Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Christine DeSouza
News Editor 

Lake honored by Orlando Sentinel


Harriett Lake, 2014 Central Floridian of the Year.

Recently, the Orlando Sentinel chose Harriett Lake as the recipient of the 2014 Central Floridian of the Year for her generous financial support of many organizations within Central Florida. Since 2003, Lake has given about $1.5 million annually to many causes, from Kinneret, JFS Orlando and the Holocaust Center to MD Anderson Cancer Center and Florida Hospital's boutiques for breast cancer survivors to the multiple performing arts groups, including the Southern Ballet Theatre, Madcow Theatre, Orlando Festival of New Plays, the Philharmonic Orchestra and Orlando Shakespeare Theater.

"There are two philosophies about money," Lake told the Orlando Sentinel. "Either you can watch it accumulate or you can spread it around to help other people."

The Orlando Sentinel's Central Floridian of the Year award has been around for 31 years. Those chosen are movers and shakers who are making a difference in this community. Past recipients include Michael Dippy, founder of IDignity, an organization that helps provide identification to the homeless so they can get back on their feet; Dave Krepcho, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank; and Harris Rosen, creator of the Rosen Foundation Scholarship-Tangelo Park Program.

Three years ago, the Sentinel started accepting nominations from its readers. That year, they received more than 60 nominations for Harriett Lake-the most nominations received for one person. She didn't win that year, but has stayed in the running ever since.

This year, Lake was among four other distinguished contenders: Tomas Lares, founder and executive director of Florida Abolitionist, who is passionate about ending human trafficking in Central Florida; Carol Wick, CEO of Harbor House, Orange County's only certified domestic violence agency; Andrae Bailey, CEO of the Central Florida Commission on the Homeless; and Belvin Perry, a personal injury lawyer with Morgan & Morgan and former chief judge of the Ninth Judicial Court, best remembered as the presiding judge for the Casey Anthony murder trial.

This is an impressive list of individuals who are making a difference in Central Florida, however, it is Harriett Lake who has helped cultivate Central Florida into a city with culture and an appreciation for the arts.

She came to Central Florida from Miami dragging her feet in the sand. She didn't want to leave the big name department stores and the culture of Miami to come to the swamps of Orlando. Through her passion for ballet and theater and various fundraisers for the arts, Central Florida's cultural scene grew strong, culminating into the construction of the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Had it not been for Harriett Lake, some say, there never would have been a Dr. Phillips Center. Lake believes that Central Florida is going to be "a metropolis rich in the performing arts"-evidenced by the standing room only crowd at a December performance of "The Nutcracker," which pleased her to no end.

"The arts is a different kind of fundraising," Lake told the Orlando Sentinel. "It isn't a matter of life and death, but to me, I want to be sure that 100 years from today, people can still see 'Swan Lake.'

Now, Lake has turned her attention to raising money for the ORMC trauma center and once again, making a difference in the Central Florida community.


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