Our 2020 Annual Meeting was held via a YouTube LIVE stream on Friday, October 30. The event culminated our 30 Days of YAY campaign, an online positivity movement that has been celebrating so much of the good that has happened in Winter Haven and with our members over the last fiscal year. We have survived a crazy year and now is the time to rejoice in our perseverance and success. During the virtual event we saluted the people, businesses and memorable moments of the 2019-2020 Chamber fiscal year including small and large business of the year. We will also unveiled a new community video. You can watch the virtual annual meeting in its entirety below.
Thank You to Our Volunteers
It takes numerous volunteers to help the chamber be successful. We want to recognize those volunteers who serve as an extension of the Chamber staff.
2019-2020 Board of Directors
The Chamber’s Ambassadors are a group of volunteers who spend countless hours recruiting new members, touching base with existing members, attending ribbon cuttings, mentoring new members at networking events, volunteering at our fundraisers and so much more. Thank you to this hard-working team.
The Presidential Ambassador program was created to recognize exceptional dedication and commitment to the role of ambassador. The volunteers that we recognize with this designation have met challenging benchmarks in the last 12 months and several of these outstanding individuals have achieved this for several years running!
Earning Presidential Ambassador for a 2nd Year:
Earning Presidential Ambassador for a 3rd Year
Earning Presidential Ambassador for a 4th Year:
Earning Presidential Ambassador for a 5th Year:
Thank you to the rest of our ambassador committee for their service to our members:
Small & Large Business of the Year Nominees:
Small Business of the Year
This year’s small business of the year goes to a company focused on informing the community, but from our viewpoint, they are also inspiring the community on a weekly basis.
The Winter Haven Sun weekly newspaper was launched in August 2016 when their owners at the time realized that with Winter Haven’s growth, business culture and unique community spirit we needed our own newspaper. Their goal was local, local, local with a pivot from the cliched “if it bleeds it leads” mentality to a focus on sharing more of the positive stories and innovative people that are helping to form the Winter Haven we know today.
That legacy continues under the ownership of parent company DR Media. Over the course of the last 4 years, the Winter Haven Sun has done so much to change the narrative in this community from one of self-deprecation to one filled with community-pride. While the list of their contributions to Winter Haven is long, there are a few I want to highlight.
As you may or may not know, your Winter Haven Chamber is heavily involved in advocacy for our educational opportunities, including the public school system. A few years ago we realized, in collaboration with our community’s K-12 principals, that we all needed to do a better job telling the positive stories of our school system. We approached the Winter Haven Sun and they did not hesitate. The Sun set aside column inches on a routine basis to allow our principals and administrators, students and teachers, to share the plethora of good news, incredible successes and astonishing accomplishments of our local educational system.
Another example of the Winter Haven Sun’s dedication to the community came from their swift response to the pandemic’s impact on our business community.
As soon as it was apparent that businesses would have to change their operations, the Winter Haven Sun created a free advertising program to enable our local businesses to communicate those changes to their customers. They donated $28,500 worth of advertising to small businesses in east Polk County. The majority of the beneficiaries were small and locally owned restaurants and retail businesses, industries who have felt a tremendous impact from this global crisis.
Large Business of the Year
Our large business of the year is a newcomer to Polk County, but has quickly immersed into Winter Haven. AdventHealth officially debuted in Polk County on September 1, 2019 with the acquisition of Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center, Lake Wales Medical Center, Urgent Care Cypress and several physician groups.
As a company, AdventHealth was formally founded in 1973 but traces its roots back to 1866 with a team of Seventh-day Adventist medical pioneers in Battle Creek, Michigan. Today their mission remains the same as it was over 150 years ago - they believe health should be measured in terms of the whole person — body, mind and spirit. They operate nearly 50 hospital campuses and hundreds of care sites across 9 states.
In 2019, the Central Florida Division of AdventHealth contributed 1.2 billion in total community investment including $292 million in financial assistance to the uninsured and under-insured patients unable to pay their medical bills, $16 million in cash and in-kind contributions to local non-profits, $27 million to clinics and programs to support the community’s most vulnerable and $624 million in capital investments to expand access and improve quality of care.
Here in the east Polk County, AdventHealth has provided a tremendous amount of time, talent and treasure into the community. Examples of their commitment include:
This is just the beginning of AdventHealth’s investment. Their goal is to be responsive to the needs of our specific community and we will see that promise fulfilled for many years to come.
2019-2020 Chair's Reflection - Artie Renee Pobjecky
"It is hard to believe that more than 12 months have passed since we gathered together in person for last year's event. We celebrated the accomplishments of our beloved City of Winter Haven, the sacrifices and milestones of our community businesses and residents. At the conclusion, we provided an outline to continue the forward momentum and progress of our city. We cited such goals as affordable housing, improving our educational system, and luring talented employees to our city. We were off to a great start with weekly ribbon cuttings for our new businesses, continued collaboration with our schools through our first community liaison director, and breaking ground for a new affordable housing apartment complex.
But then COVID-19 happened, and many of us had to pivot our businesses. Our aspirations were sidelined while we struggled to keep our doors open and maintain our employees. Your Chamber felt your pain and reached out with telephone calls to all of our members. The phenomenal chamber team of Katie Worthington, Jennifer Romberger, and Amanda Jo Nicholson were there to help answer your PPP funding questions and help complete your Polk Cares applications. Non-members from as far as Lake Wales sought our Chamber's guidance when other doors were closed to them. When Tallahassee's restrictive orders threatened our businesses, the Chamber team was at the forefront of lobbying for reopening under safe conditions. We passed out masks to keep you, our most valuable asset, safe during the pandemic. Your Chamber hosted weekly Coffee and Conversations with city leaders and continued Networking Showcases in a virtual format. These are just a few examples of the hard work from your Winter Haven Chamber.
C.S. Lewis stated that "You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending." Under your Chamber leadership and with Robert Loftin as your new Chair, Winter Haven has a bright future. We can’t change the effects of the coronavirus, but we can continue to work together and collaborate for growth. Like the mighty Phoenix, we will rise from the COVID crises and become stronger."
Passing of the Gavel
It is a Winter Haven Chamber tradition to pass the gavel from past board chairs to the newest board chair. This year we had to shift to a virtual setting, but it's fun to see everyone in this time when we are missing out on so much togetherness. Click the video below to see the virtual passing of the gavel.
A New Community Video - "We Call It Home"
To compliment our"Authenticity Reimagined" Community video, we've unveiled the "We Call it Home" video. The theme of the video is how the life moments you experience in a community are what help to form it as your hometown. Whether it be where you land your first job, start your family or pass along your hobbies to the next generation, these are the moments that stay with us. The video showcases many of the City's new assets, including the AdventHealth Fieldhouse and new skate park.
A Look Ahead - 2020-2021 Board Chair, Robert Loftin
"As you well know, this year has been a challenge for all of us and for many, there is still uncertainty as to what the year ahead will hold. What I want to assure you is that your Chamber of Commerce will continue to be on the front lines doing what we do best, advocating for our businesses, helping to connect our members to the businesses and resources they need to be successful, and work to protect and improve the Winter Haven community’s quality of life.
One thing that has always impressed me about our Chamber is how future-focused we are. While your Chamber team pivoted into emergency mode in Spring of this year, your Board of Directors and Chamber staff has focused not only on arming you with information and resources for immediate relief, but also looking ahead to how we can create opportunity to help everyone in our community prosper. That will continue to be a primary focus in the coming year.
That being said, Winter Haven continues to thrive and grow in many segments of our community. Our population growth continues at an average of 4%. Single family homes permits are projected to hit an all-time high by the end of this year. And, there is a flurry of new business recruitment and existing business expansion in the pipeline over the next 12 months. When we gather together in-person in September of 2021 to celebrate the end of my tenure as Chair, I am certain we will be applauding the resiliency of this community.
My employer, Citizens Bank & Trust, is celebrating our 100th year in business this year. Our company was formed after the difficult World World I years, at a time when despair made way for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic recovery. Today, the company remains family-owned, as our founder’s grandchildren continue the family tradition of careful decision-making that has carried the bank securely into the future.
There are many parallels between Citizens Bank & Trust and the Winter Haven Chamber. Both organizations have dedicated over 100 years to advancing commerce and community in Polk County. Both organizations work incredibly hard to ensure our customers and members get a return on the investment they make with us. And both organizations are committed to doing whatever we can to help our community’s businesses come out of 2020 stronger than ever.
Thank you for your investment in the Winter Haven Chamber and most importantly your active engagement. Together we’ll make Winter Haven the best place to live, work, play, raise a family and be in business."
Thank you to our 30 Days of YAY and Annual Meeting Sponsors