Category Archives: Member Announcements


Bok Tower Traveling Exhibit on Display at the Polk County Visitor Center Now Through March 31

Bok Exhibit at CFVICNow through the end of March, Central Florida’s Visitor Information Center (CFVIC) will display a new traveling exhibit detailing the construction of one of Polk County’s most iconic attractions, Bok Tower. Affectionately known as the “Singing Tower” because of the 60-bell carillon that resides at the top, Bok Tower was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge in February of 1929.

While a masterpiece on the outside, few people know the story of what it took to build the National Historic Landmark. As fate would have it, the builders of the Singing Tower, Horace Burrell and his son Edward, each kept meticulous handwritten journals detailing the construction of the tower. Descendants of the Burrell’s eventually donated those journals, along with a scrap book and several hundred photographs, to Bok Tower Gardens, resulting in a new traveling exhibit called “Creating an Icon: The Way We Worked on the Singing Tower.” The exhibit tells the story of Edward W. Bok, a Pulitzer-prize winning author, and shares some of the details contained within the journals to shed new light on the Singing Tower and those who worked so hard to create it.

“Creating an Icon…” was partially funded by grants from Visit Central Florida and the Florida Humanities Council, and is provided free of charge to venues who qualify to host it. The exhibit will be on display at the CFVIC now through March 31, 2018, after which it will travel to other locations around Central Florida. For more information, call (863) 420-2586.

In addition to assisting visitors, and residents (by providing tourism information about Polk County), CFVIC also sells discounted attraction tickets for many Central Florida attractions (including Bok Tower Gardens and LEGOLAND Florida Resort) and hosts a seasonal Farmers Market on Thursdays, through the end of April. The information center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week (excluding major holidays), and is located at 101 Adventure Court, Davenport, FL 33837 (along U.S. Highway 27), a half-mile south of I-4 at Exit 55.


Achievement Academy to hold Fourth Annual Top Chef of Polk County event

AcademyAchievement Academy’s Fourth Annual Top Chef of Polk County event will take place on Monday, May 7, 2018 at the RP Funding Center.

The format has changed this year. There will be a tasting of signature dishes from Polk County’s leading chefs while raising much needed funds for children with special needs.

As many as 12 chefs will create and prepare their signature dish (tapas style) accompanied with a wine or libation that complements the flavors of the dish. All guests will have the opportunity to try all of the chefs’ signature dishes.

Guests will judge each chef on their creation to award the title of “Top Chef of Polk County 2018”. In addition, guests will rate each dining station to award the “Top Table Décor”. The chef who raises the most funds for Achievement Academy through their donated auction item/s and online voting will earn the “Top Philanthropic Chef” award.

The Achievement Academy has only one chef opportunity still available. We are proud to announce the chefs who have already confirmed their participation in this year’s event:

  • Chef Ryan Carmody, Cob & Pen
  • Chef Jeff Conley, Publix Aprons Cooking School
  • Chef Cem Demirhan, Nineteen61
  • Chef Marcos Fernandez, D’Lucas
  • Chef Matt Fulwood, Blue Palmetto Café at Bok Tower Gardens
  • Chef Wayne Haggard, Spectra/RP Funding Center
  • Chef James Lazaros, La Imperial Bakery
  • Chef Anthony Pineda, Cuban B’s Burger Bazaar & Bake Shack
  • Chef Patrick Schaefer, Patio850
  • Chef Jose Vicente, Brasa Latina
  • Chef Chris Worley, Terrie Lobb Catering, “Top Chef of Polk County 2017”

A VIP reception will be from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., and the main event will begin at 6:30 p.m. Sponsorship opportunities and a limited number of individual tickets ($75) are available for purchase online on a first-come, first-served basis through our Top Chef event page at For more information, please contact Stacy Williams-Myers, CFRE at 863-683-6504 or

The Achievement Academy serves children from birth through age five with various developmental delays and disabilities.  The Achievement Academy offers two programs, each provided at no cost to the child or family.  The first program is a Charter School that offers specialized instruction by certified teachers; small class sizes; individual speech, occupational and physical therapies; and assistive technologies that enable each student to reach his or her full potential at one of the Achievement Academy’s three campus locations (Lakeland, Winter Haven and Bartow).  The second is a “Birth to Three Program” that provides early intervention services to infants and toddlers who are “at-risk” for developmental delays and/or have been identified with a specific delay.  Professional Early Interventionists serve these children and their families.  More than half of the Birth to Three Program’s budget is funded by a generous allocation from the United Way of Central Florida.


Peace River Center Achieves Behavioral Health Care Accreditation from The Joint Commission

Peace River Center, a licensed and accredited, non-profit provider of mental health, substance use and integrated medical services serving Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for Behavioral Health Care Accreditation by demonstrating continuous compliance with its performance standards. The Gold Seal of Approval® is a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to providing safe and effective care.

Peace River Center underwent a rigorous onsite survey. During the review, compliance with behavioral health care standards related to several areas, including care, treatment, and services; environment of care; leadership; and screening procedures for the early detection of imminent harm was evaluated. Onsite observations and interviews also were conducted.

Established in 1969, The Joint Commission’s Behavioral Health Care Accreditation Program currently accredits more than 2,250 organizations for a three-year period. Accredited organizations provide treatment and services within a variety of settings across the care continuum for individuals who have mental health, addiction, eating disorder, intellectual/developmental disability, and/or child-welfare related needs.

“Joint Commission accreditation provides behavioral health care organizations with the processes needed to improve in a variety of areas related to the care of individuals and their families,” said Julia Finken, RN, BSN, MBA, CSSBB, CPHQ, executive director, Behavioral Health Care Accreditation Program, The Joint Commission. “We commend Peace River Center for its efforts to elevate the standard of care it provides and to instill confidence in the community it serves.”

“Peace River Center is pleased to receive Behavioral Health Care Accreditation from The Joint Commission, the premier health care quality improvement and accrediting body in the nation,” added Peace River Center President & CEO J. William Gardam. “Staff from across the organization continuously work to develop and implement new strategies to improve care to those we serve.”

The Joint Commission’s behavioral health care standards are developed in consultation with health care experts and providers, quality improvement measurement experts, and individuals and their families. The standards are informed by scientific literature and expert consensus to help organizations measure, assess and improve performance.

Peace River Center

Peace River Center is a licensed and accredited, non-profit provider of mental health, substance use and integrated medical services serving Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties. Peace River Center provides options for people struggling with mental health and addiction, for children and adults coping with the trauma of abuse and violence, crisis intervention for people in acute need, and housing and community support and integration for people affected by domestic violence or whose recovery requires more support and time. Peace River Center offers inpatient, outpatient, home-, school- and community-based services, telehealth and mobile programs to individuals, groups and families. Peace River Center’s dedicated and compassionate staff of more than 400 operate 36 programs out of 27 locations and provide 24/7 emergency psychiatric response services to the community through the mobile psychiatric Crisis Response Team. In 2017, Peace River Center had contact with and provided services to more than 25,000 children, adolescents, adults and seniors. For more information visit

The Joint Commission

Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission seeks to continuously improve health care for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. The Joint Commission accredits and certifies more than 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. An independent, nonprofit organization, The Joint Commission is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. Learn more about The Joint Commission at


Governor Appoints Ashley Bell Barnett to Polk State College District Board of Trustees

Personal Branding Photography for EntrepreneuersGov. Rick Scott has appointed Ashley Bell Barnett, a dedicated community advocate, to the Polk State College District Board of Trustees.

Barnett, 33, a fifth-generation Floridian who has worked tirelessly as a public educator, workforce development analyst, and nonprofit leader, fills a vacant seat on the Board for a term ending May 31, 2019.

“It is with great passion and enthusiasm that I accept the opportunity to serve on the Polk State College District Board of Trustees,” Barnett said. “As a new Board member, I look forward to working with our new leadership to build an even more effective and unified voice for the students, staff, and community we serve.”
Although new to the District Board of Trustees, Barnett is a longtime supporter of the College. She joined the Polk State College Foundation Board in 2014 and currently serves as Development Chair.

“I am steadfastly committed to the work of the College as it continues to be an integral institution in Polk County’s educational framework,” Barnett said. “I will serve the College with dependability, integrity, and distinction. It is a true honor.”

In addition to her leadership and advocacy at Polk State, Barnett maintains a position on the United Way of Central Florida Board and served as the 2016-2017 campaign co-chair for the organization, spearheading its largest campaign to date. She also assists with outreach for Florida Polytechnic University as a Pivot Fellow. She holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of South Florida and received a bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern College. She lives in Winter Haven with her husband, Wesley Barnett, and their daughter.

“I am honored and thrilled to welcome Mrs. Barnett to the District Board of Trustees,” Polk State College President Angela Garcia Falconetti said. “Mrs. Barnett is a passionate advocate and selfless educator whose experience and knowledge will benefit our institution greatly.”

The District Board of Trustees is made up of members who are vested with oversight of all College policies, including matters related to programs, buildings, finances, and personnel. Florida’s governor appoints the members, who serve without compensation. All appointments are subject to Florida Senate confirmation.
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.


Polk County Commercial Real Estate Market Report Released for Third Quarter of 2017

Coldwell Banker Commercial Saunders Ralston Dantzler Realty (CBCSRD) released the company’s first quarterly market report this week with the most recent sales data available, the third quarter of 2017. The report provides a comprehensive look at commercial property values in Polk County and covers industrial, office, retail and multi-family commercial real estate.

“Our market needed informative analysis by seasoned professionals,” said Gary Ralston, CCIM, SIOR, CPM, CRE, CLS, CDP, CRX, FRICS, managing partner of CBCSRD. “We have insight into Polk County’s economics, government and business that allows us to correctly interpret data for clients and property owners here and those who invest from outside the area.”

In addition to a market snapshot from Ralston, the report features a government update from R.Todd Dantzler, CCIM, current chairman of the Polk County Board of Commissioners. Detailed analysis of property values trends by category are provided by brokers and agents of CBCSRD.

To download a copy of the CBCSRD Market Report for Quarter 3 2017, click SRD1806 – Market Report Q3 2017.