In this year-end message and holiday greeting allow us to express our sincere gratitude for the encouragement and support we have received towards LIFT Orlando's great momentum in 2016.


We would be remiss if we didn't take a moment to reflect on the astonishing progress made in 2016. There are many things we could share as part of an annual progress report. But, instead of covering the milestones related to the collection of accolades, recognitions or resources we would like to share the more meaningful events that have directly touched the lives in the community we exist to serve.  

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You can still make a year end contribution to help us empower our neighbors to break the cycle of poverty through neighborhood revitalization. 



We began 2016 by celebrating a new beginning for the neighborhoods around Camping World Stadium now known as the Communities of West Lakes. We kicked off the first phase of this exciting neighborhood transformation with the demolition of the vacant Washington Shores Village and Orange Manor apartments. Built in its place will be a beautiful new community named by residents, Pendana at West Lakes, a mixed-income, multifamily development that will include senior living, set to break ground at the beginning of 2017.

Residents, LIFT Orlando supporters and public officials including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and other community leaders were present for the ceremony. Long time resident Mr. Ron Jones struck the first blow for change by tearing down the first wall. 


FEBRUARY: Art Project Display

After having interviewed over 1,500 residents in the largest urban survey ever completed in Orlando, this beautiful project allowed us see the neighborhood through the community’s most valuable contributors: the neighborhood children.

In 2016 we created a traveling art display to share the hopes and dreams of the neighborhood children with our downtown community.

Click here to learn more about the project



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“One of the biggest predictors of health in America is not your genetic predisposition but the station of life into which you are born” - Robert Wood Johnson Commission on Health.  

Numerous studies have shown that family income has a dramatic impact on the wellbeing of children and families. In fact, children who grow up in low income neighborhoods are seven times more likely than their higher income peers to experience serious health challenges such as low birth weights, diabetes, depression, high-beconlood pressure, heart disease, asthma and even a higher incidence infant mortality.

In partnership with our Florida Hospital and Orlando Health we first health fair at Jones high school. We had an impressive turnout of great community partners and resources for the neighborhood. We also learned a lot about how to improve attendance to these types of events. For LIFT Orlando, the primary concern was less about promoting specific health care services to neighborhood residents to begin to set a benchmark for health and wellness as we begin the process of designing state of the art interventions to help us accomplish the goal of improved health, wellness and overall quality of life for residents regardless of income.



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As a way to help unemployed residents besides providing access to the Jobs Partnership 12-week program, Job Triage was formed to meet one of the most significant needs indicated by residents in the initial survey--employment.

The founding employer partners of Job Triage include Florida Hospital, Orlando Health, Massey Services, Mears Transportation and WastePro. Each company identifies entry-level opportunities in their organizations to which we connect interested residents. These partnerships are secured at the CEO level and furthered by HR professionals and resident volunteers.  The shared goal between is to achieve 93-100% employment in The Communities of West Lakes by 2018. Job Triage officially launches in early 2017.



The College Football Playoffs Foundation and Florida Citrus Sports chose LIFT Orlando as their partner in the Orlando launch of Extra Yard for Teachers as part of a $200,000 annual matching grant to fund professional development, support and recognition for our neighborhood school teachers.

This video depicts the campaign made possible by this partnership to help teachers buy supplies, materials and the technology. LIFT Orlando teachers no longer have to spend their own money to buy supplies for school projects. 



At the start of the summer we began promoting a new and unique program, MVP Families at the start of the 2016 MVP Summer Camp. The camp itself was recently transformed when in response to feedback from neighborhood parents the year prior, Florida Citrus Sports redesigned their very popular Summer Camp to be more focused on the children in the neighborhood. And, in one year we went from 3% to 97% neighborhood participation in the camp. After this we approached the parents with FCS's sincere desire partner toward their children's success which led to the creation and eventual launch of MVP Families.  

This year the Summer Camp boasted 100% being from the neighborhood. Click here to see pictures of this fun day of games and health examinations as we signed up kids for the camp and recruited parents to a partner with us. 


july: communities of west lakes logo Creation

As a result of our community engagement work in the neighborhoods surrounding Camping World Stadium, resident leaders from these historic neighborhoods came together for the very first time to advance a bright future for their community. This new name for the area between Parramore and Washington Shores (Orange Blossom Trail and John Young Parkway), was inspired by their common location, west of downtown, and their beautiful lakes: Rock Lake, Lake Lorna Doone, Sunset Lake and Clear Lake.

To communicate the heritage and pride of these neighborhoods through a logo mark that would inspire future brand marks in the connected to this neighborhoods third generation resident Alex Gill created a logo inspired by the new name. Artist Greg Perkins refined the design into a brand for the entire community.

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August: Affiliate 32805 attracts young professionals

This year marked the launch of Affiliate 32805, a series of business networking events designed to attract young, accomplished, minority professionals. Affiliate 32805 events are open to any resident who wants to attend, especially professionals and entrepreneurs but it is primarily designed to help us attract their counterparts outside the neighborhood. One reason this matters is because the most important kind of capital investment we can bring to the neighborhood is social capital. We hope that some of these new friends may want to do more than be in tune with what's happening downtown and might consider being part of the future of 32805 alongside their peers and others from within the Communities of West Lakes. To stay in tune with these events simply follow Affiliate 32805 on Facebook. 



In early September, the MVP Families program officially kicked off with an event that welcomed 35 families (over 95 local residents).  Volunteers from the community prepared the meal, and some of the parents that have been involved from the very beginning took on various volunteer roles.  The families ate together and then broke into small groups to learn more about the Developmental Relationships Framework (material from the Search Institute).  Age appropriate childcare was provided and children were engaged by local teachers and after-school program providers with games and activities. What makes the program so unique is that it was designed by parents for parentsTheir input determined the calendar, the content, the meeting style and the goals of the program. Events include Family Fun Days and MVP Family Meetings and trainings, all designed to encourage family interaction and support while building community and incentivizing family engagement.   


October: Jones Legacy Classic and other new traditions

In October, FCS, LIFT Orlando, CNL, and Jones High School Boosters partnered to establish the Inaugural Legacy Classic – a newly-formed friendly football series at Camping World Stadium. The first game rejuvenated the old “Soul Bowl” rivalry between Jones High School and Evans High School. Jones High School Principal Roderick Waldon shared, “The opportunity to bring the game back to a reconstructed Camping World Stadium puts the students from our community in the spotlight while also reviving this tradition-rich rivalry.” And Steve Hogan, CEO of FCS said, “We’re excited to give these teams a platform at the center of the West Lakes neighborhoods in the reconstructed Camping World Stadium, and we’re looking forward to making this series a bigtime game for Jones High School and for the entire community.”

This same month LIFT Orlando and Florida Citrus Sports honored eight local teachers who were recognized on the field during the first quarter of the Camping World Kickoff game on Labor Day for their efforts and dedication to the children of the West Lakes community as part of the partnership with College Football Playoff Foundation. Click here to read more. 


NOVEMBER: Inviting 32804 to partner for the future of 32805

At the invitation of a special collection of Orlando leaders LIFT Orlando was the beneficiary of a private reception held at the Country Club of Orlando and designed to inspire leaders in the communities within the 32804 zip code to partner with the residents leaders of the 32805 zip for brighter future together. 

This phenomenal host committee included long-time local leaders including David Shaw, Glen Davis, Chas Bailes, Micky Grindstaff, Ralph Martinez, Jack Kuykendall, Mike Zizmer and David Powers.

This event was a unique and important part of the silent period of our capital fundraising campaign launching in 2017. We are reminded in these setting that what the poor need most isn't more programs or services. What the poor need most is the same thing we all need: "a caring and connected neighbor."


december: lake lorna doone park takes a big step towards transformation

 The plans include a new walking trail, a fully accessible playground, a pier for fishing, new bathrooms,  lighting, and sculptures. The existing basketball courts will be renovated and a new futsal court will be added. 

The plans include a new walking trail, a fully accessible playground, a pier for fishing, new bathrooms,  lighting, and sculptures. The existing basketball courts will be renovated and a new futsal court will be added. 

The City of Orlando approves plans for the $8 million reconstruction of Lake Lorna Doone Park inspired by the input of neighborhood residents and fueled by the initial $1 million investment pledged by Steve Hogan CEO of Florida Citrus Sports. The goal is to be the best  fitness focused and family friendly park in the region. The new park will open up with new amenities and programming for residents and new events, practices, and league games throughout the year.

The hope is that increase in traffic will also create opportunities for small businesses and new jobs in the area. Residents, like Tangia Smikle who feared the park would be come a parking lot and fought for its preservation deserve the credit for this achievement. Special thanks go to our District 5 Commissioner Regina Hill and Lisa Early Director of Families, Parks and Recreation for the City of Orlando for their remarkable leadership.



this holiday season we are most grateful for the growing trust of our neighbors

This video captures the remarks and sentiments of from the Communities of West Lakes: Raymer Kelly is the son of one of the first black police officers in Orlando and the founding leader of the West Lakes Council for Economic Opportunity. Tangia Smikle is a third generation resident who has led the effort toward the transformation of Lake Lorna Doone.  Mrs. Bradley is a respected and well-known, retired educator. Today, these are some of our greatest advocates in the neighborhood. Though it is still early in our partnership, we asked these three resident leaders to share their perspective on LIFT Orlando in contrast to when we first showed up in the neighborhood and we hadn't earned their trust. Truth is, we are still working hard to deserve their trust everyday.



You can still make a year end contribution to help us empower our neighbors to break the cycle of poverty through neighborhood revitalization.