Southeastern Guide Dogs Polk County Walkathon

At Southeastern Guide Dogs, our Walkathon represents our biggest fundraiser of the year. We walk because the proceeds help Southeastern Guide Dogs raise, train, and match our amazing guide dogs with our visually impaired students, people whose lives are transformed by new levels of independence and freedom. We walk because veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other disabilities count on us for our remarkable service dogs.

Lake Hollingsworth is a beautiful lake near the center of the city of Lakeland, with a scenic walking path surrounding its shores. While?most of our Walkathons are a 3K walk, Polk County participants can opt for a 5K option all the way around the lake. Walkathon parking, opening ceremonies, and festivities will be held on the grounds of the lakeside First Presbyterian Church that has graciously opened its campus.

Participants will enjoy a 3K or 5K walk, live music, local vendors, our Southeastern Guide Dogs Gift Shop, and family-friendly fun!

8:30 am – Festivities Begin
9:45 am – Opening Ceremonies
10:00 am – 3K Walk Kick-Off
11:00 am – Raffle Drawing

Business’s and individuals interested in helping to sponsoring the event can click here for more information.

For more information on the Polk County Southeastern Guide Dogs Polk County Walkathon please click here.



Mayor Howard Wiggs announced his endorsement of and participation in the eighth annual Small Business Saturday. Falling between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday is a day to celebrate and support the small, independently-owned businesses that help boost local economies across the country.

“Small business is a critically important part of a healthy, vibrant economy. Whether it be in new job creation or support for local activities, small business promotes and stimulates the well-being of a community,” Wiggs said.

Small Business Saturday serves as the ceremonial kickoff of the holiday shopping season for small businesses across the United States. According to the American Express 2016 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, an estimated 112 million consumers reported shopping at small businesses on Small Business Saturday. The day has also been championed by elected officials in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

In recognizing the importance of supporting independent businesses in Lakeland, Mayor Wiggs and the Commissioners

  • Will be issuing a Small Business Saturday Proclamation on November 20 at 9:00 am at City Hall and will acknowledge the City of Lakeland’s support of this city-wide effort to support the Small Businesses in Lakeland.
  • Plan to Shop Small on November 25thand have invited residents of Lakeland to shop small with them.
  • Have engagedLakeland’s small business agencies – the Downtown Lakeland Partnership, The Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce and the Lakeland Business Leaders in support of their efforts in planning Small Business Saturday shopping events on November 25th  
  • Call on residents to share the small businesses in the community that they love on social media using #ShopSmallLKLD and/or #SmallBizSat

Mayor Wiggs and the Commission are joining business leaders from across the community to assist in supporting the local businesses in Lakeland that make Lakeland a great city to work, shop and play. “It’s so exciting to see collaboration among businesses, city officials and the organizations that serve the small business community,” says Chrissanne Long, who helping promote this year’s Small Business Saturday in Lakeland.

Lori Long, Executive Director of the Downtown Lakeland Partnership, says she’s excited to bring more attention to the merchants of downtown. “I am thrilled to see us reaching beyond the boundaries of Downtown Lakeland, and embracing all Lakeland’s small businesses. I believe the more we do this, the more Downtown Lakeland will flourish.”

“The Chamber believes that collaboration is key in supporting our many great small businesses in Lakeland,” says Cory Skeates, president of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce. “This partnership provides us with an opportunity to again show our businesses just much we appreciate them and all they do for the success of our community.”

Lakeland merchants and consumers can learn more about local activities for Small Business Saturday and a list of the participating merchants by visiting ShopSmallLkld.com


2017 Polk County Toys for Tots Campaign – Volunteer Information

Our campaign strives to provide toys for underprivileged children of Polk County. In 2016, we successfully provided toys to over 8,800 children representing 3,368 families! The Polk County Toys for Tots program is entirely run by a dedicated staff of volunteers. Local volunteers are the backbone of our Campaign and their commitment is invaluable.

 Coordination and scheduling of all volunteers is being handled by Assistant Coordinator, Dorothy Dunlap. Contact Dorothy at 863-838-3060 or email johndotdunlap@gmail.com to discuss scheduling and orientation. Thank you for taking the time to review our information. We hope to see you during the 2017 Campaign!

Who can volunteer?

  • Adults who can assist with any of our functions are welcome to volunteer.
  • High school students may participate to fulfill their community involvement requirements.
    • Minimum age requirement of 14. Volunteers under the age of 16 must have an adult with them.
    • Student groups wishing to participate must have an adult leader to volunteer with them and insure they are following directions from warehouse managers.

How can I volunteer? There are so many ways to help with the 2017 Campaign:

  • This year’s donated warehouse is at 439 Gandy Rd, Auburndale, FL.
  • From this location toys are stored and then distributed to various groups and individuals throughout Polk County.
  • Warehouse Hours are 9:00AM to 3:00PM, Tuesday – Friday and 9:00AM to 1:00PM on Saturdays. We are closed Sunday and Monday.
  • Scheduled hours will change to meet the demands of the campaign
  • Changes in Warehouse Hours will be emailed to keep volunteers up to date.
  • A brief New Volunteer Orientation is available daily at 9:00AM, but orientation can also be arranged by appointment by calling Assistant Coordinator, Dorothy Dunlap at 863-838-3060 or email johndotdunlap@gmail.com.

What do warehouse volunteers do? A variety of functions:

  1. Count toys received from donation boxes and community donations as they arrive.
  2. Place counted toys on the warehouse floor in categories for easy packing.
  3. Shoppers take a family’s request and select toys from the inventory on hand to fill the request.
  4. Shoppers take selected toys to an area where the items are bagged for pick up.
  5. Toy Baggers bag the items selected by “shoppers” for pick up by participating schools and community organizations, or in some cases, individual families.
  6. Various other functions arise during different stages of the campaign.

Note:  This warehouse environment is NOT AIR CONDITIONED or HEATED. Sturdy shoes and casual wear are recommended according to the weather of the day. Water and light snacks are provided.

What do other volunteers do?

  1. Route Managers work with donation drop boxes. Route Managers:
    1. Deliver boxes to participating businesses,
    2. Pick up donated toys as needed by the business and at the end of the campaign.
    3. Count and deliver toys donated toys to the Auburndale warehouse.
    4. Route managers solicit and service new participating businesses within their area.
  1. Event Volunteers staff tables at local events throughout Polk County.
    1. Collect and count toys donated at the event.
    2. Deliver donated toys to the Auburndale warehouse.
  1. Food Angels bring lunches and snacks to the warehouse for volunteers working that day. Coordinate with the warehouse managers to provide donated or prepared sandwiches, chicken, chili, pizza, or other lunch food for 6-10 warehouse volunteers.
  1. “As Needed” Volunteers step in as needs often arise during the campaign; they volunteer “as needed.” New people and new ideas that bring new opportunities are welcomed.

Citizens Bank & Trust Wins Philanthropic Corporation of the Year

The Greater Polk County Chapter of The Association of Fundraising Professionals celebrates National Philanthropy Day by recognizing and honoring individuals and organizations who make their work in philanthropy enjoyable and allow organizations to strive toward their mission.

The AFP Greater Polk County Chapter sponsors an annual awards program to recognize the outstanding achievements of individual, foundation and corporate philanthropists, fundraising volunteers, and professional fundraising executives.

Candidates can be nominated for the following categories: Philanthropist of the Year, Philanthropic Corporation of the Year, Philanthropic Small Business of the Year, Spirit of Philanthropy, Volunteer of the Year in Philanthropy, and Youth in Philanthropy.

Citizens Bank & Trust won the Philanthropic Corporation of the Year Award. This award is given to those who demonstrate high ethical standards and show the community that the spirit of giving is alive and well, and stronger than ever.

The Polk Education Foundation nominated Citizens Bank & Trust for the award for all they do to assist educational programs and services in Polk County.

Citizens Bank & Trust President Greg Littleton, in regard to the nomination and award, “Citizens Bank & Trust is humbled to receive such a wonderful recognition. Philanthropy is very important to us and we firmly believe in giving back to the community that we serve.”

The presenting sponsor of the event was GiveWell Community Foundation, a foundation that currently holds more than 280 charitable funds established by individuals, families, organizations, and private foundations and serves a variety of charitable services in Polk, Hardee, and Highlands County, Florida.

For more information on Citizens Bank & Trust visit www.citizens-bank.com; or contact Donovan Tinsley at Tinsley Creative, email: donovan@tinsleycreative.com; phone: 863-583-0081.

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Polk Goes Global III: Attendees will Gain Insight on Conducting International Business

The Lakeland and Winter Haven Chambers, in collaboration with the Central Florida Development Council, is pleased to host this year’s Polk Goes Global III – A Half-Day International Exporting Conference.

This exciting and informative event highlights the economic strength of Polk County’s international trade in cattle, citrus, manufacturers, and other goods and service exports. The county is centrally located between major Florida ports, with a free trade zone in the middle of the Tampa/Orlando area, plus a CSX intermodal logistics center. Ideally situated, Polk County is a hot spot for international distribution. Over $2 billion worth of economic activity occurs through the county each year. Polk Goes Global is sure to provide a wealth of information to any businessperson or investor looking to take advantage of the worldwide reach of Polk County.

The International sponsor of the event is Saddle Creek Logistics Services; additional event sponsors include Orlando International Airport, Polk State College Lakeland Campus and SunTrust Bank. The Keynote Speaker will be Manny Mencia, SVP of International Trade and Business Development at Enterprise Florida.  For over 30 years, Mencia has acquired extensive international trade expertise while serving at the Florida Department of Commerce in various executive roles (1977-1991) and then as vice president of World Marketing at The Beacon Council (1992-1996) before joining Enterprise Florida.  His keynote address promises to offer attendees unique insight into the opportunities surrounding the global market.

There will also be a number of speakers and panelists to share their experiences on conducting international business in Polk County, including:

  • Joseph Bell, Regional Director of Enterprise Florida
  • David Befus, Associate Professor of International Business at Southeastern University
  • Sandra Campbell, Director at the U.S. Department of Commerce – Clearwater Center
  • Torrey Chambliss, Manager of Foreign Trade Zone at Port Tampa Bay
  • Mauro Costa, Managing Member of SOS Universal
  • Rick Garcia, President of Gulf Coast Avionics
  • Javier Marin, Director of Business Development and Global Trace at the Central Florida Development Council
  • Sandro Murtas, Regional Manager at the Small Business Administration
  • Eileen Rodriguez, Director of the Small Business Development Center at USF
  • Joel Sellers, International Sales Manager of Florida’s Natural Growers
  • Jennifer Simpson, Regional Director at the Eastern Region EXIM Bank
  • Dan Tapia, Manager of International Strategy and Policy at the Florida Chamber of Commerce

Polk Goes Global III will be held on Friday, November 17, 2017, 7:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., at the Polk State College, LTB Auditorium, located at 3425 Winter Lake Road, Lakeland, Florida, 33801. Admission to the event is $25 for members of the CFDC, the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, and the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, and $35 for non-members. The price includes breakfast.

Attendees can register online by visiting the  Lakeland or Winter Haven Chamber websites or by going to LakelandChamber.com or WinterHavenchamber.com and clicking on the events tab.

For more information please contact:
Brianna Dingess

(863) 293-2138


Rebecca Fortier

(863) 688-8551 ext. 229

Javier Marin

(863) 937-4430