Category Archives: Contributions



Seth and Nirva Ready’s home in Lakeland might be hard to miss. Parked in their driveway is a tour bus – something familiar to musicians. The Readys are a vocal duo whose music is a blend of pop, gospel and R&B influences. As residents of Lakeland, the couple spends a majority of their time traveling in the bus across the nation or flying overseas to perform concerts. In the next few weeks, they are looking forward to being able to perform at home in Lakeland.

On Tuesday, January 23, the Readys will be performing the post-game concert following the Lakeland Magic game as a part of Faith and Family Night. The Magic will be taking on the Greensboro Swarm at 7 p.m. in the Jenkins Arena in the RP Funding Center. The concert will be free of charge to everyone with a ticket to the game. “We’re excited for a public setting to do ministry,” said Seth, an alumnus of Southeastern University.

Born and raised in Polk County, Seth decided to attend Southeastern after hearing about it from one of his youth pastors. “Southeastern was a fun and lively campus with a spiritual focus,” he said.

A 2004 graduate of Southeastern, Seth recalls being the only Math major to walk across the graduation platform. While earning his degree, Seth started to pursue a career in the music industry. In his junior year, he was hired as a backup vocalist for Grammy award-winning artist Kirk Franklin. He took a break for a year from school to travel with Franklin and then returned to finish his degree. Following graduation, he continued to flourish as a background vocalist singing for a variety of Christian artists including Chris Tomlin, Donnie McClurkin and Cece Winans.

Nirva followed a similar career path. Raised in Chicago, she joined Grammy award-winning TobyMac’s Diverse City band after graduating from Fisk University. While singing with Toby at a Billy Graham Crusade, she and Seth met backstage for the first time. Soon afterwards, a friendship developed eventually leading to marriage three years later.

In 2012, they transitioned to serve as young adult pastors at The Crossing Church in Tampa. At that time, Seth and Nirva also started to record songs on the side and released an EP, “I Need You.” They were soon contacted by Integrity Music, who offered them a recording contract. Their first album, “Never Alone,” with Integrity was released in 2016.

One of their songs, “Brother,” – a song they almost didn’t record – quickly made it to the radio. “When we first heard it, we were hesitant to record it. We wondered if we could sing these lyrics with a hundred percent honesty,” said Nirva. “Could we really say that we see a brother when we look in the face of our enemy? This question was haunting and convicting.”

“With all that was going on in our nation though, we felt that this message was needed. And, even if we might not be there quite yet, it could serve as a vision caster for the kind of people we wanted to become,” said Nirva. “‘Brother’ is a reminder that everyone is created in the image of God. It’s good to forgive and not to harbor bitterness. We have to choose to love even when it is hard and difficult,” said Nirva. This is one of the songs they will perform at the Faith and Family Night.

In July of 2017, Nirva stepped down from the TobyMac Diverse Band to pursue music full time with Seth. “It is fulfilling to do ministry as a couple,” said Seth. Since then, the two released a new song at the beginning of 2018 called “We Won’t Back Down.”

To learn more about Seth and Nirva Ready, visit their website at To purchase tickets for Faith and Family Night, visit or call 863.825.3258.


Supervisor of Elections to Host Recruitment Event in Lakeland

Polk County residents are invited to apply to become election workers during an informational meeting scheduled for Thursday, January 18th.  “These are paid positions working at polling places on Election Day,” explained Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards.

The meeting will be held at 11 am at the Lake Mirror Center Auditorium, 121 S Lake Avenue, Lakeland and no reservation is required.

Voters who have served as election workers in Polk County in recent years are welcome, but do not need to attend.

For more information contact the Supervisor of Elections Office at 863-534-5888, or visit


Creating a Culture of Health

A business’s culture plays a significant role in its success. Depending on the culture at your office, you could be on the forefront of innovation or on a fast track to growth. However, let’s talk about your employee’s health. Is the wellness of your staff embedded in your culture? Outside of the obvious moral benefit to having a “culture of health,” there is also a significant monetary benefit.

Tobacco cessation is an excellent place to start. On average, employees who smoke cost your business $6,000 per year. Here is a breakdown of exactly where that money is going:



What could you do with $6,000 more dollars every year? Now multiply that by the number of smokers at your office and dream of the possibility. Now, this transition is not going to happen overnight and you WILL need help. That is exactly why Tobacco Free Polk is the proud sponsor of the Lakeland Chamber’s Smoke-Free Business Initiative.

To begin working towards a tobacco-free workplace policy, complete the Tobacco Worksite Wellness Assessment. This is a short survey that details your tobacco policy and smoking cessation options. Once your assessment has been completed, please send it to Juli Davis, the Tobacco Policy Manager at the Florida Department of Health in Polk County, at or 863-578-2157. The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce will send you 2 FREE TICKETS to the Chamber’s Business After Hours!

Please contact the Tobacco Free Polk at 863-578-2157 to:

  • Assist you with any questions regarding tobacco cessation
  • Assist you in your worksite wellness assessment
  • Learn more about policy implementation at your office
  • Learn more about the free resources to help your staff quit
  • Schedule a FREE on-site cessation program at your office.

Need additional incentive to get those policies in place? Businesses that complete the assessment AND have a strong tobacco policy will be recognized at the Chamber’s Annual Meeting. Here are some of the benefits for taking on a smoke-free initiative:

  1. $6,000 per year per employee that quits smoking
  2. Healthier employees as you commit to a “culture of health”
  3. Two free passes to the Chamber’s Business After Hours
  4. Potential to receive an award (and great PR) at the Chamber’s Annual Meeting
  5. FREE quit resources or your staff, including coaching over the phone, online and face-to-face as well as free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (patches, lozenges or gum). Learn more at

Developing a strong culture is critical to success. However, a culture of health is oftentimes left out of the equation. Cory Skeates, President of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, shares how he feels tobacco cessation has brought improvements in the workplace,

“Aside from the well-known health benefits that come from not smoking, from a business perspective, encouraging a smoke-free workforce reduces healthcare costs, absenteeism, lost productivity and in many cases helps reduce insurance liability premiums. These are all areas that allow a business to become more efficient and profitable.”

If you’re interested in learning more about developing a “culture of health” by implementing a strong tobacco policy at your office, please reach out to Juli Davis, the Tobacco Policy Manager, at or 863-578-2157 for more information.



2015 Detroit Tiger BBQ Tickets On Sale

Join us in welcoming back our Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium during the Lakeland Chamber’s 69th Annual Tiger BBQ on Thursday, February 26th starting at 6 PM.

This Lakeland tradition kicks off the Detroit Tiger’s 79th Spring Training season and celebrates the 50th year of Tiger baseball at Joker Marchant Stadium—which translates each year into approximately $45 million in economic impact to our area!

Ticket holders will enjoy traditional southern BBQ, a commemorative 2015 souvenir mug and the opportunity support the longest standing Major League Baseball relationship in Spring Training history.   Please join us and fellow Tiger’s supporters in supporting the Chamber’s 69th Annual Tiger BBQ event by clicking here to order tickets.

Click here to order your ticket(s) or call Patty Smith at (863) 688-8551 Ext. 224

2015 Tiger BBQ
For more information on Spring Training, please go to or call 866-668.4437.


Location-Based Social Media Marketing; or Foursquare Isn’t a Playground Game Anymore!

Chrissanne Long is an Internet Marketing Strategist and the co-founder of Marketing System Blueprints, LLC, a Lakeland, FL – based company that leverages Internet technology to enable offline businesses to build stronger, more meaningful relationships with their customers.

The advent of the Internet has enabled us to connect to the rest of the world via the World Wide Web.  Obviously, since the “.com boom”, things have changed and we have grown more advanced.  Location-Based Social Media is an emerging trend that might offer an exciting way for people to begin seeing how wonderful Lakeland really is.

Recently, Lakeland has become “a little Mecca of cool,” thanks to those businesses and visionaries who have realized that it really will require embracing the advancements that Internet technology is bringing, to make Lakeland more fun and interactive.  Today, consumers can get whatever they want through the Internet.  Buyers have shifted their purchasing habits to what’s convenient.  Now, more than ever it is imperative that our local businesses unite and shift the focus back to what made America the amazing country that it is: relationships.

One way businesses can begin building relationships and have fun with their customers is through marketing with location-based social media.  There are many location-based applications available, but I am talking about the location-based game, foursquare, and other similar applications that are becoming more and more popular in many cities.  The basic premise of the game is this:  A person downloads the foursquare application to their cell phone.  They create an account and they begin visiting their favorite venues.  When they arrive at a venue, no doubt, with their cell phone in hand, they open the application and “check-in”. The application monitors their location through the GPS system installed in most Smart Phones today.

The information about the venues- the business name, address, etc. originally was extracted from a database similar to the one used to display Google maps listings for local businesses.  However, the people playing the game can add locations to the game as well.  This allows new businesses and businesses not already in the database to be included in the foursquare grid.

When a person checks in to a venue, they are, in a sense advertising their loyalty to that location.  The more they go there, the more advertising they are doing.  Today, businesses are beginning to leverage that advertising and take it to higher levels.  Once a person checks in a certain number of times, they have the ability to become the mayor of those locations they frequent more than other users.  If someone is already the mayor of a location, other visitors are told this when they check in.  This is where the businesses can begin to incentivize the use of foursquare!  The bottom line is that people are playing this game and games like it because they want something.  They want to be recognized.  They want to build and nurture relationships.

In order for this new type of marketing to really begin to show its advantages, people in the local area need to begin participating.  People do not have to be “friends” with people to begin learning about cool new places and events.  When a person checking into a venue sees something they think other people will want to know, they can add a “tip” or a “to-do”.  Foursquare keeps these tips and to-dos for other people who check in to the same place to find when they arrive.

Additionally, if a business joins in the fun, they can post specials.  When a person’s GPS signal is recognized to be near a special, they will have an option to view it.  Imagine.  Someone is three blocks from your business, with no intention of stopping by, but they check in at the hardware store and your business is offering a free appetizer/ or a 10% discount for foursquare users and, voila! you have a new customer.

I recommend doing some research before you begin to add foursquare to your marketing mix, because people are very curious about how they can participate and they will certainly begin to ask questions.  You will want to know how to field these questions and you will also want to determine how you can get your venue on the foursquare grid as well.  Once you understand how your business can leverage this exciting new tool, you can establish a plan that makes your local establishment’s brand one that people recognize – even if they are not living here!

Currently, there is only one locally owned and operated restaurant in Lakeland (only two total) that has special offers advertised on foursquare’s application. Businesses that begin to leverage Location-Based Social Media in Lakeland, FL by adding it to their marketing mix will benefit from this entertaining and free tool. This, in turn will add to the current trends that are making Lakeland a “little Mecca of cool”.