Furry Friends Week Profile: Veterinary Healthcare Associates

On day #4 of Furry Friends Week we spotlight Veterinary Healthcare Associates located at 3025 Dundee Road, Winter Haven. Opened over thirty years ago as Maxwell Animal Clinic, VHA has grown from a one doctor general practice to a ten doctor general, referral, and emergency facility which has a reputation in Winter Haven and Central Florida for high quality pet care. For this week long appreciation celebration, we’ve asked them to share some details about their business with the membership.

What services does VHA offer? 

We are greater central Florida’s only General Practice, Referring, and 24 Hr Emergency Hospital offering Advanced Diagnostics, Internal Medicine, Echocardiography, Endoscopy/Bronchoscopy, Spiral CT scan, LASER Surgery, Full In House Laboratory, Advanced Pain Management, Boarding, Medical Boarding, Grooming, 3.5 acre Dog park, Digital Radiology & Ultrasound, Critical Care, Chemotherapy/Oncology, Dentistry, Stem Cell Therapy, and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.

Tell us something not everyone knows about the practice 

Our mission statement is: “Helping People By Helping their Pets”. Veterinary Healthcare Associates has been voluntarily evaluated on hundreds of standards established by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)  http://www.aahanet.org/, to ensure that patients and clients receive the highest level of care. VHA has been accredited in general practice since 2009 and as a referral practice in Canine and Feline Specialty since 2012. Only 15% of animal hospitals achieve this credential.

What goals do you have for the coming year?

We plan to continue to provide excellence in our level of care, expand our specialty referral services, and have our emergency services surpass our clients expectations.

How can the public help VHA? 

We want the public to be aware of our referring and emergency services, even if they have a general practice they usually attend.  We ask that they inform us upon check in and we will see to it that their general practice receives a referral report to ensure the pet’s records all remain with their veterinarian. VHA also has a non profit fund called VHA cares  www.vetcarefoundation.org  if anyone would like to donate.

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Furry Friends Week Profile: Orchid Springs Animal Hospital

On day #3 of Furry Friends Week we spotlight Orchid Springs Animal Hospital, located at 615 Overlook Drive, Winter Haven. Orchid Springs was established in Winter Haven in 1996 by Dr. Mitsie Vargas. By 2002, the practice had greatly grown and Dr. Vargas expanded into a five thousand square-foot facility that includes a bone-shaped pool that was used for exercise, rehabilitation therapy and entertainment. In 2008, she further remodeled the original building to make room for a larger treatment area and added the luxury boarding rooms around the pool known as “The World Suites”. In 2014, a second veterinarian joined the staff, Dr. Laura Moisa, who is a native Winter Havenite. For this week long appreciation celebration, we’ve asked them to share some details about their business with the membership.

1. What services does Orchid Springs Animal Hospital offer?

Traditional medical services, general surgery acupuncture, aquapuncture, holistic medications, physical therapy, canine massage, comprehensive dentistry services, wellness plans, boarding, daycare and grooming, We also see exotic pocket pets.

2. Tell us something not everyone knows about the practice.

What someone may not know is that we actively promote the veterinary profession and encourage education of all our employees. Not only do we offer continuing education and skill development opportunities but Dr. Vargas sits on the FVMA veterinary technician committee as well. Dr. Vargas is also a recent addition to the Humane Society of Polk County Board of Directors.

3. What goals do you have for the coming year? 

Our goal is to solidify our presence in the community as a one-stop pet center for all of your pet’s needs.

 We also want to make people aware of our “We Love Pets Fund.” This fund was set up to help stray, abused and abandoned animals, as well as owners that are in a financial crisis, get the medical attention for their pets that need it. Tax deductible donations can be made at www.vetcarefoundation.org. Log onto the website and select Orchid Springs Animal Hospital and your donation will be made to this special fund. For more information please contact Orchid Springs Animal Hospital at 863-324-6964.



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Furry Friends Week Profile – Humane Society of Polk County, Inc.

During our Furry Friends week we have several partners that serve man’s best friend. Our first weekly profile is for the Humane Society of Polk County, Inc., Polk County’s only no-kill shelter. Right now they are located on 555 Sage Road, just off of Dundee Road, but they have outgrown that space and are beginning renovations on the former Warehouse Outlet store to become their new, state-of-the-art, eco-conscience animal shelter. We asked them to share some info on themselves with our membership.

What services do you provide to the Polk County community?

Adoptions of family pets.  Cats, dogs, birds and small mammals

Animal Surrenders when you are unable to keep your pet.

Help with rehoming pets if there is no room at the shelter you can place your pet for adoption on our website until space becomes available at the shelter.

Match a Pet Program if you are looking for a specific breed you can leave your information and when that breed becomes available we will contact you.

SNIP Spay/Neuter Inoculation Program for low income families only at $20 per pet.

Paws to Read School reading program

Paws to Heal  therapy dogs visit local nursing home/assisted living centers for a healing paw.

Dog Obedience & Agility Training

Therapy Dog Certification

Volunteer & Educational programs

What is something about the HSPC that many people may not be aware of? 

We have partnered with Elbert Elementary School for the last five years providing all the students in the third grade our Paws to Read program once a week, every week.  During this program Paws to Read Therapy dogs sit with the children while the kids read them stories to improve their reading skills. This is not only a fabulous way to help improve the students reading skills, but also aides in forming friendships and mentoring children to become our future leaders focusing on compassion to our community’s pets.

What are the goals for the upcoming year? 

Our goal for the upcoming year is to complete renovations and move into our new state-of-the-art animal sanctuary.  This will enable us to further assist Polk County Animal Control when they need space for cruelty cases.  It will also allow us to assist members of our community who live in mobile home parks with a safe haven for their pets in times of disaster, increase adoptions, spays and neuters and so much more!

What ways can people get involved with the Humane Society? 

We are always in need of volunteers.  This is a great way to help if you can’t have a pet where you live.  Our babies always enjoy the extra TLC our volunteers provide.  You can help by donations of supplies and or cash.  With our new building we will have plenty of naming opportunities if you are interested in leaving a lasting legacy please call the shelter at 863-324-5227 and speak to Lisa.

During the chamber’s donation drive the week of June 16 – June 20 the following items can be donated at the chamber lobby from 9 a.m. – 4 pm. :

HP printer ink  60XL, HP 23 & 15, HP 97 & 99

Dryer sheets

Kitten food

Cat hairball formula food

Dog harnesses

Dog collars/gentle leaders all sizes

Dog toys especially kongs, squeaky toys, stuffed animals, puzzle balls, tug ropes and others new or slightly used

Hot dogs, cheese

Old towels, blankets, bath mats and soft doormats

New or used leashes and flat leather or nylon collars

Cat toys, scratching posts, kitty grass and catnip

Cat and dog beds

Copy paper

Powder laundry detergent

Tall kitchen trash bags

30 gallon trash bags

Dish soap

Heartgard (all sizes)

Frontline spray

Advantix (all sizes)

Paper towels


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Furry Friends Week Profile – Dunham Animal Hospital

During our Furry Friends week we have several partners that serve man’s best friend. Our second profile this week is for the Dunham Animal Hospital & Bird Clinic located at 3201 Recker Highway, Winter Haven, FL 33880. Dunham Animal Hospital was established in 1981 and has been caring for the pets of Winter Haven ever since. For this week long appreciation celebration, we’ve asked them to share some of their information with our membership.

What services do you provide to the Polk County community?

We offer comprehensive and preventative care for most animals. This includes most surgeries, vaccinations, dental care, endoscopy, ultrasound procedures, laser surgery, chemotherapy, geriatric care and radiology.

What is something about Dunham Animal Hospital that many people may not be aware of? 

Not everyone knows that we treat birds and reptiles in our practice. We also provide wellness plans for puppies, kittens, and adult animals starting at $19.00 a month that includes all exams/office calls, vaccinations, and a lab profile yearly. Some plans provide for dental care and x-rays as well and we also finance most procedures if needed.

We have digital x-ray machines for routine radiographs as well as a digital dental x-ray unit.

What are the goals for the upcoming year? 

Some of our goals for the year would be to expand our wellness plans with some new procedures added to the plans. I would like to finish the remodeling of our office as soon as possible and to upgrade our computer system.

We believe in supporting local business and hope the public will do the same – support the ones that live and work in the Winter Haven area. We know this is not possible all the time but always think local first.


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Now accepting nominations for the 2014 Polk Emerging Leaders Awards

Now accepting nominations for the 2014 Polk Emerging Leaders Awards

For the first time, the annual Polk Emerging Leaders Awards will be a collaborative event of the three young professional groups in Polk County – Emerge Lakeland, Engage Bartow and the Winter Haven Young Professionals Group. Ushering in a new era of collaboration and blurring the east/west dividing line, the awards have been established to annually recognize five young professionals between age 21-42 who have made significant contributions and commitment to the Polk County community. The awards will be given on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at the Bartow Civic Center.

To nominate an individual, please download the nomination form here and email it to info@polkemergingleaders.org. Nominations must be received by July 3, 2014.

Sponsorship opportunities are also available. Explore the opportunities here.


The Polk Emerging Leaders Awards are open to individuals between the ages of 21- 42 who live or work in Polk County. Eligible applicants must have lived or worked in Polk County for at least one year. Self-nominations will be accepted. Once nominations are received applications will be emailed directly to the nominee.

Entry Fee:

There is no entry, nomination or application fee.

To Apply:

Only one application per person will be accepted. Download the application here.

If downloading the application, please submit the application, your resume and a preferred head shot or photo via e-mail to info@polkemergingleaders.org by July 21, 2014.

A completed application includes:

Resume or Biography including photograph
Letters of recommendation (no more than 3) - optional

Award Selection:

Applications will be reviewed by a panel of judges, made up of five established business and community leaders. Applicants will be judged based on the applicant’s answers to each question, level of achievement, demonstrated leadership and community impact. If additional information is needed, we will contact the applicant individually. Award winners will be announced at the event on August 20, 2014 at the Bartow Civic Center.




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Park View Hotel now Magnuson Grand Cypress Hotel

The Park View Hotel located just outside of LEGOLAND® Florida has new owners and a new name – the Magnuson Grand Cypress Hotel.

Interior shot of the Funzone Kid's Area

Interior shot of the Funzone Kid’s Area

The new owners, Cypress Gardens Resort, LLC (with Kamaljit Shergill listed as the authorized member according to Sunbiz.org), plan to give the property a “facelift” this summer to make it more attractive to LEGOLAND® Florida’s visiting families. While no specific plans have been shared in terms renovations, several changes have already taken place. The Legend’s Bar has been closed and converted into a Kid’s Zone with games for the entire family. The rooms will be made more ‘uniform’, a new bluetooth door locking system will be installed as well as wifi and flat screen televisions.

The hotel hopes to have their modifications complete by mid-summer.

Posted in Commercial Renovations, Economic Development, Tourism | 1 Comment

Vacant Albertson’s store soon to be occupied

photo 2CenterState Bank has announced the relocation of their Operations Center to the long vacant former Albertson’s location on the corner of HWY 17 and Havendale Blvd (directly behind the Racetrac). The bank entered a long-term lease for the 60,000 square feet of space and will be investing $2 million into renovations to relocate approximately 140 employees to the new site. The center should be fully operational by the spring of 2015.

CenterState was founded as a start-up bank in Winter Haven in 2000. After thirteen mergers and acquisitions since 2009, CenterState has grown to be one of the largest banks headquartered in Florida’s with $4 Billion in assets and 850 employees located in six states.
John Corbett, President/CEO, CenterState Bank

John Corbett, President/CEO, CenterState Bank

“By centralizing all of our administrative and operations functions to this new facility, we are  reaffirming that we plan to keep Winter Haven as our long-term company headquarters,” said CenterState Bank’s President/CEO John Corbett.



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Land sold. Developer named.

After long and thorough negotiations over the sales agreement, the Winter Haven City Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday evening to move forward with the sale of land to CSX Transportation, Inc. and consent to assignment of purchase rights by CSX Transportation, Inc. to Winter Haven Industrial Investors, LLC.

Winter Haven Industrial Investors, LLC is a company formed by GEM Realty Capital, Inc. (developer and key equity investor) out of Chicago to develop the Integrated Logistics Center in Winter Haven. The team they’ve assembled consists of leading experts and companies in the business of logistic park development including Michael Mullen, (industry expert and 36-year veteran to logistics development including 70 million square feet of facilities around the globe), Clayco (general contractor and architect of similar logistics centers), CBRE Advisors (leasing/marketing agent), to name just a few.  According to their proposal, the project team will ‘emphasize hiring local contractors and suppliers during and after construction.’

CSX Crane During the commission meeting, Rick Hood of CSX commented that CSX’s vision when they began this project in Winter Haven in 2006 was to change how freight is transported to and from Central Florida. The first step was the opening of the CSX Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center (which began operations in April 2014) and the next step is the build out of the integrated logistics center on the adjacent land. He stated that they were looking for a development partner that exemplified strength of knowledge and experience as well as someone who looked at development with an eye to environmental stewardship, as CSX views all of their projects. He stated that he felt confident that the team that has been assembled meets that criteria.

Mike Mullen spoke on behalf of the development team and assured the commissioners that Winter Haven Industrial Investors, LLC is here for the long haul. They look forward to not only building out the estimated 8 million square feet of warehousing and distribution space and investing close to $400 million into the site, but they also are looking forward to being a part of the Winter Haven community.

Map of Land Purchased

The final agreement outlined two sub-parcels totaling 932 acres that will be purchased by the GEM development team. Development of the first parcel (532 acres sold for $8.4 million) will occur within 9 months of closing. The purchase of the remaining acreage will be completed once required mitigation of wetland impacts are finalized, in approximately 18 to 24 months.


Posted in CSX - Winter Haven | 2 Comments

Cypress Gardens Named to National Register of Historic Places

This is one of the oldest known photographs from the botanical gardens. Taken in 1935 by Robert Dahlgren, it was tinted and used in printing the park's earliest promotional brochure. The women pictured are not dressed as southern belles as they would be introduced during World War II.

This is one of the oldest known photographs from the botanical gardens. Taken in 1935 by Robert Dahlgren, it was tinted and used in printing the park’s earliest promotional brochure. The women pictured are not dressed as southern belles as they would be introduced during World War II.

Polk County Commission Chairman, Todd Dantzler has received notification that the historic botanical area and ski show circle of Cypress Gardens has been named to the National Register of Historic places. The designation was official as of April 14, 2014.  Notification came from the Florida Department of State.

The Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce and community leaders were heavily involved in preservation efforts for the park and, with the blessing of LEGOLAND® Florida sought the National Register designation. Barbara Mattick, PhD, with the Bureau of Historic Preservation developed the nomination with assistance from Bob Gernert, former executive director of the Winter Haven Chamber.
Cypress Gardens was founded in 1936 by Richard D. “Dick” Pope and his wife Julie. Polk County owns the historic botanical gardens and ski show area which is maintained by LEGOLAND Florida.
This Saturday, May 31, LEGOLAND® Florida will offer a highly-discounted ticket to seniors age 60 and older to enter into just the historic gardens section of the park. Gernert will be on hand at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to do short presentations on the history of the gardens and answer questions. Tickets can be purchased the day of the event at the park entrance ticket window.
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Winter Haven – a Music City?

Many of you may not know this about Winter Haven, but we have a rich and diverse musical history! Today Main Street Winter Haven, Inc. announced a revival of one of the gems of our musical past – The Derry Down. Several well-known artists, including Gram Parsons and Jim Stafford got their start at this historic venue. See Main Street’s release below. You can also follow the progress of the project on The Derry Down Project Facebook page.

This is an older photo of the Derry Down Building, located on 5th St just beyond Ave N NW.

This is an older photo of the Derry Down Building, located on 5th St just beyond Ave B NW.

“The Board of Main Street Winter Haven, Inc., announced today the acceptance of the historical property known as the Derry Down, which was donated by Six/Ten, LLC, a Winter Haven based real estate company.  The site of the original Derry Down Club was deeded to Main Street as part of the “The Derry Down Project,” which aims to restore the 1960′s teen music venue made famous by Gram Parsons.

Due to the Derry Down’s historical significance, the building, once restored, provides considerable cultural tourism opportunities for Winter Haven’s downtown economy, adding to the growing energy generated by its existing amenities.  Additionally, Main Street hopes to give a new generation of aspiring musicians the same opportunity to gain experience performing in front of a live audience.  The Derry Down will once again be opened as a “listening room” for those who love to play and those who love to listen.

A vibrant part of Winter Haven’s history, the Derry Down opened its doors on December 20, 1964.  Established by Parson’s stepfather, the site became an integral part of the popular Central Florida youth circuit that supported up-and-coming Polk County talent, like Jim Carlton, Carl Chambers, Jon Corneal and Jim Stafford, among others.  Parsons was born in Winter Haven and is widely recognized for his popularizing what he called “Cosmic American Music”, a hybrid of country rhythm and blues, soul, folk and rock.  He is ranked No. 87 on the “100 Greatest Artist of All Time” list compiled by Rolling Stone.

“The intriguing history of Gram Parsons, and the Florida music scene, isn’t complete without the Derry Down building,” said David Kraai, New York-based country/folk musician.  “The project to resurrect this Americana landmark is a vital way to honor and celebrate this area’s rich past while looking toward its future: by bringing people together to create new music, memories and history.”

The Derry Down first came to Main Street’s attention after Bob Kealing held an event at the Winter Haven Public Library for his Gram Parsons biography: Calling Me Home, Gram Parsons and the Roots of Country Rock.  “We began to receive inquiries regarding saving this piece of Winter Haven’s history” said Jay Gray current Main Street President.  Main Street adopted the restoration project in January.  After months of negotiations, it was decided the building must be donated for the project to move forward.  “As part of the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources, the Main Street program was a logical choice to steward the building’s historical preservation while honoring its original purpose” said Kerry Wilson of Six/Ten, LLC.

Derry Down Fundraiser PosterThe Derry Down Project committee headed by Jamie Beckett will begin an aggressive fundraising effort, including a kickoff party at the Derry Down on June 28th, as well as a crowd sourced Kickstarter campaign.  Once open, the Derry Down will be available as a rental facility to offset operational costs.  Learn more about the project on the Derry Down Facebook page or the derrydownproject@gmail.com.

Main Street Winter Haven, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501©(3)established in 1995 to oversee the revitalization of downtown Winter Haven.  Using a preservation based approach to economic development, the Main Street organization aims to transform America’s downtowns into prosperous and sustainable community centers that reflect each city’s authentic identity.”

Posted in Cultural Arts, Downtown, Economic Development, History of Winter Haven, Main Street Winter Haven | 5 Comments