Category Archives: Contributions


Tobacco Free Polk: Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Annual Event and LRH Recognition

The Lakeland Chamber’s Annual Meeting brought together hundreds of business professionals for a night of networking, arts, and recognition.

For networking, the Chamber provided over an hour before the opening ceremonies for the guests to mingle, enjoy the cash bar, and make connections. Old friends reunited and new connections were made. There is no doubt, this was an important component of the night.

For arts, students from the Harrison School for the Arts performed an original musical production entitled “When You Dream:  A Legacy of Giving.” This fantastic musical pays tribute to Mr. George Jenkins and the philanthropic legacy he inspired in Lakeland. A roaring applause filled the room when the musical concluded. The Publix founder holds a special place in the heart of many Lakeland residents.

For recognition, the Chamber identified businesses in the community that are making a difference. There were small business awards and the American Cancer Society’s Florida Tobacco Cessation Alliance’s Gold Level Worksite Wellness Award. This award was given to Lakeland Regional Health for having a strong tobacco policy that includes E-cigarettes, and for providing all available tobacco cessation options to their employees through their Health Insurance Benefits. They are the first to receive the Gold Award in Polk County and the 12th in all of Florida!


This award recognizes LRH commitment to a smoke-free culture. Of course, there is a moral benefit to helping employees quit. There is also a significant cost savings when your staff is smoke-free. However, an additional benefit to this award is the publicity it creates. LRH was recognized at an event with hundreds of attendees. They were posted on the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce site and Lakeland Regional Health can send it out on their own social media and website. Not to mention the media potential this creates. And now you are reading this, weeks after the event. This is a recruitment tool, public relations, recognition, and a symbol of commitment to their employees and patients. Well done Lakeland Regional Health, Lakeland is very proud of what you are doing for our community.

To see a full list of local businesses committing to a smoke-free culture, check out the previous blog post at:

Do you currently have a strong policy, or would like to move in that direction? Fill out our assessment so we can know exactly how to help. If your business would like to fill out the form in 2018, please contact Juli Davis at or (863) 578-2157. All Chamber businesses that complete the assessment, whether they qualify for the award or not, will receive two free tickets to an upcoming Lakeland Chamber Business After Hours event.


Polk State College Offers In-State Tuition to Students Displaced from Puerto Rico

Polk State College continues to provide support for students displaced from Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria and is again offering in-state tuition to those individuals.
Gov. Rick Scott asked Florida state colleges and universities this week to extend in-state tuition to those students through the 2018-2019 academic year. Scott’s initial call to action in September offered in-state tuition to those who enrolled through December.

Since then, Polk State has assisted more than 60 individuals who fled Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria and has enrolled a dozen as students.

“We hope to assist even more students by extending in-state tuition to those displaced by Hurricane Maria,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said. “The College will continue to welcome students from Puerto Rico with open arms and provide them with the assistance they need to return to their higher education pursuits as they continue to recover from the storm.”

Falconetti appointed Director of Student Enrollment Services and Registrar Kathy Bucklew as the point of contact for those students.

Bucklew has continued to work with them closely and confidentially to help them obtain necessary documentation and transcripts, as well as to identify which exemptions and waivers they may be eligible for to assist them financially.
Some students have publicly shared their stories, such as Josue Salgado, who was prepared to start classes at the University of Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria moved through his family’s town of Carolina.

“It could be years before Puerto Rico is back to normal,” Salgado said. “My original plan was to study for two years in Puerto Rico then come to the U.S., so this became an opportunity for me to jump start that process… and I feel very fortunate to have the ability to attend Polk State College.”

Prospective students should contact Bucklew by email at, phone at 863.298.6820, or in her office, WAD 116 in the Administration Building on the Winter Haven Campus at 999 Ave. H N.E.

About Polk State College
Located in Winter Haven, Florida, and established in 1964, Polk State College is a multi-campus institution serving more than 16,000 students with Bachelor of Applied Science, Bachelor of Science, Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees, as well as a wide range of certificate and workforce training options. The College also operates three charter high schools. Polk State’s advantages include small class sizes; hands-on learning; dedicated faculty; day and night classes; online options; affordable tuition; excellent financial aid; and a diverse community and vibrant student life, including fine arts opportunities, clubs, and intercollegiate athletics.



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.