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Take the Ignite Lakeland Survey - July 23, 2014

Ignite Lakeland is inviting area residents to take a survey that will help shape future development in Downtown Lakeland. If you work, play or live downtown, please take a moment to help craft a vision for what Downtown Lakeland will become at

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Posted by emerge

City of Lakeland Community Values Survey - January 30, 2014

The City of Lakeland is seeking input from citizens on City services and programs. Your feedback will become part of the Strategic Planning Workshops with City of Lakeland officials and Commissioners. Survey Dates: January 23, 2014 – February 24, 2014.

Go to to complete the survey and let the City know what you value!

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Posted by emerge

Workplace Spanish for Customer Service at Polk State College - August 31, 2012

Intended Audience: This program is designed for different types of employees, such as customer service associates, in a wide variety of businesses.
Course Objectives: After completing this training course, English speakers will be able to communicate with Spanish-speaking employees to improve understanding, teamwork, productivity, and work quality.
Difficulty level: Beginner
Course Aids: Manual, Audio CD, and CD-ROM for PC use.
Key topics covered in the program: Basic expressions, Meeting & Greeting, Language Expressions, Directions & Locations, Numbers & Measures, Time-Timing-Days-Months, Talking with Customers, Customer Interactions, Practice Conversations, and more.

Register Now!
Nyrka Riskin, Business Development/Coordinator – Professional Development Institute
863.297.1010 ext. 4059 or
Course and reference #: CEV2422-43828. Tuesdays and Thursdays - 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Dates: September 11, 2012 through October 11, 2012. Location: Lakeland Campus - LTB 1102.
Course Fee: $159.00/per student.

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Posted by emerge

Money 101: Securing Your Financial Future at Polk State College - August 31, 2012

Financial planning is not optional if financial security is important to you. Unfortunately, 54% of Americans have never tried to figure out how much money they will need for retirement1 and 40% of Americans do not have a budget2. If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

The goal of this course is not to simply give you information; but to teach you the essential skills of personal financial management, and allow you to apply those skills in producing your own personalized financial plan with the help of a professional, in class!

When you understand how to manage your finances, you will have an invaluable tool in taking control of your life. Proper financial planning can provide peace of mind, increased buying power, and a secure future. Every person has limited resources. Learn how to apply them correctly to give your family the life you deserve.

Course Description:
I. What Can My Money Do?
II. What Do All These Numbers Mean?
III. How Will I Afford To Send My Kids/Grandkids to College?
IV. Will I Have Enough Money For Retirement?
V. Should I Purchase Insurance?
VI. Where Should I Invest My Money Now?
VII. What Will Happen To My Money When I’m Gone?
VIII. What is My Financial Plan?

Course Objectives:
Upon completion, all participants will have developed their own financial plan and have the skills and confidence to reach and maintain good financial health.

Register Now!
Nyrka Riskin, Business Development/Coordinator – Professional Development Institute
863.297.1010 ext. 4059 or
Course and reference #: CEV2394A-43755. Thursday nights, 6:00 - 8:00 pm
Meets on September 13, 20 and 27. Location: Airside Campus: ASL-150. Course Fee: $249.00/per student.

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Posted by emerge

Absolute Auction for 5 remaining Lofts at Munn Park - May 13, 2010

An Absolute Auction is coming up on May 22 to sell the five remaining lofts at Lofts on the Park on Munn Park. Some great deals on unique properties are expected.

Details on the auction are available at

For further information contact Jerry Herring:

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Posted by Emerge Lakeland

WANTED: Energetic People that Love the Arts - November 5, 2009

Download file

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Posted by Emerge Lakeland

Downtown Lakeland Gets Creative - October 30, 2009

Gets Creative.GIF

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Posted by Emerge Lakeland

Turbocharge Your Website with Free Workshops - July 8, 2009

The internet marketing experts at MJ Innovative Solutions are offering a series of free monthly workshops to educate marketers and business owners on easy ways to turn their website into a powerful marketing tool.

The workshops begin in July and will be held at Faith Lutheran Church , 211 Easton Drive , in Lakeland . Co-owners Mona Burtz and Jon O’Dowd will be the presenters.

July 14, 2009 – Tuesday – 2 -4 p.m.
Adding Video to Your Website: Easy as 1-2-3

August 11, 2009 – Tuesday – 2-4 p.m.
Top 10 Secrets to Social Network Superstardom

September 15, 2009 – Tuesday – 2-4 p.m.
10 Easy Ways to Improve Any Website

October 13, 2009 – Tuesday – 2-4 p.m.
Email Marketing: 5 Easy Steps to Success

November 10, 2009 – Tuesday – 2-4 p.m.
5 Ways to Make Your Website a Profit Center

December 8, 2009 – Tuesday – 2-4 p.m.
25 Low-Cost Marketing Ideas to Turbocharge Your 2010 Marketing Plan (integrates online and offline)

Detailed information and directions are available at

Join us to learn how easy it is to improve your website! Seating is limited…please make your reservation early by calling 863.859.7211, or by emailing

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Posted by Emerge Lakeland

P2P Applications are Now Available! - July 2, 2009

P2P = Peer to Peer Networking aims to enrich the professional development of Lakeland's young professionals by partnering them with existing EMERGE Lakeland members.

25 P2P members (non-EMERGE Lakeland or existing EMERGE Lakeland members) and 10 current EMERGE Lakeland advisors will participate in the program. The program application period will be July 1 - July 31, 2009. The program year will be August 1, 2009 - May 15, 2010.

All newly engaged young professionals will participate in two Emerge Lakeland membership programs and four specifically designed P2P events or activities.

For an appliction or for more information, please click the P2P tab on the upper right corner of this page or visit

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Posted by Emerge Lakeland

VISTE Food Drive - November 18, 2008

Dear EMERGE Members,
VISTE (Volunteers In Service To the Elderly) needs our help and generosity for the upcoming holidays. Fellow EMERGE members, Tom Stull and Cindy Green of Furr & Wegman Architects, P.A., will be collecting your donated canned foods at EMERGE events through December. EMERGE appreciates any amount you can bring to provide for those less fortunate and to help this worthy organization. If you are unable to attend any events but wish to donate canned foods, please contact Tom Stull at Furr & Wegman Architects at to make arrangements.

There are several more opportunities for EMERGE members to help in
coming weeks. Donations of non-perishable food items can be made any
time at VISTE's headquarters located at 1232 E. Magnolia St. in Lakeland. Folks planning to help with this year's Thanksgiving Meal Delivery are also urged to bring a canned good with them to the Lakeland Center on Wednesday November 26th. Volunteers will also be on hand at the Lakeland Christmas Parade December 4th to collect canned food items from people attending the parade. For more info: Alice O'Reilly (863.683.8458)

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Posted by Emerge Lakeland

2008 State Ballot Initiatives - October 29, 2008

Reference: Article I, Section 2
Summary: Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to delete provisions authorizing the Legislature to regulate or prohibit the ownership, inheritance, disposition, and possession of real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship.
Sponsor: The Florida Legislature
Background: Article I, Section 2 of the Florida Constitution provides that equal rights are for all in Florida, but creates a glaring exception for "aliens ineligible for citizenship," who can be stripped of the right to own property by the Legislature. The exception dates to the early 1900's and is common to many states' law, and was directed at Asian-American immigrants (the "Yellow Peril.") Senate Joint Resolution 166, filed in 2007, proposed this amendment. Only New Mexico and Florida still have these provisions in their constitutions, and both states' leaders are asking voters to remove the language this year.
• The amendment would remove an outdated and discriminatory passage from our Declaration of Rights.
• Constitutional action is not necessary at this time because there is no present Florida statute prohibiting ownership of property by aliens ineligible for citizenship.

Reference: Article I, newly proposed section
Summary: This amendment protects marriage as the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife and provides that no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.
Background: A Florida statute already provides that marriage is only recognized between a man and a woman. An Orlando activist, John Stemberger, organized this ballot initiative, which is the only citizens' initiative on the ballot.
• Supporters say the amendment would protect children by ensuring that only one form of marriage, between a man and a woman, would ever be celebrated in Florida.
• The Florida statute that already provides for a single form of marriage could be overturned by a court on constitutional grounds.
• A statute already provides for a single form of marriage in Florida.
• Health care and pension benefit plans which cover unmarried couples living together and which are now legally valid may be adversely affected.
• Article I of the Florida Constitution, known as the Declaration of Rights, establishes rights, but this amendment would instead limit the right to marry.

Reference: Article VII, sections 3, 4, and a new section
Summary: Authorizes the Legislature, by general law, to prohibit consideration of changes or improvements to residential real property which increase resistance to wind damage and installation of renewable energy source devices as factors in assessing the property's value for ad valorem taxation purposes. Effective upon adoption, repeals the existing renewable energy source device exemption no longer in effect.
Sponsor: Florida Budget and Taxation Reform Commission
Background: Increased value of residential property based on improvements designed to improve hurricane safety could not be assessed as taxable increased value.
• Hurricane safety may be improved in residential property.
• Residential property values may be increased.
• The amendment may relieve the burden on non-renewable energy sources.
• Local revenues could suffer.
• Individuals' savings may be minimal.
• The amendment does not apply to new construction.

Reference: Article VII, sections 3, 4, and Article XII, a new section
Summary: Requires Legislature to provide a property tax exemption for real property encumbered by perpetual conservation easements or other perpetual conservation protections, defined by general law. Requires Legislature to provide for classification and assessment of land used for conservation purposes, and not perpetually encumbered, solely on the basis of character or use. Subjects assessment benefit to conditions, limitations, and reasonable definitions established by general law. Applies to property taxes beginning in 2010.
Sponsor: Florida Budget and Taxation Reform Commission
Background: Numerous provisions of federal estate and tax law favor landowners who preserve their property in its natural state. This provision would provide further tax benefits to those landowners.
• The amendment may encourage further conservation of land in its natural state.
• Local revenue will be decreased.
• Existing policies already favor those who preserve their land.
• The amendment would not require public access to the lands to which it applies.

Reference: Article VII, Section 4, and Article XII, new section
Summary: Provides for assessment based upon use of land used predominantly for commercial fishing purposes; land used for vessel launches into waters that are navigable and accessible to the public; marinas and drystacks that are open to the public; and water-dependent marine manufacturing facilities, commercial fishing facilities, and marine vessel construction and repair facilities and their support activities, subject to conditions, limitations, and reasonable definitions specified by general law.
Sponsor: Florida Budget and Taxation Reform Commission
Background: Access to public waterfront has been reduced as marinas and the like cannot afford to resist developers' offers to convert the land into condominium towers or other private buildings. The amendment would require those properties to be taxed based on their current use rather than on their "highest and best" use.
• Access to public waterfront areas would more likely remain at current levels rather than continuing to diminish.
• This measure may reduce property taxes on working waterfront properties and thereby reduce pressure to sell those properties to developers.
• Local revenues would suffer.
• The measure allows the Legislature to define terms and impose conditions and limitations on any tax break working waterfront owners receive.

Reference: Article VII, section 9
Summary: Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to require that the Legislature authorize counties to levy a local option sales tax to supplement community college funding; requiring voter approval to levy the tax; providing that approved taxes will sunset after 5 years and may be reauthorized by the voters.
Sponsor: Florida Budget and Taxation Reform Commission
Background: The Legislature has allowed Miami-Dade County to levy a local-option sales tax to assist that area's community college.
• Community colleges serve as a gateway to the university system and to greater employment opportunities; this amendment could increase their funding.
• Voters would have the option of denying any proposed local-option sales tax increase under the proposal.
• Sales taxes impose a greater burden on lower-income families.
• The measure shifts the burden of funding community colleges from state to local authorities.
• The amendment could create unequal opportunities for Florida residents based on the economy in their county of residence

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Posted by Emerge Lakeland

Parker Street Ministries - October 21, 2008

Parker Street Ministries is a faith-based, nonprofit [501(c)(3)] organization based in the Parker Street neighborhood of Lakeland, Florida. This area is located just north of downtown Lakeland and is a very broken, marginalized and forgotten part of town. Parker Street Ministries works to reconcile and revitalize this part of town through various programs, such as the Academic Enrichment Program, Summer Camp, community dinners, the Christmas Store, holiday dinner delivery, a home-ownership initiative and more. If you would like to volunteer with Parker Street Ministries or receive more information, you may contact our office at (863) 682-4544, or e-mail Francine Previte at Volunteers, in-kind donations and financial support are always needed!

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Posted by Emerge Lakeland

Alliance for Independence is seeking a few young professionals to serve on its Board of Directors - July 5, 2008

Alliance for Independence is seeking a few young professionals to serve on its Board of Directors. Alliance for Independence is a private non-profit 501(c) (3) organization that provides adult day training and residential services to over 120 adults with developmental disabilities daily and is under the direction of a volunteer Board of Directors. Alliance for Independence is a community partner of the United Way of Central Florida. The doors at AFI have been open to Polk County residents for 54 years.

For more information on this great opportunity to give back to your community and grow professionally at the same time, please contact Shirley Balogh, AFI President/CEO at 863.665.3846.

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Posted by Emerge Lakeland

Florida Dance Theatre Summer Programs - May 21, 2007

Join the fun at Florida Dance Theatre’s SUMMER DANCE DAY CAMP!

2 week sessions for Ages 6 through 12
Monday Through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
June 4 – June 15
June18 – June 29

With a studio performance at the end of each session !
In these exciting summer classes students will not only learn techniques in Ballet, Jazz, Musical Theatre and Choreography but also basic body conditioning. They will learn how to make dance an enjoyable part of their life.

$250 per 2 week sessi0n
$150 for 1 week
Please note: students attending for one week only will not participate in performances.

CALL ( 863) 802-0399

7TH Annual
Summer Youth Dance Camp
Funded by
The George W. Jenkins Fund from within The Community Foundation of Greater Lakeland
The Lakeland Chamber Foundation, The Illges Foundation
Florida Dance Theatre, Polk County’s only professional dance company and training academy, is inviting boys and girls ages 6-10 to an exciting, educational, fun and FREE camp.
Students will participate in classes including…
Ballet, Jazz, HipHop, African Dance, Pantomime, Art, and Musical Theatre.
Now accepting applications for 4 one-week sessions.
Session I – July 9 – July 13
Session II – July 16 –July 20
Session III – July 23 – July 27
Session IV – July 30 – August 3

Classes will be Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Participants will need to provide their own bag lunches.
FDT will provide a morning and an afternoon snack.

**To be considered for this Free Camp your child must qualify for the School Lunch Program **

For an application, call (863) 802-0399
(Please be prepared to provide the parents’ or guardians’ name, address, phone number, first name and age of the child or children applying for the workshop, desired week of participation and financial information).

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Posted by Kristin Carlson

Computers for Kids - March 9, 2007

Need a Computer? Write an Essay
runs 2/24/2007 until 4/15/2007 WINTER HAVEN

Computers for Kids Inc., a non-profit organization with the mission of providing refurbished computer systems to underprivileged school-age children, will be hosting an essay contest open to all low-income Polk County students in grades six through 12 who do not currently have a computer at home. The topic of the essay is "How a Home Computer Will Benefit My Education and My Family." The prizes to be awarded include:

Hewlett Packard computer system, donated by CDN Partners Inc.

Labtec Flat Panel Computer Speaker System.

Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Software.

Keyboard, mouse, speakers combo package.

Two large pizzas.

More details about this contest can be found at or by contacting Computers for Kids at 863-292-0504.

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Posted by Kristin Carlson

Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting - January 10, 2007

Emerge Lakeland will have a reserved table at the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce Annual meeting on Tuesday, January 23. Members interested in attending and sitting with fellow Emerge Lakeland members should contact Kristin Tripoli at or by phone at 863/648-1500 ext. 246. Space is limited and seats will be reserved on a first come, first served basis. Tickets are $55.00 each; payment must be in to Kristin by Wednesday, January 17.

Lakeland...a Great Place to Be!
Chamber Annual Meeting
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
The Lakeland Center Exhibit Hall

Special Guest Speaker Doug Lipp, Former Head Trainer, Walt Disney University and
Author, The Changing Face of Today's Customer.

Reception at 6:00 p.m.
Dinner at 7:00 p.m.

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Posted by Kristin Carlson

Community Impact and Community Investment - December 4, 2006

Community Impact Cabinet
The Community Impact Cabinet is charged with designing and implementing a measurable and sustainable community impact. The Cabinet will identify the community’s most critical human service needs; once identified, they will put together a plan to address them in order to achieve a measurable community impact. Meetings are held at the United Way of Central Florida. Anyone interested in participating should contact Kristin Tripoli at the United Way of Central Florida, 863.648.1500.

Community Investment Committee
Community Investment Committee members are responsible for serving as informed volunteers to determine which programs and services best meet community needs. They make assessment and annual funding recommendations that comply with United Way policies and standards. As a Community Investment Committee member, volunteers visit United Way agencies to evaluate their programs and the measurable outcomes they have achieved. This is a great way to get an in-depth look at what programs are available and the impact they have in our community . If you are interested in serving or would like more information, please contact Kristin Tripoli at the United Way of Central Florida, 863.648.1500.

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Posted by Kristin Carlson

Rudolph Round-Up - October 19, 2006

Heartland for Children and Rudolph need your help to fill Santa’s sleigh with gifts for children who have experienced abuse or neglect. We are asking you and your organization to donate your time, talents or treasures to make the Holidays memorable for children in foster care.

Remember, you can make dreams come true for children this
Holiday Season!

How can you help?

• Sponsor a child for the holidays.
• Sponsor a toy drive for children of all ages at your business, office or church.
• Make a monetary donation to purchase gifts.
• Spread the news to family and friends how they can help children this Holiday Season!

If you would you like more information or have other ways of helping, please contact:
Robin Vansacik
1240 E. Main Street, Suite A
Bartow, FL 33830
Office: (863) 519-8900 ext. 261 Fax: (863) 519-8703

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Posted by Kristin Carlson

Aussie Moomba to Benefit BBBS - October 18, 2006



Big Brothers Big Sisters invite you to attend the “Aussie Moomba Fest”. Come and experience a night like no other and be transported to another country down under and enjoy this Australian-themed evening knowing that you are making a difference in the life of a child.

Lakeland, FL – Big Brothers Big Sisters’ First Annual “Aussie Moomba Fest”, social event and fundraising auction, is scheduled for October 19th at 6:00 p.m. at the Lake Mirror Auditorium, 121 South Lake Ave. in Lakeland.

This action-packed evening of fun and philanthropy will include casino games, such as black jack, roulette and poker (including Texas Hold’em), entertainment, silent auctions, and dinner from Outback Steakhouse. Come dressed like a mate from down under, as this night is all about the Outback and Aussie living!

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters. In 2004, our national agency celebrated 100 years of service – strengthening communities by providing high-quality, life-enriching mentoring relationships between volunteers and children. Currently, 1,900 children in Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties are paired with a Big Brother or Big Sister with another 500 kids on the agency’s ready-to-be-matched list.

Event sponsors include Outback Steakhouse; Publix Super Markets Charities; Summit; GEICO; Bernie Little Distributors; Clark, Campbell & Mawhinney Attorneys-at-Law; Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida; Central Florida’s Big 4 and The Ledger.

Reserved tables of eight are available for $400 and include signage in a priority location.
Individual tickets are $50 in advance and $60 at the door. Tickets are limited so it is recommended that they be purchased in advance at by contacting Christopher Noe at 813-769-3636 or

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Posted by Kristin Carlson

Top Ten Reasons to Vote on November 7th - September 25, 2006

Top Ten Reasons to Vote on November 7th

Jack Levine, Founder
4Generations Institute

With the Tuesday, November 7th General Election approaching, I'm eager to share my thoughts about the importance of voting. I believe that voting in a democracy is not just a right, it’s a responsibility. My advocate spirit impels me to inform, inspire, and empower others to participate in this, the most basic of all democracy’s actions.

There are few more influential actions than voting. It’s an activity that takes a few minutes but has meaning for years to come. When I think of the many who struggled, suffered, fought and died for our right to vote, I’m motivated all the more to have my voice be heard.

My Grandma Minnie picketed for suffrage as an immigrant teenage girl in New York. Her daughter, my mother, took me by the hand to watch her and my father vote. My Dad was blind so had to have a poll-watcher vote with him, but he always voted. They listened to the election results at the edge of their seats. Everyone in my family took their civic responsibilities so seriously that it was impossible for me to grow up without that same set of values.

Election Day is a national day of empowerment. It’s a time when all of us, as adult citizens, are truly equal. Irrespective of educational attainment, income, ethnic or racial heritage, gender or political persuasion, we are all able to exercise the single most basic act in a democracy: voting.

How wonderful. How important. How could anyone purposefully miss the opportunity to do the right thing in determining our future?

The pollsters are busy making their case for where voters are leaning. The advertisers are unleashing the flood of commercials, mail fliers and phone calls. The pundits are sharpening their sound bites.

When all the words are said and all the money spent, it's the individual voter who holds the power to decide who will lead our nation, our states, and communities into the future.

I urge you take these words to heart and pledge to make your voice heard. I hope you will take the step to ask another one, ten, or one hundred others to join you as voters.

And you would please honor me by sharing this message with others. Feel free to reply to me with your thoughts about the importance of voting from your vantage point.


- In honor of those in our military who courageously fight wars and our law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency workers who respond to our needs and defend the peace at home. Those who sacrifice their personal well-being in the name of our safety and security deserve our respect. Voting is a way of giving them and their families our vote of confidence in their heroism.

- In honor of those who struggled for civil rights, women’s suffrage, immigrant rights and the ideals of justice for all whose diverse voices are essential for our nation’s moral health and community vitality. Freedom needs affirmation. Voting is a way to assure that our rights are protected by strengthening the voices of those for whom rights are sacred and need to be defended.

- To be a good example to our children and grandchildren by exercising the right to vote as a symbol of our faith in democracy. By voting we send a signal of the importance of the choices we as adults make to secure a better future for ourselves, for our children, and generations who will follow.

- Voting is our society’s great equalizer. No matter our station in life, income, or social status, every citizen over age 18 has the same power of one vote.

- Pollsters do not determine who wins elections; voters do. Predicting the outcome of elections, especially close ones, is at best an inexact science. Pollsters and political pundits have their roles, but like each of us, they only have one vote.

- Elections should not be about negative ads, it should be about the options we all have to promote positive policy actions. Voting for candidates in whom we believe, and for or against ballot initiatives we know will affect our future, is a perfect counterbalance to the flood of negativity polluting the airwaves and mailboxes.

- Voting is now more convenient than ever. Early voting and mail-in balloting are options which can avoid the frustration of lines on November 7th. Florida voters may visit and click to learn more about the options for voting available this year. Voters in other states have similar access to elections information to facilitate efficient and effective voting practices.

- It's important to be an informed voter. Pay attention to news reports and editorials about the campaigns. Voting gives all us the chance to make our opinions known in the public policy arena. While how we vote is confidential, the fact that we have voted, or failed to vote, is public record. Elected officials know which individuals and demographic groups are voting, and we who vote are therefore more likely to be influential in policy debates. Non-voters are voiceless and by not participating can become victims of their neglect.

- Regret is preventable. November 8th is one day too late, and "could have, should have" are sorry alternatives to acting. Have a “no excuses” attitude by committing to vote, ask others to join us in voting, and promote a positive approach to making a difference among family, friends and colleagues.

- Be part of making history. Because every indicator points to the prospect that the 2006 election will suffer from an extremely low turnout, every vote is even more important. As a Floridian, I know how close elections can be. Being a participant in affecting history gives each of us a sense of pride in democracy and the power to touch the future.

Democracy is a team sport….and spectators don’t count.

Please join me in sharing this message by forwarding it to your contacts. I implore you to assist the effort to make 2006 a year when powerful voices make a significant difference in the life of our nation and our communities.

“Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world.
In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
--- Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
Jack Levine, Founder of 4Generations Institute, has been a professional family policy advocate for 28 years. He may be reached at

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Posted by Kristin Carlson

Platform Florida, September 29th - August 21, 2006

You're Invited to a ...platform florida - art, film, fashion, sound & performance event on September 29th from 6-10pm at Central Florida Eurocars. The cost is $15 at the door, $8 for students with ID. For more information visit

This event is sponsored by Central Florida Eurocars, C&C Bank, and The Ledger.

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Posted by Kristin Carlson

BusinessVoice of Greater Lakeland - August 21, 2006

The Political Arm of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce
invites you to attend a Fundraiser and Reception honoring the following endorsed candidates:

District 63 - Seth McKeel
District 64 - Representative Dennis Ross
District 65 - Representative Marty Bowen
District 66 - Representative Baxter Troutman
District 79 - Representative Frank Attkisson

held on Tuesday, August 29th, 5-7pm
in the Michael Holley Chevrolet Community Room

Please call 688-8551 x228 for reservations or more information. Reservations are required by August 23rd.

There is no cost to attend. Contributions to endorsed candidates are encouraged but not required.

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Posted by Kristin Carlson

Music & Martinis - August 17, 2006

Music & Martinis is a collaborative effort presented by the Imperial Symphony Orchestra and sponsored by The Lakeland Center and Aramark.

This year there are six restaurants/bars that have each selected a non-profit to benefit from this event and have created a "Signature Martini" for the evening. The restaurants/bars and their non-profits are:

210 City Club - for Florida Dance Theatre
Bonefish Grill - for Polk Museum of Art
Cafe Panino (Airport) - for SPCA of Polk County
Cafe Panino (Dixieland) - for Imperial Symphony Orchestra
Louis Mack's Steakhouse - for Historic Polk Theatre
Tanner's Pub - for Citrus Center Boys & Girls Club

Saltwater Grill and Bernie Little Distributors are teaming up to produce a "signature martini" with Spykes.

There will also be FREE sampling of Budweiser Select beer.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door (to cover event expenses and your $5 donation). Each ticket includes:
-$5 general donation
-$5 donation to the non-profit of your choice
-2 martini tickets
-ballot to vote for your favorite martini
-light snacks and live music, including a performance by The Imperial Symphony Orchestra

Extra martini tickets will be available for $5 each.

This fabulous event will be on Tuesday, August 29th from 7-9:30pm in the Exhibit Hall East at The Lakeland Center. For more information on Corporate Tables or to purchase tickets in advance contact the Imperial Symphony Orchestra at 863-688-3743.

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Posted by Kristin Carlson

University of South Florida Lakeland Volunteer Fair - July 31, 2006

University of South Florida in Lakeland is hosting an annual Volunteer Fair starting this fall semester. On Monday, September 11 from 4:30 - 6:30 pm in the courtyard on campus, various community agencies will be available to provide information about volunteer opportunities within their agency. In addition, the campus is doing a used cell phone drive that will be donated to domestic violence shelters. On the 5th anniversary of the World Trade Center, we will also have a banner for students, staff, and community members to sign to thank our military troops. The banner will be sent overseas to a troop. Lakeland community members who are interested in learning more about how to volunteer are encouraged to attend the event. For more information, contact the Office of Student Life at or 863-667-7819.

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Posted by Kristin Carlson

Big Brothers Big Sisters Information Session - May 15, 2006

Big Brothers Big Sisters

Attn: Caring Adults with a desire to
Make a Difference in the Life of a Child

Remember the happy moments from your childhood when a grown up showed you how to fly a kite, build a sandcastle, or took you out for ice cream and listened to your dreams? Those moments from childhood are magical… and now Big Brothers Big Sisters is seeking volunteers in Polk County to help share magical moments with children. Volunteers play and share everyday experiences with a child—in fact, our volunteers often tell us the experience changes their lives too, not just the child’s!

Who can be a volunteer?
Our volunteers are everyday people with a variety of backgrounds. From students to retirees, to stay at home parents to career fast-trackers. Almost anyone can be a good Big Brother or Big Sister. Basic requirements include a background check and volunteer interview. Applicants must be 16 years old with no upper age limit.

Information Session
To make it even easier to get started, Big Brothers Big Sisters is scheduling information sessions for potential volunteers throughout Polk County. This month it will be held at The Lakeland Holiday Inn South Conference Room 114. We are expanding our opportunities and would also love to schedule an information session with mentor-rich companies throughout the county.

Our next session:
When: Thursday, May 18th, 2006 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm
Where: Lakeland Holiday Inn South Conference Room 114
Potential volunteers can call Kelly Tallent at 863-682-5191x110 for more information and to RSVP for Training.

Thank you for your desire to Create BIG MAGIC in Polk County!

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Posted by Kristin Carlson

Polk Museum of Art "Drinkable Art" - May 9, 2006

Drinkable Art
An "Exhibition" in Good Taste

Friday, June 2, 2006 7-9pm
$25 in advance, $30 day of event

Benefit Wine Tasting at the Polk Museum of Art featuring 10 Winemakers and 50 wines, bread & cheese.

Tickets are available at Vintage Wine Cellars (located in the Southgate Shopping Center on S. Florida Ave., phone: 683-4406). This event will be limited to 200 people.

Wines will be available for purchase and a portion of the purchase will be donated to the Polk Museum of Art.

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Posted by Kristin Carlson

Club Art - Polk Musuem of Art - March 7, 2006

Club Art: The Culture Hub
Thursday, March 6, 2006 | 5:30 - 7:30pm

Polk Museum of Art launched this new series of Happy Hour events in August 2005. Mark your calendar to attend CLUB ART, Polk County's Alternate After-Hours for networking after work in a cool new venue. Enter the art scene and experience music, films and happenings showcasing regional and national art.

Cover charge:
$5 Members | $10 Non-Members
$15 Members Annual Pass
$30 Non-Members Annual Pass

CASH BAR. Music. Fun.
Entertainment by Selector Smokey

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Posted by minnella

Black & Brew Coffee House Now Open - February 20, 2006

Just received a message from Chris McArthur, one of the owners of Black & Brew Coffee House about the opening this past weekend:

Black & Brew Coffee House & Bistro opened this passed Thursday with a bang. So much for a soft opening. Local bands, Woodale and Pemberly played accoustic sets on Friday and Saturday nights. Both nights were "standing room only."

Black & Brew has been in the works for over a year now. Chris & Mike McArthur began putting together their business plan in November of 2004. Though the brothers encountered countless obstacles, their hard work is paying off.

Black & Brew features a menu of outstanding coffee, espresso, and blended drinks, along with gourmet sandwiches, wraps, salads, and paninis. The menu also features the brothers' spin on the old fashioned coffee house, a beer & wine selection.

Live blues, jazz, blue grass, or accoustic music will be provided every Friday and Saturday night, beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday night is open mic night, beginning at 7 p.m.

Hours of operation:
Mon-Wed 6:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Thursday 6:30 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.
Friday 6:30 a.m. - midnight
Saturday 10 a.m. - midnight

EMERGE Lakeland member's should stop by and support the new eatery!

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Posted by Josh Hallett

CommUnity Unity - February 6, 2006

Interested in attending this year's CommUnity Unity Luncheon and sitting at a table with fellow EMERGE members? Once again EMERGE will have their own table(s) at this year's luncheon with professional keynote speaker Albert Mensah. The luncheon is set for Thursday, March 23 starting at 11:30 a.m., and will be held at the Lakeland Center. The cost is $20 per ticket. If you are interested in attending and sitting at an EMERGE table, please contact Melissa Innella at 863-648-1500 x251 or no later than Thursday, March 9th.

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Posted by minnella

My Day on the Citrus Connection - November 27, 2005

The following post serves as a wrap-up and discussion of my Public Transportation Experiment on Wednesday, November 16, 2005.

In addition to this write-up I have posted a photoset and some audio from my day.

What to say?

If you would have asked me how things were going at the mid-point of my day (around 2:30 p.m.) I would have said, “Great, everything has been perfect so far.” Ask me the same question at the end of the day (7:00 p.m.) and I would have said, “A complete disaster.” Take the sum of those two responses and you have a balanced look at public transportation.

At the end of the day I spent 7 hours and 37 minutes using public transit to accomplish my transportation needs. Had I driven it would have taken me 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Here’s the story:


I didn’t really have any expectations going into my experiment. I did hear from a number of individuals that warned me about late buses and the inflexibility of the system. Some said the public transportation system is designed to get the workforce to and from work at set schedules. Attempting to schedule multiple stops at multiple locations like I planned would be tough.

My original plan was to travel from my home in Winter Haven to Lakeland to attend two meetings and then return for an afternoon meeting in Winter Haven before heading home. Each of the meetings had a fixed start-time and end-time. I informed each of the meeting attendees of my travel plans and asked them to be flexible if necessary.

transitlogos.gifI did the majority of my research via the Citrus Connection web site. Citrus Connection is the bus system that serves Lakeland and Polk County. The Winter Haven bus service is provided by Winter Haven Area Transit (WHAT). The primary routes and schedules are only available as PDF downloads from the site. I am not sure what percentage of public transportation users have access to a computer with internet access, but being able to research and plan my route online was a must. Without this advance planning it would be next to impossible to complete my experiment.

All fares are 75 cents. According to my planning I would need six trips. To save myself the hassle I read about the Ride Picker Pass that can be purchased for $12 for 20 rides or 50 cents per fare.

A crucial element to my transportation was the connection buses that I needed to take between Winter Haven and Lakeland. In each case these connection routes only ran once an hour. Missing one would set me back considerably (how’s that for foreshadowing).

All good plans need to be flexible. In my case I learned a few days in advance that my Winter Haven meeting had been changed from later afternoon till first thing in the morning. This change actually worked out in my favor.

I planned to take my digital camera and MP3 recorder along with me to document the day. If I had time, I blogged about specific segments, but I wasn’t always able to fit this in.

One issue that I was going to pay attention to was ridership. Many critics of the local bus system have said that it is underused and thus a waste of taxpayer money. Proponents say that even though ‘you’ might never use a bus there are hundreds/thousands that do and rely upon them to work/live.

In advance of my experiment I also drove to the same meeting locations to document travel time via my own vehicle. Would the gas savings outweigh the time lost?

The planning was done. I printed all the routes and timetables I needed and put them in my messenger bag along with my laptop and spare batteries for the camera and MP3 recorder.

First Trip: 6:22 A.M. Start

My first meeting was at Clark/Nikdel/Powell at 8 a.m. in Winter Haven, Florida.

One of the things I heard while planning my experiment was that you have to work your schedule around public transportation. How true.

In order to make my 8 a.m. meeting the only option I had was the first bus on the #30 Route. All buses arrive at the main terminal in Winter Haven at :10 past the hour. The second bus would have arrived at 8:10 a.m. Obviously if my meeting could have been moved to 8:30 this would have been perfect, but it couldn’t. The first bus it was. I would arrive downtown at 7:10 and then kill some time in advance of my meeting.

Early morning in Winter Haven, FL
Heading To The First Stop At 6:30 A.M.

I left my house at 6:22 a.m. to walk to the stop along Cypress Gardens Blvd. According to the timetable the bus would pass that location between 6:42 and 6:50. The walk to the stop was approximately 1/3 of a mile. Had I done some advance work I would have known the exact time it would have taken me to walk the distance. I didn’t know so I had to leave some padding in there. As I walked the sun was just rising.

On the WHAT routes there are stops, but according to the web site riders can also stand alongside the route and wave down the drivers. That was my plan since the nearest stops were ¼ mile away from my cross street. I saw the bus approaching within the timetable window. As it approached I waved and at first I thought the driver did not see me. I thought, “Well there goes my plan.” had I missed that bus the next one would not have come by for another hour. She did in fact see me and pulled over. I ran to the bus and hopped on.

W.H.A.T. Route #30 Bus
W.H.A.T. Conversion Vans

Many of the routes in Winter Haven are served by conversion vans rather than your typical bus. The Route 30 bus is a conversion van. As I got on I asked the driver for a Ride Picker pass. As she drove along she pulled out the proper card and took my $12.

Including myself there were eight riders on the bus this morning. We followed the route downtown and picked-up/dropped-off a few riders. One stop was located at the local Wal-Mart parking lot, something I would see repeated on other routes.

At one point we took a detour through a residential neighborhood to pick-up a visually impaired woman and her guide dog. During the course of the day I would observe a number of handicapped individuals using the service.

Passing the local high school we encountered quite a bit of traffic. We dropped off two high school students and got back underway. Looking at my watch I realized that there was no way the bus would make it to the terminal by 7:10. If I was attempting to catch the 7:15 connection to Lakeland I would have been nervous. Shortly afterwards the bus driver asked if any of us needed a connection. A few of the riders did. She used the radio to inform the other buses at the terminal to wait. That made me feel better about future connections.

Richard's Coffee - Winter Haven, FL
Richard's Coffee

We arrived at the Winter Haven Terminal at 7:18 a.m. I walked to Richard’s Coffee and had a bagel and some coffee. Shortly before 8 a.m. I walked the few hundred yards to Clark/Nikdel/Powell for my meeting.

Clark/Nikdel/Powell - Winter Haven, FL
Clark/Nikdel/Powell Office

I knew that the connection bus to Lakeland left at :15 past the hour. The 9:15 bus wasn’t an option since I would still be in my meeting. The 10:15 was my bus.

Let’s do a quick recap. Had I drove my car I could have left my house around 7:45 – 7:50 a.m. to make my 8 a.m. meeting. With public transit I needed to leave at 6:22 a.m. a difference of about 1 hour and 25 minutes. In the future I would attempt to schedule meetings at :30 minutes past rather than on the hour. That would allow me to time my trip better and shave 45 minutes from my travel time.

Second Trip: The First Sign of Trouble

With my 8 a.m. meeting over I had a few minutes to upload some photos to Flickr and check e-mail. I then walked to the Winter Haven terminal to catch the 10:15 connection to Lakeland.

While waiting at terminal for the 10:15 connection to Lakeland I noticed a Santa standing by one of the buses.

Why Santa?
Santa Uses Public Transit

They were filming a commercial for WHAT. I overheard something about ‘Ride Saturday Free.’ There were a few people from the BOCC overseeing and acting in the segment. I say acting because they were sitting in the bus as passengers. One of the staff circulated around the terminal to ask if anybody wanted to come be in the commercial. She asked me but I told her that I needed to be in Lakeland by noon. Obviously, if I hung around to be in the commercial I would have missed the 10:15 to Lakeland and would have needed to wait till 11:15. This was a similar answer she received from a number of other bystanders. They had someplace they needed to be.

Winter Haven Terminal for W.H.A.T.
Winter Haven Terminal

When getting on the bus I encountered my first major issue. I had purchased a Ride Picker Pass when I boarded my first bus this morning. (A segment normally costs 75 cents, but you can buy a 20 segment pass for $12 or 50 cents per segment).

W.H.A.T. Bus Pass
Ride Picker Pass

As I boarded the driver told me that pass was not valid for Citrus Connection buses, I had to convert it over to a new magnetic pass at the Citrus Connection office in Lakeland. He let me on anyway though. I then realized that the $2 I had would only get me a few more rides. Getting to the Citrus Connection office was not really an option today.

What frustrated me is that all the literature I had read all said that the Ride Picker Pass was valid on all buses. I guess they have not updated their web site. (As a side note, in prep for my experiment I e-mailed the contact listed on the Citrus Connection web site. The e-mail bounced. That person doesn’t work there anymore.)

Besides the pass snafu the transfer to Lakeland was straightforward. The #12 connection was scheduled to depart at :15 past the hour but we ended up leaving at 10:23. I was told to be prepared for the buses to be running late. Hearing this makes you nervous when you know that the connection you need to take leaves at 11:15 and by 11:15 your not at the station yet. But it’s all relative since all the buses are running late.

I had prepped for the long connections by downloading a few podcasts to my iPod. I spent the majority of the trip listening to For Immediate Release by Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson.

Traveling from Winter Haven to Lakeland
Traveling From Winter Haven to Lakeland

I counted 13 people on the connection between Winter Haven and Lakeland. We picked up a few and dropped off a few on the way but in all there were few stops. We did pick up one individual with a bike. He utilized the built-in bike rack on the front of the bus.

At this point I thought that using the bus to transfer my commuter bike between Winter Haven and Lakeland would be a great idea. I’ll file that one away.

We arrived at the Lakeland Terminal at 11:15 (5 minutes late). The next bus I needed to take, #52 North Florida Ave, was not at the station. But remember it’s all relative time :-)
The #52 pulled in at 11:20. During my short wait I asked a off-duty driver about the Ride Picker Pass I had. He said I should take the West Memorial bus to the Citrus Connection office to get the pass switched out. There was no facility to do this at the main Lakeland Terminal. Like I said before, this wasn’t an option for me. Luckily I had those two dollars.

Lakeland Terminal for the Citrus Connection
Lakeland Terminal

I boarded the #52 and we departed at 11:23. This bus was much quieter but had a good bit of graffiti on it. It was mostly sharpie-stuff on the windows and interior panels. There were 14 riders including me.

Bus Graffiti
Bus Graffiti

This was a short ride. Having never ridden this route I did not know where the stops for LRMC were located. I got off at the first one I saw, but soon realized that there were two more further down the road that I could have used. As it was, my walk was probably longer than it needed to be. I stepped off the bus at 11:32 and arrived at Café Roti at 11:44.

Getting Off At LRMC

Total travel time to my first Lakeland meeting via public transit: 1:30 (not including the 15 minute wait till noon). Had I driven: 25 minutes.

I had planned to meet a client/friend for lunch but his schedule changed the day before. Rather than re-arranging my plan any more I decided to still spend ‘1 hour’ at Café Roti. As it happens another client e-mailed me and wanted me to sit in on a conference call, so I spent quite a bit of the time on the phone.

When I paid my tab via debit card I had to ‘buy-back’ a few dollars from the server since I don’t know when I’ll be near an ATM to get more cash for bus fare. (Remember by 20 Segment Pass is useless).

As of lunch I had spent almost 3 hours of my day utilizing public transport when driving would have only used 35 minutes.

Third Trip: Down South

From Café Roti I needed to head to Panera Bread on South Florida Avenue for a 2 p.m. meeting. The plan was to take the #52 to the Lakeland Terminal then transfer to the #31.

When you rely upon public transportation you need to learn the timetables, I did not. At 12:30 I looked at my watch and then quickly pulled out the schedule for the #52. It was due to pass my location at 12:30. I wouldn’t make that one, but I now knew the next window was between 12:55 and 1:05.

I left Café Roti at 11:48 and walked to the #52 stop by LRMC, arriving at 12:53. This stop had a nice cover and seating. Later in the day I would realize what a blessing some shade is. Luckily there was no rain forecast for the day. I do not want to imagine waiting at the various stops in the rain.

A Bus Stop with Shelter
LRMC Stop With Shelter

While waiting for the bus I talked to a woman who was seated at the stop. She told me that she has used the bus service for the past four and a half years to get to work and do all her shopping. She said knowing the schedule helps tremendously since you can become more efficient, but that late buses can ruin any planning.


The #52 arrived at 1:07 and we were off to the Lakeland Terminal. We arrived at 1:16 p.m. and I boarded the #31 which departed at 1:23 p.m. (8 minutes late). During this trip we had another handicapped individual on board. This was the fourth handicapped person I had seen.

I was dropped off across the street from Panera Bread at 1:35 p.m. Plenty of time to spare for my meeting. I used the wifi at Panera to catch up on e-mail and post a few more photos.

Getting Off for Panera
Getting Off At Panera Bread

Public transit travel time between locations: 37 minutes. Had I driven 10 minutes.

Up to this point everything has gone as planned. Even though I had spent a considerable amount of time using public transit to get around it wasn’t too bad. Better planning of meetings to more efficiently use the system could help with future trips. Of course there was some novelty which added to the ‘enjoyment’.

Things were about to change.

Fourth Trip: 4 Hours!!!

According to the plan the #31 bus I needed to take back downtown would pass Panera Bread around 2:55 p.m. with an arrival downtown at 3:10 p.m. From there I would take the 3:15 connection to Winter Haven and then the 4:15 #31 to my house. I’d be home before 5:00 p.m. Or at least that was the plan.

I walked to the bus stop at 2:51 p.m. It was getting quite warm for a November afternoon and there was no shade at the stop. Two other people were waiting for the bus with me. One of them ducked behind a sign to catch the only shade available.

Make Your Own Shade
Using The Available Shade

The bus was running late, but I had come to expect a 5-8 minute delay. 3:10 rolled by, then 3:15, then 3:20, no bus. I would most likely miss the 3:15 connection to Winter Haven, even adjusting for ‘bus time’. The bus finally arrived at 3:25 p.m. Heading north we picked up a couple with two small children at Wal-Mart. I had seen them on the earlier bus when we dropped them off at Wal-Mart.

Heading up South Florida Avenue
Heading North On South Florida Ave.

As we cruised up South Florida Avenue the driver blew by a guy waiting at a stop. Boy was he pissed. He had obviously waited quite a bit for this late bus and now it drove right past him.

We arrived at the Lakeland Terminal at 3:40 p.m. with 18 passengers. The reason the bus was late? It apparently hit something before it picked us up. The driver got out and walked to the back of the bus. He and a few passengers stared at a large dent and discussed the incident some of them had witnessed. The driver then walked off to get a supervisor. I later saw a group of Citrus Connection folks looking over the damage.

Bus Accident
Bus Damage

I had a little bit of a wait for the next Winter Haven connection since I missed the 3:15.

There was quite a crowd at the terminal. It was a mixture of school-aged kids and older folks coming to and from service industry jobs. There were quite a few fast-food uniforms and construction workers. I noticed a Lakeland Police Department officer on duty (there wasn’t one in the morning). All the benches had the ‘no-sleep’ handles so I couldn’t take a nap :-)

LPD on Duty
LPD On Duty

Downtown Lakeland has a free wifi service called SurfLakeland. I moved to the east end of the terminal to see if I could pick up the signal but I couldn’t.

Gambling Anyone?
The Gambling Gang

At the east end of the terminal there was a group of kids gambling. It was funny watching them ‘hide’ the wagering. They would play cards on a bench and then go behind a column to pay off any bets. I assume this was to hide their activity from the police officer, but it was obvious what they were doing.

At connection time the terminal is a hub of activity. All the buses arrive and there is a quick shuffling of passengers before they depart again. Some buses run close to being on time, others are very late. That was my case. I planned on taking the x22 Router back to Winter Haven. That ‘x’ stands for ‘Express’


The x22 was due to depart at 4:15 p.m., it arrived at the terminal at 4:25 p.m. We departed at 4:30. There were 8 passengers including me heading to Winter Haven via Bartow. We dropped off four construction workers at the Bartow Wal-Mart shortly after 5:00 p.m.

On the trip between Bartow and Winter Haven the driver informed me that there was no way we’d make the connection to the #30. The scorecard so far:

- Late bus which caused a
- Missed connection which I then had to wait for another
- Late bus which was leading to another missed connection

We arrived in Winter Haven at 5:31 p.m. The next #30 bus would leave at 6:15 p.m. I had a 45 minute wait. I walked back over to Richard’s coffee and checked e-mail. A friend IM’d me and asked me how the day was going. I told him my late bus/missed connection/late bus saga. His response, “I’d offer you a ride home but then I would ruin your experiment.”

Where is the Route 30 Bus?
Missed The #30

One consolation was that I could use my previously useless Ride Picker Pass on the Winter Haven buses.

I walked back to the Winter Haven Terminal at 6:10 and boarded the #30 bus that was waiting. And we waited and waited. The x22 bus that was running late earlier was still late. We were waiting for that bus to arrive since there were two passengers that needed to transfer to the #30. The 6:15 departure was the last of the day and if they bus left they would have been stranded at the station. Although I was ready to leave and get home I was glad we waited for those passengers. I just imagined myself in their situation.

While waiting I talked to the driver for a bit. I asked which was the nearest stop to my cross-street. He said not to worry about it and that he’d drop me wherever I needed to go. That was great.

We finally departed the terminal at 6:36 p.m. with 6 passengers. After winding along the #30 route I was dropped off at 7:00 p.m. and began the walk home in the dark. At 7:11 p.m. I walked in the door.

Heading Home
Walking Home At 7:00 P.M.

All it took to ruin the day was one late bus. The trickle-down effect from that one bus caused delays and missed connections for the remainder of the day. A return trip that should have taken less than two hours had taken over four hours. Had I driven the return trip would have taken me 25 minutes.

For the day my total time spend using public transit was: 7:37. Had I driven: 1:10. A difference of almost 6.5 hours. Granted that without the afternoon disaster it would have been a difference of only 4.5 hours.


Improvements? I would strongly suggest that the Citrus Connection open a customer service window at the Lakeland Terminal. After all this is where all their customers will pass during the day. It would seem like a natural location.

They should also update their web site to let potential travelers know of any changes to service or rate schedules. The Ride Picker Pass issue I experienced should not happen. The first driver should never have sold me a pass that would be useless on the entire system.


I am a bit biased in my discussion of this issue because I have any alternative means of transportation, my own car. Many of the people that rely upon public transit do not have that option. The bus is the only way they can get around, their lifestyle revolves around the bus schedule.

I was extremely pleased with how things were progressing up until my afternoon disaster. When writing up this recap I am trying to balance the ‘good’ of the morning with the ‘bad’ of the afternoon. Had that one bus not been late my overall impression of the day would have been great.

Every bus I got on was at least half-full. I expected to see a decline in ridership during the mid-day hours but this was not the case. One reason is that many service industry jobs have non-traditional hours. One passenger I talked to was a waitress. She didn’t need to be at work till 11 a.m. and then got off at 3 p.m. that day. Other days she would work from 4 p.m. till 11 p.m. On the days she would work late she always arranged a ride home with a co-worker. The bus does not run after 8 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on weekends.

Many of the buses had a community atmosphere. I can only assume it was the same folks that rode the same bus day after day together. They would sit in groups and talk about their day and upcoming holiday plans. Some would get off and others would get on, but the same core group always chatted away. If this was to become a usual trip for me I could see myself joining in on the conversations.

As a consultant I live by billable hours. With almost eight hours of my day taken by transportation it would be hard to make a living. Granted that not every day would be similar to this, the majority of the time I would be located in one spot working, maximizing the use of my time.


In the end, Citrus Connection and W.H.A.T. are an 'alternative transportation choice' for me, unlike others who do not have that choice.

When weighing the savings in cost (gas/vehicle ownership) and enviromental issues against the loss of time (which in my case costs me $) and flexibility, public transportation is not a wise choice. I do see myself using the system again in limited capacity. The most likely scenario would be traveling between downtown Winter Haven and Lakeland to attend meetings or lunch in the downtown area with a fixed schedule.

My experiment did show me the importance of public transporation for those who have no other alternative. I never have and will not complain that my tax dollars are 'wasted' supporting these local systems.

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Posted by Josh Hallett

Taking the Bus - November 18, 2005

I am still traveling for work but will post the full wrap-up of my Citrus Connection/Winter Haven Area Transit experiment in the next two days. I'll be reviewing my entire day in detail and provide information on the pick-up/drop-off times, rider volume and other interesting highlights.

For a control I did drive to the same meeting locations a few weeks ago to compare travel times via my own vehicle to public transit. All those comparision will be in the wrap-up as well.

In the meantime you can review the photos and listen to audio/comments from the day.

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Posted by Josh Hallett

Trying Out Citrus Connection - November 9, 2005

One day in the next two weeks I am planning an all day public transportation experiment. My plan is to use nothing by public transportation to travel between my home in Winter Haven, FL and a few meetings in Lakeland, FL. I'll document the entire experience and post a follow-up report. Why? How? When? Read below:

Florida is not known as being a public-transportation-friendly state. We Floridians love our cars. As such public transportation is lacking in just about every mode. In Polk County, FL the extent of public transport is the bus system, specifically the Citrus Connection and Winter Haven Area Transit (W.H.A.T.).

When I travel I love trying out/using the public transport in various cities. I wanted to compare/contrast this with the local options. Some have said that the purpose of public transport in our area is to get people to and from work and not serve as a vehicle replacement. The nature of the schedules and the waits between exchanges compound these issues. This is what I have found in planning my trip. If I was going to and from the same location each day the routes/times would become second-nature. Planning a dynamic trip which will feature a number of stops and will perhaps change during the day causes problems. Add to this a schedule which changes from day to day and using the bus system is not so easy.

Sadly there is no rail, so bus will be my primary mode. I have spent some time reviewing the Citrus Connection web site and have determined the route and buses that I will need to take. The route is:

  • 7:20 am Walk from my home to the nearest stop (approx 1/3 mile) to catch
  • 7:42 am Route 30 (PDF)
  • 8:10 am Arrive Winter Haven Terminal
  • 8:15 am Route 12 (PDF) from Winter Haven to Lakeland
  • 9:10 am Arrive Lakeland Terminal

The plan in Lakeland is not set, it depends on the meetings I schedule, but it will involve a few trips around the town. Eventually I will need to return to the Lakeland Terminal to transfer back to Winter Haven. It will be important that I memorize the departure times of the transfer bus between Lakeland and Winter Haven. The return trip will be the reverse of the route outlined above.

I have informed the people that I am meeting with that I will be using public transport that day and to allow for a somewhat flexible schedule.

Looking at the upcoming weeks it will most likely be either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, but perhaps this Thursday. I have selfeshly selected a window this November to avoid the heat of the Summer/early Fall. Yes the buses are air-conditioned, but the stops and transfer points are not. Nothing like standing still on the sidewalk in Florida in mid-August.

My plan is to post during the day when I can, but the primary follow-up will be a single post discussing the experience. I'll include photos and some audio in the post. I also plan on asking Bob O'Malley of METROPLAN Orlando to write an opinion piece about public transport to accompany my review.

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Posted by Josh Hallett

Lakeland One of the Fastest Growing Cities that is Still Affordable - September 22, 2005

A recent MSN Money article listed Lakeland, Florida as one of the 12 fastest growing cities that are still affordable.

In any boom market, true bargains get harder and harder to find. As prices rise, investors have two basic choices: Go along with the herd, or dig even deeper to find values others have (so far) missed....

Then there are the less obvious places that have been overlooked or beaten down before suddenly springing to life. Witness this list of towns that were latecomers to the real-estate party but where values have recently zoomed

The article lists Lakeland along with cities such as Phoenix, Pensacola and Tucson to name a few.

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Posted by Josh Hallett

Music & Martinis Presented by The Lakeland Center and Imperial Symphony Orchestra - August 17, 2005

The Lakeland Center and Imperial Symphony Orchestra celebrate the Imperial Symphony Orchestra's 40th Anniversary and join forces for Music & Martinis, a special presale season kick-off event from 6:30-9:00pm on August 30th in the Youkey Theatre.

From 6:30-8:00pm, taste test and vote on the best signature martini in Polk County, while listening to live jazz in the lobby and savoring selections from Aramark's all new Center Stage Cafe.

The Imperial Symphony Orchestra presents an on-stage "pops" performance from 8:00-9:00pm that allows guests to "test drive" and select the best available season tickets for the Orchestra's Masterworks Series, and The Lakeland Center's Entertainment and Broadway Series. The winning martini and door prizes will be awarded during the Orchestra's performance.

Tickets for two special engagement performances, both accompanied by the ISO, An Evening with Roberta Flack on November 11 and Dennis DeYoung:The Music of Styx on March 11, are on sale during this one-night-only special event. Tickets go on sale to the general public on September 16.

Tickets for Music & Martinis are $15 per person in advance, $20 on the day of event. Music & Martinis tickets go on sale at The Lakeland Center Box Office and Imperial Symphony Orchestra Office on August 10.

Ticket holders must be age 21 or above for admission. Identification will be checked at the door. Entry includes two drink coupons, a ballot for the best martini in Polk County and a $5 donation coupon to support the charities selected by our guest bars. Guest bars and the charities they are supporting during this event are:

Aramark - Imperial Symphony Orchestra
Bonefish Grill - Polk Museum of Art
Cafe Panino - SPCA of Polk County
Carrabba's Italian Grill - Compassion Fund Tanner's Pub - Citrus Center Boys & Girls Club

Join the Imperial Symphony Orchestra and The Lakeland Center on August 30 for a relaxing evening of fun, great company and an enriching symphony experience.

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Posted by Michael Wiener

Join EMERGE for Light the Night Walk - August 16, 2005

A message from Jenn Lyons of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society:

Light The Night Walk is a beautiful community event The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society holds each year during Leukemia, Lymphoma & Myeloma Awareness Month. Light the Night Walk will be held Tuesday, September 27th at Munn Park in downtown Lakeland.

This event combines the fun of an outdoor festival in the park with food, live bands, a rock climbing wall and much more, and an opportunity to honor those in Central Florida that have been touched by blood cancer. It also is an opportunity for us to raise much needed funding for research and patient service programs.

Did you know that leukemia is still the leading cause of disease related death in children under the age of 20? And every 5 minutes another person is diagnosed with leukemia, Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin lymphoma or myeloma. In this day and age, even with all the advances we have made in the last 20 years, those numbers are simply unacceptable!

The evening ends with a walk (less than 2 miles) in which everyone carries an illuminated balloon. Participants carry red balloons while patients carry a white balloon. It is truly a moving event that brings awareness to the community and makes a difference in the lives of our patients and their families.

We are looking for local organizations, business' and people who live in the community to come together and form teams that will commit to supporting our mission. We already have commitment from business' like Center for Cancer Care and Research, Webster University, YMCA of West Central Florida, and Geico to help us raise funds for a cure. Persons interested in more information or wanting to register for the Walk can contact Jenn Lyons at our office at 407-898-0733/1-800-785-0733 or by email at Or visit our website at With your help, for one night, hope won't just flicker, it will float!

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Posted by Josh Hallett

Victory Church's 2005 Community Festival and Auction - August 15, 2005

EMERGE Member Morgan Dobbs wanted to pass along some information about the upcoming Victory Church's 2005 Community Festival and Auction on Saturday, October 1, 2005. The event starts at 7 a.m. with the yard sale, the auction starts at 9 a.m.

In the last 2 festivals Victory Church has raised over $500,000, with ALL net proceeds going back into community charity organizations. The organizations benefiting this year are:

A.L.S. Association of Florida
American Red Cross of Polk County
Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Lakeland
First Tee
Florida Baptist Children's Home
Freedom Center of Lakeland
Lighthouse Ministries
Outreach Center of Polk County
Parker Street Ministries
Salvation Army
Talbot House Ministries
Teen Challenge of Lakeland
VISTE (Volunteers in Service to the Elderly)
Watson Clinic Cancer Center

Members of Emerge can help out in several ways:

1. Give money towards the event as an individual or through their place of employment.
2. Donate items of a $200 value for the auction and silent auction
3. Simply come to the festival on October 1st from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Checks can be made payable to "Community Foundation of Greater Lakeland" or "Victory Church." Designate: Judy Dobbs Community Festival & Auction

For more information, please call Emerge member, Morgan Dobbs, at 838-8478 or 802-1222.

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Posted by Josh Hallett

Best Places to Live - July 11, 2005

Money Magazine has released its Best Places to Live for 2005. There aren't any Florida cities listed on this years top 25 List. See for the full text of the article. To see how Lakeland ranked click on the following link

Lakeland did make one unfortunate list in the Money survey as second highest for air pollution (behind our neighbor Valrico). You can see the entire list at

Any thoughts on this?

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Posted by Michael Wiener

Ron White Coming to the Lakeland Center - July 7, 2005

Comedian Ron White is scheduled to appear at the Lakeland Center on Thursday, October 6 and Friday, October 7, 2005. The Friday show is already sold-out, so the Thursday night show has been added. Tickets go on sale this Friday (July 8th) at noon.

Ron 'Tater Salad' White was part of the famous Blue Collar Comedy Tour and is my favorite of the four 'blue collar boys'.

Anybody else planning on going?

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Posted by Josh Hallett

YMCA Par 3 - Home of The First Tee of Lakeland - July 6, 2005

As many of you are aware, there has been a tremendous transformation happen right before our eyes on George Jenkins Boulevard. You may have seen, or played at, the Par 3 golf course that was formerly located there. Though it sat vacant for a short period, it is now the YMCA Par 3 - Home of The First Tee of Lakeland, which celebrated their grand opening back in March 2005. This is a Lakeland community partnership that is bringing the game of golf to the youth of Lakeland with all backgrounds to teach honesty, integrity and sportsmanship. Many businesses and individuals in Lakeland made the project possible.

The facility consists of a newly renovated, nine-hole, par-3 golf course, a driving range and a clubhouse. The First Tee program offers "progressive levels of instruction," which include golf lessons and life skills for youth ages 6 to 18. Players participate in classes that last 6 weeks. Also available, are open practice sessions with instructors, classes that teach the fundamentals of golf at various levels, and nine-hole developmental tournaments (to learn rules and etiquette of tournament play in a relaxed environment). The greens fees, range fees, and golf club rentals are all offered at very reasonable rates. They also offer teen fun nights and individual youth lessons. Annual memberships are available that allow youth to participate in The First Tee golf instruction and Life Skills Clinics.

If you get the chance, stop by the YMCA Par 3 or take a child there to enjoy a round of golf. I think the Mission Statement of the First tee Program says it all: "To impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character development and life enhancing values through the game of golf."

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Posted by Brian Altman

New Downtown Coffee House & Bistro - June 23, 2005

EMERGE Lakleand members Chris McArthur and Isaac Hartmann are part of a group that is opening a new restuarant in downtown Lakeland. The Black & Brew Coffee House & Bistro will be located at 205 E. Main Street, directly across from Munn Park. Construction has already begun!

I talked to Chris about the new venture, here's what he had to say:

The new restaurant is a fusion between the coffee products of Starbucks and the deli-like sandwiches of a Crispers or Panera Bread.

In addition, we thought that there needed to be something else to do in Lakeland on the weekend besides the movies, bar hopping or eating out. We will offer live blues, jazz or accoustic style music in a very social environment each Friday and Saturday night. We'll leave Thursday nights for "open mic."

If everything goes as planned, Black & Brew should be open by the first week of August. I'll post an update once the opening is a bit closer. Perhaps we can schedule an EMERGE only preview night.

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Posted by Josh Hallett

Other Upcoming Events - June 23, 2005

A few upcoming events in the Lakeland area that might interest EMERGE members:

- Polk Museum of Art has posted their July events, including quite a few movies.

- The City of Lakeland's DIVE-IN movie series at the Gandy Pool might skew a bit younger than our membership, but movies like the Incredbiles on August 12th appeal to all ages.

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Posted by Josh Hallett

City of Lakeland 4th of July Plans - June 13, 2005

The City of Lakeland will host Red, White & Kaboom on July 1, 2005 as part of a weekend celebrating independence and freedom with a fireworks display over Lake Mirror as the highlight of the evening.

Red, White & Kaboom will take place at Lake Mirror and downtown Lakeland from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. The evening will include entertainment from jazz saxophonist, Eric Darius and his quartet at the Lake Mirror Amphitheatre. Downtown streets will be filled with military vehicles, a car show and displays representing City of Lakeland Departments. A Karaoke contest in Munn Park and bucket truck rides are among the many attractions. Downtown shops and restaurants will remain open until 9:00 p.m. as part of First Friday.

Joker Marchant Stadium will also host a fireworks display on July 4th as part of an afternoon celebration that starts with a Lakeland Tigers baseball game and ends with fireworks at 9 p.m.

Eric "Smooth Breeze" Darius will take the stage at Lake Mirror on July 1st during Red, White & Kaboom at 6 p.m. His popular jazz quartet will play three sets of music ending at 9 p.m. to an awesome fireworks display over Lake Mirror.

Downtown shops and restaurants will remain open and downtown streets will be filled with activity including military vehicles, City displays, a classic car show and entertainment. Food and drink vendors will be located along Lake Mirror so family and friends are invited to arrive early for a complete evening of music, fireworks and more.

Any EMERGE members thinking about going?

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Posted by Josh Hallett

What Restaurant is Lakeland Missing? - June 7, 2005

It seems a few times each year there is a small celebration that Lakeland 'got' one of 'those' restaurants. You know, one of the major chains has decided to open a location in Lakeland. There is always much fanfare and anticipation of the new eatery.

Remember when Lakeland 'got' an Outback Steakhouse or the cheers when Carraba's arrived? How about the first Quiznos? Too long ago for you? How about some more recent examples like Bonefish Grill, Smokey Bones BBQ or Panera Bread?

When the new Lakeside Village was announced, rumors surfaced that The Cheesecake Factory or P.F. Chang's would come to Lakeland. No luck yet.

So what restaurant are we missing? Leave a comment below.

Or perhaps you want the chains to stay away so that local restaurants can thrive in their absence.

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Posted by Josh Hallett

Agenda for June Event- Lake Mirror Tower - June 1, 2005

Below is the agenda for our next event at the new Lake Mirror Tower Apartment Complex. The Tower is located at 103 S. Massachusetts Ave. Lakeland, FL.

You may RSVP here.

5:30 p.m.- Arrival, Begin Networking Activity
6:00- Announcements, Presentation from Jim Malless, President of Historic Lakeland
6:15- Tour of Tower, conducted by Cheryl Meehan
6:45- Regroup for Raffle Drawings and Prizes
After the event, everyone is welcome to join the EMERGE steering committee at The Terrace for drinks, dinner, etc.

There is parking onsite at the Lake Mirror Tower garage. The lower level can be utilized. Once this is full, please park at the Main Street Downtown Lakeland garage and walk across Massachusetts Ave. to the Tower.

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Posted by Angie Register

ReCap of May Event- The Salvation Army - May 18, 2005

Last night, we had a nice group visit the Salvation Army Center of Hope facility. A tour of the facility was given and then EMERGE members participated in serving the clients of the Salvation Army dinner. There was great discussion and questions asked by our group and we learned some of the needs of the Salvation Army.

They include volunteers, the adoption of an aparment in their transitional living facility, and the donation of playground equipment that meets their safety requirements. With the adoption of a transitional living apartment, you would basically furnish it with linens, towels, kitchen utensils, pretty things to make it feel like home, and cooking “stuff” for the new families who come in. The families can live there for 2 years, and are able take everything with them when they leave to help them get set up on their own.

One of the highlights of the evening came when we had a personal testimony from one of our EMERGE members who has a cousin who is living in the Salvation Army’s transitional living center, and how the experience had really been a blessing. It was great to hear a firsthand account of the impact that the Salvation Army has had on our community.

I know the Salvation Army was very appreciative of our coming to learn more about their organization and interacting with their clients. Thanks to everyone who attended the event!

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Posted by Angie Register

Polk Museum Event Today 5:30 p.m. - April 14, 2005

We are looking forward to seeing you tonight at the Polk Museum event. We are very excited about this one in terms of location, activities, and the music and food. It will be a great time, so please join us even if you have not RSVP'd!

Our next event, Cocktails with the Commodore, at the Lakeland Yacht and Country Club is free for members to attend, so we hope you can come to this one, too, on Tuesday April 26th at 5:30 p.m.

If you have any questions about any of our events, please e-mail anyone on the steering committee or post a comment. Thanks!

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Posted by Angie Register

Go to the Library, Download a MP3 Audiobook - April 7, 2005

When was the last time you went to the library? Well now you don't need to go to the library to check out a book, you can download it to your computer or MP3 player.

The Lakeland Public Library is introducing a new way of accessing audiobooks by offering a collection of over 500 downloadable audiobooks in MP3 format from Recorded Books/NetLibrary to all library users in Polk County.

Next time you're working out at Gold's Gym or walking Lake Hollingsworth you can listen to a book instead of your favorite playlist.

Check out the Lakeland Public Library web site for all the details. One drawback is that the service does not support iPods.

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Posted by Josh Hallett

Welcome to the Emerge Website - April 5, 2005

As the Co-Chairs of Emerge, we would like to welcome you to the Emerge website. We are very excited to have the website officially up and running. The creation of a website was a key area of concern for us when we initially formed Emerge. We wanted our members and guests to have quick access to information concerning Emerge as well as a forum to communicate online with other Emerge members and guests.

We encourage you to visit the site frequently and participate and post your comments in the blog. And, please send the URL address to your friends and spread the word about Emerge Lakeland!

Angie and Kim

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Posted by Angie Register

Saxena Lecture Series Kicks Off - March 30, 2005

EMERGE member Anu Saxena (as well as EMERGE sponsor ASC Geosciences) and his family have created an endowed lecture series at the Lakeland campus of USF.

The Saxena Family Endowed Lecture Series kicked off on Tuesday, March 29 with Robin Murphy, director of USF's Center for Robot Assisted Search and Rescue and the University of Minnesota's Cooperative Research Center on Safety Security Rescue. She discussed the use of robotic technologies for rescue missions.

From the USF Lakeland web site:

The University of South Florida Lakeland campus and the Saxena Family are pleased to present the Saxena Family Endowed Lecture Series (SFELS). This esteemed lecture series will enable the local campus to bring in renowned speakers for community and scholarly presentations.

This series was established to facilitate the academic programs and topical interests of the greater Lakeland area.

Congrats to Anu and his family!

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Posted by Josh Hallett

*All blog posts and comments are the opinions of the blog author or comment poster and do not necessarily represent the views of EMERGE Lakeland.

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