Ashley, Wesley and Barney Barnett
| Jordan Weiland

It was a family affair as two generations of the Barnett family won top awards at the National Philanthropy Day Awards Celebration in Lakeland on Friday. Ashley and Wesley Barnett were one of two couples named philanthropists of the year, and Wesley’s parents — Carol and Barney Barnett — were given the Outstanding Philanthropy Award.

An estimated 200 people attended the annual awards breakfast at First Presbyterian Church presented by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Polk County Chapter with assistance of GiveWell Community Foundation.

Award winners were:

  • Outstanding Philanthropy Award: Carol and Barney Barnett, nominated by Academy Prep Center of Lakeland for helping found the organization
  • Philanthropist of the Year: Ashley and Wesley Barnett, nominated by United Way of Central Florida for volunteering, fund raising, providing matching funds and advocating for United Way
  • Philanthropist of the Year: Denis and Mary Grant, nominated by Talbot House for continued support for many years, including helping to fund Vermont Place
  • Philanthropic Corporation of the Year: CPS Investment Advisors, nominated by Peace River Center and United Way of Central Florida for its culture of giving fostered by its late founder, Chas. P. Smith
  • Philanthropic Small Business of the Year: Tribute Realty, nominated by Talbot House for donating a portion of every transaction to a community organization, selecting a new nonprofit each year.
  • Spirit of Philanthropy: United Way of Central Florida led by President/CEO Christina Criser Jackson, nominated by Citizens Bank & Trust for innovation to increase community impact during the pandemic
  • Volunteer of the Year in Philanthropy: Lt. James D. Ostojic of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, nominated by Central Florida Speech and Hearing Center for many hours of board and volunteer service, including raising more than $92,000 as a competitor in the recent Mr. Central Florida event.
National Philanthropy Day award winners
Honorees, from left, included Michael Riskin of CPS Investment Advisors, Ashely Barnett, Wesley Barnett, Barney Barnett, Lt. James D. Ostojic of the PCSO, Mindy Emerson Hunley of Tribute Realty, Mary Grant, Denis Grant, and Christina Criser Jackson of United Way of Central Florida. | Jordan Weiland

After winning the award, Ashley Barnett said, “It’s never been about us; it’s always been about those we serve; and it’s also been, too, about the legacy of his family and the legacy of what’s been about the legacy of what’s been instilled in me by my family and where our hearts are set.”

Receiving the Outstanding Philanthropy Award, Barney Barnett also discussed family. “I was lucky to come from a great family who had no money, but they were very generous people. I was lucky and married Carol and she actually has a lot of money and she also had the great heritage left to her by [her father, Publix founder] Mr. George Jenkins, who is the best person to every happen to Lakeland, Florida. I am happy that Wesley and Nicholas are also very generous people.” Carol Barnett was unable to attend the ceremony.

Denis Grant, who founded Powerscreen of Florida soon after coming to Lakeland from Ireland in the early 1980s, talked about Talbot House’s mission of serving the homeless and its namesake, Matt Talbot, a Dublin laborer who overcame alcoholism to live a life of piety and charity.

Finalists were nominated by 16 prominent community organizations and chosen by an anonymous panel of seven judges.

Finalists in all categories included:

  • Suzanne Aranda
  • Carol & Barney Barnett
  • Wesley and Ashley Barnett
  • Bartow Ford
  • Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, PA
  • PS Investment Advisors
  • Double M Aviation, LIC
  • Denis and Mary Grant
  • Jack & Tina Harrell
  • Levi Highsmith
  • Christina Criser Jackson
  • Lakeland Elks Lodge #1291
  • Beth Luxford
  • MIDFLORIDA Credit Union
  • Lieutenant James D. Ostojic
  • Trista Otto
  • Qgiv
  • Timothy Rice
  • Saddle Creek Logistics Services
  • Don Selvage
  • Sheltair Aviation
  • Swan Brewing
  • Tribute Realty, LLC
  • Dianna Grace “Gracie” Westerfield
  • Winter Haven Dodge Chrysler Jeep

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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