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A Reflection on Our 2022 Award Winners

By Joshua Holt | Stateside Media, Marketing Co-Chair for 2023

Image by: Maurice Cheeks


We’ve turned the corner into a fresh new year – but we can’t quite leave 2022 in the rear-view until we publicly honor some of our incredible EMERGE members. At the close of each year, we hold our signature Gala, an evening of delicious food, rolling laughter, and hand-picked memories to highlight the best parts of the fading year. But the Gala isn’t just a grand party; it also serves as our annual meeting of the members – the perfect opportunity to present our three customary awards to outstanding members.


Volunteer of the Year Award

First up, we celebrate our extraordinary Volunteer of the Year, Sara Wright of Your Visual Storyteller and Summit Consulting. Sara’s caring spirit and dedication to all things EMERGE can’t be taken for granted – she’s the person who’s always ready to get involved and go the distance. Sara had this to say about volunteering with EMERGE in 2022: “My favorite volunteer experience was helping clear the garden at Crystal Lake Elementary. We had such a great team of people. The school maintains a garden by its entrance that supports its own little ecosystem and creates a beautiful learning environment for the children.”


Chair’s Award

Following the presentation of the Volunteer of the Year Award, our Chair acknowledges a member who demonstrates exceptional leadership and commitment to the success of our organization. The 2022 Chair’s Award is presented to Kassia Alamm of Straughn Trout Architects. When asked to share one her favorite memories from this past year, Kassia promptly responded, “Last year’s EMERGing Race. This was a challenging, ultra-cross-coordinated event, but it was successful with the help of some awesome volunteers and the Events Committee (minus the running part, but that’s another story)! If you’re ever up for it, highly recommend participating in this event as a team-building exercise and a fun way to experience Downtown Lakeland.”


Member of the Year Award

The third and – typically – final award given at the 2022 Gala is the Member of the Year Award. This year, that award is proudly presented to Blake Denz, one of our Marketing Co-Chairs from Two Men and a Truck. Blake first joined EMERGE during the “before times” back in 2017, and has created plenty of memories with us since. From the 2022 year, Blake shares, “My highlight of the year was definitely our MANE event at Union Hall. This is an event we started in 2021 and brought back due to popular demand. It’s such a unique twist on networking by making it purposely awkward. Having to go on stage and come up with a sales pitch on why cereal is indeed a soup is just something you never forget. Whether it goes well or not, people will remember! It forces you out of your comfort zone but in a way where everyone can relate. The awkwardness is what makes it so fun and engaging!”


Honorary Lifetime Membership

But wait! There’s more… At the discretion of our Steering Committee, we occasionally grant an Honorary Lifetime Membership to a member of the community whose distinction in public affairs and community service aligns with the mission of EMERGE. This process is highly selective and requires a unanimous vote by the Steering Committee.


Image by: Maurice Cheeks


This year, we are pleased to honor Jim Sidou of Saddle Creek Logistics with an Honorary Lifetime Membership to EMERGE. Jim is a former member of EMERGE who continues to exemplify our values and mission. When asked about both the highlight of his time with EMERGE and what it has meant to him, he said, “In all reality there are just too many (times) to list as its impossible to choose just one moment to highlight. That being said, the absolute best part of EMERGE for me, and what I’m most thankful for, is that it introduced me to my best friends. These people have been there for so many of my life’s greatest moments and stood by me during some of my hardest days. As I sit here now and look back at my time with EMERGE it’s my friends and our shared experiences that stand out in my mind and I cannot even imagine my life without them.


Professionally, EMERGE gave me access to people I would not have otherwise been given access to and provided opportunities to make connections with people who would later help me make advancements in my career. Additionally, by serving in leadership roles with EMERGE I learned so much about leading and managing a team, running an effective meeting, and working with others.

As outlined above, I owe so much to EMERGE for my personal growth and development. In addition to providing me with the best friends a guy could ever ask for, EMERGE allowed me to fully integrate myself into the Lakeland community. My wife Danielle and I moved to Lakeland in 2006 without knowing anyone. It was hard at first to find our way, and we really didn’t know if Lakeland was going to be our final destination or where we would start a family, but becoming involved with EMERGE changed all that. Because of EMERGE Lakeland is our home and we would not have it any other way.”


Thank you, Jim, and Congratulations to all of our incredible EMERGE Awards Recipients of 2022.



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