Lakeland Business Guide 2019 Chamber Guide_2019 - Page 75

With a mission to increase programming to benefit the Lakeland business community, the Lakeland Chamber Foundation has invested in the community since 1973. As the Foundation moves from a private to a public entity, it looks to continue to benefit the community through additional programming. WRIT TEN BY PRISCILL A BURR O ne of the greatest benefits of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce is its investment in the community through the Chamber Foundation, Inc. Founded in 1973, the 501(c)3 not-for- profit organization serves the needs of Lakeland through community and education initiatives. For 35 years, the foundation operated strictly as a grants program. Through contributions from member businesses and individuals, the Foundation was able to award small grants to not-for-profit organizations in the Lakeland area. Within the past year, the Foundation moved from a private entity to public charity status, shifting its focus to business development in order to serve as the philanthropic aid for small and large businesses within the community. The change from a private to public entity affords the Foundation the ability to access federal, state, and corporate grants in order to increase business education training, as well as additional programming. Organizations eligible for grant awards are required to hold a 501(c)3 status. Funds received from the Foundation must be used to benefit the Greater Lakeland area, support specific programs and not Capital Projects. “The Foundation discovered that they were duplicating efforts in the community and wanted to fine tune the mission to coincide with the Lakeland Chamber mission to assist businesses in the community,” says Darla Sechrest Pettaway, chief development officer for the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce. “After meeting with community leaders, it was determined that providing focused services that benefit business education, skills training, and management pipeline were most integral.” Pettaway has served at the Chamber since July of 2017 and has helped lead the initiative for the Foundation to move from a private to public entity. “After achieving public charity status, the 75