Empowering our communities, accelerating the future.
LEFT TO RIGHT: Robbie Shields, David Dlugokecki, General Manager, Melissa Guhman, Tony Mathewson
Left to Right David Dlugokecki, Officer Edward Palmer, Officer John Mongeon
Hands Helping Paws
On the subject of animals, have you ever wondered what happens to a pet when its owner dies and no arrangements have been made for his or her beloved pet? Or what happens to the pets when an owner is taken to jail or becomes temporarily homeless? Since 2015, founder Carolyn Ripley and the volunteers involved with Hands Helping Paws Rescue have provided a no-kill option for pets in Polk County who have been abandoned or neglected or somehow fall through the cracks and can’t or won’t be taken by other animal shelters.
While we all know that the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown caused monumental problems for all of the human population, many are surprised to learn that the loss of jobs, homes, and financial stability also profoundly impacted the pet population. Hands Helping Paws has been working hard to assist many compromised pet owners with food and medical attention for beloved pets who might have otherwise suffered tremendously. The commitment to helping advocate for and assist animals who would not otherwise have a voice is why Hands Helping Paws is being recognized with the Dyer Difference Award and a check for $3,000 to help support its efforts in Lake Wales.
Dyer Difference Awards Focus on Children
When we think of family, we typically envision a perfect situation, with all the pieces in place and every member of the family functional at full capacity. In reality, the perfect family is often the exception to the rule, and sadly, thousands of children in Florida each year have need of a caring, supportive advocate to help keep the most vulnerable among us from falling through the cracks. For more than a century, Children’s Home Society of Florida (CHS) has been responding to the needs of children, providing treatment services including intervention, case management, assessment and residential living facilities for Florida children. The Greater Lakeland Region of Children’s Home Society serves more than 2,500 children in Polk, Highlands, and Hardee Counties each year. In addition to treatment, intervention, and case management, the Greater Lakeland CHS has also expanded to provide adoption services, a child protection team, a Children’s Advocacy Center, dependency case management, a family visitation center, and residential group care through the Hansen Center. Because of its commitment to Florida’s children, Children’s Home Society is being recognized with a Dyer Difference Award.
General Manager David Dlugokecki presents the Dyer Difference Award to Hope Equine Rescue’s Dani Horton.
Special Olympics Receive Dyer Difference Award
More than 1,600 athletes throughout Polk County participate in Special Olympics’ sports training and competition programs throughout the year, helping to build sportsmanship, strength, teamwork, and social skills. Coaching and cheering those athletes on are approximately 300 volunteers who share their time, talent, and energy with the athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities ranging in age eight to adult. The staff at Dyer Kia and Dyer Chevrolet have chosen the Special Olympics of Polk County as the recipients of the March Dyer Difference Award.
Whether it’s gymnastics, swimming, bocce or bowling, Special Olympics athletes in Polk County participate at no cost to themselves or their families, and the organization relies on donations from caring community members in order to provide uniforms, equipment, supplies, food, water, transportation, and even shoes for the athletes. Being honored with the Dyer Difference Award will help the organization continue to share cheers and hugs and that feeling of exuberance that comes from working hard and achieving the goal, whether it’s picking up a spare, nailing that split, or crossing the finish line.
Polk County Award Recipients 2020
Haines City HS - Bobby Ruis - Kia Sales Manager, Tyler Best, Hunter Armstrong, Austin Vaklener, Anthony Torres, Coach Butler, Dyer General Manager David Dlugokecki
Dyer Difference Recognizes Shop-With-a-Cop Program
For the past twelve years, the Lake Wales Police Officers Association (LWPOA) has made the holidays a little happier for children in the community through several events, including the much-beloved Shop-With-A-Cop program, which pairs officers with children on a shopping spree neither will ever forget. An average of 40 children each year receive a $100 gift card to spend at Walmart and have the opportunity to spend the day with a police officer chosen especially for them.
This very special and individualized event helps to build positive community relationships that often last a lifetime. In addition to the $100 holiday shopping spree, each child is gifted with a new bicycle, and their family receives a very special package to help them celebrate the holidays, including a Christmas tree, Christmas meal and other food items. The Lake Worth Police Officers Association, which also supports the Family Christmas and Awards Banquet, generates the funds for these events through LWPOA fund raisers and from donations from businesses and citizens of the community. The importance of this activity on the lives of children and future community members is why the Dyer Difference Award committed chose to recognize LWPOA with the Dyer Difference Award and a check for $3,000 this month.
l TO R: General Manager David Dlugokecki and Will Dyer present the Dyer Difference Award to Daniel Berman (center) of Children’s Home Society.
General Manager David Dlugokecki presents the Dyer Difference Award to Hands Helping Paws founder Carolyn Ripley and her grateful friend, Baby.
Soccer Association Scores with Dyer Difference Program
For more than 40 years, the Winter Haven Youth Soccer Association has been serving the children of the community and helping to prepare them for the competitive sport that is life. This nonprofit organization teaches teamwork, strategy, respect, hard work, positivity, and fun, and it gives girls and boys the opportunity to play, learn, grow, and become their best while promoting physical fitness, good health, and good sportsmanship. More than 800 children participate in the program, but a couple of months ago, the organization suffered a tremendous blow when two of its golf carts were stolen and the playing fields were heavily vandalized. Knowing how important it is for children to have a positive outlet for their physical energy and understanding how critical it is for tomorrow’s leaders to learn the important skills taught by the Winter Haven Youth Soccer Association, the Dyer Difference Awards Committee chose to recognize the organization with the December Dyer Difference Award and a check for $3,000.
Hope Equine Rescue
Some of the saddest calls a law enforcement officer has to make are the ones which involved neglected and abused animals. Like children with no voice, animals often rely on the kindness of strangers to help free them from hopeless and harmful situations. Hope Equine Rescue in Polk County takes in neglected, abused, and unwanted horses, and the majority of the rescues they take on involve law enforcement seizures.
Once a horse is safely in the care of Hope Equine Rescue, it will be evaluated and receive medical care. Some horses are eventually able to be adopted out to new, happy home situations, and some horses are utilized as assistants in a reading program to help students in graded K-8. Others find a way to help students in Equine Science classes learn about horse care and the great responsibility which comes with having a horse. It’s not all work at Hope Equine Rescue, though, and the horses and volunteers love the fall Trot or Treat event, where both the children and horses get to dress up in costume and have a wonderful, fun time. Nearly 40 horses in Polk County are experiencing a better life, and a whole lot of Hope at Hope Equine Rescue, and the team at Dyer Kia and Dyer Chevrolet has chosen to honor the organization as the recipient of the July Dyer Difference Award and $3,000 check.
Will Dyer, Mike Lopez, David Dlugokecki, Mike Galloway, and Mike Long
L To R: Les Moore, David Dlugokecki, Tatiana & Will Dyer
Will & Tatiana Dyer, Florida FFA Executive Director Scarlett Jackson, General Manager David Dlugokecki, John Dyer
Dyer Difference Goes Proudly Pink
This year, more than 325,000 women and more than 2,600 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Since 2016, the Breast Cancer Foundation of Central Florida (BCFCF) has provided help and hope to families facing breast cancer, providing financial and emotional support. Even with insurance coverage, the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer can bring an individual or family to the breaking point both emotionally and financially. The Breast Cancer Foundation of Central Florida’s financial assistance program helps pay for household expenses while a breast cancer patient is in active treatment, helping to cover the cost of rent or mortgage. payments, utility payments, car payments, car repairs, home or auto insurance, gas, or other necessary expenses.
A breast cancer diagnosis can happen to any of us, regardless of gender, social, or economic status. Locally, 90 breast cancer patients and 54 children have been assisted through BCFCF, but because of the coronavirus pandemic and the financial and employment issues it created for so many in our community, the need is now greater than ever before. Battling breast cancer is a personal fight for the staff family at Dyer Kia and Dyer Chevrolet, and the Dyer Difference Award Selection Committee has chosen to honor those they love who are battling breast cancer by recognizing the efforts of the Breast Cancer Foundation of Central Florida with the October Dyer Difference Award.
Soccer Club Scores with Dyer Difference Award
Nearly 500 children between the ages of three and 19 participate in the Lake Wales Soccer Club. Some children play competitively, and others play just for fun, but everyone has a great time, and along the way, the children get exercise, learn valuable lessons in teamwork and sportsmanship, and develop confidence and purpose. And though soccer can be an expensive sport for a child, the Lake Wales Soccer Club never turns away a player, even when there are financial limitations and the child’s family cannot afford to pay. Coaches and board members are all volunteers, and the club keeps prices low enough for most families to afford. It also provides scholarships for children who receive free and reduced school lunches. That commitment to sharing soccer with every child in the community caught the attention of the Dyer Difference Award Committee, which recognized the Lake Wales Soccer Club with the September Dyer Difference Award.
The Vanguard School of Lake Wales
If you look up the definition of the word vanguard, you’ll find that it means a group of people leading the way in new developments or ideas. That’s exactly what is happening with the Vanguard School of Lake Wales, which serves over 100 students in grades six through twelve. Students at this small, independent, co-educational boarding and day school learn in a creative ways and enjoy small class sizes and individualized learning pathways. For many of the students at Vanguard School of Lake Wales, the school provides a relief from bullying or academic difficulty found in larger, public school options, and the additional attention received enables students to thrive and succeed like never before. This dedication to a unique educational delivery mode is being recognized with the January Dyer Difference Award.
In order to better serve students and create additional avenues for learning experiences, the Vanguard School of Lake Wales is currently working to create a new Student Center on campus in the current Harry E. Nelson Library/Media Center. The Student Center will be used to facilitate online learning classes, research and computer lab access and offer space for evening collaboration, games, tutoring, and student socialization. Recognizing the importance of reaching students through a variety of modalities and helping to ensure optimal learning attracted the attention of the Dyer Difference Award Committee which selected the Vanguard School of Lake Wales with this month’s $3,000 award.
Photo LtoR: Mike Galloway, Will Dyer, Mandy Middledon, David Dlugokecki, Edwin Herrera, Tom Carter, Nelson Galindes
Haines City High School, Baseball Program
Students in the Spotlight with Dyer Difference Award
In Haines City High School, baseball is big! Everyone plays a part in helping to create the game day experience – players, coaches, parents, fans, and announcers. And even though it’s always nice to win the game, the Haines City Baseball program approaches the sport differently, with the motto, “It’s about the Experience.” Over 2, 800 children attend Haines City High School, so to help ensure that all the children involved in the Haines City Baseball program have the ultimate baseball experience, student vendors will walk through the crowds, supporting the team through sales and calling out, “Cotton candy! Soda! Hot dogs!” It’s about building future leaders, parents, and volunteers to help strengthen the community. We all know that baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet are as All-American as it gets, so it was no surprise when members of the Dyer family and Dyer Kia and Dyer Chevrolet team chose to recognize Haines City Baseball with the March and April Dyer Difference Award to help provide equipment, supplies, and uniforms.
Another all-American activity is agriculture, and nearly 1,000 students in Polk County participate in the Florida Future Farmers of America (FFA). The FFA Foundation is an organization whose mission is “to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education,” and it does so by providing funding and support to its membership. In Florida, there are over 17,000 members in 334 FFA chapters, and each one partners with industry, education, government, foundations and individuals to help provide education and leadership development for students. Nearly 3,500 students attended last year’s State FFA Leadership Conference, and many students are inspired to choose a career in agriculture thanks to the exposure to FFA. Recognizing how much we all rely on agriculture, members of the Dyer family and Dyer Kia and Dyer Chevrolet team chose to recognize the Florida FFA Foundation with the May Dyer Difference Award and check for $3,000.
Vanguard Principal Marya Marcum-Jones and Dyer General Manager David Dlugokecki