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Friday, October 04 2019

 

 Photo Provided. In the photo is Officer David Heptinstall.

By: Mike Ferguson, Guest Columnist

Haines City - It’s not uncommon for cheerleaders, athletes, and members of student government to have school spirit, but Ridge Community High School is finding school spirit from a perhaps unlikely source - its school resource officers.

   The largest public high school in Polk County, Ridge Community is served by resource officers David Heptinstall and George Gonzalez. Both are in their first full year at the school. The two are on the campus daily to take part in preventative policing, mentoring, and ensuring the safety of students and staff.

   Last month, Heptinstall, a former U.S. Air Force sergeant, and former K9 officer introduced a contest to students to create a picture or a design that best illustrates the integration of law enforcement and the school. The selected artwork will take the place of the current “Drug Identification” poster that appears on the wall. “I’ve been doing this long enough that I know what drugs look like,” Heptinstall said. “We want our students to be proud to be Bolts and to use their talents to show their pride. I would much rather students, staff and I have the pleasure of seeing something that reflects that each day.”

   The contest lasted through Sept. 17 and was judged by Heptinstall, art teacher Gregory Wortham, and Principal Stephen Ely. It was judged on how it captured RCHS’s values of Responsible, Capable, Honorable and safe in addition to the Haines City Police Department’s partnership with the school. Winners were awarded prizes.

   When the Haines City Police Department spearheaded the local effort to provide relief supplies to victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, the Ridge Community school resource officers took it upon themselves to incentivize giving by creating a school-wide competition. The winning grade earned the opportunity to shove whip cream pies in the faces of their favorite teachers and administrators. Both Heptinstall and Gonzalez had to switch from schedules of two days on and two days off to five days per week in taking on school resource officer duties. Heptinstall moved to Ridge after his K9, Fenix, retired while Gonzalez left patrol to serve the students of Ridge.

   “You’re kind of the chief of your own little city,” Heptinstall said. “You deal with your constituents and handle their problems while liaising with the staff to help them better engage the students. It’s really similar to when I was working as an advisor in Afghanistan. It’s about relationship building.”

   The school resource officers of Ridge Community have also worked recently to emphasize the “Community” portion of the school’s name. In mid-September, Heptinstall and junior varsity football coach Quentin Boatwright took a handful of JV players to help clean up the yard of an elderly resident, who was the victim of illegal dumping on his property.

   “I really want to help out the community this way,” said Raphael Cesaire, 15, a freshman on the junior varsity team who took part in the cleanup. “It shows people that they can help out, too. When the little kids are watching, they look up to you. When you have a nice community, it’s good for everyone and the economy.”

   Other plans in the works are a car show fundraiser to raise money for new band uniforms. The idea stemmed from complaints of students revving their engines in the school parking lot.

   While Ridge Community High School has seen an uptick in school spirit from its school resource officers, those individuals strive to make an impact across the board. Heptinstall and Gonzalez team with Haines City High School’s school resource officers, James Garrison and Corey Wemer, to run the agency’s Explorers program.

   Officer Andre Stoudemire, at Daniel Jenkins Academy and Boone Middle School resource officer Daniel Hicks are both planning to implement the SAVE program at their respective schools this academic year. The program aims to teach young people different ways to combat school violence before it begins.

   “I was apprehensive, but it really is an interesting job where you can make an impact with doing some preventative policing and you have the opportunity to change the mindset of how the youth look at law enforcement,” Heptinstall said of becoming a school resource officer. “While just as busy as a patrol officer, our goal is to be a resource for the school staff, students, parents, and community, so ultimately that makes you shift your thinking from the often shift work mentality of going call to call to call. Many of the community-oriented policing principles are used at the school.”

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.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 11:20 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, October 04 2019

 

By: Article Courtesy of City of Lake Alfred

Lake Alfred - Lt. Gerald Dempsey presented Lake Alfred Citizen James Walton with a Citizen Recognition Award during the City of Lake Alfred Commission Meeting on September 12, 2019. “I believe that there are about a thousand different ways to keep a beautiful jewel, like the City of Lake Alfred, the Beautiful and Special Place that it is to so many of us who consider it to be an absolute Sacred duty.

   In the performance of doing just that very thing, there was found to be an individual who labors on a daily basis without appointment or salary and who himself goes to great lengths to see that our city remains clean and beautiful…. and who you will come to know now by the name of Mr. James Walton.

   Mr. Walton is a current resident of Southern Gardens and has resided there since 2016, and on a daily basis goes out into the community around him in his motorized mobility cart and cleans it up of any trash that he finds along the way along with his trusty pick up reaching tool.

   Mr. Walton does not let the fact that he is a double amputee get in the way of his daily rounds around our community and of the tasks at hand because of his enduring and insatiable spirit.

   Mr. Walton is a former resident of the Grand State of Tennessee which explains the quiet and dignified way that he carries himself and a former 30-year employee of Cypress Gardens, which is an accomplishment in itself in this day and age.

   Mr. Walton is described as being the outdoors type of man by his daughter Kathy and that he enjoyed hunting and fishing whenever he found possible to do so.

   I found in getting to know Mr. Walton myself that he is the kind of person who takes care of things and makes the world a little more beautiful than it was a moment before, and will always be so because of someone like him being in it.

   One should always take notice in life of the quiet ones who do great things in secret and away from the eyes of others and do so in their own quiet way because they end up having the greatest impact in our lives and in the world around us.

   I would like to thank Mr. Walton and commend him for his unyielding efforts in always keeping our city clean and beautiful. I believe that we should each take from his example, this very same passion and drive to always make the world a better place and take the time to aid in its upkeep and caretaking so that we keep this for those who will come after us to forever enjoy,” said Lt. Dempsey during the award ceremony.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 11:12 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, October 04 2019

 

Photo Provided.

By: Article Courtesy of City of Lake Alfred

Lake Alfred - On Thursday, September 12, 2019, Police Chief Bodenheimer presented Officer Anthony Gettle with his 15 Years of Service recognition plaque. Officer Anthony Gettle began working for the Lake Alfred Police Department starting on Sept. 1st, 2004.

   While working for the police department, Officer Gettle also served his country in the United States Army Reserve and the Florida Army National Guard collectively from 1996 through his retirement in 2016.

   Officer Gettle has been a valuable member of the Lake Alfred Police Department and is currently assigned as a Police Officer II. He is also the agency's Intoxilizer Inspector and Breath Test Operator, as well as a seasoned Field Training Officer.

   Officer Gettle is a very personable Officer who has established a wide-ranging rapport within our residential and business community and has always made himself available to assist the staff with any assistance requested of him. He is currently our agency's most senior ranking officer in service.

   Officer Gettle has been recognized many times for his willingness to go above and beyond in helping citizens in distress whether it is a vehicle lockout, changing a vehicle’s flat tire in the field or giving aid & comfort to those who are in need.

   To best summarize, the impact that Officer Gettle has had on our community, in the time he has been here, it is best put by the remarks of a stranded motorist in their letter of appreciation for him as they noted, “Officer Gettle went Above and Beyond helping us”, “ESPECIALLY Officer Gettle – (you) made two trips to the tire (store) and we Thank You!”

   “We Love Living in Lake Alfred and the Police Department is a Big Reason Why.” We do appreciate Officer Gettle’s professionalism and dedication to duty that he has shown during his 15 years of service with the Lake Alfred Police Department and look forward to many more years of outstanding service from this veteran Officer.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 11:06 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 03 2019

 

Photo Provided. In the photo is Garrett Kenny.

By: M.C. Reyes

Haines City - Last month, I had the pleasure of sitting down and interviewing one of the most down-to-earth and genuine businessmen, I have ever met in my life. When I asked him for the opportunity to meet with me, I had no idea what to expect. Do I dress up as if I am going for a job interview? Do I wear Gucci shoes (which I don't own, but the thought of buying a pair did cross my mind), or do I just be myself? Well, I am glad I went with the option of being myself because the person I met that day was a completely different person than who I was expecting him to be. He, not only made me feel important by giving me his full attention, but he also opened up to me in ways I have never seen a businessman do before. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Mr. Garret Kenny, the driving force behind the great things coming to Haines City.

   For this article, we conducted a Q & A session with, Mr. Kenny and this is what he shared with us.

NEPG: Who is Garrett Kenny?

Gary: Born in Dublin, Ireland in March 1962, I come from a family of 4; my parents, my sister and, I. My sister, unfortunately, was taken away from us by cancer when she was only 40. My mum and dad lived a good long life before they passed away at aged 83 & 85 respectively. I have been working for myself since I was 18 years old. I was originally involved in the logistics business in Ireland having started working for myself in August 1980 with one truck, and by 1990, I had 22 trucks on the road in Ireland. I visited Florida in 1985 for the first time and absolutely loved the place.

NEPG: What brought you to Polk County?

Gary: I came to Polk to buy my first home. One day, I met a representative of the Central FL Development Council, a guy named Jim Degennaro, and he educated me about the benefits of doing business in Polk County, and that's how I started in Polk County just over 20 years ago and have never looked back. The truth is that 80% of the projects that I have started on the last 20 years have been in Polk County and the other 20% in Osceola at Championsgate.

NEPG: Tell me a little bit about your family and how you manage your professional and personal life without allowing one to affect the other?

Gary: Family is very important to me. I got married here in Orlando in 2008 to my wife Angela, who’s originally from the UK, at a Disney hotel. We have two children: Aidan, who’s 14, and Brooke, who’s 11. My sister and I were very close when growing up and I believe you have to be there for your family and guide them to do the right things… a stable family unit is very important. I work long hours, and during the week, Angela does an amazing job looking after our two children as well as being heavily involved in their school activities. I try to spend as much time as we can with my family on the weekends. Aidan is now a go-kart driver, something he started doing at 12 years of age. Brooke has taken a huge interest in dance and drama at school and she is doing well. She was in two different concerts last year and I recall landing from London at Orlando airport and driving directly to her school to see her in one of her school plays. So like I said earlier, managing a career and family is difficult, but family is very important to me, so I make it work.

NEPG: What it is that you are trying to do within our community?

Gary: People may say “why Haines City and Polk County?” Well, I say why not? The way I see it is that these communities are diamonds in the rough. A lot of people may want to be associated with the bright lights that already exist, but that’s not my case. I’m working on a blank canvas to help bring good projects to this area. I’m very proud of my Balmoral Resort, which we opened in March of 2017, which is currently employing more than 65 employees from around the area. Education is also very important. The truth is that I never went to college, but I see kids being involved in sports activities and having the opportunity to develop their different interests as very important things for a community, so we are currently working to open a sports village, which will open its doors before the end of the year. We are also working on opening an indoor sports arena for 2020, and finally, we are also working on opening a charter school by 2021. So, as you can see, we have big commitments to deliver to the community over the next few years and that's not including the residential developments that we are working on, which include the Feltrim Reserve, Tarpon Bay, and Clay Cut Landings, which are also coming soon.

NEPG: As a private entity, how important is your team for you?

Gary: I have a phrase that I always say… “I KNOW WHAT I DON'T KNOW.” The truth is that I surround myself with people that know a lot and who are very knowledgeable in their own fields (engineers, architects, etc.) and they help me deliver my vision. I have a very good group of staff members and these staff/team members make me look good. And, the truth is that, without their individual input, we would not have what we have today. My CFO has been with me for the past 20 years. He’s based in my office in Ireland. I have a COO who deals with the day-to-day issues and he is very good at dealing with operational issues allowing me to concentrate on what I do better. Along with a senior engineer who manages the day-to-day projects, I have a resort manager. All these professionals are who are helping me deliver my vision.

NEPG: What would you like to tell those community members who think that your projects are changing or complicating their way of living?

Gary: This is a very tough question. The majority of people in the community want progression and success, but there are still a small number of people who want to keep everything as it is. I encountered it recently when I had 3 or 4 people complaining about the sports village that we have under development. I was shocked because I really thought I was doing a good job and I was delivering a first-class project for Haines City, but a very small group of people didn't think so and were very annoyed with my project location. It was strange because they were not against my project. They liked the idea… they just wanted it located somewhere else. There is a common phrase that goes “NIMBY,” which means “not in my back yard” and that was exactly what was happening here. These people went to the newspapers and even went to the TV stations to complain about our projects, but they never spoke to me or asked me any questions about it before doing so. Those who know me know that I’m a very approachable person and I believe in delivering quality projects… projects to be enjoyed by everyone. We have an excellent system for projects to be approved or denied with public hearings, etc., but what I think is very wrong that a very small group can stop progress for everyone. The way I see it is that progress, if managed well, is very good for any community.

NEPG: What's next for Garrett Kenny, the family man, and human being.

Gary: This is a tough one as I enjoy my work and I have no intention of retiring. However, I will say two things… wife and family are very important for me, so I need to look after their interests. I hope my son Aidan will progress with his karting and I want to be there to support him and, hopefully, help him. I have advised him to look at a plan B, however, he is 14 and still learning. Brooke is amazing and she has taken such an interest in her dance classes and she is really progressing exceptionally well. She is very determined (like her dad), so likewise I want to be there for her. It gives me great pride to see them doing well. My wife and I like traveling, so I would like to make more time for that. I do enjoy my work, but losing my sister at age 40 made me realize that my family is very important to me, so they are my first priority and I want to be there to support all of them.

 

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 10:53 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 03 2019

 

Winter Haven - On 2011, The "We Care of Central Florida," a progam that provides free access to specialty healthcare labs/ diagnostics, vision care services, breast care services and free transportation to and from healthcare appointments, added a new project to their already established list of projects. Thanks to a grant given to them by the Susan G. Komen Foundation, they developed and implemented what is called today the Project Think Pink.

   The mission of the program is to provide free mammograms and diagnostic breast care services to uninsured and under-served men and women in Polk County.

   Currently, Project Think Pink receives the majority of referrals from the multiple free or low-cost healthcare centers in Polk County (Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine, Haley Center, Central Florida Health Care, etc.), but a referral can come from any health care provider as long as the patient does not have health insurance and is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

   Once the order is received from a health care provider, a brief eligibility interview is conducted to ensure the patient falls within the County guidelines. Once a patient is deemed eligible, the appointment is made with a local diagnostic facility in the

patient's area. The results are then sent directly to the ordering physician. If the patient requires additional imaging or treatment, a new order is received and scheduled accordingly.

   In addition, We Care assures that there is the capacity to continue treatment after an abnormal finding or diagnosis of breast cancer. This is typically done through a partnership maintained with Moffitt Cancer Center, who will provide eligible patients with free comprehensive cancer care once a diagnosis is determined. Applications are good for 1 year and cover all services they provide.

   We had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Heather Stephenson, CEO of We Care of Central Florida and when asked about the way this program is helping men and women in our community, this is what she had to say... "Without our program, 1,200 or more Polk County residents annually would go untested. Early detection is the key to fighting Breast Cancer. Thankfully, because of our program, we have been able to early diagnose (with more detailed studies like MRI and Ultrasound-Guided Biopsies) and treat our residents. In the 8 years of this program, we have only had to refer 6 patients to Moffitt Cancer Center for next step treatment. All have resulted in positive outcomes."

   Project Think Pink is currently funded through the 1/2 cent sale tax initiative via the Indigent Health Care division in Polk County. In addition, several fundraisers are held annually, which raise over $40,000 per year to help fund this project.

   For more information about We Care of Central Florida and its Project Think Pink or to make a donation, you can visit their website at https://www.wecarecentralflorida.org/ or contact them via phone at (863) 662- 4150.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 10:47 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 03 2019

 

Winter Haven - When life throws you lemons, you have two choices... either you allow these lemons to ruin your life, or you pick them up and make lemonade. Well, that's exactly what Jennifer Hadsock, a reading interventionist at Lake Alfred Elementary did, when on August of 2017 she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. She didn't allow life's challenges to define who she was... instead, she picked those lemons up and made the best lemonade she has ever made in her life.

Raised in Winter Haven and in Lakeland by two strong-minded parents, Jennifer always knew the importance of motivation, determination, balance, and goal-setting.

   "My mother is a hard-working woman who instilled in me the importance of balance. She also taught me that you could have a successful career and motherhood, and into my adulthood, I followed that path," Jennifer said about her mother. About her father, who recently passed away, Jenifer described him as a man who always took chances... "He was eager to learn and energetic about any task he set out to accomplish. He showed me the importance of motivation, determination, and goal setting which have proved vital as I found myself following my career path and then battling cancer."

   A mother herself, Jennifer was presented with one of the most challenging events a mother could face. When she was 18 months pregnant, her firstborn had a life-threatening congenital heart defect and needed immediate surgery at birth. At 36 hours old, he had a 12 hour procedure to switch his aorta and pulmonary vein resulting in his ability to live. He is now a thriving 6-year-old, but those moments of strength have taught her about the power of prayer and a positive mindset. It has also shown her that people can have connections with others that transcend all comprehension.

   Around the time Jennifer's breast cancer battle started, it was a normal time in her life. She was breastfeeding her, at the time, 14-month-old son Jackson when she found a lump. With no history of breast cancer in her family, she immediately had a terrible sense that this was something more than a benign lump.

   After a week of several doctor visits, she was reassured that her lump was a benign tumor. However, for good measure and following her gut instinct, she decided to have it removed. On Dec 21st, her tumor was removed and on January 2nd of 2018, at her postoperative, the local doctor who removed the "benign" tumor told her he was in shock, and that the pathology had come back with triple-negative breast cancer.

   After her diagnosis, she was devastated and immediately called Moffitt where she found out, 7 days later, that her cancer was also in 2 lymph nodes. She was angry, especially since she knew she had tried her best to stay healthy. She drank kale smoothies, she worked out, she didn't smoke, she breastfed both of her babies. She just had no idea how this could have happened to her. She realized eventually that this was not something she had done, so she continued her workouts, she continued teaching 3rd grade, and with the help of her family and friends, she promised she would think positive and get through this.

   "My family and friends were a huge support. My husband would get up early to cook breakfast, do laundry, and whatever else I needed him to do. My best friends paid for a service to come to clean my house on my chemo days. My school was fantastic... they organized fundraisers where they sold FIGHT shirts and that kept me motivated. My gym, Habitat Health & Fitness, became my cheerleaders and even dedicated their team challenge to my FIGHT. Then, during my radiation, my friend Melanie chose me for her breast cancer benefit and all the funds helped make my life so much easier. It also helped me stay strong because I knew all these people believed in me," said Jennifer when we asked her about those who were there for her during the difficult times.

   As a way of giving back to the community that was there for her when she needed them the most, Jennifer created the POWer in PINK run. "I wanted everyone to know how thankful I am for all that they did to help me in my fight. I wanted them to know I take none of it in vain and appreciate every one. I also wanted to incorporate my love of fitness into giving back while finding a way to keep the funds local. This run, which I hope to make an annual event, will benefit the Breast Cancer Foundation of Central Florida, which helps local women in our community affected by breast cancer," mentioned Jennifer.

   When asked about the message that she would like to send to other women who like her are dealing with this situation, she said... "First, I want them to know they are not alone. Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women and it has an impact on the entire family. That being said; find your happy place, go there, think positive, and though it's tough, don't give up because there is a community of people that will support you. If you need help reach out because the communities of people willing to help is unparalleled."

For more information about the POWer in Pink Breast Cancer 5k, visit our events information on page 4, or contact Jennifer at powerinpink5k@gmail.com.

 

 

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 10:38 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 03 2019

 

 Photo Provided. Meet Baby.

By: M.C. Reyes

Winter Haven - Last month, we had the honor of visiting one of the most compassionate organizations we have ever visited before... the Hope Equine Rescue located in Winter Haven. While we were there, we met an amazing little girl named Baby.

   Baby is a miniature donkey who came into the rescue after the family who was caring for her couldn't do so anymore.

   Those who know Baby can tell how amazing she is. She is a sweet little girl but she can also be a firecracker when she wants to. "We needed to build a special tall gate just for her. Baby likes her treats and this has made her a bit of a handful. She's unhappy that we are not allowing her treats during her retraining," said Kara Huebsch, the community outreach representative for the organization when we asked her to describe Baby.

   While we were visiting, Baby threw a couple of temper tantrums because she was unhappy that her trainer wasn't allowing her to get any treats during her retraining. Due to her stubbornness, she had to be retrained, but her progress is coming along quickly. "She is a smart little donkey, and her trainer, Leigh Ann is confident she will overcome her difficulties quickly," said Kara.

   For those of you who have never heard of the Hope Equine Rescue, let me introduce you to them. Hope Equine Rescue is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that was established in 2008. In June 2018, the rescue was able to relocate to a larger facility due to a generous donation.

   The rescue was founded by Dani Horton and the Horton family when they took in their first rescue that they named Hope. Hope was tied to a tree with a dog chain and left to starve in a neighborhood where neighbors drove by her every day and never did anything to help. Hope Equine Rescue is comprised of people who are active in the horse world and are animal lovers.

   According to their website, Hope Equine Rescue is dedicated to providing rehabilitation and adoption services for abused, neglected, abandoned and unwanted horses. Caring for horses can be financially taxing and they are always in need of funding for feed, medical, farrier care, supplies, services, and facility improvements.

   Hope Equine Rescue is funded by private donations and fundraisers. They could not exist nor function without the support of amazing donors and volunteers. Hope Equine Rescue’s adoption service strives to find caring homes for horses sheltered at the rescue. Potential adopters are screened and an effort is made to match a horse with a compatible new owner.

   Like any non-profit organization, the rescue relies enormously on the help of volunteers to help them achieve their mission of caring for the many animals that they currently have under their care. According to their website, with an operation of this scale and size, it’s important to have volunteers who love the cause just as much as the founder does. Volunteers are used to working events, fundraisers and clinics, clean stalls, groom horses and, occasionally, go out on rescue calls. They welcome any and all help, ages 10 years and up, but require everyone to fill out Volunteer paperwork and sign a release.

   When asked what she would tell someone who is thinking about volunteering, but who haven't decided to do so yet, this is what Kara had to say... "The benefits of personal growth are huge. A volunteer at Hope Equine is part of a team that takes pride in helping these animals and finding matches for successful forever home placements. We are a large family of volunteers and have a great time serving the community together. We pitch in and get the work done."

For more information about their great mission, you can visit their website at https://hopeequinerescue.com/.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 10:28 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 03 2019

 

Photo by: A. Morales. In the photo (L/R, SSG Bradley T. Martin, our Editor-in-Chief, M.C. Reyes, and Station Commander SSG Richard L. Williams.

By: M.C. Reyes

Winter Haven - When SSG Bradley T. Martin, who is originally from Roanoke, VA finished high school, he wanted to join the military, but his parents wanted him to experience life outside of high school first, which he did.... and he just didn't like it. So in September of 2008, he decided to join the military.

   He enlisted originally as a 19K (M1 Abrams Armored Crewmember) before reclassifying to other jobs within the Army. He then went into artillery for a little bit before finding his home in the JAG Corps. Fast-forward 11 years, SSG Martin is one of the service members running the Army Career Center in Winter Haven. They recently re-opened their doors with a ribbon-cutting ceremony sponsored by the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce to show the community that they are open for business and looking for great men and women who would like to be part of one of the best organization in the world, the U.S. Army, whose main motto is Army Strong.

   When we asked SSG Martin what would he tell a young student who is thinking about joining the military straight out of high school, this is what he shared with us... "l would tell them to go for it. To do their time and give it 110% at whatever branch they choose to enlist into. However, I do suggest for them to join the U.S. Army since that's the branch I am part of. The truth is that joining the military will give them the foundation and structure that will help them stand out amongst their peers later in life."

   When asked what was next for him, SSG Martin replied... "I am currently putting together my warrant officer packet to become a Legal Administrator in the Army. From there, I will work at the Division Level in the Staff Judge Advocate's Office. I also get my first look for promotion to Sergeant First Class next year. Once I get picked up for that, I will then become the NCOIC for a Brigade Legal Office."

   As you can see, my friends, SSG Martin isn't just a service member doing his time... he is truly ARMY STRONG.

   Today, we invite you to go and see their brand new office, so you can meet SSG Martin and to also learn more about the exciting careers in our armed services, and about the benefits that come from joining, which include college scholarships, student loan repayment, and enlistment bonuses (currently up to $40,000). Walk-ins are accepted, but if you would like to have a one-on-one meeting with one of their recruiters, it will be better if you schedule an appointment ahead of time.

   You can visit them at 311 Cypress Gardens Boulevard in Winter Haven, or you can reach them via phone at (863) 292-0266. They can also be reached via social media at https://www.facebook.com/recruitwinterhaven/.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 10:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 03 2019

 

Photo Provided. In the picture is Firefighter/EMT Waldman.

Dundee - During the month of July, the Dundee Fire Department started a campaign by selling breast cancer awareness shirts to the community to raise funds for the Cassidy Cancer Resource Center of Winter Haven. Winter Haven Hospital’s Cassidy Cancer Center provides convenient access to high-quality cancer care in central Florida.

   Features of the Cassidy Cancer Center include an inpatient oncology unit, as well as outpatient services including physicians’ clinics, dedicated infusion, and radiation therapy areas, and specialized surgical oncology services.

   When asked why starting this campaign was important for them, Deputy Fire Chief Mike Stroud said... “We are trying to do our part in giving back to the community. One of our slogans at our department is Neighbors helping Neighbors. So it falls right in line with that slogan.”

   The Dundee Fire department is planning on selling the shirts through October. All shirt sizes are $15.00/shirt. For more information, please contact Dundee Fire Department at 863-419-3104 or send them a message via their Facebook page.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 10:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 03 2019

 

Winter Haven – Ephraem Seedansingh of Polk County is the latest member of Knights of Columbus Council 7091 of Cypress Gardens to achieve Fourth Degree status in the Knights of Columbus.

   Seedansingh reached this milestone on Saturday, August 24 by participating in a two-hour Fourth Degree Exemplification at Assumption Catholic Church in Jacksonville, FL. He was among 89 knights from all over Florida who moved into the ranks of the Fourth Degree. The ceremony was followed by a Mass and banquet at the church.

   The new Fourth Degree knight joined the Knights of Columbus seven years ago in Cooksville, TN where he completed his First, Second and Third degrees. He was sponsored for Fourth Degree membership and accompanied to the Jacksonville ceremony by knight Ken Nelson, current Recorder, immediate past Deputy Grand Knight, and Past Grand Knight of Council 7091. Attaining Fourth Degree status made him eligible for membership in the Frank J. Durbin Fourth Degree Assembly 2608, the patriotic/ceremonial arm of K of C Council 7091.

   A native of the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad, Seedansingh migrated to the United States 36 years ago and is retired from the hospitality industry where he served as an executive in the Choice Hotel organization. He resides in Poinciana with his wife, Carmen. They attend St. Matthew Catholic Church in Winter Haven.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 10:10 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 03 2019

By: Info Provided by TheatreWorks Florida.

Davenport - TheatreWorks Florida is thrilled and proud to announce the State of Florida Division of Cultural Affairs has approved an NEA Partnership Grant in the amount of $10,000 to continue the company’s highly acclaimed community outreach branch, TheatreCares, and the inspiring theatre arts program, Vet Voices.

   Vet Voices is a FREE program for military war veterans, their families and caregivers that enlists creative arts therapy through active participation in workshops and events. This grant is made possible by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). This marks the fifth NEA grant awarded to TheatreWorks Florida and TheatreCares.

   Vet Voices launched in 2018 for Central FL military veterans and had a highly successful season, ending with an all-veteran written and acted play called “Breakfast in Baghdad”, directed by Mark S. Graham.

   The play encompassed stories about the vets’ actual experiences in the military and was presented to the public on May 18 & 19, 2019. The 2019-20 sessions will now focus on music and theatre, whether it be singing, songwriting, playing an instrument or just being behind the scenes to produce the Final Presentation in June 2020.

   The Vet Voices program is free of charge to military veterans of war (Active, Retired, Reserve and National Guard), their families and their caregivers in the Central FL region. A final presentation of creative work will be presented to the Central Florida public on June 2020 as a continued effort to create an awareness of our wartime veterans and the health issues they deal with on a daily basis as well as how they adapt to normalizing their lives after war.

   Recruitment for the Vet Voices 2019-20 program is already in progress from now until Oct 10, 2019. The program does have a participant cutoff so sign up early.

   For more information and to register for the program, please visit TheatreWorks Florida’s website at TheatreWorksFL.org or contact Abel Gonzales, TWF Company Manager, at: vetvoices@theatreworksfl.org | 407.340.0473.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 10:05 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 03 2019

 By: M.C. Reyes, Member of the Editorial Board

   "We are all in this together " is a phrase that people who care about one another usually use when working together for a common goal or cause. But, what does that phrase really mean? Well, let me tell you what it means.

   As a society, we need to realize that, whatever happens around us, not only affects one person... in reality, it affects all of us. Why? Because again, "we are all in this together."

   The truth is that this crazy thing called life has made us related. Yes, we are all related to each other by the crazy things happening around us right now. We are brothers and sisters in arms and, as such, we need to unite forces to fight against the things that are destroying our society... the things that are trying to put us against each other and to damage our future and the future of our children.

   Enough is enough, guys. We need to wake up and realize that real work needs to be done so that we can create a better future for those who we love the most, and unless we unite forces and decide to stand up and fight for what is right, we are just part of the problem.

   Enough with the finger-pointing, enough with the name-calling, and ENOUGH with the discrimination and absurd racism. Again, we are all in this together and whether we like it or not, we need each other to make this world a better place for all of us.

   Today, I want to invite you to care for one another and to join forces to make our community a better place.

   How do I do that? Well, let's start by using your right to vote intelligently. A lot of work needs to be done in our communities and unless we pick the right candidates to represent us, things will never change. You have the power to make changes, so use that right and that power to make those who are currently occupying positions of power or thinking about running, to work for the community, not just for their own political agenda.

   For those who don't know this, every city holds public city commission meetings, and as members of the community, you can attend these meetings. What a better way to make our leaders accountable for their decisions than to show up and show them that we are watching and that we are no longer standing by while they do whatever they want with us, or with our community. We need to take control of our community, and the first step is to vote intelligently and to hold those we vote for accountable.

   And what's the next step, you may be asking?... well, that next step is to be there for each other. We all need a helping hand from time to time, so let's put aside any social bias, or any grudges that we may be holding, and turn that into love and respect for each other. I promise you that working together towards a common goal is easier than trying to do it ourselves.

   At the end of the day, we are all in this together.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 09:53 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 03 2019

 

 

 

By: Alex Morales-Hernandez, Guest Contributor   

   After more than 21 years in the military, and most of them spent abroad, I was one of those people who thought that my vote didn’t count. I guess I was wrong!

   Shortly after my retirement, I started to pay more attention to what was happening to our county and realized that I was guilty about the same things I was complaining about.

   I was always saying why should I care since, at the end of the day, nothing is going to change, etc. Well, I realize that that is exactly what the people in power want you to think.

   After serving in countries where freedom of speech is suppressed, I now clearly see that, not only is it my responsibility, but also my duty as a citizen to go and vote.

 You may ask, why now? It is simple.

   The principals that I swear to protect with my life are now vanishing in front of my eyes, just because the ones that know the system and know that the majority of the people will not exercise such right, will continue to take advantage of this great nation. Hence, the reason our elected representatives do not reflect our society.

   Ironically, others will die to have this right that we take for granted. So, I will suggest this... let’s all exercise our right to be heard and get involved in our local communities; as a result, we will start enabling change.

   I genuinely believe that 99 percent of Americans all want to provide for their families and be able to have a decent life for themselves and their loved ones. We don’t have to agree on everything; however, I do believe that we must respect each other as human beings.

   Understanding this will bridge our differences.

   The world is changing regardless of whether we want it or not, and if we don’t evolve, we will be left behind. So, I encourage everyone to take some time and challenge what you see on tv, on the internet, or what someone may say.

   Do your research, make your judgment, and exercise your right to vote, which many have died for. You will see that, no matter what the circumstances may be, your voice does and will matter.

About the Author: Alex Morales-Hernandez is a Veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces. He is also the President and CEO of EEC Solutions. You can visit his website at www.dbaeecsolutions.com

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 09:46 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 03 2019

 

 

 By: Brandon N. Kneeld, Guest Columnist

   Unprecedented - that’s typically the word of choice for describing the population growth in the Four Corners region. Various estimates put the greater Davenport area among the fastest growing in the state, if not the nation. In just four years here, I’ve watched multiple developments, mostly neighborhoods, spring up all along our corridors. Imagine how shocking that must be for longtime residents that have been here for forty years, growing up on rural boulevards where everybody knew everybody, work was local, and citrus was king.

   Many of these lifelong residents have come to me with their frustrations asking how we can allow such unchecked growth and the plowing under of orange groves that were once synonymous with this part of Florida? The truth, for better or worse, is that we have neither the power to allow nor to prohibit the sale and development of land. It’s the individuals and companies that own the land and cultivated it that get to decide what to do with it next. When greening, canker, and other diseases took their toll on the industry, many companies began closing doors and abandoning groves well before the developers showed up. Now, as the region becomes the affordable housing market for Orlando, landowners find their property is far more valuable to developers than it could ever again be for agriculture.

   What we can do, however, is modernize our zoning laws and land use regulations, actions recently taken by the City of Davenport, to better manage the growth, get out ahead of it, and provide for the needs of current and future residents. Polk County recently restored impact fees to 100% of their levels before the last economic downturn, allowing funding for future planning and construction of new infrastructures like roads, schools, and other services.

   Although these are great, necessary steps, admittedly we’ve been slow to react and now find ourselves behind the proverbial 8-ball, playing catch-up to remediate impacts from the growth that’s already occurred and funding opportunities that were

missed.

   One major reason for the slow response to growth is distance. Polk County is one of Florida’s largest counties and many NE Polk residents find themselves an hour away from their representatives in Bartow. Historically, public officials and staff had little reason to venture to this portion of the county, and even now there are few facilities, events, or organizations to attract their attention. Municipalities like Davenport and Haines City provide some local voice, but their influence is limited to the small segments of the overall population that live within their city limits on the southern edge of the region. In fact, a rough estimate suggests as few as 15% of residents with a Davenport address live within the city limits; while homes and businesses all the way to the county line and US-192 have a Davenport address, the city limits stop over four miles south of I-4.

   Even the population numbers are questionable as there is no formal designation for the area and regional numbers get mixed into countywide or other metropolitan estimates. Even in the municipalities like Davenport, where official annual estimates are conducted, the official population stands at over 5,600 with 13+% year-over-year growth, but internal estimates suggest that number could be closer to 9,000. Applying these estimates to the entire region, it may be conservative to suggest the area’s population is in the neighborhood of 60,000-90,000, a figure only surpassed by Lakeland in Polk County. Unfortunately, we won’t know the actual numbers until next year’s official count in the decennial census.

   These numbers are a staggering change from the sleepy NE Polk County of yesteryear, and there are no signs that the growth will subside anytime soon. Our residents must take the initiative to be involved in the political process and insist on leadership in the areas of infrastructure and services to meet the demands of the region. We can’t afford to have leaders that will be complacent when it comes to growth and change. That means staying informed and being active on local and regional boards. It also means voting and supporting candidates that reflect our new reality, including our changing values. We have an opportunity to build a dynamic community based both on our history and our diversity, but if we fail to make our voices heard, we will find ourselves falling further behind in the race to keep up with growth and change.

About the Author: Brandon N. Kneeld is a City Commissioner for Davenport and works as a Systems Engineer for Disney. He serves on several local boards. He lives in Davenport with his husband, Akihito, and their infant son, Andrew.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 09:37 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 03 2019

 

By: Content Provided by Feltrim Sports.

Haines City  - Feltrim Sports, the premier sports facility in the greater Central Florida area, announced recently a partnership with East Preps LLC to host the 2nd annual SPIRAL “All America Classic” High School All-Star Game. The game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, at Feltrim Sports Village (Stadium).

   The game is presented by the FBS Tropical Bowl College Football All-Star Game Committee.

   The roster features 110 of the best high-school seniors from around the country and is heavy with Florida elite talent. Players are traveling from as far as California, Arizona, Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio, New York, and Texas. Owner of East Preps LLC, Michael Quartey Esq., was not lacking in options for the game; choosing Feltrim Sports Village over numerous other venues.

   "We are extremely excited to bring the All America Classic High School Football Senior All-Star Bowl to the brand-new, state of the art Feltrim Sports Village in the Orlando area,” Quartey said. “Balmoral Resort Florida will be the perfect site to host our players and their families and we are also enthusiastic to work with Polk County Sports Marketing to bring this and other events to the area."

   The America Team will be coached by Steve Allen, head coach at DeLand High School, and the National Team will be coached by Anthony Paul Davis, former head coach of Tohopekaliga High School in Kissimmee.

   College coaches are expected to attend and scout from NCAA D1/FCS Programs such as Stetson University, Jacksonville University, Prairie View A&M, Virginia University - Lynchburg. The All America Classic has partnered with the Orlando area's newest post-graduate academy Valley State to develop more scouting opportunities for high school seniors.

   Tickets to the game cost $10 at the gate, cash or credit card. All military personnel with a military ID will get in for free.

   The classic honors all who have served America. A special halftime ceremony will honor all branches of the military and law enforcement.

   The game will be broadcast live by FloFootball to more than 100,000 subscribers at www.allamericaclassic.com/tv

 About Feltrim Sports:

   Phase I of The Sports Village is an all-turf soccer and football stadium, with a seating capacity of 2,500 spectators, there are turf practice fields that are adjacent to the stadium, 10 sand volleyball courts, mini-golf course, and a fieldhouse with four collegiate locker rooms. Additionally, Feltrim has partnered with international soccer legend Ronaldo, to form the R9 Soccer Academy.

   Phase II includes Feltrim Sports Arena. The 70,000 sq. ft. arena includes a championship court with a spectator seating capacity of 2,500, 4 basketball & volleyball practice courts, an e-sports center, hospitality suites, 4 golf simulators, sports performance center, and more.

 About SPIRAL/ East Preps:

   SPIRAL/ East Preps is the company that owns and operates the All America Classic and this year marks its 10th year in business. The company also puts on 3 premier college senior bowls including the FBS Tropical Bowl, the National Bowl, and the FCS Bowl that have collectively seen over 300 players go on to the NFL.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 09:26 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 03 2019

Haines City - Hi guys, my name is Ozzymore Federico, but you guys can call me Ozzy. I am an 11-year old toy Chihuahua. In those 11 years, I have traveled with my parents around the world while they served in the military. I guess, that kind of makes me a military brat, right? I love naps, treats, and long walks. Most of the time, I tend to be socially awkward because I don't like to play with other dogs, but I do like my friend Jack. He moved away though so I am looking for a new friend that I can have play dates with. Anyway, I have to go now. My dad is taking me to the dog park to play fetch. And I loooove playing fetch. Have a good day, everyone. Goodbye!

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 09:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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