compiled by Lauren Salinero –
With tax season underway, Heart of Florida United Way is helping to get the word out about how qualified tax payers can claim their Earned Income Tax Credit, which is recognized for lifting more people out of poverty than any other federal program. The IRS estimates that one in four qualified Central Floridians failed to claim EITC because of a lack of awareness.
This year, EITC amounts range from $503 to $6,242. To ensure that residents receive their full credit amounts, more than 30 free tax-preparation sites will be available until April 15 through HFUW’s partnership with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. In 2015, free tax-preparation sites generated $232 million in refunds for Floridians alone, saving them an estimated $17.6 million in fees.
For more information, dial 2-1-1 for HFUW’s information and assistance help line, or visit www.hfuw.org on the Web.
Mayor Jacobs hosts 2016 Economic Summit
(L. to r.) Sean Snaith, Ph.D., director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness; Josh Brown, founder and CEO of PowerDMS; Rick Weddle, president and CEO of Orlando Economic Development Commission; Southwest resident and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs; Jerry Ross, executive director of the National Entrepreneur Center; Phil Dumas, founder of Unikey Technologies; and Donna Mackenzie, executive director of FireSpring Fund participate in the 2016 Economic Summit.
Southwest resident and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs continued her annual tradition of hosting the 2016 Economic Summit, now in its fourth year. She was joined by distinguished panelists, economists and guests as she gave her annual report on the economy and highlighted strong business sectors and growing industries. More than 650 citizens and community leaders attended the event, which was held at the Orange County Convention Center. This year, the summit featured a technology entrepreneur panel, which included Josh Brown, founder and CEO of PowerDMS; Phil Dumas, founder of Unikey Technologies; Richard Licursi, managing partner and co-founder of venVelo; and Donna Mackenzie, executive director of FireSpring Fund. The panel gave an overview of the county’s growing technological ecosystem and highlighted what is needed to continue growth and make Orange County the hub for innovative entrepreneurship providing high-paying jobs and economic advancement. After the Economic Summit, Mayor Jacobs hosted the inaugural Florida TechMatch, an event that paves the way for local tech companies to build relationships and contracts with national industry leaders. More than 80 vendors met with 30 corporate buyers representing companies and organizations like Orlando Health, Universal Orlando, Bright House Networks and Clean the World.
Disagreement over naming of high school theater
by Debra Wood
Plans to name the theater at Dr. Phillips High School have turned a tad controversial, with some alumni wanting it named for a retired teacher and the district planning to follow naming policies for stadiums and theaters established about eight years ago.
Alumnus and Dr. Phillips resident Erik Garbus, a theater major and former DPHS drama club president, and several other former students would like to see the school recognize the former director of the Visual & Performing Arts Theatre Magnet Karen Rugerio, who launched the program, as well as two other teachers, Kathy Follensbee and Keith Galasso, after they retire.
“These teachers have been there, guiding and nurturing students and their talent since the beginning,” Garbus said. “We, Dr. Phillips alumni, were told that naming the theater, keyboard lab and dance studio after each teacher when they retire would not only be in line, but completely appropriate. ‘It’s a no-brainer’ is exactly what I was told by a former DPHS principal.”
Since then, OCPS changed its policy for naming stadiums and theaters to raise funds to support performing arts, athletics and other programs. Now the district would like $50,000 to name the theater. Garbus said he understands that a policy change occurred, but he still would like Rugerio honored with her name on the theater and has started a petition.
“We’d like to honor Karen Rugerio, and we are looking for enough funds to sponsor the theater and benefit the students with scholarships and assistance to that program,” said Pam Gould, OCPS board member.
Gould has talked with Garbus about establishing an endowment in Rugerio’s name that would award scholarships. Her name could be on the theater if enough money was raised. About $100,00 is needed, $50,000 immediately.
“That would have perpetual benefits for our students,” Gould said. “If we can find a way to benefit students and honor someone that had such an impact on the program, that would be the way to do that. But the crux is raising that money.”
Both sides appear optimistic that a solution can be reached.
Deadline for Homestead Exemptions approaches
Orange County property owners who have not already filed for Homestead Exemption are encouraged to do so before the March 1 deadline. The Orange County Property Appraiser’s Office is operating satellite offices to handle the number of people applying through Feb. 20. To find out the operating times and locations of the satellite offices, visit ocpalf.org on the Web and click the pop-up on the front page.
Largest service event and resource fair coming to Orlando
This spring, the Citrus Bowl will host He Got Up Orlando, the country’s largest-ever service event and resource fair for the underserved. The event, which takes place March 27, is the first event in an ongoing collaboration led by the Orlando Serve Foundation to leverage existing resources to assist those in need on a path toward self-sustainability.
Tim Johnson, senior pastor of the Orlando World Outreach Center and the vision behind the event, believes He Got Up Orlando will provide as many as 25,000 homeless and families in need across the Orange, Osceola and Seminole tricounty area with employment opportunities, food, clothing, medical and dental screenings, and legal services. It will be open to all, and organizers already have commitments from a number of co-sponsors that are providing everything from financial donations and in-kind support to transportation, food and beverage for the event. Organizers plan to stock Citrus Bowl concession stands with food and beverages that will be available at no cost to guests. They are looking for as many as 5,000 volunteers.
For more information and support opportunities, visit www.hegotuporlando.com on the Web.
Photo courtesy of WOCC
West Orange Chamber of Commerce members celebrate the opening of Nothing Bundt Cakes.
West Orange Chamber of Commerce members held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Nothing Bundt Cakes. WOCC builds partnerships, strong businesses and commitment to the community by serving as the leading business advocate in Central Florida, facilitating opportunity to nearly 1,000 member businesses. For more information, call 407-656-1304 or visit wochamber.com on the Web.
The First Academy is bringing innovation to the classroom with a first-hand experience using Google’s Expedition Pioneer Program, a new product that allows teachers to take their classes on virtual field trips. The trips are made possible through the teacher’s tablet, students’ phones and Google Cardboard, a virtual reality viewer that is compatible with any modern smartphone. The trips are collections of virtual reality panoramas annotated with details, points of interest and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum already used in the school. For more information, call 407-206-8602 or visit www.thefirstacademy.org on the Web.
Sonata Senior Living officials announced the construction of Sonata West, a new, state-of-the-art active senior living and assisted living community in Winter Garden. The resort-style community will offer area seniors a maintenance-free, wellness-focused independent living option with an array of hospitality services and amenities, as well as assisted living. Serenades by Sonata, an award-winning, full-service memory care community, will be located adjacent to the new community, adding another level of care to Sonata’s senior network. Sonata West is scheduled for completion early 2017. It will house more than 130 residents and bring more than 100 new jobs to the local community once open. For more information, and for VIP registry, call 407-286-6490 or visit www.sonatawest.com on the Web.
As part of its continued commitment to hospital price and quality transparency, Florida Hospital Association unveiled a new section of its Mission to Care website, which features publicly available information about hospital prices and quality in an easy-to-use, searchable format. Average prices and quality ratings are displayed by hospital for the 50 most common medical conditions or procedures. The website includes several resources to help patients before, during and after their hospital stay. It also includes 40 health care quality measures, such as recommended care, results of care, practice patterns and patient experience. For more information, visit www.missiontocare.org/compare.
While the recess debate continues in public schools, Cranium Academy already integrates physical activity and social play with cognitive learning to strengthen gross motor skills and enhance academic achievement. In addition to advanced curriculum, all Cranium Academy preschoolers benefit from play opportunities within a spacious indoor gym and outdoor play areas. Elementary students also benefit from a more structured physical education program at a large outdoor playing field nearby. The school is currently enrolling for preschool through fifth grade. For more information, visit www.craniumacademy.com on the Web.
In the Southwest Orlando Bulletin Legal & Financial Directory that appeared in the Jan. 21 issue, an error appeared in the bio of Cary L. Moss, Esq., of Sawyer & Sawyer P.A. Moss is a member of The Florida Bar and president of the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys. She practices Medicaid planning, estate planning, guardianships, trust administration, special-needs trusts and probate. Sawyer & Sawyer P.A. is located at 8913 Conroy-Windermere Road in Orlando. For more information, call 407-909-1900 or visit www.sawyerandsawyerpa.com on the Web.
Rosen JCC officials announced Feb. 27 as the grand-opening date of their expanded facilities, featuring the new Rosen Event Center, new classrooms, a parenting center, STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — lab and catering kitchen. The entire 55,000 square-foot center is open to the public. The new expansion provides opportunities for learning and promotes healthy living and exercise with a new teen center, active gaming room, cycling studio and physical therapy space through a retrofit to it’s existing Youth Wing. For more information, call Bonnie Rayman, executive director, at 407-387-5330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crooked Can Brewing Co. and Plant Street Market will co-host the first St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Festival from March 17-19 at 426 W. Plant St. in downtown Winter Garden. The festival aims to celebrate the holiday and the first anniversary of the opening of Crooked Can. Highlights include arts and crafts for kids; a beer garden; Highland games; food vendors; and live music, featuring Off Kilter, on Saturday from 6-8 p.m. Event hours are Thursday from noon-11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. For more information, visit crookedcan.com or plantstmarket.com on the Web. 💓