“What an appropriate place for this to happen!” The setting was the Bonnet Springs Park Event Center, and that was Jean Bunch’s first reaction to the announcement that she and her husband, David, were joint winners of the George Jenkins Award, an annual Lakeland Chamber of Commerce honor recognizing sustained community service.

The couple has capped their careers — David’s in commercial real estate and Jean’s in education and historic preservation — as dreamers, movers and shakers behind Bonnet Springs Park, the privately funded, 168-acre urban park west of downtown Lakeland. The park, which opened in late October, has already received 500,000 visitors.

The George Jenkins Award, named for the founder of Publix Super Markets and considered the Lakeland chamber’s highest honor for individuals, was presented before an audience of 375 at the organization’s annual meeting Tuesday night by Publix CEO Todd Jones.

Other award winners Tuesday night:

Kathleen Munson Quality of Life Champion: Allen & Company, investment advisors. The company has a long history of community service, with each of its 66 employees active in volunteer organizations, according to Kathleen Munson, who presented the award.

The Munson award is new this year. It honors “businesses that are dedicated to making Lakeland a great place to live, work and play.” Munson, whom the award is named for, was a 27-year leader of the Lakeland Chamber, beginning as director of the Lakeland Visitors Bureau and then as president of the chamber.

The award was accepted by Ralph Allen, retired CEO of Allen & Company, and Michael Walker, vice president of regional operations.

Michael Walker and Ralph Allen
Michael Walker, left, and Ralph Allen | Barry Friedman, LkldNow

P. Scott Linder Small Business of the Year Award: Mail Processing Associates. Robbie and Tess Yelvington, the company’s owners, “give back as supporters of the United Way and countless other local nonprofits,” said Martha Linder, widow of the industrialist the award is named for. “Recently they even gave of their time to punch holes in the planning agendas of more than 1,000 teachers when another vendor’s orders arrived incorrectly.”

The award recognizes entrepreneurial spirit and is chosen from among the previous year’s 12 winners of the chamber’s small business award.

The other monthly winners for 2022 were Emily Rogers Consulting + Coaching, Ring Construction, S&D Real Estate Services, Swan Brewing, Lakeland Moon Walk, Tapatio’s Restaurante Mexicano, ORG Engineering Inc., Office Pride, iNK Screen Printing, Union Hall and Ligon Marketing.

Tuesday’s meeting also served as the annual transition in the chamber’s volunteer leadership. Board Chair Stacy Heacock Weeks of Heacock Insurance/Brown & Brown passed the gavel to incoming Chair Jason Rodda of Rodda Construction.

The event also included a ceremonial passing of the gavel between former chamber board chairs dating to Dick Mason, who served in 1976.

Chamber meeting audience
The audience: 375 attended the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting.

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com 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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