Category Archives: Member Announcements


Leadership Lakeland Alumni, Friends Welcome Class XXXVII

Leadership Lakeland Class 37_4284

With more than 150 alumni and friends in attendance at Thursday’s Opening Reception at The Lakeland Country Club, Class XXXVII Chair, Chuck McDanal (Class XXXI, StudioC Solutions), introduced the 30 members of Leadership Lakeland Class XXXVII.

Nicole Travis (Class XXXIV, City of Lakeland) will be serving as Chair-Elect.



Congratulations to the following members:

  • Amy Noelle Bratten, Southeastern University
  • Kim Brunson, The Lakeland Rotary Club
  • Brandon Tyler Clark, The Ruthvens
  • Steven J. Cole, Lanier Upshaw, Inc.
  • Margaret Kovacs Connelly, Pace Center for Girls
  • Thomas James Culligan, Publix Super Markets, Inc.
  • Jarett Gregory, Watson Clinic, LLP
  • Tracy Grey, Heartland for Children, Inc.
  • Adam Hartley, Unlimited DPI
  • Susan Hurlburt, Hurlburt Financial/Evans & Hurlburt CPAs, P.A.
  • Gwinnell Jarvis, Polk County Sheriff’s Office
  • Kyle Jensen, Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A.
  • Ana M. Kalman, Lakeland Regional Health Systems
  • Rebecca A. Klein, A Woman’s Choice
  • Melissa Kulp, Florida Southern College
  • Steve Ledford, Compass Mortgage LLC
  • Hans Lehman, Lakeland Police Department
  • Johnna Martinez, GiveWell Community Foundation
  • Christopher J. McGarvey, Wall Titus, LLC
  • Nicholas Patrick Merriweather, The Sanoba Law Firm
  • Karen Moore, Polk State College Foundation
  • Craig Morby, The Yard on Mass
  • Ty Pinner, CenterState Bank
  • Andrew Carlos Ross, Florida Tropics Soccer Club
  • Parminder Sahota, Boring Business Systems
  • Katherine Sultenfuss Schichtel, GrayRobinson, P.A.
  • Shawn Sherrouse, City of Lakeland
  • Mary Gray Stephenson, Citizens Bank & Trust
  • Tiffany Taylor, Replay Lakeland
  • Jordan Courtney Weiland, Jordan Weiland Photography, LLC

Together, these class members will complete a rigorous schedule of monthly day sessions from October through May. Each session features hands-on experiences that engage class members in all aspects of Lakeland and Polk County.

Leadership Lakeland is an annual program designed to identify leadership and enhance existing leadership in our community. The program unites leaders from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to improve their ability to lead effectively, offering its members a broad range of experiences and insights about the community, its people, its needs, and its services.


How to Choose the Best Bank for Your Needs – Axiom Bank

How to Choose the Best Bank for Your Needs

By Ron Strand-Sorrell

Whether you’re looking to open a personal or business bank account (or both), you have many options from which to choose. On any given day, your mailbox may be stuffed with promotional offers from big banks, community banks and credit unions.

So, how do you choose the one that will best meet your needs? Here are a few elements to consider:

The Basics

Of course, the first step is making sure the bank is a secure home for your money. Look at rating services such as BauerFinancial and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation website to verify the bank is well capitalized and in good regulatory standing.

Then, review the bank’s website to get an understanding of its product mix, rates of return and tools such as mobile banking. With those basics covered, you can have a productive conversation with your prospective banker.


Many banks offer similar lines of products and services. But these offerings are only part of what makes a successful banking relationship. That’s because your bank should be more than a place to park your money – it should offer you the tools and experts to help you meet financial goals.

We often ask prospective customers, “Who’s your banker?” If they can’t come up with a name, that’s a sign they may not have a personal connection at their current bank.

Community banks such as Axiom Bank take pride in establishing a one-on-one relationship with every customer. We want to know what stage of life they’re in – are they building an emergency fund, preparing for retirement, saving to put their kids through college, or seeking to buy a bigger home? It’s only by talking with them that we can understand their needs and earn their trust.

Bottom line? Seek out a bank where you’ll be treated as more than just an account number.


Financial concerns are a source of stress for many customers, and they want reassurance that they can find answers quickly. Here again, you should have a go-to banking expert who’s readily available.

Your bank should be responsive, regardless of the channel – whether you’re visiting the local branch or sending a message on social media. If you must dial a 1-800 number and endure a lengthy hold every time you have a question, consider whether your bank is doing enough to meet your needs.

Community Connections

Many customers want a financial partner that cares about the community. And often, that starts with having roots in the local area. As a Maitland-based community bank, Axiom Bank has served customers in Central Florida since 1963. Our decision-makers live here. We invest in an array of nonprofits that improve our region. And at our Winter Garden branch, we offer free meeting space for small businesses and nonprofits.

When considering your options, look at each bank’s charitable commitments – not only its grant-making, but also employee volunteerism. If you see a cause you care about, it’s a sign that you and the bank may share similar values.

Business Services

If you own a business, you’ll have another set of considerations. Finding a bank that will champion your entrepreneurial goals should be a primary factor in the decision.

Look for a bank that offers a suite of solutions, such as treasury management, savings and checking accounts with low or minimal fees, and mobile tools that help you operate efficiently. Ask your would-be banker how their products and services will save you money and simplify your life.

And if you need a commercial loan, seek a bank that holds Preferred Lender status with the Small Business Administration. That designation means the bank has a streamlined approval timeline for your application.

Bringing It All Together

Choosing a bank is a personal decision, and it’s perfectly fine to take your time evaluating options. Determining whether the bank’s products match your needs, building a rapport with your banker, and observing the staff’s interactions with other customers will all be helpful indicators in the process.

The right bank should make your life easier – and your financial goals more attainable. And that’s the reward that makes all your research worthwhile.

Ron Strand-Sorrell is an Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer at Axiom Bank, N.A., a Maitland-based community bank with 24 branches, 22 of which are inside select Walmart Supercenters®. For more information about Axiom Bank, visit        


Upcoming “Festival of Fine Arts Series” Events Bring Theatrical, Musical, Visual Arts to FSC


LAKELAND (November 29, 2018) – The 59th season of Florida Southern College’s outstanding “Festival of Fine Arts” series continues to delight members of the community with an array of performing and visual arts events. The following offerings will be presented through the end of January:

Kiss Me, Kate
Opened Nov. 15, continues Nov. 29-Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m. (Sundays at 2:30 p.m.)

Passions run high as a leading lady and her actor/director ex-husband battle onstage and off in a production of William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. With romance, comedy, sophistication, and behind-the-scenes hijinks, the Tony Award-winning musical Kiss Me, Kate combines the irreverent humor of two brilliant writers, Shakespeare and Cole Porter, who provided the music and lyrics. Among the show’s ever-popular numbers are “Another Op’nin’, Another Show,” “I Hate Men,” and “Brush up Your Shakespeare.” Directed by Paul Bawek with musical direction by Bradley Vieth, the run of this show is being performed at the Loca Lee Buckner Theatre. Tickets are $18 for adults and $9 for students.


’Tis the Season: The Christmas Gala

Dec. 8, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
FSC’s Department of Music performs a collection of holiday favorites, featuring choral, instrumental, and string groups, along with other special musical selections. Among the featured seasonal highlights will be “Sleigh Ride,” “The Christmas Song,” music from The Nutcracker (orchestra and a trio of dancers from FSC’s dance program, choreographed by Erin LaSala), “O Holy Night” (three pianists, vocal soloist, and choruses), and “It’s Christmas,” a Christmas carol audience sing-along with FSC’s Symphony Band. Join us for a spectacular evening of traditional tunes and surprises. Tickets for this event at Branscomb Auditorium are $8 for adults and $4 for students. Florida Southern is proud to have Heath Funeral Chapel join the College in presenting this popular event for our community.
Annual All-Student Exhibition

Opened Nov. 16, continues through Dec. 7

This celebration of recent works created by Florida Southern College art majors showcases the exceptional skills of talented freshmen, sophomores, and juniors in all media. It features ceramics, paintings, digital illustrations, prints, and sculptures. This exhibition in the Melvin and Burks Art Galleries is free to the public.

John Briggs: Casting for the Unknown

Jan. 18-Feb. 22 (Opening reception Jan.18, 7 p.m.)

Delve into the mysterious coastal landscapes of John Briggs in the Melvin and Burks Art Galleries. Simultaneously realistic and uncanny, familiar and eerie, the works in the artist’s latest series are inhabited by inexplicably nude fishermen casting nets in open water, inviting viewers to question the simplicity of the paintings. What exactly is going on here? How are the paintings connected? Is there a deeper meaning or symbolic story underlying these intriguing works? This exhibition in the Melvin and Burks Art Galleries is free to the public.

Florida Dance Theatre Presents: Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker
Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m., and Dec. 16, 2:30 p.m.
In celebration of their 25th anniversary, the members of Florida Dance Theatre (FSC’s company-in-residence under the direction of Carol Erkes) bring their classic holiday tradition of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker to the Festival of Fine Arts. This timeless holiday masterpiece will be performed by the troupe’s dynamic dancers in a production featuring colorful scenery, dazzling costumes, and entrancing choreography. Bring your family and enjoy the music, dance, and spectacle of this perennial holiday treasure. This special event will be presented at Branscomb Auditorium. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for students and children under 12.

Imperial Symphony Orchestra presentation: A Night at the Opera, Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)
Jan. 19, 7 p.m.
The Imperial Symphony Orchestra’s unique annual A Night at the Opera project welcomes opera professionals to Lakeland for a two-week rehearsal/performance schedule. It brings nationally and internationally renowned guest singers such as Joshua Kohl, Maria Kanyova, Eric Lindsey, and Teresa Castillo together with local professional, community, and FSC singers, as well as production staff and members of the ISO. Together, they will perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) in English, exuding the fantasy and fairy-tale side of the composer in this extraordinary – and magical – opera. This special event will be presented at Branscomb Auditorium. Tickets are available through

Julian Gargiulo, Pianist
Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m.

Last seen at the Festival of Fine Arts in January 2017, this incredible piano virtuoso and Steinway Artist is back by popular demand to share his inimitable style, irrepressible humor, and brilliant musicianship. A delightfully unconventional concert experience that is guaranteed to entertain and educate, this special event will be presented at Branscomb Auditorium. Tickets are $18 for adults and $9 for students.

For more information or to purchase tickets for Festival of Fine Arts events, please visit, phone 863-680-4296, or visit the Branscomb Auditorium Box Office between 2 and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

About Florida Southern College

Founded in 1883, Florida Southern College is the oldest private comprehensive college in Florida. The College maintains its commitment to academic excellence through 70+ undergraduate programs and distinctive graduate programs in business administration, education, and nursing. Florida Southern has a 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio; is an award-winning national leader in engaged learning; and boasts 30 NCAA Division II national championships. It is ranked among the Top 20 Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report; named a Top Baccalaureate College by Washington Monthly; and included in The Princeton Review’s 384 Best Colleges, The Fiske Guide to Colleges 2018, and Forbes magazine’s America’s Top Colleges Guide. The College is committed to the development of the whole student through vibrant student life programs that prepare graduates to make a positive, consequential impact on society.  FSC is conveniently located within an hour’s drive of both Orlando and Tampa. FSC is home to the world’s largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012. Named the “Most Beautiful Campus in the Nation” for two consecutive years by The Princeton Review and one of the nation’s “Ten College Campuses with the Best Architecture” by Architectural Digest, Florida Southern is an internationally-recognized place of beauty and academic excellence.


First Lady of Guatemala Visits Lakeland-based Non-profit to Learn from and Partner with to Help Children

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(LAKELAND, FLORIDA) – One More Child, a non-profit that provides Christ-centered services for children and families at more than 50 locations, including its headquarters in Lakeland, welcomed the First Lady of Guatemala to Florida last week to educate her on the organization’s programs and services and to formalize a partnership to fight sex trafficking of children in Guatemala.

The First Lady, Patricia Marroquín de Morales, toured the organization’s Jacksonville campus, and met with leaders from the organization that has a rich 114-year history of meeting the needs of children.

In her role, The First Lady oversees a national organization in Guatemala called SOSEP that is focused on promoting and implementing social programs that benefit children, families and communities.

The First Lady engaged with foster parents licensed by One More Child, met a single mom and her daughter who are part of the organization’s Single Moms program and learned how One More Child’s expertise could meet the needs of more children in Guatemala.

“We thank One More Child so much for the love they demonstrate caring for children in Guatemala and around the world,” The First Lady said. “It is our hope and desire that we continue working with One More Child, with the Secretary offices of our country, to continue to care for children in Guatemala.”

One More Child has been providing programs and services to benefit children and families in Guatemala for nearly a decade. One More Child’s work in the Central America country includes meeting the needs of children at the Malnutrition Center, hosting medical clinics and partnering with the First Lady’s daycare program.  More than 5,000 mission team members have traveled to Guatemala to serve with One More Child.

During her visit, One More Child and the First Lady announced a partnership to host a national anti-trafficking conference at the National Palace in Guatemala City on January 30-31, 2019.

The partnership to help educate and bring awareness about the heinous sex trade to leaders and community members in Guatemala’s capital city was announced at a special dinner and meet-and-greet with the First Lady at First Baptist Church Jacksonville.

“We will be able to leverage the influence, and the heart and the passion of the First Lady of Guatemala, along with our expertise to provide the training and resources that are critical to all people preventing children from being trafficked in the future,” said Dr. Jerry Haag, president/CEO of FBCH and One More Child. “Our heart is to walk hand-in-hand with the First Lady and leaders in Guatemala to rescue and restore children, and to ultimately bring an end to child sex trafficking.”

Earlier this year, One More Child hosted an anti-trafficking conference in the Dominican Republic with the support of President Danilo Medina.

In the “2018 Trafficking in Persons Report” released by the U.S. State Department, Guatemala is considered a Tier 2 Watch List country, which is defined as countries whose governments do not fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

“Our goal is to bring an end to the heinous reality of child sex trafficking globally, including Guatemala,” Haag said.

The conference on January 30-31 will engage government leaders, law enforcement, faith-based leaders, education leaders, community members and more.

Learn more about One More Child by visiting

First Lady Guatemala

The First Lady of Guatemala, Patricia Marroquín de Morales, center, takes a photo with (from left to right) Dr. Jerry Haag, president/CEO of FBCH and One More Child, his wife Christi, and Tanya and David Wilkins. David Wilkins is a board member of One More Child, and is a former secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).

First Lady Guatemala on campus

The First Lady of Guatemala, Patricia Marroquín de Morales, (fifth from the left, and closest to the sign) enjoyed a visit to the Jacksonville campus of One More Child in October, where she learned about the best practices the organization implements to meet the needs of children and families.

First Lady Guatemala on Tour

The First Lady of Guatemala, Patricia Marroquín de Morales, speaks, through a translator, with Christa Hicks, the executive director of Ant-Trafficking for One More Child.