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Tuesday, January 21 2020

 

By: Staff Writer.

Orlando - On January 19, at the House of Blues in Disney's Springs, Manuel Oliver, father of Parkland victim Joaquin Oliver, delivered a heartbreaking one-man show as part of his "Change The Ref" initiate against gun violence.

In this show, he honored the life of Joaquin (AKA GUAC) via a theatrical re-enactment of the 17 years he was able to share with him before he was brutally murdered by a gunman at Marjorie Stone Douglas High School on February 14, 2014. 16 other people were also murdered during what's considered one of the deadliest schools shooting in the nation in the past years.

Manuel Oliver and his family emigrated from Venezuela in 2002 looking for a better and safer life for their family. What they didn't know at that time was that their pursuit of a better life was going to put them in the front seat of the gun violence that is covering our nation.

According to Manuel, one of the most common questions people ask them is where do they find the strength to move forward as a family and he responds that the way he moves forward is by honoring the life of his son through art.

During one part of the show, Manuel walked the audience through the horrendous day he lost his son. While wearing a mask with Joaquin's face, he re-enacted the moment his son gets shot in his school's the hallway, leaving the audience in complete silence for what looked like an eternity... a silence that was only broken moments later by the sobbings of some members of the audience, which was mostly composed of Joaquin's family, friends, and other students from Stone Douglas who traveled all the way from Parkland to support the show.

It was towards the end of the show when that support was truly felt when Manuel invited every single one of Joaquin's friends to join him on stage to honor the life of who, according to some of his friends, was one of the funniest, caring, and loyal friends they ever had.

What the video here: https://www.facebook.com/thenortheastpolkgazette/videos/172395870759855/

The GUAC: My Son, My Hero is currently on tour and has shows already planned in the following cities: New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, and Louisville.

 

For more information about the "Change The Ref" initiative, visit their website at https://changetheref.org/

 

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 01:38 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

By: Melody Morales, Contributing Writer.

Polk County - Think of a time when someone you looked up to had a major positive impact in your life. What role did this person play? What lessons did you learn from this person? How did this person impact your life, and how did that impact get you to where you are today?

This month, we have the opportunity to embark on a discussion around the importance of mentorship. National Mentorship Month is commemorated throughout the month of January and propels communities to explore the impact of mentorship on our youth. The University of Washington defines mentorship as the process by which an individual shares “information about his or her own career path, as well as provide[s] guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modeling” to a mentee. They also emphasize that the role of a mentor evolves as the needs of his/her mentee progresses.

The Stand Together Foundation (STF), an organization that focuses on “break[ing] barriers for people in poverty so that they can realize their potential” conducted studies that analyzed the impact of mentorship on our youth. Amongst the results, it was possible to see that the impacts of mentorship on academic performance have proven to be a significant factor that drives success amongst students. The most prominent finding from these studies showed that students with a mentor showed an increase in performance, school attendance, and graduation rates. Furthermore, it was identified that mentorship increases the “likelihood of [a student] attending college by 50 percent.”

However, beyond the positive impact on academics, mentorship also allows for influence on the emotional and psychological well being of our youth. The studies conducted by the STF concluded that the presence of a mentor in the lives of students caused an increase in confidence and the development of personal goals and aspirations. Comparatively, it decreased feelings of anxiety, negative behaviors, and the students’ susceptibility to peer pressure. These studies also saw considerable results that indicated that mentorship paved the way for a decrease in illegal and potentially harmful behaviors regarding drugs and alcohol.

As you can see, mentorship is an important activity that can contribute to the overall positive development of our youth. This ensures that we, as a community, are providing them with the necessary tools to succeed so that they are able to pave out their futures. So why should you consider being a mentor? Well, besides all the wonderful benefits for our youth that have already been mentioned, there is also a great deal of personal fulfillment that you can obtain from mentoring a child in need. Firstly, this is a great way of giving back to your community and ensuring that you are doing your part to propel it forward. The STF emphasizes that the “most impactful way to improve your community is to spend time investing in it,” which is why it is important that we take action now. Ideally, your actions and contributions as a mentor will resonate within the community and have the potential to spark a domino effect. They also highlight that, in most cases, “you may be the only stable, positive impact in a youth’s life” and that “the ripple effect is tremendous.”

 

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 02:25 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

Content Provided By: Knights of Columbus Council 7091.

Winter Haven - The Frank J. Durbin Fourth Degree Assembly 2608 and Knights of Columbus Council 7091 of Cypress Gardens teamed up to recognize current and retired members of the U.S. military with a dinner in their honor at Cypresswood Golf & Country Club in Winter Haven.

This First Annual Veterans Appreciation Dinner on Saturday, November 3 attracted an estimated 80 men and women, many of whom served the United States in wartime and peacetime as members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The function, which was free of charge to veterans and their spouses, was held on Saturday, November 3.

The event featured a delicious buffet dinner prepared by Brooke Paul and the staff of Southern Legacy Tap & Grille; the Presentation of the Colors by an Honor Guard from the award-winning Marine Corps Junior ROTC at Lake Region High School; a Missing Warrior Table exhibit narrated by Steve Hilbmann, a knight and director of the local unit of the Military Order of the Purple Heart; and the presentation of laminated stars created from a retired American flag to each veteran. The stars, created by Irene Schiefer of Ohio, were handed to the veterans as they entered the banquet room by Schiefer’s brother-in-law Steve Siesel, a past grand knight and military veteran.

The function also included special recognition of Alvin Lewis, a 94-year-old World War II vet, who resides in Cypresswood; the blessing of the food by Phil Pierpont, a deacon of the Catholic faith and past grand knight; the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner and God Bless America by the entire assembly led by Ken Nelson, also a past grand knight; and drawings for door prizes, including five free haircuts donated by the SportsCuts barbershop, four bottles of wine and two 18-hole rounds of golf courtesy of Cypresswood golf pro Bob Schade and K of C Council 7091.

The event was chaired by Phil Pierpont, with assistance from Assembly 2608 Faithful Navigator Jerry Melnitzke, Council 7091 Grand Knight James Sharak and knights Ken Nelson, Steve Hilbmann, Ruben Sanabria, Sal Porta, and Bob Bigg.

The sponsors thank St. Anne Catholic Church in Haines City, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Winter Haven, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and other local veterans groups, as well as the Cypresswood, Traditions and Cypress Landings communities for their assistance in promoting the event.

Named in honor of the late World War I hero, Frank J. Durbin, the Assembly is the patriotic/ceremonial arm of Knights of Columbus Council 7091, a charitable organization serving primarily eastern Polk County.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 02:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

By: Haines City Fire Department.

Haines City - The Haines City Fire Department is excited to introduce Luna, their new fire station dog. Luna was presented to the Haines City Fire Department by Valor Medical Service Dogs at the first Waltzing for Paws Charity Gala earlier lat month.

Along with Luna, the Haines City Fire Department was named a Purple Heart Fire Department, the first in the state of Florida. The fire station is always open to visitors, stop by anytime to meet Luna. Look for her out in the community and at events as well.

 

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 02:12 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

Content Provided By: GFWC Four Corners Junior Woman's Club.

Davenport - The Four Corners Junior Woman's Club will have its main fundraising event on Friday, February 7, 2020 at Lake Eva Event Center, 799 Johns Avenue, Haines City, FL 33844. Doors open at 10:30AM.

The Luncheon, Fashion Show, and Expo is the club's eleventh annual charity event. The slogan is "What's Up, Polk County?" The guest speaker is from the Polk Transportation Planning Organization. There will also be an expo in the lobby of vendors with products and services for women.

Styles for the fashion show are supplied by Chico's, Lakeland; catering for the luncheon is by Carrabba's Italian Grill, Kissimmee.

There will be basket raffles and a silent auction. To date, two sponsors have signed up: The UPS Store, ChampionsGate, and Small World Travel and Cruises, Haines City. Tickets are $30;
For more information, contact babsdeel@aol.com

What is the GFWC? The General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC) is an international women's organization dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service locally, across the United States, and beyond. Our local club raises money and supports many organizations locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally.

The General Federation of Women's Clubs, one of the world's largest and oldest nonpartisan, nondenominational women's volunteer service organizations, was founded in 1890 and chartered by the 56th United States Congress in 1901. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., GFWC has a long history of philanthropy, social and political advocacy, and community leadership.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 02:08 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

By: City of Lake Auburndale.

Auburndale - Last Month, on December 7th, the Auburndale Youth Basketball League began its 2019-2020 season at the Auburndale Community Center. Mayor Tim Pospichal and Vice Mayor Richard Hamann attended the Opening Ceremony to wish kids & families a great experience this basketball season.

The Auburndale Youth Basketball League features 270 boys & girls, divided into 24 teams of varying age groups.

The Auburndale Youth Basketball is a volunteer-based non-profit organization. Since 1997, they have been providing a safe place for our youth in Auburndale and surrounding communities to learn and apply the basics of basketball, make friends, and build self-confidence and self-esteem.

According to their Facebook page, they are always in need of volunteers that would like to help our youth by coaching, team leaders, and sponsorships.

For more information about this great program, you can contact them at (863) 965- 6362, or you can also visit their Facebook page at @auburndaleyouthbasketball.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 02:04 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

By: City of Lake Wales Staff.

Lake Wales - The City of Lake Wales did a tribute on their Facebook page to Wanda Faye Howard, President of the Lake Wales Chapter of the NAACP, who passed away recently.

Wanda was very active with several causes and organizations around Lake Wales and beyond.

At a Commission meeting in November, she was recognized by Mayor Gene Fultz with a proclamation honoring all her efforts especially with youth

Rest in Peace, Ms. Wanda.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 02:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

By: M.C. Reyes, Editor-in-Chief.

Lakeland - This month, on The Student Leader of the Month, we want to feature a student from George Jenkins High School. Meet Ms. Caroline Mason.

Caroline is ranked 1st in her class of 502 students with a 4.615 grade point average. She is the Co-Founder and a Board Member of "100 Teens Who Care Lakeland," which is an organization that works to bring exposure to the many charitable organizations in the area and encourages teens to get out and volunteer.

Among her many accomplishments, Caroline is the President of the Spanish National Honors Society, Treasurer of National Honor Society, and an active and contributing member of the National English Honor Society and Student Council.

She is currently attending Flight School on a James C. Ray Scholarship and is working to earn her pilot license. She can fly a small, single-engine aircraft preferably a Cessna 150 or 172. Caroline intends to attend college to study aviation as her ultimate career goal is to be a commercial pilot.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Caroline, and this is what she shared with us:

NEPG: Which grade are you attending right now?                                                                                               Caroline: I am currently attending 12th grade.

NEPG: What leadership position are you responsible for?
Caroline
: I am President of Spanish Honor Society, Treasurer of National Honor Society, Co-Founder and Executive Board Member for 100 Teens Who Care Lakeland, and Captain of the Cross Country and Track teams.

NEPG: Tell us about how your leadership approach has influenced others around you.
Carolin
e: As a leader, I do my best to make sure everyone feels comfortable to voice their own opinion. In that respect, I feel like I have influenced others to become more active in whatever they pursue. Hard work and integrity are contagious attributes- in my opinion- and I hope that I have inspired others around me to push limitations and expectations with setting more ambitious goals.

NEPG: What are your plans for the rest of the school year?
Carolin
e: My plans for the rest of the year include finishing up earning my Private Pilot’s license, developing 100 Teens Who Care Lakeland, and enjoying my Lakeland community before I leave for college next year. Cross-country season just finished up, so I will be focusing on the upcoming track season now. I am excited to further grow the clubs I am involved in so that a steady foundation is left for others to continue improving.

NEPG: What would be your message for younger kids who are planning on taking a leader's role within their school/community?
Caroline
: Explore as many activities as you can, and become further involved in the ones you find most interesting and best for you. Dare to be passionate. Be more than just a member of a club or team. Additionally, strive to inspire your peers by setting a reliable example. In doing these things, you personally will receive more than you give. I believe as a leader that seeing your peers’ development and success is one of the greatest rewards to be received.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 01:52 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

By: M.C. Reyes, Editor-in-Chief.

Haines City - For this month's community leader of the month, we had the pleasure of interviewing the head girls basketball coach for Ridge Community High School, Coach Nikki King, and this is what she shared with us:

NEPG: Tell us a short story about yourself and how that experience inspired you to become who you are today.
Coach King:
I am from Haines City, I played basketball at Haines City High School and played collegiately at Webber International University. I became passionate about the game of basketball at the age of 9.

After my playing career ended, I wanted to continue to be around the game. I was awarded the opportunity to become the head coach at Ridge Community High School in 2016 and it was one of the best things that have ever happened to me. Although I had no previous head coaching experience, I’ve gained so much knowledge and experience because I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to coach good student-athletes who trust me and allow me to lead them.

NEPG: What are your main responsibilities?
Coach King:
My main responsibilities include, but are not limited to; being committed to the personal development of each player, creating practice and game strategies, checking grades and communicating with teachers, addressing any discipline issues, etc. Additionally, I like to keep my girls engaged in their communities. We do quite a bit of community service events throughout the year.

NEPG: How do you manage the different personalities among the girls in your team to make an impact not only in their professional lives but also in their personal lives?                                                                                                                         Coach King: I manage the different personalities on the team simply by understanding that each player is different and has different needs. Understanding their background, likes and dislikes, etc. helps to develop a relationship and, in return, helps me to know how to deal with the player personally.

NEPG: Tell me a little bit about your family and how you manage your professional and personal lives without allowing one to affect the other.
Coach King:
Managing my professional and personal lives is quite easy since my family travels with me and attends most of the games. They understand that this is my dream and they help in any areas possible so I can focus on my career.

NEPG: What message would you like to pass to the girls that you coach?
Coach King:
The message that I would like to pass to my players is to stay focused on what’s important and follow your dreams. Life will get hard at times and there will be bumps along the way but, if you are focused and determined, you can achieve anything.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 01:47 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

Content Provided By: The Organization's Website.

Lake Wales - Better Way is a community-based organization focused on helping make the world around us a better, happier place.

With the help of a tireless staff, they organize community-based mentor-mentee relationships building, exciting community-building events, clothing, and food drives, Christmas Toy Drives, and in-depth training sessions for their volunteers.

Better Way Mentoring helps children achieve success in school and in the community, helps them avoid risky behaviors such as getting into fights, joining gang-related activity, trying drugs and alcohol, and helps them improve their self- confidence.

Better Way Mentoring also seeks to change the lives of at-risk, poverty-stricken children facing adversity between 6 and 18 years of age. Their network of volunteers, donors, teachers, and supporters come from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all corners of the country.

Last but not least, their unique style of one-to-one, large, and small group mentoring, in which a child facing adversity is carefully matched with a caring adult mentor in a relationship supported by professional Better Way Mentoring staff members, changes lives for the better.

Are you passionate about mentoring? Do you see yourself making an impact on the next generation? Let them know! They are always looking for volunteers to help them make their vision a reality.

For more information, about this great organization, you can visit their website at https://betterwaymentoringprograminc.godaddysites.com/

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 01:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

Posted by: AT 01:40 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

Content Provided By: The Organization's Website.

Lakeland - SCORE a non-profit resource of the U.S. Small Business Administration staffed by experienced industry veterans willing to "Pay It Forward" by volunteering their time and experience mentoring new and existing entrepreneurs along their pathway to business success.

Central Florida SCORE Chapter celebrated our 50th Anniversary in November 2015. They have over 20 volunteer mentors to assist you locally by mentoring on a wide range of small business issues. They also offer low cost & no-cost business workshops on a variety of business topics.

Central Florida SCORE also provides local workshops and events to connect new and existing small business owners with the people and information they need to start, grow, and maintain their businesses, as well as a full series of online workshops and webinars available 24/7.

SCORE provides resources, templates, and tools to assist entrepreneurs in developing strategies and plans they need to navigate their way to small business success. SCORE is a valuable network of 11,000+ volunteers who offer small business entrepreneurs confidential business mentoring services by industry veterans at no charge.

SCORE volunteer mentors have the knowledge and experience to help any small business owner get the help they need. Their dedicated volunteers represent over 3,000 years of "hands-on" experience across 62 industries.

SCORE was established in 1964, is headquartered in Herndon, VA and has 300+ chapters throughout the United States and its territories.

Why PAY to learn from your own business mistakes when you can learn from theirs FOR FREE?

For more information, about this great organization, you can visit their website at https://centralflorida.score.org/.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 01:35 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

Content Provided By: The Organization's Website.

Lakeland - Since 1904, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is incredible potential. As the nation’s largest donor- and volunteer-supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 5 through young adulthood in communities across the country. They develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people.

Their mission is to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth.

On Jan. 1, 2015, two local Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies joined forces with a goal of pairing more children with caring adult mentors across Tampa Bay. The previous summer, the Board of Directors from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County, Inc. and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, Inc. unanimously voted to merge. Stephen Koch is CEO/president of the agency, which now includes seven counties and more than 90 experienced employees.

At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, they provide both children and mentors the essential tools to develop lifelong, purposeful relationships. They serve more than 3,000 children in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Pasco, Citrus, Hernando and Sumter counties.

For more information about this great organization, you can visit their website at https://bbbstampabay.org/

Posted by: AT 01:32 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

     

By: M.C. Reyes, Editor-in-Chief.

Haines City - “Putting a smile on a child's face can change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but at least their world.” ~ Richard M Knittle Jr. ~

What a beautiful quote, right? Well, that's exactly what the ladies from the American Legion Auxiliary Post 34 in Haines City did last month... they all came together to put a smile on children's faces.

On December 15, Christmas came early for some families from the Sandhill Elementary School in Haines City when the ladies from the American Legion sponsored their annual Christmas Party and invited these families to celebrate with them.

During the celebration, the many children who attended the event not only got the chance to play games... they also had the opportunity to meet the one and only, Santa Claus, who came to the party with a lot of gifts for the children. Each child received three gifts from Santa during the celebration, plus each family got to take home a bag full of toys so that their children could wake up to more gifts on Christmas day.

Here in the Northeast Polk Gazette, we want to recognize the outstanding job that the ladies from the American Legion Auxiliary did to make sure none of these kids would wake up without a gift on December 25th. The truth is that it is people like them who make this world a better place.

A wise man once said... “A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” ~ Steve Maraboli ~ And that's exactly what the ladies did, and we couldn't be more proud and happy to have been a witness of their love for these children and their families.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 01:28 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

Content Provided By: Ken Nelson.

Winter Haven - Thanks to 42,863 hours of dedicated service provided by 878 volunteers, Meals on Wheels (MOW) of Polk County was able to prepare and deliver 88,201 nutritious, home-cooked meals to homebound people in Winter Haven and other communities in eastern Polk County, as well as some parts of Lakeland during the past year.

“We thank all of the wonderful volunteers who make it possible for us to feed homebound people each weekday, all year long, by donating their valuable time serving as drivers, kitchen and warehouse workers and thrift shop clerks,” said MOW Executive Director Susan Eldridge, in welcoming an estimated 250 volunteers, staff, board members and guests to the non-profit’s 47th annual meeting in early November at Heartland Church in downtown Winter Haven.

Eldridge opened the meeting by thanking Pastor Ed Kendrick of Heartland Church formakingthechurchavailabletoMOW. Kendrick,whoservesonMOW’sboard of directors, offered a blessing before the volunteers enjoyed a buffet dinner as a reward for making it possible for MOW to provide wholesome meals for an estimated 350 homebound people each weekday.

A breakdown of volunteer hours shows 34,233 by drivers who deliver meals on 37 routes; 6,353 by kitchen workers who prep, package meals; and 2,277 by clerks who sort, clean and stock merchandise donated by citizens for sale in the MOW thrift store, a major source of funding for the organization. Hours given by volunteers involved in fundraising, office work and the board of directors are not included in these totals.

One of the highlights of the annual meeting came when 30 volunteers were recognized for their combined total of 498 years of dedicated service to MOW, with Emma Jean Hackle leading the way with 33 years. She was closely followed by Anne Romoser and Bill Romoser with 30 years each; Ann and Rex Yentes with 28 years each; and Dan Mann and Paul Wood, both 25 years.

Volunteers who observed other milestones in 2019 were Bernie Liebal, 18 years; Betsy Rod, 17 years; and Bob Halifin, George Seagraves, Paul Richardson, Sharon Richardson, Jeff Hayes, Jim Myers, Linda Myers, and Debbie Kennon; all 15 years.

Also recognized were Irene Wolf, 13 years; Patti Herndon, Hank Schaus, and Mary Walters, all 12 years; John Craig, Marsha Long, Pat Mayberry, Rich Mayberry, and Kristin Schnell, all 11 years; and Jim Lee, Linda Lee, Sandy Rodgers, and John Rodgers, all 10 years.

Headquartered at 620 Sixth Street in Winter Haven, MOW Polk County is a non- profit organization that each year prepares and delivers more than 88,000 meals to homebound people, mostly over the age of 65, in Winter Haven, Auburndale, Lake Alfred, Dundee, Haines City, Lake Hamilton, Davenport and parts of Lakeland.

On a typical weekday, volunteers deliver hot meals to 350 homes. These volunteers, including students and seasonal residents, are frequently the only people MOW clients have an opportunity to interact with on a daily basis.

Meals on Wheels of Polk County welcomes volunteers to serve as drivers, kitchen workers, thrift store clerks, fundraisers, and board members. Anyone wishing to become involved should call Susan Eldridge at 863-299-1616. Information can also be obtained on the MOW Web site at www.mealsonwheelspolk.com.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 01:25 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

By: The Editorial Board.

Many people have this idea of creating a better world, and for us, that sounds like an excellent idea. But, the question that I have for those people is... yes, you want to create a better world, but... what are you doing about it?

Yes, it's great that we all want a better world for our children, but just wanting something doesn't make it a reality unless we do something about it.

The truth is that, unless we do something, we will not make our wishes come true. As parents, we all dream about the day our kids wake up in a more safe and fair world but, again, we are not doing enough to make that happen. We tend to leave that to our leaders and people in power when, in reality, we have as much power as they do to make changes. We just have to be willing to take action. Today, we invite you to make the decision of mentoring a child, a young adult, or even a grown-up by offering the opportunity to be the best they can be.

The fact is that mentoring relationships are powerful tools for connection and are critical to our country's future.
That being said; this National #MentoringMonth, you can make a difference in a person's life and help them succeed. Become a mentor today and help make this world a better place for all of us.

 

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 01:13 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

By: Mike Ferguson, Contributing Columnist.

As a child coming home from school, I hated how little daylight there was remaining this time of year. As an adult coming home from work, I still hate it.

As a now father of two, I still like this time of year: the weather cools down, that holiday feeling in the air, the start of a New Year. I'll spare you the spiel about bowl games and the NFL playoffs.

Being able to see the sunlight after 5:30 p.m. takes away from none of those things.

As it is quite often, Florida recently sought to be different.

Last year, then Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law that does away with daylight-savings time in Florida. Arizona and Hawaii are the only other states that do not currently "fall back." Unfortunately, we're now waiting for the U.S. Congress to approve the change.

In today's political climate, it isn't often that Democrats and Republicans publicly "play nice," but among Floridians, the "Sunshine Protection Act" was bipartisan. It passed the Florida House of Representatives by a 103-11 margin and the state senate by a 33-2 margin.

Among those in Washington, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, continues to push for the measure. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, who represents parts of Northeast Polk County proposed a measure as a member of the Florida House as early as 2013.

Soto and Rubio have made the case that more daylight would enhance the quality of life and be good for tourism in a state where the economy is largely dependent on it. It would also probably create safer driving conditions for those stuck in "rush hour" traffic, although some have made the counter-argument that it creates more dangerous conditions for children on their way to school.

As for me, I'd prefer just to have a little more time to play kickball or soccer outside with my daughters after work. Sure, there are things to do indoors, but it's not as easy to be active and unfortunately much easier to make a mess. I value that time much more than an "extra hour of sleep."

Despite overwhelming bipartisan support in Tallahassee and a tweet of approval from President Donald Trump, it looks like we're at the mercy of lawmakers in Washington. Rarely is that a good place to be.

About the Author: Mike Ferguson currently serves as the public information officer at the Haines City Police Department. A native of Polk County, Mike previously spent nearly five years as a full-time reporter at The Ledger. Mike contributes to a number of outlets and has work appearing in the Associated Press, Yahoo, FoxSports.com, Athlon Sports and Sports Illustrated online among other publications. Mike earned his bachelor's degree from Florida State University in 2009. Mike and his wife Jennifer live in Davenport, Florida with their two children.

What's the Sunshine Protection Act? For those who are not aware of what the Sunshine Protection Act entitles, let us explain. Senator Rubio’s Sunshine Protection Act would eliminate the changing of clocks to standard time for the months of November-March. In sum, if enacted, Florida would not “fall back” in November and would enjoy a full year of DST, instead of only eight months.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 01:05 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

By: Isabella Rodriguez, Guest Contributor.

Haines City - Hi! My name is Isabella Rodriguez and I am from the Haines City Sr. FFA Chapter in Florida. I am writing this to speak about Me & Maple Syrup’s amazing journey together.

I got Maple about 3 months back on September 8th, 2019. I went up to a high school that me & my chapter get pigs from. When I got there, I was looking through all the pins and there I saw Maple looking back at me and I instantly fell in love with her and knew I wanted to take her home. It was kind of hard to gain her trust at first, but with a little of extra love and sitting in her pin for her to get used to me, she finally started to come around and let me pet her.

A little time passed, and she started to get sick. I was so scared I was going to lose her. It was kind of different when she was sick. She wasn’t her regular self, so we had to keep an eye on her and give her medicine so she could get better. I would go and sit with her to pet her and to give her lots of loving. Thankfully, after a little while, she was back to being her spunky little self.

Maple is out-going. She loves to eat and is very photogenic. She loves to run around and there are some moments she can be very sassy and have an attitude. But, I couldn’t have asked for a spunkier pig than her.

While being in FFA, I have learned many new things and have earned many new opportunities. Not only did I get to gain such an impeccable bond with my animals, but I also learned that it’s much more than just a nice blue jacket and ribbons. You get to meet amazing new people along the way.

I am so grateful that I came into FFA. If not, I would have never had the opportunity to meet Maple and never have her as my trusty piggy-companion.

Posted by: AT 01:02 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

By: City of Lake Wales Staff.

Lake Wales - The City of Lake Wales did a tribute on their Facebook page to Wanda Faye Howard, President of the Lake Wales Chapter of the NAACP, who passed away recently.

Wanda was very active with several causes and organizations around Lake Wales and beyond.

At a Commission meeting in November, she was recognized by Mayor Gene Fultz with a proclamation honoring all her efforts especially with youth

Rest in Peace, Ms. Wanda.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 01:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 03 2020

By: Staff Writer.

Davenport - The holidays are a great time for us to spend some time getting to know the community and its leaders, and that's exactly what The Ridge Community High School Lady Bolts Basketball team did during their past fall break.

The Lady Bolts spent one of their Thanksgiving break days touring the Sheriff’s Office. The day began at the Central County Jail in Bartow. The Lady Bolts toured the facility with Captain Chambers. After touring the facilities, the team went to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Operations Center, touring the facility and the Emergency Center.

During their visit, the Lady Bolts had the opportunity to learn about the different components of the Sheriff's office that helps keep our county safe. It was by chance that hey had the privilege of meeting Sheriff Grady Judd. During their meeting with Sheriff Judd, the Lady Bolts had an opportunity to ask questions and take selfies.

They wrapped up the day with a short women’s self-defense class, which showed the girls some of the simple ways to protect themselves.

We can't wait to see where the Lady Bolts go next. We will keep you all posted.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 12:58 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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