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WELLINGTON Awards 2023 CELEBRATING OUR EXTRAORDINARY WELLINGTON NEIGHBORS Plus Revitalized Rowing Center On Lake Wellington Community Partners Build A Stronger Village Classic Italian Recipes At Pizza Cucinova
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Joshua I.


Dawn Rivera

senior graphic designer

Stephanie Rodriguez

graphic designers

Nancy Pobiak

Yolanda Cernicky

account managers

Betty Buglio

Evie Edwards

Joetta Palumbo


Jill Kaskel

Carol Lieberman


Abner Pedraza


Jim Barnes

Meredith Burow

Erin Davisson

Denise Fleischman

Frank Koester

Melanie Kopacz

Mike May

Callie Sharkey

Julie Unger


Once again this year, Wellington The Magazine pays tribute to people who have selflessly dedicated their time and talents to uplift our community. The 2023 Our Wellington Award honorees are: John Sitomer of the Council of Dads, longtime community activists Mickey and Lizz Smith, Leslie Pfeiffer of the Wellington Art Society, RoseAnn Voils of the Christopher Aguirre Memorial Foundation, Vinceremos Therapeutic Horsemanship Center founder Ruth Menor and Back to Basics founder Beverly Perham. BY MIKE MAY


For nearly 40 years, the Florida Rowing Center has been located at Lake Wellington. From mid-December until late April, Lake Wellington has been utilized as a rowing destination for hundreds of avid rowing participants from across the United States and around the world. Rowing’s presence in Wellington will soon be more visible and wide-reaching, thanks to Tracy and Howard Kirkpatrick, the new owners of the Florida Rowing Center, who have begun to expand the facility’s youth rowing program. BY MIKE MAY



from the publisher

This month, we are proud to present the winners of the 2023 Our Wellington Awards, which honor an array of amazing community activists who through their efforts make Wellington a better, stronger community. Please join us in saluting Mickey and Lizz Smith, Leslie Pfeiffer, John Sitomer, RoseAnn Voils, Beverly Perham and Ruth Menor. Read through this issue to learn all about these wonderful honorees.

Also featured is a true Wellington treasure, the Florida Rowing Center on Lake Wellington. For the past 40 years, this unique facility has been a winter destination for avid rowers from around the world. It is being revitalized by new owners Tracy and Howard Kirkpatrick, who have put an emphasis on developing a new crew of youth rowers to help build this international sport locally.

This month’s Wellington Today feature by Village Manager Jim Barnes focuses on the amazing cooperative programs that the village has with its many supporters through the highly successful Community Partners Roundtable. Wellington Table visits Pizza Cucinova, which opened recently on the upper level of the Mall at Wellington Green, serving up classic Italian dishes in the Neapolitan style.

Wellington The Magazine will return in October with our annual Palm Beach Brides edition, featuring the latest in local wedding stories, fashion and trends. Contact us today to learn more about this unique, special edition.


Pizza Cucinova has added a taste of Italy to the upper level of the Mall at Wellington Green. The newly opened pizzeria began serving its homemade Neapolitan cuisine in May. The eatery is nestled just a few doors down from Macy’s. You can’t miss the vintage 1940s Italian motorcycle parked at the entrance to welcome guests. BY MELANIE KOPACZ

Mickey and Lizz Smith, one of this year’s Our Wellington Award honorees featured in this month’s issue.


contents September 2023 Features 10 12 14 WELLINGTON TODAY Wellington’s aspiration to create a thriving, safe and compassionate community isn’t unique, but it does require a coordinated effort. Recognizing that local government can’t address all community needs alone, the Community Partners Roundtable emerged. The village’s Community Services Department spearheaded this initiative, recognizing the value of a centralized effort.
TAP Stages Hit Musical ‘School Of Rock’ At WHS WRMC Hosts Chamber Membership Mixer Wellington’s Back-To-School ‘Party In The Park’ 35 WELLINGTON THE MAGAZINE Bringing You The Best Of Wellington Since 2004 volume 20, number 9 SEPTEMBER 2023
executive editor
Wellington The Magazine is published monthly in Wellington, Florida. Copyright 2023, all rights reserved by Wellington The Magazine, LLC. Contents may not be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher. The publisher reserves the right to refuse advertising. The publisher accepts no responsibility for advertisement errors beyond the cost of the portion of the advertisement occupied by the error within the advertisement itself. The publisher accepts no responsibility for submitted materials. All submitted materials subject to editing. 12794 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite 33 Wellington, FL 33414 Phone: (561) 793-7606 Fax: (561) 793-1470 www.wellingtonthemagazine.com published by Wellington The Magazine, LLC chairman/ceo
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38 30 35 38 wellington the magazine | september 2023 7
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wellington | social scene PHOTOS BY FRANK KOESTER


On Saturday, Aug. 5 and Sunday Aug. 6, Theatre Arts Productions (TAP) featured a production of the hit musical School of Rock for three shows at the Wellington High School theater. School of Rock featured a cast of 28 actors and 18 stage crew members across a wide variety of ages. Based on the well-known movie of the same name, School of Rock tells the story of Dewey Finn (Jaycie Cohen), an out-of-work rock guitarist who pretends to be a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school run by Principal Rosalie Mullins (Dolly Romano).

10 september 2023 | wellington the magazine
(Left to right) TAP Company Manager Marlo Cohen, Founder/Artistic Director Jaycie Cohen and President Terry Reed before the show; the cast gathers on stage for a picture just minutes before the start of the show; Theo of the band No Vacancy performs the opening number, “I’m Too Hot for You”; Dewey Finn meets Principal Rosalie Mullins; and Dewey, Ned and Patty perform “Variation 7/Children of Rock.”
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(Left to right) The kids perform “You’re in the Band”; Kids and parents during “If Only You Would Listen”; the teachers perform “Faculty Quadrille”; and Dewey and the kids perform “Stick It to the Man.”
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wellington | social scene PHOTOS BY FRANK KOESTER


On Wednesday, July 19, Wellington Regional Medical Center hosted a Wellington Chamber of Commerce happy hour social. Guests were treated to food and drinks while getting the opportunity to network with other chamber members. WRMC CEO Pam Tahan and Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Rochaine were in attendance to talk with the guests. The highlight of the evening was a tour of the cardiac catheterization lab and the maternity ward.

12 september 2023 | wellington the magazine
(Left to right) Ed Jurado, Maria Jose Jurado and Julie Khanna at the chamber mixer; Roselle Gibbs, Leslie Gibbs and Jeff Mickler; Samantha Rubin, Selina Tran and Lynne McKague; and Jenn Cohen, Janet Mena, Barbara Richardson, Angel Rivera and Lucy Vandejen.
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(Left to right) Dr. Edlira Maska, Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Rochaine, Shanell Foster, Kysha Vernon-Bonner, Jeanna Morrone, Bill Morrone, Wendy-Kaye Jones and Robby Mackenzie; Jenn Cohen with Wellington Regional CEO Pam Tahan; Samantha Rubin (right) leads a tour to show chamber members some of the recent upgrades at the medical center; and Dr. Andrew Shapiro, Jay Webber and Dr. Kyle Eldredge.



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wellington | social scene PHOTOS BY DENISE FLEISCHMAN


The Village of Wellington held a free Back-to-School “Party in the Park” on Friday, Aug. 4 at the Wellington Amphitheater. Sponsored by the Christopher Aguirre Memorial Foundation, in partnership with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue, the event featured free, family-friendly activities, such as bounce houses, costumed character entertainment, DJ music and dancing, face painting, food trucks, PBSO and PBCFR vehicles, a trackless train and vendors.

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14 september 2023 | wellington the magazine
(Left to right) PBCFR Station 25’s Capt. Brant St. Louis, driver Landon Smith, Kevin Zamorano, Lt. Cedric Wilks and firefighter Jesse Bogle; Ashton Kleinman and Ethan Humphrey visit with the PBSO; Wellington Wizards rugby team members; and Catherine Tucker, Madelyn Merola, Aaliyah Ouellette, Mia Zhang, Mikayla Giuliano, Charlize Giuliano and Pearl Stiles of Dazzle Dance Studios.
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WELLINGTON Awards Congratulations To The 2023 Recipients
JOHN SITOMER 16 september 2023 | wellington the magazine

Celebrating The Extraordinary Achievements Of Our Wellington Neighbors!

Step into a world where greatness knows no bounds and join us in celebrating the people who make our community special. Wellington The Magazine unveiled the Our Wellington Awards last year. This award marked the first of its kind, honoring six remarkable individuals who have given of themselves and helped to shape our beloved village into one of the top places to live in the country.

Again, this year, we pay tribute to people who have selflessly dedicated their time and talents to uplift our community. The 2023 Our Wellington Award honorees are: John Sitomer of the Council of Dads, longtime community activists Mickey and Lizz Smith, Leslie Pfeiffer of the Wellington Art Society, RoseAnn Voils of the Christopher Aguirre Memorial Foundation, Vinceremos Therapeutic Horsemanship Center founder Ruth Menor, and Back to Basics founder Beverly Perham.

Over the next several pages, you will get to meet these inspiring individuals, who have not only

done wonderful things for Wellington themselves, but through their work have inspired countless other volunteers to get involved and help build our community into what it is today. By reading their stories, you can get to know these remarkable individuals, discover the motivations behind their journeys and learn more about the organizations they champion. This year’s recipients of the Our Wellington Awards will be honored at a special luncheon this fall, where we will celebrate them, along with all the good work they have done.

We thank everyone who nominated people for this year’s Our Wellington Awards. Choosing the honorees was a challenge, but we hope this program helps us continue to build a community that thrives on compassion, generosity and the spirit of making a difference. The goal is to get others involved, embrace a worthy cause and be a catalyst for positive change. Together, we can transform lives and create a brighter future for Wellington.

wellington the magazine | september 2023 17
Congratulations to the recipients of the 2023 Our Wellington Awards! WELLINGTON Awards


Volunteering Is A Way Of Life For Wellington’s

Mickey And Lizz Smith

Mickey and Lizz Smith have been living in Wellington for more than three decades and truly enjoy living, working and volunteering here. While one of their favorite things to do is to travel to destinations on all seven continents, they always enjoy coming back to their Wellington home, where they plan to stay for the rest of their lives.

Among the reasons why Wellington is such a great place to live is because of the community spirit that the Smiths bring to their adopted hometown.

A personal injury attorney, Mickey remains busy as a partner in the firm Lesser, Lesser, Landy and Smith. Lizz, meanwhile, is a retired educator. She worked for 32 years as a special education teacher at local schools, such as Osceola Creek, Emerald Cove and Wellington Landings middle schools. She now stays busy as an avid volunteer.

Despite the demands of being a full-time attorney, Mickey also finds time to get involved in the community.

“When I volunteer to support local charities, I seem to get back 10 times more than I give,” Mickey said. “It’s a source of great enjoyment.”

“I’m blessed that I have the time and ability to volunteer to help local groups,” Lizz added.

The Smiths are longtime supporters of the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club and the Wellington Community Foundation. Mickey served on the board of the Boys & Girls Club for 10 years and was a founding member of the Wellington Community Foundation’s board. He also serves on the board of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber and is a member of the Wellington Rotary. While Lizz is not a Rotarian, she helps as a volunteer when they support local causes.

Both enjoy supporting the Wellington Community Foundation, which would have ended when it spun off from the village had it not been for the leadership of the late Tom Wen-

ham, Mickey said. “It was an honor to help Tom with the Wellington Community Foundation,” he said. “He and his wife Regis are the gold standard for volunteering in Wellington. Both have been inspirations to us all.”

Lizz particularly enjoyed helping the Wellington Rotary distribute food during the pandemic. “The food drive lasted for a year and helped feed many families in need,” she recalled, adding that she takes pride in supporting groups that showcase the village’s family-friendly image. “Wellington is great for families, as there is always so much to see and do.”

Another area of satisfaction is the beautification of Stribling Way, their adopted street, which has a sign with their names on it. “We set aside at least four Saturdays a year to go pick up trash along Stribling Way,” Mickey said. “We want to help keep Wellington beautiful.”

In their free time, they are huge fans of the Miami Dolphins, and also enjoy watching games involving Mickey’s two alma maters — Virginia Tech and Duke University. “When Virginia Tech plays Duke in football, I root for Virginia Tech,” Mickey said. “When they play one another in basketball, I cheer for Duke.”

In her free time, Lizz stays healthy and fit by playing tennis at the Wellington Tennis Center, which she calls “a real jewel of the community.”

The couple met at Virginia Tech. Lizz was there on a swimming scholarship while pursuing a degree in education. She was a high school state champion swimmer in Florida in 1975. At Virginia Tech, Mickey pursued a degree in industrial engineering. He then headed to Duke for his law degree, which he earned in 1985. He has practiced in Florida since then.

Moving forward, the Smiths encourage others who enjoy living in Wellington to find ways to volunteer, and in doing so, develop a stronger connection to the community.

2023 18 september 2023 | wellington the magazine WELLINGTON Awards

Leslie Pfeiffer Helps Shine A Spotlight On

Art And Culture In Wellington

For more than 40 years, Wellington has been the home of the Wellington Art Society, and one of the key leaders of this vibrant cultural nonprofit is Leslie Pfeiffer.

As a volunteer for more than 15 years, Pfeiffer brings professional skills, enthusiasm and dedication to the organization, playing an important role in artist development and community outreach. Over the years, she has served as president, board member, chaired many committees, coordinated art shows and created many Wellington Art Society programs.

Pfeiffer enjoys the collaborative spirit of the group. Currently, she is the organization’s second vice president, development chair and serves on several committees.

As development chair, Pfeiffer has secured support through in-kind and monetary donations from many local and regional sponsors and community partners for events, scholarships and outreach programs.

“Local businesses welcome the opportunity to support scholarships and community outreach and enhance the Wellington lifestyle through art and culture programs,” Pfeiffer said, noting that to date, the Wellington Art Society has awarded more than $130,000 to local high school students headed to college for art-related studies.

Pfeiffer has also been the event coordinator for many art shows and programs. She organized Art Fest on the Green, an outdoor fine art and craft show, for 13 years.

Right now, the group has more than 100 members that include art enthusiasts, emerging artists and professional artists creating a wide array of original artwork.

“Since 1981, the Wellington Art Society has brought the community together to celebrate life and art,” said Pfeiffer, who has lived in Wellington for 30 years. “The society looks forward to a bright future as we continue to inspire, educate and enhance the lives of our community through creativity and art.”

She added that the organization enriches the lives and culture of the residents of the western communities and beyond.

“The Wellington Art Society encourages originality and productivity among its members and provides a place where emerging and professional artists meet, exchange ideas and advance the appreciation of art,” Pfeiffer said.

The nonprofit also presents eight member art exhibitions a year. The shows are open daily and free to the public between the Wellington Community Center and Wellington Village Hall. At these exhibitions, more than 300 original works of art rotate throughout the year.

As part of its outreach program, the Wellington Art Society provides art supplies to schools, hospital art programs, mentoring, children’s art camp tuition, workshops and special events.

Pfeiffer’s love of art can be traced back to her childhood in the Midwest. “I started to draw at three years old and love being creative and encouraging other artists,” said Pfeiffer, whose favorite artist is John Singer Sargent. “I am passionate about art and the creative process.”

Pfeiffer, who works with her husband Randy as a Realtor with Keyes Realty Wellington, said that original artwork turns a house into a home where memories are made. She is an award-winning artist who works in mixed media, oil and watercolor.

One of the benefits of the Wellington Art Society is the chance to meet other people who have different areas of interest, she explained. “Among the many gifts of volunteering are the personal interactions and friendships that develop,” Pfeiffer said. “I have met and become friends with truly remarkable people doing extraordinary work because of their shared vision and commitment to improving lives and making a better world. I encourage everyone to find a group or start one that shares your interest and passion.”

To learn more about the Wellington Art Society, visit www. wellingtonartsociety.org. The group meets the second Wednesday of each month from September through May at the Wellington Community Center at 5:30 p.m.

2023 20 september 2023 | wellington the magazine WELLINGTON Awards STORY BY MIKE MAY

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Council Of Dads Founder John Sitomer Is A Man On Many Missions To Help The Community

In an odd way, the Wellington community should be thankful that John Sitomer has been diagnosed with cancer on four occasions since 1998 — and even more thankful that he has continued to beat the disease.

Back in 2008, Sitomer, his wife Dina and their son were living in the Bahamas when John was then diagnosed with leukemia, after overcoming testicular cancer in 1998. His doctor encouraged them to return to the U.S. for his treatment. His future looked bleak. Of all places, the Sitomers moved to Wellington.

Within seven years, he was cancerfree. Then, he started networking in his new community. In 2015, Sitomer, now 68, recalled reading the book The Council of Dads. He realized that the story, where a man battling cancer finds mentors for his children, could be replicated in Wellington.

Sitomer knew more than 30 men who would be perfect candidates for Wellington’s Council of Dads, which would be affiliated with the Wellington Wolves travel basketball organization. After meeting with the first 10 people on his list, each one agreed to serve on the new Council of Dads.

“Each man said yes and admitted that they were looking for a way to give back to the community,” said Sitomer, who has served on the Wellington Wolves’ board of directors for eight years.

The target audience for the Council of Dads would be the boys and girls affiliated with the Wellington Wolves and their siblings. While the players are talented athletes, many needed help with their academic studies. That’s where the expertise of the Council of Dads fills a void.

In addition to Sitomer, the Council of Dads roster featured many outstanding local leaders: Gerry Stumm, Howard Eisenberg, Grant Johnson, Rafi Wynn, David Kane, Dr. Jim Shecter, Dr. Gordon Johnson, Capt. Peter Smith, Jeff Si-

tomer and Wellington Wolves President Chris Fratalia.

The Council of Dads concept has been so successful that it has been expanded to include local high school students who are members of the National Honor Society as paid tutors. The Wellington branch library provides space for the students and their tutors to work after school, while the Council of Dads pays the tutors and provides snacks.

“We’ve been able to raise grades from Ds and Fs to As and Bs,” Sitomer said. “Our tutors teach seven different subjects for students from the fifth to the 11th grade. We even provide tutoring in Spanish. At the end of the school year, we recognize students who have GPAs of at least 3.0 with the Honor Roll Award and students with a GPA of 4.0 or higher with the Top Gun Award.”

Sitomer and the Council of Dads utilize the Wellington Wolves’ annual March Madness youth basketball tournament as a venue to collect new or slightly used shoes for In Jacob’s Shoes, a nonprofit that gathers, disinfects and distributes shoes to needy children. Since 2021, 8,777 pairs of shoes have been collected during Wellington’s March Madness event.

Also, after Hurricane Dorian slammed the Bahamas in 2019, Sitomer and the Council of Dads organization oversaw the collection and distribution of hurricane relief supplies. Sitomer helped coordinate six different cargo flights to the Bahamas. Sitomer was on board each flight to make sure that the supplies were properly distributed to those in need. Many of the donations came from people within the Wellington community.

Clearly, John Sitomer is somebody who sees a hurdle and figures out how to negotiate it, whether it’s a child who needs help in the classroom or his latest battle with cancer.

2023 22 september 2023 | wellington the magazine WELLINGTON Awards

Innovative Prostate Procedure Helps Patients Sleep More Soundly

Vitaly Shtulman, 65, of Delray Beach, had been dealing with urinary issues for several years due to Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, or BPH, a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland

He had difficulty urinating and was up several times each night to use the bathroom. He didn’t know of any medical options to address this, so he put off a doctor’s visit.

“Most men living with enlarged prostate symptoms take prescription medications after they’re diagnosed, but these prescriptions often don’t provide adequate relief and may cause dizziness, fatigue and sexual dysfunction,” explained urologist Edward Becker, MD, a Center of Excellence physician for the procedure.

Performed in either an inpatient or outpatient setting with mild sedation, the UroLift device is inserted through the urethra and placed so it lifts and holds the enlarged prostate tissue out of the way, so it no longer blocks urine flow. It is the only transurethral BPH treatment that does not require ongoing medication, heating, cutting or removal of prostate tissue.

The procedure exceeded Shtulman’s expectations. He had slight discomfort for a few days after the procedure, but noticed a difference in his urination and improvement in his sleep almost immediately.

For more information on the procedure, visit wellingtonregional.com/urolift.

To schedule an appointment, or find a physician, call 561-798-9880.

Individual results may vary. There are risks associated with any medical procedure. Talk with your doctor about these risks to find out if this procedure is right for you. Physicians are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Wellington Regional Medical Center. The hospital shall not be liable for actions or treatments provided by physicians. For language assistance, disability accommodations and the nondiscrimination notice, visit our website. 231322353-1360578 7/23
If you have an enlarged prostate that blocks urine flow, the UroLift® system may be able to help. The procedure helps reduce the prostate swelling that interferes with the flow of urine from the urethra.


RoseAnn Voils Helps Lead Local Foundation To Honor The Memory Of Her Late Son

Some people and the organizations they represent have a magnetic appeal that attracts the right people to the right place for the right cause. That aptly describes the leadership provided by RoseAnn Voils, one of the directors of the Wellington-based Christopher Aguirre Memorial Foundation.

The foundation has been in existence since 2009. Its mission is to give back to the Wellington community through educational and athletic opportunities to local children.

The foundation was created in memory of Voils’ son, Christopher Aguirre, who lost his life in 2006 when he was tragically struck and killed by a drunk driver while walking in downtown Fort Lauderdale. He was only 23 years old.

To help continue Christopher’s passion for helping people, the nonprofit Christopher Aguirre Memorial Foundation was created.

“Every parent who loses a child wants their child to be remembered, even though they are not physically on Earth,” said Voils, who works for Palm Beach County in administration at Palm Tran Connection. “What helps our family cope with the tragedy is seeing other families receive the benefits from our foundation. It helps keep Christopher’s memory alive, carries on his legacy and makes all the work we put into the foundation worthwhile.”

The foundation’s contributions to local lives in Wellington are numerous.

In 2011, the Christopher Aguirre Memorial Scholarship was established and is awarded annually to an outstanding Wellington High School senior pursuing a degree at Florida State University. Christopher was a graduate of WHS and was just a few weeks away from graduating from FSU at the time of his death. It’s a $10,000 scholarship awarded in four annual installments of $2,500. Past recipients are Jessica Pollack (2011), Truly Long (2012), Brittany Barnhart (2013), Erin McNally (2014), Elliot Dion (2015), Isabella Bruce (2016), Jessica Gabriel (2017), Kaitlyn Osmond (2018), Alyssa Ad-

ams (2019), Desandre Stanley (2020), Rylee Hagan (2021), McKenna Tosner (2022) and Rylee Bleakley (2023).

The foundation is also known for co-sponsoring events with the Village of Wellington. This year, the foundation hosted the annual Back-to-School “Party in the Park,” in partnership with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue on Aug. 4 at the Wellington Amphitheater. It was a way for local families to celebrate the end of summer and prepare for the upcoming school year. This outdoor event was free to attend and enjoy. In addition to many food trucks, there were 20 vendors, multiple bounce houses, costumed character entertainment, face painting, a disc jockey playing music, and PBSO and PBCFR vehicles to visit.

In recent years, the foundation has also underwritten local summer camp experiences for Wellington children — many of whom are members of Wellington’s Boys & Girls Club — who come from families that have limited finances.

To help make Halloween safe, the foundation has worked with officials at Wellington High School to host a “Trunk or Treat” candy giveaway in the WHS parking lot for local elementary school-age children and those from local day care centers.

“We also donate food to local churches during Thanksgiving,” Voils added. “Back in 2015, we started giving away shoes to people in need. We distribute 500 to 600 shoes a year.”

To help raise funds to support its charitable efforts throughout the year, the foundation hosts its annual invitational golf tournament every fall. This year’s tournament will be played at the Dye Preserve Golf Club in Jupiter on Nov. 13. Funds from sponsorships will be used to further the foundation’s scholarships and its other projects throughout the year.

To learn more about the Christopher Aguirre Memorial Foundation, visit www.christophermemorial.org, find them on Facebook or contact RoseAnn Voils via e-mail at roseann@ christophermemorial.org.

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To Basics Founder Beverly Perham Is An Angel In The Wellington Community

“We can’t save the world, but we can save our own community, one child at a time.” Those are the words of 85-yearold Wellington resident Beverly Perham, the founder of Back to Basics, a volunteer organization that has been serving some of the basic needs of elementary school children in Palm Beach County for nearly 40 years.

The nonprofit Back to Basics (www. backtobasicsinc.org) provides underserved children with some of the basic clothing necessities for school — two new school uniforms, socks, underwear and sneakers. Every item is brand new. The school uniforms are delivered to elementary schools a week before school begins in August. The socks, underwear and sneakers — plus a small Christmas gift — are provided during the holiday season.

“The children receive a five-pack of socks and underwear because there are five days in a school week,” Perham explained.

Perham has been spearheading this charitable effort since 1984.

“This school year will be our 39th year,” she said. “Right now, we are working with 65 public elementary schools in Palm Beach County. We are also providing school uniforms to students at four public middle schools.”

When a family cannot afford some of the basic clothing items for their children, Back to Basics fills the void. According to Perham, the clothing makes a huge difference in the lives of these young students.

“A new uniform gives a child the confidence to go to school and be ready to learn,” she said. “It is important for kids to feel comfortable in school. Having a new uniform, sneakers, socks and underwear help them socially, as well as academically, because they are not worried that their shirt doesn’t fit. It helps them focus on their schoolwork when they don’t have to worry about those things.”

Back to Basics works closely with each school to identify

children in need. Once Perham receives the names of the children in need, she shares the details — clothing and shoe size — with local service organizations and churches, such as the Wellington Rotary, the Wellington Community Foundation and the Council of Catholic Women. Those groups then commit to providing the sneakers, socks, underwear and a Christmas gift for an agreedupon number of children. Perham also provides a deadline delivery for the items. According to Perham, the service groups always meet their deadline and always deliver what they promised.

“When we get the items, we wrap them in Christmas wrapping paper, and then the school arranges for the pickup and distribution,” Perham said. “We’ve never missed a kid, and whatever we’ve promised has been delivered. We don’t need the glory or the praise. The purpose is to get the children what they need.”

The roots of Back to Basics can be traced to 1984 when a local priest called Perham to inform her that a group of 30 Haitian children had just arrived in Palm Beach County with only the clothes on their back — just four days before Christmas.

Perham responded by calling the manager at a local Kmart. He agreed to provide an outfit of clothes and a nice toy for all 30 children for $500. Perham paid the bill.

In 1985, Perham spearheaded the effort to provide 165 Guatemalan refugees in Palm Beach County with a clothing donation. Then, in 1986, Perham, with support from her friends, provided underwear, socks and sneakers for 500 children at Grove Park Elementary School in Palm Beach Gardens and Lincoln Elementary School in Riviera Beach.

The rest, as they say, is history. Thanks to Perham, Back to Basics continues to give. Currently, more than 10,000 children a year are receiving gifts from the nonprofit. If you want to help out, e-mail info@backtobasicsinc.org or call (561) 319-4277.

2023 26 september 2023 | wellington the magazine WELLINGTON Awards

Vinceremos Founder Ruth Menor Fosters Connections Between Horses And Humans

Babylon, Bubba, Diesel, Gus, Milo, Pippa, Reggie, Sugar, Zeus and Zoey. Those are the names of just some of the more than 20 horses that live and work at the Vinceremos Therapeutic Horsemanship Center, which is under the direction of Ruth Menor, the group’s founder and chief programs officer.

Vinceremos has been serving people with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities of all ages in Palm Beach County since 1982. The nonprofit was founded by Menor, who recruited many community leaders and volunteers to help this unique local treasure grow and thrive. It has been an invaluable part of Wellington’s equestrian community, and all of Palm Beach County, ever since.

When it was founded, Vinceremos was located off Lake Worth Road. Since 1995, the nonprofit has been operating from its 15-acre farm on Sixth Court North in Loxahatchee Groves. The property has undergone many upgrades. In 2011, donations were raised to build a covered arena there. This 45,000-square-foot “umbrella” protects the Vinceremos participants, staff and horses from the seasonal rain and heat. In 2016, thanks to many donations, a 24-stall, hurricane-proof barn was built to house the horses.

Back in the 1980s, Vinceremos started by offering therapeutic riding to those with disabilities. Today, there are a variety of programs offered that provide the benefits of equineassisted activities and therapies.

Vinceremos is a premier accredited center through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH). “All of our instructors and facilitators hold certifications with PATH,” explained Menor, herself a PATH master instructor.

In the beginning, Menor started Vinceremos with just one horse, Cinnamon. It was Menor’s own horse since she was a young girl. Cinnamon died in the late 1980s, but her spirit lives on in every horse at Vinceremos.

Three of the more popular programs are adaptive riding,

equine-assisted learning and equineassisted psychotherapy. The adaptive riding program is the nonprofit’s foundational program. While each serves a different clientele, they all have the same purpose.

“We are teaching horse-riding skills that help the rider develop and improve their non-verbal communication skills,” Menor said. “The rider is also taught the importance of maintaining physical balance and coordination while riding the horses.”

Horses don’t know that the rider may be autistic or suffer from ADHD or have some emotional disability, but that’s not important. What’s important is for the rider to realize that he or she is in charge of guiding and communicating with the horse.

When the rider successfully guides and instructs a horse, there’s a huge benefit. “The rider can feel empowered, and that carries over to the rest of their life outside Vinceremos,” Menor said.

At Vinceremos, the riders also get to work on improving their responsibility skills. This means taking care of the horses. “Our riders do lots of stable work. They clean the stalls. They also groom, wash and feed the horses,” Menor said. “The riders get to know the horses as individuals.”

One of the best examples of the impact of Vinceremos is Jeffrey Perham, who has been affiliated with the program since Menor opened in 1982. Perham has an intellectual disability and volunteers 40 hours a week. “We call Jeffrey a horse whisperer,” Menor said. “He can do just about anything with the horses. He will ride the horses one or two days a week. He works in the barn, waters the horses, cleans their stalls, feeds the horses and grooms the horses. The horses like Jeffrey.”

The key to the continued success of Vinceremos is a steady flow of volunteers who help take care of the horses, provide assistance with the clients or assist with fundraisers. To find out more, visit www.vinceremos.org, call (561) 792-9900 or e-mail to volunteer@vinceremos.org.

RUTH MENOR 2023 28 september 2023 | wellington the magazine WELLINGTON Awards
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The Florida Rowing Center Is Being Reorganized And Revitalized In Wellington

Wellington has spectacular sports facilities for many athletic pursuits, among them the sport of rowing. For nearly 40 years, the Florida Rowing Center has been located at Lake Wellington.

From mid-December until late April, Lake Wellington has been utilized as a rowing destination for hundreds of avid rowing participants from across the United States and around the world who travel here for rowing instruction and training sessions.

While not exactly a secret, the rowers have been operating somewhat under the radar. The majority of local rowers have traditionally been adults, usually ages 45 to 65.

But now, rowing’s presence in Wellington will be more visible and widereaching, thanks to Tracy and Howard Kirkpatrick, the new owners of the Florida Rowing Center.

Starting this past summer, six youth rowing camps were conducted so that more local youngsters could get exposed to the sport of rowing. Each camp had roughly 10 participants, ages 12 to 16. The camps were so popular that many campers registered for more than one week, Tracy said.

During these summer camps, which were held from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, the campers were taught rowing fundamentals. It started with us-

ing a rowing machine on land. Eventually, they transitioned to being in a boat on the water.

Throughout the process, there was constant supervision from longtime rowing coach Doug Cody, who has been affiliated with the Florida Rowing Center since 2016.

“We now have a good core of young rowers in Wellington,” Cody said.

To help elevate rowing awareness locally, the Kirkpatricks hired a professional coach to oversee the overall local rowing program.

Paul Mokha will be the club’s director and serve as the head coach of the youth program.

wellington the magazine | september 2023 31
(Above) Youth rower Bradley Kagel of the Florida Rowing Center sets out for a quick ride on Lake Wellington.

“We will remain a haven for ‘snowbirds’ in the winter, but we need to add a sense of the local community to the Florida Rowing Center,” Mokha said. “We plan to build a middle school program, a high school program and continue with youth camps in the summer.”

Mokha appears to be the right man for the job. “We have been contacting schools the past few weeks and sending them information on our program and our free Learn to Row days,” Mokha said. “We’ve been using our Facebook and Instagram to spread the word and having our summer camp participants spread the word among their friends and classmates. We have joined the chamber of commerce, and we have met with Village of Wellington officials.”

According to Tracy, Mokha spent the past few years coaching youth rowing in

Florida, qualifying 11 crews for the national championships and earning 25 state championship medals, while helping more than a dozen teenagers earn college rowing scholarships.

Mokha said that Lake Wellington is an ideal setting for rowing. “Lake Wellington is a great venue because it has flat, fresh water with no waves,” he said.

Tracy agreed. “Lake Wellington has a 2,000-meter stretch of water that is not impacted by rocks or a current,” she said. “Lake Wellington is one of the best venues for rowing in the U.S.”

Mokha’s plans for the youth program are ambitious. His goal is to assemble a group of committed and enthusiastic youth rowers this fall that can be taught the fundamentals of the sport and be ready to compete in a youth rowing event in Fellsmere on Dec. 2.

There will be plenty of competition for the new middle school and high school squads from Wellington, since there are many youth rowing clubs from Orlando to Miami. For those with collegiate aspirations, there are plenty of college rowing opportunities for both male and female rowers.

What kind of athlete is a good candidate for rowing? Anybody who “loves to train.”

“If you work hard and train, you’ll get results in rowing,” Mokha said. “Athletes from swimming, soccer, football, wrestling, and track and field have excelled in rowing.”

There’s no major initial investment to get into the sport.

“You need to wear nothing more than what you wear in a PE class in school,” Mokha said. “It’s a good idea to have a

32 september 2023 | wellington the magazine
(Above) Bradley Kagel, age 13, is one of the younger members of the Florida Rowing Center. Also shown is the Florida Rowing Center headquarters at 12150 Ken Adams Way in Wellington. Florida Rowing Center Director Paul Mokha, youth rower Bradley Kagel and new owner Tracy Kirkpatrick.

hat and a water bottle when it’s hot and sunny.”

Assisting Mokha with this youth rowing initiative will be Cody. His specialty is teaching technique and emphasizing safety.

“Coach Doug Cody is a U.S. Rowing Level 2 coach,” Tracy said. “He is a former EMT. His background and interests in the biomechanics of sculling and the prevention of repetitive motion injuries make him an excellent fit. He coaches masters and juniors and has developed scores of enthusiastic and skilled young scullers, many of whom have had success at the national level.”

Cody said that the Learn to Row program is an ideal way to introduce any person to rowing. “My initial goal is for the participants to have a good time,”

he said. “This is a sport that people can do for the rest of their lives.”

With the Kirkpatricks, Mokha and Cody working together, rowing’s immediate future in Wellington is in good hands.


learn more about the Florida Rowing Center.


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“My initial goal is for the participants to have a good time. This is a sport that people can do for the rest of their lives.”
— Coach Doug Cody
Doug Cody is a U.S. Rowing Level 2 coach. PHOTO COURTESY THE FLORIDA ROWING CENTER

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Wellington’s Community Partners Roundtable Helps In Building A Stronger Community Together

Wellington’s aspiration to create a thriving, safe and compassionate community isn’t unique, but it does require a coordinated effort. Recognizing that local government can’t address all community needs alone, the Community Partners Roundtable emerged. The village’s Community Services Department spearheaded this initiative, recognizing the value of a centralized effort. The goal was clear: to streamline efforts, reduce duplication and ensure that everyone is working in sync to provide support to individuals and families in need. What began as a small group of staff and local nonprofits has blossomed into a collaborative force for good that has quietly been shaping the way our community comes together.

Our Shared Goals

Coretta Scott King once said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

In 2017, the Village of Wellington initiated the Community Partners Roundtable as a platform to connect with like-minded local organizations. The first meeting, held at the Welling-

ton Community Center, set the stage for a new kind of community collaboration.

Representatives from various nonprofits assembled to discuss shared visions and the collective pursuit of community improvement. Now, six years later, the Community Partners Roundtable initiative is more than just a series of meetings — it’s a testament to the power of unity and shared goals. This effort, launched with the aim of enhancing positive change and fostering in-

clusivity, has successfully brought local organizations and nonprofits onto the same page.

Amplifying Impact

Through collaboration, Wellington can accomplish much more than working alone. As Hellen Keller once said, “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”

wellington | today
wellington the magazine | september 2023 35

The outcomes of the Community Partners Roundtable meetings are tangible and impactful. Collaboration has led to a more efficient use of resources, the development of better programs and the enhancement of services.

Key partners like Christ Fellowship Church, the Crowned Pearls of Wellington, the Rotary Club of Wellington, the Kiwanis Club of Wellington, St. Peter’s United Methodist Church, Temple Beth Torah, the Wellington Community Foundation, the Great Charity Challenge and Wellington Regional Medical Center have consistently participated, with many organizations now proactively seeking engagement due to the initiative’s success.

Beyond meetings, the Community Partners Roundtable has spurred impactful stories that highlight the strength of unity. Last year, Wellington High School’s effort to provide bicycles to Rosenwald Elementary School students extended its reach when Christ Fellowship’s food truck joined the endeavor, offering ice cream and joy to the students. This seamless cooperation illustrated how partnerships amplify the positive impact of individual actions.

Another compelling example unfolded during the All-American City Competition. Wellington was selected as a finalist, presenting an opportunity to showcase our community youth

programs. The challenge was twofold: extending representation beyond the village’s immediate members and overcoming geographic distance. Our community partners stepped in, contributing both resources and support to make the journey to Denver, Colorado, a reality.

Building Our Future

Looking ahead, the Community Partners Roundtable aims to grow further by welcoming partners who share a commitment to enhancing our “Great Hometown.” The initiative’s momentum is a testament to the collective spirit and shared vision of the community. While we’ve come far, we know that we have only scratched the surface of what can be achieved together.

In Wellington, the importance of unity is undeniable. The Community Partners Roundtable exemplifies this notion, reinforcing the idea that creating a thriving “Great Hometown” relies on a collective effort. It’s about diverse entities uniting their strengths to build a resilient, prosperous and caring community. As Wellington continues to evolve, it does so with the understanding that today’s collaborative endeavors will lay the foundation for an even brighter tomorrow.

36 september 2023 | wellington the magazine wellington | today
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Pizza Cucinova Brings Authentic Neapolitan Cuisine To The Mall At Wellington Green

Pizza Cucinova has added a taste of Italy to the upper level of the Mall at Wellington Green. The newly opened pizzeria began serving its homemade Neapolitan cuisine in May.

Priscilla Vazquez, Pizza Cucinova’s compliance and brand director, has family from Naples. “I used a lot of family recipes from my grandma and my dad for the pastas,” she explained.

Those generational recipes are what Vazquez learned growing up in the kitchen. “I like being in the kitchen. I like to cook and experiment. I really enjoy it when people tell me it’s great, and then I tell them, ‘It’s my grandma’s recipe!’” she said.

Many of those recipes have been meshed throughout the company’s reimagined menu and concept.

From pepperoni stromboli filled with mozzarella, or a hand-crafted Marguerita pizza to share with friends, to desserts, like cannoli or tiramisu, to go with a barista-made cappuccino, Pizza Cucinova is a great complement to a day of shopping. There’s a lot of appeal to the restaurant, breathing new life into a former pizzeria closed for years.

“We got the opportunity to open here at the mall. We have the Sbarro’s downstairs, and they gave us a location for our Mexican spot, Madre’s, so it’s a good collaboration between us and the mall,” Vazquez said.

The eatery is nestled just a few doors down from Macy’s. You can’t miss the vintage 1940s Italian motorcycle parked at the entrance to welcome guests. Popular scenes from Italy fill the walls. A

board boasts the specials, while a window box displays tasty Italian treats as shoppers pass by. The sleek black exterior mixed with brick makes the pizzeria stand out.

“The pizza — it’s an artisan dough, so it’s soft and bready on the inside, but crunchy on the outside,” Vazquez said. “It’s better within the first couple of hours. If you’re taking it home, it’s best to put it in the oven or air fryer, not the microwave, in order to keep the crispness.”

The classic cheese and pepperoni as well as the barbecue pizza are both top sellers. “We have our own pizza sauce — basic tomatoes, salt, sugar and it’s very light. No garlic, but lots of basil,” Vazquez said.

The bruschetta, a vegetarian pizza, is

wellington | table wellington the magazine | september 2023 39
(Left) The quattro carne meat lovers’ pizza is topped with four different meats. (Top, left to right) The meatball sandwich with Pizza Cucinova’s signature tomato sauce is served with fresh Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top; the spaghetti and meatballs are hearty with olive oil, garlic and tomato sauce, topped with shaved Parmesan and two crispy bread sticks; the tiramisu is delightfully made with mascarpone, whipped cream, lady fingers and coffee flavor, making for a perfect dessert; the Mediterranean salad has tomatoes, black olives, carrots, onion, cucumbers, lemon vinaigrette, feta cheese and peperoncinis; the fresh-made spicy Hawaiian pizza; a hearty slice of carne lasagna, slow simmered in marinara sauce, is paired with two artisan bread sticks; the Italian stromboli is filled with mozzarella, pepperoni, garlic and marinara sauce; and the bruschetta signature pizza is a delicious mix of basil, fresh tomato, garlic and balsamic vinaigrette.

the most popular. “It has pesto sauce, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. We add arugula after it cooks, mix it with a little lemon vinaigrette and then drizzle it with balsamic glaze,” Vazquez said.

When it comes to salads, it’s the Mediterranean that sells the most.

“It’s my favorite. I love the dressing and the pepperoncini on top. It’s very

earthy and fresh tasting with multiple flavors,” Vazquez said. “It’s a good blend, a well-balanced salad. You can add salmon or steak.”

The wings are always a favorite starter.

“We have three different sauces that we make here. The Buffalo sauce, which is freshly made; the barbecue sauce that we make sweet and tangy; and then the

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garlic butter sauce, which we also make in house,” she said.

Calamari is also a popular starter. “It’s very high quality. I add a little seasoning after it’s fried,” Vazquez said. “It’s very lightly breaded, very good.”

For bread lovers, the garlic knots are a must to complement a meal.

“It’s the same artisan dough we use to make the pizza, but we smother it in a butter garlic sauce with herbs and olive oil, before we roll it into a knot. We put it in the oven, and then brush it with a little more when it comes out and add Parmesan on top,” she said. “Crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside.”

Other signature pizzas included the spicy Hawaiian. It’s topped with ham, pineapple, bacon and mozzarella. The quattro carne meat lovers’ pizza is topped with four meats — sausage, pep-

40 september 2023 | wellington the magazine wellington | table
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peroni, meatballs and ham. Pair it with a glass of wine or beer.

Gluten-free crust and vegan options are also available. The pizzas can be fully customized. “If I have it, I have no problem making it,” Vazquez said.

The spaghetti also has its own twist on flavor. “There’s rosemary in the sauce,” she explained. “It’s a unique family recipe.”

Better be hungry if you’re ordering the carne lasagna, a family classic. The slice is huge and dripping in meat sauce, like her grandma’s. The tender beef is slowly simmered in marinara. Two artisan bread sticks poke from the bowl, making for the perfect combination with each bite.

“The more you eat, the more you’re happy,” Vazquez said. “That’s why our portions are so big.”

Aside from the love of cooking,

Vazquez equally loves to interact with the guests.

“I want people to come in and feel like they’re home. Nothing formal, I want them to feel comfortable to come back whenever they want and think the food is great and the service is great,” she said. “If you don’t invest in what you love, it’s not going to be successful, and

it will show. That’s what my grandma always taught me.”

Pizza Cucinova is located on the upper level of the Mall at Wellington Green at 10300 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite 238. It is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. For more information, call (561) 614-6800.

wellington the magazine | september 2023 41
Pizza Cucinova adds an authentic taste of Italy to the upper level of the Mall at Wellington Green.
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