African-American leader raises money for leadership program

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — County leaders have come together to celebrate a staple of Hillsborough’s African-American community — a dedication for a woman who spent decades raising millions to build East Tampa.

Pointing to the pictures on the mural, Ms Chloe Coney said: “She has my baby picture here, all of you, and all my pictures.

Her story dates back to 1950 when she became the first black baby born at Charlotte County Hospital.

“I helped integrate the school system here,” she said. “I moved to Tampa when I was 4 and when I was 13 I left. Segregated, just in middle school, to go to West Tampa.

She became the first black female probation and parole officer in Hillsborough County, then founded the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa in 1992.

“That’s what the CDC does. Creating economic opportunities every day,” she added.

Over the span of 3 decades, she’s built single-family homes and created much-needed opportunities for young African Americans – and she’s not done.

“You come into my world.”

Ms. Coney is not only known for her philanthropy.

“My name is the lady with the hat. I wear hats every day,” she said. “I have over 100 hats in my house.”

Hats she’s collected from anyone and everyone over the years.

She added, “Because people know I love hats, when they passed by they would tell their family. ‘Give the hat to Chloe. She’ll wear them.

Now she hopes to do something more with these hats.

“Tampa CDC has a Suit Up and Show Up program every year,” she said, “Where they have 100 young men, 10 schools here in Hillsborough County refer young men to the program.”

The leadership program helps transform young African American men into adults and leads them towards a positive lifestyle – a small gesture that can help positively impact the next generation.

Ms. Coney sells her signature hats to help raise funds for the Suit Up and Show Up program and other programs run by the Tampa CDC.

Kevin E. Boling