Ocala Style October '21

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OCT ‘21

LIFE

LESSONS ocalastyle.com

STRONGER TOGETHER

FAMILY TIES


Leeward Air Ranch Estates - 2.62 +/- Acres

207 Acres – Nature Lover’s Dream

Timeless architecture and a pilot’s dream define this 4-bedroom, 5.5 bath home with direct access to a 6200’ x 165’ grass runway. 3-car detached garage and a private 60’ x 78’ aircraft hanger with additional bath on this 500-acre private sport aviation community. $2,995,000

Private, secluded & architecturally designed home. 5-stall barn with workshop/storage. Adjoins Chernobyl Memorial Forest, access to Ocklawaha Prairie Area, plus Ocala National Forest for hiking, biking, hunting, fishing and trail riding. $2,497,500

21+/- Acres

Perfect Property for Horse Lovers

Lake Andrew - Grand Estate

Equisite 10-acre equestrian estate is located next to the Cross Florida Greenways and Trails and the Florida Horse Park. Just 16 miles from WEC with 3.5 miles of private trails in Equine Estates. 4-Stall barn with room for 10. Lush green paddocks and grandaddy oaks. $1,800,000

Gated winding driveway leads you to this 7,000 SF waterfront home offering incredible views of the lake. 5-bedroom, 6 full and 2 half baths. 3-Stall stable with loft storage plus prep, full-size dressage arena and covered equipment building. Just minutes to The Villages. $1,999,000

Let Joan Pletcher, Realtor list and/or sell your property Sold in 2021 - $101,553,000 Pending Sales - $10,843,998 For these and other properties, visit JoanPletcher.com for information, videos and photos. Call or Text: 352.266.9100 | 352.804.8989 | joan@joanpletcher.com | joanpletcher.com Due to the privacy and at the discretion of my clients, there are additional training centers, estates and land available that are not advertised.


Just Listed

Motivated Seller

Cedar Creek Estates

Journeyman Stud - 50+/- Acres

Pristine and stately estate on 10+ acres with 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. Formal living and dining room, extra-large chef ’s kitchen, owner’s suite with dressing room, walk-in closet and access to lanai. 4-Car garage plus whole-house generator. $1,247,500

Location! Location! Location! Beautiful equestrian farm located in the prestigious NW Ocala area with scattered live oaks and lush green pastures. Main barn features 2,400 SF, including an office; two additional barns with a total of 42 stalls. Two $2,495,000 employee homes.

28.42 +/- Acres - Close to WEC

10+ Acres - Gentleman’s Farm

Prime 28.42+/- acres in great NW location steps from the new World Equestrian Center and Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club. This is your opportunity to build your farm close to WEC. Beautiful building sites overlooking pond. Perimeter fenced. No deed restrictions. $1,500,000

This 5-bedroom, 3-bath home is located just minutes to premier shopping, dining, hospitals and a short distance to the World Equestrian Center. Lit arena, 4-stall barn, 4 paddocks plus 3-car covered open carport. $795,000

If you’re considering buying or selling, give us a call today! List your property with Joan Pletcher... Our results speak for themselves.


Publisher’s Note s a community, we’ve learned many lessons as we navigated the worst public health crisis of our lifetimes and a contentious election that resulted in “stress fractures” in even some of our closest personal relationships. Perhaps the most important lesson I carry with me was said best by Helen Keller: “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” For this month’s “Stronger Together” themed issue, we tasked our team—the way we always do—to reach out and connect with individuals in our community who have uplifting and inspiring stories to tell. The articles contained in this issue do not tell the whole story of our community, but they offer you a view into the lives of some of our best and brightest. “Stronger Together” is more than just about big moves and major happenings to us, it’s about our desire to make a difference and powerful one-on-one relationships. In these pages, we share just a few examples of the many ways our neighbors are coming together. Our local physicians and health care professionals are still going strong in their fight to turn the tide on COVID and trying to get out the word about how to best face this crisis—now that we are all on the front lines together. Hear from them on page 32. Also in this issue, a father and son share their story of joining forces to write the next chapter of their lives (see page 37). On page 58, an inspiring married couple relays how they found unity through adventurous athletic pursuits. We also feature two trailblazing sisters whose separate but parallel career paths led them to help two deserving local and often underserved populations (page 44.) And, on page 40, we share the story of how a beautiful family came together through foster care and adoption and, ultimately, the power of love. We hope these stories inspire you to focus on the many ways we can all reach across the table, across the aisle or across the street to help one another, raise each other up and move forward as a community—stronger than ever.

Jennifer Hunt Murty Publisher


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in this issue

40

55

58

ins ide r

f e a tu r e s

living

21

DOING GOOD

Support the fight against breast cancer with Dillard’s semiannual Fit for the Cure event.

22

DOING GOOD

The 50 Legs Inc. charity helps amputees stand strong.

25

SCHLENKERISMS

Dave honors a beloved family pet.

vow s 28

VOWS

Join us in celebrating local brides and grooms.

32

CHALLENGERS TO THE CRISIS

Meet some of our local frontline health care professionals.

37

LEARNING TOGETHER

This father and son challenged each other educationally.

40

FOR THE LOVE OF KIDS It takes a village to provide support and success for children in foster care.

44

PAVING THE WAY

These sisters are leaders in the pharmaceutical field in our community.

50

SEEING BEYOND THE SURFACE

A first-person look at growing up as a biracial child.

55

IN THE KITCHEN WITH Manal Fakhoury prepares a traditional Middle Eastern breakfast.

58

ADVENTURE CYCLING

This couple’s love of bikepacking has taken them on epic journeys.

o n th e c o ve r Drs. Chandra Evans and Sharla Evans Gary photographed by Dave Miller, on location at Agapanthus Ocala and Breeze Day Spa. On-set beauty touch ups by Linda Lofton. Left to right: Photo by Barbara Hooper; Photo by John Jernigan; Photo by Dave Miller


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Waste Warriors How the superheroes at Ocala Water Resources battle dastardly forces daily to keep our water safe and pure. Photography by Dave Miller

O

n October 31, while icing down the drinks for a Halloween party, filling up a tub to bob for apples, or washing away the zombie makeup from your adorable trick-or-treater, you probably won’t give a second thought about where the water comes from and where it goes. You may not, but you should. The water that so many Ocalans take for granted day in and day out doesn’t happen by magic. It just seems that way thanks to Mother Nature and some hardworking, highly skilled fellow citizens. Behind that “magic” is one of the world’s most abundant sources of fresh water—the Upper Floridan Aquifer—as well as the city’s award-winning

Nikki Acosta, Chris Loughrey, Tammy Venezia, Deitrich Miller, Sebastian Lombardo, Ben Moose

water services, which ensures a constant supply of pure, clean drinking water to more than 50,000 residences and businesses 24 hours a day seven days a week every day of the year. But making sure that water flows uninterrupted into Ocala’s homes and businesses is only part of the story. It is important to make sure that the water we spray, wash and flush away gets captured, treated and returned to nature as clean and as environmentally safe as possible. Ocala Water Resources does all that—the pumping, treatment, storage and transfer of drinking water and the collection, treatment and disposal of sanitary sewage— with incredible efficiency. The tale of how that happens, like any great Halloween story,

pits some pretty nasty villains and monsters against some true superheroes. The treat: The water you drink and use The water that comes out of your faucets for drinking, cooking, bathing, cleaning and keeping your plants hydrated starts deep underground in the Floridan Aquifer—100,000 square miles of water-saturated porous rock that runs deep in the earth from southern Alabama and Georgia and all the way through Florida. The Floridan Aquifer also supplies major cities like Savannah, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Orlando and St. Petersburg, as well as hundreds of smaller communities and rural areas throughout the region.


Sponsored In Ocala, five powerful wells continuously pump water from the aquifer at a rate that can yield 12 million or more gallons each day. But before all that can be distributed to Ocala communities as award-winning, high-quality drinking water, highly trained, licensed operators monitor its treatment 24 hours a day and test it at least every two hours to ensure that it meets or beats all drinking water standards. The tricky part: The water you want to go away If you think of the high-quality water we use in our daily lives as a treat, the tricky part comes after we’ve used it and emptied it down our sinks or flushed it down our toilets. For most people, from then on, it’s a matter of out of sight, out of mind. But for the Water Resources team members, that certainly isn’t the case. They work day and night to make sure every drop of water that leaves Ocala’s homes and businesses—with all kinds of other stuff swirling around in it—moves swiftly underground to one of two water reclamation facilities. Once there, it’s treated, sanitized and put to other uses in environmentally safe and sound ways. That journey to reclamation

isn’t always easy or pretty, according to Rachel Slocumb, Conservation Coordinator. “Gravity is the most efficient way to move wastewater,” she explains, “but Ocala is on a fairly level plane, so our pipes are installed at a slight downward angle. But you can only go down so far before you have to go back up again.” That’s when Water Resources gives gravity a helping hand by regularly raising the water from a lower elevation to higher one at the 135 lift stations located throughout the city. Heavy lifting It’s at the lift stations that things can, and often do, can get a little scary, hairy and worse. There, the wastewater goes through bar filters that separate out anything solid that would obstruct the flow of water upward through the pipes—generally things people shouldn’t have flushed down their toilets in the first place. Shane Bailey, System Maintenance Supervisor, who oversees the lift station crews, says, “I don’t even know how some of the things we find ever make it down people’s toilets.” Workers have found socks, shoes, shirts, towels, beer bottles,

hypodermic needles, money, jewelry and the list goes on. “We’ve even found bicycle parts and once I pulled out 100 feet of rope,” Bailey adds. Other flushed items that can cause major clogs or even completely shut down a lift station include disposable diapers, hygiene products, paper towels and even facial tissues. During the pandemic, the crews have also seen an uptick in so-called disposable wipes for sanitizing hands and surfaces. “They may say flushable on the label,” Slocumb adds, “but they’re not.” One of the more memorable finds happened when maintenance workers discovered a series of plastic McDonald’s Happy Meal figures trapped in a filter. The workers collected, sanitized and then displayed the toys along a ledge in their office, sort of like trophies for the team. Cute as the toys might be,


there’s nothing amusing about a blocked or malfunctioning lift station. Bailey and his crew have to do the hard labor required to clean up the mess or repair damage caused by others’ carelessness or lack of good information “Our job is to keep all of our pipe systems, lift stations, fire hydrants and treatment plants operating at maximum efficiency and to comply with all the regulations,” Bailey says. “The citizens of Ocala may not know who we are or what we do, but they would notice if we didn’t do it.” Scary stuff. FOG alert. Fatberg ahead. Like a Halloween goblin, FOG— fats, oils and grease—can cause major mayhem not just in water reclamation but also in people’s private homes and businesses. When these substances go down the drain, they collect along the walls of pipes and eventually restrict or completely choke the flow, which results in a backup that, at best, just causes a stinky mess, at worst costly repairs. Pretty much the same thing happens when FOG stockpiles in the water collection system and lift stations, causing odors, overflows and extra work for the maintenance crews. When FOG encounters those troublesome unflushable items, they can create a fatberg, a congealed mass that aggressively clogs everything from household pipes to lift stations to water reclamation facilities. Water Resources crews are called on multiple times each week to pump out or manually unclog Ocala’s multiple lift stations. So what can you do to prevent FOG from putting a pinch on your pocketbook and a damper on your party? For starters, remember that FOG isn’t limited to bacon grease or the oil from a

fried chicken dinner. It can also include high-fat culprits such as butter, cheese, peanut butter, sour cream, gravy, mayonnaise, salad dressings or the liquids from the bottom of your crockpot. None of those should go into the kitchen sink. It’s also a good idea to wipe off plates and utensils with a paper towel before washing, collect your FOG in disposable containers and think twice about what you put down your garbage disposal. Slocumb calls the disposal units a “gateway to bad decisions” about what goes down. Helping local businesses do their part Although residential wastewater presents the bulk of Water Resources’ challenges, Compliance Monitoring team members also make sure local

businesses meet federal and state water standards. Bill Crigar, Compliance Monitoring Supervisor and a department veteran, says, “We monitor compliance to make sure businesses are doing what they’re supposed to, but a lot of what we do is to educate them about the requirements.” He says the vast majority of Ocala’s industrial and manufacturing operations take protecting the City’s water seriously. FOG and fatbergs are a particular issue in local restaurants, according to the compliance department’s Leslie Cook, Compliance Monitoring Technician III. “Basically, we monitor grease trap maintenance, making sure the grease interceptors are well maintained and functioning properly to prevent fats, oils and grease getting into wastewater and clogging up the system.” It can be devastating when they do. Crigar recalls an incident when a local restaurant’s grease trap backed up, spilling out into the parking lot on Mother’s Day and creating a gooey, slippery mess for patrons. Reclaiming wastewater So where does all that wastewater finally come to rest? In reality, it doesn’t. Eventually, it becomes part of a continuous


cycle focused on protecting the environment and ensuring a plentiful supply of fresh water for generations to come. Once all the wastewater from Ocala’s homes and businesses is collected and transported to one of the two water reclamation facilities, it goes through some interesting biological and chemical processes to make it safe to reuse for other purposes. Bill Davis, Lead Operator at one of the reclamation sites, says, “We pay particular attention to the levels of nitrates and phosphates in wastewater to keep our levels below the acceptable standard set by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection.” To remove those substances, which can threaten the local environment, including Silver Springs, Davis and his colleague Jeff Greve, Lead Operator, employ a vast army of helpful microbes to break down the organic material, remove the nitrates and help prepare the remaining water for reuse. “We’re like zoologists,” says Greve, “creating and maintaining an environment where the microbes can thrive and do their job.” At the end of the treatment process, the water is filtered to remove any residual solids, which can be used as fertilizer. The resulting water is eventually restored to the same level of purity as drinking water, making it ideal for irrigating farms, city parks, golf courses, residential and commercial properties, as well as the Ocala Wetland Recharge Park. A great place to start a career “I didn’t graduate from high school thinking, ‘Hey I want to be a wastewater facility operator,’” Greve shares. “But my mother, who worked in the Water Resources payroll department, asked if I’d be interested. I went on a couple of tours and could see myself working here. I took a short correspondence course, worked a set number of hours in a facility, took a 100-question exam and was on my way. I’ve advanced continually from there and now I’m licensed as Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Class A.” Greve says one of the best things about working at Water Resources is there is something for almost anyone, whatever your interests, whether that be computers, biology, chemistry or working with your hands on machines and equipment. “You can start your career here just out of high school, get some training and experience, earn a license and get set for a great career that can take you virtually anywhere in the state and beyond,” Slocumb offers. If you’re interested in learning more about Water Resources, taking a tour, or applying for an internship or job, call (352) 351-6772 or visit www.ocalafl.org and click on the Water Resources link under the Government tab.

Toilet vs. n ca Trash

Rachel Slocumb says people should remember the three Ps before they flush anything down the toilet. If it isn’t pee, poop, or toilet paper, dispose of it elsewhere. Her checklist of items never to flush includes: Feminine Wipes of all kinds hygiene products Facial tissue Toys Paper towels Contraceptives First-aid supplies Product Latex gloves packaging Dental floss Cat litter Cotton swabs Toothpaste tubes Hair Contact lenses Diapers Washcloths Food remnants Towels Slime


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id you know you can reverse muscle loss, improve back discomfort and balance—and regain continence and confidence—with a noninvasive treatment program that has no down time? MidState Skin Institute’s new Core to Floor program combines the cutting-edge technology of Emsculpt Neo, a revolutionary body contouring device, and the BTL Emsella Chair, a convenient and completely noninvasive treatment for incontinence in men and women, and sexual health in women. Patients of all ages are reporting 95 percent satisfaction with Core to Floor treatments, which take place in a comfortable, private environment with no pain and no need to undress. Many female patients have dubbed the treatment “The ‘new’ Mommy Makeover.” The combination of these two groundbreaking treatments gives individuals FDA-cleared treatment for both stress and urge incontinence, allowing them to address intimacy issues, and can build core strength, reverse muscle loss, address abdominal separation and help them regain quality of life after surgery. “I sneeze. I can jump rope. I run…. I can just do all kinds of

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Social Scene Visitors toured the historic homestead of beloved author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in Cross Creek to celebrate the writer of The Yearling’s 125th birthday. Pictured: Photographs of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings | Photo by Bruce Ackerman


INSIDER

MKR 125th Birthday Celebration MARJORIE KINNAN RAWLINGS STATE PARK Photography by Bruce Ackerman

T Sheila Holloway

he August 7th celebration at the Cross Creek home of the beloved author, hosted by the Friends of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlins Farm Inc., featured birthday cake, mango ice cream, music under the trees and the dedication of new trail markers.

Virginia Carr, Eli Tragash

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ocalastyle.com

Eric Draper, Anne Pierce


Real People, Real S tories, Real O cala

Opening Reception BRICK CITY CENTER FOR THE ARTS Photos courtesy of Marion Cultural Alliance

G

uests loved the artworks in the Marion Cultural Alliance’s Creature Feature exhibit, but it was Molly, the canine ambassador for the Marion County Animal Abuser Registry, also known as Molly’s Law, who stole the show at the August 6th opening reception.

Linda DeRosa

Ashley Justiniano

Jaye Baillie, Molly

Karin Mullinax, Walter Israel

October ‘21

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On the Scene

Photo by Meagan Gumpert

A guide to our favorite monthly happenings and can’t-miss events

1

Greater than 17

2

Sunshine State Open Pleasure Show

7

Soundtrack of Your Life

2

Cops & Cars

9

Not Fade Away: Rock ‘n’ Roll Reignited

9

Brick City Carnival

2

College of Central Florida Webber Gallery October 1-28 | 10am-4pm MondayThursday This exhibition, from the collection of CF Associate Professor Tyrus Clutter, features works by more than 150 artists who were influenced by the techniques of British painter and printmaker Stanley William Hayter, who had a profound impact on 20th-century art, specifically the graphic arts and the Surrealist and Abstract movements. The exhibit will include several events, such as an opening reception on the 1st from 5-7pm. For details, visit cf.edu or call (352) 854-2322, ext. 1664.

Florida Horse Park October 2-3 | 9am Youth and adult riders will show off their equestrian skills in this competition featuring both Western and English styles. Spectators are welcome. Visit sunshinestatepleasureshowseries.co

Ocala Police Department 9am Cars, trucks and motorcycles will compete for prizes and the always-popular SWAT and emergency response vehicles will be on display at this family-friendly event, which will benefit United Way of Marion County. Visit fb.com/ocalapolicedepartment

Cookbook Release Party

Kimberden Farms 12pm The Humane Society of Marion County is releasing Belly Rub Recipes, a cookbook with recipes and stories about adopted animals. Visit thehsmc.org for more information.

Southeastern Livestock Pavilion 6pm An evening of live music with dueling pianos Felix And Fingers and a speed painting performance by “Paintman” Dale Henry. The event will benefit Hospice of Marion County. Call (352) 291-5143 for tickets and more information.

Reilly Arts Center 7:30pm This young group is taking the country by storm with their amped-up renditions of classic hit songs from early rock ‘n’ roll legends including Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Roy Orbison and many others. Visit reillyartscenter.com for tickets.

Brick City Adventure Park 5-8pm This popular family event returns with safe trick or treating, costume contests, live entertainment, face painting and carnival games. Call (352) 671-8560 for details. October ‘21

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9

Heart of the Horse

Appleton Museum of Art October 9-April 24, 2022 | TuesdaySaturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 12-5pm The beauty and complexity of horses is revealed through 40 black-and-white photographs by Juliet van Otteren in the Appleton Museum’s new exhibit. The artist will speak about her inspiration, processes and history in an online talk on November 18 at 7pm. Visit appletonmuseum.org for more information.

27 Howl-O-Ween Paw-Ty

Southeastern Livestock Pavilion 5-8pm The third annual event to benefit the Humane Society of Marion County will include a costume contest, trunk or treat for kids, refreshments and games. Visit thehsmc.org for more information.

18 Easy Posse

Marion Theatre 8pm This Tampa-based country band has a true appreciation for classic hits by legends such as Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Hank Williams Sr. Visit mariontheatre.org for tickets.

23 Halloween Run 5K and Candy Crawl Paddock Mall 9am and 5-8pm Dress up the whole family for a morning 5K with a kids’ fun run, costume contest and live entertainment. Come back in the evening for safe trick or treating. Visit paddockmall.com to register.

24 STRIDE Dressage Schooling Show

Florida Horse Park 8am STRIDE is an active riding and driving club for all dressage enthusiasts, beginner to advanced and traditional or Western. Visit stridedressage.org for more information.

29 Horse-O-Ween

Ocala Downtown Market 5-9pm This free annual event is a great opportunity for the kids to do a little trick-or-treating. Meet and greet different breeds of horses dressed in costume, enjoy a carriage ride and take advantage of a family photo opportunity. Costume contest for children at 6pm, your pets at 6:30pm, and for the horses at 7pm. Visit fb.com/ ocaladowntownmarket

30 Partners of the Park Schooling Show

31 Bark in the Park – A Doggy Expo

Ocala Downtown Market 1-4pm The Senior Resource Foundation of Ocala will host an array of vendors, food trucks, music and demonstrations. There will be a costume contest for kids and pets. Proceeds will benefit both the local Meals on Wheels program and Marion County Animal Services. Visit fb.com/srfofocala

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ocalastyle.com

Horse-O-Ween photo by Bruce Ackerman

Florida Horse Park October 30-31 | 8am Equestrians will compete in dressage, stadium jumping and cross-country events to raise funds for the Florida Horse Park. Visit fb.com/partnersoftheparkpop


October 9, 2021–April 24, 2022

Heart of the Horse: Photographs by Juliet van Otteren Appleton Museum, Artspace and Store

Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, noon-5 p.m. 4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd. | AppletonMuseum.org

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INSIDER

Showcasing Art FAFO’s Ocala Arts Festival is back on this year, with some welcome changes. By Susan Smiley-Height Photography by Meagan Gumpert

Ed Meyers

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he enthusiasm in Maggie Weakley’s voice as she talks about Fine Arts For Ocala’s (FAFO) Ocala Arts Festival is contagious. “It’s so exciting,” she says, using the phrase repeatedly while talking about the artists who will take part and a new layout that will afford participants and guests more elbow room. Weakley is FAFO’s administrative coordinator. The 2020 festival, which had 154 artists registered, was cancelled due to the pandemic. This year’s event will feature 151 artists and Weakley believes the new layout, along with the festival’s reputation, has helped to attract that many artists, even as the pandemic continues. “We have $27,000 that will go to our artists,” she shares. “We get artists from around the country because of the prize money, which comes from our annual Symphony Under the Stars event.” She says the new layout had to do with the hotel that opened on the square in the fall of 2020. “We weren’t allowed to have booths in front of the hotel,” she explains, “so the show has shifted to the west. We’re going down to the Marion Cultural Alliance’s Brick City Center for the Arts and turn south past La Cuisine French Restaurant and turn east. Because of COVID-19, the booths will be spaced farther apart, which will be wonderful for our guests and artists, who will be able to showcase their artwork on all three outside walls.” The festival’s featured artist is Richard Currier, of Micco, on Florida’s Space Coast.

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“I have been attending the Ocala Arts Festival for 25 years and it remains one of my most successful festivals year after year,” Currier offers. “I am very pleased to have been asked to be this year’s featured artist and look forward to presenting a new selection of my most recent paintings.” The displays will include works by five emerging artists, who each receive a booth and a $500 stipend through sponsorship by the David and Lisa Midgett Foundation. The student art exhibit, which includes entries from youth in private, public and home schools, is sponsored by DeLuca Toyota and includes $1,500 in prizes. Entertainment will include bands in the gazebo area and student performances at Citizens’ Circle. Food trucks will be stationed in that area as well as throughout the festival grounds. The festival’s presenting sponsor is Palm Chevrolet. Billye Mallory and Alex Castrillo are event co-chairs. The judges are Howayda Affan, executive director of the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, and Ken Rollins, president of Rollins Fine Art and former executive director of four art museums in Florida. “If we have the great weather we usually have, it should be a great turnout,” Weakley offers. “People know the quality of this show and that attracts a lot of visitors, which is great for our community as we’re bringing business into the downtown area.” FAFO’s Ocala Arts Festival Saturday and Sunday, October 23rd and 24th 10am-5pm Downtown Ocala Free admission fafo.org

Isaiah and Isla Pepper


DOING GOOD

Fit to Provide Hope October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Dillard’s Market Street At Heath Brook is offering the ladies of our community a fun and easy way to make an impact.

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t’s time to find your “perfect fit” and support the fight against breast cancer. Dillard’s is hosting its biannual Wacoal’s Fit for the Cure event on October 7th. For each woman who stops by to get a complimentary bra fitting, Dillard’s will donate $2 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, which focuses on patient navigation and advocacy, providing resources for breast cancer patients and funding research into the causes and treatment of breast cancer. An additional $2 will be donated for each purchase of a Wacoal or b.tempt’d bra purchased in store that day. Since 1999, through Fit for the Cure and other initiatives, Wacoal has donated more than $5.8 million to the Komen

foundation in support of its mission to help end breast cancer and properly fit more than 965,000 women. The foundation’s “Bold Goal” mission is to reduce breast cancer mortality by 50 percent in the United States by 2026 through various initiatives. Dillard’s will also donate locally to Project Hope of Marion County, a nonprofit organization benefiting homeless women and children, through point of sale transactions by associates throughout the store. When you make any purchase leading up to October 7th, you will be asked if you wish to make a donation of $5 or more and can submit your name for a giveaway open to all who donate.

“Each store also partners with a local organization. We raise money in the store from employees and customers through different fundraising opportunities and then, on the day of the event, we purchase bras and panties which we donate to that local organization,” explains Store Manager Timothy GammackClark. “This year we have chosen Project Hope, which is a shelter for women and children here in Ocala.” If you can’t make it on that day, you can schedule a special fitting prior to the sale and take advantage of the presale. You can even gather a group of friends and make it a party to support this great cause. For more information, call (352) 629-9266. October ‘21

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DOING GOOD

Standing Strong 50 Legs Inc. helps amputees make positive strides. By Susan Smiley-Height

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Photo courtesy of 50 Legs Inc.

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you help and 50 teve Legs does for Chamberland everybody. Could has led you help?’ And he a very active took care of them. lifestyle, including We figured, why playing semistop there. Let’s pro football and do a huge event amateur hockey, for 50 Legs and as well as being raise awareness a professional and money. A lot wrestler. And of times, insurance becoming an doesn’t cover a amputee has not prosthetic. That’s slowed him down where 50 Legs one bit. comes in and In fact, Steve’s helped so he turned many people. He’s his personal a superhero.” experience with Chamberland prosthetics into says his a nonprofit, 50 charity, based Legs Inc., that is in Clearwater, celebrating 10 receives three to years of helping five applications a others. The charity week. provides amputees Stan Peterson, Azalea, Steve Chamberland, Gem Arnold “We use a with prosthetics company in and then ensures Orlando,” he offers. “We put the person in a hotel. that they, literally, quickly get back on their feet. All they pay for is food and a rental car. We fly “We’ve helped over 600 people get them in on Sunday and on Monday they’re usually prosthetics,” he shares. “Kids, adults and standing, Tuesday they’re walking and we fly them veterans from all over the country. We’ve helped home by Friday. If it’s above the knee, it’s usually three people in Marion County.” seven to 10 days.” Ariel Rich, with War Horse Harley-Davidson There also is follow-up care. in Ocala, is friends with some of them, which “We’re here for them 100 percent,” spurred her to organize the July 10th Warrior Chamberland states. “I got a call from a wife Fest fundraiser for 50 Legs. The event, held at whose husband lost both legs. I’m going to meet the dealership, featured personalities such as him and tell him, ‘Life’s not over yet, brother.’” Eddy Luiso, also known as “Everywhere Eddy,” “In the biker world, it’s one big family. If who Rich also calls the “Godfather of Harleys” somebody is down, we make sure they get back and Jimmy Hart, the “Mouth of the South,” from up,” Rich says. “What happens is traumatic and 50 World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. More than Legs can walk with them to the next level. They’re $8,000 was raised for the nonprofit. switching gears—and to be part of that is amazing.” “We had a couple of friends who were in a motorcycle accident that left them an amputee,” To learn more, go to 50Legs.org. For information who, Rich explains, are now facing “a new way about War Horse’s ongoing charity outreaches, of walking or picking something up or driving. visit warhorseharley.com Eddy knew Steve. So, I said, ‘I know how much



Cow Wranglers and Chicken Handlers By Scott Mitchell

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librarian, envelope stuffer and office support. Our volunteers are dedicated and generous. Each person has their own strengths and has something to offer. Some folks are extroverts and love a student audience. They will dress as an 1800s Florida “cow hunter” or pioneer woman and entertain with stories of carving out a life on the frontier. Others prefer the quietness of our research library or to simply work alone in a garden or cleaning exhibits. Still others arrive each weekend to help staff the museum to greet visitors and answer questions. In my 17 years here, I’ve met some truly fascinating folks who have adopted the museum as their cause. They’ve included retired teachers, school principals, school board members, nurses, librarians, foresters, law enforcement officials, authors, fire inspectors, college students, business owners, pilots, goldsmiths, carpenters and veterans. Their collective efforts amount to tens of thousands of volunteer hours and untold amounts of saved money. We hope it is a mutual relationship with our volunteers forming friendships and enjoying their time with us. As we have said many times, Thank You! We could not do it without your help. Scott Mitchell is the director of the Silver River Museum & Environmental Education Center. He has worked as a field archaeologist, scientific illustrator and museum professional for the last 25 years. The Silver River Museum is located at 1445 Northeast 58th Avenue and is open SaturdaySunday 10am-4pm. Visit silverrivermuseum.com or call (352) 236-5401 for more information.

Photo courtesy of Silver River Museum

he Silver River Museum is a gem tucked away within the Silver Springs State Park. Visitors are surprised to find us here and tell us we are one of the best small museums they’ve visited. They are even more impressed to learn we are part of Marion County Public Schools with a small budget and staff. During a normal year (and we can’t wait for those to return), we see about 10,000 students for field trips and the museum is open to the public each weekend. “How do you do it?” they ask. “Easy,” we say, “with volunteers!” Volunteers are the unspoken heroes across our community and we can’t thank them enough. Here at the museum we could not fulfill our mission without them. Over the last 30 years, legions of community-minded folks have donated their time, expertise and, more often than not, their own resources to help make the museum what it is today. Starting in 1990 with the Boy Scouts of Troop 440, who began clearing the property of illegally dumped junk, right up to the retired school administrator who currently volunteers as a weekend docent, we simply could not operate without our volunteers. The ways in which volunteers support the museum are as varied as their backgrounds, personalities and life stories. When recruiting (and we always need help), the easiest part for me is to simply describe all the possible ways in which they can get involved. There is literally something for everyone. A partial list includes (and yes, these are actual volunteer duties): first mate aboard our eco-tour boat the Timucuan, blacksmith, museum docent, historical reenactor (portraying a Florida pioneer in full costume), lab assistant working with archaeological collections, exhibits cleaner, gift shop attendant, gardener, handyman/ carpenter, cow wrangler, chicken handler,


INSIDER

Life with Abbey By Dave Schlenker | Illustration by David Vallejo

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n 2007, our neighbors saw something they can never unsee: A pale, middle-aged, unwashed, barefoot chunk of agitation in an old bathrobe sprinting through their yards. “Abbey! Get back here,” the beast bellowed. “Abbey! Stop, dammit!!!” It would have been terrifying if not for the adorable Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy gleefully outpacing the Sasquatch in a bathrobe. That schlub, of course, was me, and the corgi was Abbey Tubesox, an ear-heavy ball of euphoria named for the Beatles’ Abbey Road. Abbey adored the chase. If she saw daylight, she was off to the races. Cause and effect: She bolts, old dude follows. Good times. For 14 years, she owned those streets–knew every curve, every smell, every neighbor. On a recent Thursday night, Abbey hit those streets once again, only this time she was following me. I pulled her in a blue wagon. With a dangling tongue savoring the August air, she surveyed her kingdom one last time. She had not been able to walk for a month. Her back legs were props and the tumors grew fast. I carried her everywhere and held her as she did everything. It was tough. It was an honor. She barked a lot in her final days. I think she was telling us she was ready, whether we were or not. Amy and I kissed her and wept when she finally went to sleep. Gracefully. Indeed, she was ready.

When she passed, I held her one last time and started rubbing her back. Overwhelming sadness. Then, oddly, comfort. I figured it out quickly. Abbey had been in my arms for more than a month. But this time, her muscles did not quiver, her rear did not quake, her bones did not protrude. For the first time in a very long time, she was not suffering. Her body was at ease, and her spirit…well, who knows what snacks she is stealing or whose butts she is sniffing up there. I just knew she was at peace. We’ve all been through the loss of a pet–not just a pet, but the pet. The one who raised your kids like a nanny. The one who rushed you when you entered a room. The one who always knew you were sad. The one who would sucker you into a belly rub when you had no time to rub a belly. When Abbey would roll over, expose her undercarriage to the world and give me that look, I was powerless. “I cannot resist a corgi belly,” I’d tell the girls. “If Abbey robbed a bank, she could just roll over and all would be forgiven.” I write these words hours after we kissed Abbey goodbye. There is a glass of wine to the left of my laptop and, as sad as we are, I raise my glass to all lost pets and the humans who adored them. Here’s to a long life of love, mischief, bubbles, silliness, treats, wild chases and, of course, belly rubs. October ‘21

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VOWS

Celebrate... Ocala’s newest brides and grooms, get a glimpse into their most special of days and hear firsthand about the memories that will always hold a place in their hearts. Pictured: Erin & Tanner Johnston | Photographed by Janira Photography


VOWS

ERIN & TANNER JOHNSTON May 8th, 2021 Venue and planner: Protea Weddings and Events Photographer: Janira Photography Florist: The Graceful Gardener Her favorite memory: During wedding planning, Tanner’s biggest ask was to not see me until the ceremony. My husband is a Marine veteran and currently a police officer. It was the most endearing moment to see his tough exterior shattered by the sight of me as he took his first look at me walking down the aisle. It was touching to be able to share this moment, surrounded by our family and friends. They were able to see our raw emotion and reaction to seeing each other for the first time. It is an old tradition that made our ceremony special and sentimental.


VOWS

VANESSA & JARED SHEALY February 6th, 2021 Venue: Pine Haven Ranch Photographer: Michelle Klopfenstein Wedding Planner: Making It Matthews Florist: The Graceful Gardener Her favorite memory: We were under tornado watch, but the “Big Guy” was looking out and the rain held off until after the most lighthearted, funny, yet emotional ceremony. From the vows we wrote, the flower dude, to all of the animals, decor and karaoke at the reception, our wedding was completely “us” and the most magical and amazing wedding I have ever been to. I got to marry my best friend with all of our loved ones there.


Image by Molliner Photography


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As the pandemic continues to threaten our community, we turn to a few of our local allies in the fight for a candid conversation about where we are now and the information you need to know about vaccinations. By Matthew Cretul | Dr. Kuhn portrait by Dave Miller | All other portraits by Becky Collazo

ll over the world, health care professionals are still actively battling the COVID-19 crisis, dealing with the realities of deadly new variants that are threatening the unvaccinated and vaccinated alike and finding themselves not only physically and emotionally fatigued but also caught in the politicization of the pandemic. We spoke with several health care practitioners who reflect on their challenges, their concerns for our community and how they’ve developed a stronger bond with their colleagues as they’ve navigated a major health crisis on the local level.

Working as a Team

Jessie Taylor has lived in Ocala for nearly 30 years. “I love that Ocala is so quiet. I like visiting the big cities, but I prefer a more quiet, low-key lifestyle,” she offers. She grew up around horse farms and farm communities. Now, she works the night shift at West Marion Community Hospital as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) for the Ocala Intensivist Group, splitting her seven straight days at work between the intensive care unit (ICU) and emergency room (ER). Taylor explains that, during the day, the ICU buzzes with activity and has several medical providers on the floor who may be available to answer a question. At night, it’s a much quieter place, with only a small team from different departments available to provide critical care. 32

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But just because it’s quiet doesn’t mean it is calm. “It can be very stressful, very stressful,” she shares, adding that it is especially so when having to talk to patients about using assisted breathing devices because the effects of COVID-19 have become too much for their bodies to handle. “That’s a very difficult conversation that, unfortunately, I’ve had to have in the last couple months—numerous times, multiple times a day,” Taylor reveals. As a result, she relies on her co-workers for support now more than she ever has before. She says they’re like a community within the community. “We’re all really interconnected,” she continues. “It’s like a hometown—that’s what I like most about it.” Like Taylor, Stacey Bates also works in the ICU at West Marion as an APRN. She’s employed by Ocala Lung & Critical Care. And, also like Taylor, she enjoys the fact that Ocala is a small community. “Everybody seems to know everybody in Ocala,” Bates observes. “I think it’s a very tight-knit community. If something’s happening, the people here really band together and help each other out.” She said this act of unity is evident during her shifts in the ICU, as daily hospitalizations from COVID-19 infections stretch providers and their facilities to the limits. “We’ve had providers working on their time


Stacey Bates

off,” she asserts. “Even if they can only give four or six hours…we’re each doing that, helping out so we can stay afloat.” One of those providers who is volunteering her time is Melissa Bello, APRN, who works both in primary and critical care. Her new primary practice takes up three days of her week so she spends the other days doing cardiology critical care work in the ICU. “I’ve known these providers for years, and it really bothers me to know they’re drowning like this,” Bello discloses. When COVID spiked nationwide into the fall last year, the cases were mostly confined to elderly or immunocompromised individuals. With the arrival of the delta variant, however, patients have become younger and they are getting sicker than previous ones who would wind up in the ICU. “Last year here in Ocala was nothing like New York and what they saw. Well now, it’s us. It’s happening. It’s in our hometown,” Bello shares. “My ICU has grown, it’s tripled in size over the last couple of months just trying to accommodate the influx of patients.” Taylor says the majority of her patients currently being admitted to the hospital are unvaccinated. In fact, each of the providers commented that while vaccinated patients were being hospitalized in some cases, they were a smaller number of patients and their stays were much shorter and their symptoms were often less severe than those who were not vaccinated.

All stressed the importance of vaccines in mitigating any potential infection, as well as patients having open conversations with their providers about any questions or hesitations. Bello shares what she sees during her ICU shifts with her primary care patients and says she doesn’t like that the vaccine and coronavirus, in general, have both become so political and that she tries to provide any information she can to her hesitant patients without getting into the politics of it. She says she has convinced a few of her patients to get vaccinated just by speaking with them and answering questions. Dr. David Kuhn, an internal medicine specialist and native of Ocala is the CEO and founder of Trinity Clinic. He has been a leading force in the battle against COVID-19 in Marion County through his efforts to connect the community to good information and available resources. On the topic of vaccines, he explains that some benefits of receiving one are that it can mitigate the chances of getting seriously ill and cut down on the possibility of staying sick longer. “If you have a vaccine, you’re much less likely to have a bad version of the illness,” Kuhn offers. Jessie Taylor

October ‘21

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had conversations with two sources who had been advised by their providers that they could potentially hold off on getting the vaccine, based on their age and good health. However, in both cases, the individuals said they were now seriously considering getting vaccinated based on concerns over keeping elderly or vulnerable relatives safe and also because they have begun to see new COVID-19 infections becoming more widespread in younger people. Dr. Anish Khanna, an internal medicine specialist in Ocala, explains that one of the most compelling reasons for a healthy person to be vaccinated is to protect others in the community by helping to build herd immunity. He says while he appreciates and provides treatments such as monoclonal antibodies to his patients, vaccines provide a much better solution for dealing with COVID-19.

Experience Matters Mellisa Bello

Can you still get COVID-19 if you’re vaccinated? Yes, Bello confirms, but she adds that you’re likely not going to end up in the hospital on a ventilator and that’s the difference. Bates herself tested positive for the virus recently, even though she’s been vaccinated. But, she says, the vaccine still did its job as she felt only mild symptoms for a couple of days. “I’m very thankful that I had that vaccine,” she states. She says she starts the discussion of vaccines

“So you’re much less likely to have to deal with the long effects of COVID itself.” He explains that the vaccine basically primes the immune system so when it encounters the virus, it’s ready. “The immune response operates best when it’s operating based on its memory…so when the immune system is already primed, it can respond significantly quicker than it could if it has to learn as it goes,” he says. Dr. David Kuhn Another benefit of the vaccine, offers Kuhn, is that as new variants of COVID emerge, it still offers some protection. “Even though the vaccine was not invented for delta specifically,” he maintains, “the vaccines have held up very, very well against delta, which is great.” Because there is so much mistrust in information from outside and online sources, Kuhn emphasizes the importance of talking to a health care provider who knows you and your medical history if you have any questions or hesitations about something like the vaccine. “Go speak to your doctor about it,” he advises. “Go speak to your APRN, your specialist, your whoever, and get the best advice you can get from a person who knows your history and your story, medically speaking.” In putting this story together, we


as her ICU patients begin to recover and are preparing for discharge. She implores them to talk about being in the ICU for multiple weeks so their friends and family will have an idea as to what it’s like. Khanna encourages his patients who experience COVID-19 firsthand to share their experiences on a personal level as well, which, he says, humanizes the virus for others around them. He says that, most of the time, patients who are being discharged bring up the topic of when they should get vaccinated or how they convinced others in their circle to get vaccinated. Kuhn says that these sort of firsthand accounts, from those who have had COVID-19, are becoming more common and powerful as the delta variant infects more people locally and he believes they are helping the public better understand the realities of COVID. “I think that it will take people in the public eye to kind of stand up and say, ‘Look, this is a good thing to do. It’s a good idea to get vaccinated,’” he declares.

Dr. Anish Khanna

Clocking Out but Staying On

While working in an ICU setting during a pandemic is full of difficult moments, some are harder than others, including detaching once a shift or multiple shifts are over. “The hardest part of my job is having to walk out of the hospital doors and disconnect from it,” Taylor admits. “And you have to, for your own sanity.” Bates finds it hard to fully disconnect, though, as her patients never really leave her thoughts. “You hear their cries in your heart at night,” she reveals. “You take these patients home with you.” Khanna also has felt it hard to disconnect, especially after following patients for weeks at a time. He explains that it is especially difficult when he makes a strong personal connection with the patient, which happens often. One patient will stay with Bello forever. She says the patient, who is in his early 40s, was completely healthy before being admitted to the ICU with COVID-19. He was alone during the majority of his stay, isolated from friends and family, only able to connect with his young children through occasional video chats. One night, the patient signed himself up for hospice care. The next day, however, Bates convinced him to keep working with her instead. She treated him for another six weeks and he was eventually able to be weaned off of his breathing apparatus and was discharged from the hospital. Bates shares that seeing him two months later when he stopped by the ICU to thank everyone for their care was incredibly rewarding.

The Ties that Bind Us Together

Khanna feels proud to see how the health care community in Ocala is responding to the challenge. “The amount of investment on every health care provider’s part that I’ve seen here is outstanding,” he declares. “I have to give credit to everybody who is working together as a team to try and help people because it is rough,” Bello maintains. “It’s not just the nurses, the respiratory therapists and doctors. It’s the housekeepers, the phlebotomists…it’s everyone.” “Right now, we’re leaning very heavily on each other,” says Taylor. “It’s a very hard job right now and we’re very lucky to have each other and the camaraderie we have.” “We all have to help each other, that’s the only way to get these patients better,” Bates adds. “Our goal is really to get more people vaccinated before the next surge and more lives are lost,” Khanna offers. “If this effort saves even one life, it’s worth it.” Their collective hope for the community they love, where they work and live, is that we can unite in our goal to do everything we can to protect ourselves and each other. We will all play a role in ending this pandemic—because now it is more than just health care workers on the front line. It’s all of us. Editor’s Note: The comments and opinions expressed in this story are the views of the individuals quoted and not their respective employers. October ‘21

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learning together This father and son challenged each other to take their educational endeavors to a higher level. By James Blevins Photography by Meagan Gumpert

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hen Adam Volpe was attending Lake Weir High School in the late 1990s, he had no trouble learning when it involved subjects that engaged him. He loved music: So, he joined band and learned how to play the drums. He loved cooking almost as much: So, he worked at restaurants and trained as a chef. But the brick-and-mortar, traditional school environment didn’t engage Volpe nearly as much. On the contrary, he felt as if he was drowning in its sea of ever-widening expectations. At the time, everyone else seemed able to swim towards his or her own brighter horizon with much greater ease—whereas Volpe could only find safety and acceptance on his nearby island of music. “I struggled with everything else in school,” Volpe, now 40, recalls, “but never music. Music engaged me the most, more so than the school system.” In school, he felt out of place. But in band, he

London Stewart photo courtesy of Adam Volpe

felt welcomed and appreciated. “I was always like the section leader,” he recalls. “I had a little bit of responsibility at that age. I had the camaraderie with the drum line and then the rest of the band. It really was its own kind of microcosm inside of the school system that I could escape to.” Volpe would ultimately choose to drop out of high school and follow his passion for music— wherever it took him. “I just gave up,” he admits. “I wasn’t getting any enrichment or nourishment anywhere else. And I was doing things outside of school, like playing music and performing and things like that, which was fulfilling. So, I just kind of went on and kept doing that.” Music—and food—took him first to New York City: the mecca, according to Volpe, of his two biggest passions. While there, he would work in as many high-end kitchens and upscale restaurants as he could. At night, he’d hit the jazz club circuit October ‘21

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and soak up the sounds. “The sun would come back up in the morning and I’d do it all over again,” Volpe says with a laugh. “And, of course, at 18 years old, that’s the time to do that.” He would live in New York City for a couple years. After his son, London Stewart, was born in 2001, Volpe moved back to Florida. Following a brief sojourn in Tampa, he returned to Ocala. Volpe admits to living with his decision to drop out of high school rather well over the next 20 years. It was a slight weight on his back, he also admits, but nothing too heavy. It never stopped him from living his life the way he wanted to, the way he always had. “I’d never really ran up to a situation where I needed a diploma or a GED certificate, for whatever reason,” Volpe explains, “but I knew that I should have gotten it.” Volpe’s lack of a diploma became relevant in his life when his son, then a sophomore at Forest High School, found himself in similar scholastic waters as his dad some 20 years before. “I saw a lot of repetition in school,” says Stewart about his life in 2019. “A lot of things didn’t really seem to matter to me or weren’t made to feel important in a way that I understood.” He was barely getting by with low Cs and an even lower GPA. He says he could see no light at the end of his high school tunnel. “Obviously, I didn’t want to be a dropout,” Stewart shares, “but I wasn’t motivated to do the work and it just didn’t really make sense to me to keep going. It felt useless.” Then one day, sitting with his dad in the kitchen, Stewart told him everything on his mind and said he didn’t want to go to school anymore. Volpe’s first emotion was empathy. “I understood how he felt,” he recalls. “But, as a parent, I also felt confusion. Do I put my foot down as a father and say, ‘No, you’re going to graduate?’ But that’s also so hypocritical.” Before dropping out, Stewart tried Florida Virtual School—splitting school between online and in-class learning—but that didn’t work for him either. “Then, I don’t remember how I convinced him,” Stewart offers. “But I told him something along the lines of, ‘If you let me drop out, I’ll get my GED

before the end of the year.’” Volpe made a deal: his son could get his GED, but there was going to be a deadline. Also, Volpe would be getting his GED at the same time—and he planned to get his first. “It was really more a competition between us,” Volpe says with a laugh. “That was just the way I think it had to happen. And I think that me doing it was really…at least, though he wouldn’t admit it…but it was a motivator.” R.J. Jenkins is one of Volpe’s longtime friends and president of the board of the Marion County Literacy Council. It was Jenkins who helped his friend reach the decision to hit the books once again. “I basically said, ‘If you are adamant that London gets his GED, maybe you can commit to earning yours as well as a kind of collateral to make sure that he does what he’s supposed to do,” Jenkins remembers. “And Adam, he hesitated on that a little bit,” he adds, “but, to his credit, he ultimately decided that he would do it.” Volpe’s decision impressed his friend. “It’s very courageous to admit to not having something like your - Adam Volpe GED,” Jenkins asserts. “Or any kind of credential, really.” At the Literacy Council, Jenkins tutored both Volpe and Stewart. To get a GED in Florida, one has to pass tests on four main subjects: math, English, science and social studies. Volpe and Stewart had to score at least 145 points on each test (no fewer than 580 points overall) to earn their GED diploma. Stewart flew through the course, earning his certificate in roughly two months. He started in September 2019 and graduated in November. Volpe graduated in January of this year. “I wasn’t too far behind.” he laughs, while suggesting playfully, “There may have been some foul play there. I don’t know if R.J. secretly slowed my process down intentionally for London’s benefit. I don’t know. We’ll never know.” Stewart, now 20, is currently attending the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. Becoming a college student is something he genuinely didn’t see himself doing prior to earning his GED diploma. “Well, I never wanted to go to college,” he admits. “I was always against it, just like, you know, high school was to me. But getting my GED sort of maybe opened up a window for me where there had previously been a locked door.”

I think he always had it in him. He just needed to find that out in his own way.

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Stewart considers it a leap he took and he doesn’t know how it’ll turn it out just yet. “Who knows how it’ll go?” he offers with a laugh. “Who knows if I’ll ever even graduate? But I like it so far.” Volpe says he has seen so much growth in his son over the last six months. “I think he always had it in him. He just needed to find that out in his own way,” Volpe shares. I think getting through this GED process with the Literacy Council showed him that there might be a path forward in the world. And then the process of getting accepted to school again at college…there’s just more and more affirmations.” These days, Volpe has created for himself in Ocala a world not too dissimilar to the one he created in New York—a world of music and food. When he isn’t playing in his two bands—The Voltran Collective and a Beatles cover band called The Glass Onion—he is director of operations for the Marion Theatre.

He also has a few businesses of his own. He started Adam Volpe Imagery last year, photographing real estate among other things. He also started a fermented vegetable business called Funky Pickles, which can be purchased at Stella’s Modern Pantry and the Juniper General Store. “That’s another of my passions,” Volpe confides. “Fermenting vegetables and food preservation in general is something I’ve always really loved and enjoyed.” Nothing major has changed in Volpe’s life since he earned his GED diploma, he says, but he does feel a palpable sense of relief. He hopes that his and his son’s example will help inspire others. “It’s never too late to finish what you started, when you’re ready,” he says. “And the nontraditional path is a viable path.” For information about the many programs of the Marion County Literacy Council, go to marionliteracy.org October ‘21

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It takes a village of loving adults—from foster parents to agencies such as Kids Central—to build better lives for foster children. By Lisa McGinnes | Photography by Barbara Hooper

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my and Jeff Hill have a beautiful family. Their six adopted children, who range in age from 2 to 8 years old, are happy, smiling kids who love to run and play outside. The two they call their “twins,” McKinley and Gracelyn, both 2, like bubbles and lollipops. Their four older siblings, 8-year-old Parker, 8-year-old Allie, 6-year-old Savannah and 4-year-old Bentley, enjoy playing soccer. All six children’s lives would be very different today if they hadn’t come into the Hill’s home as foster children.

For the Love of the Child Why would a young couple, married for four years, go from no kids to six kids within a matter of months? For the Hills, it was a simple decision, Jeff reveals. “There’s a huge need for good families,” he says. “There are a lot of kids who don’t have homes right now.” The whole point of foster care,” Jeff explains, “is to give a child a safe place. Love. A home. To know


that they’re safe. Some kids never, ever have that. It’s sad. If they’re with us for a short period of time and they know having that family feel, having their own bed to sleep in, having every meal, that’s what it’s all about. Whether they’re with us for three days or two years, as long as they have that and know what it felt like at one point in our life, we’ve done our job.” That kids-first mindset is the major qualification needed in foster parents, says Jessica Gilbert, director of community affairs for Kids Central Inc. “It’s because of them that these kids have the best shot at life,” she says of families like the Hills. They wouldn’t be where they are without somebody like Amy and Jeff “stepping into that gap for them.” Gilbert and the Hills hear a lot of people say they couldn’t be a foster parent because they’re scared to get too attached to a child who may later leave their care to go back to live with, typically, a biological parent or family member. But, they all agree, that’s just part of the process. “It’s loving that child and being willing to say it’s time for me to love you from afar and still be there for you,” Gilbert explains. Amy and Jeff agree. They are now thrilled to be the godparents of a boy who lived with them as their foster son for a year and a half but was eventually adopted by another family. All six of their adopted children gained a bonus “grandma” in one child’s biological grandmother, who, Amy says, “considers all of our kids her grandkids and is still very much in our life.” An Ocala native, Amy says her own parents and Jeff ’s family also have been a huge support system for them. “Our parents help out a lot,” she notes. “They were welcoming, too, as far as treating them like grandkids from the beginning.”

safe place to live, sometimes for just one night and sometimes for a lifetime. The goal, Gilbert says, is always to reunite a child with his or her parent, if possible. “They need someone who can step in the gap until mom and dad can work their case plan,” she says, explaining that when a child is removed from their parents’ home, Kids Central begins working with the parents on a plan to ultimately result in reunifying

Allie and Savannah

It Takes a Village There are more than 1,600 children across the five-county area Kids Central serves who have experienced the trauma of abuse or neglect and have been removed from the home of their parents or caregivers. Those children need a

Gracelyn

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Parker and McKinley From left: Gracelyn, Bentley, Parker and Amy

them with their child—including helping parents learn better parenting techniques and finding community resources. Sometimes, she says, a family may need “wraparound services,” which could include identifying monetary resources to help them get back on their feet or home visits to offer support. In many cases, Gilbert points out, a child no longer living with their parents may be placed in kinship care, or the home of a biological relative. “Those are our grandparents, aunts and uncles raising relative children,” she says. “Kids Central has one of the best kinship programs in the nation. We provide a ton of resources for those people who are raising their relative children—from financial support to support groups where they can talk about it so they don’t feel alone.” Along the way to their permanent home, whether that ends up being their own biological parents, another family member, or an adoptive family, the reality is many children stay in a foster home, whether for one night, a few weeks or a few months. Amy and Jeff have had around 50 children stay in their home over the past four years. They recall a midnight phone call asking them to help an infant who needed a safe place to sleep just for the night. There were many boys and girls, from newborns to 17-year-olds, who found a safe haven with them for a few days, a few weeks or a few months. 42

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Bentley

“We had one little boy who came into our care with a domestic violence case,” Amy remembers. “We kept him just long enough for his mom to get to a safe place away from the father, who was abusive. And then he went right back home with her.” As she points out, there is never a lack of children who need a safe place to live, and every foster child who is reunited with their birth family opens up a place in a foster home for another child who needs care. “It’s hard, but there’s never been a point where I can’t say it wasn’t worth it,” Amy offers. “I can’t imagine what we would have missed out on if we didn’t do this.” For more information, visit kidscentralinc.org


For Your Information

• Be a Florida resident age 21 or older • Be financially stable • Be able to provide appropriate sleeping arrangements • Be able to provide support, care and stability

and the Pearl Project, which provide services to children who have had to deal with trauma or abuse. Kids Central provides free training and a foster club for foster youth and parents, and adoption services staff offer support services for the family until the child turns 18. Foster Florida connects foster families to one another. Amy Hill volunteers with the Ocala chapter. • Teenagers want and need to be adopted as much as younger children. As Gilbert points out, “A lot of kids just want a family to come home to for the holidays. They want to have a mom or dad they can call. Everybody wants somewhere to come home to for Thanksgiving or Christmas.”

Myths About Foster Parenting and Adoption

Other Ways to Help

• Foster and adoptive parents do not have to be a married, heterosexual couple. Approved homes may be a single dad, a single mom, a nonmarried couple who lives together or a same-sex couple. • Foster and adoptive parents don’t need to be wealthy. Foster homes receive a monthly stipend to assist with expenses. Foster children have health insurance coverage through the state. Foster Florida helps families who need financial support and resources including childcare. There are no adoption fees for adopting children through Kids Central. Every child adopted out of the foster care system receives a college education paid for by the state. • Foster and adoptive parents are not on their own—they have a broad support system. Kids Central partners with local organizations including Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection

Donate Kids Central is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and accepts both monetary and in-kind donations. New items always needed include dishes, silverware and plasticware; baby items such as diapers, wipes, shampoo and lotion; hygiene products for older children including deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, body wash and feminine products; and underwear and socks in men’s and boys’ sizes.

By the Numbers From June 2020 to June 2021 in Marion, Citrus, Hernando, Lake and Sumter counties, Kids Central assisted with 307 kids who were adopted and 239 children who were reunited with their families. They also licensed 70 foster homes. Requirements for Foster or Adoptive Parents

Volunteer Volunteers assist at Kids Central’s West Ocala Family Resource Center, in the Kids Central office in Wildwood and help with community events. Spread the Word Follow Kids Central on Facebook and Instagram. Help raise awareness by liking or sharing posts that let our community know about the need for foster and adoptive families.


Paving the Way

Meet two sisters whose shared professional passions led them to become leaders in the pharmaceutical field here in our community. By Leah A. Taylor Photography by Dave Miller On-set beauty touch ups by Linda Lofton Shot on Location at Agapanthus Ocala


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That was around 2005 and hat do little girls grow the following year he made his up to be when their debut at Gary’s wedding. dad’s a brainiac? “Dad’s cerebral,” says Evans, Experts in the science behind landing on the one description medicine. At least that is what that encompasses him. biological sisters Drs. Chandra Evans and Sharla Evans Gary did. They fulfilled a career The Path to Pharmacy aspiration their father had for Both sisters originally himself. considered becoming medical Born in Fayetteville, North doctors. Evans says her focus Carolina, the eldest daughters was on obstetrics/gynecology. of six siblings recall the pieces After taking the Medical of their upbringing that led College Admission Test, she them to their professions. says, “life happened,” and she Their mother Shirley was an educator in the Fayetteville school system for 35 years and their dad, Charles, was a test lab analyst with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Evans and Gary are genetically a mixture of both parents. But when asked about their earliest interest in science, it triggers an immediate reaction that falls solely on their father’s exuberance for life, physics and science. “Daddy was a From left: Shirley, Chandra, Sharla and Charles Evans family counselor, psychologist, gardener, a disciplinarian,” says Evans. “A jack-of-alltrades. An artist, a mechanic never applied to medical school. and a musician,” invokes Gary. She was married to an officer They trade looks and smile in the military at the time and as they detail his many talents. there were no medical schools Evans, the oldest by 19 where they were stationed. months, describes her father as Similarly, Gary thought she someone who could direct you would become a pediatrician. back home, even if you were lost It was not until she considered on the other side of the country. the impact of watching children “Dad is a tinker,” she explains. suffer that she set her sights Gary giggles in agreement, on pharmacy. Gary had many “Yes. Daddy does it all.” mentors, including a high She says, “Daddy had a lot school chemistry teacher whose of resources and books on father was a pharmacist. After everything.” graduation, Gary started her For a couple of minutes, they path toward that same vocation, converse about how he taught enrolling at North Carolina himself to play the saxophone. Central University (one of the

roughly 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs, in the United States, which were established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964), where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. During her four years as an undergraduate, Gary worked in the school’s infirmary. That is where she was coached by a Black female pharmacist, Debbie Hardee. “She was an awesome person,” Gary recalls. “She helped me with my application to pharmacy school and we still communicate.” Evans cultivated an interest in education prior to pharmacy. After earning a bachelor’s in biology on the pre-medicine track from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Evans relished her experiences teaching computer skills to children with intellectual disabilities and working as a high school biology, physical science and math instructor. “Teaching is really my passion,” she says. She references the moment this rung true. While pursuing her master’s in biomedical sciences from Fayetteville State University, Evans crossed paths with a chemistry professor from Yale named Dr. Black. After a lengthy conversation with the professor, Evans was inspired to teach on a higher level. “You may not remember this, but I was looking for a doctoral degree, and you said, why don’t you just try pharmacy?” Evans October ‘21

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Dr. Sharla Evans Gary

says to Gary. Though somewhat bewildered, Gary’s smile reveals she is pleased with the outcome. After that brief conversation, Evans says she took the Pharmacy College Admissions Test and was accepted into the only school to which she had applied. Campbell University’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences in North Carolina is also one of the best pharmacy schools in the nation. Around the same time, Gary was two and a half years into a pharmacy program at another prestigious pharmacy school and HBCU. Gary says she felt homesick and overwhelmed by the size of Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) pharmacy program. So, after completing all her introductory courses, she transferred to Hampton University School of Pharmacy in 46

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Virginia, a small, private HBCU. At Hampton, she appreciated the intimate learning environment. Gary also enjoyed being closer to her Carolina home and her older sister. Although transferring from a large institution to a smaller college was an expensive decision, she reminisces, “The change was perfect.” Both Gary and Evans graduated with a doctorate in pharmacy in 2006: Gary in May, Evans in December. Gary would return to Florida in 2006 to complete an ambulatory care residency at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Gainesville.

Tough Training

The doctor of pharmacy degree (often abbreviated Pharm.D.) is a post-graduate professional

degree that requires six years of education. In 2003, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) mandated that the entry-level degree would be a Pharm.D. It is similar to a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), and thus represents the increasing responsibility pharmacists have in health care systems and the high trust Americans have in pharmacists. The curriculum and commitment are “not for the faint at heart,” says Evans. “It is not the easiest experience.” Evans further describes the program as tough. “It pushes you to the limit,” she shares. Gary recalls her classes, including labs, where students made drugs and did physical assessments, as well as pharmacy simulations. Pharmacists also are trained to share a tremendous amount of knowledge with patients. Assessments and counseling on the mechanics of prescriptions are part of the job, such as body excretion, metabolism and “how the medication is distributed in tissues.” Evans’ explanations reveal her instructional slant on pharmacodynamics. After earning a Pharm.D., students must also pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination and a state law examination in order to engage in professional practice. Pharmacy Times recently reported “the percentage of non-white licensed pharmacists increased by 46 percent, from 14.9 percent in 2014 to 21.8 percent in 2019. Specifically, the percentage of Black pharmacists more than doubled, from 2.3 percent to 4.9 percent.” The sisters are not shocked by the uptick. While they posit that the increase in pharmacy schools has created


an oversaturation in the field, they still view it is a worthwhile profession. In a gingerly low-country style, the two offer a broader glimpse beyond the white coats seen behind the glass. “There’s much more to pharmacy,” says Gary. “It’s a portable career. Pharmacists are useful in law, research, academia, economics.” Gary and Evans expound on the varied avenues beyond retail settings, like Walgreens, that exist for a licensed pharmacist. In fact, Evans is board certified in geriatrics. Through the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS), pharmacists can specialize in areas such as geriatrics, oncology, cardiology, ambulatory care and more. Both sisters agree that attaining certifications, like Evans, or residencies, as Gary did, can separate an average pharmacist from the pack.

Worthy Services

Early on in their careers, both sisters worked in retail pharmacy. Today, Gary and Evans provide services in clinical pharmacy and community pharmacy settings, respectively. Gary moved to the VA Outpatient Clinic in The Cascades in 2010, where she assists eight to nine primary care providers with disease state management, which includes diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension and smoking cessation. In a clinical setting, she is fortunate to have access to providers, patient records and labs. While she does not dispense medication (the Ocala clinic does not have a dispensing pharmacy), she assists with medication reconciliation and general pharmacy inquiries within the VA scope of practice. “The main thing is helping

them understand what it’s for, how it works and how to take it,” Gary explains. “I enjoy being able to help others better understand health issues and concerns, and really understanding their medications.” Practically, she works with veterans to regulate blood pressure to healthy levels, keep cholesterol in check and achieve long-range health goals, including advising them on lifestyle changes. As a pharmacist, she is an asset to patients, helping them manage their medications in between visits to their primary physicians. Sometimes that is weekly, biweekly or monthly management. Since the pandemic began, Gary says the VA has converted Dr. Chandra Evans

to mostly virtual telehealth and telephone appointments. Whether by phone or virtually, Gary feels very optimistic about patients being able to keep their visits. “I feel honored to serve those who have served us,” declares Gary.

Serving the Community

After a successful career in Ocala, Gary would later convince her sister to move here. Evans says her sister called and said, “Hey. One of my friends is looking for someone to run a pharmacy.” Then, to make the carrot more appetizing, Gary told her, “Don’t worry. I have the perfect house.” Although that job did not manifest long-term, it did get Evans to Ocala.


Evans now is the Pharmacy Director for the Heart of Florida (HOF), a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), where she was hired to integrate the center by providing a pharmacy, thereby improving patient care. In May of 2018, Evans says coyly, “I started with a phone and two computer screens.” While she came to open one pharmacy, she soon had two fully operational pharmacies. 48

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The first one was in the health department building on Maricamp Road in November 2018 and the second was on First Avenue. In May 2020, the health department site relocated to the main HOF location on Silver Springs Boulevard. Then the Belleview pharmacy opened in July 2021 and the First Avenue site is now a drivethru pharmacy on South Pine Avenue. Evans says the process

for a relocation is the same as opening a brand-new site, which equates to five pharmacy openings in three years. Evans admits that, although “serving the underserved, uninsured and underinsured” is demanding, she loves it. “It’s pretty rewarding.” Each pharmacy is heavily regulated by the Board of Pharmacy and the Drug Enforcement Administration.


Pharmacies participating in the 340B Drug Discount Pricing Program in a FQHC are also regulated by the Health Resources and Services Administration. “Currently, the most rewarding thing is paying it forward with new pharmacists and training them,” Evans says, adding that she enjoys teaching the do’s and don’ts of working with their colleagues and interacting with the public. Evans oversees all the pharmacists. In the Boulevard location alone, the staff submits claims for an average of almost 300 prescriptions per day. She stays active in academia, too, serving as a consultant for FAMU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences’ Eminent Scholar Program. Appointed by Dean Johnnie Early, she uses her prowess to enhance the on-campus pharmacy and advises the board of directors. Despite her workload, Evans added administering COVID-19 vaccines to her list of duties and volunteered in this capacity earlier in the year.

Positional Power

The sisters believe there is an advantage to having the other sister in the same profession, but at different operations. They can discuss different topics pertinent to the other’s practice. And they get to attend conferences to obtain continuing education units together. “Having a sibling in the same professional career is definitely a blessing and beneficial,” says Gary. As Black women, the sisters feel compelled to advocate for the best health

care practices for all. They further recognize the health disparities among the races and the well documented negative impact of discrimination on individual health on a national level. “My obligation is to make sure minority patients are not brushed off when it comes to being educated,” states Evans, who is a member of the Minority Women Pharmacists Association. “We are the sickest, the poorest and the first to be dismissed in the health care system as a whole.” Evans calls on Black health care physicians to fill in the gap. She believes, “in a small community like Marion County, we could lead the charge to shift those stats.” Gary echoes her sister’s sentiments.

Leading Together

Their unity extends into the community as well. Following in their mother’s footsteps, they are active legacy sorority sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (the first Greek-letter organization established by African American collegeeducated women). Key tenets of the historic international service organization are to cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards and also to study and help alleviate problems concerning girls and women. Notably, beyond their strong familial and professional bonds, the sisters are undeniably powerful examples of women who are paving the way for future generations. Together, they are helping to improve the health care available to two incredibly important populations within our community.

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his photo shoot took place on historic Broadway Street and inside Agapanthus Ocala and its Breeze Day Spa. This downtown favorite venue is the former site of one of Ocala’s historic drugstores. In fact, one of the existing exposed brick walls still bears a hand-painted advertisement for a product that was sold there many years ago. The street also was once home to another drugstore that was operated by Howard Academyeducated Dr. Effie Carrie MitchellHampton, the first Black woman to practice medicine in Florida. She was also one of the founders of the Florida Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association. She later married Dr. Lee Royal Hampton, the first Black dentist in Ocala. This female trailblazer defied restrictions based on her race and gender and used her knowledge and skills to address the problem of inadequate health care in the Black community.

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Seeing Beyond the Surface A first-person examination of one local woman’s experiences and insights about growing up a biracial adoptive child in a white family, facing both intentional and unintentional discrimination, and struggling to understand her place in the world. By Emily Parada


am adopted and was raised in Ocala. My amazing, supportive and loving adoptive family worked hard to provide me with the necessary social and emotional tools required to build a really good life. My mom still tells me to this day, “My goal as a mother was to make sure you always knew how much you were loved by a family who will always be there for you.” If you were lucky enough to have a mom like mine, then you will understand how I felt this level of unwavering love and stability in every bone in my body. Even though my adoptee brain makes it difficult for me to process why someone would choose to love me, the continued reassurance, backed by constant action, gave me extra bursts of strength when I needed them most. Because of this framework, I grew, and I learned, and I began to find my way in this world. My adoption was never something that was hidden from me, but I was also aware from an early age that I looked very different from my family. I never viewed my differences as necessarily good or bad; I simply recognized them as differences and tried not to let them affect me.

Skin Deep

It wasn’t until around the fourth grade that I felt like, overnight, I morphed into the mixed elephant in the room and I became fully aware of how loudly my appearance was speaking for me before I ever actually spoke. I started to physically feel the tension during certain interactions and began to notice that my features were affecting the way people not only felt about me but the way they treated me. I’m not sure exactly when or why the questions shifted from my mom to me, but I do know that I rarely had acceptable answers for people who wondered why I looked, acted or sounded the way I did. The more questions I received and the more frequent they became, the more I began to dread being around people who didn’t already know my “situation.” This led to my feeling like the best way to defend myself was to blend in and stay silent. For so long, I’ve fought to make others feel comfortable - Emily Parada in my presence at the expense of honoring myself and my own comfort. I even made up stories to tell complete strangers in order to explain and defend myself against comments on my hair, my voice and my skin color—when the truth would not suffice. I know now that these comments were microaggressions that came from being unable to fit me into a white or Black box, no matter how hard someone tried. I began to realize that the way I looked stirred up a lot of turmoil inside of certain people, some who simply couldn’t stomach the idea of a biracial person (I didn’t, at the time, even know this is what I was) living what they deemed to be a “white” life. Being biracial comes with a lot of warning labels—but, unfortunately, no instruction manual.

Being biracial comes with a lot of warning labels—but, unfortunately, no instruction manual.

Hidden Figures

As a biracial adoptee, more layers of uncertainty are added to this uneven terrain of life experiences. Unanswered, the questions that plagued me festered into a paralyzing mix of anxiety and irrational fear that everyone I met believed I was worth absolutely nothing. I also felt pressured to share deeply personal stories surrounding the mystery of my adoption to unfamiliar faces because I didn’t have any solid information on how I came to be. As I reflect on the behavior

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and actions of these people, so desperate to know exactly how much of which ingredients were used in my making, I believe that it all implied one single question: Why are you like this? After learning about my ethnic background through DNA tests as an adult, having children of my own, and a husband—whose love for me is so unwavering that it has dismantled many of those layers of deep-seeded doubt and self-hate—I finally understand that the way people feel about my appearance says much more about them than it does about me.

A Question of Intention

So how can we tell the difference between unintentional ignorance versus blatant bias? What are we supposed to say when we aren’t sure if someone is truly racist or perhaps just uneducated about specific issues related to race? How do we respond to “well-meaning” oppressive words and assumptions? How do we react when we don’t know the intention of a friend, family member or coworker who consistently shares targeted stories on social media that degrade minority groups? I know there are no easy answers to the question of how to eliminate prejudice stemming from fear and bias or even a lack of good information. But I do know that taking every opportunity I get to share my perspective and potentially expand the conversation is worth taking. While I realize it’s not my job or anyone else’s responsibility to try and dissect and calmly understand someone who is spewing hate like a broken fire hydrant, I also know that not all prejudicial behavior is born out of hate and when you can talk to someone from a place of intention—intention based on a lack of information or Emily and husband Tate by exploring which emotions have been triggered within them—you can address the actual root of the behavior and begin to dismantle the bias. By choosing to empower yourself with knowledge and a strategy of how to confront situations that are pulling us in the wrong direction of history, it’s possible to do what’s right while also honoring yourself and others. If we truly hope for social change, then confronting derogatory and stereotypical behaviors, words and beliefs is a positive way to start the conversations necessary to address these feelings and empower ourselves to change our world. Editorial note: This first-person account represents the unique experiences and world view of one individual from our community. If you have a perspective you would like to share, please submit a brief statement explaining what makes your story unique by emailing us at editorial@ocalastyle.com

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Changing The Conversation These suggestions are presented to hopefully remind us all of some potential strategies to open doors toward more understanding and inclusive interactions.

Build a bridge.

Even if someone is displaying inappropriate behaviors regarding race, it is possible they may not be aware of what makes the behavior (or their question/phrasing) objectionable. We each come from a different background and set of life experiences, even when we live in the same community. Expanding the divide any further is what we want to avoid. Instead, explain your point of view using relatable examples, feelings and emotions to anchor your words and build a bridge of connection. Try sharing your personal experiences and explain how certain words and actions make you feel uncomfortable and are not inclusive.

Ask answerable and sensitively constructed questions.

Questions can lead to conversation and, when structured responsibly, can open hearts and minds. Questions also express thoughtful consideration and can show you are trying to meet people where they are and understand. Ask questions that express your concern with specific actions or words and which also open the door for empathy and understanding. And, leave the door open for similar discussions in the future.

Be your best self no matter the medium.

The online world has become a place of hostility and divisive behavior, allowing us to say things we wouldn’t necessarily say to someone face to face. Even if you don’t like someone else’s views, lifestyle or what they are putting out there, that doesn’t mean you have to respond negatively. There’s always a respectful option in replying or commenting. The best thing to do when you feel like lashing out is to simply refrain from doing so. Perspectives are not changed through attacks. Instead, choose a proactive way to present your beliefs and open the door for conversation.

Lead by example.

Openly volunteering and donating to groups or organizations that support diversity and inclusion are great ways to lead by example. This also garners an opportunity to further the group’s message and discuss what they’re doing and how they are helping our community. Editor’s note: An example of just such a local group would be the Racial Harmony and Cultural Awareness Task Force. The group’s mission is to promote a community of inclusiveness while celebrating racial and cultural heritage, and also promote racial harmony by encouraging appreciation and respect for cultural differences.


Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille 24 SE 1st Avenue, Ocala

(352) 840-0900 › hookedonharrys.com Mon-Thu 11a-10p › Fri & Sat 11a-11p › Sun 11a-9p Open for dine in, carryout and delivery through Doordash and Bite Squad Located in the heart of downtown Ocala, Harry’s offers traditional Louisiana favorites like Shrimp and Scallop Orleans, Crawfish Etouffée, Jambalaya, Shrimp Creole, Blackened Red Fish, Louisiana Gumbo and Marinated Salmon Salad. Other favorites, like French Baked Scallops and Bourbon Street Salmon, are complemented with grilled steaks, chicken, burgers, po’ boy sandwiches and salads. Their full bar features Harry’s Signature Cocktails, such as the Harry’s Hurricane, Bayou Bloody Mary or the Cool Goose Martini. They also feature wines by the glass and a wide selection of imported, domestic and craft beer.

Belly Rub Recipes Cookbook Release Party Oct 2nd | 12-2pm Kimberden Farms 5400 NW 110th Ave

Dinner and a Show

Visit us on Facebook Humane Society of Marion County for more information

November 13th | 5-7pm Todd Bogue’s Ridiculous Comedy and Magic Show Hosted by Moose Lodge 1014

Happy Hour Specials: 2-7p every day $3 Draft Beer $4 House Wine & Premium Cocktails $5 Super Premium & $6 Harry’s Signature Cocktails $7 off bottles of wine


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In The Kitchen with Manal Fakhoury This busy wife, mother, professional and community volunteer has made Sunday breakfast a family tradition. By Lisa McGinnes | Photography by John Jernigan


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ith five active children, a chiropractor husband who owns a medical clinic, her own career as a pharmacist and a full slate of community and charitable projects, Dr. Manal Fakhoury admits she never had much time to cook big meals when her kids were young. The one time her family has always tried to gather around the table for food and fellowship is Sunday morning. Between work schedules and the kids’ sports schedules, they “didn’t have a ton of family time” but “Sunday was the time.” “Sunday breakfast became traditional,” she remembers. “We would chat. I would say, ‘I feel like we’re on vacation,’ because when you’re on vacation, you eat together. Every Sunday I would say that to them. But it was just a great way to start a Sunday morning together.” And her traditional Palestinian breakfast, with its many fresh, flavorful dishes, is a showstopper. “It’s all the little items that make it so delicious,” she explains, gesturing to a beautifully laid table featuring small, exquisitely painted serving bowls filled with simple yet delicious delights garnished with fresh herbs and paired with cups of hot mint tea. “Over the years, I’ve learned to make different traditional dishes.” “Many things are delicious in combination” she notes, describing the Middle Eastern delicacies. “The manakish, which is the oregano, is delicious with the yogurt. And the hummus and falafel are like partners.” The couple, who recently celebrated their 34th anniversary, made their home in Ocala right after their wedding. Manal had just completed her doctorate and moved here from California to begin her pharmaceutical residency at the UF Health Shands Hospital. After she completed her residency, she went to work at Ocala Health and immediately immersed herself in community volunteer work. She’s currently the 2021 American Heart Association Heart Walk chair, curator of TEDxOcala, president of Ollin Women International and a YMCA executive board member as well as a member of the Rotary Club and Toastmasters International. Now that their children are grown, Manal and her husband Riadh often invite his parents to enjoy Sunday family breakfasts. Manal has fond memories of her own mother, who “was an amazing cook.” “I believe it was a way for her to show her love to her family and her children,” says Manal, who is one of five siblings. “I think people in general connect around food.”

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Ful Mdammas A staple Middle Eastern breakfast dish Pita bread, warmed 2 cans of fava beans 2 tomatoes 1 clove of garlic 1/2 bunch fresh parsley 1/2 lemon Olive oil Cumin Aleppo pepper Salt Place the rinsed and drained fava beans, along with cumin, in a small sauce pan with water. (Around 1 1/2 cups of water, but add more or less to your preference.) › Bring the mixture to

a boil and let simmer until the water is mostly absorbed. › Smash the beans with the back of a wooden spoon. › While the ful is cooking, chop tomatoes. › Prepare the sauce: Mix olive oil, garlic, lemon, parsley and pepper in a bowl. › When the ful is done cooking, serve it in a bowl surrounded by any vegetables you like. Popular options are tomatoes, radishes, green onions, pickles or cucumbers, olives and fresh herbs such as mint. › Serve the sauce on top of or next to the ful mdammas, along with warm pita. October ‘21

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Adventure Cycling Bikepacking while carrying minimalist camping gear, sometimes called “dirt touring,” provides off-the-beaten-path life experiences. By JoAnn Guidry | Photography by Dave Miller

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f you’re looking for been-there, done-that, still-doing-it advice on bikepacking, say hello to Ocala residents Gary and Marlene Read. Need their bona fides? Originally from the Midwest, the Reads began taking bikepacking trips in 2013. To date, they have bikepacked in 13 different states. And, oh, they bikepacked from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. “Marlene and I have always been active— hiking, trail running, ultra-marathons, kayaking

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and biking. Our early biking activities were weekly rides, picnic rides and other local destination trips. And we began to appreciate our bikes more as modes of transportation than just recreational toys,” says Gary, who retired from manufacturing management in 2018. “My first solo long-distance bike ride was a 185-mile trip across Michigan to visit my younger daughter in her senior year at college. I covered unfamiliar rural routes during the day and stayed in town motels on two nights.


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That two-and-a-half-day trek sparked something in me. It was like seeing, experiencing everything in a whole new way. And I wanted to share that experience with Marlene.” In 2014, the couple found what they were looking for in the Great Allegheny Passage. The 150-mile nonmotor paved trail is on a defunct rail bed that follows a river across Pennsylvania from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland. “So off we went to bikepack on the Great Allegheny Passage, a 300-mile round trip. Our rides included beautiful river views, crossing green valleys on iron bridges, going through mountains in tunnels and passing historic sites,” shares Gary, smiling. “We’d ride for a couple of days then stay in some little towns along the way to enjoy the local areas. We visited museums, area attractions, went kayaking, listened to local live bands and ate where the locals ate.” Marlene, a certified personal trainer, says of the experience, “By the end of that two-week trip, I definitely had the bikepacking bug. I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want it to end.” Following the Great Allegheny Passage trek, the Reads evolved from spending nights in motels to more self-supported bikepacking, carrying their own camping gear and food. And while a 300-mile round trip would’ve been enough for most people, the Reads are not most people. In 2018, they took on the challenge of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR). From the Canadian border to the Mexican border, this is definitely not a Sunday afternoon bike outing. “We began in Eureka, Montana, just on the U.S. side of the border with Canada and finished in Columbus, New Mexico, right on the Mexican border,” explains Gary. “We pedaled 2,500 miles through very sparsely populated mountainous areas, carrying everything we needed for camping and cooking, and clothing for wet and dry weather that could range from 40 to 95 degrees on any given day.” Marlene adds, “The whole trip took us three months and three days. We loved experiencing life in details we generally overlook in our daily lives. And we had interactions with local people that you just don’t have driving 70 miles an hour through an area. The GDMBR experience was

transformational and reinforced what is truly important in life.” Gary concurs, saying, “There’s something about being out on these long bikepacking trips that retunes us to find laughter, joy and excitement as easily as when we were children.” And the Reads have plans for more bikepacking adventures. Next possible trips are the Katy Trail in Missouri and the Natchez Trace, which goes through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.

Biking Up

As practical experts, the Reads have some great advice to share. They agree that when it comes to bikes, start with what you have and/or match the bike to what kind of riding you want to do. When it comes to offroad bikepacking, they recommend mountain bikes or expedition bikes. The Reads used mountain bikes on the Great Allegany Passage trip and Surly ECR expedition bikes on the GDMBR. “Many people use mountain bikes for bikepacking. Generally speaking, if your - Gary Read bikepacking trips are minimalist, a couple of days of fast rides, then a mountain bike is the right one for you,” notes Gary. “If your trips are more days and nights with more gear, then an expedition bike would provide advantages. They have larger volume tires for better rolling on dirt, sand, gravel and just about any kind of ground that you’d encounter. Expedition bikes have more frame strength; the frame geometry and attachment bosses better facilitate long-term load hauling.” According to the Reads, two rookie mistakes are too high tire pressure and too low seat height. “Don’t pump your tire pressure up to the number on the sidewall. That number is the maximum safe pressure but not the optimal pressure for low-rolling resistance, good handling, braking and tire longevity at your particular weight,” explains Gary. “It’s probably not too soft until you can see the sidewall squishing out while riding.” He stresses that softer tires roll better over various terrains. According to canyon.com, which offers a rough guide by the type of bike, “Dialing in your

There’s something about being out on these long bikepacking trips that retunes us to find laughter, joy and excitement as easily as when we were children.

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bike’s tire pressure may be the single biggest improvement that you can make to your riding experience. Pressures can vary greatly depending on a number of factors, so it’s useful to have some outside parameters.” The guide goes on to offer, “Manufacturers usually have a maximum pressure embossed on the wall of the tire. Inflating tires over these maximum pressures is not advised. The optimum pressure, though, is likely to be less than the max shown.” When it comes to correct bike seat height, Marlene notes, “Most beginners think pedaling is too difficult but that’s usually because their seat is too low. Get the seat raised to where each leg is almost straight at the bottom of a stroke.” They agree that standard bike helmets are sufficient for bikepacking.

Trip Packing

Bikepacking bags include those that are attached to the handlebar, seat/saddle and frame of the bike. Many riders also carry waterproof backpacks and have handlebar mounts for cellphones, primarily for navigation. The key to bikepacking gear is to think minimalist efficiency. Into those bags, a rider packs such things as clothes, food, camping gear, water filter, first aid and bike repair

tool kits. And weight matters. “The biggest mistake people make is packing way too much stuff. Even though we already knew better, on the GDMBR we still shipped back stuff we didn’t really need every week when we passed through a town,” admits Gary. With a nod, Marlene says, “My rule is that everything I pack should have at least three purposes. We’re just so spoiled and attached to things in our homes that we don’t realize how much stuff we have that we really don’t need. But when you’re carrying that stuff on a bike, you quickly learn what you really do need and pare it down to that.” Some bikepackers use single-wheeled trailers, pulled behind the bike. “Trailers are good for taking weight off the bike, especially if you’re riding with a partner. Then you can store a lot of your shared stuff in it,” says Gary.

Planning Ahead

The Reads’ evolution from long neighborhood rides to destination rides to overnight rides is a good example of how to transition into bikepacking trips. “Plan your first bikepacking trip on daily mileage that’s half as many miles as your home day

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rides. Start with an overnighter or weekend trip. Go somewhere nearby, like a state park, with a designated campground; check ahead to make sure if you need to make campground reservations,” Gary suggests. “This will be a learning-curve trip about gear weight, terrain, missed turns, map errors, pack issues, weather and previously undetected maintenance issues.” Marlene chimes in with a knowing grin, “Every trip is a learning curve. You just have to stay open to that and not expect any trip to go perfectly as planned.” Going solo is fine but having a biking partner is not a bad idea and also adds to the fun of bikepacking. “Riding with others is safer and provides more options for problem solving,” says Gary. “If some gear can be shared, such as a tent, cook system and tools, then there is more opportunity for weight reduction per person.” “Besides, the fun memory of the experience is better when it’s shared,” Marlene adds. Once you’re ready to venture into more adventure, there is information available to plan a longer bikepacking trip. “The Adventure Cycling Association publishes digital and paper maps for numerous routes for bikepacking, such as the GDMBR. Because these routes are frequently traveled by cyclists, you’ll find small stores, restaurants, motels and campgrounds that are familiar with bikers’ 62

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needs,” Gary explains. “I recommend beginners stick with established routes before trying to cobble together a unique route. I’ve yet to find one map source that includes rail trails, safety paths, wide road shoulders, dirt trails and gravel roads all on one product.” The final piece of advice from the Reads is a simple one. “Just go out and enjoy the outdoors,” Gary asserts. “Just getting out in the woods is good for our mental and physical health. And bikepacking can be a way to go more places under your own power than you might ever have imagined.” Want To Know More About Bikepacking? Gary & Marlene Read/awwventurus@yahoo.com bikepacking.com rei.com adventurecycling.com singletracksamurai.com


LEFT TO RIGHT: Amanda Yancey, Manager of Digital Marketing; Dr. Amanda Aulls, Director Of Women’s Imaging; Yvonne Seymor-Palmer, Scheduler & Breast Cancer Survivor; Dr. Ridgely Meyers, Breast Imaging Specialist; Michele Barkley, MRI Modality Coordinator & Breast Cancer Survivor; Carrie Law, Manager of Clinical Training and Development

Hope is in bloom! Breast cancer doesn’t have to be scary. Caught early, breast cancer has a nearly 100% five-year survival rate. That’s why annual screening is so important. 3D mammography can find cancer that is too tiny to be felt during self-exam. RAO’s breast health team of doctors, support staff, and thriving survivors are here to help you blossom to your fullest.

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ADVANCED COMPREHENSIVE CARE FOR YOUR FEET AND ANKLES Treatment of Common Ailments such as Bunions, Hammertoes, Heel Pain, Sprains, Fractures, Athlete’s Foot, Ingrown Nails, Fungal Nails Sports Injuries Children’s Foot Care Custom Orthotics Diabetic Foot Care Warts Neuromas Ankle Pain Ulcers

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www.RAOcala.com 352-671-4300

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Dr. Andrew Franklin, DPM, PHD

Dr. Sheila Noroozi, FACFAS

Dr. Kathleen Telusma, AACFAS

352.867.0024 2825 SE 3rd Ct. | Ocala

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Day in the Life By Becky Collazo

In observing the beauty that exists in the here and now, we can find the extraordinary revealed within the ordinary. We invite you to see our community with fresh eyes through the lens of one of our talented photographers.

I took this photo of my husband, Ferdinand Collazo III, a patrol officer with the Ocala Police Department, at the beginning of the pandemic. It was a scary time and first responders were out there protecting and serving, with no hesitation or concern for themselves. A lot of them couldn’t go home to their families then, for fear they would get them sick. This shows the softer side of first responders, which we don’t always get to see—the worry, sadness and praying for others. I think it shows that, then as now, our first responders are supported by their families, each other and our community. I believe they are our heroes.



I wouldn’t be here without AdventHealth’s ER.

— Greg

AHO-628

Stroke survivor

Surviving an emergency is no accident. To Greg, road trips mean freedom. But after suffering a stroke at age 43, his whole life changed. He realized how every second counts, especially when it comes to an emergency. AdventHealth’s ER experts responded fast – and today, Greg is back on the road again. When the unexpected occurs, know where to go for expert emergency care near you. Because in an emergency, there’s no time to waste… and no room for doubt.

TheERExperts.com


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