Inspiring Clewiston: Dorothy Sims-Gilbert still stands strong

CLEWISTON — Some people are born into difficult circumstances and use those circumstances to justify bad choices. Others, like Dorothy Yvonne Sims-Gilbert, choose to rise above those circumstances, and change the world around them. Mrs. Sims-Gilbert was born and raised in Belle Glade. She described herself as an angry child, growing up in a culture unlike the rest of the world. She was called a “muck girl,” which is not a complimentary term. She had difficulty learning to read, and feared being called on in class; and when she was 7 years old, she was sexually assaulted which left her feeling alone, dirty and disgusted, she said.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Dorothy Yvonne Sims-Gilbert wants to help girls learn to protect themselves.

She could have allowed any of these things to set her on a path to destruction, but instead, with help from some special women in her life — her grandmother and a teacher — she chose to stop caring what the world thought of her, and focus on what she thought of herself. She determined to make a difference in the world, not just for herself but for other girls. In her own words, she began to “dig deep down inside of my brokenness and dream, dream of ways that I could give back and somehow save a girl from what I was going through.”

Last year, Mrs. Sims-Gilbert created the Coalition Purple Girl Power! which is a 501(c)(3) organization created to improve the quality of life for girls of the Tri-City area: Belle Glade, South Bay and Pahokee. They utilize S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) as tools to promote self-discipline, self-control and “real world” problem solving in girls ages 3 to 17. She believes no matter how bad it seems, there is still hope, and “strong women, professional and otherwise, from our families, from our communities and from our personal relationships, can come together and, one girl at a time, build our next generation of strong women.” She believes you can be fractured and wounded and still stand strong.

The corporate office is located at 435 S.E. Second St., Suite 2, in Belle Glade, and they can be reached by phone at 561-286-9518. The website is coalitionpurple.com.

At this time, Mrs. Sims-Gilbert is a certified nurse assistant employed at the Clewiston Nursing Home on Gloria Street. She aspires to become a registered nurse and will soon begin classes working toward her licensed practical nurse, or LPN, license.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Dorothy Sims-Gilbert, founder of Coalition Purple Girl Power!, is pictured with some of the girls in her group.

Her husband, Charles, said she is a quiet woman who doesn’t smoke or drink. “She is different,” he said. “She really cares about other people and her community.” He said she became a notary public because she wanted to serve the community, and then recently, she decided to become a certified mortgage loan signing agent. Her reason was that in a community where so many are illiterate, they need someone they can trust to be able to read the documents and explain them so they can understand them fully before they sign them.

Mrs. Sims-Gilbert has four children. Her oldest son Ja-Borien is 6. She has 5-year-old twins — Jaylien (boy) and Jayliah (girl), and a 3-year-old girl Jamoria.

“I’m so proud of her,” her husband said. “So many times people laugh at her because she doesn’t want to go out clubbing and drinking. She doesn’t care about things like that. That’s not what’s important to her.”

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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