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Lauren Acton, right, and her mother, Gail Keppler, now live across the street from each other in Central Park.
East County Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2011 10 years ago

Home, Sweet Home

by: Michael Eng Executive Editor

CENTRAL PARK — Lauren Acton didn’t know buying a home in Lakewood Ranch would be cause for such fanfare.

The single mother and medical student at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine last month closed on a home in Central Park. It’s the perfect size and location for her and her daughter, 8-year-old Gullett Elementary second-grader Lilliana.

It also happened to be the 8,000th sale for developer Neal Communities.

And so, in true Pat Neal fashion, Acton’s purchase turned into a community celebration March 11 as Neal’s executives, employees and partners joined local politicians in celebrating the company’s milestone. Under a white tent across the street from Acton’s new home, Neal Communities commemorated the occasion with speeches by Neal, Manatee County commissioners Donna Hayes and John Chappie, Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton, LWR Communities President Milt Flinn and more.

Acton, who also serves in the Florida Army National Guard, had a front-row seat for it all.

“I really didn’t know it (buying the home) was going to be such a big deal,” she said. “It’s such a big party.”

Acton moved to Florida from Columbus, Ohio, two years ago to begin her studies at LECOM. And for the first 18 months, she and her daughter lived with her aunt, Kadi Love, in Sarasota. Acton’s mother, Gail Keppler, lived there as well.

When Acton first began looking for homes, she researched short sales. But the allure of a new home caught her attention, and after touring Neal’s Freshwater model, she not only decided to purchase one but also convinced her mother to buy into Central Park — right across the street.

“I love the open floor plan; it’s perfect for me and my daughter,” Acton said. “I love that I own it — that I don’t have to paint the walls back. It’s so new and clean, and all the dirt will be your dirt.

“I bought my first home (in Central Park), and my mom is buying her last home here,” she said.

Keppler said she enjoys having her daughter and granddaughter across the street.

“I go over for coffee every morning,” she said. “We’ve been pretty close for a lot of years.”

Neal Communities Vice President Marketing and Creative Director Leisa Weintraub said Acton was the perfect buyer to celebrate as the company’s 8,000th sale.

“I couldn’t have written a better story,” she said.

During the celebration, Flinn shared statistics that exemplified Neal Communities’ impact on Lakewood Ranch.

“Last year, Pat (Neal) sold half of all the homes sold in Lakewood Ranch,” he said. “And, half of all the homes Pat built were in Lakewood Ranch.”

Neal promised many more celebrations to come.

“I feel like I am still young,” he said.

For more photos, see our gallery.

Contact Michael Eng at [email protected].

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