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NOV'21

VILLAGE EDITION

Celebrating 18 years of STYLE

NATURALLY FUN

Explore the Clermont Chain of Lakes aboard a catboat.

GOING TO THE DOGS

One canine helps children improve literacy skills.

HEARTS AND HOMES The Carpenter’s House for Children.

Water Oak Country Club Estates: A Haven in Lady Lake


Superior cardiac care from leaders in health. Backed by the experts at UF Health, our cardiac team delivers the superior care you need close to home. As part of the most experienced program in the area, we perform thousands of lifesaving procedures each year, provide a full range of diagnostic services and are consistently recognized as an Accredited Chest Pain Center by the American College of Cardiology, delivering a proven level of expertise in advanced cardiac care.

Learn more at: TheVillagesHospital.org

Close. Caring. Connected.


EXPANDED ACCESS TO CARE YOU TRUST. At Orlando Health, we’re always looking for ways to improve community health across Central Florida. That’s why we’ve partnered with FHV Health to bring century-strong care to to Lake and Sumter Counties. As Orlando Health Medical Group FHV Health, we’ve combined our partner’s care with our own awarded, trusted expertise to bring nationally recognized heart, vascular and primary care services closer to home. For care you can trust, choose Orlando Health.

OrlandoHealth.com/FHV

ORLANDO HEALTH IS NOW PARTNERS WITH FHV HEALTH.



At Babette’s, we understand that whether you are shopping for one or two rooms or an entire home, it can be overwhelming. Our talented decorators specialize in making the process simple, working with you every step of the way. Scheduling a design consultation whether in our store or in your home, is the perfect way to begin planning a design vision for your home. Whether you are looking for a custom look or want to start with a pre-designed package, our design process is all about each individual customer and we really personalize it. View our design portfolio and schedule an appointment at

www.MyBabettes.com

(352) 617-6001 8345 US Highway 441, Leesburg 3691 Meggison Rd., The Villages


PAIN TODAY GONE TOMORROW At Advanced Orthopedics Institute we specialize in hips, knees, shoulders, ankles, wrists...and kayakers. We bring an extraordinary focus to your care with advanced technologies and leading-edge breakthroughs in joint repair and replacement that can help you reclaim your life. If you feel it’s time to fix what hurts, there’s no time like right now. Get moving. Call 352.751.2862.

G E T A-O K W I T H AO I


John T. Williams, Jr., MD

1400 N US Hwy 441, Suite 552 | The Villages, FL 32159 phone 352.751.2862 | fax 855.420.1047 | goaoi.com

Alfred J. Cook, Jr., MD


RS PE LO E V DE TN AT

41846 STATE ROAD 19, UMATILLA, FL 32784 This GORGEOUS property presents 39 Acres with 1500 FT LAKE FRONTAGE, already zoned for Commercial along State Road 19 with Agricultural zoning for the back portion. 900 FT frontage on State Road 19 and 1200 FT Frontage on Clark Road. This property includes: 2 Bedroom, 1 Bath Wood Frame Home built in 1915 with approximately 1,050 SQFT. The value is in the land. Well and Septic are on the property. The electric is connected to the Home. $1,395,000 | MLS# G5039991

11585 SE 162ND PL, WEIRSDALE, FL 32195 Fabulous opportunity to own your own piece of paradise on Sunset Harbor Road near Hope’s Beach and Eaton’s Beach on Lake Weir! This manufactured home with front and rear enclosed porches is nestled on TWO GORGEOUS Acres with beautiful towering oak trees. Home features; furnished “turn-key”, volume ceilings, large kitchen with eat-in dining area, plenty of cabinets, split bedroom, ceiling fans, exterior utility room with washer and dryer, 2-car carport and property is completely fenced. $175,000 | MLS# G5045922

S GE LA VIL E TH

17086 SE 75TH WICKSON CT, THE VILLAGES, FL 32162 BEAUTIFUL “TurnKey” Furnished 2 Bedroom, 2 Bath “Woodlawn” Home perfectly situated in the Greenwood Villas in Marion County. This Block and stucco Courtyard Villa home is conveniently and centrally located in The Village of Calumet Grove. This home is move-in ready! Featuring: Open Kitchen with recess lighting, roll-out shelves, Volume Ceilings, ceiling fans, Open and Spacious Floor Plan, walk-in closets, Ceramic tile and Enclosed Lanai. Seller said roof was replaced in 2013 and AC 2018. $289,777 | MLS# G5045217

T EN Y STMUNIT E INVPORT OP

CR 466, LADY LAKE, FL 32159 Location! Location! Location! Includes three continuous parcels in the City of Lady Lake; Alt key #1120837 and #1132347 are zoned RP “Residential Professional” and Alt key #1132371 is zoned MX5 with potential rezoning to RP “Residential Professional”. All three parcels total 50,751 SF (.82 Acres) with 280 front feet on CR 466 making it $5.31 per square foot and $963.93 per front foot. Located near the Wawa at the corner of US 441/27 and CR 466. Public Water is provided by the Town of Lady Lake. Fabulous opportunity to start your professional, financial, medical, and/or childcare business here. $269,900 | MLS# G5046423

5082 SE 147TH PL, SUMMERFIELD, FL 34491 Lovely 3 Bedroom, 2 Bath, 2005 manufactured home is perfectly nestled on .44 acres in Summerfield. The exterior includes: Single Carport and single detached garage, front porch, and glass storm door. The interior includes: Split Bedroom plan, Carpet in the Living Room and bedrooms, All white kitchen with eat-in dining with white appliances. ALL the bedrooms have walk-in closets. Colonial windows throughout the home for natural lighting. $149,500 | MLS# G5044831

T LO ING D L I BU

OAK WOODS WAY, LADY LAKE, FL 32159 Let’s build your dream home TODAY! Absolutely BEAUTIFULLY wooded 1.58 Acres on Griffin Avenue in Lady Lake. This sought-after location in Lady Lake is conveniently located near The Villages, Lake Weir, shopping, entertainment, restaurants, Grand Oaks Resort, and much, much more! Seller is a licensed Real Estate Broker and will provide survey and soil testing reports. $94,500 | MLS# G5046202


8022 W. GROVE STREET HOMOSASSA, FL 34446

ONE OF A KIND! This SPECTACULAR 8 Bedroom & 7 Bath, 2-story Estate Home in Homosassa offers convenient local shopping, dining, medical, sport fishing, and so much more! This meticulously maintained home boasts TONS of upgrades, beautiful architectural finishes, and lush resortlike landscaping. Relax or entertain in the heated, indoor pool with stone façade, waterfalls, and wet bar. The first floor includes (5) Luxurious Guest Suites, a fully equipped Kitchen w stainless steel appliances, spacious eat-in Breakfast area, and a large Laundry & Utility Room. Two private staircases lead to the private Owner’s Quarters featuring a spacious & posh Master Suite, plus an additional 2Bed/1Bath, Enormous walk-in closets, Washer/Dryer, Stately office with Balcony overlooking the grounds, formal Living & Dining, and a gourmet chef’s kitchen with storage galore. Currently, this property is operated as a Bed and Breakfast with spa services, and as a private party venue. Call TODAY to schedule a private showing! $839,495 | MLS# G5047924

Sharon Bassett, Owner/Broker

352.307.2925 / BassettPremierRealty.com Spruce Creek Professional Plaza / 10935 SE 177th Place, Suite 201, Summerfield


IMAGELIFT COSMETIC PLASTIC SURGERY Facial and cosmetic plastic surgery in Tampa and The Villages®

The ImageLift Guarantee: • We utilize the latest technology. • You will see our proven track record for natural results. • FREE CONSULTATIONS - Simply answer a few questions and we’ll immediately start guiding you through your very own ImageLift Experience™! FACELIFTS (SURGICAL AND NON SURGICAL)

FACIAL POLISHING (CO2, IPL, SKINPEN MICRONEEDLING)

FACIAL SCULPTING (FILLER, WRINKLE RELAXERS)

DR. RICH CASTELLANO

is a Double Board Certified Facial Plastic Surgeon as seen on:

Schedule your appointment today!

352.227.1501


YOU ARE INVITED! UPCOMING SEMINARS

FOLLOWING CDC GUIDELINES ON SOCIAL DISTANCING EXCLUSIVE SEMINAR PRICING

Katie had ImageLift, Laser, and filler treatments. Results are typical and do vary.

BROWNWOOD HOTEL

Wednesday, November 3rd @ 2pm 3003 Brownwood Blvd.

WATERFRONT INN

Wednesday, November 17th @ 2pm 1105 Lake Shore Drive

CALL NOW TO RESERVE YOUR SEAT! •

Liz had ImageLift, Laser, and filler treatments. Results are typical and do vary.

Masks are required for guests and staff Must have reservation to attend

Kathy had a Laser ImageLift. Results are typical and do vary.

8630 East CR 466, The Villages www.IMAGELIFT.com

*Patient and any other person responsible for payment has a right to refuse to pay, cancel payment, or be reimbursed for payment for any other service, examination, or treatment that is performed as a result of and within 72 hrs of responding to ad for the free, discounted fee, or reduced fee service, examination, or treatment.


NOV'21 V.18

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CONTENTS 1 of 2

FEATURES

036

Extraordinary People Everyone has a story, but some tales are better than others. Some of our neighbors are uniquely talented and outstandingly gifted. We think they’re extraordinary. See for yourself. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN, THERESA CAMPBELL, JAMES COMBS

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Helping the hurting Hope abounds at Central Florida Hope Center, which offers a food pantry, care counseling, job employment, and homeless prevention for those in need. STORY: JAMES COMBS

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Big hearts for small kids At the Carpenter’s House for Children, Pat and Linda Manfredi have opened their hearts and home to children from all over the world who require medical care. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN

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Medicare Annual Enrollment Period Began October 15 If you are Medicare eligible, you have an important choice to make.

Hurry... you only have until December 7 to decide! The Villages Health patients, like Terry Rudrum who made the change to a Medicare Advantage plan accepted by The Villages Health, tell us they made the right choice. Now, patients like Terry enjoy a healthcare system specifically designed for their lifestyle, which offers high-quality telehealth and in-person health care services, including: • Coordinated Primary and Specialty Care Services • Call a Nurse Helpline • After Hours On-Call Provider • Saturday EZ-Care Clinic Appointments

“Medicare Advantage has been more helpful because of prescriptions and specialists and the overall easy way everything can be taken care of. My main reason for changing to The Villages Health is the overall care you receive, the facilities that are available, and the overall friendliness of the staff.” - Terry Rudrum, Patient of The Villages Health

352.320.5877 | TheVillagesHealth.com/visit

• On-Site Labs and X-Rays • On-Site Audiology and Behavioral Health Services • Wound Care Program • 13 In-house Specialty Services • Hospitalist Program • Wellness Programs • Team-Based Healthcare • And More!


NOV’21 ≈ N.01

V.18

CONTENTS 2 of 2

DEPARTMENTS

first

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THE HIT LIST 020 PERSON OF INTEREST 024 OUTSTANDING STUDENT 026

agenda

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020

079

TO-DO LIST 080 LOCAL TALENT 083 ATTRACTIONS 084 HI, SOCIETY 086

healthy living

093

080 094

026 084

096 100

102

INSPIRATION 094 HEALTHY SPIRIT 096

menu

104 110

103

IN THE KITCHEN 104 SPIRITS 110 DINING GUIDE 112

NOV '21

L AKE & SUMTER

NOV'21

VILLAGE EDITION

columns FROM THE PUBLISHER 016 FINAL THOUGHT 124

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18

Extra ordinary THE

E ON TH R C OV E

124

Celebrating 18 years of STYLE

Celebrating 18 years of STYLE

ISSUE

Ordinary people who became extraordinary AL SO

NATURALLY FUN Explore the Clermont Chain of Lakes aboard a catboat.

GOING TO THE DOGS

LIVING WITH EPILEPSY

One canine helps children improve literacy skills.

HEARTS AND HOMES The Carpenter’s House for Children.

A full life can be enjoyed with this rare condition.

Boston Marathon Bombing survivor Rebekah Gregory turns pain into purpose.

.

FROM FLAB TO FIT Power Casrock shapes bodies, transforms lives.

INTO THE WILD Chris Weatherman shares his experience on the reality show Alone.

Water Oak Country Club Estates: A Haven in Lady Lake

Lake and Sumter Style

Village Edition

Photo: Nicole Hamel Model: Rebekah Gregory

Photo: Nicole Hamel WaterOak Country Club Estates


FENCES

WOOD • VINYL ALUMINUM • RANCH RAIL CHAIN LINK • PERGOLA'S ESTATE GATES

MOSSYOAKFENCE.COM 407.900.2940


FROM THE PUBLISHER

The blessing of adoption My son, Conner, has brought a tremendous amount of joy into my life. ith November being National Adoption Month, I’ve taken some moments to reflect on how incredibly lucky I am. In my 20s and 30s, I was able to raise three biological children—Michael, Matthew, and Shaena. To me, bringing them into this world and seeing them blossom into wonderful adults was a gift. In fact, it is the greatest gift I have ever received. Admittedly, I thought I was done raising children as I entered my 40s. However, God had different plans. Six years ago, my husband, Doug, and I brought a new boy into our home. We made the decision to adopt a little angel named Conner. He is also a gift. I cannot believe the amount of unexpected joy I have experienced with Conner in my life. That joy started when he was a baby. I had the opportunity to watch him learn to eat, sit up, crawl, walk, and talk. As time went on, I began to see his personality develop. Conner is now 6. The best way to describe him is that he’s all boy. He loves fishing, catching bugs, helping with yard work, and playing soccer. He also loves attention and knows how to make himself stand out. Adoption has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Sure, there have been hardships.

For instance, tending to a crying baby in the middle of the night wasn’t as easy in my 40s as it was in my 20s. However, I wouldn’t change a thing. Doug and I love this sweet boy unconditionally and go out of our way to make him happy and whole. Adopting a child represented an extraordinary event in my life. And speaking of extraordinary, this month we bring you our popular Extraordinary Issue. Yes, this year’s crop of Extraordinary People is every bit as innovative, intelligent, and caring as ones we’ve featured in the past. I’m always amazed by the level of thoughtfulness, concern, and talent we have here in Lake and Sumter counties. In this issue, you’ll also read heartwarming tales about organizations and programs that do such good for the community, including Carpenter’s House for Children, the Central Florida Hope Center, and Read to Sydney. Lastly, I hope everyone has a wonderful feast this Thanksgiving with family and friends. May God bless each one of you during this holiday season! Sincerely,

Kendra

Have a story to tell? We’re always looking for stories about people who live and work in our area. Send suggestions to editorial@akersmediagroup.com

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Kendra Akers Doug Akers

OWNER/PUBLISHER kendra@akersmediagroup.com

AT YOUR SERVICE

PRESIDENT doug@akersmediagroup.com

DESIGN / PHOTOGRAPHY / EDITORIAL Michael Gaulin James Combs

SENIOR DESIGNER michael@akersmediagroup.com

STAFF WRITER james@akersmediagroup.com

Volkan Ulgen Theresa Campbell

ART DIRECTOR volkan@akersmediagroup.com

STAFF WRITER theresa@akersmediagroup.com

Megan Mericle Roxanne Brown

GRAPHIC DESIGNER megan@akersmediagroup.com

Douglas Tyler

DIGITAL ART DIRECTOR douglas@akersmediagroup.com

CON TRIBUTIN G WRITER S

Nicole Hamel

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER nicole@akersmediagroup.com

SALES

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Cindy Peterson

Tim McRae

VICE PRESIDENT, SALES tim@akersmediagroup.com

Melanie Melvin Shaena Long

ADVERTISING COORDINATOR shaena@akersmediagroup.com

ADMI N IS TRATION Aubrey Akers Simmons

ACCOUNT & CLIENT SERVICES aubrey@akersmediagroup.com

DI S TRIBUTION Scott Hegg

Celebrating 18 years of STYLE

Celebrating 18 years of STYLE

ISSUE

Ordinary people who became extraordinary AL SO

NATURALLY FUN Explore the Clermont Chain of Lakes aboard a catboat.

GOING TO THE DOGS

LIVING WITH EPILEPSY

One canine helps children improve literacy skills.

The Carpenter’s House for Children.

M A RK ETIN G

DIRECTOR OF MARKETING melanie@akersmediagroup.com

Extra ordinary HEARTS AND HOMES

CON TRIBUTIN G P H OT OGRA P H ER

NOV'21

VILLAGE EDITION

18 THE

Anthony Rao Kathy Porter

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/ VIDEOGRAPHER anthony@akersmediagroup.com

NOV '21

L AKE & SUMTER

STAFF WRITER roxanne@akersmediagroup.com

A full life can be enjoyed with this rare condition.

Boston Marathon Bombing survivor Rebekah Gregory turns pain into purpose.

.

FROM FLAB TO FIT Power Casrock shapes bodies, transforms lives.

INTO THE WILD Chris Weatherman shares his experience on the reality show Alone.

Water Oak Country Club Estates:

A Haven in Lady Lake

Hot off the press! The latest editions of Lake & Sumter Style, Village Edition Style, and Welcome to Lake County.

Get yours Subscriptions: Order a subscription of your favorite magazine to be delivered directly

to your home for just $84. Each subscription includes 12 consecutive issues of Lake & Sumter Style and Village Edition Style. Choose 2 or more magazines for $108 per year. To order, call 352.787.4112 or mail us at: Subscriptions at Akers Media, P.O. Box 490088, Leesburg, FL 34749. Change of Address: If you are a seasonal resident or have moved, send your address change request to general@akersmediagroup.com or mail us at: Subscriptions at Akers Media, P.O. Box 490088, Leesburg, FL 34749. Back Issues: Order a single issue by mail for $8. To pick up a back issue from our office, please call 24 hours in advance.

DISTRIBUTION MANAGER scott.hegg@akersmediagroup.com

Digitize your life Visit the Apple or Android app store today and download the Lake & Sumter Style online magazine app for your mobile device. Akers Media is a proud member of

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Winner of 200+ Awards for Excellence

Lake & Sumter Style. Published monthly by Akers Media, 108 South Fifth Street, Leesburg, FL 34748. All editorial contents copyright 2021 by Akers Media. All rights reserved. Lake & Sumter Style is a registered trademark of Akers Media. Nothing may be reprinted in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. For back issues or billing information, call 352.787.4112. Return postage must accompany all unsolicited manuscripts and artwork if they are to be returned. Manuscripts are welcomed, but no responsibility can be assumed for unsolicited materials. “Paid Promotional Feature” denotes a paid advertising feature. Publisher is not responsible for claims or contents of advertisements. The ideas and opinions contained in this publication do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of Akers Media.

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CUSTOM CHANGES BENEFIT YOU

AMERICAN FAMILY HOMES

Let’s get started. Call me today.

Mike Neace: 352.589.6004 Award Winning Home Designer, Builder, Licensed Contractor CHANGE IS GOOD

At American Family Homes we believe you deserve your new home, your way. This includes custom changes that make your home personal and special to you. That’s always been part of the American Family Homes experience. Bring us your ideas. Let’s collaborate on style, color and design features to create an energy efficient custom home, within budget, just the way you want it.

KNOW YOUR BUILDER

“Designing and building a custom home is a long process. A thousand decisions need to be made, one just as important as the next. The first decision you need to make is to hire the right builder with the right experience. Don’t underestimate the importance of the relationship with your builder. American Family Homes is Committed to Quality and 100% Satisfaction. We invite your inquiry today.” - Mike Neace

CUSTOM HOMES “ON YOUR LOT” FROM THE $200S OFFICE/DESIGN STUDIO 312 South Bay St. Eustis

“Committed to Quality & Satisfaction”

AmericanFamilyHomesInc.com State License Number - CBC058306


first PEOPLE. COMMENTARY. NEWS.

With each order, Pete Hiles and Roger Mellen, co-owners of Marco’s Pizza in Wildwood, strive to make the perfect pizza.

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THE HIT LIST

HEAD TO THE FARM Hats off to Long & Scott Farms, 26216 County Road 448A, Mount Dora, for coming up with a variety of autumn activities for all ages to enjoy. The farm’s annual amazing corn maze is in full force this month, decorated with a dinosaur theme. “Bring the kids and let them teach you all about dinosaurs with names you can’t pronounce,” says JR Hendry, the farm’s agritourism director, adding the maze will run weekends through Dec. 12. The farm has several family friendly events for November, including Veteran’s Day weekend activities of a flag-raising ceremony, live dance performance by Showtime USA, Veteran’s Day car show, a night maze adventure with fireworks at sunset, and live music performed by Cold Creek on Nov. 13, followed by a Nov. 14 concert with Hayden Woollen entertaining. Long and Scott Farms will host a craft fair Nov. 20-21 with live music, and even offer cooking classes on Nov. 10 geared for diabetics; Nov. 17 on okra grilling, baking, sautéing; and Nov. 23 on cooking fresh, light conch peas. For more details or tickets to any of the events, visit the farm’s website longandscottfarms.com.

QUICK ON THEIR FEET The City of Clermont, known as the Choice of Champions for being the home and training ground for many elite athletes, is celebrating local Olympians. Clermont had around 20 athletes with a connection to the city appear in the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics that ran from Jul 23 – Aug. 8, 2021. In total, Clermont Champions won 10 medals. The athletes, who all competed in various Track and Field categories, are as follows: Kaylin Whitney, an East Ridge High School graduate who lives and trains in Clermont, and representing the U.S., brought home a gold medal in the 4X400m (preliminary) and a bronze in the 4X400 Mixed. Noah Lyles, another Clermont resident who also trains locally, representing the U.S., brought home a bronze medal in the 200m and competed in the 4X100m. Lynna Irby, representing the U.S., and who trains in Clermont, earned a gold medal in the 4X400m (preliminary) and a bronze medal in the 4X400m Mixed. Javianne Oliver, representing the U.S. and who trains in Clermont, earned a silver medal in the 4X100m and competed in the 100m. Kenny Bednarkek, representing the U.S., and who trains in Clermont, earned a silver medal in the 200M and competed in the 4X100M. Steven Gardiner, representing the Bahamas, but who now lives and trains in Clermont, brought home a gold medal in the 400m, and competed in the 200m and 4X400m categories.

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Shaunee Miller-Uibo, representing the Bahamas, and who trains in Clermont, earned a gold medal in the 400m, and competed in the 200m and 4X400m categories. Jazmine Sawyers, representing Great Britain, and who trains in Clermont, competed in the long jump. Netheneel Mitchell-Blake, representing Great Britain, and who trains in Clermont, earned a silver medal in the 4X100m and competed in the 200m. Kelly-ann Baptiste, representing Trinidad & Tobago, and who trains in Clermont, competed in the 100m/4X100m category. Khalifa St. Fort, representing Trinidad & Tobago, and who trains in Clermont, competed in the 4X100m. Kyle Greaux, representing Trinidad & Tobago, and who trains in Clermont, competed in the 200m/4X100m. Jereem Richards, representing Trinidad & Tobago, and who trains in Clermont, competed in the 200m/4X400m.

Machel Cedenio, representing Trinidad & Tobago, and who trains in Clermont, competed in the 200m/4X400m. Gina Luckenkemper, representing Germany, and who trains in Clermont, competed in the 4X100m. Alonso Edward, representing Panama, and who trains in Clermont, competed in the 200m. Jak Ali Harvey, representing Turkey, and who trains in Clermont, competed in the 100m/4X100m. Wade van Niekerk, representing South Africa, and who trains in Clermont, competed in the 400m. Maicel Uibo, representing Estonia, and who trains in Clermont, competed in the Dacathlon. Churandy Martina, representing the Netherlands and who trains in Clermont, competed in the 4X100m relay.

Learn more at clermontfl.gov/olympics.


CLERMONT NEARING COMPLETION ON DOWNTOWN STREET MAKEOVERS The award-winning Downtown-Waterfront Master Plan is nearing completion as the year finishes out. The Streetscapes Phase 2 project is well underway with Minneola Avenue and West Avenue currently being brick paved and bringing overhead power lines underground. These improvements continue to inspire new businesses to open in Downtown Clermont. Learn more at clermontfl.gov/masterplan.

KELSEY TO TAKE THE REINS Drawing on nearly 15 years as nonprofit executive and educator, Kelsey Gonzalez emerged as the choice from 200 applicants in a national search to take the reins as executive director of Lake Cares Food Pantry after the current director, Irene O’Malley, retires on Dec. 31. Lake Cares is Lake County, Florida’s primary antidote for food insecurity supporting some 325 families weekly — a clientele comprised largely of disabled individuals or seniors and working-age families — by distributing more than 100,000 pounds of food monthly. ‘We are delighted that the national search for our executive director position has identified Kelsey Gonzalez, a local resident, as the new executive director of Lake Cares Food Pantry,” Cathy Hoechst, chairwoman of the Lake Care Board of Directors, says in a news release, adding: “Kelsey has a proven record of leadership and will provide undisputed value to our clients, donors, staff, and volunteers.” Kelsey is thrilled to be part of Lake Cares family. “Lake Cares has such a great reputation in our community as being a safe and welcoming place for those in need. I was excited to have the opportunity to become a part of this,” she adds in the release. “I felt like I could take my expertise of

working at the Boys & Girls Club for the last 15 years and put it into place at Lake Cares. Lake Cares helps families, individuals, children, seniors, and the disabled have a trusted place to come for food and for help with getting back on their feet. This organization is an opportunity to give a loving hand up to those who may be down … My hope is to continue to build community partnerships with area chambers, Kelsey Gonzalez organizations, businesses, and residents to provide for our clients. Lake Cares not only feeds people, but it also provides tools and resources for our clients to better their lives — like giving direction on applying for food stamps or navigating the system to become insured. I look forward to working with our team of volunteers which is such a vital part of Lake Cares. I am also excited to work closely with our board members to carry out our mission: ‘Feed the Body, Educate the Mind & Lift the Spirit of All Individuals’.”

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THE HIT LIST

WHAT’S YOUR THANKSGIVING STYLE? Ahhh … Thanksgiving. We wake up and watch the famous Macy’s Day Parade. In the afternoon we indulge in a heaping helping of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. Then we end up as stuffed as the turkey and accidentally doze off sometime during the NFL game. Some prefer spending a quiet, low-key day with the immediate family. Others see Thanksgiving as a holiday where nothing less than a large gathering of family and a hearty feast will suffice. Take this month’s quiz to discover your Thanksgiving style. SEVERAL WEEKS BEFORE THANKSGIVING, YOU: A. Realize this is a high-pressure meal and begin shopping. You also prepare an extensive guest list. B. Consider researching restaurants where you and your family can enjoy a nice, quaint dinner. C. Stare at your child’s Halloween costume and ask, “We have another holiday coming up this quick?”

YOUR GUEST LIST CONSISTS OF: A. Anybody and everybody. The more the merrier. B. Only the immediate family and perhaps a few friends. In-laws and cousins can be conveniently excluded. C. What is a guest list? Family time is crazy time.

THANKSGIVING IS ABOUT: A. Having an opportunity to partake in a festive gathering of family and friends while giving thanks. B. Having the opportunity to enjoy tasty food and a few good laughs. C. Having the day off work.

YOUR THANKSGIVING ATTIRE IS: A. Formal — Men wear a jacket and tie; women wear a skirt or pretty dress. B. Casual — Jeans and a polo shirt C. Unceremonious — Shorts and tank top or anything that can handle potential gravy stains.

ONCE THE MEAL IS OVER, YOU: A. Begin planning for Christmas to make it an equally cheerful and exciting holiday. B. Thank your guests for coming and walk to the living room to see what’s playing on television. C. Belch and burp then take a much-needed nap.

IF YOU ANSWERED MOSTLY A, you go all out for Thanksgiving as well as other holidays. You see Thanksgiving as a high-stakes event and thrive under pressure. Never lacking in imagination, you blend old traditions with new traditions while attempting to prepare each dish to perfection. Holidays such as Thanksgiving simply warm your heart with joy, and you realize it’s definitely the season to be jolly. IF YOU ANSWERED MOSTLY B, you enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving but can do without all the hoopla. A somewhat quiet evening with the immediate family will suffice— whether that means gathering around the dining room table or eating out at a local restaurant. You don’t have to dress up or celebrate with 75 people to make this a grand holiday. And without an abundance of people, there will be plenty of leftovers awaiting you tomorrow. IF YOU ANSWERED MOSTLY C, you view Thanksgiving as another humdrum meal. To you, there’s a way to give thanks without planning a large feast and enduring the inevitable expenses and stress that accompany such planning. Somehow, the thought of breaking bread with loud-mouthed, opinionated relatives who cram into your small kitchen isn’t very enticing. Your outlook may prompt some to say, “Stuff it, you turkey.”


MUSIC AT THE MANSION

Thomas Meglioranza and Reiko Uchida

Thomas Meglioranza, accompanied by pianist Reiko Uchida, will sing a collection of American folk tunes from the early 20th century during a 7 p.m. Nov. 10 concert at Howey Mansion in Howey-in-the-Hills, and Thomas has been described as “one of America’s finest young baritones.” The program will feature an assortment of popular show tunes and parlor songs, including many by Carrie Jacobs Bond (1862-1946), one of the most commercially successful songwriters of her time (her best known hits include

“I Love You Truly,” and “A Perfect Day), a short song cycle by modernist composer Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901-1953), and a selection of songs by Charles Ives (1874-1954) “whose kaleidoscopically beautiful music combines elements of popular song with an avant-garde aesthetic,” says Thomas, adding he plans to talk about the pieces from the stage “to help make everything as engaging as possible.” Tickets are $40 per person online at howeymusicseries.org. A cash bar will be available.

WHERE SHOPPING IS A PRETTY FANCY PLEASURE

DID YOU KNOW? The Webster Westside Flea Market opened more than 50 years ago and is Florida’s oldest flea market. The market, which is open every Monday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. (rain or shine), features antique items, rare collectibles, fresh produce, baked goods, and flowers on a 40-acre property.

Minneola welcomed a brand new Publix to town on Sept. 9 and it is a sight to see. That’s because the massive 48,387 square-foot store is one of the new two-story prototypes the company has started debuting, featuring a whole new look for merchandising, signage and overall feel. There is plenty to explore, including a prepared food section that offers a huge array of goodies to make cooking and entertaining much easier, an impressive deli and hot foods area visible when you first walk in, and a second floor mezzanine area overlooking the entire store, that people can visit for relaxing or dining in, complete with tables, hightops and couch seating, plus an outside patio and perfect sunset view. The new Publix store is located in the Hills Crossing shopping plaza at 1685 N. Hancock Road, Minneola. The hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with varying hours for the pharmacy and neighboring liquor store. For more information, call 352.241.9002.

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PERSON OF INTEREST

Roger Mellen and Pete Hiles

PEO PLE

That’s amore Business partners had no qualms opening Marco’s Pizza in Wildwood during the pandemic and they intend to open seven to 10 more stores. STORY: THERESA CAMPBELL

any businesses, especially restaurants, have experienced challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, however two innovative, driven, and optimistic business partners and friends, Pete Hiles and Roger Mellen, viewed it as the ideal time to open Marco’s Pizza in the greater Villages area. They’re enjoying bringing authentic Italian flavors to Marco’s Pizza at 5806 7 Mile Drive, Wildwood, and pleased to be contributing to the greater Villages economy. The business partners plan to open seven to 10 more stores and they envision going to the bank, backing others interested in the franchise venture, like in the TV show “Shark Tank.” Pizza is reportedly a growing $47 billion industry with 91 percent of Americans eating pizza once a month.

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≈ PHOTO: NICOLE HAMEL “The pandemic is what made us what to open Marco’s Pizza because this is the type of business that doubles because most people want delivery or carryout,” says Roger, 64, of Astatula, recalling it was July 2019 when he first met Pete, 60, of Windemere. Roger was building a Marco’s Pizza in Poinciana when he went to Pete’s opening of one his two Orlando locations of Marco’s for some business insight, and the two men found they share a common appreciation for the taste and authentic ingredients of Marco’s Pizza, including the fresh (never frozen) proprietary five-blend cheese. They also loved that the dough is made daily onsite, and that the secret original pizza sauce recipe is from Marco’s founder Pat Giammarco, a native Italian. “We clicked; it was immediate,” Roger recalls of meeting Pete. “And our friendship has grown to where it makes sense,” adds Pete of being business partners. The pair also enjoys interacting with their staff, customers, and they view Marco’s Pizza as a great “people business.”


PIZZA CH AT WITH ROGER AND PETE

Ultimate compliment from a customer: “I have to say, your pizza is better than mine,” Pete recalls hearing from an Italian restaurant owner who has been in The Villages 30 years.

Best time to enjoy pizza: “I love pizza anytime. So, we own all these pizza places. Do we get sick of pizza? Never,” says Roger. Best advice been given: “You have to take some chances,” says Pete. “The best advice I was given was from Pete of ‘let’s invest in this one together,’” adds Roger. Favorite quote: “Get it right the first time,” says Peter. “Customers first,” adds Roger.

Roger had a background as a chef and he worked in food sales before opening his first Marco’s Pizza; Pete had been in the pizza business for over 30 years with another chain, before he made the switch. “Oh, my god, I’ve been making the wrong pizza,” Pete recalls of his initial reaction when he tasted a Marco’s Pizza for the first time. Roger also was so impressed after his first bite of the pie that he ended up ordering three pizzas in one week. His favorite is a thin crust, all-meat toppings pizza, “and that is what made me invest in Marco’s; the thin crust has very low carbs and that is why I eat it.” As the business partners continue to expand, they seek 30-plus people for each store and are actively hiring for all positions, including pizza makers, drivers, shift leads leading to assistant and general manager positions for all locations. “And we love taking care veterans,” says Pete, adding the Wildwood pizzeria is offering a “V4V” (Villages for Veterans) special with donations going to the veteran’s charity of choice.

Know a person of interest? Tell us!

Marco’s trivia In addition to pizza: Marco’s has salads with croutons made daily; subs on Italian white bread, hearth baked for authentic European flavor, and creations like the Meatball Bake, Chicken Dippers and CheezyBread. Marco’s also is the first national pizza delivery brand to offer Specialty Pizza Bowls – a crustless pie made to meet consumers ever-changing dietary preferences.

Company history: Marco’s Pizza founder, Pasquale “Pat” Giammarco, grew

up making pizzas with his father after they immigrated to the United States from Sulmona, Italy. Fast forward several years later, he created Marco’s Pizza to capture the flavors he was raised on. The company was founded in 1978, is headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, and is now one of the fastest-growing pizza companies in the U.S.

Milestone: The founder was recently in Florida to celebrate the 1,000th opening of a Marco’s Pizza in Kissimmee.

Email your recommendation to theresa@akersmediagroup.com

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OUTSTANDING STUDENT

PEO PLE

Haley Johnson A sweet, hard-working teen always aspires to do her best. INTERVIEWER: JAMES COMBS

≈ PHOTO: NICOLE HAMEL

L V I TA AT S ST

• Senior at Umatilla High School. • Maintains a 4.9 weighted grade-point average. • Also serves as a member of Key Club and has played soccer four years at Umatilla High.

Aspiring goals: I hope to attend the University of Florida and study architecture. To me, architecture is the perfect balance between creative and logical thinking. Previously, I considered becoming a lawyer, but I know some lawyers and they spend so much time in a courtroom away from home. Balancing academics and extracurricular activities: I do have a lot going on, so my planner is certainly a lifesaver. Also, God gifted me with patience and peace so I can do all these things to glorify Him.

Role models: Both of my parents remarried, so now I’m blessed with four wonderful parents. They’ve all helped establish my foundation in Christ and are always so kind and gentle with me. The Lord gifted me with an amazing family.

Pet peeve: I don’t like it when people say they can’t do something. There’s no reason to put yourself in that mindset and set yourself up for failure. When people do say that, I try to encourage them in different ways. Sometimes, I’ll

• Has been a member of Bay Street Baptist Church since age 2. • Serves as president of the following organizations: Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Student Government Association, National Honor Society, and Student Body.

tell them about Abraham Lincoln, who lived in a shack and walked to school before becoming president. With other people, I try to give them validation and reassurance.

Three words that describe you: Assertive, determined, and encouraging. Hobbies: I had a baking business to raise money for my first vehicle. I love making cheesecake and confetti cake. Some people tell me they hate cheesecake, and then I give them a bite of mine and their opinion changes. I love seeing their expression when they think it tastes so good!

An important quality you possess: Kindness. I try to put myself in the shoes of other people and think about their situations before I say something that might upset them.

Know an outstanding student? Fill us in!

Email your recommendations to james@akersmediagroup.com

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Your football headquarters! Cousin Vinnie’s rocks as a cool family-friendly sports restaurant to savor tasty foods and watch football! PAID PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

ousin Vinnie’s Family Sports Restaurant, once a small corner hangout, has grown into the spacious family restaurant, vibrantly decorated sports bar, and popular football viewing establishment many people enjoy today. “The city was kind enough to approve our expansion, so in 2012, we went from having just nine tables to being able to seat 96 people,” says Cynde Vittoria, who with her husband Vinnie Vittoria, own the restaurant they opened on July 26, 2008. In those 13 years and through major cosmetic changes however, some things at the heart of Cousin Vinnie’s have remained the same. That includes the restaurant’s family vibe, and the authenticity of the Buffalo style chicken wings— reminiscent of those Vinnie

remembers eating growing up in North Tonawanda, New York – it has become known for in Leesburg and beyond. “We like everyone to feel like they are part of a family here. We care and value all of our employees and we have seen the families of some of our longtime customers grow up. It’s amazing to see that happen before our eyes,” says Cynde, adding that Tara, their oldest daughter is the general manager at Cousin Vinnie’s, while their youngest daughter Kendra, a nursing student, works there occasionally when home. And like at many families’ homes, a favorite activity at Cousin Vinnie’s is football. “Football and wings go together and on Saturdays and Sundays, customers can call ahead and reserve a table for their favorite area or television,” Cynde says.

And no matter what heat, sauce, or dry-rub customers choose to have their wings coated with, they can rest easy knowing the flavors and taste will be on point, considering the wings at Cousin Vinnie’s have been voted “Best of the Best” in Lake and Sumter Style magazine by members of the community for 13 years straight. “We take a lot of pride in our food and in the cleanliness of our restaurant and we are so appreciative of our customers’ support and acknowledgement,” Cynde says. “We just love living in this community. We love the people, serving and doing for the community, and making the community feel as though we care, because we really do care a lot.” Besides award-winning wings, Cousin Vinnie’s

serves homemade salads, including chicken salad, potato salad and coleslaw featuring crushed pineapple, hamburgers with patties made from a chuck and brisket blend, jumbo fried or grilled shrimp, hand-battered fish and a variety of subs, sandwiches, pizza pies, beer, wine, and desserts.

352.253.2442 / cvinnies.com 10700 U.S. Highway 441, Suite 101 Leesburg


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Water Oak: A Lady Lake paradise residents are proud to call their own. PAID PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

f you’re 55-plus and looking for a beautiful, serene, but activity-filled, convenient, and friendly place to live, look no farther than Water Oak Country Club Estates – a beautiful, gated community in Lady Lake that boosts reasonably priced and quality luxury residences to call home. Not only that, this petfriendly neighborhood is close enough to satisfy all the conveniences of The Villages area but distant enough for peace and quiet to overshadow all the hustle and bustle. Water Oak Sales Manager, Mel Ferioli, says, “The homes at Water Oak are conveniently located, but also very affordable in comparison to other retirement communities in the surrounding area and it’s a great place for people to start that next wonderful chapter of their lives.” Water Oak Country Club is a perfect fit for anyone who wants to take advantage of all the shopping, dining, and entertainment options that The Villages area offers, but would like to live where it’s slower-paced, relaxing, and to just enjoy life at their own speed. Water Oak residents enjoy an active lifestyle with an abundance of several special interest clubs and activities to participate in. “Our residents can be as busy as they want, or be as reserved as they want, it’s really up to them. Our community’s atmosphere allows them to enjoy both,” says Mel. Water Oak is a 55-plus manufactured home community and has been in the

Lady Lake area since the early 1980s. Acquired in 2005, it is one of Sun Homes Communities, Inc. flagship properties across the U.S. and has flourished ever since. They’ve invested in expansion with additional lots and updated the resort-like amenities. Residents are captivated by the picturesque community with over 300 acres of rolling hills, trees, and lakes combined with an 18-hole championship golf course, walking paths, a three-story clubhouse, and more. Water Oak’s central Florida location is also very favorable to its residents with an abundance of tantalizing Florida attractions nearby. Several irresistible destinations are just a short drive away whether they want to experience Florida’s beaches, or visit one of the several world-famous attractions like Disney World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens or SeaWorld. The ease of access to the interstates and highways allows for short day trips to either coast to enjoy and take it all in.

THE VIBE Another top benefit of living at Water Oak is: “the amazing, amazing people,” says Mel. With that, Mel describes the signature “Water Oak Wave” everyone uses as a mutual greeting between each other and calls it heart-warming. “Everybody acts like a family here. They back each other up, they wave constantly to each other and if anyone is in need, they are right there supporting them,” Mel adds. Residents are thrilled with the amenities Water Oak offers, that also provides ease of accessibility when it comes to shopping, dining, quality

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medical care and the value of their homes, but what seals the deal are the non-material benefits. The residents and staff of Water Oak give a sense genuine warmth and community welcoming feeling.

AMENITIES Water Oak offers every resort-style living activity imaginable available for its residents – including tennis, billiards, arts and crafts, quilting, fishing, shuffleboard, softball, basketball, volleyball, bocce ball, and pickleball – and the clubhouse amenities are plentiful. With two clubhouses on-site, the resort-like community ensures the best when it comes to swimming and sunbathing poolside or keeping fit at the gym and staying entertained. There is also a restaurant, a championship golf course (discounted for residents), and a pro shop on site. Not only that, but there are no amenity fees to worry about and an optional $20-per-year home-owners association membership to consider. Additionally, the community’s ownership arrangement means more money in residents’ pockets, plus general maintenance and lawn care are included. “We are a land-lease community, which means you own the home and lease the land that it sits on, so you’re able to put all your money into your home, which tends to be $100,000 to $200,000 less than if you were to build a stick-built

Main Club House

home where you have to purchase the land, the home,” Mel says. She adds, “People pay a monthly lot rent, but with that, they have a gated community, 24-hours-a-day, seven-daysa-week, and there are no additional amenities fees like you would have to pay in a lot of communities around here. We also pay the majority of all the property tax and the only household tax a resident would pay is about $632 for the whole year and that includes your emergency services and garbage pick-up.”

A HOME TO MAKE YOUR VERY OWN There is a home at Water Oak for every budget, including pre-owned, newer, and bigger homes with lavish features and other quaint choices. Most residents can live comfortably under $1,000 per month excluding a mortgage payment. Additionally, standard features in a home at Water Oak – like crown molding, LED lighting, vinyl plank flooring, window fixtures, appliances, ceiling fans, a porch or lanai, double carports, and more – are included features that in other communities may cost extra. And besides that, a new home buyer has the ability to customize anything they can imagine. A multitude of specialty options includes open floor plans, tray and coffered ceilings, fully equipped kitchens, spa tubs, and Roman tiled showers, upgraded landscaping, large walk-in closets, modern decorative accents, and much more. Water Oak also offers new home buyers the ability to choose their countertops, flooring, paint colors, and shingle colors. The design team can alter many features such as move walls and closets; they can literally modify their new home any way that they want. Water Oak has four beautiful model homes to view options, plus several different floor plans and styles to customize the perfect place to live. If we can find the lot a resident likes, all they have to do is find something that fits their needs and we make it happen for them in the most beautiful and efficient way possible.

HERE AND YET TO COME Our visually impressive main entrance welcomes residents and future homebuyers with lighted waterfalls, beautiful accents, and landscaping. Our updated sales center showcases modern, trend setting models to choose from with many design options. In January 2022, a planned expansion will add 260 new home sites, plus a brand-new recreation facility featuring a huge resort style beach entrance pool, cabanas, a refreshment area, and rooftop seating.

NO ROOM FOR THE “T” WORD One thing the sales team notices is that a lot of people worry when they hear the words, “manufactured homes,” but Mel and her team can overcome these concerns. “Some people still have that ‘trailer’ mentality, but we have gone way beyond that. They’re not trailers anymore. They are actually really well-built, energyefficient homes,” Mel says. “Ever since Hurricane Andrew, all the standards changed and so our homes are made to withstand anywhere from 130-150 mph winds.” The main builders Sun Homes primarily work with for Water Oak, are Palm Harbor and Skyline, known as two of the very best manufacturers in the industry. Additionally, all Water Oak homes are built to be extremely energy efficient, adding high-grade insulation in the ceilings, walls, and floors, including double-paned windows and LED lighting throughout. This allows for cost savings overall on electricity usage and with heating and air conditioning the home. “Live the dream and have it all,” says a Water Oak brochure. If you are looking for that perfect, affordable retirement home offering an all-inclusive resort-like lifestyle, look to the very best in manufactured home communities in Florida at Water Oak. Envision your next chapter of life filled with enjoyment and lasting new friendships and fall in love with Water Oak.


“I take joy in helping to form and bond Water Oak community relationships by creating fun and entertaining activities for my friends and neighbors. It has been exciting to watch our community grow, flourish and thrive!” — L I N DA K R U I S , AC T I V I T I E S D I R E C T O R & 2 5 -Y E A R R E S I D E N T O F WAT E R OA K

877.363.7553 / wateroakcountryclub.com / 106 Evergreen Lane, Lady Lake

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villages PEOPLE. PLACES. EVENTS.

Born Country As a country music singer, Bill D. Williams dazzles audiences with his beautiful voice and unforgettable showmanship.

A salute to female veterans Members of The Villages’ Tri County Women Veterans Club seek equal recognition for women who served in the armed forces.

A fulfilled life Life led Barbara Garbarczyk through different career paths, but each one was meaningful in its own way.


MEET A VILLAGER

PEO PLE

Happy to serve After varied careers paths, and many lives touched, one Villager tells how her life came full circle, ending up as it should. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN

arbara Garbarczyk, a Eucharistic minister involved with the women’s guild at St. Mark’s Church in The Villages loves to swim, polka, play Mahjong, garden, and sing, but before retiring in The Villages in November 2015, her days were laden with numbers. Barbara was a math teacher at an inner-city school in Worcester, Massachusetts for 10 years, a job she would realize was her life’s true calling. Years prior to that, Barbara also taught math at different parochial schools, and served her God as a nun in a convent in Connecticut, a 20-year role she’d previously considered her calling. “The real difference there was that when I taught in parochial schools, I wore a habit and kids respected me because they were taught to,” Barbara says. “As for the kids at the school in Worcester, I had to earn their respect.” Even so, Barbara says the road there was not easy, even with three master’s degrees – in teaching, religious studies, and public administration – under her belt. “Leaving the convent was probably the hardest thing I ever did, and I didn’t do it because I was unhappy there, I just wondered if God wanted something more from me,” Barbara

says. “I had a very hard time finding a job, so I got a nothing job processing health insurance.” “After that year, I was accepted into a training program to become a nursing home administrator, so I did that for 13 years,” Barbara says, explaining that what steered her in the direction of her fate was a desperate phone call from an old friend who knew she loved teaching, when her school’s math teacher quit last minute at the start of that school year (2005). “I went for the interview, got the job, and that’s where I really knew why I had left the convent because now, I was teaching inner-city in Worcester, Massachusetts, and that was really a mission,” Barbara says. “As much as I thought being in the convent was being dedicated and it was, this really felt like I was serving someone.” Looking back, Barbara says every road taken brought people into her life she may not have otherwise crossed paths with, and she’s grateful.

Do you know an interesting Villager? Email roxanne@akersmediagroup.com

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≈ PHOTO: NICOLE HAMEL That includes her ‘God-put-together family,’ a couple she stayed with for 14 years after leaving the convent, Lucille Ameduri, her ‘sister by choice’ and roommate since leaving Connecticut for The Villages who she stood beside through her fight against breast cancer, and former students, some of whom she still keeps in touch with, and whose successes as adults, bring her joy. “I think there were reasons I was supposed to be here and at every point of my life where I ended up,” Barbara says.


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IN THE VILLAGES

CO MMENTARY

Don’t be a turkey Let your wife revel in some Thanksgiving fun. COMMENTARY: JAMES COMBS

K, men of The Villages. We know you have hearty appetites, as evidenced by the crowds that accumulate at local restaurants. You’re rejoicing in the fact that Thanksgiving is only a few days away. Soon, you’ll be feasting on juicy turkey meat, mashed potatoes and gravy, delicious green beans, and homemade noodles. And that pumpkin pie is a perfect way to top off a delicious meal. Just picturing your loaded plate makes your mouth water. You can hardly wait. Then, those happy thoughts suddenly turn sour. Your wife delivers horrific news. “Honey, I’ve invited my three sisters to join us on Thanksgiving. I’ve also asked my niece and her four children to join us. I figured that would be nice since she’s having a hard time dealing with her recent divorce.” Your blood pressure rises several points. The thought of spending this day with so many family members puts a damper on things. You certainly don’t want the dinner conversation to revolve around your niece’s relationship troubles and then endure her loud children. What was going to be a nice, quiet day now seems like a nightmare. You wonder, “How could she invite them without asking me?”

I’ll tell you how. It’s because women love large family gatherings on Thanksgiving. Being able to spend countless hours in the kitchen cooking up a feast provides them with companionship—up close and personal companionship they don’t receive through cell phone conversations and email. They laugh and giggle. They reminisce about the old days or catch up on the latest gossip. They talk about how their grandchildren are doing in Little League baseball and ballet. You see, guys, women typically are unable to enjoy such camaraderie in the kitchen. Cooking is something they usually do alone while you’re watching SportsCenter. Therefore, it’s only natural they desire being with their beloved family members on a day where family is paramount. Be open-minded when your wife informs you of her guest list. Just like you enjoy fishing with your buddies, she is entitled to a day of fun and fellowship as well. If that means you must put up with annoying family members for a few hours, then so be it. Remember, you can invite your side of the family as well, which will make for a large family feast. Here's the bottom line. There’s no point in arguing with your wife and raining on her parade on this wonderful holiday. If you choose that route, then she’ll be justified when she says, “Stuff it, turkey.”

Villagers, do you have a topic that you'd like to see covered in The Villages? Send in your ideas, via email, to james@akersmediagroup.com

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Rivers Family Medicine

Closed Thanksgiving and the day after!

Our patients are our primary focus. CALL NOW

352.205.4302 TO SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT!

L-R: Dr. Julio Ugarte Dr. Steven Rivers Dr. Erin Dariano Dr. Anthony Desmarais

Pro u d l y s e r ving The Villages® area sin ce 20 04 ! At Rivers Famil y Medi c i n e, we provid e ex p er i ence d , knowledgeabl e, and com pa s s i on ate ca re to h el p yo u meet yo u r individua l heal t hc are goa l s .

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1503 Buenos Aires Blvd., Bldg. 110, The Villages | 2771 Brownwood Blvd., The Villages RiversFamilyMedicine.com office: 352.205.4302 | fax: 352.430.0468


ENTERTAINMENT

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African American Villager Bill Williams, is known around Central Florida as a talented country music singer. STORY: JAMES COMBS

≈ PHOTOS: NICOLE HAMEL

utside of Charley Pride, few could name a black country artist. That’s because there hasn’t been too many in the musical genre’s history. Country music has been the domain of white men—those Stetson, cowboy boot-wearing country boys who sing about driving trucks and guzzling beer with a Southern drawl. Rather than accepting country music’s closed doors, Bill D. Williams has pried them open. For the past 25 years, Bill, whose nickname is “Black Country,” has made money in the music business by performing at gigs throughout Central Florida. He is now a household name in The Villages, where audiences judge him on his talent rather than his race. “If I’m singing in a restaurant, some people like my voice and approach from a different area in the restaurant to see who the singer is,” Bill said, “Every now and then, I hear a

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ENTERTAINMENT

“I SHAKE HANDS WITH EVERY VETERAN THERE AND THANK THEM FOR THEIR SERVICE. THEY SACRIFICED SO MUCH FOR OUR COUNTRY..” —BILL D. WILLIAMS

person say, ‘Look, he’s black.’ And those same people will wait until I’ve finished singing and tell me that I have a gift. They hear me sing and listen to the quality of my voice. It’s about the voice; not what I look like.” Bill doesn’t rely solely on his beautiful voice to keep crowds entertained. The fun-loving, 55-year-old native of Connecticut puts on quite a performance by mixing music with showmanship. He connects with spectators at the start of each show. “I start off joking with the audience by saying Johnny Cash sounds just like me,” Bill says. “And then I tell them, ‘As you know, me and Johnny Cash almost have the same motto: Johnny Cash is known around the world as the man in black, it just so happens I’m running around here with a black man.’” Later in the show, he grabs the attention of both men and women using this line: “The next song is dedicated to all the ladies from all the men.” Both sexes wait in anticipation of what the song might be. Then he sings the lyrics to a Bellamy Brothers’ song: “What you need is a sugar daddy.” Laughter erupts. He also likes to take his audience down memory lane. He’ll sing a Dean Martin song and then suddenly sing the same song using the voice of Jerry Lewis. That rekindles memories of Jerry’s numerous appearances on the Dean Martin Show. “I think it’s important to have a connection with your audience,” Bill says. “They gather to listen to music, but they are also looking for an experience. It is my job to create an opportunity for that to happen.” His manager, Holly Brand, describes Bill’s performances as “three straight hours of music and laughter without a break.” “He feels that energy when people are grooving along with him,” Holly says. “He does not stop. He loves interacting with the crowd, and they love him for the personal touch he brings to each show through personal jokes and side stories about his life.” Bill’s love affair with country music began as a small boy growing up in Derby, Connecticut. His parents had a record collection of country music’s greatest stars of that era—George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard, and Charley Pride. Bill would meticulously clean the records and then play them on a record machine. “I’d listen to both sides of the record,” Bill recalls. “If I liked a record, I wrote “G” on it for good. If I didn’t like a record, I’d write “B” on it for bad. That way, I knew what records I should listen to again and which ones I would never listen to again.” His first live performance came during a high school Christmas show. Bill dressed up and sang an Elvis Presley medley from the songs “Blue Christmas, “White Christmas,” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.” When his

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performance concluded, he walked backstage without receiving a reaction from the audience. “Nobody was screaming or clapping,” Bill says. “I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ Then, when the next act was called, everyone started cheering and stomping the floor. Next thing I know, everybody started chanting, ‘We want Bill!’ ‘We want Bill!’” After serving eight years in the U.S. Army, Bill moved from Connecticut to South Florida and formed a reggae band. The band performed at venues such as Mango’s Tropical Café in South Beach, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, and the Miccosukee Reservation, located in parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The band disbanded after seven years. Bill moved to Longwood and made the decision to perform solo. He also transitioned from reggae to country music. “Reggae music isn’t as hip in Central Florida,” Bill said. “It’s more popular where you have tropical atmospheres.” He has no regrets. For him, performing songs from country music legends is a privilege and comes with a responsibility. “When I’m up on that stage singing a popular country song, I’m really feeling that artist and I do the best I can to represent that artist,” Bill says. “I don’t put my own twist on their music. If it’s a Conway Twitty song, I’m going to sing like Conway Twitty. If it’s a George Jones song, I’m going to sing like George Jones.” Bill has particularly enjoyed performing in The Villages at destinations such as Redsauce Italian Restaurant, Havana Country Club Restaurant, and The Waterfront Inn. There’s no shortage of old-time country music fans in the nation’s largest retirement community. “They recognize my songs, and the songs bring back a ton of memories for them,” Bill says. “The songs might make them recall special memories with their parents or memories with a spouse. I interact with Villagers and try to give them the attention that people in the older generation are used to getting. But at the end of the day, performing for me is all about making other people happy and putting some sunshine into their lives.” That’s especially true when Bill takes his talent to the VA Medical Center at Lake Nona in Orlando twice a year. His music brings some cheer to permanently disabled veterans who are bedridden or confined to wheelchairs.

“They’re merely surviving,” Bill says. “To see them smile brings me such joy. I shake hands with every veteran there and thank them for their service. They sacrificed so much for our country.” While Bill is popular in the Central Florida music scene, there’s a chance that his voice will reach households throughout the country. He recently filled out paperwork to compete on NBC’s hit show “The Voice.” Producers granted him virtual audition on Dec. 7. “I have one song to sing,” he says. “I haven’t picked out the song yet. However, if I can make it onto the show that would be great.” There might be one drawback, though. Bill doesn’t embrace the possible fame that comes with appearing on the show. “I don’t want to be so famous that I have a large crowd surrounding me when I walk out my front door to go get a cheeseburger,” Bill says while laughing.

IF YOU GO

Want to see Bill live? Here’s a list of his upcoming performances.

11/9 @ 6pm-9pm Redsauce Italian Restaurant

11/10 @ 5pm-8pm Glenview Country Club

11/22 @ 4:30pm-7:30pm Havana Country Club

11/29 @ 6pm-9pm Redsauce Italian Restaurant

11/30 @ 5pm-8pm Glenview Country Club

12/2 @ 5pm-8pm Legacy Pool Bar

12/5 @ 5pm-8pm Glenview Country Club

12/9 @ 6pm-9pm Redsauce Italian Restaurant

12/20 @ 4:30pm-7:30pm Havana Country Club

12/21 @ 5pm-8pm Glenview Country Club

12/28 @ 6pm-9pm Redsauce Italian Restaurant

Bill D. Williams performing at the Waterfront Inn

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SOCIAL CLUB SPOTLIGHT

Members of the Tri County Women Veterans Club

PEO PLE

Just gratitude Members of The Villages’ Tri County Women Veterans Club stand united, hopeful, and diligent in their call for equal recognition. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN

ue Roper, a retired veteran with 21 years of service in the Navy Nurse Corps under her belt, is working towards changing people’s perception of women veterans, especially when it comes to recognizing and acknowledging how important their military roles really were. And she’s not alone. Standing right beside her are more than 200 other members from Lake, Sumter, and Marion counties (40-percent Army, 30-percent Navy and Airforce, 5-percent Marine Corps and one Coast Guard member) of the Tri County Women Veterans Club, she overseas as president. “Some people may not be aware of how prominent women veterans are so it’s our responsibility to elevate, educate, and show them,” Sue says. The club was originally founded in 1999 by Vivian Chiasson. Sue was elected president in 2017, and since then, her main mission has been to increase their visibility, since many people tend to automatically think of veterans as men. “More often than not, when we go out into the community wearing a Navy shirt or an Air Force cap, people will come

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≈ PHOTOS: NICOLE HAMEL up to us and say, “So where did your husband serve?” Sue says, explaining that it’s happened to her numerous times, as it has to many others. “We want to educate people and enlighten them that ‘No, it’s not just our husbands, or men in general, but that many women proudly served too.” Flo Hurlburt, a retired master sergeant who served a total of 27 years in the Airforce, says after moving to The Villages three years ago, joined the Veterans Memorial Park Club, along with the Tri County Women Veterans Club. “Some of the older male veterans, they know we’re there, but they seem to ignore us, or fail to recognize us, but they are getting better,” Flo says. “Also, other people, they see us with a shirt or cap, and they say, ‘Oh your husband,” and although I understand that as a society, we kind of make assumptions like that, it’s time that changed.” To raise awareness, the club gets involved in as many military-related community activities and helps other military-based organizations with as many events and efforts as possible, and they lobbied for a proclamation that Gov. Ron DeSantis passed earlier this year declaring June 12 as Women Veterans Day in Florida. Then, in addition to their monthly Monday meetings, they have a weekly golf outing on Wednesdays that Sue says


draws a lot of attention since the golfers all wear their white uniform shirts while on the course. “People take notice and say, ‘Wow, women veterans, how cool,’” Sue says. About a year-and-a-half ago, the group also started the area’s first all-woman color guard that is gaining traction, and members are busy raising money for an all-woman overnight Honor Flight trip planned for May 2022. Sue says 60 women vets, 60 women guardians and medical staff will be chartered to Washington for the trip’s usual stops, and to the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, not usually included. “We tend to see ourselves as undervalued, unrecognized and unappreciated, so we need to start being heard,” Sue says. Carole Bruce, who served in the Marine Corps for 24 years --- and who some may recognize from her appearance on the Price Is Right in 1989, wearing her dress blues and winning a car, a camera and $500 – retired as an E8 gunnery sergeant, before becoming a successful warrant officer. Still, Carole says she faced numerous challenges when she first joined. “I remember I was in my uniform in Philadelphia around 1976-77 and people were really rude and mean,” Carole says. “There were also some really macho men in the Marine Corps that believed women shouldn’t be there and treated us unfairly, but not many and it wasn’t just about recognition, but about just men being weird about not wanting women there.” Carole says since then, she too, knows what it’s like being overlooked as a veteran, but values being a member of the club because it reminds her that although there are others in the same boat, they are all there to support one another. “I think the camaraderie and the idea of getting women together is great. Who would have thought we’d have 100 women get together each month to celebrate the fact that we are women veterans, and that we did have an important part in our military history in each decade; in each war?” asks Carole. “It’s very important that we recognize each other’s accomplishments because it was kind of ground-breaking for

Members of The Villages Tri County Women's Veterans Club

many of these women. I came in after Vietnam, but some of these women were WWII.” Sue says beyond that, the hope is to positively affect women still serving today, because, she adds: “If we don’t increase our visibility as women veterans, those currently serving are also going to be lost. They’re not going to be recognized or thanked for their service either.” For more information about the Tri County Women Veterans Club, to donate or to join, visit the group’s Facebook page or call Sue at 757.576.9688.

Flo Hurlburt, Sue Roper, and Carole Bruce

Want to see your club in Social Club Spotlight? Send your suggestions to roxanne@akersmediagroup.com

ROXANNE BROWN

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BOOK CLUB

REVIEW

‘The Lost and Found Bookshop’ By Susan Wiggs. A touching story about one woman’s journey toward her discovery of hidden family secrets and of what’s truly important in life. STORY: KATHY PORTER

atalie Harper is about to celebrate a big promotion when her whole world is shattered. First, tragedy strikes when her mother and boyfriend are killed while traveling to celebrate her promotion. How can she possibly cope with this heartbreak and deal with the tough decisions ahead of her? Then, her beloved grandfather Andrew is showing signs of dementia which seemed to get worse after he broke his hip. He should be in a facility that

can care for him. She adores her Grandy, and she can’t lose him too. Finally, her mother’s financially strapped bookstore is housed in a landmarked building built before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and is a very valuable piece of property. Books were her mother’s passion but not Natalie’s. She wants her safe job with its good salary and benefits. Natalie knows that liquidating the books and selling the building will pay off the liens, the back taxes, and provide the funds necessary to care

for Grandy. But Grandy owns the business and the building, and he absolutely refuses to sell. He clings to idea of the building having hidden treasure. He says, “My father would never lie about such a thing.” Natalie notices a book her mother had been reading and sees a passage tagged with a stick-on marker that jumps out at her. The passage reads: “How would you live your life differently if you could start over, what would you do?” At that moment, Natalie decides some way, somehow to keep the

bookstore open and “make it the best damn bookstore on the West Coast.” The story transports us between the present and the past. As we learn about the secrets the building is hiding, it becomes evident that the past is crucial to achieving Natalie’s goal for the bookstore and keeping Grandy in the only home he has ever known. Yes, there is sadness in this novel, but it is also uplifting. The story abounds with interesting and lovable characters, and the novel is a charming read that celebrates family.

Want to read more about what Natalie and Grandy do to save the family’s magical bookstore? “The Lost and Found Bookshop,” can be found at Target, Books-A-Million, Barnes and Noble, or on Amazon.

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Compassionate Pet Care From Your Other Family Doctor!

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Dr. Cara Erwin-Oliver

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Usman Bajwa, MD, MBBS

Getting to know you

Rushing from patient to patient is not common practice for one Ocala doctor. PAID PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

r. Usman Bajwa believes that treating patients means going above and beyond routine treatment. For him, getting to know his patients and learning what makes them tick dictates what it takes to treat them properly. “I am a very good listener and that’s why my patients love me,” says Dr. Bajwa. “Aside from their diseases or problems, I try to really get to know about things going on in their lives.” Dr. Bajwa adds he also likes keeping his patients “in the loop.” “When I get information back, I call and say, “This is what I got,’ and let them know that if they want to talk further, they can make an appointment to come see me,” he says. And even when people are feeling better, Dr. Bajwa continues with followup care.

“Your job as their doctor is not finished when you discharge a patient or when they go home; it’s actually when your job has just started,” Dr. Bajwa says, explaining that many patients’ problems occur when they don’t follow up or do what they’re supposed to do after initial problems are treated. Dr. Bajwa says that’s what preventive medicine – which consists of building good habits to avoid getting sick – is all about. “Most patients run into problems when they feel they don’t have a good sense from their doctors of what they’re supposed to do on normal days when they’re not sick,” he says, adding: “That includes things like how much they should exercise, habits, their diet, smoking cessation, alcohol use, when they should have a screening, a mammogram, and other things.”

Dr. Bajwa also has found being involved in a sport is essential for physical and mental well-being. “Aside from medicine, cricket is my passion. I still play in Tampa, and I play golf, tennis, and badminton. My life motto is that people who play sports can handle their lives better … playing sports is beneficial. I encourage it,” he says. Dr. Bajwa graduated from Pakistan’s Punjab Medical College in 2011, then aced his STEP exams to become certified in the United States. He completed several years of cardio-related research at the University of Maryland, and in 2019, completed his John Hopkins University Delegation Visits (UVAS). In 2021, Dr. Bajwa completed his Internal Medicine residency at Oakhill Hospital in Brooksville and came on board with Aegis Medical Group’s Ocala office. He earned his board certification in October.

352.758.2597 / aegismedicalgroup.com / 1630 SE 18th Street, Building 400, Ocala

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The

t


traordinary people Meet this year’s group of ordinary people who do extraordinary things. PHOTOS: NICOLE HAMEL

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PA S S I O N A T E LY INSPIRED A Clermont woman is known for going above and beyond to help wherever help is needed. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN

Longtime Clermont resident Renee Lowe loves to have fun and help people whenever possible. She can oftentimes be seen at events donning crazy costumes and happily cheering people along, while remaining completely focused on making sure that whatever the need, it’s filled. “My thoughts are always focused on aiming high,” Renee says. In June, she was named 2020’s Clermont Citizen of the Year by Clermont Police Chief Charles Broadway, who during a city council meeting touted Renee’s achievements and spoke about how she has positively impacted many people throughout South Lake County and beyond. She was also named 2020 Citizen of the Year by the local Elks Lodge and Hometown Hero by the United way of Lake and Sumter Counties. Renee, the clinical liaison in charge of community relations for Roe Family Chiropractic in Winter Garden, is also a member of the Kiwanis Club of South Lake, the Elks Club of Clermont, and the South Lake Chamber of Commerce, plus she chairs two local business leader groups. As for events this past year, Renee, vice president chair of Charity across South Lake, spearheaded its Backpacks Across South Lake collection effort, and co-founded Christmas Across South Lake (inaugural year), during COVID.

AIMING HIGH Dave van de Velde knows how to think outside the box… and world. STORY: JAMES COMBS

This month, Leesburg is going to space. It’s all because of 81-year-old Dave van de Velde, a man who proves there is no cap on what the human mind can imagine. Dave, a resident of The Villages and founder of the successful companies Van Gogh Vodka and Ketel One Vodka, tapped into that imagination in 2020 while operating Pledge Against Bullying, a program he founded at Leesburg High School several years ago. Through the program, students put buttons and stickers on their backpacks that read, “I Pledge Not to Bully.” However, when the coronavirus pandemic struck, schools were closed and classrooms became empty. He needed a new avenue to


Renee says that effort – a modified food and toy drive that ran from Oct. 1 to Dec. 24 – ended up uniting various not-for-profits, and charity organizations, community leaders, individuals, and businesses. Those involved were able to gather enough food, toys, bikes, and more, to not only fill 10,000-square-feet of warehouse space but serve 2,000 kids and 750 families. “Everything was just in turmoil, so it was nice to be able to put something together that meant no family went without and we’re doing it again this year,” Renee says. Additionally, when the shutdowns first occurred, Renee helped organize Feed the Front-Line Heroes, an effort that focused on helping local restaurants stay afloat and front-line workers fed, and after Clermont Police Officer Conrad Buckley died of COVID in April 2020,

“GOD GAVE ME A GREAT SET OF LIPS AND I LIKE TALKING TO PEOPLE, PLUS I’M NEVER AFRAID.” —RENEE LOWE

started a scholarship fund in his honor she has continued raising money for. Renee has also been instrumental in raising funds for the Greater Clermont Cancer Foundation and after a rash of student suicides several years ago, helped establish the “We are Listening” campaign that focused on suicide prevention, sharing kindness and resources with those in emotional crisis. “God gave me a great set of lips and I like talking to people, plus I’m never afraid,” Renee says, crediting Dr. Matt Roe, her boss and mentor, as her inspiration for getting things done. “And if I’m passionate about something, look out, because nothing is going to get in my way when it comes to making something happen.”

“WHEN LEESBURG RESIDENTS WAKE UP EVERY MORNING AND SEE THE MOON, THEY CAN SAY WE ARE THERE.” — D AV E VA N D E V E L D E

effectively reach students. Dave found inspiration in a galaxy far, far away known as outer space. He reached out to students from all public schools in Leesburg to create a virtual City of Leesburg on the Moon. Students have designed computerized images of buildings and streets and parks, written essays, and provided photographs of their loved ones. The content they created has been stored on a micro-SD card with 2 million bytes. Dave has arranged for that micro-SD card to be placed aboard a rocket that will launch into space from Spaceport America in New Mexico on Nov.9 before returning to Earth. In February 2022, the chip will be placed inside a space canister and placed aboard a rocket leaving Cape Canaveral. After the rocket reaches the moon, a landing capsule will permanently place the canister on the moon.

“I always felt I had a big imagination,” Dave says. “My slogan in life has always been to find a hole and fill it. I fill that hole with a solution. My solution to continue engaging students after the coronavirus was getting them involved with learning about space. Helping them learn about space is very important because it’s the only frontier unknown to us.” This isn’t the first time Leesburg is being represented at faraway locations. In recent years, Dave has arranged for crews to take Leesburg High School’s flag to beaches in Normandy and the South Pole. In addition, the flag has flown atop Mount Everest and draped the gravestone of famous explorer Ernest Shackleton. “Leesburg has been to Mount Everest and now the moon,” Dave says. “There isn’t a town in the U.S. that has been to both places. When Leesburg residents wake up every morning and see the moon, they can say we are there. That’s very exciting.”

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M EN TA L CONSI DER ATION Mount Dora woman shares personal story of tragedy and triumph. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN

Rebekah Gregory remembers being at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April 2013 with friends and her young son Noah, all rooting and waiting for their runner to come across, when Noah became overwhelmingly bored and “over it.” With crowds of people around them, Rebekah quickly brainstormed an entertaining activity that would keep him as close to her as possible. “I said, ‘Buddy, why don’t you sit down at my feet and play in the rocks like you’re a scientist?’” recalls Rebekah. “There were no rocks, we were on asphalt, but to a 5-year-old, luckily, this was a cool thing to do, so Noah took his place on my feet with his back up against my shins.” Looking back, Rebekah calls that move “a miracle,” because moments later, a pressure-cooker bomb, stuffed by terrorists into a backpack with nails, ball bearings, BBs and more, exploded a mere 3 feet behind them. “I took everything in the back of my legs, my torso and my left hand and that’s what acted as a human shield for my own son,” Rebekah says, next recalling lying on the pavement in terrible pain, and in a pool of her own blood, frantically listening out for her son above screams and chaos, thinking she was going to die. Mom and son survived, but their lives were changed forever. Physically, Noah miraculously sustained minimal injuries. Rebekah endured five days in a medically induced coma, 56 days in the hospital, having her left leg amputated below the knee, grueling physical therapy, and ongoing treatments to this day. Mentally, both suffered with severe PTSD. Noah proclaimed they were never leaving their house again, and Rebekah,

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attempting to be strong while researching proper help for him, shared in his sentiment. “I know the emotional toll experiencing that took on me, but can you imagine what it did to a 5-year-old?” asks Rebekah. It’s also what inspired her to want to help others deal with the emotional aftermath of serious trauma, hence the start of “Rebekah’s Angels,” a foundation she established in 2018 for that purpose. “I remember Googling: “What trauma looks like?” “What PTSD is in children?” “What PTSD is in adults?” and what ended up happening is that I saw how so many children and families have been through very traumatic events, but never afforded the same type of help as Noah and me, because ours was so public,” Rebekah says. Today, Rebekah’s Angels has helped over 250 families nationwide with funding for Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART), which allows the brain to re-process traumatic memories and make them less severe. Rebekah credits ART for her and Noah’s recovery, hence giving her the courage to share her story with grace and gratitude to help heal others. She says Rebekah’s Angels strongly believes that “the mental health of our children today, determines their success for the future.” “The majority of people are never going to get blown up by a bomb at a marathon, but every single person has life blow up in their face, and we want to be there when that happens,”

“THE MENTAL HEALTH OF OUR CHILDREN TODAY, DETERMINES THEIR SUCCESS FOR THE FUTURE.” — R E B E K A H G R E G O RY

Rebekah says. “I remember panicking trying to find the information and resources I needed to be able to help my little boy and I had no idea what I was doing, so I want to be able to take the pressure, and financial burden off some of those families and help them.”


COOKING UP SUCCESS Joel Padilla goes above and beyond to help aspiring chefs. STORY: JAMES COMBS

Chef Joel Padilla has a secret ingredient. His is one that goes beyond creating imaginative, palate-pleasing dishes. Instead, he loves cooking up ways to excite youth about culinary arts. And he does that by showing them love, bolstering their cooking skills, and sharing life lessons. Joel is chief executive officer of Platinum Chef, a personal chef and catering company, and is president of the American Culinary Federation’s Gulf to Lakes Chefs and Cooks Association chapter. Joel has become a familiar face at Leesburg High School, where he mentors and inspires students in the school’s culinary program. “I have kids in school, so I see where the gaps are,” he says. “I just wondered how I could help.” The answer came when John Bell, Leesburg High School’s culinary instructor, invited Joel to attend the ACF’s monthly meetings held at the school. The meetings attract culinary students from various Lake County high schools. It wasn’t long before Joel became a big hit. Students appreciate his gratitude and sheer humility, his sense of caring, and his old-school, no-nonsense approach. “They see me more as a big brother,” he says. “I don’t talk to them like they are children; I talk to them like they are part of my kitchen staff.” Joel enthusiastically shares fun stories with them, like the time he worked alongside famous chefs such as Carla Hall and Bobby Flay. He also makes himself relatable by talking about bad decisions he made in life. “I let students know you have to go through bad so you can live and enjoy the good,” Joel says. “Even through dark times God guides you and you come out fine.” Outside of the school, Joel encourages students to actively participate in the community. He and his students served 6,000 meals to Leesburg’s homeless population. At the Education Foundation of Lake County’s “Stepping Out for Education” event – modeled

after “Dancing With The Stars” – they served nearly 10,000 appetizers in two days. Joel is also manager of the Leesburg Night Market, held downtown on the third Friday of every month. He sets up a chef’s table where students can cook their own food and hand out samples to attendees. “Since moving to Leesburg more than four years ago, I have fallen in love with it,” he says. “Leesburg has such an impressive past and unique story to it. It’s like you’re watching a Netflix movie and can’t wait until the next season comes out to see how it progresses and what happens. I want these students to feel the same pride for Leesburg so that they’ll enjoy a career here and make it a better place to live.”

“I LET STUDENTS KNOW YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH BAD SO YOU CAN LIVE AND ENJOY THE GOOD.” — JO E L PA D I L L A


H U N G RY T O H E L P Retiring executive of Lake Cares Food Pantry is eager about organization’s next phase. STORY: THERESA CAMPBELL

Irene O’Malley helped open the doors of Lake Cares Food Pantry in April 2009 as one of a few volunteers. Little over a year later in October 2010, she was tapped as executive director to oversee daily operations of the organization that now provides food to over 4,000 clients each month. She played a vital role in building community partnerships with regional churches, organizations, and corporations including Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and Publix, all while growing the pantry’s volunteer base. “I am most proud that we have over 200 volunteers,” says Irene, noting they were instrumental in distributing over 1.3 million pounds of food in 2020. “When we first opened, we were lucky if we had a dozen volunteers, and the most wonderful part is the community has taken over this organization,” she says. “They love it, and it’s theirs. This organization belongs to the volunteers.” In addition to Lake Cares’ home base in Mount Dora, the organization now has seven satellite sites for food distribution, including Eustis, Tavares, Howey-in-the-Hills, Sorrento, Lisbon, Paisley, and the east section of Mount Dora.

“I AM MOST PROUD THAT WE HAVE OVER 200 VOLUNTEERS.” —IRENE O’MALLEY

“About 70 percent of our clients are seniors and disabled. As soon as we started seeing that, we knew that the seniors were always going to need us, and that is when we realized we are going to be in business forever, and we are very happy to be able to do that,” says Irene. “Even places like Howey-inthe-Hills, there are a lot of seniors that are out there that are living on very fixed income.” Irene will retire as Lake Cares’ executive director on Dec. 31, and Kelsey Gonzalez will take over at the helm, spearheading a new $2 million project for the organization. “Lake Cares is building a new building,” says Irene, who helped initiate plans for the agency’s future 15,000 square foot home on County Road 19A, across from Lake Receptions. The larger facility will provide more space for food and the ability for volunteers to serve more areas of unincorporated Lake County. The building is expected to be completed by fall 2022. A capital campaign for the project will begin early 2022. Irene intends to volunteer in the fundraising, and she envisions Lake Cares’ future home as “a mini Second Harvest, the Lake County version.”


STA N DI NG TA L L Clermont pastor with a passion for helping people is making a world of difference getting homeless families back on their feet. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN

Clermont Pastor Brian Broadway, who leads the Living Message Church, had been toying with the idea of starting a homeless outreach ministry transforming trailers into makeshift homes he could park in RV parks to house homeless, when he received a phone call about helping a single mom living in a car with three young daughters. Brian left work early to meet with the lady and she told him her story. “She was living in an apartment complex and working at the Cagan Crossings Walmart. Her husband walked out, and she couldn’t afford childcare and rent,” Brian says. The woman was evicted, so she packed up her stuff, loaded her daughters, ages 3, 15, and 16, into her car. However, as they began driving down U.S. Highway 27, the car broke down, barely making it into a nearby parking lot, where they ended up sleeping at night. “I came home and said, ‘We have to do something,’” says Brian, so he appealed to his congregation and by the end of the service, a lady offered to donate a 30-foot trailer if it could be picked up from Pennsylvania. “We put the money together, towed the trailer down, prepped it, then went back to that mom and her daughters and moved them into it,” tells Brian, adding that four years later, that mom has an apartment and the 16-year-old daughter, now, 20, owns a home. Today, 12 donated RVs and/or trailer homes are used for “Housing First,” a program that allows homeless families with children to live in them rent/utilities free for 6-12 months, while

“I LOVE PEOPLE, I LOVE CHILDREN, I LOVE SEEING PEOPLE STAND AGAIN.” — B R I A N B R O A D WAY

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Find, Feed and Restore, now a separate nonprofit organization, helps them obtain self-sufficiency through budgeting and money-management classes, counseling, and training. Additionally, four more programs operate under the Find, Feed and Restore umbrella including, “Homelessness Avoidance,” which helps families stay in their current homes, “Affordable Housing,” homes located on properties Brian purchased in Leesburg, “Restore Lake,” which helps women fresh out of domestic violence shelters, and the “Care Coach,” a bus turned mobile kitchen for food distribution and information sharing for people in need who may not otherwise get word of assistance opportunities available to them. Brian also purchased an old 30-acre sports training facility in Groveland he’s transforming into a homeless shelter for men and women, set to open by 2022. The programs are all funded by donations and grants Brian learned to effectively write and apply for himself. “I always tell people there’s something in each person, something special that you were born for and when you find it, that’s amazing. For me, it’s this,” Brian says, crediting the grace of God for making it all possible. “I love people, I love children, I love seeing people stand again, so to wake up every morning and do what I love, it’s priceless to me.”

A H E A RT F O R S E RV I C E Volunteer Christine Cruz devoted to animals, people, and the environment. STORY: THERESA CAMPBELL

Christine Cruz, 45, of Eustis, has been voted by Style readers as Volunteer of the Year for four consecutive years, and it’s evident she is passionate about helping wherever she is needed. “I’m on call for any organization that needs help; I enjoy helping others and I think the purpose of life is to give back,” Christine says, adding over the years, she’s lent a hand to 30-40 nonprofits, mostly those that benefit people, animals, and the environment. “I think everybody can make time for a couple of hours, maybe an hour here, an hour there, which can make a world of a difference.” She’s involved with CleanUp Eustis, which began as a one-day event that has since expanded into continuous meet ups. it involves a partnership between volunteers removing trash and debris from the water and shoreline at Ferran Park – some dangerous, like discarded drug needles – and local businesses, community members, area schools, and city government donating drinks, snacks, funds, and supplies for the cause. “After our second year, we had taken out thousands of pounds,” says Christine, recalling the first cleanup was inspired after a local fisherman and his son were appalled by trash along the lakeshore. They posted on social media about being unable to fish because of the awful conditions. “What drives me is finding solutions to the problems that we have in our community,” says Christine, originally from Nebraska, who started the Facebook group, CleanUp Eustis, and organized the first cleanup day on Labor Day 2017. Hundreds of

“I ENJOY HELPING OTHERS AND I THINK THE PURPOSE OF LIFE IS TO GIVE BACK.” —CHRISTINE CRUZ


THE DOCTOR IS IN Howard Vesser helps low-income residents receive medical care. STORY: JAMES COMBS

people came out, including a local celebrity, Aaron Phillips, who was on Discovery’s show “Naked and Afraid.” “After that cleanup was over, there was still interest of people to go back out,” says Christine, adding the cleanup, recognized by Lake County’s Adopt-a-Lake Program, has become a regular Saturday activity, which she now participates in twice a month. She’s also volunteered as an “extra hand” at events for United Way of Lake and Sumter County, Lake Cares Food Pantry, Leash, TNR, Open Door, Hoffmeyer Animal Rescue in Tavares, and many more. “My recommendation for anyone wanting to volunteer is to find something you enjoy, call an organization to find out what their needs are, and the bottom line is ‘show up,’” she says. Christine strives to organize a local event for World Spayed Day in February 2022, for dogs and cats, through the Marie Rich Foundation, where veterinarians would be paid for their services. She is eager to hear from veterinarians that would like to be involved in World Spayed Day.

He could have spent his retirement enjoying endless hours of golf and tennis. Instead, Dr. Howard Vesser traded leisure to fulfill God’s purpose. Twenty-one years ago, Dr. Vesser, an orthopedic surgeon, came out of retirement to help establish the Community Medical Care Center, a ministry of First Baptist Church of Leesburg. He designed the clinic and posted flyers around town to make people aware that a medical facility existed to serve uninsured and low-income residents. He also actively recruited other medical professionals to join in the effort.

“I WANTED TO DO SOMETHING POSITIVE FOR THE CHURCH, AND I LOVE MEDICINE AND NEVER GREW TIRED OF BEING A DOCTOR.” — D R . H OWA R D V E S S E R

The clinic opened in 2000 thanks to a grant from Leesburg Regional Medical Center, now UF Health Leesburg Hospital. Dr. Vesser spent between 40-60 hours a week serving as its director and general practitioner. “For me, it wasn’t a hard decision to come out of retirement,” he says. “I wanted to do something positive for the church, and I love medicine and never grew tired of being a doctor. Even now, I continue reading medical literature every day. It’s in my blood.” The Community Medical Care Center originally started in a small, church-owned house off 13th St. Before long, the clinic established a large patient base and was moved into a 3,200-square-foot facility on Main Street.

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HANDHELD HOPE A Leesburg couple, expecting nothing in return, helps homeless by way of a sandwich ministry that has grown into much more. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN

“I was very pleased when so many people who might not have received care otherwise began using our services,” he says. “Without question, we filled a big need in the community.” Under Dr. Vesser’s tutelage, the clinic began adding more services, including dental, dermatology, wound care, and vison care. “This is a multi-specialty clinic,” he says. “We give people a medical home and keep them out of the emergency room.” Age hasn’t slowed Dr. Vesser down. He turned 89 last month and now comes every other Tuesday to treat patients with orthopedic problems. Full-time retirement will have to wait. “There’s no good reason for me not to continue coming here,” he says. “I have a great deal of sympathy for anyone who has a hard time finding adequate medical care.” That’s wonderful news to his colleagues who have come to love Dr. Vesser for being a Southern gentleman. “He has a wonderful heart for people and genuinely wants to help them,” says Tammy Youngren, ministry director. “He’s just one of those people you never forget because of his fun-loving personality.”

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When people think of retiring to Florida, they might envision sunny, funfilled days at the beach, a golf course or poolside, but Mike and Linda Galat do not have time for that. In fact, the couple, both now in their late 60s and despite Mike’s daily battle with Parkinson’s disease, have never been busier. “We’d done missionary work in Mexico and in Massachusetts where we lived, but when we got here to Leesburg, we felt we weren’t serving the Lord enough, and together we were praying, ‘What do you want us to do, God?’” Linda says, adding: “We felt he was telling us to take care of the homeless.” God’s answer was confirmed during a Sunday sermon shortly after that. Their pastor at Trinity Assembly of God in Fruitland Park, told a story about closing the church one night, when a woman asked to remain parked in their lot because it seemed like a safe place to sleep. The pastor, dumbfounded, let her stay, but told the congregation how he wished he could open the church up to help the homeless in some way. “Mike and I looked at each other and said, “That’s what it’s all about, that’s what the Lord is telling us to do.” They let the pastor know they’d be willing to help, and three days later, were called on when the church was deemed a cold-weather shelter. That was January 2018, and although the temperatures dipped to the 30s, only two people showed up. They were told it was because the homeless were leery about leaving their belongings unattended for fear they’d be stolen. That’s when Mike and Linda were inspired to instead, go to them, hence the start of their “Friends of the Homeless” ministry. Since then, the two, with help from the church, friends and even strangers, have prepared sack lunches – complete with two sandwiches, two water bottles, a fruit cup, fruit juice, a snack, and Christian reading material – they distribute religiously once or twice a week to homeless people living in camps or on city streets, parks,

“THERE ARE A LOT OF HOMELESS, AND I DON’T THINK PEOPLE REALIZE HOW DIFFICULT THEIR LIVES REALLY ARE..” —LINDA GALAT


and benches. Occasionally, they prepare hot foods, and through the pandemic in 2020, never stopped. They also collect socks, clothing, toiletries, blankets, and other necessities they sort and wash, then distribute from their car. Mike and Linda say the hours they spend preparing for distribution days is equivalent to a full-time job, without pay, but their reward is knowing they are helping these people through life as best they can. Linda says the homeless they’ve met are a mix of veterans, people suffering with mental illness, families with children,

and educated and everyday people who have simply fallen on hard times, just trying to survive. Their commonality is that in addition to food and necessities, each one can benefit from a little care, hope and a friend or two. “Since retiring here, I haven’t been in the pool yet, but we’re serving God and we love what we do. Sometimes we get to feeling like it’s our kids and we worry about them, especially if it’s raining or cold out,” Linda says, a sentiment seconded by Mike. “There are a lot of homeless, and I don’t think people realize how difficult their lives really are.”

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C R OW N I NG M O M E N T S Dianne Garvis provides children with disabilities, cancer patients, elderly, hospital patients, and more, with their own special Cinderella moment. STORY: THERESA CAMPBELL

If there was a Guinness World Record for the person who has purchased the most tiaras, Clermont’s Dianne Garvis would probably win. She has purchased nearly 4,000 (and counting) pretty crowns as the founder of Tiaras of Hope, all part of her mission to provide others with a little joy and inspiration. Dianne remembers the thrill of being crowned with a tiara. At age 23, she was Miss Montverde and represented Florida in Nashville; she later wore the tiara as Mrs. Central Florida, and she represented the Sunshine State at the 2016 American Dream National Pageant and was crowned Mrs. Elite American Dream. Tiaras of Hope has a team of 22 ambassadors around the U.S., U.K., and Canada, who provide special coronations and deliver messages of hope to those battling life altering and life-threatening illnesses. The crowning moments often generate tears and smiles. “We are simply a group of individuals who believe that in one’s darkest hour, if someone speaks hope it can make a real difference,” says Dianne, recalling the scripture Isaiah 61:3 gave her comfort when she was grieving her father’s death. The scripture also became catalyst in starting Tiaras of Hope.

“It tells us God will trade our ashes for a crown of beauty, and it was something that just came to my heart and my mind,” Dianne says. “God promises to trade our ashes for a crown of beauty, and even though we feel shattered now, he will pick up every piece of glass and make us stronger and more beautiful than before.’” Her first crowning took place at Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee. She also has taken tiaras to numerous children’s hospitals, including St. Jude’s, and she delights in giving “tiaras of honor” to elderly in nursing homes and patients of Cornerstone Hospice. “We literally could be sharing tiaras of hope and honor, 24 hours a day around the world,” says Dianne, who would love to have more ambassadors. In May 2021, Cornerstone Christian University in Orlando presented Dianne with an honorary doctorate of humanities for her work. And she recently appeared on the “700 Club,” sharing her story about losing her voice, how if affected her ministry, and how through prayer, got it back, thankfully, since Dianne is also a gifted singer and founder of the Good Neighbor Program, an organization that helps people with various needs. Dianne lives her motto: “No day should ever be about me; rather how can I be a blessing to one person each day.”

“WE LITERALLY COULD BE SHARING TIARAS OF HOPE AND HONOR, 24 HOURS A DAY AROUND THE WORLD.” —DIANNE GARVIS

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Hope springs eternal A Clermont organization provides plenty of love and generosity. STORY: JAMES COMBS

≈ PHOTOS: CINDY PETERSON

single parent seeking steady employment. A homeless family searching for housing. A poor person in need of food. A middle-aged man enduring daily stress. These are among the people who walk through the doors each day at Central Florida Hope Center in Clermont. However, they never walk alone. Central Florida Hope Center supports and empowers individuals and families through a broad continuum of services that meet their needs. As such, short-term help translates into long-term hope. Four services are offered for those in need: a food pantry, care counseling, job employment, and homeless prevention. The staff at Central Florida Hope Center has witnessed countless people push past challenges and overcome obstacles since the organization opened in

July 2020. Justin Burger, who serves as director of homeless solutions, enthusiastically shares one success story. “We had a young man come in who had everything stolen and was living in a hotel with his fiancé. He came into the food pantry and told us his story about being homeless. We gave them food and sat and prayed with them every day. Eventually, we found a home in Georgia where he is from. Our organization helped him get a bus ticket to ride up there. Then, we helped them open doors to find a solution to their homelessness. We got them into a home. Eventually, the young man drove back to Florida and stopped here to tell us how much he appreciated what we did for him.” The organization was formed by members of Real Life Christian Church in Clermont. Today, Central Florida Hope Center is independent entity that receives support from area churches, businesses, and individuals through monetary donations and volunteerism.

“WHENEVER THERE’S A NEED, WE FIGURE OUT A CHANNEL TO MEET THAT NEED.” —TIM MOSES

Many people have benefited. Since its inception, Central Florida Hope Center has placed more than 1,000 people in jobs, and 3,300 people have utilized its counseling services. In addition, more than 500,000 meals have been provided to individuals and families. Partnerships have also been built with


L-R: Tim Moses, Betty Sangle, Susan Vallery, Donnie Shepherd, Barbara Cordileone, Brenda Blevins, and Nelson Wolbert

other community agencies to provide additional services for those in need. “We help people find resources,” says Tim Moses, director of the Central Florida Hope Center. “Whenever there’s a need, we figure out a channel to meet that need. Whether it’s drug addiction or helping someone obtain a driver’s license, we can steer people to the right place thanks to the partnerships we’ve built in the community. We’re always looking for ways to collaborate with other agencies in the area. Everything we do is about bringing the community together and helping everyday people who cannot help themselves.” In October, the organization is expanding its services with the launch of the Mobile Hope Center. Through this program, staff members will drive a mobile truck into neighborhoods in Mascotte, Groveland, Leesburg, and Four Corners. Health screenings will be offered for diabetes, high blood pressure, body-mass index, vision, and dental. Additionally, a celebrity chef will demonstrate how to cook a healthy meal and provide everybody with a bag of ingredients needed to make that meal.

“I’m excited about the Mobile Hope Center because we are eliminating barriers on how we reach people,” says Scott Chevalier, regional director of the Mobile Hope Center. “Some people cannot come to our location due to lack of transportation, so we have found a way to get to where they are.” Steve Bush, executive director, says the organization’s primary goal is to empower people to create sustainable livelihoods. For instance, everyone who comes to the food pantry is taught to make a list of desired food items and shop on a budget. Similarly, Central Florida Hope Center attempts to keep economic disadvantaged people from becoming homeless so they can maintain their self-sufficiency. One of the fastest-growing segments of the homeless population is working families struggling to make ends meet. “Our goal is to help these people build themselves into something better,” Steve says. “We want to see their immediate needs being met but also equip them with the necessary skills and tools so they’ll enjoy a brighter future and not fall back into the situations they are currently experiencing.”

Laura Goodman

Anyone interested in helping the Central Florida Hope Center can volunteer at the facility or visit the organization’s website and make a financial contribution. The Central Florida Hope Center has locations in Clermont and downtown Orlando. For more information, call 407.826.1160 or visit cfhope.org.

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Tony Pagano, General Sales Manager (left) Robby Giovanetti, Salesperson (right)

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Angels on earth A Leesburg couple has dedicated their lives, and love, to children in need of care, a home, and family. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN

≈ PHOTOS: NICOLE HAMEL

hen Pat and Linda Manfredi were married in February 1969, starting a family of their own was never a question. Even so, they never imagined that by 2021, they would have raised 144 children together. “We don’t exactly understand why God chose Pat and I for this particular ministry, but he did. We definitely have been blessed and we’re so thankful,” Linda says about The Carpenter’s House for Children, their home in Leesburg and the nonprofit orphanage they founded, and still run today. Linda says when they were first married, Pat worked in corrections for the Orange County Sheriff ’s Office, and she worked for Florida Hospital as a nurse for high-risk babies in the intensive care unit or those requiring neonatal care. Interested in furthering her education, Linda went back to school to get her master’s degree in

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(obstetrics) nursing, and by the time she graduated, the couple had become parents to three children. That’s also when God’s plan for their lives began to unfold. “We had three kids at that time, two biological and we adopted our niece, and I always had the desire to have more, but I couldn’t do it. I just kept having miscarriage after miscarriage, so then God showed me that wasn’t the most important part in the job he had for us,” Linda says. One day at the hospital where she worked, a woman with herpes, and who’d received no prenatal care, walked into the labor and delivery unit ready to give birth. Her baby was born with herpes and encephalitis, and parts of her brain were destroyed. She became Linda’s patient but was not expected to live past six months.


“WE’RE A FAMILY AND THAT’S ALL THEY KNOW.” —LINDA MANFREDI

At one point, her doctor approached Linda about taking the baby home and giving her a family for whatever time she had left. Linda did not hesitate for one moment, but knew she had to get the OK from one other person. “I knew that’s what we were supposed to do, but of course it had to go through dad,” Linda says, explaining that although Pat was hesitant at first, that all changed when she took him to the hospital to meet the baby. The couple took the baby home, cared for, and loved her until she died. Her name was Nikki. “She couldn’t do much, but she would look at you, smile, and get excited. She recognized faces to a point and she lived until she was two, almost three, and that was just from giving all the love that we could give her,” Linda says, adding that losing Nikki is what led to the realization of her calling.

“She died, but I couldn’t stop there. I knew that. My love was too great to stop,” Linda says. “And me not being able to have any more children, I think was the catalyst that kick started all this. God heard my pleas and cries and desires. He couldn’t give me more kids physically, but he could spiritually, by bringing me all these kids to love that are going to die anyways. It’s really neat to see how he works.” When Pat learned that Linda wanted to quit nursing to take care of terminal, orphaned or special needs kids in need of a home and family, he couldn’t help feeling leery. “We were young and trying to make it and I knew that wasn’t easy for anyone,” Pat says, explaining that although he didn’t think it was a good idea, he asked for time to pray about it. “I actually went in the bedroom, shut the door and said, “God I don’t think I can do this,” and that was the first time in my life that I immediately heard back and to this day, as long as it’s been, I still laugh at what he said,” Pat explains. “I didn’t hear a voice, but you get an impression of an answer, and basically God said, ‘I know you can’t do it, but I’ll be there with you.’”

Pat adds: “I said OK God, you’re a lot bigger than I am, so if you say yes, I guess it’s yes.” From that moment on, the Manfredis, and the Carpenter’s House for Children, never lacked children again, and Linda and Pat have never looked back. At times, there have been as many as 18 children living there, but currently, there are 16. Through the years Pat says he has witnessed confirmation over-and-over again, that this plan for their lives was heaven sent. He says agencies, churches, missionaries and even judges who heard of their mission, have called on them specifically to take children with little or no chance of survival, a family or proper care otherwise. “In all these years doing this, we never sought out children to take, they always came to us, so we always knew it from God,” Pat says. “We just continued and continued, and 41 years later, we’re still doing it.” Through the years, the Manfredis have taken over custody of children from the United States, and other countries, including Africa, Russia, Monte Negro, Haiti, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Chile, and more.

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Most of the kids need surgeries or medical treatment, some require specialized care, and some have lifelong disabilities to deal with, but with the Manfredis, none of them have ever lacked love. “We’re a family and that’s all they know,” Linda says. One girl that came to them from Haiti was found by missionaries, in a cage in the mountains at five months old. She’d been marked for sacrifice; blinded in one eye by hot oil, had a cleft palate, and was malnourished. Missionaries traded food for the baby, then took her to the hospital. When they couldn’t help her there, the missionaries David Hill

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called the Manfredis, who happily took her into their home. “It was just awful and saving her was a blessing,” Linda says. Another baby, Daniel Luke, weighed a mere 1.8 pounds when he was born. His mom had tried to abort him, and although it didn’t work, he was born with severely premature lungs. His mom, who delivered the baby at Florida hospital Waterman, left a note on her bed saying she was going back to her country, so doctors called the Manfredis, who agreed to take him. Today, that tiny, frail baby they took under their wing, is 19 years old, about 200 pounds, more than 6-feet tall. He has a heart for

helping others and is interested in going into ministry. “He was always a great kid, I had so much fun with him,” Pat says, followed by a chuckle from Linda, about how he loves the kids as much as she does despite his prior reluctance. “Miracles happen here that wouldn’t happen anywhere else,” she says. The heartbreaking stories surrounding many kids the Manfredis have taken custody of go on and on but are overshadowed by the happy endings that resulted. Daniel Luke says he is grateful for what Pat and Linda have done for him and all his siblings. He says if it weren’t


“MIRACLES HAPPEN HERE THAT WOULDN’T HAPPEN ANYWHERE ELSE.” —LINDA MANFREDI

for the two, he may not have made it to 19, and if you ask any of his siblings, their thoughts are similar. “I feel really blessed to be here because I came from a really poor country and I was really sick as a baby when they (the Manfredis) brought me here,” one girl from Haiti, now 15, says. “They basically rescued me, and I think it’s really nice what they’re doing for all of us.” The children’s home, as a 501C3, is overseen by a board of directors, and funded solely by grants and donations. And though each child requires medical insurance, Florida Hospital and local doctors provide pro bono services when possible. In addition, Astatula Christian School provides scholarships for the children’s schooling. Other necessities, like clothes, supplies, medications, food, furnishings, up-keep, and maintenance of the home, are donated or purchased using donations. When short, the Manfredis have covered the costs themselves. “The goal of the board is to let us keep our own money and raise enough to support the Carpenter’s House, but that’s never happened. We’ve always had to supplement using our money,” Pat says, adding that with both in their 70s, their incomes consist mainly of social security benefits.

Any money raised goes towards the upkeep of the house and the children’s needs, which are ongoing, and people in the community can help by donating funds or other necessities as listed on the orphanage’s website.

WHAT IT TAKES TO RUN THE CARPENTER’S HOUSE:

DAILY • 2 gallons of milk • 2 boxes of cereal • 1 dozen eggs

WEEKLY • 49 loads of laundry • 3 jumbo containers of diapers • 3 large packages of baby wipes • 6 jumbo packages of pull-ups

MONTHLY • $800 for electricity • $900 for health insurance • $2,500 for food • $850 for prescriptions

Additionally, with the holidays coming up, the Manfredis would appreciate any help the community is able to offer to make sure the children all have something under the tree for Christmas. In awe of the help they’ve received, the Manfredis say they are grateful, because they plan on carrying out their calling until they are no longer able. Fabio, 21, a recent high school graduate who came to the home when he was three months old, considers that a blessing. “There are a lot of children who are sick or who don’t have anybody else and can’t take care of themselves. It’s good to have people like them who are willing to do that for them,” he says. As for Pat and Linda, being dad and mom to all these children, though trying at times, is something they would never trade. “Sometimes, I feel an especially big burden on my heart because of the things people do that result in these kids suffering. But it also gives me joy, even when they’ve died, that they were here,” Linda says. “Maybe some of them didn’t have much time with us, but in the end, they had a mom and dad, they had love, they had a family.” For more information or to help, visit thecarpentershouseoflakecounty.com.

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Who Should Get

Lung Cancer Screening? PA I D

L

PROM O T IO N A L

F E AT U R E

ung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, but the good news is that this death rate has been decreasing. This is because:

1. Fewer people begin smoking. 2. Of those who smoke, more are quitting. 3. Medical advances have occurred in diagnosis and treatment.

One advance is in lung cancer screening. A low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan combines X-rays into a detailed, 3-dimensional image showing any abnormalities or tumors. LDCT screening has reduced lung cancer deaths by 20% compared to standard chest X-rays. Screening guidelines may be updated in late 2021. The American Society of Clinical Oncology has recommended annual lung cancer screening for anyone age 55 to 74 who has smoked for 30 pack years or more, and who currently smokes or has quit within the past 15 years. A pack year is equal to smoking 20 cigarettes (1 pack) a day each year. A pack year differs from a calendar year. Smoking a pack a day for 30 years equals 30 pack years, but so does smoking two packs a day for 15 years. Lung cancer screening is approved by Medicare and is for people in good health who do not have symptoms of the disease. Talk to your doctor to see if you are eligible for testing.

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When Chemo isn’t Possible, There’s SBRT Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) can help lung cancer patients breathe and feel better, including those who cannot tolerate chemotherapy. By zeroing in on the tumor from different angles, it sends radiation to the exact spot where it’s needed and spares healthy tissue. RBOI has provided this precision therapy for more than a decade. Call us for more information.

A Hidden Lung Cancer Risk: Radon Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. You can order free testing kits from the Florida Department of Health. Call 850-245-4288, or fill out the order form on their website at floridahealth.gov.


235,760 Lung cancer diagnoses of US adults estimated for 2021 (18,470 in Florida alone)

Additional Risk Factors Along with smoking and radon exposure, lung cancer risks include exposure to air pollution, asbestos, and toxic chemicals; previous radiation therapy to the lungs; and a personal or family history of lung cancer. Your risk may increase if a parent, sibling, or child has had lung cancer, especially if diagnosed when younger.

Quitters Can Be Winners Free tools and services to help you become smoke-free are at Tobacco Free Florida. Go to TobaccoFreeFlorida.com or call 850-245-4144. For more resources, go to Smokefree.gov or call 800-44U-QUIT. You can find more quit lines at the American Cancer Society (866-QUIT-4LIFE), American Lung Association (800-LUNGUSA) and US Department of Health and Human Services (800-QUIT-NOW).

2% Annual drop in lung cancer rates since the mid-2000s

Racial Disparities in Lung Cancer Care According to the American Lung Association, “People of color who are diagnosed with lung cancer face worse outcomes compared to white Americans because they are less likely to be diagnosed early, less likely to receive surgical treatment, and more likely to not receive any treatment. About half of the 30 million uninsured Americans are people of color, and research is clear that having health coverage impacts people’s medical care and ultimately their health outcomes. Addressing racial disparities in healthcare coverage is critical to addressing racial disparities in lung cancer care. RBOI’s onsite social workers are available to the community at no charge. Call us if you need help accessing care.

70

Average age at lung cancer diagnosis

Patient-centered radiation oncology close to home

80%

Lung cancer deaths due to smoking

The Villages 352.259.2200 Ocala 352.732.0277 Timber Ridge 352.861.2400 Inverness 352.726.3400 Lecanto 352.527.0106 RBOI.com

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Let the industry’s leading professionals provide you with expert advice. PAID PROMOTIONAL FEATURE


Annuities Liz Cornell, Certified Annuity Specialist® CEO TB FINANCIAL GROUP 352.350.1161 / TBFINANCIALGROUP.COM / 3261 U.S. HIGHWAY 441/27, SUITE F-2, FRUITLAND PARK

Are annuities a smart idea for your retirement portfolio? If you’re looking for protection of principal, a modest return, and guaranteed “pension-like” income during retirement, then yes, an annuity can be a smart idea. An annuity, in its simplest form, is a lump sum of money that provides income. During retirement, basically, every investment you have is an “annuity.” Each account is a lump sum of money that will ultimately be distributed (income) to someone. A “true” annuity offered by a life insurance company adds additional guarantees to your objective and time horizon. For example, principal protection guarantee, interest guarantee, income guarantee, and/or death benefit guarantee. Annuities are insurance products designed to insure against the risk of outliving your money, known as “longevity risk.” Outliving retirement savings is now one of the biggest concerns retirees face. Protecting your income is an important piece of your retirement and having an

annuity can add considerable value to your overall plan. The key to retirement is getting your fixed income in place to live comfortably. That’s exactly what annuities do best. The advantages of annuities can include tax-deferred growth, guaranteed income, better interest opportunities than CD’s, and principal protection. Many people believe having an annuity means you can’t touch your money. Not so! That is the opposite of what they are designed to do. The products have changed a great deal during the last 20 years. They are more flexible than before and provide an amazing number of choices for earnings potential and withdrawal options. But you don’t want to purchase just any annuity! There are different types of annuities offered by multiple carriers each with a variety of products. Accordingly, it’s important to work with someone who specializes in annuities. I’ve been doing this for 14 years have built my career educating people on how annuity products work. As an added bonus, I’m a Certified Annuities Specialist©.

FOR MORE INFORMATION It’s important to become well informed. Our Annuities 101 workshops are offered free of charge to explain annuities and how they work. We invite you to attend!

TB FINANCIAL GROUP SPECIALIZES IN: · Planning with fixed annuities, index annuities, and life insurance · Wealth preservation · Income maximization strategies · IRA, inherited IRA, and 401K distribution strategies · Legacy planning Visit our website at tbfinancialgroup.com to learn more.

TB Financial Group Inc. is a licensed insurance agency for life, health, and annuities. We are not securities licensed. We are not tax advisors. Our seminars are very general in nature and not meant to replace the advice of your CPA, Tax Preparer, Investment Advisor or Attorney. We will not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax or legal professional for these matters. Investment advisory services offered by duly registered individuals through ChangePath, LLC a Registered Investment Adviser. ChangePath, LLC and TB Wealth Management, LLC are unaffiliated entities.

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Investments Steve Schneider, CEO TB FINANCIAL WEALTH MANAGEMENT 352.350.1161 / TBFINANCIALGROUP.COM / 3261 U.S. HIGHWAY 441/27, SUITE F-2, FRUITLAND PARK

What are 3 things to do right now during a market downturn You often don’t hear much about the markets when they’re doing well. Life goes on as normal, and you have a sense of security that your financial future is in good hands. But when the market goes down, people tend to panic. That’s a natural reaction when you see your savings decline right in front of your eyes. You might start having second thoughts about how you could have allocated your money a little differently, but what can you actually do about it now? First, take a deep breath. You have resources in your corner to help you stabilize your retirement income avenues. No matter how much of your portfolio is tied to the market’s performance, here are three things you should consider doing when the market is declining: 1. SCHEDULE A RISK EXPOSURE REVIEW: How much of your income can be

affected by a market downturn? You might think you have a good idea, but do you honestly know? A Risk Exposure Review

will tell you the truth and help give you clarity on whether now might be a good time to make some adjustments or to stay the course. 2. REQUEST A RETIREMENT INCOME ANALYSIS: This is nothing more than

an analysis of the different sources of income you plan to use in retirement, which might include your 401(k), personal savings, Social Security, or even a pension. With everything laid out on the table, this will help you think through strategic ways to make your money last as long as you live. 3. DEVELOP A HOLISTIC FINANCIAL PLAN: You deserve a great retirement,

and we believe a great retirement starts with a plan. However, there’s a big difference between having a financial portfolio and having a financial plan. Sit down with a financial advisor to develop a sound financial strategy that is designed to hold up — regardless of what happens in the markets.

Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. TB Wealth Management, LLC is an independent financial investment advisory firm that utilizes a variety of investments. Insurance and annuity products are offered by TB Financial Group, Inc. Investment advisory services offered only by duly registered individuals through AE Wealth Management, LLC (AEWM). AEWM is not affiliated with TB Financial Group, Inc. and TB Wealth Management 1076571 10/21

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MuscularSkeletal Wellness Kristina Adams

OSTEOSTRONG / 352.218.8800 / OSTEOSTRONG.ME

Q.

What is OsteoStrong and what does it do?

A.

OsteoStrong is a complete fracture prevention strategy providing increased bone density, overall strength, and improved balance for people of all ages; from those looking to enjoy a more active lifestyle or athletes looking to gain a performance edge, to grandparents looking for more strength to enjoy their grandkids. OsteoStrong has been found to reverse bone loss, help build strength, improve balance, eliminate back and joint pain, and in some cases, lower chronic A1C levels for Type 2 diabetics.

Q.

How does it work?

A.

OsteoStrong works from a cellular standpoint, not from a fueling standpoint like working out at a gym does. OsteoStrong utilizes a series of robotic musculoskeletal treatment devices utilizing high-impact emulation so that members can get the benefit of impact without the associated risk. This naturally provides a physical medicine option that has no negative side effects. Each sweat and pain-free session is guided by certified coaches trained to put members’ bodies in the ultimate proper position to apply the highest amount of force to strengthen and protect the

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muscular-skeletal system, known as Osteogenic Loading. This can stimulate bone growth, allowing stronger muscles and overall better balance. Sessions can generally be completed in as little as 15 minutes.

Q.

How often is OsteoStrong recommended?

A.

OsteoStrong is recommended only once a week because once your body uses the cells stimulated during a session, they need time to be recreated which takes about 3-4 days. Think about it this way. Your hair and your fingernails are cells. If you get a haircut and clip your nails today, they’ll grow. If you cut them again tomorrow, they won’t grow any faster. As a matter of fact, they may even grow slower because you keep stimulating the same adaptation in a close time period.

Q.

What can OsteoStrong mean over the course of your life?

A.

Increasing bone density up

to 14 percent in less than a year can mean reversing the age of your bones by 10 years. The results of studies done on the program showed double the results, in half the time, of the best performing pharmaceutical options. Keep in mind, this is an all-natural, holistic program with no side effects, unlike how prescription medication can affect oneself.

Q.

Why is the first session free?

A.

We want you to experience OsteoStrong firsthand with no obligation or contract. Let OsteoStrong help you improve your health and increase your quality of life.


Solar Jazmin Felix, Owner

KENKAY SOLAR 352.460.0402 / KENKAYSOLAR.COM / 413 E. ALFRED ST., TAVARES

Is my house right for solar?

Not all homes qualify for solar. Having good sun exposure and a good roof are two key ingredients for going solar for your home or business. To get the most sun exposure, we would need a south-facing roof followed by an east and/or west-facing roof. A north-facing roof gets the least sun exposure, which is why we try to avoid those installations. One solution for that is tilting the panels to face south, or if you have enough space on the ground, we can do a ground mount. The good news is solar panels do not need sunshine to get electricity; they get energy from the UV rays. Besides the benefit of eliminating fossil fuels, solar is considered the cheapest form of electricity. Energy companies have rising costs of an average of 4 percent every single year, and by going solar, you are eliminating that rising cost. You can either purchase the solar panels outright or finance. We offer finance options that require $0 money out of pocket with rates as low as .99 percent for qualifying candidates. We also offer lease options. At Kenkay Solar, we take every house by its uniqueness and understand that

each home’s consumption and patterns are different; we don’t use square footage but instead measure your electric usage to design a customize proposal unique to your family. As a locally owned solar installation company in Lake County that offers commercial and residential solar systems, we work by our principals and commitment to providing great customer service, from initial consultation to project completion. Our ability to expand our business will always be accredited to our unconditional passion for solar and the benefit it provides to our friends, family, neighbors, and throughout the

state of Florida. We also have partnered with our other company, Women in Solar LLC, to provide our customers with safety and quality in every installation. To learn more of what solar can do for you, give us a call at 352.460.0402 or visit our Tavares showroom at 413 E. Alfred St., and we can answer all your questions. Our specialists can also provide you with a customize proposal including your energy savings and product recommendations.

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Window Treatments Roxanne and Alexa Stafford

WINDOW REFLECTIONS

352.330.2055 / 103 N MAIN ST., WILDWOOD / WINDOWREFLECTIONS.NET

Do I have to select the same window treatments throughout my entire home? We believe a cohesive flow is important, but that doesn’t mean each window throughout the home needs to be dressed exactly the same. We recommend matching open floor plan areas where it is essentially one large room, and all curb-facing windows if curb appeal is of priority. Other than that, have fun with it! Don’t be afraid to add a pop of color or an element of texture to an individual room. The trick is to find the balance of tailoring each room to its own privacy, lighting, and decorative needs while maintaining flow of style throughout the home.

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Garage Doors Jack Dickerson

DISCOUNT GARAGE DOORS / 866.420.3667 / DGDOORS.COM

How often should I have maintenance on my garage door? Garage doors should have maintenance at least annually, and we recommend twice a year. During preventative maintenance and inspection, we lubricate the door and check to make sure it is adjusted properly and that the door is balanced. A garage door is the largest moving part of your home, and the average family uses it three to six times a day. Most people have no problem having their air conditioner serviced twice a year, but they completely forget about the garage door until it starts breaking down. When we come out to fix it, people are often amazed how much quieter the door is when we’re finished. We hear, “I didn’t know a garage door could be that quiet!” Garage doors should not be noisy, if it’s noisy, something is wrong. We do repairs on a lot of different issues with garage

doors, such as broken hardware on the door, and we hear a lot of praise about our excellent customer service, our employees, and about how well the door works when we repair it. In addition to garage door installation, maintenance, and service, we provide garage door screens, patio screens and lanai enclosures. We service and install more garage door screens in The Villages than any other company. Garage door screens are a huge seller for us, and we offer four different ones: manual roll-up screens, a slider screen, a lifestyle screen, which is a flip up-and-down screen, and a motorized screen, that we sell the most. For the lanai, we offer a manual roll-up screen or an electric, motorized rollup screen. Thirty-five percent of our business comes from screens. In company reviews, customers say they appreciate

our affordable, fast, top-quality service. We’re pleased to offer 30-year warranties, and to be an Angie’s List Super Service Award recipient.

In addition, we are very proud to have been servicing The Villages area for 20 years!

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Office Equipment Beau Franklin

BUSINESS TECHS / 352.326.3418 / BUSINESSTECHSINC.COM

Why do you need a local office equipment service provider?

There is nothing worse than the inconvenience of waiting days or weeks without the equipment you need to run your business efficiently and better serve your own customers. We understand that, so when we, as your equipment service provider, receive a call from one of our service contract customers, we guarantee a four-hour turnaround time for quick, friendly, quality service, and on most days, average just two to three hours. It’s not uncommon for us to walk in to service another customer within

minutes of their call especially if we are in the nearby vicinity of their location. It is so nice to see the happy and surprised expressions on our customer's faces. If a business opts to take care of their own service, they soon may find how frustrating it may be. They may risk sitting on hold indefinitely, having to deal with impersonal phone systems, or waiting hours, days, and even weeks for a tech to come out, when meanwhile, their machine is sitting there not working properly or at all. What we tell our customers is if you go with us, you’re pretty much guaranteed a no-worry deal, meaning

that when you have a problem, you just call us, and your worry is over. All it takes is that 20-second phone call or email and your problem is solved. Also, a lot of the newer machines allow us remote access, so we can identify and fix the problem even quicker, especially if it has to do with a networking issue. In those instances, instead of waiting for a tech, you can be back up and running in about 11-minutes, which is the average time for a remote service call. No matter how small or large your company is, Business Techs has a solution to fulfill your needs at a competitive price.


Q. What’s new in the office technology world of today?

A. Nowadays, customers can be hooked into our multi-function units, which can perform certain functions remotely. It’s kind of exciting because people can print right from their smartphones or tablets. They can air print, print remotely from their email, or even cloud print. Additionally, with one of our multifunction machines, you can have the fax function set to redirect junk faxes, or those suspected as being junk, to a designated folder so you can come back later, go to that folder, and just scroll through it from the machine or a computer, delete the ones you don’t need, and print the ones you want.

Q. How long has Business Techs been servicing our local area and what are the company’s goals going forward?

A. Business Techs has been in the area for 30 years. We are locally owned, and we service the Central Florida area, including Lake, Sumter, Marion, and Citrus counties. We specialize in sales, supplies, repair, maintenance, and services for digital imagers (commonly known as copy machines), fax machines, printers, scanners, wide format printers, and multi-function units.

We strive to do what is right in every possible situation to earn the trust and business of our customers. For example, the industry average is one to three months with a purchase warranty. At Business Techs, we proudly go above and beyond expectations, offering a one-year warranty or a five-year warranty with a service agreement on any machine purchased from us. If you are not happy with any service, then you do not pay for it. We also make sure that all our service techs are trained in the latest technologies and multi-function machines. Service techs attend educational training school for a week in Atlanta, with ongoing training online to become Sharp Gold Certified. Additional training is also required as new models come to market. Passing an online course is a requirement for authorization to buy and resell them. When we hire a new tech, the first thing we do is have them take one of our machines apart down to the frame and put it back together. This takes hours and ensures they get to know the machine from inside out and the tech becomes much more confident. Additionally, since we are the local presence in our community, we make sure all our employees are cross-trained in various areas to better service our customers. No matter what they need, we can help them as quickly as possible. Our goal at Business Tech’s is to be here for another 30 years and beyond,

making us an integral and valued member of our local community and of every company we service. We plan on doing that by continuing to provide the best customer service possible.

“THE LAKE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE IS PROUD TO DO BUSINESS WITH BUSINESS TECHS, INC. THEIR CUSTOMER SERVICE IS EXCEPTIONAL, AND THEY ARE ALWAYS VERY ATTENTIVE TO OUR NEEDS. EVEN BETTER, THEY ARE LOCALLY OWNED AND OPERATED!” —SHERIFF PEYTON C. GRINNELL LAKE COUNTY SHERIFF ’S OFFICE

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Fencing Shane Miller

MOSSY OAK FENCE / 271 SOUTHRIDGE INDUSTRIAL DRIVE, TAVARES / 407.900.2940

Integrity, teamwork, excellence, and accountability. These core values are important to Shane Miller, and explains why his company, Mossy Oak Fence, has gained the trust and respect of their clients. When you deal with Mossy Oak Fence, you can always expect prompt and reliable service, as well as hard work and honesty. We asked Shane some questions about the fencing industry.

Q.

Q.

A.

A.

What How long separates does it Mossy Oak take to Fence from other install a fence? fencing companies? It’s the service that we provide. We don’t look at customers as just another job or just another name. We treat them as clients, and our definition of a client is someone who is under the care, guidance, and protection of a professional. We spend more time than the average company does on site, making sure we have the right product for the property and trying to achieve outstanding results that our client desire.

It depends on the style of fence. If it’s a backyard residential fence that’s 300 square feet or less, then it’s a one-day installation. Mossy Oak Fence also installs larger commercial projects for companies like Disney, Publix, and Coca Cola that take much longer. The important thing to remember is that we take our time to complete each project large or small to the client’s exact specifications.

Q.

Does fencing require a permit?

A.

Most projects do require a permit. If you’re in unincorporated Lake County, then no permit is required unless the fence exceeds 6 feet in height. However, if you live within any city limits, then it does require a permit.

Q.

Do you offer custom fencing?

A.

We’re very big on custom fencing. We’re considered as one of the few fence companies in central florida, possibly even in Florida that truly is a custom manufacturer of fencing. We


have a 110,000 square-foot facility located in Tavares with state-ofthe-art equipment to manufacture, fabricate or weld virtually any design a client might have in mind. Our fabrication department can fabricate wood, different vinyl styles, aluminum and steel. There’s really nothing at this point we cannot do when it pertains to fences.

Q.

How long have you owned Mossy Oak

Fence?

A.

I have owned Mossy Oak Fence for 13 years. I was born and raised in Leesburg and graduated from Leesburg High School in 1987.

Q.

What makes you passionate about fencing?

A.

I’ve been in the industry for about 30 years. I’ve just come to love what I do, and we’ve become professionals at it. We have a slogan here at our company: “Let the Mossy family protect your family.” In a small way, I feel like we’re in the security business. For residences and businesses alike, Mossy Oak Fence contains pets, children and keeps the bad guys out! We really enjoy providing security and peace of mind for our clients.

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We want to help make Medicare simple. Discover a plan that may work to your advantage. If you’re over 65 and have recently moved or lost your health coverage, you may be able to enroll in a Medicare plan right now. If you do, it’s a good time to consider a Medicare Advantage plan from UnitedHealthcare®, which may offer more benefits than Original Medicare without costing much more. We can help you see if you are eligible to sign up now. We can also assess your needs and find a plan that’s right for your needs and your budget.

Attend a Medicare plan meeting to learn how to make the most of your Medicare coverage. Mount Dora Office Hours Tues - Fri, 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM HIRA Office Renaissance Bldg.

Mount Dora Outside hours available upon request HIRA Office Renaissance Bldg.

1 on 1 Appointments Your Home, Our Office, You Pick!

Virtual appointments also available.

To see if you qualify to enroll, call today. HEALTH INSURANCE AND RETIREMENT ADVOCATES, INC. Licensed Sales Representatives

352-735-7795, TTY 711 www.HIRAdvocates.com 411 N. Donnelly St. #300 Mount Dora, FL 32757

If you have this card, call UnitedHealthcare today.

For accommodation of persons with special needs at meetings, call 352-735-7795, TTY 711. Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies, a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in the plan depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare. © 2019 UnitedHealthcare Services, Inc. All rights reserved. Y0066_170717_130724 Accepted

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Our team will get you to your

NextDreamHome NextHome Orange Premier Realty started with a vision to be a different type of brokerage. One that puts #HumansOverHouses. Whether you are looking to sell for top dollar or looking to buy your first home, our team of real estate experts are here each step of the way to help you get to your NextDreamHome.

Mike Simpson 352.454.1198 Sales Manager REALTOR

Lisbeth Cline 954.599.2238 REALTOR

Micheal Harris 352.857.1222 REALTOR US NAVY VETERAN

Anthony Piccione 352.875.5373

Madison Waddell

Broker OWNER

352.355.5921 REALTOR

Raena Ratcliff

Kimberly Scudder

352.461.3284

352.615.9207

REALTOR

REALTOR

Chris Schmidt

Sammi Treadwell

352.209.9800

207.416.6211

REALTOR

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4125 County Road 106, Oxford, FL 34484 352.561.8322 orangepremierrealty.com

Each office is independently owned and operated.


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CELEBRATING

28 YEARS of Devotion and Innovation to Heart Health.

Christine DeSantis, APRN Christine DeSantis has spent the past 18 years as a nurse practitioner at Cardiovascular Associates, yet feels nursing is more than a career. Christine says it is truly a calling. For her, there are few things more gratifying in life than seeing the health of her patients improve dramatically. “I love my patients. I enjoy educating them, helping them and making them feel better. It is very satisfying,”

Christine says enthusiastically. “I see patients for all the providers at Cardiovascular Associates, including the general cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, and electrophysiologists.” “I have a great working relationship with our physicians and consider myself an extension of their care. I am blessed to work with such an amazing group of providers,” she adds.

L-R: Miguel Bryce, MD, FACC; Adina Ion, MD; Rama Krishna, MD, FACC, FSCAI; Theresa Mills, MD, FACC;

J. Henry Lesmes, MD, FACC; Samuel Goss, DO, FACC; Moises Fraifeld, MD, FACC

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TAVARES 352.742.1171 – 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday 1879 Nightingale Lane, Suite A-1 & C-1 — across from AdventHealth Waterman

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agenda EVENTS. TRAVEL. PEOPLE.

Catboat Escapes provides guests with a fun-filled, scenic tour of the Clermont Chain of Lakes..


THE TO-DO LIST

NOV

6-7

NOV

13-14

FAIRE

Going medieval Fairgoers will step back into a time of romance and chivalry at the Lady of the Lakes Renaissance Faire. They’ll marvel as they watch jousters in full armor fight like 16th century warriors and gasp while fire-eaters inhale hot flames. They’ll be equally impressed with period musicians, comedians, magicians, and wenches. Nov. 6-7 and Nov. 13-14 / 12835 County Landfill Road, Tavares 352.326.1265 / lakerenfaire.com

nov. 2021

NOV

13-14

FESTIVAL

LET YOUR DAY BLOSSOM The 27th annual Mount Dora Plant and Garden Fair features Central Florida’s top growers who will bring more than 12,000 plants. Attendees can view and purchase butterfly-attracting perennials, herbs, roses, camellias, begonias, and tropical plants. Garden antiques, festive flags, and unusual containers are also prominently featured. Nov. 13-14 / Donnelly Park Building / 530 N. Donnelly St., Mount Dora / 352.729.2170

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EVENT

Heritage appreciation

NOV

13

Dade Battlefield State Park is the site where 200 Seminole Indians ambushed 107 federal troops on Dec. 28, 1835, sparking the Second Seminole War. This month, the park is hosting Florida Heritage Day, an event featuring living history demonstrations, pioneer games, folk crafts, Florida music, and food vendors. Nov. 13 / Dade Battlefield State Park / 7200 C.R. 603, Bushnell / 352.703.4781

NOV

19-21

SH O PPIN G

ANTIQUES GALORE

nov.

Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza features one of the largest gatherings of antique dealers in the South. More than 800 dealers from across the U.S. will descend on Mount Dora to offer hard-to-find treasures for serious collectors.

ON STAGE Enjoy quality entertainment on the many stages of Lake and Sumter counties.

Nov. 19-21 / Renninger’s Vintage Antique Center 20651 U.S. Hwy. 441, Mount Dora / 352.383.8393 / renningers.net

LEGENDARY MUSIC SOARS

11/19

FESTIVAL

A DAY OF HISTORY, LEARNING, AND FUN

Clermont Performing Arts Center hosts the band Hotel California, which has been recreating the famous music of The Eagles since 1986. Expect to hear famous hits such as “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Take it to the Limit,” and “Hotel California.” Clermont Performing Arts Center 3700 U.S. Hwy. 27, Clermont / 352.394.4800

NOV

20

The Clermont Historical Society hosts its 2021 Heritage Day Festival, an event featuring live demonstrations including whip cracking, butter churning, rug beating, and more. There will also be games, wood working, laundry, crafts, face painting, a historical car show, and live entertainment. Lunches will be available for sale and tours of the Clermont Historic Village Museums will be offered by fully costumed members ready to share stories about the buildings and the people who occupied them decades ago.

A LAUGHING MATTER

11/27

Watch the hilarious antics of Dale K, who has spent two decades entertaining and educating audiences from around the world with his contemporary approach to the art of hypnosis. His show involves lightning bolts, zombie-like trances, and humans clucking like chickens. Clermont Performing Arts Center 3700 U.S. Hwy. 27, Clermont / 352.394.4800

Nov. 20 / Clermont Historic Village Museums 490 West Ave., Clermont 352.432.3496 / clermonthistoricvillage.com

ONGOI NG EVENTS Events are subject to change and cancellation.

EVERY SUN

EVERY SUN

EVERY MON

EVERY TUE

Clermont Farmer’s Market 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Downtown Clermont

Downtown Mount Dora Village Market 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Mount Dora

Webster’s Farmer’s Market 6 a.m.-2 p.m. 524 North Market Blvd., Webster

Lady Lake Farmer’s Market 9 a.m.-2 p.m. 250 Rolling Acres Rd., Lady Lake

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THE TO-DO LIST

nov.JAMS Move to the beat of one of your favorite performers at one of these great concerts or local venues!

NOV

25

R ACE

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE Feeling guilty about that large, calorie-filled Thanksgiving feast? Then wake up on Thanksgiving Day and compete in the Groveland Turkey Trot 5k and 10k run/walk. You’ll burn off as many calories as possible before the bird even comes out of the oven. Nov. 25 / Cherry Lake Park 131 Wilson Lake Parkway, Groveland 352.394.7434

11/5 @ 5 p.m.

11/13 @ 8 p.m.

C.O.D. FLORIDA Hurricane Dockside, Tavares

THE SPENT NICKEL BAND JJ’s Lounge and Package, Sorrento

11/5 @ 6 p.m.

11/13 @ 9 p.m.

MANFREDI ROCKS Lighthouse Point Bar and Grille, The Villages

BAR FLY Oasis SaloonSorrento

11/5 @ 7 p.m.

CRYSTAL VISION DUO Lake Veterans Club, Tavares

11/19 @ 6 p.m.

BOBBY RANDALL Orange Blossom Opry, Weirsdale

11/19 @ 7 p.m.

11/6 @ 1 p.m.

BRIAN ERVIN Buster Tubbs, Tavares

JIMMY HUNTER Lake Harris Hideaway, Tavares

11/19 @ 9 p.m.

11/6 @ 5 p.m.

SEPTEMBER DOGS Frank’s Place, Leesburg

C.O.D. FLORIDA Grand Oaks Resort, Weirsdale

11/20 @ 5 p.m.

11/6 @ 7 p.m. PAUL MCCARTNEY TRIBUTE Orange Blossom Opry, Weirsdale

11/8 @ 7 p.m. THE VILLAGES PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA The Sharon, The Villages

11/12 @ 6 p.m. MANFREDI ROCKS Lighthouse Point Bar and Grille, The Villages

C.O.D. FLORIDA Grand Oaks Resort, Weirsdale

11/20 @ 7 p.m. THE PIANO MEN Orange Blossom Opry, Weirsdale C.O.D. FLORIDA Hurricane Dockside, Tavares

THE SPENT NICKEL BAND JJ’s Lounge and Package, Sorrento

11/12 @ 9 p.m.

To have an event considered for the calendar, send a short text description along with a color photo (if available) 45 days in advance of event to: calendar@akersmediagroup.com or Lake & Sumter Style Calendar, P.O. Box 490088, Leesburg, FL 34749

11/20 @ 5 p.m.

11/21 @ 4 p.m.

11/12 @ 8 p.m.

Let us help you get the word out!

CRYSTAL VISION DUO Cody’s Original Roadhouse, The Villages

BAR FLY Oasis Saloon, Sorrento

11/27 @ 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. FRANKIE VALLI TRIBUTE SHOW Orange Blossom Opry, Weirsdale

11/27 @ 5 p.m. CRYSTAL VISION DUO Hurricane Dockside, Tavares

11/13 @ 7 p.m. NEIL DIAMOND TRIBUTE Orange Blossom Opry, Weirsdale

EVERY THU

1ST FRI

1ST FRI

2ND FRI

2ND SAT

4TH SAT

Lake County Farmers & Flea Market 8 a.m.- noon 250 Rolling Acres Rd., Lady Lake

Eustis First Friday 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Downtown Eustis

Clermont First Friday Food Trucks 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. 685 W. Montrose St., Clermont

Graveland Farmer’s Market 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Lake David Park, Groveland

Plaid in the Park 5 p.m.-9 p.m. 230 W. 4th Ave., Mount Dora

Eustis Classic Car Cruise-In 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Downtown Eustis

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LOCAL TALENT

PEO PLE

Picture perfect Shooting beautiful sunrises, landscapes, scenic golf courses, real estate, has become Matthew Majka’s passion. STORY: THERESA CAMPBELL

≈ PHOTO: NICOLE HAMEL

isit mdcmphotography.com and one can’t help but be captivated by the breathtaking landscapes and golf courses Mount Dora photographer Matthew Majka has captured from behind the camera. “Shooting golf courses probably makes me happiest because golf was a passion of mine before photography, so combining the two and showcasing the beauty of the sport allows me to pursue two passions at once,” says Matthew, 34, adding capturing beautiful landscapes is a joy while real estate photography provides busy, consistent work. Photography was not on Matthew’s radar four years ago. It wasn’t util he became more involved in golf while working at a country club that he’d wake up early for sunrise shots on his phone camera. “That sparked the interest, which then led me to look up other golf photographers. I was inspired by all their work, but particularly in awe of the unique aerial perspectives they were capturing, so I bought a drone and got licensed to fly it. Doing so opened up a lot of doors and creativity for me and is really when I fell in love

Do you know of a talented person in our community?

with photography,” says Matthew. He hopes to make it his fulltime profession within a year. “Something my mom told me growing up: ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ I have always enjoyed my jobs but work always feels like work. Now, that’s not the case anymore. When I take pictures, I’m not working, I’m pursuing a passion.” Among his favorite photogenic locations are Grantham Pointe and Palm Island Parks in Mount Dora; Alexander Springs in the Ocala National Fores; and the Ferndale Preserve on Lake Apopka. He marvels at capturing moments of time that will never happen again. “I love looking back on photos to try and relive those moments. Knowing that I won’t capture that exact shot again makes me want to get out to try and take an even better one. It isn’t too often that you find me without a camera in hand or nearby, I don’t want to miss a potential once in a lifetime shot.” Matthew is appreciative of the support he’s received and says the best compliment is “when someone wants to hang your photos in a room as artwork, that is a special feeling!”

Email their story to theresa@akersmediagroup.com

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ATTRACTIONS

ECO -TOUR

Nate Crawford (L) and Glen Barclay

NATURALLY INVIGORATING A Clermont boat tour company provides up-close views of the Clermont Chain of Lakes’ unspoiled beauty. STORY: JAMES COMBS

len Barclay and Nate Crawford have enjoyed fun and lucrative careers in the entertainment industry. As a musician and executive producer of Orlando-based IBA music, Glen has produced live shows for Central Florida’s theme parks and provided live music entertainment for private and corporate clients. Nate is a stunt man for Walt Disney World’s Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular show and once spent

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≈ PHOTOS: NICOLE THAMEL

a year performing alongside Brittany Spears in a circus tour. Unfortunately for them, the coronavirus pandemic proved to be a showstopper. But as they say in show business, the show must go on. The two friends decided to become entertainers of a different sort by forming a business partnership and opening a boat tour company. Before opening their company, Nate spent considerable time visiting various waterways and lakes throughout Central Florida. When he

came across the Clermont Chain of Lakes, he was instantly mesmerized by the unspoiled beauty. Mirror-like water reflecting the images of clouds and other verdant beauty surrounding it. Massive osprey nests resembling a disorganized pile of sticks are perched on treetops. Ancient cypress trees dripping with lush Spanish moss nestled along the shoreline. “The Clermont Chain of Lakes is a special place,” Nate says. “There is so much natural beauty out here


that people have never experienced. I knew this was the ideal place to start our company.” Their company, Catboat Escapes, operates out of Cypress Cove Marina in Clermont. The two-anda-half-hour narrated boat tour begins on Lake Minnehaha and heads north to Wilson Lake before turning south to Lake Louisa, the largest lake on the Clermont Chain of Lakes. In-between, tour-goers experience the majesty of the winding, narrow Palatkahaha River, as well as Lake Minneola, where Clermont’s popular Citrus Tower can be seen in the distance. Throughout the trip, guests see towering cypress trees, lily pad-lined waterways, and a variety of flourishing subtropical flowers. Breathtaking views of opulent private homes and exquisite estates sprawling along the shore are also a key feature of the scenic tour. “Having a tour boat company gives me an opportunity to perform in a different way,” Nate says. “When I point out an alligator and I see a passenger light up with excitement, that really drives me. We’ve even had Clermont residents who have taken the tour and had no idea all this natural beauty and fascinating history exists here. By having a guide, people are going to experience so much more than if they rented a boat and went out by themselves. I want to blow people’s minds.” Nate and Glen amped up the fun with their fleet of five mini catamarans called cat boats. These two-passenger vessels feature comfortable bucket seats, a bimini top, and dual pontoons to keep the boat stable and both high and low speeds. Each is equipped with a cooler and dry storage for personal belongings. The passenger who sits on the right operates the cat boat. Don’t worry, though. The easy-to-operate controls make it a simple task. Right hand goes on the throttle to increase or decrease speed,

Glen Barclay and James Combs

while the left hand goes on the control stick to steer the vessel. Passengers learn this during a pre-tour safety briefing. Cat boats have a maximum cruise speed of 25 miles per hour. As they cut through open water, wind to the face and soft splashes of water to the legs will temporarily make passengers forget about Florida’s brutal summertime humidity. “Not everybody owns a boat, and our tour gives them an opportunity to drive one,” Glen says. “Plus, people like getting a little wet on hot days. The cat boats represent a fun way to experience the waterways.” Passengers are equipped with radios, which is how Nate communicates information about the flora and fauna and wildlife seen throughout the tour, as well as interesting facts about South Lake County’s history. Here’s a sampling of what passengers learn: • Some scenes from the 1998 movie “The Waterboy” featuring Adam Sandler and Kathy Bates were filmed on the Crooked River. • Lieutenant Dean Gilmore, a decorated World War II fighter pilot, died when his aircraft crashed into Lake Louisa in November 1944. • Cyrus Wilson planted the area’s first orange grove in the 1800s on an island off Wilson Lake. • In the late 1800s, State Road 50, which crosses over Lake Palatkahaha, was a wagon trail. It took 6-7 hours to drive from Clermont to Orlando.

Jeremy Munn, Ryan Johnston, Sean Johnston, and Leidy Salas

Nate also discusses the significance of the 560,000-acre Green Swamp, which he says is the “heart of Florida’s aquifer.” Because the swamp is situated on the highest point of the aquifer in peninsular Florida, it acts as an underground water tower and is essential to keeping rivers and springs flowing. “I want people to know they’re in a place of significance,” Glen says. “The Green Swamp is the maestro that conducts the flow of water throughout the state and supplies fresh water to much of Florida’s population.” Seeing beautiful sights, soaking up sun, and learning about the area’s fascinating history make for an enjoyable boat tour. Best of all, your worries melt away in a matter of minutes “When I’m out on the water, I leave my problems somewhere distant on shore,” Nate says. For more information about Catboat Escapes, call 323.447.6283 or visit catboatescapes.com.

Know of a cool local attraction you’d like us to feature? Contact us at least three months in advance and provide all the details to james@akersmediagroup.com

JAMES COMBS

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HI, SOCIETY!

Deanna McKay, Pat Engelhardt and David Bethune Brielle and Matthew Ryan

Kellie and Troy Singer

See all the photos for this event at lakeandsumterstyle.com/hisociety

Jovani Guadangoli, Jeremy Gamble and Bud Eureka

Nathan Smith and Albert Eckian E 'S WHER ?! M Y P IC

Brittany Guadagnoli, Jennifer Eureka and Shannon Gamble

Peter Napoles, George Bulgas and Erika Bulgas

BU BBLES & BREWS FOR A RT

Susan Grogan, Jackie Molsick and Sandi Hanlom-Breuer

@ LAKE COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART ≈ PHOTOS: ANTHONY RAO. The Lake County Museum of Art’s second annual Bubbles & Brews fundraiser on Oct. 8 shined the spotlight on local watercolor artists Heather Earnest, Susan Grogan, Sandi Hanlon-Breuer, and Jackii Molsick. The evening’s activities also included a creative pop-up exhibit, music, a silent auction, outdoor barbecue, champagne, and locally crafted brews, all with a mission of promoting and raising funds for art education.


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Gerald and Claudia Wallens

Adrianna, Ava, Julia and Erin The Hood Family

Roberto Garcia, Anna Gomez, Ruben Gomez and Sandy Garcia

Curtis Mull, Vionette Mull, Hilda Cintron and Richard Nazario

The Familia of Melendez

Sandra Taylor, Giovanni Testa and Shelby Rosenwinker

A L L T H I NG S SA LSA! DSC_7559

@ WATERFRONT PARK ≈ PHOTOS: NICOLE HAMEL. Clermont’s third annual Sips and Salsa Festival at Waterfront Park was back by popular demand on Sept. 18, drawing crowds of hundreds to celebrate Hispanic culture. The free family-friendly event showcased a variety of exquisite cultural dishes for guests to taste, along with salsa music and dancing to the live Latin beats of Mambo Lebron Orchestra, DJ Sammy, Waldo Ivan, Awilda Hernandez, and DJ Guerrero. Other fun festival attractions were Chihuahua dog races, a kids’ zone, a salsa-making contest, and a Domino tournament.

Scan this code to view all photos on lakeandsumterstyle.com.

HI, SOCIETY!

E 'S WHER ?! M Y P IC



Leesburg Partnership Board for 2021-2022

Bert Boliek, Mike Thornton (Government Employee of the Year), Al Minner and Joanie Smalley

Todd Trepiccione, Anna Marie Chwastiak (Community Partner – LakeFront TV), Bert Boliek and Joanie Smalley

Lena Williams, Leigh Ann Berry (Merchant of the Year - Prominent Fox), Bert Boliek and Joanie Smalley

Lena Williams, Tim & Dina Simpson (Community Spirit – Mystic Ice Cream), Bert Boliek and Joanie Smalley

Lena Williams, Tyler Brandeburg (Team Player), Bert Boliek and Joanie Smalley

CELEBRATING LEESBURG @ VENETIAN CENTER ≈ PHOTOS: CINDY PETERSON. Some of Leesburg residents, organizations, and businesses were recognized for their community contributions on Sept. 29 as the Leesburg Partnership hosted its 27th annual awards and installation dinner at the beautiful Venetian Center at Venetian Gardens. The evening featured a cocktail hour, dinner catered by Gourmet Today, dessert by Mystic Ice Cream, live musical entertainment by Steel Away, and a silent/live auction of various items to raise money for the Leesburg Partnership’s future programs and events.

Scan this code to view all photos on lakeandsumterstyle.com.

HI, SOCIETY!

E 'S WHER ?! M Y P IC



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healthy living MIND. BODY. SPIRIT.

For local elementary school students, reading has become doggone fun thanks to Thom Battisto and his furry companion, Toby.


INSPIRATION

PEO PLE

Kelly Ann Reagan ‘Yoga changed my life tremendously for the better.’ STORY: THERESA CAMPBELL

he practice of yoga is touted for providing health benefits of improved strength, balance, flexibility, relaxation, better sleep, more energy, less stress, and better self-care, and a local certified yoga instructor and personal trainer credits yoga as a blessing in her life. “One my teachers said, ‘yoga is the science of living.’ And you can adapt the yoga practice to suit your needs,” says Kelly Ann Reagan, 38, of Astatula, adding yoga can be a physical practice, to cleanse and purify your body, or something spiritual or therapeutic. Kelly recalls doing yoga poses as a little girl; however, she didn’t know anything about the Hindu physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines that originated in ancient India. Her real introduction to yoga was in 2004, while watching and following a yoga DVD for a couple of weeks. A few years later, she joined friends in Colorado at their tai chi and yoga classes. “When I found myself in a very toxic situation around 2014-2015, that is when I thought I really needed a change,” says Kelly. She began attending group yoga classes at the YMCA led by Lakshmi “Tracey” Trambauer, owner of Eustis Yoga, who also had a yoga

≈ PHOTO: NICOLE HAMEL

studio in Clermont at the time. Tracey’s classes featured the best from diverse yogic disciplines. “She was very inspiring to me,” says Kelly, who began taking four classes a week with Tracey, in addition to the group class. “I remember one day I was leaving the studio, and I asked her some questions, and she said, ‘You really need to get certified because I need some substitute teachers.’ I thought she was out of her mind. I thought she was crazy!” However, Kelly became certified and accumulated 400 hours of yoga training. “Yoga changed my life tremendously for the better,” she says, pleased to also have taken personal responsibility to save herself from the toxicity she had been experiencing in her life. “I think we should give ourselves credit for our accomplishments,” she says. “It wasn’t just the yoga itself; it was also my willingness to show up, get on my mat, pay for my education, and dedicate over three years of study and apprenticeship for my personal training certification.” To contact Kelly regarding her classes or personal training, she can be reached at lakecountyyoga@gmail.com.

Do you know someone who is a healthy inspiration? Email your recommendations to theresa@akersmediagroup.com

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MIND

encouragement Read to Sydney brings books, children, and trained therapy dogs together for a reading experience that transcends boundaries. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN

ven though it was about 11 years ago, Thom Battisto clearly remembers the day he visited a local foster home to meet a border collie he was thinking of adopting when a brown Australian shepherd-chow mix named Sydney stole his heart. “She walked over, sat on my lap, put her head on my shoulder and I

Toby

≈ PHOTOS: NICOLE HAMEL was like, ‘OK, this is the dog,’” says Thom of Sydney. “She was 4 when I adopted her, and she was already named.” On recommendation of some colleagues at an animal shelter where he worked, and based on Sydney’s easy-going demeanor, Thom went through therapy dog training with her. After passing with flying colors, Thom and Sydney began visiting different schools teaching humane education, talking on topics like adopting versus buying a pet, why not to get a cat declawed, and more. Little did Thom know where that road would lead; that is, until a get-together with family and friends, during which a young girl obsessed with watching television, revealed their path. “All she wanted to do was watch the movie “Bolt” over-andover again, so finally, I handed her a book and I said, ‘Why don’t you read a book to Sydney?’” Thom says. “I said it kind of jokingly, but she started reading to Sydney, and Sydney actually sat there watching her.” Thom says that’s when he began Googling things like ‘reading dogs’ and ‘reading paws,’ which in turn, brought back memories of the reading struggles he once experienced. “When I was a child, I had dyslexia, I had learning disabilities, and suffered from ADHD, but back then, it was ‘Well, he’s lazy.’ There was nothing to help me,” Thom explains. Soon after that, Thom had a revelation about starting a literacy program, that has since become known in Lake County and beyond as “Read to Sydney.” “Basically, it started with Sydney and me walking into the Cooper Memorial Library in Clermont, going up to the children’s librarian and asking: ‘Hey, would you like Sydney to come in once a month on a Saturday so kids can read to her?’ Thom tells. “It just took off from there.”


First row front: Dustyn Deans Second row: Domiya Foreman, Taylor Montgomery, Sabrina Westbrook, Shawn Boyer, Elyse Montgomery Third row: Caleb Dabney, Isaiah Edwards, Sarai Conreras, Mason Perez Fourth row: Kelvin Akins, Jaden Farrell, Latavionne Jackson, Jeremiah Fredrick, Shawn Boyer, Jordan Farrell

“KIDS FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE READING TO A DOG BECAUSE IF THEY ARE STRUGGLING WITH A WORD, OR WITH GETTING THROUGH A SENTENCE, THEY’RE NOT GOING TO BE PICKED ON OR BULLIED, AND NO ONE’S GONNA LAUGH AT THEM.” —THOM BATTISTO

This year, the non-profit organization celebrated 10 years in the community. “Kids feel more comfortable reading to a dog because if they are struggling with a word, or with getting through a sentence, they’re not going to be picked on or bullied, and no one’s gonna laugh at them,” says Thom about why the program works. The Read to Sydney website says, “Autistic children and children with learning disabilities become much more open to learning while interacting with trained and accredited therapy dogs.” And Thom says that even if kids are too young to read, they oftentimes improvise. “They just show the dogs pictures in the book and make up their own stories, but either way, the whole activity encourages them,” he adds. About six weeks after adopting Sydney, Thom went back to the same foster home, adopted a beagle named Toby, and put him through therapy dog training, as well. The trio continued with Read to Sydney, and the program flourished. They began visiting nursing homes and memory care facilities, thrilling residents with a chance to pet and visit with the dogs. A book about Sydney finding a job as a therapy dog to help a little girl with autism learn to read was even published, and though

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MIND

it is no longer in circulation, it can still be found at libraries around the world. Read to Sydney even landed in the national spotlight when Women’s Day magazine did an article about Thom and Sydney, and Thom and Toby were interviewed by and appeared on “Access Hollywood.” “Access Hollywood took us to Universal Studios and the surprise there was that Toby and Scooby Doo got to meet on stage at the end of the segment,” Thom says. About six years ago, Thom lost Sydney, but despite his sadness, he was determined to keep going with what they’d started. Thom decided to keep the name of the organization and its mission in-tact with Toby as top dog. “People would ask me if I was going to change the name of the organization, and I’d say, ‘No, it’s always going to be “Read to Sydney,” but we’ll be doing different programs with different dogs, including Toby, who was already trained,’” says Thom. At one point, Thom opened a 2,700-square-foot reading center at the West Oaks Mall in Ocoee, where families and children could read to Toby, hold parties, and work on crafts. Thom also became a member of the Kiwanis Club of Clermont and when fellow Kiwanians found out about his organization, they backed it with a donation of $3,000 for books that Thom could use as gifts for children to take with them after reading sessions with Toby. In 2019, however, Thom closed the center to focus back on schools and libraries. Today, Read to Sydney has a collaboration with the Orlando Cat Café, where Thom hosts a children’s hour every Wednesday that includes crafting, reading, cat visitations and adoptions to spread the word about Read to Sydney. Thom also has a pending partnership with the Dream Center in Winter Garden, where he and Toby will be leading a Thursday afternoon reading program for kids who need help improving their reading skills. “These programs get me very excited because I see these kids wanting to learn

Thom Battisto and Toby


Sydney (2016)

and I realize that we are helping them do that, but on their own levels,” Thom says. And with another $3,000 donation from the Kiwanis Club of Clermont in May 2021, Thom was able to purchase a cargo van for his new “Literacy on the Move” program. Thom, who drives around town in the colorfully wrapped bookmobile, says it acts like a billboard; bringing awareness about the organization, but also, makes it easier to transport Toby, hundreds of books, tables, and other supplies, to and from their pop-up library events. “People are noticing the bookmobile, it’s hard to miss,” Thom says, adding that he is always looking for businesses or schools to host pop-up library events he sets up at no charge, though he happily accepts donations he uses for more books. Thom says he and Toby are even prepared for holiday-themed events, since Toby has outfits for different occasions, like a doggie Santa suit for Christmas. “We teamed up with the City of Groveland on two of their children’s events and with the bookmobile, we can set up outside when it’s not possible for us to be inside, like we did with the Big Red Bus,” Thom says. “The parents were coming in and giving blood, and the kids were outside at our pop-up library getting books, and reading to Toby, so it worked out perfectly.” And if that’s not enough, Read to Sydney and the Kiwanis Club of Clermont have placed four lending library boxes throughout South Lake County, allowing people access to free reading material to take home, then swap out. The boxes, which the two organizations keep stocked with gently used children’s books, are located at Groveland’s Hope

International Church, and in Clermont at the Orlando Cat Cafe, Weichert Realty, and the Central Florida Dreamplex, with more ready for placement by request. “We want to make sure that if a child wants a book, they’re able to get one,” Thom says. Nadia Booker, an English and Language Arts teacher for grades 3-6 at Hope Academy in Groveland – after a recent visit from Thom and Toby – says she believes Read to Sydney is a great program for children because it encourages them in a fun way. “Allowing the kids to read to a therapy dog like Toby, is really beneficial because it calms them down and takes the pressure of having to perform perfectly in reading off of them,” Nadia says. “The dog gives them a nice distraction. They get to pet and read to him, and it brings excitement, especially for those kids who may not have a dog or other pets at home.” Sabrina Westbrook, 8, says she likes reading in general, but reading to Toby was a bonus. “I like reading to people, but I really liked reading to Toby because he’s such a sweet dog,” Sabrina says. Kelvin Akins, 10, called the experience “fun,” and says it proved more successful than what he experienced on his own. “I tried to read to my dog at home, but it didn’t work out, but Toby is

very calm, cute and a much better listener,” Kelvin says. Looking forward, Thom says he hopes to bring other therapy dogs on board with Read to Sydney. He says it would help when there are multiple events on any given day and because Toby, at 12 years old, is only allowed to work an event for about two hours at a time. He would also love to see Read to Sydney be invited to more schools and businesses, especially now that places are opened back up after the pandemic that in 2020, basically grounded them. Thom says although they still gave books to schools, who in turn distributed them to students during 2020, the main purpose of the program is for children to reap the benefits of reading to Toby themselves. He says pre-COVID, he and Toby were averaging 40-45 school visits per year, but since returning in 2021, it’s been slow-going. “Our motto is ‘Helping children read, one “tail” at a time,’ and we are literally doing that. “The kids really love it, and Toby and I enjoy it too,” Thom says, explaining that something someone said after attending one of their pop-up library events, sums it up perfectly. “She said, ‘Everybody needs a little Toby time,’ and I agree.” For more information about Read to Sydney, to host a pop-up library, or to donate, visit readtosydney.org.”

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Welcoming a new era of orthopaedic care UF Health Orthopaedics—Leesburg gives patients access to a new level of musculoskeletal care. PAID PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

352.630.6250 701 Medical Plaza Drive Leesburg. FL 34748 ufhealth.org

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An avid runner who competes in marathons. A backyard gardener who loves planting flowers. A grandfather who throws a football with his grandson. Today, more people are living active lifestyles than ever before. Unfortunately, there are times when problems arise with joints, muscles, and bones. These problems can impede people from enjoying activities they love. Fortunately, they don’t have to spend the rest of their lives being a spectator. That’s because University of Florida Health is ushering in a new era in orthopaedic care right here in Lake County. UF Health Orthopaedics— Leesburg, located at 701 Medical Plaza Drive, features a talented and experienced team of board-certified orthopaedic

specialists who are adequately equipped to address the pain and functional limitations that come with orthopedic and sports-related injuries. The convenient location gives patients and their families a full range of services to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal conditions— all under one roof. Having these services in a single facility means patients no longer have to drive to larger cities for orthopaedic care, saving them time, money, and hassle. UF Health Orthopaedics— Leesburg provides care for both routine musculoskeletal problems as well as highly specialized orthopaedic care at this location, including evaluations for joint replacements and treatment for spine, foot, ankle, and hand and upper extremities.


MEET THE TEAM AT UF HEALTH ORTHOPAEDICS—LEESBURG (L-R): CEDRIC TANKSON, MD

PAUL E. M. JOHNSON, MD

JAY B. COOK, MD

ISAAC MITCHELL, MD

Dr. Tankson is a familiar name in Lake County, having practiced here since 2005. To say he’s excited to join UF Health Orthopaedics - Leesburg is an understatement. “This is a great opportunity to expand the scope of UF Health and provide comprehensive, quality care to our community,” he says. “Because I’ve been in this community for a long time, I pride myself in delivering a high standard of care to each patient I treat.” Dr. Tankson is a foot and ankle specialist who performs reconstructive surgery and arthritis management.

Dr. Johnson is moving from South Florida to join the practice. He looks forward to introducing Lake County to cutting-edge techniques, such as muscle-sparing procedures and roboticassisted surgery. His focus is knee and hip replacement. “It’s an honor for me to be part of the UF Health team,” he says. “UF Health’s reputation speaks for itself. I look forward to helping people whose lives have been interrupted by pain. I want them to get back to the activities they enjoy.”

As a physician in the U.S. Army and a private practice, Dr. Cook has practiced in Iraq, Hawaii, and South Georgia. Now, the 2001 graduate of Leesburg High School is happy to be home. “I’m so glad to be close to family again after being away for 20 years,” he says. “This is a great area with great people. Also, I am proud to join a practice comprised of first-rate physicians who will undoubtedly improve the quality of orthopaedic care in Lake County.” Dr. Cook treats conditions of the shoulder, knee and hip as well as other common orthopaedic injuries throughout the body.

Anyone with a shoulder problem is in capable hands with Dr. Mitchell. He has traveled extensively to teach other surgeons how to perform shoulder replacements. In addition, other surgeons have come to the area to train under him in shoulder replacements. Dr. Mitchell, who has practiced in the area for 18 years, is excited to continue delivering the same quality of care that countless patients have come to expect from him. “What makes Leesburg truly special are the people,” he says. “I look forward to serving their orthopaedic needs to the best of my ability and help them lead the active lifestyles they desire.”


Christmas Stroll

The Christmas House

Christmas Parade

Stroll through the streets of Historic Downtown Leesburg and see an array of Christmas light displays, browse through the quaint shoppes, live entertainment and see the lighting of the 24’ high Magical Dancing Lights Musical Christmas Tree!

Find beautiful, holiday-crafted items to decorate your home or for that special gift, handmade by local artisans and crafters.

Enjoy an evening of holiday entertainment and fun for the entire family in with dazzling lights, jolly music, festive food, and the muchanticipated arrival of Santa!

Performances from local dance companies, ice slide, games, carnival food, hayride, inflatables, and Santa.

November 26 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

November 1 thru December 11 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mondays thru Saturday 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. Sundays

MAGAZINE

Visit LeesburgPartnership.com for more info.

Carnival food and games.

December 4th 6:00 p.m.


menu FOOD. DRINKS. REVIEWS.

Daphne Garcia Lebron, head chef at The Brownwood Hotel & Spa, is known for her culinary creativity and flair for food.

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IN THE KITCHEN

RECIPE

Where the magic happens Fresh foods and zesty spices, mixed with an abundance of heart and soul are the main ingredients in every dish a Villages chef whips up in her kitchen. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN

≈ PHOTOS: NICOLE HAMEL

aphne García Lebrón, known for her vibrant spirit and creativity in the kitchen, is the head chef at The Brownwood Hotel & Spa in The Villages. She and her kitchen team create beautiful and delicious tasting culinary masterpieces the lavish hotel features on its breakfast buffet menu, and on the menus for banquets and special events like weddings, seminars,

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meetings, galas, and more, that people book for hotel events. That’s in addition to what Wolfgang Puck Kitchen + Bar offers as the hotel’s featured restaurant, that services guests inside its main seating venue, at the Lobby Bar, and poolside. “What I love most about cooking here is making my customers happy. To know they really enjoyed what we created and served for them is very satisfying,” says Daphne, explaining that as she’s in the heat of cooking for any occasion, her thoughts are completely focused on what she’s making and who will be savoring it.

“I am thinking I want to put everything I have into the food, all my love, all my passion, and create a dish that people will enjoy every bite of,” Daphne says. “I also think about how people are tasting the food when they look at it, before even taking one bite.” Jennifer Hallier, Brownwood’s Food and Beverage Director, agrees that presentation is just as important as taste when it comes to food menus for special events, adding that Chef Daphne and her banquet team do a wonderful job pulling it off for occasion after occasion. Jennifer says guests who partake in the hotel’s breakfast buffet, cannot


say enough of the chia seed breakfast pudding, made with coconut milk, chocolate chips and fresh coconut flakes Chef Daphne and her team whip up every morning. And for banquets, weddings and other special events, the pan seared mahi mahi served over coconut rice, topped with mango and black bean salsa or the conch chowder topped with a conch salad garnish, are quite popular because of the colors and textures that meld together perfectly on the plate. Chef Daphne even created a few dishes that can be requested for events, like shrimp ceviche served inside halved

lemons or oranges garnished with purple potatoes, and perfectly crisp plantain chips, or her spiced herb pork loin, served with butternut squash risotto and garlic sautéed broccolini. “Chef Daphne and I are really flexible when it comes to creating customized menus for events and we work closely with every client to make sure that what we deliver looks just as good as it tastes,” Jennifer says, explaining that she’s helped create backdrops and elaborate sets to perfectly highlight an event’s featured foods and any special themes clients choose to go along with it. “Chef Daphne is always the first one asking

whether everything was received well, and we get great feedback from people about her food. She is a no-ego chef, yet you can tell she is proud of what she puts out and she is very passionate.” As for Chef Daphne, she credits her upbringing, her culture and family for her deep-rooted passion and love for cooking. In fact, when she reminisces about family get-togethers growing up in Guayama, Puerto Rico, and her childhood in general, the common denominator is always the kitchen. Daphne says the kitchen was the heart of their house; a place where heavenly scents filled the air and where

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IN THE KITCHEN


“TO KNOW THEY REALLY ENJOYED WHAT WE CREATED AND SERVED FOR THEM IS VERY SATISFYING.” —DAPHNE GARCÍA LEBRÓN

Chef Daphne’s spiced herb pork loin, served with butternut squash risotto, and garlic sautéed broccolini.

Find the recipe for this dish on the next page.

huge plates of Caribbean-inspired comfort foods were always served up alongside love, togetherness, warmth, and happiness. She recalls sitting in the kitchen just watching her mother, grandmother and godmother cook and bake for hours or laughing along with everyone gathered there after family dinners as they wrapped things up. Other times, she remembers working in the kitchen attempting to recreate family recipes on her own. “In Puerto Rico, it doesn’t matter what kind of family meeting you are attending, but you are always in the kitchen, or you end up there, because your mom is in there finishing cooking or everybody is in there talking and doing things after dinner,” Daphne says. “I just know I liked being in the kitchen.” In fact, Daphne remembers the very day her Godmother Cuca Massó, gave her a recipe book. Daphne says she was eight years old and after that, there was no getting her out. “I remember doing the same scramble for two weeks in a row because I just wanted to cook,” she says, explaining that her Godmother, who used to bake cakes for restaurants, was one of her biggest inspirations. Still, after high school, Daphne went to college with plans of becoming a math

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IN THE KITCHEN

1

1. GA RLIC SPICED HERB PORK LOIN Makes 8 servings

2

INGREDIENTS

2

pounds boneless pork loin roast

2

tablespoons oregano

2

tablespoons garlic minced

/

cup olive oil

3

Salt and pepper 14

DIRECTIONS :

Pre-heat oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit. Crush garlic with oregano, salt, and pepper, and make a paste. Rub the meat with the garlic mixture and olive oil. Cover and place the pork loin into oven and cook for 45 minutes, then uncover and cook for 15 minutes more. An instant read thermometer inserted into the center should read 145 degrees when done. Remove roast to a cutting board, cut slices around 1/2 inch thick and serve over risotto with broccolini on the side/top.

3. BUTTERNUT S Q UA S H R I S O T T O Serves: 4 portions INGREDIENTS

2 . G A R L I C S AU T É E D BROCCOLINI

3

INGREDIENTS

1

small yellow onion

tablespoons olive oil divided into two portions: one for the risotto, the other for the butternut squash mash that goes with it

2

bunches broccolini

12

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cup of white wine

2

tablespoons olive oil

6

1

teaspoon minced garlic

cups of water (you can use chicken broth or vegetable broth), divided in two

1 1/2 cups of Arborio rice 1

small butternut squash (about 2-lbs), peeled, diced and divided in two

1

cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (save some for garnish)

3

tablespoons of unsalted butter diced Salt and pepper to taste

Salt and black pepper to taste /

14

teaspoon red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS :

Wash and trim the broccolini. Steam them for about 2 minutes. Spread broccolini on a sheet pan, then season with oil, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Place into 350F degree oven and cook for 5 minutes or until ends start to look roasted. Ready to serve

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DIRECTIONS :

Season half of the diced butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on a sheet pan, then bake at 350 F, about 12 minutes until fork tender and golden brown. Let them rest, then take the other half of the butternut squash and boil in water in a saucepan for about 12 minutes until tender. Retire from heat, drain, and mash the boiled squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in medium to large saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Cook

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for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and turning translucent. Add the Arborio and the white wine. Let cook for 1 minute. Add the 4 cups of water, stirring constantly until the water is absorbed. Add the rest of the water and cook again until the water gets absorbed again and the Arborio is al dente. Add the butternut squash mash, the diced roasted butternut squash, the butter, and the parmesan cheese. Stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes until the rice is creamy and shiny. Add salt and pepper to taste.


eateries in San Juan, including the Casa Lola restaurant and at the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel alongside Chef Juan Jose Cuevas, who since then, she considers her strongest mentor. “He showed me things I never thought I would be able to see. He showed me the type of discipline, re o it m is consistency and passion this For es, v recip m o d o .c o profession takes and until the nw tyle Brow sumters story in d n day of today, I will always follow is lakea rch for th nder u a b e s a him and follow those mindsets,” t and ENU’ n.” the ‘M he Kitche Chef Daphne says. “In T After some time there, a twist of fate brought her to Florida when Luiguie, who’d moved to Ocala, convinced her to leave Puerto Rico and teacher, though in the end, that cook in one of his kitchens again. Chef path didn’t add up. Daphne enjoyed that gig until June “I discovered my real passion was the 2020, then accepted an offer as Hotel kitchen, so I called my mother and said, ‘I Chef at the brand new Brownwood love what I’m doing, but I think I’m gonna Hotel & Spa in The Villages where love it more if I am a chef,’” Daphne her creations are now featured on the says. “She gave me her full support, so I venue’s breakfast, special events and decided to go to cooking school.” banquet menus. Daphne completed her culinary “The Brownwood Hotel gave me the studies at Puerto Rico’s Instituto de opportunity to come work for them and Banca y Comercio in one year, interned they opened the door to magical things,” at the Hotel El Convento under Chef Chef Daphne says. “What I love most Luiguie Alvarez the following year, then about cooking is making my customers went on to become the breakfast chef happy. To know that they really enjoyed there for a time. what we created for them is the most After about two years, Chef Daphne, satisfying feeling and why I love doing interested in expanding her horizons, what I do.” began working in kitchens of high-end

IF YOU GO

THE BROWNWOOD HOTEL & SPA 3003 Brownwood Blvd., The Villages For more information or to book a special event, call 352.626.1246 or 352.626.1503.

Hey, readers! Do you have favorite recipes or know a chef we should profile? Comment on this article or send story ideas to roxanne@akersmediagroup.com

ROXANNE BROWN

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SPIRITS

REVIEWS

Craft beer explosion Taphouse Clermont offers wide array of tasty brews (even holidayflavored beers) and delicious, made-from-scratch eats. STORY: THERESA CAMPBELL

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≈ PHOTOS: CINDY PETERSON

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harles Good delights seeing customers having a good time at Taphouse Clermont and he doesn’t mind if they hang around. “Our business model is not to turn tables every 15 to 20 minutes. We want you to come in, stay awhile, enjoy, and relax. Rushing people out the door is not the kind of place we want to be.” A group of four women recently visited Taphouse to enjoy margaritas and they stayed for over four hours. “They were socializing, having a grand time, and I loved it,” he says. Charles opened the business nearly three years ago with his wife Kathy of 33 years, and the Goods and their staff of 13 are pleased to have a core of regulars who savor the different brews on tap, and those who come to Taphouse for lunch, dinner, evening entertainment, or to watch football on the big screens. Taphouse’s 30-foot-long bar of 100 beer taps is an impressive sight, and it is entertaining reading the names of the wide array of craft beer offerings; many are seasonal favorites worthy of trying. Pumpkin beer, anyone? “We recently had a banana coconut cream pie ale that was just amazing,” says Charles, adding Taphouse enjoys promoting the Florida craft beer industry. “We’ll be transitioning into Christmas beers soon, and we have the Chocolate Manifesto (triple chocolate milk stout) from Canada that I can’t keep in here.” He enjoys seeing customers return for their favorite brews and those who are open to trying something new. “There is a craft beer explosion now; there are so many flavors out there to experience. We’ve got beers with bacon, we’ve got beers with chocolate, peanut butter, blueberry. There are so many,” he says, adding many people wonder if Taphouse is a brewery or a bar. “We are neither; we are a restaurant with an added component of craft beer,” says Charles, who is pleased to hear raves about Taphouse’s made-from-scratch foods, including made-to-order, beer-battered chicken breast strips, cod fish, pickles, onion rings, and more—all made with their beer. There are Taphouse’s house-made sauces, savory beer cheese, fresh, handmade beef hamburgers and sandwiches like the Brewben featuring shaved corned beef with beer enhanced kraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing, which is Charles’ favorite, while Kathy raves over the Bromance, a sandwich of crispy bacon, shredded pork, beer cheese, BBQ sauce, and crispy onions. “Part of the joy of experiencing beer is that you also have to have great food to go along with it,” says Charles. “I always say we specialize in American pub-style foods, and we have a lot of appetizers on our menu, and the reason for that is for you to come in with your friends and share.” Sampling tasty bites of food and a few craft beers was Style staffers’ mission one recent weekday. We sipped the Avalanche


“WE’VE GOT BEERS WITH BACON, WE’VE GOT BEERS WITH CHOCOLATE, PEANUT BUTTER, BLUEBERRY. THERE ARE SO MANY.” —CHARLES GOOD

Kathy and Charles Good

Amber Ale, Apple Pie Hard Cider, Strawberry Orange Mimosa and a Mango Cart, along with lunch of the Crispy Brussels Sprouts appetizer, Romaine Lemon Salad, and Pub Fish and Chips. The food was delicious and a delight to enjoy with the craft brews. My colleague Roxanne Brown summed up the aroma and taste of the Apple Pie Hard Cider the best. She said: “As I went to take my first sip, I caught a huge whiff of what my brain thought for a second, was an actual bite of apple pie about to enter my mouth. And even though it wasn’t of the baked variety, the cider did have a sweet apple kind of taste that I really enjoyed.” Style photographer Nicole Hamel favored the Strawberry Orange Mimosa and felt it pairs well with anything on the menu. We also enjoyed the Crispy Brussels Sprouts, which were fried, cut in small bites, and tossed with lemon vinaigrette, bacon, and Cotija cheese. Roxanne noted: “This appetizer was so tasty that I switched from a fork to a spoon to get every last bit.” The Crispy Brussel Sprouts is Taphouse’s most popular appetizer. “I’ve had people threaten me, saying that if I ever

took them off the menu, there would be a ‘Dateline’ episode about the owner of the Taphouse being killed,” Charles says, grinning. The Taphouse is a place where people can enjoy happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Fridays, and live music, which is featured on Saturday nights. To learn of menu offerings and upcoming activities, visit thetaphouseclermont.com.

IF YOU GO

TAPHOUSE CLERMONT 2507 U. S. Highway 27, Clermont Hours: Noon to 10 p.m. Wednesday; noon to 9 p.m. Thursday; noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 11 p.m. Sunday; closed on Monday and Tuesday. Call 352.988.5795 or the taphouseclermont.com

Do you know a place where we can drink? Comment on this article or send story ideas to theresa@akersmediagroup.com

THERESA CAMPBELL

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DINING GUIDE

dine

OUT

From classic diners and lakeside restaurants to fine dining and everything in-between, Lake County’s culinary scene is booming. Your favorite meal is sure to be served with a side of hospitality. Denotes locations where you can find Lake & Sumter Style

A S TAT U L A Race Car Diner 25641 Monroe St. 352.253.6940 ASTOR Blackwater Inn 55716 Front St. 352.759.3802 Castaways Restaurant 23525 US SR 40 352.759.2213 Sparky’s Place Restaurant 24646 SR 40 352.759.3551 Williams Landing 55716 Front St. 352.759.2802 BUSHNELL Beef ‘O’ Brady’s 2586 W CR 48 352.568.7000 Darryl’s Diner 2237 W CR 48 352.444.2318 Howie’s Family Restaurant 840 N. Main St. 352.793.8582 TJ’s Family Restaurant 412 W. Belt Ave 352.793.8877 CLERMONT Akina Sushi Bar & Asian Fusion Bistro 4300 S. U.S. Hwy. 27 352.243.8988

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Cheeser’s Palace Café 707 W. Montrose St. 352.404.9431

Lilly’s on the Lake 846 W. Osceola St. 352.708.6565

Clermont Brewing Co. 750 W Desoto 321.430.2337

Oakwood Smokehouse & Grill 230 Citrus Tower Blvd. 352.394.0036

Corelli’s Italian Restaurant 1042 E. Hwy. 50 352.989.5924

Robata Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar 1500 Oakley Seaver Dr. 352.404.9688

Crooked Spoon Gastropub 200 Citrus Tower Blvd. 352.404.7808 Devenney’s Irish Pub 16909 High Grove Blvd. 352.432.3925 El Cerro Restaurant 811 W. Hwy. 50 352.241.9884 Friar Tuck 16640 Cagan Crossings Blvd. 352.404.6818

Root and Branch Bistro and Bar 1200 Seaver Dr. 352.708.4529 Sanctuary Ridge Bar & Grille 2601 Diamond Club Road 352.243.0411 Sarah’s Greek Cuisine & More 16640 Cagan Crossings Blvd., Ste. 305 352.404.8031

G’s NY Pizza 12346 Roper Blvd. 352.243.8900

Southern on 8th Kitchen & Bar 801 W. Montrose St. 352.394.7777

Gators Dockside 1200 Oakley Seaver Dr. 352.242.1825

The Outpouring Coffee 2560 E. Hw.y 50 352.989.4406

Goomba’s Pizzeria 2395 S. Hwy 27 352.989.4403

Troy’s Cuban Deli 1200 Oakley Seaver Dr. 352.241.4295

Guru Restaurant 2400 S. Hwy. 27 352.241.9884

Uncle Kenny’s BBQ 157 Hwy. 27 352.394.1225

Legends Grille & Tavern 1700 Legendary Blvd. 352.243.1118

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EUSTIS Jeannie’s Place 209 E. Gottsche Ave. 352.359.0027 Gators Dockside 15241 US Hwy 441 352.357.1255 Kiku Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar 15211 U.S. Hwy. 441 352.483.8288 LaCabana Mexican Bar and Grill 2060 S. Bay St. 352.357.4600 Nalan Sultan Mediterranean Grill 1 N. Eustis St. 352.357.4444 NightOwl Caribbean Restaurant 929 S. Bay St. 352.589.0256 Stavro’s & Sons of Eustis 2100 W. CR 44 352.589.9100 Taki’s Pizza House 2824 S. Bay St. 352.357.0022 Thai Sushi America 925 N. Bay St. 352.357.1949 The Crazy Gator 402 N. Bay St. 352.589.5885 The Oyster Troff 936 N. Bay St. 352.357.9939

Tillie’s Tavern & Grill 31 E. Magnolia Ave. 352.602.7929

La Hacienda Restaurant 10400 CR 48 352.324.3910

Tony’s Pizza & Subs 2760 E. Orange Ave. 352.589.9001

Nicker’s Clubhouse Restaurant 10400 CR 48 352.324.2718

F RU I T L A N D PA R K Fruitland Park Café 3180 US Hwy. 441/27 352.435.4575 ibar-be-que Express 3170 Hwy. 27 352.315.4227 Legends Cafe 2468 U.S. Hwy. 441/27 352.728.0006 Mystic Ice Cream 1217 W. Miller Blvd. 352.812.1366 NY Deli N Diner 3325 U.S. Hwy. 441 352.365.0051 Rae Rae’s Restaurant 2468 U.S. Hwy. 441 352.323.1595 Stavro’s 3223 US Hwy. 441 352.315.0028 The Rose Plantation 200 Rose Ave., Fruitland Park 352.805.4340 G R OV E L A N D Coyote Rojo 214 W. Broad St. 352.557.8999 Ikaho Sushi Japanese Restaurant 7965 SR 50, #900 352.557.8988 James Barbeque 262 W. Orange St. 352.557.4050 Lil Anthony’s Pizza 7965 SR 50 352.429.7499 Red Wing Restaurant 12500 S. SR 33 352.429.2997 H OW EY- I N THE -HILLS JB Boondocks Bar & Grill 704 S. Lakeshore Blvd. 352.324.3600

L A DY L A K E Bamboo Bistro 700 Hwy. 441 352.750.9998 El Ranchito 1 Lagrande Blvd. 352.750.3335 Harbor Hills Country Club 6538 Lake Griffin Rd. 352.753.7000 Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant 504 S. U.S. Hwy. 441/27 352.753.2722 OakWood Smokehouse & Grill 860 S. Hwy 27/441 352.751.5640 Takis Greek and Italian Restaurant 13761 U.S. Hwy. 441 N. 352.430.3630 LEESBURG Breakfast Station 2229 Citrus Blvd. 352.315.0291 Brick & Barrel 209 W. Main St. 352.431.3069 Brooklyn’s Pizzeria 27405 US Highway 27 352.728.2020 Coffee Snob 1101 W. North Blvd. 352.460.4570 Cousin Vinnie’s Family Sports Restaurant 10700 U.S. Hwy. 441 352.253.2442 Donut King 708 S. 14th St. 352.805.4888

Great Chicago Fire Brewery & Tap Room 311 W. Magnolia St. 352.474.2739 HP Grill 1403 S. 14th St. 352.314.0006 Ichiban Buffet 10301 Hwy. 441 352.728.6669 Kountry Kitchen 1008 W. Dixie Ave. 352.323.0852 La Palma Mexican Grill 1690 Citrus Blvd. 352.323.1444 Lilly’s Super Subs 2339 CR 473 352.343.4663 Magnolia’s Oyster Bar 201 W. Magnolia St. 352.323.0093 Main Street Cantina 205 W. Main St. 352.435.7279 Mamma Mia Pizza 755 North 14th St. 352.326.0101 Mammoth Oak Brewing Company 1107 W. North Blvd. 352.326.0100 Mrs. T’s Place, Southern Restaurant 305 Pine St. 352.431.3217 Mystic Ice Cream 314 W. Main St. 352.812.1366 Naples Italian Restaurant 1107 W. North Blvd. 352.323.1616 Oakwood Smokehouse & Grill 2775 U.S. 27 352.435.4633 Arigato Steak House 1401 Citrus Blvd. 352.728.0788

Frank’s Place 201 N. 1st St. 352.323.1989

Pine Street Bar-B-Que 408 Pine St. 352.728.1293

Gator Bay Bar & Grill 10320 CR 44 352.365.2177

Plantation Oaks Restaurant 4720 Plantation Blvd. 352.530.2680

God Café 300 W. Main St. 352.801.7447

Ramshackle Café 1317 N. 14th St. 352.365.6565


Rodello’s Italian Restaurant 26736 US Hwy. 27 352.319.8093 San Jose’s Original Mexican Restaurant 1337 S. 14th St. 352.805.4174 Sip Restaurant and Wine Bar 707 W. Main St. 352.435.7840 Sully’s Smokehouse 10820 CR 44 352.483.7427 Takis Pizza Restaurant 1205 N. 14th St. 352.787.2344 The Florida Porch Café 706 W. Main St. 352.365.1717 The Mojo Grill & Catering Co. 9925 US-441 352.787.0494 The Old Time Diner 1350 W. North Blvd. 352.805.4250 Turners 114 S. 5th St. 352.530.2274 Wolfy’s 918 N. 14th St. 352.787.6777 MASCOTTE Napoli’s Pizzeria 556 S. U.S. Hwy. 27 352.243.7500 Rainbow Restaurant 704 E. Myers Blvd. 352.429.2093 MINNEOLA Lil Anthony’s Pizza 205 N. U.S. Hwy. 27 352.394.1516 Minneola Grill 117 W. Washington St. 352.394.2555 Napoli’s Pizzeria 556 Hwy. 27 352.243.7500 The Surf Bar and Grill 650 N. Hwy. 27 202.527.0100 Tiki Bar & Grill 508 S. Main Ave. 352.394.2232

MOUNT DORA

Shiva Indian Restaurant 140A W. 5th Ave. 352.735.4555

Lake Dora Sushi & Sake 227 E. Main St. 352.343.6313

Chengs Chinese Restaurant 4050 Wedgewood Ln. 352.391.9678

Palmer Legends Country Club 1635 Palmer Way 352.750.4499

The Mason Jar 37534 State Rd. 19 352.589.2535

Anthony’s Pizza 17195 U.S. Hwy. 441 352.357.6668

Lake House Bar & Grill 315 N. Highland St. 352.735.7433

Mary’s Kountry Kitchen 15945 CR 448 352.343.6823

China Gourmet III 343 Colony Blvd 352.750.4965

RedSauce 1000 Canal St. 352.750.5272

W I L DWO O D

Barnwood Country Kitchen & Smokehouse 3725 W. Old US Hwy 441 352.630.4903

Sugarboo’s Bar-B-Que 1305 N. Grandview St. 352.735.7675

O’Keefe’s Irish Pub and Restaurant 115 S Rockingham Ave. 352.343.2157

Chop House at Lake Sumter 1045 Old Camp Rd. 352.750.6000

Ricciardi’s Italian Table 3660 Kiessel Rd. 352.391.9939

Evans Prairie Country Club 1825 Evans Prairie Trail 352.750.2225

Sakura 265 Colony Blvd. 352.205.7393

1921 Mount Dora 142 E. Fourth Ave. 352.385.1921

Beauclaire Restaurant at Lakeside Inn 100 N. Alexander St. 352.383.4101 Café Gianni 425 N. Alexander St. 352.735.3327 Cody’s on 4th Cafe 111 E. 4th Ave. 352.735.8426 Copacabana Cuban Cafe 320 Dora Drawdy Way 352.385.9000 Fiesta Grande 421 N. Baker St. 352.385.3540 Frog & Monkey English Pub 411 N. Donnelly St. 352. 383.1936 Highland Street Café 185 S. Highland St. 352.383.1446 Jeremiah’s 500 N. Highland St. 352.383.7444 J.K. Thai Garden 116 E. 5th Ave. 352.385.4700 Let’s Do Lunch 426 N. Donnelly St. 352.735.4577 Magical Meat Boutique 322 N. Alexander St. 352.729.6911 Mount Dora Pizza & Subs 2718 W. Old U.S. Hwy. 441 352.383.5303 Olive Branch Grille 115 W. 3rd St. 352.729.6734 One Flight Up 440 N. Donnelly St., Ste. 100 352.735.1446 Pisces Rising 239 W. 4th Ave. 352.385.2669 PizzAmore’ 722 E. 5th Ave. 352.383.0092

The Bavarian Haus 433 N. Alexander St. 352.735.8387 The Country Club 1900 Country Club Blvd. 352.735.2263 The Goblin Market 331-B Donnely St. 352.735.0059 The Pizza Shop 925 E. First Ave. 352.735.3411 Vincent’s Italian Restaurant 5914 Orange Blossom Trl. 352.735.4578

Puddle Jumpers 111 W Ruby St. 352.508.5862 Ruby Street Grille 221 E. Ruby St. 352.742.7829 Sunrise Grill 462 E. Burleigh Blvd. 352.343.7744 Tavares Ice Cream 214 E. Main 352.508.5342 The Hideaway 11912 Lane Park Rd. 352.343.3585

Fiesta Grande Mexican Grill 297 Colony Blvd 352.751.0400

The Lighthouse Point Bar and Grille 925 Lakeshore Dr. 352.753.7800

Giovanni’s 3439 Wedgewood Lane 352.751.6674

Tierra Del Sol Country Club 806 San Marino Dr. 352.753.8005

Glenview County Club 3914 Glenview Rd. 352.753.0077 Habaneros Mexican Grill 3551 Wedgewood Ln. 352.633.2080

Whale’s Tale Fish House 2720 W. Old U.S. Hwy 441 352.385.1500

Tiki West Raw Bar and Grill 118 W Ruby St., Tavares 352.508.5783

Hemingway’s at Havana Country Club 2484 Odell Circle 352.430.3200

OX F O R D

THE V I L L AG E S

Pho Saigon 11707 N. US Hwy. 301 352.492.9423

Amelia’s 1105 Lake Shore Drive 352.750.8265

Legacy Restaurant 17135 Buena Vista Blvd. 352.753.1475

SORRENTO

Amerikano’s Grill 998 Del Mar Dr. 352.633.8027

Del Franco’s Pizza 31436 CR 437 352.383.8882 Lisa’s Kountry Cafe 23911 CR 46 352.735.3380 TAVA R E S Bella Nona Pizzeria 280 Silverado St. 352.508.9370 BTW (Burgers, Tacos & Waffles) 115 E. Main St. 352.508.9287 Fish Camp Lake Eustis 901 Lake Shore Blvd. 352.742.4400 Hurricane Dockside Grill 3351 W. Burleigh Blvd. 352.508.5137 Kalua Hale Beach Bar 181 S. Joanna Ave. 352.609.5910

Belle Glade Country Club 446 Moyer Loop 352.205.8208 BlueFin Grill & Bar 2738 Brownwood Blvd. 352.571.5344 Cane Garden Country Club 1726 Bailey Trail 352.750.0627

VKI Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar 1004 Old Mill Run 352.259.9887 Wolfgang Puck Kitchen + Bar 3003 Brownwood Blvd. 352.626.1500 U M AT I L L A

Margarita Republic 1102 Main St. 352.753.4600 Mezza Luna Italian Restaurant and Bar 320 Colony Blvd. 352.753.3824

Combat Café 831 S Central Ave. 352.483.0250 Fish & Chix 100 N. Central Ave. 352.669.7145 Gators of Umatilla LLC 9 N. Central Ave. 352.669.6969

China Jade 420 W. CR 44 352.330.5913 Continental Country Club 50 Continental Blvd. 352.748.3293 Cotillion Southern Café 101 N. Main St. 352.748.1223 Los Magueyes Mexican Restaurant 346 Shopping Center Dr. 352.461.0577 Marco’s Pizza 5806 Seven Mile Dr. Ste. 101 352.571.2400 O’Shucks! Oyster Bar and Grill 1016 S Main St. 352.399.2200 Roberto’s Ristorante & Pizzeria 2468 Burnsed Blvd., 352.626.1059 Traditions Café 3107 Hwy. 44 352.748.1077 Woody’s Bar-B-Q 1220 S. Main St. 352.748.1109

Greg’s Haystax 526 Umatilla Blvd. 352.669.1555

NYPD Pizzeria 4046 Wedgwood Ln 352.750.1994

Old Crow Real Pit Bar-B-Q 41100 SR 19 352.669.3922

Orange Blossom Country Club 1542 Water Tower Circle 352.751.4501

Shang Hai Restaurant 531 N. Central Ave. 352.669.2004

GOOD GRUB

THIS MONTH'S EDITOR'S PICK

Combat Café Veterans Day is November 11. Pay tribute to our brave troops by eating at Combat Café, which is owned by Bruce Chambers, a combat-wounded veteran who served in the U.S. Army, and his wife, Beth. The restaurant, which is open for breakfast and lunch, serves up delicious dishes with military-themed names such as Freedom Toast, The Cavalry, Mortar Melt, and United Steaks. Omelets, pancakes, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and wraps round out the diverse menu. Thank you, Bruce, for your devoted service! 831 S Central Ave. / 352.483.0250

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DINING GUIDE

Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant 352.753.2722 | 304 US-441, LADY LAKE Mom and Dad’s Italian Restaurant in Lady Lake has the distinct honor of calling itself a true family-owned restaurant. In fact, five generations of family members have represented the restaurant since its humble beginnings in May 1962. As many generations of customers have dined there throughout the years thanks to the outstanding service and scrumptious dishes such as Spaghetti a la Bruzzi, Delmonico steak, and lasagna. This food savvy family prepares everything from scratch, crafting everything with love to satisfy your taste buds.

La Palma Mexican Grill

Wednesday-Sunday 4pm-9pm Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Full Gluten-Free Menu

Open Daily 11am–9pm

1690 CITRUS BLVD., LEESBURG | 352.323.1444 | LAPALMAGRILL.COM The entire staff invites you to a delicious dining experience at La Palma Mexican Grill. The recipes used for the restaurant’s unique dishes are a blend of old-school traditions from Mexico, combined with culinary inspirations from California and Louisiana. Homemade Mexican entrees such as Tacos Azteca, carnitas, fajitas, Chori Pollo, tamales and more, are flavorful and prepared with only the freshest of ingredients. Sit comfortably in the beautiful dining room, the festive bar, or outside on the patio deck with a serene view of the grounds and of the fun wild animals that can be spotted in the trees. Enjoy fast and friendly service, reasonable prices, three-for-one margaritas all day, every day, and a party room, available by reservation, for large parties or meetings. Full menu at lapalmagrill.com. AK! Call for daily specials. BWWAA

Lunch Specials 11am–3pm

Margarita Mondays! Enjoy $5 margaritas all day every Monday.

’clock It’s five ohere! somew

Marco’s Pizza 5806 SEVEN MILE DRIVE SUITE 101, WILDWOOD 352.571.2400 | MARCOS.COM The most delicious dishes are made with lots of love. That’s certainly the case at Marco’s Pizza, which is owned by business partners Peter Hiles and Roger Mellen. They opened the restaurant last April off County Road 466A in Wildwood and already have plans to open five additional locations. And why not? Everyone loves pizza, but they appreciate a quality pizza much more. At Marco’s Pizza, everything is made daily, including the dough and sauce. In other words, everything is fresh and never frozen. The popular three-cheese blend is another aspect that makes the pizza so satisfying. Marco’s Pizza also offers calzones, specialty pizza bowls, subs, salads, and wings. Expect to always be welcomed by a warm, friendly staff whether you dine inside the restaurant or call for delivery.

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Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.


Open Daily 11am-9pm

Rodello’s Italian Restaurant 26736 U.S HIGHWAY 27, LEESBURG | 352.319.8093 | RODELLOS.COM Chef Amadeo Avila invites you to enjoy authentic and fresh Italian cuisine in a friendly, comfortable dining environment at Rodello’s Italian Restaurant. The recipes used for his dishes are a blend of old-school traditions from Italy—the restaurant is named for a city in the old country—with new culinary inspirations that Chef Amadeo has learned during many years in the restaurant business. Flavorful, homemade Italian entrees such as Pistachio Crusted Lamb, Salmon Saltimbocca, Lobster Ravioli, Shrimp Risotto, and many others are classics and prepared with only the freshest ingredients. The lunch menu features personal pizzas, calzones, subs, and pasta. Sit in the spacious dining room or enjoy drinks or desserts like delicious gelato in the cozy lounge, which features a full bar, wine menu, and an array of specialty cocktails. Always look for new features on Chef Amadeo’s menu, available on the restaurant’s website, Rodellos.com.

Custom-made, fresh sandwiches, salads, and flatbreads made right before your eyes. The “healthy” alternative to fast food.

Subway SUBWAY.COM LADY LAKE | 208 W. GUAVA ST. | 352.750.4929 EUSTIS | 469 PLAZA DR. | 352.357.7827 MOUNT DORA | 18870 U.S. HWY. 441 | 352.735.4376 LEESBURG | 2013 CITRUS BLVD. | 352.787.6442 10135 U.S. HWY. 441, SUITE 4 | 352.326.3234 27405 U.S. HWY. 27, SUITE 4 | 352.314.8847 THE VILLAGES | 1580 BELLA CRUZ DRIVE | 352.750.9600 8796 S.E. 165TH MULBERRY LANE | 352.750.9991 1070 LAKE SUMTER LANDING DRIVE | 352.205.8535 349 COLONY BLVD. | 352.391.1657 WILDWOOD | 480 W. GULF TO ALANTIC HWY. | 352.748.8800

Lunch: Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday Taking reservations from 4:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The Rose Plantation 200 ROSE AVE, FRUITLAND PARK | 352.805.4340 THEROSEPLANTATION.COM Enjoy an early 20th Century dining experience at The Rose Plantation, located in a home built in 1917. This charming and delightful restaurant on Fountain Lake serves up outstanding dishes with a side of elegant ambiance, starting with the glass-enclosed garden room and veranda, eclectic china, live piano, fine silverware, linen tablecloths, and the rose garden out front. The chefs are given creative freedom to make memorable dishes such as grilled scallops, half-roasted duck with sweet potato mash, rack of lamb, and crab cakes with cauliflower puree, black bean, corn relish, and key-lime avocado crema. All dishes are upscale in both quality and presentation. Customers can also choose from 140 varietals of wine. The restaurant, which seats 128 guests, includes private dining rooms for small parties. Four additional dining rooms will be added within one year.

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Exquisite Italian fare Fiocchi pasta, seafood entrees, along with unique and classic pizzas are Rodello’s delicious offerings. PAID PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

eautiful hand-carved wood tables and chairs imported from Italy provide the inviting and attractive ambiance of Rodello’s Italian Restaurant, which is celebrating its fourth anniversary this month. Rodello’s General Manager Lina Hernandez and Assistant Manager Heather Steele proudly note that in addition to classic Italian dishes people love, their restaurant offers several more unique and special entrées not on the menu at other local Italian eateries, but that many customers really enjoy. One of the popular seafood entrées on the “chefs’ menu” (pictured here) is the Fruitti di Mare, featuring pan-seared skin on red snapper with mussels, clams, and shrimp over risotto with baby heirloom tomatoes in a white wine and lemon-butter sauce. Paprika Mulloso is another seafood favorite. The dish features mussels, clams,

scallops, and shrimp over risotto with paprika seafood sauce. “People love that there is a variety of seafood in both entrées,” says Heather. Pizza is also popular at Rodello’s, according to Lina. In addition to cheese pizzas or a pie of your choice of toppings, Rodello’s offers delicious specialty pizzas that generate a lot of raves, including the Roasted Pear and Bleu Cheese, featuring a pie topped with crispy prosciutto, fresh garlic oil and fig jam. Customers often find the sweet and savory combination of the Roasted Pear and Bleu Cheese to be a delicious surprise. Heather agrees: “Once you taste it, it’s a wow!” Another pizza customers love is the Rodello’s Favorite, featuring a pie with artichoke, red onion, sun dried tomatoes, garlic/oil, mozzarella, and ricotta cheese with a white balsamic reduction.

And when it comes to pasta, Rodello’s Fiocchi alle Pere is a favorite taste sensation. Fiocchi is a four-cheese pasta of pecorino romano, ricotta, taleggio, and parmesan, and the dish is topped with diced pears, roasted pistachios, and a lemon cream sauce. Heather and Lina often receive positive comments about Rodello’s tasty foods, good portions, and reasonable prices. They love that Rodello’s has been a site for big parties up to 120 in the dining room, accommodating guests for wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners, birthday parties, retirement, celebration of life gatherings, and more. Rodello’s offers 10 percent discounts to residents of Leesburg retirement communities on certain days and nights, and a featured Happy Hour in the bar lounge from 2-6 p.m. Monday to Thursday with $1 off on wines to cocktails.

Rodello’s provides food delivery, via Uber and DoorDash 26736 U.S. Highway 27, Leesburg / 352.319.8093 / rodellos.com / open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

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NOVEMBER 12TH

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To make a donation to the UF Health Leesburg Hospital Foundation call 352.323.5500 or email Erica Lebo at elebo@shands.ufl.edu

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FINAL THOUGHT

CO MMENTARY

The dreaded cancer diagnosis Overcoming emotions to develop a warrior’s spirit. STORY: JAMES COMBS

hat was the scariest moment of my life? If you would have asked me that question prior to October, the answer would have been a nobrainer. In 2005, I was assigned to write an article on hang gliding. Of course, the owners of a local hang-gliding company asked me to experience the thrill so I could write a better, more descriptive story. I reluctantly agreed despite my immense fear of heights. As I was soaring through the air with my eyes closed, I remember the hang-gliding instructor say, “Try to relax and not hold on so tight. You’re going to be OK.” Truthfully, I never really enjoyed myself because I was so terrified. But that frightful experience paled in comparison to the three words I heard on the morning of Oct. 4.

“You have cancer.” Yes, I was recently diagnosed with neuroendocrine carcinoma of the esophagus. Those three words landed like a bomb. My palms started sweating, my mouth felt dry, my heart began racing. I felt scared and disoriented in a way that hang gliding never made me feel. After leaving the doctor’s office, I spent the next few hours grappling with an array of emotions. First, I dwelled on the worst-case scenarios. Do I want to be buried or cremated? If I opt for cremation, where do I want my ashes to be spread? Who’s going to take care of my golden retriever? How do I go about making a will? Then, out of nowhere, I remembered all the inspirational stories I have written about cancer survivors throughout the years. Maybe I could survive this, too. Suddenly, I was consumed with feelings of urgency. I need to see an oncologist today. I need to be on chemotherapy today. I need radiation today. I need surgery today. These things couldn’t wait because, in my mind, the cancer

could be metastasizing to nearby lymph nodes or organs. Reality eventually set in, and I realized I would not be undergoing same-day treatment. That’s when I started replaying the past and dwelling on how my lifestyle contributed to this disease. Why didn’t I eat healthier? Why have I allowed myself to remain obese throughout adulthood? Why did I dip tobacco for so many years despite all the countless warnings? I spent about two hours berating, blaming, and beating myself up. My world had been turned upside down, and in my 45 years of living, I’ve never had a day where so many thoughts and emotions raced through my head. Here’s the good news. Their intensity subsided over the coming days. Since that fearful day of hang gliding, I’ve gone out of my way to avoid heights. Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid or forget about the cancer in my body. So, I’ve transformed from a worrier to a warrior, determined to overcome the odds and beat this dreadful disease.

Hey, readers! Is there a particular subject that you would like me to write a commentary about? Tell me, via email, at james@akersmediagroup.com

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JAMES COMBS


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We know that every single customer is unique—Building Unique Pools is our company motto—and so every project we undertake is delivered to a client’s signature set of personal tastes and, where necessary, solves any challenges their property may present.

“Our family could not be happier with the way our pool turned out. Our design was very unique with features that Wiseman Pools incorporated without issue. It was a pleasure doing business with an honest company and our family and friends look forward to more wonderful memories at our beautiful Ocala Oasis.” Wiseman Pools is a family-owned-and-operated, licensed residential and commercial swimming pool builder with an extensive portfolio of projects. From the small—fountains and in-ground spas. To the large—million dollar installations with multiple pools and spas. Our customers, large and small, demand a quality swimming pool for a fair price. And we deliver.

352.431.3766 | WisemanPools.com | 1517 W Main St., Leesburg

—GARY & ROSA MOORE



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Providing exceptional urological care for over 30 years

Non-invasive treatment options • Full range of diagnostic services including but not limited to:

• Urodynamics • Digital Cystoscopy

• Urinalysis • PSA Screening

• Prostate Ultrasound • Image-guided Prostate Biopsy

• Vasectomy • Erectile Dysfunction

Same day appointments are often available

808 Highway 466, Lady Lake, FL 32159 • (352) 751-0040 • Fax: (352) 751-2825 • uicfla.com


Make your body yours again.

Mommy makeover, by a surgeon who understands Call for your free consultation / 352.259.8599 Dr. Christina Yi / Body and Breast Aesthetic Surgery