The Polk Ecumenical Action Council for Empowerment (PEACE) exists in Polk County as a vehicle for congregations to do effective and powerful justice ministry. The purpose of the organization is to build a strong coalition capable of negotiating the interests of our community with a special concern for the involvement and issues of low and moderate-income people.


Since PEACE’s beginning in 2001, we have taken successful action on several community issues. Listed below is a sample of some of the issue victories of the organization.


  • In May of 2011, the second of five committed clinics that the county commission committed to opening in 2005 began accepting patients at the Winter Haven Primary Care Clinic. We will be monitoring the results closely.
  • Currently, the Lakeland clinic is treating over 5,500 unique individuals per year. A Lakeland regional official estimated the Lakeland clinic opens up the emergency room slots by over 500 a month.
  • In November of 2007, the first of five committed clinics that the county commission committed to opening in 2005 began accepting patients at the Lakeland Primary Care Clinic.
  • In 2006, The County even hired an outside consultant who agreed with PEACE’s claims that we need to use these tax dollars to open and operate primary care clinics. In April 2006, with over 1000 members, Commissioners Senft, English, Wilkinson and Johnson offered their renewed commitment to work towards these goals and at the present time, a Request For Proposal (RFP) has been put out for the operation of the clinics with the first two clinics opened by the end of 2006, one in Lakeland and one in Winter Haven.
  • In 2005, PEACE won commitments in May 2005 from Ed Smith, Director of Community Health and Social Services and Commissioners Senft, English and Wilkinson to begin opening clinics, at a rate of one per year for the next 5 years with the first clinic open by September 30, 2006.
  • In 2004, funds for indigent healthcare from the county were dwindling and it was planned for them to be cut entirely. An outside consultant gave a ½ cent sales tax referendum a 5% chance of passing, but PEACE and other allies in the community jumped on board. The sales tax was passed with 62% of the vote, allowing more than 26 million dollars a year to care for the 120,000 uninsured or underinsured in our county.


 Drug Rehabilitation:

  • In 2011, PEACE supported a new proposal for an additional 48 in-patient drug rehab beds through the Hope Now program with $360,000 in funding provided by the County Commission.  This is a big step toward the eventual goal of 100 beds.
  • In 2009 PEACE asked Commissioner English to Chair a Task Force of stakeholders with the purpose of developing a business plan that will result in the opening of the available facility with the initial 100 residential beds and 1000 outpatient slots for drug rehabilitation.
  • In 2009, Sheriff Judd offers the former Star facility opposite the Central County Jail to house a rehab facility.
  • In 2007 and 2008 PEACE asks county leadership to help find a building for a rehab center.
  • In 2006, PEACE won a commitment from Sheriff Grady Judd and also Bob Rihn, the head of Tri-County Health and Human services, to begin a comprehensive study on drug use in the county jails and in the county at large in order to determine exactly how much more substance abuse treatment is needed to address this huge concern in our community.


  • In 2011, PEACE secured a commitment from Superintendent Dr. Sherrie Nickell to implement Positive Behavior Support at a higher level in 9 additional middle schools as a means to begin addressing the out of school suspension rate in the county.
  • In 2005, PEACE secured a commitment from Superintendent Gail McKinzie to broaden and expand the county’s use of Direct Instruction. Because of PEACE, the curriculum was piloted in 9 different elementary schools with over 250 second graders.

Other victories

  • PEACE has advocated for the continuation of funding for a jail substance abuse program (JASA) when it was in danger of being cut from the budget. In 2010, 2009, and 2008.
  • In May 2003 Ms. Nancy Thompson, Polk Co. Workforce Development Board agreed to offer more orientations at the one stop centers as well as orientations in Spanish. She also agreed to recommend to her board that they create and implement a strategic plan to place 20% more people they serve in jobs that pay a living wage by next year, and set a long term goal to place 70% of all people they serve in living wage jobs.
  • In May 2001 Lakeland Chief of Police, Cliff Diamond, agreed to increase patrol at 15 longtime “hot spots” in the Northwest area of the city where PEACE members felt drugs and crime were particularly rampant.
  • Also in May 2001 Polk County Sheriff, Lawrence Crow, agreed that the county would continue to fund the JASA drug treatment program for inmates in the county jail.


Contact Us

PO Box 1928
Lakeland, FL 33803

Juan Galeano
Lead Organizer

AnnMarie Silveira
Associate Organizer

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