Since being elected in November 2010, Mayor Teresa Jacobs has been a staunch advocate for citizen involvement and continues to champion public engagement through community events, broader digital enhancements through pioneering web and mobile applications and social media in Orange County.
One Orlando Alliance Recognized As 2017 Citizen of the Year at Community Conference
At the 22nd annual Community Conference held in July, Mayor Jacobs and the Board of County Commissioners recognized several Community Champions and announced the Distinguished Citizen of the Year. The One Orlando Alliance was honored with Mayor Jacobs’ 2017 Distinguished Citizen of the Year award. Since its inception in 2016, the One Orlando Alliance has served as a vital support system to strengthen the community following the Pulse nightclub tragedy. Currently, more than 40 local service organizations comprise the One Orlando Alliance, which is committed to unifying and empowering LGBTQ organizations in Central Florida.
Additionally, Orange County’s six commissioners each recognized a citizen in their district as Citizen of the Year, including Haki Nkrumah in District 1, Danyiel Yarbrough in District 2, Judy Blackman in District 3, Victor Collazo in District 4, Maria Bolton-Joubert in District 5 and Frank Brantley, Sr. in District 6.
Mayor Jacobs' Holiday Heroes Toy Drive Brings Joy to Orange County
Mayor Teresa Jacobs welcomed families to the Oak Ridge Neighborhood Center for Families (NCF) on December 18 for her annual Holiday Heroes Toy Drive shopping event. Mayor Jacobs, along with NCF staff, assisted parents in selecting the perfect gifts for their children, in keeping with Orange County's neighbors helping neighbors philosophy.
Orange County employees, volunteers and the extended community have contributed greatly to the success of Mayor Jacobs' Toy Drive, bringing joy to thousands of children and families. This year, Orange County employees and local residents generously donated 6,320 gifts. Since 2011, more than 30,100 toys have been distributed to children up to age 18 through several community organizations, including the Orange County NCF, Orange County Public Schools' Homeless Program, Wraparound Orange and United Against Poverty, formerly known as the Community Food and Outreach Center.
Orange County Families Adopted Fire Stations During the Holidays
In an effort to make the holidays special for Orange County firefighters, Mayor Jacobs began the Adopt a Fire Station program in 2012 so that neighborhood groups, businesses, and non-profits could recognize and give back to fire stations in the County during the holidays.
Through the program, groups show their appreciation by helping provide holiday meals and volunteering their time at their local station. In 2017, 67 groups of families, organizations, businesses and schools in Orange County adopted 41 fire stations. These groups hosted special activities in November and December for their assigned fire stations, including bringing holiday meals and treats, and volunteering their time.
Student Leaders Attended Leadership Summit
Nearly 250 Orange County Public Schools students from 24 local high schools attended Mayor Jacobs’ sixth annual Youth Leadership Conference (YLC) at Valencia College’s west campus in March. Mayor Jacobs created the program for student leaders when she took office in 2011 in an effort to connect students with their local government. About 1,200 local student leaders have participated in the program since its inception.
During the event, students attended a series of workshops, including a Government 101 tutorial, as well as mock code enforcement, land-use and zoning hearings. The goal of the YLC is to teach the next generation of leaders about county government, how best to participate in community initiatives and how to strengthen their leadership skills.
Students also participated in a Youth Issues Forum led by Mayor Jacobs, Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins, Orange County School Board Chairman Bill Sublette and Valencia College President Dr. Sanford “Sandy” Shugart. The top issues of concern included school testing, drugs, bullying and job-readiness skills.
Youth Took Active Role in County Engagement Programs
The Orange County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) recognized a group of young citizens in Central Florida who participated in the Jefferson Awards Foundation Lead360 Challenge in May. This program celebrates America’s youth for their efforts in making a difference and inspires young people to coordinate and participate in public service projects in their community.
In April, Orange County Government also participated in the national initiative Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day and hosted the children of more than 200 employees from a number of departments and divisions across the County. This year’s event gathered children in the BCC Chambers for a special mock hearing, which focused on the possibility of a new park. Children were also able to participate in various activities planned by each division.
The purpose of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day is to provide students with a firsthand look at local government in action and how it positively impacts society. The program is intended to go beyond the average practice of “shadowing” an adult. The main goal is to expose children to what their moms or dads do throughout the average work day, showing them the value of hard work and education.
Orange County’s Digital Outreach Highlighted by Harvard and National Association of Counties
Since being elected in November 2010, Mayor Jacobs has been a staunch advocate for citizen involvement and continues to champion broader technological advances through pioneering web and mobile applications and social media in Orange County.
As a result, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government recognized Orange County Government’s Digital Media Transformation as part of its 2017 Bright Ideas in Government initiative.
Orange County Government's digital communications, including a new online Newsroom Media Center and companion OCFL News app, improved news and information distribution to its 1.2 million citizens. This foundation helped the County share information with the community following the Pulse nightclub tragedy on June 12, 2016, and again in October 2016 when Category 3 Hurricane Matthew impacted Central Florida. The transformation improvements, which facilitated visits to the Pulse and Hurricane Matthew Newsroom update webpages, catapulted the Newsroom Media Center to receiving more than 367,000 page views and the County’s overall website receiving 58.5 million page views in 2017.
Orange County was also among the top 10 U.S. counties named winners of the 2017 Digital Counties Survey. The survey results, conducted by the Center for Digital Government in partnership with the National Association of Counties, identifies the best technology practices among U.S. counties, including initiatives that save tax dollars through efficiencies, transparency, cyber security and engagement.
In June, Orange County was recognized by the statewide Public Relations Society of America, Sunshine District, with the Radiance Award in Crisis Communication for its communication efforts during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Just one month earlier, the Florida Public Relations Association awarded Orange County an Image Award for Public Service for its Tip, Toss and Cover campaign in regards to preventing the mosquito-borne illness Zika in Orange County.
Orange County Launched and Funded Lifesaving Apps
During National Heart Month in February, Mayor Jacobs and Orange County Fire Rescue (OCFR) partnered with the University of Central Florida (UCF) to launch two lifesaving apps — PulsePoint Respond and PulsePoint AED. The apps support first-responding agencies by encouraging CPR-trained citizens to respond to sudden cardiac arrest incidents as emergency crews are dispatched.
PulsePoint Respond notifies users through their mobile device that someone nearby is in need of CPR. The application also directs them to the closest publicly accessible automated external defibrillator (AED), all while emergency crews are responding to the scene. The notification can only be sent by a participating 911 system, which has also dispatched emergency personnel. Notifications are only sent when an individual is in cardiac arrest in a public area.
PulsePoint AED enables users to upload a photo and mapped location of an AED, which is then available to all users during an emergency. An AED is a device that checks an individual’s heart rhythm when experiencing cardiac arrest and then delivers a potentially life-saving electric shock to restore the individual’s normal heart rhythm. Today’s AEDs are very easy to use, with many designed to provide clear verbal step-by-step instructions to the user.
The apps are the first line of hope for individuals experiencing cardiac arrest. Now, users who are within walking distance of the individual in cardiac arrest can be alerted and respond within seconds as emergency crews navigate to the scene. Both applications are available to download for free on mobile devices. Pulse Point Response and Pulse Point AED were funded through Orange County’s Office of the Medical Director.
Updated OCALERT System Geo-Targeted Areas in Emergencies
During Severe Weather Week in January 2017, Orange County residents were encouraged to sign up and review their information on the updated OCAlert.net system. The update allows citizens to input their geographical information and preferred method of contact for emergency notifications. The upgraded emergency notification system has an enhanced local alert system that allows emergency managers to push out lifesaving information directly to targeted neighborhoods in the event of an emergency in the user’s choice of a text message, email or both.
In 2007, Orange County launched OCAlert, a cutting-edge program at that time which gave emergency managers the ability to warn citizens of emergencies by text message, email, Blackberry and pagers. In 2016, the OCAlert system underwent major upgrades that made it a part of the statewide AlertFlorida system. Emergency managers can now send alerts to an entire county or just a neighborhood. This feature is helpful in situations where a storm or emergency is in the direct pathway of a home, work, school, day care or any other address the user inputs. To register, Orange County residents and visitors must go to OCAlert.net. There is no charge for the service, but standard text message charges may apply.
Citizens Engaged through Orange County’s Parks and Programs
Mayor Jacobs and Orange County Parks and Recreation hosted the sixth annual Jazz in the Park at Cypress Grove Park in March. The event brought together hundreds of Orange County citizens to listen to the cool sounds of jazz music and enjoy free entertainment in a family-friendly environment. More than 1,000 citizens were in attendance, including representatives from many different community organizations, volunteers and families. The event began in 2012 to recognize citizens and service organizations and the tremendous impact they have in the Central Florida community.
Orange County Parks and Recreation hosts this popular event annually and offers a wide variety of family-related events and unique program experiences for children and adults throughout the year. Some of the most popular include Mayor’s Family Fun Day, Fish4Fun, Kelly Park’s Cardboard Canoe Regatta, Movies in the Park, 5K races, bluegrass festivals, Fort Christmas Historical Park’s Cracker Christmas, community health fairs and the Lake Apopka Wildlife Festival & Birdapalooza.
Orange County’s Environmental Protection Division's environmental Volunteer & Internship Program (eVIP) also offers students a way to engage with Orange County's natural beauty. This year, eVIP volunteers enjoyed cleaning up watersheds, restoring habitats, labeling storm drains, educating other residents, sampling water bodies, internships and more.
Orange County Experience Engaged Citizens
An inside look at how Orange County Government runs drew one of the largest classes, with 40 citizens participating in the Orange County Experience program. The sixth class of the Orange County Experience began in August. It is a 12-week series of classes that provides citizens and community leaders the opportunity to learn more about Orange County Government and the range of services that Orange County provides, from technology and infrastructure to neighborhoods and health and family services.
During the Orange County Experience program, residents have the opportunity to meet Mayor Jacobs, Orange County staff and take tours of various Orange County facilities. Participants learned about the Orange County Convention Center, Fire Rescue, Parks and Recreation and other departments. Many program graduates continue to serve on County citizen advisory boards or serve as volunteers throughout Orange County.