TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Liz Gutierrez as the 34th Lightning Community Hero of the 2016-17 season during the first period of tonight's game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. Gutierrez, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Enterprising Latinas, Inc. and Solita's House.
Wimauma, a small community in south Hillsborough County, is twenty-five square miles and has approximately 6,400 residents, 75% of whom are Hispanic. More than 700 children under the age of four live in Wimauma, yet there are only two childcare centers, one of which is open only to migrant children during picking season. Low income women comprise 51% of the population and, other than farm labor, there are virtually no businesses to employ women. Liz Guiterrez, an immigrant herself from an economically but hard working family, through education and her own career, has been working with economically stressed communities and struggling populations for over 25 years. Gutierrez's experiences have formed who she is and inspired her to transform the needs of Wimauma into sustainable economic opportunities for women to rise out of poverty and obtain jobs.
Gutierrez founded Enterprising Latinas and has dedicated the past two years, without pay, to establishing the organization. She has taken her vision of helping women out of poverty, not with charity, but by recognizing their strengths and giving them the opportunity to train and pave new pathways of economic opportunity and security for themselves. In less than two years, Gutierrez has established the Women's Opportunity Center at the Beth- El Mission in Ruskin. She obtained the support of community funders and partners and launched the Wimauma Cares Program. Wimauma Cares is training women to become childcare workers, with the potential to open childcare centers in their homes. This meets two huge needs in Wimauma: quality and safe early childhood education and income for the women. Gutierrez identified a need, rolled up her sleeves and got to work to find solutions because she believes we are all connected and creating an environment and community where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, is in everyone's best interest.
Gutierrez becomes the 263rd Lightning Community Hero since Jeff and Penny Vinik introduced the Lightning Community Hero program in 2011-12 with a $10 million, five-season commitment to the Tampa Bay community. Through this evening's game, in total, the Lightning Foundation has granted $13.3 million to more than 300 different non-profits in the Greater Tampa Bay area. Last summer, the Vinik's announced that the community hero program will give away another $10-million over the next five seasons.
Video: Lightning honor Gutierrez as Hero