January Local News

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Printing Press

Residents say local celebration means a lot

“Happy Hanukkah,” said Rabbi Mendel Friedman of Chabad Jewish Center to those who came to the Hanukkah Menorah Lighting at Virginia Miller Park in Winter Haven Dec. 14. Friedman notes Hanukkah commemorates two miracles that took place during Temple times, during the era of the second Temple that was in Jerusalem. “The first miracle was that a small band of Jewish rebels took on the Syrian-Greek Empire. It was a huge Army,” he said. “They won them over. It took time. The idea was that the Syrian Greeks were oppressing them. They were not allowing them to practice religion properly. So it was a form of religious oppression,” said the rabbi.  Chabad took the same menorah to Lakeland, Lake Wales and Sebring this year, he said. Janice Carl, attends the menorah lighting every year at Hanukkah, said she was raised Jewish. “My great grandparents founded an orthodox shul in New Brunswick, New Jersey. 

 

All medical needs in one place

Winter Haven Medical Centers MBMG cut the ribbon to a new future with their Winter Haven facility, accompanied by the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce Dec. 13.  As well as massage therapy, they will offer electric stimulation, cold laser therapy, ultrasound, heat and cold therapy, paraffin wax, the water table and some exercise.  Patients must first register with the practice and then meet with Dr. Carlos Martinez so he can evaluate them.  Dr. Nicholas Waslyn, chiropractor will be working at the Winter Haven facility Tuesday and Thursdays until the Lakeland office opens, then will work one day here and one day there.  “It’s a great concept, it’s a one stop everything – if you need dental, if you need chiropractic, massage, medicine, instead of going all different places and it is affordable. It’s what everybody could use, I think it is happening in the future,” he said. 

 

Powell win beats Hunnicutt for City Commission 

JP Powell is celebrating a win in the 2017 election for Seat #5 on the Winter Haven City Commission, and is anxious to get to work. He beat current Mayor Steven Hunnicutt winning just more than 59 percent of the vote. After the Nov. 7 election produced a runoff between him and Hunnicutt, both men campaigned vigorously on various community issues. There are, Powell said, “several things,” he wants to look into as a commissioner. 

Having previously served some 10 years on the commission, he comes to the table with experience, and said he is looking forward to working with the other commissioners. 

 

PetFest

They drove all the way from Plant City to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office PetFest event Dec. 16 in Winter Haven to buy a couple of cute furballs to expand their home. PetFest is put on by the sheriff’s office once a year at Animal Control, in partnership with numerous vendors who turned out for the occasion. Adoption fees were $30 and included shots, medical papers, Polk County animal license and tag, a chip and more. Morgan Stout walked out with a dog, a German shepherd and Kerr mix, which replaces one that had passed away not long ago. She did not say much. She hugged her dog tightly, and the dog seemed quite happy to find a “forever” home.  And that is what PetFest is really all about, according to Animal Control Administrator Kristall Barber, who said the once a year pet adoption event is careful about the future homes of the pets who are adopted. 

 

Four buddies help homeless vets

Carl Newman remembers when he was homeless. For one year and three months, he lived in his mini van. His parents begged him to move home with them. But he would not. 

“Mom and Dad visited me every day,” he said. But he told them, “I got myself into this mess and if I don’t get myself out of this mess, I will learn no lessons.”  Fast forward many years. He and three military buddies were hanging out and noticed a homeless man who said he was a veteran. They decided to try and help him.   They bought a little trailer and made arrangements at a campground to put his trailer not really on its own lot, but just sort of tucked away. And stipulated that he could work a few odd jobs around the campground to pay toward the spot. 

At first, he protested the help. He didn’t want a hand out. But eventually, they talked him into living in the camper. “Today, he’s got a job,” said Newman. That was just a beginning for Newman and his friends. 

Hunger and homelessness being a problem for many vets, Newman said last year they started doing a bunch of food drives. They did not advertise. It was just the four veteran buddies looking to help others.

 

Carson Rudy went UP in the Air for Convoy of Hope

Carson Rudy  and his father, Pastor Shawn Rudy of Lake Wales, slept from Nov. 16-23, on a tent 20 feet in the air to raise money for Convoy of Hope. For seven days, Carson slept on a platform and watched the world drive by, some honking, some slowing down, and some turning in to donate to the cause. The goal at hand was to reach $20,000 in seven days and $250,000 in the next six years for Convoy of Hope. Those interested can give in person at Impact Church at 1201 Burns Ave., Lake Wales, or online at www.impactlw.org and click Up in the Air. “This is Carson’s third time in four years,” said his father. The most challenging part about being up on the platform he said, was the weather and using the bathroom. Every year they look forward to raising the money for the charity.

 

Panels: Polk should learn about exporting

Exporting goods is one way to keep the economy going. At the recent Polk Goes Global Half-Day International Exporting Conference, Cory Skeates, president of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, said, “A lot of people do not realize how big Polk is in international trade.” Held at Polk State College Lakeland Campus, the event saw about 100 people in attendance, from across the spectrum: small business owners, educators, large business owners, companies who provide service. The going feeling in the industry of export is that those companies who can export their services survive. According to Manny Mencia, senior vice president of International Trade & Business Development  – Enterprise Florida, 2.2 million jobs are sustained by international business activity in the state. “In Florida, you are in the right location for business,” he said. 

 

Victory Ridge Academy debuts first play

In this era of schools focusing more on science, technology, math and job skills, art is sometimes an afterthought. Those who attended the Victory Ridge Academy play “Mars: Escape From the Meanies” Dec. 16-17 witnessed how art can reach kids like nothing else can. “Art brings out the best in all of us,” said play director Tinia Clarke.

Based on her experience, around a year ago she wrote a book of poems titled, “I want to go to Mars.” That book of poems eventually evolved into a book called “Mars: Escape From the Meanies” which Lakeland artist Rachael Storjohann illustrated. Clarke then decided that she wanted to adapt the book into a play using people with special needs as actors. Theatre Winter Haven Education Director Molly Judy helped Clarke write the script of the play.  Victory Ridge Academy is a charter school in Lake Wales that serves kids with communication deficits, behavioral challenges and physical disabilities. 

 

Military dad surprises son at school 

U.S Army Staff Sgt. Jose Negron has been stationed in Guam for the last seven months, and his family, including wife Irma and Polk Avenue Elementary fifth grader Jose, didn’t expect him home for the Christmas season. Negron arrived in Florida in the wee hours Sunday morning, and stayed in a hotel until Tuesday, Dec. 12, when the surprise family reunion took place in front of the Lake Wales Charter System elementary school’s entire student body and staff. The school had gathered to honor winners of a contest centered around National Kindness Day. Jose’s class was picked as the winners, and he was selected to read a poem the class had put together about kindness. As Jose read, the curtains opened as his father appeared, prompting tears and cheers in the packed auditorium. School principal Gail Quam and assistant principal Shay Hixenbaugh were virtually the only school employees that knew of the plan, which was more than two weeks in the making. 

 

Area officers, veterans help families in need

Dozens of area children received Christmas gifts from Winter Haven Police Department officers and members of American Legion Post 8 Dec. 16.

In the morning, WHPD Chief Charlie Bird said Operation Reach Out benefited 51 children in 13 families. The annual assistance program has been ongoing for more than 20 years. WHPD DARE Officer Kris Bhoj said counselors at 10 area schools helped select which kids needed help the most. “The main purpose is giving presents to kids who may not have received any this year,” Bird said. “While it builds relationships with the community it’s really all about the kids. It reminds us how fortunate we are, puts things in perspective, and it helps my officers to see the reactions of the children.”

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