10News' weekend anchor Tammie Fields served as the emcee for the Annual Freedom Fund Banquet put on by the Winter Haven branch 5144 of the NAACP Saturday evening.
The keynote speaker was Orlando's former first female chief of police Val Demings. Her husband, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings introduced her to the crowd of about 200.
The Mayor of Winter Haven, Brad Dantzler, awarded Tammie with a key to the city and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd attended the event.
The theme for the event was, "Our Lives Matter, Our Votes Count".
Val Demings received a standing ovation for her speech. The grandmother spoke about being born in a two-room, wooden framed home in Jacksonville. Her mother was a maid and her father was a janitor. She explained how her parents instilled in her and her siblings the importance of hard work.
Demings took that lesson to heart getting her first job at 14 and then later earning a B.S. in Criminology from Florida State University. She would go on to work as a social worker helping foster children. She switched careers later joining the Orlando Police Department. During her 27 year career she served in virtually every department before becoming Orlando's Chief of Police. While in charge the department reduced violent crime by 40 percent.
Demings talked about the importance of voting. While seeking election to the U.S. House to represent the 10th Congressional District of Florida she told the audience she didn't come there to tell them who to vote for but encouraged them to be a part of the process by voting. Demings said, "Voting is more than a priveldge it's an obligation."
(© 2016 WTSP)