Empowering our communities, accelerating the future. 

Will & Tatiana Dyer, Florida FFA Executive Director Scarlett Jackson, General Manager David Dlugokecki, John Dyer

 Vanguard Principal Marya Marcum-Jones and Dyer General Manager David Dlugokecki

The Vanuard 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 Vanuard 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.

Haines City HS - Bobby Ruis - Kia Sales Manager, Tyler Best, Hunter Armstrong, Austin Vaklener, Anthony Torres, Coach Butler, Dyer General Manager David Dlugokecki 




                                                        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. 

General Manager David Dlugokecki presents the Dyer Difference Award to Hope Equine Rescue’s Dani Horton.


Polk County Award Recipients 2020



                                              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. 

General Manager David Dlugokecki presents the Dyer Difference Award to Hands Helping Paws founder Carolyn Ripley and her grateful friend, Baby.

 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.

                                                          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

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.