doesn't make me angry when they're down and out, and they're hurting and willing to help themselves. I'll work with them in any way I can," she said. "But once they've been through treatment, been straight for a year, and then they backslide ... well, it's hard for me to tolerate."

    Wilcox has watched PRIDE Parent Resource Institute for Drug Education grow from a handful of concerned parents who once met around her dining room table to a countywide organization with considerable clout.

    The non-profit agency takes two to six crisis calls a day from parents, referring them to drug-treatment facilites and support groups. Volunteers lobby their legislators, speak before church and civic groups and conduct programs in the schools.

    PRIDE's latest project has been Turnaround Inc., a 13 to 18 month treatment program for young people scheduled to open this summer in the old Post Street School in Winter Haven.

    Wilcox, who now serves as PRIDE's vice president, is still the driving force behind the agency, observers say.

    Spanjers said her friend never stands on ceremony when it comes to the drug issue.

    No fluff

    "She doesn't hesitate to tell people very gently that she thinks they're wroing," she said. "She's told that to judges, and police and to mental health people."

    Wilcox raised eyebrows three years ago by supporting a Democrat, Dan Daniels, for sheriff because of his strong anti-drug stand. Although the two are close friends, she's told him off a few times, too.

    "Every time I'd slow down on the drug thing, she'd be right on my neck, and she was right in every case," Daniels said. "I think she's a very pushy person on drugs and I wish we had a hundred more like her."

    Wilcox admits to being a little overbearing sometimes, but questions whether that's a drawback when it comes to fighting drug abuse.

    "After all, I'm right and they're wrong," she said with a smile. "They don't know what I know."

    She also rejects criticisms that she focuses too much on the drug issue, to the exclusion of other School Board responsibilities.

    Wilcox said she's gotten involved in special education and vocational programs during her tenure on the board and had defended parental concerns on issues such as discipline. She has mixed feelings about corporal punishment, saying she'd rather see youngsters serve detention or perform some service for the school system.

    Her willingness to question the rules hasn't always scored points for her in the Polk school system, where discipline is rigidly enforced.


    "On most occasions, the board supports teachers and administrators, and that's as it should be," School Board Chairman Dan Moody said. "But on some occasions, her heart was stronger than her mind was clear. She does tend to go to the rescue of the child."

    School Board member Nancy Simmons applauded that tendency, however.

    "Sometimes you can be too consistent, and the consistency makes it unfair," she said. "Rubie injects an element of, 'Wait a minute, what about the kid?' "

    Wilcox's political affiliation alone makes her something of a maverick in Polk County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2-1. She faced an uphill battle three years ago running against Bob Stephenson, a Democrat and a 31-year veteran school administrator and teacher.

    Wilcox won the $17,563-a-year job by about 3,100 votes, making her the only elected Republican now holding a countywide post. (Sheriff Lawrence Crow was appointed by the governor.) Wilcox is only the third Republican to hold a Polk County School Board seat.

    Political differences have faded since the electin, according to Wilcox, who says that school boards should be non-partisan. Observers say that if politics ever do become an issue, it will be next year, when Wilcox, now vice chairman of the board, is due to become chairman the same year she runs for re-election. Leadership positions on the board are usually rotated among the members.

    Democratic board members denied Spanjers that chance when she was on the School Board in 1979. One member cited a "loyalty oath" that prevented him from supporting a Republican, while others suggested that Spanjers would use the chairman's post to steal attention while seeking re-election.

    Polk County Republican Chairwoman Jean Burt said she doesn't expect the same thing to happen with Wilcox, although the circumstances are similar.

    "I really believe that this board is more mature and fair-minded than that," she said. "I don't think the School Board has a harder worker, or a more sincere one, than Rubie Wilcox."

    Wilcox plans to run for one more term, "to see that drug program so in place that no one can ever untangle it."

    "Then, I'm going to stop and I'm going to travel and do all the things that I want to do," Wilcox said. She wants to visit Australia, Japan and especially Ireland, where she can explore her family roots.

    These days, Wilcox barely has time to visit Brandon to see her daughter Teresa, a buyer for Eckerd Drugs in Clearwater. When she does, she dotes on her 2-month-old granddaughter, Kristen.

    On the rare occasions when she's not working at the PRIDE office or tending to school business, Wilcox enjoys swimming in her pool, reading mysteries (Mickey Spillane is her favorite), playing bridge and listening to Gershwin and classical music.

    Her hectic schedule leaves little time for her favorite hobby, gardening. The yard surrounding her sprawling 12-room house on Lake Ned is carpeted with azaleas, impatiens, philodendron and other foliage, which she planted shortly after Mark died.

    She thinks of him often. From her living room, the view of the lake is breathtaking, but it saddens her with memories of how her son loved to waterski.

    "Once you lose a child, you're forever different," she said. "When they're born, you're forever different, and when they die, there are changes in your personality and the way you think, the way you live, that are permanent."

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    « Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
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    Offline Ursus

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    Monday Profile on RUBIE WILCOX, continued
    « Reply #16 on: May 14, 2011, 01:39:22 PM »
    Sidebar to the above article by Kathleen Hill, "Wilcox knows sorrow drugs bring;" includes a head shot of Rubie Wilcox:

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    The Lakeland Ledger
    Monday, April 13, 1987

    Monday Profile

    Name: Rubie Fay Wilcox
    Occupation: School Board member, co-founder and current vice president of PRIDE of Polk County
    Birthdate: June 3, 1926
    Age: 60
    Place of birth: Hermosa Beach, Calif.
    Family: Husband: Wilbur D. Wilcox; daughter: Teresa Weeks of Brandon; granddaughter: Kristen Weeks.
    Education: Jordan High School, Long Beach, Calif. Attended Oceanside Community College and Los Angeles Business College.
    Interests: Gardening, boating, swimming, bridge, travel.
    Goals: To establish a drug education program in Polk County schools, kindergarten through grade 12. To open Turnaround Inc. a residential drug-treatment program in Winter Haven.
    Quote: "The foundation for a better tomorrow must be laid today."
    Motto: "Indecision is the graveyard of good intentions."
    Philosophy: "Believe in yourself, and what others think won't disturb you."
    Latest accomplishment: Becoming a grandmother.
    Biggest disappointment: Last November's defeat of a proposal to create a Juvenile Welfare Board.

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    « Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
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    Offline Ursus

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    Frostproof students, faculty support drug rehab center
    « Reply #17 on: June 30, 2011, 11:10:30 PM »
    The below article, detailing local fundraising efforts on behalf of Turnaround Inc., is actually to the left of the designated title link. Apparently, this article has no link of its own...

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    The Lakeland Ledger
    Thursday, April 16, 1987

    East Polk news
    Frostproof students, faculty support drug rehab center

    By Bill Blair The Ledger

    FROSTPROOF Students and faculty members at the Frostproof Junior-Senior High School hope they can make the school one of the first in the county to pledge firm support for a proposal to build a drug rehabilitation center in Winter Haven.

    A variety of activities, ranging from straight-out donations to dunking booths, have been planned this week at the school to raise funds, according to Assistant Principal Mike Tucker.

    Tucker said the goal is to raise the equivalent of at least $1 for each of the 525 students at the school.

    And with a donation of at lest $50 from the Frostproof Senior High class, it's possible that the school will exceed the goal, Tucker said.

    The funds are for Turnaround Inc., a non-profit group that plans to build a $225,000 facility in Winter Haven, according to Tucker.

    Turnaround Inc. is planning a "non-profit, foster home type, adolescent drug rehabilitation program," according to literature provided by the organization.

    Patterned after a similar program in Sarasota, the program is "dedicated to providing persons (ages 12-22) the opportunity to change negative attitudes and destructive behavior to attitudes which will allow a happy, positive drug-free life."

    By Wednesday, the school had already raised more than $400, according to Tucker.

    Tucker said that included a $1 per student fee for those attending a special baseball game at the school Tuesday afternoon.

    Wednesday's planned activities, however, had to be postponed until today because of rain.

    Tucker said students plan to set up a variety of booths during the lunch period to raise funds for the project.

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