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Making a Difference Mondays, April 14

Monday, April 14, 2014

Donor Spotlight: James Lewis
Central Services Assistant


James Lewis, known to many on campus as “Big Jim,” has been through hard times. Now that his life has turned around in many positive ways, he sees the present as a time to give back. He gives to others who are less fortunate in a variety of ways, including through work at his church and in supporting students by giving to the Polk State College Foundation.

Originally from Delaware, James came to Florida through a job transfer. He started working in the warehouse for an organic produce company, and was later promoted due to his product knowledge to a sales position.

When the company went out of business, he worked at Kash ‘n Karry supermarkets until they closed the Winter Haven store and eventually went out of business. James then became homeless for a period of time, and worked as a day laborer until one of his temporary assignments led him to Polk State College.

During this dark time, James started attending a Wednesday night bible study and meal program at the Winter Haven Church of the Nazarene. This program for the homeless and those getting back on their feet became a catalyst for further blessings in his life–it was at these weekly meetings that he met his wife, Diane, whom he married in 2011. He became involved in the church, even going on his first trip outside the U.S. for a mission. He currently drives the church bus on Sunday mornings.

With his personal life on track, an opportunity for a short-term temporary position at Polk State became available, and in early 2014
James was hired to work full time in Central Services.

While working temporarily at Polk State, James met members of the Foundation staff and had the opportunity to learn about the programs and scholarships supported through donations made to the Polk State College Foundation. When presented with information on employee giving as part of his new employee orientation, James calls the decision to sign up a “no brainer.” According to James, “I donate to the Foundation because I believe it is my responsibility to help others, just as others have helped me along the way. Now is my time to give back so that others who are less fortunate can get an upper hand in life.”

Alumni Spotlight: Cindy Baker
Using  an Accounting Background to Help Nonprofit Groups


As early as high school, Cindy Baker knew that she wanted to be an accountant. She took an accounting class in high school, and both enjoyed it and excelled in the class.

Cindy grew up in Florida, but her family moved to Iowa when she was young. After high school, Cindy went to Jacksonville State University in Alabama for a year. She then returned to Iowa, married, and put college on hold.   

She waited until her son entered kindergarten before deciding to go back to school; this time she chose Polk State College. Ten years had gone by since her last college class, so she decided to return part time to school while also working part time in the accounting field. Cindy recalls, “At the time, I felt very fortunate that I could take accounting courses in Winter Haven or Lakeland in the evening. I was able to pick a campus based on my schedule to keep moving forward on my degree.”

Cindy graduated from Polk State in 1990, and then continued her studies at Florida Southern College. She attended the evening program and continued to work part time. She received her bachelor’s degree in Accounting in 1992.

After graduation, Cindy worked in the field for several private companies before shifting to public accounting work. She worked at a local accounting firm that had a large client base in the non-profit sector, where she focused primarily in audit-related work. In 2012 she joined Cross, Fernandez & Riley, LLP and was named a partner in 2013. As the Assurance Partner, Cindy is responsible for the management and oversight of audit engagements for the company’s Winter Haven office. According to Cindy, “All of our audit work is deadline based, so I work to oversee our department and help our team manage all of the timelines for our clients.”

With over 20 years of professional experience, she has worked with various types of companies including nonprofit organizations, local governments, agribusiness, transportation, construction, financial institutions, and healthcare. Cindy also uses her talents as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to serve as Treasurer for the Winter Haven Public Education Partnership and Habitat for Humanity of East Polk County.

Additionally, Cindy is a graduate of Leadership Winter Haven and serves on the Board of Directors for the Polk State College Alumni Association.

Student Spotlight: Carrie Dyer
Working to Preserve Our History


Carrie Dyer first started attending Polk State when she was in high school as part of a dual-enrollment program. She spent her senior year in high school attending Polk full time, and was awarded a two-year scholarship upon graduation in 2006.

Carrie was reaping success in her academic goals, but her world fell apart when her father passed away in 2007. She was forced to drop all but one of her classes that semester. She then took time to reevaluate her school plans as she grieved with her family.

Carrie ended up pursuing her cosmetology license and worked in the industry until the economic downturn of 2009 forced her to change course. Her mother and sister were enrolled at Polk State at the time, and they encouraged her to re-enroll. After learning that she only needed four classes to finish her associate’s degree, Carrie came back to Polk State and quickly finished the necessary courses. She decided to continue her education, enrolling in the Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management Program in 2012.

In 2013, Carrie’s sister was working in the SALO Office and told her about the Polk State College Foundation scholarship program. She applied, and was awarded the Polk State College Alumni Association Scholarship.

This was a critical turning point for Carrie, as she was living in Ohio and taking BAS courses online. She had become financially strained and was facing the possibility of having to drop out of school again. According to Carrie, the timing of this award could not have been better: “Last fall I was at a point where I did not want to get further into debt with student loans, and my financial aid was at its limit. Without this scholarship, I would have been purged from my classes and my graduation would have been pushed back indefinitely.”

Instead, Carrie will graduate this spring. She plans to relocate back to Ohio, and hopes to work in the field of urban renewal and revitalization. “My goal is to work for a city or state entity that works to provide business incentives and tax breaks to companies that have an interest in restoring old buildings rather than tearing them down.” Carrie notes that in Ohio, many communities have become blighted due to manufacturing plants closing down. In many of these small towns there are old and historic buildings that can be preserved, and it is her hope to get involved with this important work. “I know that this field will require additional education, but I am passionate about revitalizing communities and know that I can make a difference.”

Executive Director’s Greetings

Greetings Colleagues!

Each day I am mindful of how fortunate I am to work for Polk State. Our College family engages, assists, and transforms the lives of our students in ways that both amaze and inspire me. Furthermore, witnessing how the community embraces the College reinforces the importance of our efforts.

President Holden and I recently had the privilege of presenting to the Rotary Club of Winter Haven, for which our founding President, Dr. Fred Lenfestey, was a long-time, active member. After his passing last year, the Rotary wanted to honor him in a meaningful way and approached the College with several ideas. Through this exploration, it was discovered that President Lenfestey did not have an endowed scholarship in his name. This was quite shocking to all of us, especially to me, as I annually signed thank you letters to Fred for his continued generous support of scholarships for Polk State College students. He simply wanted his yearly gifts to be applied to help students wherever there was the greatest need. Dr. Holden and I were extremely grateful when Rotary Club President Allen Waddell announced that the Club would commit to a donation of $18,000 to get an endowment in honor of President Lenfestey’s 18 years of service started. The Polk State College Foundation Board and Team are also committed to raising additional funds, with an ultimate goal of $50,000 for the Dr. Fred T. Lenfestey Endowed Scholarship.

Making a Difference – that’s what Polk’s been committed to for 50 years. Starting with our first president, and continuing the tradition with every employee hired since, we seek to better our world and those who share it with us. With the community’s support behind us, our College and our students will continue to soar another 50 years and beyond.

Again and again, thank you for all you do!
All the very best,


Tracy M. Porter
Executive Director