Written by: Brianna Price
For a business that you may think primarily deals with death, I can tell you that this business is actually full of life. For 85 years, Ott-Laughlin Funeral Home has been in the business of making arrangements for people who have passed away and assisting their loved ones in the next chapter of life.
This Father’s Day, Frederick Sosa and Tiffany Anderson have something special to celebrate. Not only do they share a father-and-daughter bond, but they also recently graduated together from Saint Leo University. Anderson is the assistant academic advisor for Saint Leo’s Lakeland Education Center. She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. Sosa also graduated from Saint Leo’s Lakeland center with Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. The duo from Lakeland received their degrees at the university’s commencement ceremony for its Florida locations on April 27 at the Florida State Fairgrounds.
Which PCPS high school has the best athletics program? Clearly it’ not for us to debate. But when it comes to student-athletes excelling in the classroom, one school is the valedictorian of 2018-19: Winter Haven High. The Blue Devils are the inaugural winners of the PCPS Academic Team Champions trophy. The honor is presented to the school with the highest student-athlete GPA among all sports. Congratulations to WHHS, and kudos to every PCPS high school athletics program — all of which had an unweighted GPA above 3.0 this year.
See the full “report card” below.
Local State Farm® agent Karen Bryan and The Humane Society of Polk County in Winter Haven are teaming up this month for the State Farm Quotes for Good program. From June through November, each person who contacts Karen’s office, requests a fire, auto, or life, quote and mentions Humane Society of Polk County, the agent will donate up to $10 per quote back to the organization.
Saint Leo University has earned the 2019-2020 Military Spouse Friendly® School designation for providing exceptional education opportunities and support for the spouses and families of those serving in the armed forces. “The Military Spouse Friendly® Schools designation helps military spouses select schools that will support them in their education journey by meeting their unique needs as a part of a military family,” said Brian Hucik, national program manager for Military Friendly. “Schools that are selected for the list are at the forefront of supporting the goals of military spouses.”
Pobjecky & Pobjecky, LLP – Global Immigration Law was awarded Small Business of the Month! Artie Renee Pobjecky, owner of Pobjecky & Pobjecky, has made community engagement a top priority in her business. From the beginning when her father opened the business in 1984 to today, where she leads the way, Pobjecky & Pobjecky has been a great example of what it means to help others.
Guest Blogger: Urjit Patel
With summer right around the corner, many of us are thinking about vacations we want to take. But the cost of booking a getaway can be intimidating – and for some, not feasible. According to CreditDonkey, the average vacation costs $1,145 per person, or $4,580 for a family of four. But it is possible to save money while enjoying a nice vacation. Check out the tips below on how to budget and spend smart during your holiday.
On June 3, 2019, The Winter Haven Optimist Club presented to Lt. Samantha Phillips of the Winter Haven Police Department, its Respect for Law award. Pictured is Optimist Club member (and retired WHPD Major) Fred DeLoach presenting the award to Lt. Samantha Phillips.
Lt. Samantha Phillips has been with the Department for 12 years and is currently the Lieutenant in charge of Investigative Services. For the last six years she has volunteered her time to organize and participate in fundraising events for Special Olympics Florida that are carried out by the police department. These events are the Winter Haven Police Department 5K, Tip-A-Cop and various raffles. Over the last six years the police department 5k has had roughly 2,750 participants and is growing each year. With this growth, the Special Olympics message of “inclusion” for its athletes is quickly growing in our county thanks to these events.
Lieutenant Phillips actions have had a direct impact on citizens in the community and throughout the state with intellectual disabilities that participate in Special Olympics Florida programs. Her work has had a positive influence in the community and has helped the department maintain its commitment to the community. Sgt. David Keigan and Captain Don Nunnery also attended the meeting and had dinner with the club members.
The Winter Haven Public Education Partnership needs YOUR help! Their program, Ready, Set, Read!, is designed to promote reading proficiency in first-grade classrooms. In 2018-2019 they piloted this program at Garden Grove Elementary with incredible gains in students literacy skills. Tutors work one-on-one with 6 to 8 students for 30 minutes each, twice a week, and can identify potential issues and reinforce positive progress.
Dr. Grisselle Centeno is making history by becoming the first Florida Polytechnic University professor and one of two first ever in the state to be selected for the prominent and competitive Executive Leadership in Academic Technology, Engineering, and Science (ELATES) program.
ELATES at Drexel® University is a prestigious fellowship designed to advance senior women faculty in academic STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines into effective leadership roles. The selected incoming class includes 22 women faculty from 19 different institutions across the U.S. and Canada. Centeno, born and raised in Puerto Rico, is the only Hispanic in the group.
Florida Polytechnic University researchers have developed a new cutting-edge technology that aims to simplify and make more affordable the detection of citrus greening in groves throughout Florida and beyond. “Citrus greening has posed a terrible threat to crops locally and worldwide as it has no cure,” said Dr. Muhammad R. Abid, assistant professor of computer science and lead researcher.
Geoffrey Doback has no doubts of where he wants his career ambitions to take him. The Florida Polytechnic University student has been captivated by aviation and the so-called next frontier ever since he was a young boy. “My first experience with aviation was at an air show when I was 7 years old. I was obsessed after that,” said Doback. “Then I got into rockets because it’s the next level, and the engine is always what intrigued me the most.”
As Emily Yates carefully fixes her graduation cap moments before the Florida Polytechnic University commencement, she can’t help but think about the hard work, the long nights, and all of the sacrifice that brought her to this moment. “I can’t believe this day is here already,” said Yates, who received a bachelor’s degree in science and technology management with a concentration in logistics and supply chain management.
The Refuge is a ministry of Faith Baptist Church of Winter Haven where kids can gather together in a safe and uplifting environment. To increase The Refuge’s reach in feeding local kids, CenterState Bank has made a sizable donation of $30,000 to assist in the ministry’s efforts. The Refuge will utilize donated food and local food banks to provide a nutritious meal while at The Refuge and will be able to give an additional meal to take home often.
Mark your calendars, SPCA Florida will host an inaugural Mega Adoption Event coming up Saturday, June 8 th , from 11:00am-7:00pm at RP Funding Center in Lakeland, FL. Three Hundred Fifty+ wonderful furry companions will be looking for their new forever home – big dogs, small dogs, senior pets, adult cats, puppies and lots of kittens.
Written by: Brianna Price
Opportunities are unpredictable things. Sometimes they knock right on our front door, while other times, opportunities seem to run in the opposite direction of us. For Jillian Bustos, Office and Marketing Manager of Evolve, her opportunity was hiding behind difficult circumstances. But with the right tools and tenacious dedication, she was able to landscape the perfect opportunity for a successful business.
Congratulations to Anchored A/C and Heating for being awarded Small Business of the Month! Justin Keyt, Owner of Anchored A/C, has made it a priority to extend a helping hand to the Winter Haven community in any way that he can. Whether they are sponsoring an event or donating funds, Justin and his team truly know what it means to collaborate to help others.
Polk County Public Schools registered a slight districtwide increase in reading proficiency during the 2018-19 school year, and big jumps at the school level, according to new data released by the Florida Department of Education on Friday. “We continue to make steady progress as a school district, and this data is the latest example. I am extremely proud of the hard work our students, staff members and parents are doing to move reading proficiency,” said Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd. “Reading is an essential life skill, and it is fundamental to all future learning. The increases we’re seeing in reading proficiency speak to our commitment to our students, and to preparing them for successful careers and lives after they leave us.”
Boston's LPL Financial Announced in a press release on Wednesday their intention to purchase Allen & Company, one of Polk County's oldest businesses founded in 1932. LPL Financial Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: LPLA) (collectively with its subsidiaries, “LPL”), has entered into a definitive purchase agreement to acquire Allen & Company, and Lakeland based broker/dealer and registered investment adviser. Allen & Company employs approximately 30 advisors and serves approximately $3 billion of client assets. Allen & Company has been a member of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber for at least 51 years, from when they established their Winter Haven office in 1968. Read the official press release below.
Community Health Systems (CHS) announced late Wednesday their intention to sell Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center and Lake Wales Medical Center to AdventHealth (formerly the Florida Hospital network). Advent Health is a faith-based, non-profit system undergoing rapid expansion in the Florida market. It was assumed they had intentions to expand into Polk County, as they had also purchased land close to Florida Polytechnic University.
CHS, a for-profit hospital network, anticipates that the sale will be final in early fall. A definitive agreement has been signed and the due diligence period now begins. The purchase price for the sale has not been disclosed.
Polk Museum of Art (PMoA) announced Wednesday that Dr. Alex Rich, the museum's curator and director of galleries and exhibitions and an associate professor of art history at Florida Southern College will take over as the museum's executive director and chief curator. The current executive director, Claire Orologas, recently announced her intention to retire after 7 years with the museum. Claire is also a member of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber Board of Directors.
Claire has led the museum out of the recession and carefully through a transition into a partnership with Florida Southern College. She has improved the countywide reach of the museum and impacted the arts community throughout our area through education and advocacy. We want to thank Claire for her tireless and passionate leadership of the museum and for always striving for it to truly be POLK's museum and accessible to all of our citizens and visitors. Claire and her team have brought in work from both classical and new artists, most of which help us to challenge the way we think about art, and ourselves. Claire, you will be missed!
The City of Winter Haven is delighted to announce good news about a member of the City team. Senior Planner (Neighborhoods) Anita Silwal was awarded with the “She Knows Where She is Going” award by Girls Inc. of Lakeland and Bartow. This award celebrates and honors exceptional women who serve as positive role models for girls and young women as evidenced by their personal and professional accomplishments and community spirit. There were 10 nominees from Polk County in attendance and three were selected as the final recipients of the award. Anita shares, “I was incredibly proud to hear my name followed by City of Winter Haven.”
Anita was born and raised in Nepal, and is the founder of Welcome Womanhood, a nonprofit organization to empower young women and raising awareness about several female issues. In Nepal, Anita was an acclaimed journalist and media figure. Anita currently serves as a Senior Neighborhood Planner for the City of Winter Haven. She has a master’s degree in Sociology and recently graduated from Florida Polytechnic University with an additional Master’s degree in Innovation and Technology. Anita is an incredible asset to the City of Winter Haven team and it is only fitting that she is recognized with such as significant honor.
Polk County Tourism, Polk County Emergency Management and Publix Partner to Distribute 2019 Polk County Public Shelters Maps
In preparation for hurricane season, which begins on June 1, Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing and Polk County Emergency Management have again partnered with Publix Super Markets to produce and distribute the "Polk County Public Shelters" maps for 2019. This annual map is designed to assist both resident and tourist evacuees in finding shelter during an impending storm.
SPCA Florida recently received a $25,000 grant from the Petco Foundation. The Petco Foundation has been a community supporter of SPCA Florida, providing funding and community collaboration opportunities for many years. In addition to working with the Petco Foundation, SPCA Florida currently partners with many Petco locations across the state of Florida for animal adoptions and community events.
“The missions of our two organizations align perfectly and we applaud Petco Foundation for its continued involvement and support of SPCA Florida animals,” said SPCA Florida Media & Partnership Relations Manager, Randa Richter.