FOCUS Plant City 21-01

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WHERE FLORIDA FAMILIES GO FOR FUN! Twelve days of fair fun celebrating all things Florida, deep-fried favorites, agriculture, creative art exhibits, shopping and more! The Florida State Fair is the place for family fun and entertainment every February! Join us in 2022 to Find Your FUN!

FLORIDASTATEFAIR.COM

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11/8/21 11:38 AM



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Contents Table of

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FEATURE: 2022 FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL QUEEN CONTESTANTS By Cierra Craft | Photos by Deanna Hurley Photography Twenty-four young ladies are vying for the title of 2022 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen. Get the first look at the contestants before they hit the stage on January 22.

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FEATURE: A TREASURED TRADITION

By Cierra Craft Gasparilla is more than just a parade, it’s a way of life for tens of thousands of locals. Meet some Plant City locals who partake in the treasured tradition and learn more about the philanthropic efforts of these pirate invaders.

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SPOTLIGHT: CARAPEZZAS TO CONQUER GASPARILLA 2022

By Cierra Craft Jimmy & Annie Carapezza are owners of Carapezza Construction Co. but when the pair aren’t helping families build homes, they’re active in the Tampa Bay Rough Riders, Inc. and Krewe of Alegria, respectively. Meet the couple as they talk about the 2022 Gasparilla Season.


FOCUS PLANT CITY

focusplantcity.com / Issue 21-01 / January 2022

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BUSINESS: PLANT CITY CHURCH OF GOD

By Cierra Craft

PUBLISHER

Mike Floyd

MANAGING EDITOR

Cierra Craft

ART DIRECTOR

Plant City Church of God, led by Pastor Jeff Robinson, is located on Mud Lake Road. Learn more about this Spirit-filled church and the excitement surrounding what God is doing in Plant City.

OFFICE MANAGER

mikef@floydpublications.com

cierra@floydpublications.com

Anthony Sassano

asassano@floydpublications.com

Candy Owens

cowens@floydpublications.com

ACCOUNT MANAGER

Jayme Harris

DISTRIBUTION

Tony DeVane

jayme@floydpublications.com

STAFF WRITERS

Cheryl Johnston Emily Topper Jennifer Jordan Katie Hamilton

CONTRIBUTORS

Candy Owens Gil Gott Natalie Sweet

Got a story idea? Looking to advertise in Focus? Contact us for more information. Floyd Publications, Inc. 702 W. Dr. MLK Jr. Blvd.Plant City, FL 33563 Office 813.707.8783 Standards of accuracy: The goal of the writers at FOCUS Magazine is to provide heart-warming stories that are accurate from the start. Being human, however, we sometimes make mistakes. Please forgive us. So if you notice anything that is incorrect, then please do not hesitate to contact the editorial department and inform it about the fact error. To do so, call (813) 7078783 or e-mail editorial@floydpublications.com. The staff will fix the error in a timely manner. FOCUS Magazine is published monthly and is available through local Plant City businesses, restaurants and many local venues. Advertisers warrant and represent the descriptions of their products advertised are true in all respects. Focus Magazine assumes no responsibility for claims made by advertisers. All letters and their contents sent to Focus Magazine become the sole property of Floyd Publications, Inc and may be reproduced thereof. All views expressed in all articles are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Floyd Publications, Inc. Use or duplication of material used in this publication is prohibited without approved written consent from Floyd Publications, Inc.

www.focusplantcity.com

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UBLISHE

From The

Publisher

WHEN DO YOU KNOW YOU’RE SUCCESSFUL?

When you’re a kid, you dream about how much better life will be when you're an adult. When I became a young man, I realized that I was in for a whole new realm of challenges. I started FOCUS at 26-years-old and I remember not only how nerve-wracking it was, but I also remember how optimistic I was about reaching the five-year mark, a benchmark more than half of new businesses fail to reach. When I reached year five, I had to navigate to reach year 10. Now we are at year 21 and I realize that some people may look at all we’ve accomplished and think “that’s incredible,” but I’m still finding ways to do more and be better. This year, our team has set some goals in place to deliver more to our readers. When do you know you’re successful? Are we ever really satisfied? By the time we reach one milestone, we never really take time to bask in the glory and celebrate those achievements. Is that healthy? As you flip through the following pages, keep in mind that every business owner featured in this issue has had some kind of setback, some kind of pitfall, some rough days, or even rough years. No matter where you are in your journey to achieve your goals—business or otherwise—when you feel like you’ve failed, you’ve got to just redirect your course and start again. The new year is a time to access what’s working for you and what’s not. Where do you want to be in 12 months? Say yes to doing more of what makes you happy and be selective about how you spend your time. Be around those that inspire you. Don’t forget to celebrate the milestones, no matter how big or small. Cheers to success and wellness in 2022. Warmest Regards,

Mike Floyd PAGE

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MINEE

2022 NO

BEST JEWELER

THANK YOU PLANT CITY FOR YOUR PATRONAGE!

We Buy Gold & Silver

1705 Jim Redman Pkwy Plant City, FL 33563

754-2360

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2022 NOMINEE

BEST REA

L ESTATE

START THE NEW YEAR WITH A NEW HOME!

OFFICE

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INDEPENDENT LIVING BUILDING COMING SOON!

Our Assisted Living & Independent Living Community is growing again! Come see why Plant City residents love our locally owned and operating senior living community!

Call Today: 863.873.6222 PAGE

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www.focusplantcity.com January 24th-30th

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Community

FOCUS

CHECK IN WITH PLANT CITY

Plant City Arts Council to host annual ChiliFest

By Cierra Craft

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hili competitors will face off on January 29 in the Arts Council of Plant City’s annual ChiliFest. The cookoff comprises three categories for entries: Mild, Spicy, and Novelty. A panel of judges will select the winners and cash prizes will be awarded to the First and Second place competitors. The public will choose the winner of the People’s Choice Awards. “The Chilifest promotes the culinary arts at a level that is simple, has a broad range of flavors to satisfy a variety of palates and encourages the preparer to develop his or her skills and technique in a manner that makes the dish tasty while having fun,” said Marsha Passmore, President of the Arts Council of Plant City. The Arts Council has held the event for 32 years, just outside the train depot and the event raises money for the organization’s various programs including scholarships for high school seniors. “The impact that Chilifest has on the Arts Council is that the event is one of our fundraisers, and that helps the Arts Council to be able to provide up to four scholarships at the high school level to graduating seniors furthering their education in the visual, performing, or culinary arts,” said Passmore. Some competitors compete year after year, not only to show off their chilimaking skills but more importantly, to show their support for the arts in our community. To enter your best chili recipe, contact ChiliFest Chair Frank Cummings at 813-363-8071 or fcummings4@gmail.com

Kickoff Super Bowl Sunday the Right Way in Plant City By Cierra Craft Super Bowl LVI is February 13, 2022, and Plant City bars are preparing for enthusiastic fans to come out for watch parties, as the top two NFL teams battle it out for the Lombardi Trophy. From specials on food and beverages, Plant City bars are prepared to help you celebrate the biggest game of the year. What is your Super Bowl prediction? Whether you pick one place to hang out for the night or want to bar crawl, here are the details of Plant City’s bars: Duke’s Brewhouse will offer $10 pitchers on Duke’s beers including the Blonde, Brunette, and Red. The bar will also raffle off a 65” TV to one lucky winner. 1916 Irish Pub will offer $2 domestic beers throughout the game with plenty of TVs to catch the action. The special will be available at both 1916 locations: 2309 W. Thonotosassa Road in Plant City or 2900 Buckingham Ave in Lakeland. PAGE

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PLANT CITY PERSONALITIES!

CAN YOU GUESS WHO THIS IS?

HERE IS YOUR CLUE: IS HE THE CUTEST OR WHAT??? As a child, this Plant City School Safety Patrol loved watching Dr. Paul Bearer on Television. His prize possessions were his Nunchucks and his Chinese Throwing Stars. He started singing at a very young age and possesses a natural talent for dancing and is musically inclined. ABOVE ALL ELSE, this person was BORN WITH A HEART OF SERVICE!!! He was FIRST CALLED to serve in the United States Military. He was then called to devote his life to be a Shepherd, Elder, and Overseer. He has LIMITLESS LOVE, ENERGY AND ENDURANCE for THE LORD. YOU WILL SEE THIS IN HIS DAILY WALK!

IF YOU KNOW WHO THIS IS CALL CANDY O AT FOCUS MAGAZINE! 813-707-8783 The first 3 people to guess the correct person will win a PRIZE!!!! (The TRUE identity will be given in next month’s FOCUS Magazine) LAST MONTH’S PERSONALITY: SHARON MOODY


Plant City Pays Tribute to Jerome “Jerry” Detlof Lofstrom September 27, 1944 - December 13, 2021 By Cheryl Johnston

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hen Jerome "Jerry" Lofstrom, age 77, of Valrico, Florida passed away on December 13, 2021, Plant City mourned the loss. Immediately and up through his well-attended Celebration of Life on January 8, that same community will continue to comfort the wonderful family he left behind. As co-owner for 21 years of the Whistle Stop Café with his beloved wife Marti, Jerry was a humble, hands-on manager. During their 40-year marriage, the two became one while working side-by-side and raising their children, Jeremy and Sarah. Known for their love of Jesus Christ, family, and friends, the Lofstroms also prayed for others when they learned of needs. In a Fox 13 video report published May 20, 2021, by photojournalist Corey Beckman, Jerry explained their 21-year commitment to continuing the 125-year legacy of the train-themed eatery. “Customers are family, so when you walk in here, you belong in here…We hope we represent the community well. We want them to enjoy the food and our company.” Their business philosophy will remain: “Keep the price right and treat people the way you want to be treated.” And these things, Jerry and his hard-working family did. Lofstrom was honored again in another Fox 13 News video on January 5, 2022, when Lloyd Sowers shared, “But many came because they liked Jerry.” And perhaps Michael Sparkman, who has served seven times here as mayor, explained it best, adding, "Because he’d always come over and sit with us and talk about politics and talk about Plant City.” Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the athletic son of the late Dan and Melba Romlin Lofstrom played softball and basketball in school. After graduating from Wilson High School with the senior notable title of “Best Coiffure” (hair), Jerry attended the University of Minnesota and followed up with two years of service in the Army Reserves. According to his sister Carolyn, “We were blessed to be raised in a Christian home, so faith, family and friends were always priorities in his life.” She added, “Jerry had a passion for classic cars and at 18, owned a near-perfect 1956 Chevrolet convertible.” His career work prior to establishing the Whistle Stop Café included time as a liquidation specialist with M.F. Banks. On one business trip to Puerto Rico, he hired Marti and their love story began. Jerry also formed his own liquidation company, Lofstrom & Dunford, with offices in Tampa and Miami. Carolyn added, “When Marti came to meet our family, she didn’t know English, but she stole our hearts.” It has been evident to all that through their diligence and even difficult times, they built a beautiful life together. In addition to his beloved Marti, Jerry’s survivors include his son

Jeremy (Heather) Lofstrom, siblings Carolyn Jewell, Jim Lofstrom, and Erna Smith, and his grandchildren: Grace, Masen and Kasen. He was also preceded in death by a brother, John Lofstrom, and the daughter he cherished, Sarah Margarita Lofstrom (now recognized as “the girl in the mural” on the southern exterior wall of the Whistle Stop building). Along with his appreciations for classic cars and motorcycles, the avid Minnesota Vikings fan also loved to write and frequently voiced his opinion through letters to the editor in the Tampa Tribune. He enjoyed the Plant City community and was active in local politics. And obviously, he cherished the times spent with his grandchildren. Marti wishes to thank the community for “every one of you who took the time to pray for Jerry,” her wonderful husband and “best friend.” She added, “He fought a hard battle in the hospital, but through all that, his faith in God grew more and more every day.” “We are so thankful for our entire community and its churches,” she added. “First Baptist has helped me a lot with food and the service performed by Pastor Brian Stowe will be at City Pointe Church where Sarah’s service was held. And Jerry will be buried in the Garden of Peace Cemetery next to our Sarah. He would be pleased to know his siblings and the majority of his nieces and nephews have come to remember him. Thank you, Plant City, for loving my husband.” For those who wish to honor Jerry’s memory, donations can be made to the grandchildren at the Railroad and Industrial Federal Credit Union (in the name of Marti Lofstrom). Online condolences may be left for the family at www.haught.care. PAGE

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Community

FOCUS

CHECK IN WITH PLANT CITY

Tori Leto: Durant graduate crowned 2022 Miss Tampa

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ictoria “Tori” Leto has been crowned 2022 Miss Tampa, a title she is ecstatic to hold. She earned a chance to be Miss Florida and a $5,000 education scholarship. She is a graduate of Durant High School and held the two titles in the school’s Calendar Girl competition her junior and senior years. She is currently a Junior at the University of South Florida studying Psychology. Her plan is to graduate with her Bachelors in Psychology with aspirations to obtain her MD and her PhD in Clinical Psychiatry. She is currently an undergraduate research assistant volunteering in the DARC research lab on the USF Tampa campus. Victoria also plays trumpet with memorable performances at Carnegie Hall, in Hawaii at the 75th remembrance ceremony of Pearl Harbor, and at the Amalie Arena for a Military Appreciation event during a Lightning game. “I am lucky enough to have Friday lunches at the Columbia with Bob Clark the Miss Tampa director and different business leaders, and successors from the city every week. As Miss Tampa, I will also have the platform to reach a wider audience and make a difference for my social impact plans of supporting and making improvements to teen mental health recourses within Tampa. If I had to pick one event I am most excited about, is my lunch with Ron DeSantis that is planned,” said Leto.” In June, she will have the opportunity to compete in the Miss Florida competition. She is looking for sponsorships and prayers from her hometown. “The best way that Plant City can support me in this journey is through sponsorships,” said Leto. “Sponsorships with small businesses within the community allow me to always look and feel my best while also promoting Plant City’s amazing array of small businesses. Prayers are always appreciated. Lastly, by following the Miss Tampa Facebook or Instagram.” For more information about Miss Tampa or to sponsor Tori’s run at Miss Florida, contact the advisor of the Miss Tampa board Irene Guy at 813-480-1962.

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New Business Lands in Downtown Plant City By Jennifer Jordan

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ooking for a holistic way to relieve your anxiety? Want to open your mind to the natural powers of botanical teas? Then you need to check out Yerb Labs, a kava bar and revolutionary café that offers legal CBD, THC-O, Delta-8, Delta-10, HHC, and mushrooms to consume or mix into drinks. Opening in December 2021, the spacethemed café serves lattes, kombucha, mushroom coffee, smoothies, and “sammiches” for those who are feeling hungry. Yerb Labs also offers flights to give customers the opportunity to try the different beverages they have available on tap. Their drinks can provide anxiety relief, pain relief, give the drinker an uplifting and energetic mindset, and even give a sedative effect. Yerb Labs offers free Wi-Fi, VR2 virtual reality, pre-rolls, Delta-10 gummies, and CBD powder to purchase for drinks at home. Owned and operated by a family from another galaxy, Yerb Labs began due to a passion for living a holistic lifestyle and the desire to not rely on prescription medication for relief from various ailments. The business name came from the dialectal variant of herb. In the future, the owners would like to have a doctor onsite to help legally obtain THC from local dispensaries and be open 24 hours a day, with the goal of turning it into a non-alcoholic nightclub with a live DJ on the weekends. Yerb Labs is located on 107 S. Evers Street and is currently open from 11AM-8PM Monday-Thursday, and 11AM-12AM Friday and Saturday. To learn more about Yerb Labs, give them a call at 813-421-1661 or visit their website at www.yerb-labs.com. Be sure to check out Yerb Labs, a unique and modern kava bar that is truly out of this world!


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Community

FOCUS

CHECK IN WITH PLANT CITY

Jack Holland Announced as Assistant City Manager By Jennifer Jordan

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ince 1977, Jack Holland has been a dedicated and selfless employee to the City of Plant City. A born and raised Plant Citian, Holland began his career at the Plant City Recreation Department as a youth soccer official doing part-time work. In 1979, he began his full-time career as a Recreation Athletic Manager. Holland continued to work in that position until he became Recreation Program Director in 1994. Fast forward two years and Holland became Assistant Director of Recreation until he assumed the role of Superintendent of the Recreation Division. That role change occurred because the Recreation Department merged with the Public Works’ Parks Division to create the Parks & Recreation Department in 1997. In 2004, he became the new Director of the Parks & Recreation Department. In this role, Holland oversaw 61 employees and the entire budget of the Parks & Recreation Department. He also ensured that parks, recreation centers, cemeteries, and more were clean and maintained. Due to his passion for his hometown, excellent work ethic, and leadership abilities, Jack Holland has been recently announced as the newest Assistant City Manager. City Manager Bill McDaniel stated at a City Commission Meeting about Holland, “Seeing Jack demonstrate his strong leadership is confirmation of his more than four decades of acquisition, legacy, and knowledge of our city.” As Assistant City Manager, Holland will oversee approximately 200 employees in the Building, Engineering, Planning & Zoning, Solid Waste, Streets & Stormwater, and Utilities Departments. Holland stated about his new position: “I am honored to have been asked to hold this position. While I have been with Parks & Recreation for nearly 45 years, I have been involved with all the other departments over those years. I see my role as someone that will figure out what is needed, assist staff in getting what they need, and help them move the projects forward as efficiently and quickly as possible.” Holland will work with fellow Assistant City Manager Mercedes Hermida-Perez.

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Walden Lake Review BY NATALIE SWEET

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alden Lake Community Association Board Meetings are held the third Monday of each month at 6:30 at the Walden Lake Community Association office building on Griffin Boulevard in Walden Lake. The next meeting will be held on February 21st. Please keep an eye on the announcement boards at all entrances for dates and times of special meetings and events. Meetings are now being held in person although you can still log in to www.WaldenLake.org and view the meeting virtually as well as the video of the meeting will be posted on the website. Walden Lake LLC has submitted a revision of their plans to the City of Plant City although I have been told that it was sent back with notes from Planning and Zoning and a new submittal has yet to be received by the City. The most recent submittal is not available to the public currently. Nonetheless, a City Planning Board meeting has been set for February 9th at The Trinkle Center. It is important for all homeowners in Walden Lake to attend this meeting to hear firsthand what plans are being proposed for the old golf course. The HOA is adding new information as it is received on our website, www.WaldenLake.org, and it can be found under the “News” tab. The food trucks at the HOA Building/Sports Complex are on the second Fridays and last Sundays of each month. Sunday, January 30th will feature “Got Lobstah”. If you have not taken advantage of the delicious offerings, give it a try! Watch for more information from emails coming from the HOA, the entrance boards, and on Nextdoor. During the month of December, there were 12 sales in Walden Lake and 4 sales in Walden Lake East. The average sale price was $414,500 and average of 2245 square feet and on the market for an average of 5 days.

The December sales are as follows: Address / Sales Price / Living Area / Pool / Garage 1413 Sandalwood Drive / $267,500 / 1856 / 2 Car / Community 1406 Sandalwood Drive / $310,000 / 1533 / 2 Car / Community 1311 Sandalwood Drive / $315,000 / 1537 / 2 Car / Community 2302 Walden Place North / $325,000 / 1626 / 2 Car / No 2636 Bridle Drive / $325,000 / 1713 / 2 Car / Private 3329 Silvermoon Drive / $355,000 / 1809 / 2 Car / Private 4130 Longfellow Drive / $370,000 / 1825 / 2 Car / Private 2305 Gatewood Street / $385,000 / 3408 / 2 Car / Private 2810 Forest Club Drive / $400,000 / 2514 / 2 Car / No 4114 Kipling Avenue / $400,500 / 2248 / 2 Car / Private 3218 Concord Way / $415,000 / 2153 / 2 Car / Private 3214 Alcott Avenue / $425,000 / 1995 / 2 Car / Private 3001 Forest Hammock Drive / $454,000 / 2732 / 2 Car / No 2106 Clubhouse Drive / $470,500 / 2347 / 3 Car / Private 3018 Forest Hammock Drive / $650,000 / 2661 / 2 Car / Private 2914 Hampton Place Drive / $765,000 / 3959 / 3 Car / Private There are currently 7 active listings for sale in Walden Lake with the lowest priced at $349,900 and the highest at $1.95 Million. Without the highest listing, the average price of the homes on the market is $448,980 with an average of 23 days on the market. There are 15 properties Pending Contract in Walden Lake and Walden Lake East with an average list price of $387,360 and 10 days on the market. The average sales price of Walden Lake and Walden Lake East homes in 2021 was $357,477 and in 2020, the average was $277,654. That is a year-over-year increase of 28% in home values. How is COVID-19 affecting real estate? As you can see from the sales data above, we do not see a slowdown of our listings going under contract, providing they are priced correctly and in good condition. We are seeing fewer homes being listed, so The Sweet Team of Keller Williams Realty feels this is a great time to list, as there are many buyers looking for a home. Feel free to contact me with any questions about this article or about your real estate needs. NSweet@KW.com or 813-758-9586.


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MINEE

2022 NO

BEST REALTOR

THANK YOU PLANT CITY FOR YOUR SUPPORT! GET TOP DOLLAR FOR YOUR HOUSE, AND GET IT SOLD FAST!

Call Our Team at 813-802-3452 813-690-0319 OFFICE | Nicholemoody@gmail.com

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2022 FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL

QUEENS PAGEANT CONTESTANTS By Cierra Craft Photos by Deanna Hurley Photography

Twenty-four beautiful and talented young women will compete in the Florida Strawberry Festival Queen’s Scholarship Pageant on Saturday, January 22 at 6:00 p.m. in the Grimes Family Agricultural Center at the festival grounds. The ladies will be judged as they model casual wear, business attire and formal dress. Each contestant must present a 30-second commercial for one randomly selected local business, as well as respond with poise to an on-stage question. The contestants will also meet with the judges for a personal interview, which will account for 25% of their overall score. The judges will be tasked with narrowing the field from 24 to the top 10 contestants, and then selecting the 2022 Queen, First Maid and three court members. The Queen, First Maid and court members will receiving scholarships, presented by the Plant City Lions Club. Additionally, the judges will be tasked with selecting Miss Congeniality, who will also be awarded a scholarship from the Lions Club. Tickets to attend the pageant can be purchased at the Florida Strawberry Festival Administration Office for $15 per ticket. Support these wonderful young women by attending the pageant at 2508 Oak Avenue, Plant City, FL 33563.

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Contestant #1

Contestant #2

Contestant #3

Contestant #4

Kerri Marie Salmon

Bailey Brooke Blanton

Fallon Alyssa Lanteigne

Mariana Gutierrez

Contestant #5

Contestant #6

Contestant #7

Contestant #8

Chloe Kendra Hopper

Madison Mae Davis

Elise Hope Griffin

Kaylee Mae DeVane

Contestant #9

Contestant #10

Contestant #11

Contestant #12

Bailey Ann Brock

Virginia Anne Wallnofer

Emma Grace Livingston

Callie Rae Smith


Contestant #13

Contestant #14

Contestant #15

Contestant #16

Camrynne Armani Broome

Elizabeth Eakins

Morgan Kayliana Brake

Addison Reid Raburn

Contestant #17

Contestant #18

Contestant #19

Contestant #20

Kendall Grace Long

Lloycoia Elisha Barnum

Makayla Marie Makeroff

Phoebe Mia Williams

Contestant #21

Contestant #22

Contestant #23

Contestant #24

Tamia Adriana Williams

Kenley Gail Connell

Brooke Rose Fredette

Hailey Lanee Pippin PAGE

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raft rra C e i C By

to y e k r e o f h s t n are tio est a h F s r e a s t p l Loca Life, pre illa Pira e r Krew 22 Gaspa 0 the 2

Saturday, January 22, 2022 Children’s Gasparilla Saturday, January 29, 2022 Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest February 12, 2022 Nighttime Sant’Yago Knight parade in Ybor February 26, 2022 Gasparilla Outbound Voyage February 26 – 27, 2022 Gasparilla Distance Classic Marathon February 27 – 28, 2022 Gasparilla Music Festival March 5 – 6, 2022 Gasparilla Art Festival March 10 – 13, 2022 Gasparilla International Film Festival

For more than a century, the legendary José Gaspar has invaded Tampa Bay, kicking off eight weeks of treasure-filled activities. Its most prized event is the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion and the annual four-and-a-half-mile Parade of Pirates at the Gasparilla Pirate Fest and the parade is attended by more than 300,000 on-lookers each year. Other events include the Gasparilla Children’s Parade, Sant’Yago Knight Parade, an annual distance classic, and festivals celebrating arts, music, and film. However, Gasparilla’s Parade of Pirates is more than Tampa’s biggest street party and the United States’ third-largest parade. The event is made of more than 130 active pirate krewes, each with their own unique garb, social life, and philanthropic endeavors. That’s right—these krewe members aren’t just costumed locals cruising through the streets of Tampa each January for the pirate parade—each krewe is required to do charity work throughout the year. Gasparilla Season is among us in Tampa Bay. Meet Plant City invaders as they prepare for the 2022 festivities; each will take you inside the world of their respective Gasparilla krewes— beads, over bodices, gauzy tops, and all. PAGE

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Krewe of Pair O’ Dice Founded: 1995 Membership: 65, Co-Ed

Krewe of Pair O’ Dice lives by the motto, “Life’s a Gamble… Roll with it!” That gamble paid off for Marlene & Barry Alspach, Yvonne & Scott Painton, and Nancy & Benny Gomez; the family of three Tampa-native sisters and their husbands founded the krewe in 1995. Twenty-seven years later, Krewe of Pair O’ Dice has 80 members rolling down Bayshore Boulevard on the Krewe's iconic Riverboat float. With 1800s Riverboat Gamblers and Saloon Showgirls attire, Krewe of Pair O’ Dice goes all out with period-appropriate and often handmade costume pieces. Plant City residents Gary and Gina Blake are 17-year “family” members, joining in 2005 when they were asked to be the Krewe’s float drivers. “The float driver at the time wanted to get from behind the wheel and join in on the parade fun,” said Gina. “We had friends in the krewe who knew Gary was a heavy equipment operator, so we were asked to join and become the drivers.” The Blakes say the Gasparilla Parade day starts for them at about 7:30 a.m. when the float attendants and bartenders load food and drinks, pounds of ice, and fuel for the day. They line up a minimum of two hours before the parade’s scheduled start time. “We show up to ensure the float gets loaded and fueled because we have two very hard-working young men that help us do that… they are the muscle,” said Gina. Valrico-resident and Krewe of Pair O’ Dice President Erika Subero say on Parade Day, the Krewe members all help one another, adjusting ties or primping feathers, to get ready for their moment in the spotlight.

“Once the parade starts, it’s showtime,” said Subero. “You often hear us coming before you see us as we are one of the loudest krewes out there with a big sound system.” Onlookers can receive a strand of dice beads, another signature of the Krewe of casino gamblers and saloon girls. This year, Pair O’ Dice is parade entry #86 of over 140 in the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates. Subero says while the parades are fun, their nonprofit endeavors and their impact on the community are the driving force behind Krewe of Pair O’ Dice. “We are busy with parades from January through March,” said Subero. “In April, we begin fundraising events to support several nonprofit charitable organizations.” Krewe of Pair O’ Dice supports the Good Samaritan Mission, a Christian charity dedicated to supporting those living in poverty. The Krewe assists by donating money and/or purchasing Christmas gifts to bring joy to the kids served by the nonprofit. “In the fall, we also host a fundraising event, a food drive to help fill their pantry,” said Subero. The Krewe also supports Animal Coalition of Tampa by hosting fundraising events and in the summer, they host a Bunco game night to raise money to purchase school supplies for local schools. What do the next 25 years look like for the Krewe of Pair O’ Dice? These gamblers and saloon girls have their sights set on continuing to give back to the bay area, recruit new members, and carry on the legacy of Krewe of Pair O’ Dice on parade days. For more information on Krewe of Pair O’ Dice and sponsorship opportunities, visit kreweofpairodice. org.

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Krewe of Alegria Founded: 1986 Membership: 50, All-Female

The Krewe of Alegria was Tampa’s first all-female Gasparilla Krewe, comprising all professional women. The Krewe of Alegria was founded by Dianne Henry and Rocky Valdez with just five women. This year, the krewe is setting sail with 50 ladies. Plant City resident Amy Nizamoff, who has been a member of the krewe since 2007, says she and her friend Angelina were drawn to the Krewe of Alegria because of its vibrant costumes, and after researching, found that they also were active in supporting and helping out the community through different charities. Nizamoff says you spot the Krewe of Alegria by their colorful jewel-toned tops with white bellow sleeves. “We have just purchased a new float, so starting in 2022, we have our very own Ladies Pirate Ship, which will be debuted at the Children's Parade,” said Nizamoff. The Children’s Parade is Saturday, January 22. The ladies of the Krewe of Alegria are a tight-knit group, not only having fun during Gasparilla season but supporting each other in their professional and personal lives. “Some of my best friends I have met through this Krewe,” said Nizamoff. “ And we are there for each other: weddings,

funerals, if you need someone to help with construction, paralegal services, lawyers, real estate, healthcare, beautician, photographer or just about anything else, one of the Alegria ladies or friends are a phone call away…My favorite aspect of Gasparilla season is the camaraderie! We are not just another krewe, we are more than friends, more like family. We participate in community functions throughout the year, but Gasparilla season is all about fun. It is getting together and seeing the costumes, seeing friends from other krewes you haven't seen in a year. All of these connections are there, networking and just having fun.” The Krewe of Alegria’s main focus is to provide shoes for children in need in Tampa Bay through their own charity “Alegria’s Kickin’ for Kids, Inc. Through the charity, the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch, A Kid's Place, Cornerstone Kids, The Children’s Home, The Salvation Army-Naomi’s Daughters, Hillsborough and Pinellas County Public Schools, Safety Harbor Community Center, The Salesian Boys and Girls Club, Hispanic Family Services, Metropolitan Ministries and other groups and individuals have been recipients of new shoes in the recent past. To learn more about Krewe of Alegria, visit kreweofalegria. com

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Krewe of Sea SaveYours Founded: 2011 Membership: 150, Co-Ed

Gasparilla and pirates go hand-in-hand, but Brandon resident Bill Collins knew there was space for more than just traditional pirates. He founded the Krewe of Sea SaveYours in 2011, Tampa’s first and only steampunk pirate krewe. Collins is a big fan of science fiction, so to blend the romanticism of the Victorian era with a retrofuturistic aesthetic, KOSS gave birth to a new look in the Gasparilla subculture. KOSS started with just 24 founding members. Plant City resident Crystal Colegrove joined KOSS in August 2012 as the Director of Marketing and Events. Colegrove drew on her professional experience in event planning and coordination to triple the membership within her first year and six months. Today, KOSS boasts a roster of 150 active members. KOSS participates in seven parades each year including three Gasparilla parades, the Rough Riders’ St Patrick’s Day parade, Tampa Santa Fest, Ruskin VFW Veterans Parade, and DeSoto Grand Parade. KOSS is the only Gasparilla krewe with its only fully-themed tow-vehicle that they call the Kraken Dragger, pulling an oversized airship float donning a large purple Kraken on the nose. Colegrove says the vehicles were customized by the krewe members and local Plant City vendors helped design and build the behemoth vehicles. KOSS members dress in steampunk attire, ranging from Victorianian to Apocalyptic. Steampunk attire includes corsets, top hats with goggles, and industrial motifs.

“One of the biggest things we hear new members say about what drew them to KOSS was they love our costumes,” said Colegrove. KOSS was founded with the mission of conserving our area’s coastlines with clean-up and promoting water safety. Throughout the years, the group’s nonprofit initiatives have expanded, supporting veterans, first responders, individuals suffering financial hardships and even supporting other krewe’s nonprofit endeavors. “Every year, our beneficiaries change and KOSS is able to go do more for the greater good,” said Colegrove. “But, all money raised stays without our local community.” KOSS hosts several themed socials per month, many including drink and food specials, live music, and costume contests for Krewe members. The Krewe of Sea SaveYours are founders of the annual Krewe Rush, an event open to the public to learn more about participating krewes, krewe life, and membership requirements. Krewe Rush is typically held in September of each year. KOSS is an extremely active krewe with at least one krewe meeting, social, and fundraiser per month. To learn more about KOSS and how to join, visit their Facebook page at @ KreweOfSeaSaveYours.

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People of Plant City

America Locke By Cheryl Johnston

B

orn in Colombia, South America, America Locke moved to the United States 47 years ago because she liked our country so much after having visited numerous times. It was here she met and married John Locke, a Federal Aviation Authority executive whose passions included playing the violin and motorcycle trips. He enjoyed entertaining her with concerts in their home and together they rode their BMW motorcycle to visit all 50 states (but had to fly to Hawaii). A large map in her home notes the routes they traveled. Five of America’s six sisters and two brothers still live in South America, so she tries to visit when she can. And some of those siblings, including the one who lives in Ft. Lauderdale, have visited her in Plant City for the celebrations she offers for Hanukkah and the Feasts of the Lord at her “Little House of Legacy” on Keene Drive, just off I-4 at the Branch Forbes Road exit. Tell us about your home. The home is small with a detached garage for Herbie, my little blue 1967 VW Beetle, but the lot is large. So, I invite visitors to learn something new about the God who loves them. Along with keeping Shabbat, I also offer an annual Hanukkah Celebration (Festival of Lights) for Christians and everyone who will attend. I’ve planned and hosted several weddings in the chuppah and a large tent we erect on the property, too. Inside the home are many reminders of biblical history. What do you enjoy about your retirement years? I like the freedom to make my own schedule and serve the Lord. He has blessed me with good health and energy, so I also work at maintaining and improving my home and yard. My life’s main purpose now is to pray for people and for the nations, for peace and that they would know and honor Yeshua (Jesus), the Messiah. Each Friday evening and Saturday, I celebrate Shabbat and attend two Messianic congregations in Brandon: an English-speakers’ service at Shoresh David and a Spanish-speakers’ service at Yeshua Ner Tamid What do you love about Plant City? The people are kind, the location is convenient, and the produce is fresh. Since I am a vegetarian, I love having access to all the fresh fruit and vegetables. Explain why you visit Israel so often. Israel is a beautiful country and God expects us to bless its land and its people. I am pro-Zionist and have been 29 times so far. When I go (sometimes twice a year), I may serve at a conference, but mostly I walk and pray. You are also a patriotic American, correct? Oh yes, I love my country and can still remember the process of becoming a citizen. I am conservative in my worldview and thankful for the freedoms we have here, such as voting and using our voice to speak out or demonstrate publicly for justice. I feel citizens should be productive and contribute to society, but ultimately, I trust the One who is always in control. If folks would like to visit your “Little House of Legacy,” what should they do? Simple send an e-mail to littlehouseoflegacy@gmail.com and we’ll schedule a convenient time.

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Did You

Know? By Dr. Scotty and Hsiu Huang History Center Plant City Photo Archives, Inc.

T

he term mentor first came into use in the 18th century, though the concept and practice of mentorship had been around long before it was given a proper name. As far back as the ancient Greeks, the youngest of society were often taken under the wing of experienced professionals and teachers to gain valuable trade skills and improve their intellectual well-being. The one-on-one training provided by the early trade guilds shifted after the advent of the industrial revolution, which tended to value cheaper, more expedient production over craftsmanship. Yet, the mid-20th century saw a renewed interest toward developing and nurturing mentor-mentee relationships. If you were to look up any significant leaders of the last few generations, many would list a specific individual who made a lasting impact on their professional and personal growth. In fact, some would name multiple people who fulfilled roles as protectors, role models, supporters, and collaborators. One such striking relationship was between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his “spiritual mentor and intellectual father” Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, who served as president at Morehouse College where King attended. The two often met to discuss theology and current social issues, and Mays instilled the idea into his students that every person had the right to respect and dignity. Role models similar to Mays are frequently found in educational settings or through community service programs. Plant City boasts numerous organizations and groups − like the Moms’ and Dads’ Clubs, the Improvement League, the Parent Teacher Association, and Unity in the Community − whose missions are to encourage community building through civic service, education, and self-empowerment. Members of these groups would not only donate their time but also funds toward beneficial opportunities for students. Organizations like the PTA and the Dads’ Club helped to pay for the completion of school buildings and outdoor spaces while dance groups – which fostered creativity and self-confidence − raised funds for students to go on field trips, like the image of Lincoln Elementary School students at the train station. This mentor month, we thank the countless individuals and organizations who nurture young minds, helping to generate an awareness of personal agency and build their self-identity. The Plant City Photo Archives and History Center is located at 106 S. Evers Street in downtown Plant City and is open Monday through Thursday, 10:15am to 7:00pm. Stop in to see additional historic

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Marshall High School Dads’ Club- 1964

Lincoln High School Field Trip to the train station in 1954.

photographs commemorating the black community in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Black History Month. For more information, or if you would like to share your photos with the Archives, please email info@plantcityphotoarchives.org or call the office at 813.754.1578. Ambrosetti, Angelina. “The Interconnectedness of the Roles of Mentors and Mentees in Preservice Teacher Education Mentoring Relationships.” Australian Journal of Teacher Education, Vol 35, 6, October 2010, 42-55. Ambrosetti https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ910403.pdf (ed.gov) Mays, Benjamin Elijah | The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute (stanford.edu)


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THE POWER OF TWO:

Carapezzas talk Family, Construction, & Gasparilla BY CIERRA CRAFT PHOTOS COURTESY OF ANNIE CARAPEZZA

Jimmy and Annie Carapezza were high school sweethearts, and the pair got married and have been in the construction industry for more than 40 years. They're the owners of Carapezza Construction & Roofing Co., a state licensed building contractor and roofing contractor in Plant City. The pair have raised three children, held board positions in civic organizations, and been active members of the Plant City business community. But when the Carapezzas aren’t building homes or developing commercial properties throughout Tampa Bay, they enjoy boating, traveling, and spending time with their grandson Mason James. The pair are also active within Gasparilla Krewes. Jimmy is a 10-year member of the Tampa Bay Rough Riders. The intent of the Rough Riders is to keep great moments in history alive. We do this by providing activities that educate people about history and keeping Spanish-American War Monuments intact. The group also does countless hours of work in support of local charities and children. In 2005, Annie joined the Krewe of Alegria, Tampa’s first all-female pirate krewe. Krewe of Alegria comprises professional women from all industries and walks of life and the group is best known for its nonprofit, Alegria’s Kickin’ for Kids. The charity collects and distributes shoes for kids in need. As Gasparilla Season quickly approaches, the Carapezzas are preparing for another season of parade fun and treasured memories. These krewe members take you behind the scenes of their life, business, and the upcoming Gasparilla festivities. PAGE

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Carapezza Construction can build the home of your dreams. Annie Carapezza says if you can dream it, Carapezza Construction Co. can build it.


Carapezza Construction & Roofing Co. is located on 1605 Wheeler Street, adjacent to Strawberry Hut.

Jimmy and Annie Carapezza moved to Plant City in the early 80s and raised their three kids: Chris, Jennifer and Amber. The couple also enjoy spending time with their grandson Mason James.

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Tell me a little about yourselves, your family, and your life in Plant City. Jimmy and I are owners of Carapezza Construction & Roofing Co. It’s a familyowned and operated business since 1985. We are high school sweethearts and have been married for 38 years. We both grew up in Long Island, New York, and moved to Florida in the late 1970s. We lived in Tampa and then moved to Plant City and started a family. Together we have three children: Chris, who lives here in Plant City and he has our grandson, Mason James, who is 6-years-old; Jennifer, who lives in Park City, Utah; and Amber, who is the office manager of our business and lives here in Plant City. We raised all three of our children here and they all went to Plant City High School. Last year, we sold our home of 36 years in Plant City and moved to Tampa to live on the Hillsborough River. We enjoy boating and we enjoy taking our boat down the river to dinner in downtown Tampa. Our office is in Plant City and Plant City will always be home to us. The community has supported our business for many years, we had a fullpage ad on the back of the very FIRST issue of FOCUS Magazine 21 years ago and our business has continued to grow since. We definitely still call Plant City home. Jimmy is a past president of the Plant City Noon Rotary Club, he was a director for the Plant City Chamber of Commerce, was on the board for Plant City Boys and Girls Club and has been a member of the Elks Club for over 20 years and is an Honorary Deputy Sheriff for Hillsborough County. I have been a member of the Morning Rotary Club, the Plant City American Business Women’s Association and we’ve both been through the Plant City Leadership with the Chamber. Share with readers a little about your family business? How did Jimmy get into the construction industry and when did Carapezza Construction Co. begin? What services does the company offer? Carapezza Construction & Roofing Co. does all phases of construction, including custom PAGE

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homes, complete renovations, insurance restoration services, commercial development projects, and roofing, including new shingles and metal roofs. We offer planning and design services to make our client’s visions come to life; whatever your plan is we can build it. Our motto is "One Call, Does it All." Jimmy has over 40 years of experience, so we have built many customer relationships and have repeat customers and many references. Jimmy has an eye for detail and he personally oversees every project, assuring that work is being built above and beyond our customers’ expectations and to the Carapezza Construction & Roofing Co. standards. We take pride in our work and at the end of the project, our goal is to have another happy


Docked in downtown Tampa, the Jose Gasparilla II is one of the most iconic parts of Gasparilla and a year-round reminder of Tampa’s biggest party and quirkiest tradition. Gasparilla dates back to the 1904 and in 1911 Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, switched to an invasion by sea.

customer and a new friendship. Jimmy’s motto is “we start as friends, we end up as friends,” it’s this customer-first mindset that’s the driving force behind our company’s longevity.

Annie (left) is a member of the Krewe of Alegria and Jimmy is a 10-year member of Tampa Bay Rough Riders. The pair were invited to their respective Krewes by active members willing to sponsor them. The pair give their free time to the Krewe’s fundraising endeavors including giving back to kids in need.

I am told you both are active in Gasparilla krewe life. Can you give us some details on your respective krewes and how you got involved? What drew you to krewe life? Jimmy has been a member of the Rough Riders since 2012. The Rough Riders were formed to commemorate the memory and values of Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt and his regiment. They are an important part of America’s and Tampa’s contribution to the Spanish American War in 1898 when they sailed with Lieutenant Colonel Roosevelt from Tampa to liberate Cuba from Spain. The Rough Riders contribute to a wide variety of charitable and civic events. There are approximately 560 members who are active in the community and every year, the Rough Riders collect, sort, and distribute thousands of Teddy Bears to hospital patients, cancer survivors and their families, centers for

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abused women and children, community health centers, special needs daycare centers, and foster children. The Rough Riders offer multi-level academic scholarship awards, support academic awards assemblies, and the Father’s Club at Roosevelt Elementary. The Rough Riders also host the annual Tampa St. Patrick’s Day Parade. I have been with the Krewe of Alegria since 2005. The Krewe of Alegria is composed of approximately 50 professional women from the Tampa Bay area, many of whom are business owners looking for a way to become involved in this close-knit community that we love. Members have been active in our community through volunteer service for several charitable organizations in our community. Algeria’s main focus is to help provide new shoes for needy children within the Tampa Bay area. The Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch, A Kid's Place, Cornerstone Kids, The Children’s Home, The Salvation Army-Naomi’s Daughters, Hillsborough and Pinellas County Public Schools, Safety

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Harbor Community Center, The Salesian Boys and Girls Club, Hispanic Family Services, Metropolitan Ministries and other groups and individuals have been recipients of new shoes in the recent past. We have fundraising throughout the year to raise money for our charity and we have brought a lot of smiles and happy faces to children all around the Tampa Bay area. The Gasparilla festivities were canceled last year due to COVID-19. I’m sure you’re happy to be back this year. After being canceled due to COVID-19 concerns in 2021, the Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest is making a return on Saturday, Jan 29, 2022, starting @ 2:00 p.m. and the Gasparilla Children’s Parade is on Saturday, Jan 22, 2022. Gasparilla Pirate Fest has been a Tampa tradition since 1905. There are still concerns with large crowds due to the new strains of COVID in 2022, but we are hoping that participants and attendees will practice safe procedures to make this year's Pirate Fest a huge success.


Carapezza Construction & Roofing Co. does all phases of construction, including custom homes, complete renovations, insurance restoration services, commercial development projects, and roofing, including new shingles and metal roofs.

Gasparilla is not just a big party; there is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes throughout the year with fundraising and events. We were both invited into our krewe’s by active members who were willing to sponsor us. Our favorite part of being in the krewe is the camaraderie and the friendships we have made along the way. Being a part of the fundraising is so rewarding, watching the smiles on the children’s faces, whether it is a sick child in the hospital receiving a teddy bear to a child who has never had a new pair or a pair of shoes that fit. It is a special feeling seeing the happy faces of the children, that is the best part of being in the Krewe. Then, we get to have fun with parade season with the thousands of spectators that come to Tampa to see the parade and the festivities associated with it. We have to purchase the beads and “booty” that we throw to the spectators and they are so happy to walk away with a neck full of beads and other pirate goodies they get along the way.

Whether you are seeking a New Custom Home, Addition, Kitchen Remodeling or anything in between, the Carapezza family is ready to exceed your expectations with their best-in-class construction services, and Carapezza Construction & Roofing Company looks forward to fulfilling your construction needs for many years to come. 1605 Wheeler Street, Plant City, FL 33563 carapezzaconstruction.com 813-707-0235 License #CBC1261186 Building License #CCC1329739 Roofing PAGE

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BUSINESS PROFILE Pastor Jeff Robinson (right) and his wife Carla (left) came to PCCOG in February 2017, the same year the church celebrated its centennial anniversary. Photo credit to PCCOG

Plant City Church of God

By Cierra Craft

P

lant City Church of God has deeply rooted history here in Plant City, dating back to the church’s establishment in 1917. As the number of Spirit-filled believers grew in Plant City, the congregation began looking for a permanent place to worship. According to David Roebuck, director of Dixon Pentecostal Research Church, historian of the Church of God, and author of Rooted for 100 Years, a publication chronicling the history of Plant City Church of God, the group gathered on just over two acres off Joe Sanchez Road. “In 1917, a rough, crooked trail wound its way through a thick grove of red oaks… the grove of oaks provided the first name of the local Church of God, which came to be known as ‘The Oaks,’” wrote Roebuck. The church celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2017 with Pastor Jeff Robinson at the helm. Robinson is a native of Tennessee and a thirdgeneration minister and he asked Christ to be his Savior at the age of 6, while attending a revival. The evangelist spoke to the need of salvation no matter the age and the young Jeff felt an overwhelming call to the altar. He and his wife Carla have three children: Stone, Abigail, and Lily Marie. Thirty years of ministry have taken Pastor and Mrs. Robinson from associate ministerial positions to pastorates across the country, including

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Tennessee, Maryland, the Dakotas and Montana, Indiana and Florida. “I enjoy seeing other people’s journey of faith take direction and see new life in service to God,” said Pastor Robinson in an April 2019 interview with FOCUS. “I see people’s lives changed through faith in Jesus Christ and witness the trajectory of their family change with marriage, Baby Dedications, and funerals, as Ecclesiastes says ‘there is a time for everything and a season for everything.’ We talk about a transformation of spirit through marriage, home, finances… our experience in a journey of faith is not to remain who we are, but to become a new person in Christ Jesus.” Pastor Robinson is joined by Executive Pastor Gerron Ayento, Worship & Arts Pastor Kevin Wilson, Student Ministries Pastor Jeremy Benedorf, and Children Ministries Pastor Greg Davis. Robinson’s son, Stone, serves as an assistant pastor with Young Adults, Church Ministries and as a musician. Plant City Church of God exists to love God, connect with people, and serve our world. PCCOG offers Grow classes, built on 2 Peter 3:18, which says “Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.” Grow classes are Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m. and Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m. “The goal is to educate children and adults on biblical principles built upon what we believe as the body of Christ,” according to PCCOG’s website. To learn more about classes for everyone, visit plantcitycog.com/grow-classes/. PCCOG offers a number of ministries and groups including programs designed specifically for developing the next generation of Christ-like young men called Royal Rangers and Mpact Girls, for girls moving toward a deep relationship with Jesus Christ and realizing her importance and potential in the kingdom of God.

Plant City Church of God is located at 2103 Mud Lake Road near the YMCA. Photo: FOCUS archives.

• •

• •

Families gathered at the 2021 Easter Sunday worship at 10:15 in the sanctuary. Photo credit to PCCOG

Plant City Church of God also offers Connect Groups for adults: Rise Up Men Study Group Join other men for discussion of God’s Word Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. Men's Prayer Join other men for a time of prayer and grab breakfast Saturday’s at 8:00 a.m. Women of Devotion Join other women as they gather for a time of prayer and encouragement. Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. SOLO Singles Discipleship and fellowship for single adults. Fridays at 6:30 p.m. PCCOG Young Adults (18-30) Meal and discussion of God’s Word among young adults. Mondays at 7 p.m.

If you’re searching for a church home, the pastors at Plant City Church of God encourage you to visit 2103 Mud Lake Road soon. The congregation encourages you and your family to experience the transforming presence of God and connect with new friends who are excited about what God is doing in Plant City.

2103 Mud Lake Rd. | Plant City, FL 33566 | (813) 752-4591 | www.plantcitycog.com Service times: Sunday Grow Classes 9AM, Worship 10:15AM; Wednesday Grow Classes 7PM PAGE

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RISING STAR Jovani

Torres By Katie Hamilton

Jovani Torres is a 6’8” tall senior at Plant City High School who actively participates in football, basketball, and track each year. Torres has been playing sports for as long as he can remember, stating, “I have been playing basketball since I was old enough to learn how to shoot a basket. I started football and track at the end of my sophomore year.” Playing sports is what he was bound to do from day one explaining, “My dad grew up playing basketball and continued after high school. He used to take me when I was really young to watch him play and that's where the interest really sparked.” Torres claims his dad to be his biggest inspiration explaining, “He showed me that in order to get the things you want, you have to work hard because nothing good comes easy.” For Torres, sports is a big part of his life from shooting hoops to running laps, he loves what he does. Torres recalls his favorite memory from this sports season, he stated, “Getting my first scholarship offer for football is hands down my favorite memory. I was extremely excited when I got the text and then I texted all of my coaches and posted it on Twitter immediately. It honestly motivated me to be better after seeing that people are actually interested in me as an athlete.” Torres is also motivated by his family, explaining, “My family is my main motivation when I play. I have always dreamed of being able to take care of my family financially. That keeps me motivated on days that I feel like quitting. I also enjoy making myself better at whatever I do; so that's really motivating as well.” While playing sports, for Torres it's not always about the athletic gain but more about what stems from playing, stating, “Being able to build a relationship with my teammates is easily the best part about playing a sport in my opinion.”

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Teresa Baxter, We Jammin’ Jams By Jennifer Jordan

S

unday sauce. A traditional sauce in Italian cooking, Teresa Baxter wanted to learn her grandmother’s recipe and can it for friends. “Being Italian, food is love, food is family, food is everything to me,” said Teresa. Nervous that her first set of jars wouldn’t be sealed properly, she decided to practice by canning fruit and making jam. That jam received compliment after compliment, and what simply started as a hobby of making and canning jam 12 years ago, has now led Teresa to her very own business, We Jammin’ Jams. Starting small and from home, word spread quickly about her jams through family, friends, and coworkers. During evenings and weekends when she wasn’t working as a dedicated second grade teacher at Springhead Elementary, Teresa would set up at local events such as the Food Truck Rally in downtown Plant City and vender shows such as Fancy Flea, selling four flavors of jams and trying to share her love of food with others. The original flavors are strawberry lemonade, autumn pear cranberry, blueberry lemon, and peach cobbler. Teresa stated, “Everyone that would try my jam would tell me how delicious it was; the sales just kept growing and I’d get more orders every year.” In 2019, Teresa decided to go to Catapult in Lakeland to learn how to grow We Jammin’ Jams. Catapult is a coworking space and a launching pad for entrepreneurs that has plenty of office space and an industrial sized kitchen where individuals can achieve their business goals. Teresa took a nine-week class at Catapult called the co-starters class, and that class convinced her to go retail with We Jammin’ Jams. After getting her food handling and safety certification, licenses, and insurance to go retail, COVID-19 began and put her retail goals on hold. Despite that and having to navigate through remote learning and teaching via Zoom, Teresa would still make and sell her jams and deliver them to her friends’ doorsteps. She would even make meals with her family and deliver them to her students’ homes during the pandemic to ensure that none of her students went hungry. Prior to and during the pandemic, Teresa had also developed and maintained relationships with local farmers, who would sometimes donate fruit to her. Teresa said about the ingredients in her jam, “I use all locally

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sourced ingredients and have a great relationship with Fancy Farms. It’s important to me to stay local and use fresh ingredients.” Once school returned to in-person learning, Teresa got back into making We Jammin’ Jams retail. She created four new flavors, which are candied jalapeños, strawberry cranberry, carrot cake, and strawberry habanero. Currently, We Jammin’ Jams is sold at Fancy Farms Market, the Corner Store, Roots Cellars, Roots Tap Room, the Crafted Butterfly, and Scout & Tag in Lakeland. While the jams can be used for bread or crackers, Teresa loves to “think outside of the jar” with her jams. “You can use my strawberry habanero jam on barbeque ribs, and the carrot cake jam makes a great glaze for a ham. The blueberry lemon jam can be used as a cocktail mixer, and the strawberry lemonade jam can be added into strawberry lemonade. A lot of people want to limit jam to the same limits that peanut butter has, but there is so much you can do with jam that most people don’t realize,” Teresa stated. She spends roughly 18 hours per month making jams in the industrial sized kitchen at Catapult and will sell her jams by the jar or case. One jar of jam is $9 and three jars are $25. We Jammin’ Jams has a Facebook page and Instagram account, and the jam(s) can be ordered through messages on either social media site or by calling or texting Teresa Baxter at 813-763-2852. Local retailers and bed & breakfast businesses are also encouraged to reach out if they’d like We Jammin’ Jams sold in their establishment(s). What started with Sunday sauce and showing love for family and friends through food ended with We Jammin’ Jams, a business that allows Teresa Baxter to work with her second passion, with teaching being her first. Teresa said, “Not only do I love my teaching career and have been working as a teacher for 16 years, but I love cooking, my community, and

most importantly, my family. Getting to do two things I love makes me so happy. I get to go out in the farmers’ fields with my daughter Ella and we pick fruit together to can. She’s wise beyond her years and an old soul like me, she’s my little buddy. It’s moments like those that I’ll cherish forever.” When you’re looking for a topping on a cheesecake, a sweet addition to your charcuterie board, or a holiday gift for a friend, call Teresa Baxter, owner of We Jammin’ Jams, where “It’s Jam Good.” You can learn more about We Jammin’ Jams at wejamminjams.com and Facebook and Instagram @wejamminjams. PAGE

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Leaders in

Faith Pastor Martin Mounce By Cheryl Johnston

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ississippi native Pastor Martin Mounce has lived in Florida the past 30 years. He and Joy, his wife of 46 years, pastor the congregation at Calvary Fellowship Assembly of God, which was established in 1937. Their son Martin, Jr. is the Worship Leader. Believing ministry is “a family calling,” they enjoy life here because of the “small-town atmosphere and strong sense of community where it seems most everyone knows each other.” For relaxation, Pastor Mounce enjoys watching college football and helping people with small engine repairs and special mechanical projects. How did you come to faith in Christ? Although saved and called to preach as a teenager, three years later I lived away from God until 1982. After almost losing my family and everything dear to me, I re-dedicated my life to Christ. I believe I am a product of prayer. Describe your journey to pastoral ministry. I tried many years to fulfill God’s calling through different avenues: Sunday school teacher, bus driver, men’s leader, and deacon. But when I finally surrendered to His call to preach/pastor, I earned a Pastoral Ministry degree from Southeastern University in 1998. We’ve served as lead and associate pastors in various Florida locations. In 2007, I took a sabbatical and drove a truck for a few years. Again, I found myself running from the call to preach/pastor. After recovering from back surgery (resulting from driving a million-plus miles in five years), doors opened for service as an Associate Pastor until 2019 when we were in transition. When I suffered a heart attack, the doctor explained he’d almost lost me twice while putting in stents. I asked why he didn’t let me go and he replied: “God is not done with you yet.” Two weeks later we found ourselves serving as Calvary’s interim pastors and three weeks after that, we accepted their 100% voting result to become the pastor. Today Joy serves as Adult Sunday School teacher, Women’s Ministry leader and Church Secretary/Treasurer. But foremost to me, she is my prayer warrior.

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We also recently added Chef Kevin Ware of Umami Smoke Food Truck and his wife Tiffany as our new Children's Ministry pastors. Through outreach, we look forward to re-building Calvary Kids and our Amplify Youth Group in 2022. Do you have a favorite Scripture verse? One is from James 1:2 – ‘Count it all joy…’- because my worst day living in Christ is better than my best day living in the world for myself. Psalm 16:11 is another: ‘You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ Being in God’s will, fulfilling His call, and serving God and His people brings me great joy. I want to love people where they are – the way Jesus loves me. Any advice for those considering the Christian faith and for Christfollowers? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Do not neglect your great salvation. Take time to pray and study/read His Word. Take 1 Peter 5:8 seriously - “Be alert and of sober mind. The enemy of your soul prowls around like a lion, seeking someone to devour.” The family-oriented folks at Calvary Fellowship are BIG in heart and genuinely care about others. All are invited to “come as you are, be loved and accepted, and be healed, no matter your situation in life, your race, or your past.” Worship times Sunday mornings at 10:45 with Sunday School classes for all at 9:30 and Wednesday evenings at 6:30 for adult Bible study and our Amplify Youth Group. All are welcome to ‘Come Grow with Us’ at 1110 N. Gordon Street.


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Candy’s Corner By Candy Owens

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld land syne! For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne. We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld land syne.

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or as long as I can remember, my family and I have sung those words on New Year’s Eve. What does it mean and where did the song originate? The words “Auld Lang Syne” translate from an old Scottish dialect meaning “Old Lone Ago” and is about love and friendship in times past. The Auld Land Syne lyrics referring to “We’ll take a Cup of Kindness yet” relate to a drink shared by men and women to symbolize friendship. First published in 1787, the song has now become a tradition as we celebrate a Happy New Year! There are many New Year’s customs and traditions people have taken part in for hundreds of years. The custom of “Eating Lucky Food” is my favorite. Every January 1st, the menu for my family is the same. Dried black-eyed peas, cornbread, white rice, fried pork chops or pork roast or ham (from the hambone used to cook with the peas, if plenty of meat remained on the bone from a previous baked ham), sliced tomatoes, green onions, collard greens, and a bottle of hot pepper sauce. That’s it! Nothing more…well maybe a cake or pie thrown in, but nothing less. No way, no how! My Mother was taught by her Mother and her Grandmother that the greens will bring you money and the peas and rice will bring you good fortune in the coming year. Other “Lucky Foods” from around the world include: Eating any ring-shaped treat, such as a donut, symbolizes “coming full circle” and leads to good fortune in Dutch homes. The Irish enjoy pastries called bannocks. The

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tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight comes from Spain and in Swiss homes, dollops of whipped cream, symbolizing the richness of the year to come, are dropped on the floors and allowed to remain there. The tradition of “Kissing at the stroke of Midnight” is another favorite in my home. I was brought up celebrating New Year’s Eve with family and friends enjoying all kinds of yummy goodies spread out on our dining table, while we watched Guy Lombardo and his Orchestra, coming to us live from the Waldorf-Astoria Ballroom in New York City. When the clock got close to striking midnight. everyone would gather around our television and count down the last ten seconds of the year. At the strike of midnight, everyone would shout “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” and then turn to their Sweetie and pucker up for a big kiss. I just loved watching the people on television all dressed up in their evening gowns, furs, gloves, jewels, tuxedos, and party hats, dancing the night away like Cinderella’s ball. My sister Karen and I always said that when we grew up we were going to the Waldorf-Astoria on New Year’s Eve, all dressed up in our evening gowns, gloves, diamonds, and furs and dance the night away with our husbands and kiss them at midnight. HA-HA! I was always told that whoever you kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve is the person you’ll be kissing all year long. But, if you do not kiss your Sweetie at midnight then you may have bought yourself a year of loneliness. YIKES! The “NO WASHING” Tradition (or Superstition): My Mother, and her Mother,

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and her Mother, and even before them would never allow any washing of any sort on New Year’s Day. No washing of clothes, dishes, cars, pets, or anything other than your own body was allowed and still is not allowed in my home. My Mother was taught that if you wash, you’ll wash away the good for the year and that you would be washing for someone who would die that year, and also that your act of washing would actually cause death in your family. So… there is no washing and there will never be any washing in my house on January 1st. The wash can wait until January 2nd. If you think our traditions for New Year’s are strange, you might want to learn about traditions in other parts of our world. The “Rolling Cabbage in the Front Door on New Year’s Day” tradition: In Mid-Western Europe, some families practice the tradition that as soon as they awaken, the entire family proceeds to roll the cabbage to be eaten that day in their corned-beef & cabbage meal. Everyone helps to roll and the cabbage must be rolled through the entire house (and I mean every room) to bring good luck and wealth to the family, home, and all who helped. The “Eating Herring and Sitting on a Silver Dollar” tradition: In Scandinavia, for good luck and wealth, families eat herring at midnight, while seated on a silver dollar. The “Fireworks and Making Noise at Midnight” tradition: In ancient Thailand, guns were fired at midnight to frighten off demons. In China, firecrackers routed the forces of darkness. In the early American colonies, pistol shots rang through the air at midnight. Today, Italians let their church bells peal, the Swiss beat drums, and the North Americans sound sirens and party horns to bid the old year farewell. Whatever your traditions are for bringing in the New Year, I wish everyone peace, love, health, and happiness in 2022! Make every day count and live every day as if it were your last!


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Plant City

Happenings

January 29 Chilifest 2022

January 15

Plant City Park & Find- A Scavenger Hunt 9:00AM-2:00PM Prizes | Fun for All Ages| Vehicle & QR Code Compatible Phone Required Scavenger Hunt Begins @ McIntosh Preserve, Located @ 775 E. Knights Griffin Rd Cost: Free Info: 813-659-4255 or recinfo@plantcitygov.com

Plant City MLK Health Fair

January 22

Strawberry Queen Pageant 6:00PM-10:00PM Pageant| Florida Strawberry Festival | Scholarships Awarded Grimes Agricultural Center @ 2508 Oak Ave Cost: $15 Info: Gail Lyons @ 813-967-6366 or Amy Trinkle @ 813-763-6088

10:00AM-2:00PM Health Screenings | Health & Wellness Products | Health Trends Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Rec Center @ 1601 E. Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd Cost: Free Info: 813-704-5800

Saturday- 9:00AM-4:00PM; Sunday- 9:00AM-3:00PM Cat Vendors | Cat Costume Contest The Cat Fanciers’ Association Ragamuffin Cat Society Teco Expo Hall @ 2301 W. Oak Ave Cost: Adults- $10; Seniors/Military- $8; Children Ages 3-12- $6; Family Pack- $25 (2 Adults with Children) Info: 863-327-2477 or Rich Nolte @ Rnolte2@hotmail.com

January 16

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SickHot Rocks the Loft 7:00PM-8:30PM Electric Band | Food & Drinks Live Performance 101 E. J Arden Mays Blvd Cost: $10 per Ticket Info: 813-752-1220

February 5

Food for All Gala 6:00PM-9:30PM Live Auction | Raffles | Food & Music Sponsorship Opportunities Available Evers St in Downtown Plant City (Between J. Arden Mays Blvd and MLK Blvd) Cost: $100 per Person Info: 813-764-0625 or LScott@ufbpc.org

January 15 & January 16

CFA All Breed & Household Pet Cat Show

11:00AM-1:00PM Chili | Live Music | Family Friendly Money Raised to Fund Scholarships Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum @ 102 N. Palmer St Cost: $5 per Person Info: Marsha Passmore @ 813-245-2244

January 27 Chamber Gala

6:00PM-9:30PM Passing of the Gavel Ceremony | Best of Plant City Awards | Fancy Fiesta Attire RSVP Required John R. Trinkle Center @ 1206 N. Park Rd Cost: $100 per Person Info: 813-754-3707 or Kate@PlantCity.org

January 28

MLK Leadership Breakfast

Pirates Invade DowntownLast Friday in Downtown

7:30AM-9:00AM Breakfast | Scholarships | Community Champion Awards | Keynote SpeakerMajor Anthony Collins, HCSO John R. Trinkle Center @ 1206 N. Park Rd Cost: $40 per Ticket Info: 813-757-6760

5:00PM-9:00PM Food Trucks | Live Music | Vendors Family & Pet Friendly1 Pirate Attire Encouraged McCall Park @ 100 N. Collins St Cost: Free Parking & Admission Info: 813-358-8898

February 12

Strawberry Distance Challenge 7:30AM-9:30AM 5K Run |10K Run | Medals for Finishers T-Shirts for Runners | Water & Fruit 3035 Griffin Blvd Cost: 1 Mile- $28; Virtual- $33; 5K & 5K Ruck- $38; 10K- $43 (Registration ends February 11 @4:59PM) Info: 813-719-0244

Keel Farms Love Run 5K 9:00AM 5K | Race is Timed & Scored by J3 Timing | T-Shirts for Runners & Medals for Finishers | Complimentary Wine Pour Keel & Curley Winery @ 5210 Thonotosassa Rd Cost: $35 (Price Increases after January 12) Info: www.runsignup.com or 813-752-9100

February 14

Teen Stay & Make Tiny Animal Terrarium 10:00AM-7:00PM Crafting | Grades 6-12 Kits While Supplies Last Bruton Memorial Library @ 302 W. McLendon St Cost: Free Info: 813-757-9215


21st ANNUAL READERS CHOICE AWARDS

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VOTE FROM

January 24th-30th PAGE

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a

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Gallery of Plant City

MLK PARADE

On January 8, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade marched through historic downtown to the Sadye Gibbs Martin Community Center. The parade showcased marching bands and local officials in celebration of Dr. King’s legacy. Photos by Jennifer Jordan.

c

d a. The MLK Parade processional was led by the 2022 Grand Marshal. b. City Manager Bill McDaniel was among the city officials to hand out candy and beads to parade onlookers. c. Irene Castillo (right) will serve as 2022 Chairman of the Board of the Plant City Chamber of Commerce. Irene was one of many city and county leaders to partake in the parade. d. The Tampa Corvette club made an annual appearance in the MLK Parade, as the processional headed east on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. e. Marshall Middle School’s marching band was the final unit in the parade, bringing the music to the streets of downtown Plant City.

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a Gallery of Plant City

SANTA SLED

Back for its 19th anniversary, the Plant City Black Heritage, Inc. hosted its annual Santa Sled Festival at the Sadye Gibbs Martin Community Center. The event ensures families have the ability to have a festive Christmas by providing free clothes, gifts, and food for those in attendance. Photos by Jennifer Jordan.

b d

c f

e a. Plant City High School KEY Club members assisted in the distribution of food, clothing and toys for the recipients. The students received volunteer hours for giving back to the community.

d. Sharon Moody, event organizer, was joined by Jack Holland, Assistant City Manager, to distribute bikes, food, and other gifts to families in need.

b. Families were asked to apply before the event and register to receive these generous donations.

e. Families were pulled from a drawing to win a bicycle at the annual Santa Sled. The drawing is one of the event highlights.

c. Kids in the community were randomly selected to receive a bicycle, provided by a generous donor.

f. Santa Sled was held at the Sadye Gibbs Martin Community Center for its second consecutive year.

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Great health care is closer than you think. South Florida Baptist Hospital is more than just a small community hospital. We’ve got a wide array of specialty care and surgical services that you don’t have to travel far to get. Our surgeons are experts in minimally invasive robotic surgical procedures that provide lots of benefits, including shorter hospital stays, decreased blood loss and smaller incisions that reduce the risk of infection. Plus, faster recovery times that mean you can get back to your normal activities sooner. You’ll find comprehensive orthopedic care—whether you’re an athlete who needs sports medicine services or you’re someone who needs a total joint replacement. Our allinclusive gynecology program offers high-quality care to the women and mothers in our community with a variety of women’s care services. We’ve even been designated as a Center of Excellence for our weight loss surgery program, meeting nationally recognized standards and providing outstanding care to our patients. And all of this extraordinary care exists right here in Plant City. Learn more: SouthFloridaBaptistSurgery.org

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