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Okeechobee Health Care Facility


OHCF celebrated Spring with a formal evening complete with fancy decorations, a 3-course dinner, slow dancing and oldie-goldies from the 40s forward sung by Greg Patterson and Donna Stiller after the residents got dressed up, had a manicure and their hair and make-up done to enjoy a very special evening! Family members joined the residents for pictures prior to the start of the formal.

Pauline Oden, 86, with granddaughter Jennifer, daughter Bonnie, son-in-law Chet and great grandchildren Madison, McKenzie and Elijah

Jack Williamson, 84

Ray (86) and Rita (91) Sanford

Olga Watford, 87

Angelo Masi, 96

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Publisher’s Note


he Okeechobee Music Festival was a blast again this year. I had a wonderful time roaming around the festival grounds for three days people-watching, listing to all types of music, taking photos and meeting people from all over the world. Their partnership with our local non-profits provided much-needed cash donations to those organizations. Can’t wait till next year!

Okeechobee is filled with the most extraordinary people, and I love getting to know everyone and sharing their stories with you. While working on a feature for our October 2016 issue about Cross Talk Ministries, I set up a photo shoot on a Sunday morning at More 2 Life to take photos of the group since they are a part of the church. Donna Burk shared with me how different this church was from the others, and just like that, this month’s cover story was born. It’s always noteworthy when the CEO changes at a business that is critical to the community. But when Brian Melear, a son of Okeechobee and a nurse by profession, not an administrator, stepped into the position of CEO at Raulerson Hospital, his story had to be told. So, Brian’s story is our inside feature. One of my favorite articles to share is our Okeechobee Youth series. What amazing children we raise here. And this issue’s youth is extraordinary. Cristian Rios — science whiz, promoter and encourager of academic success through study groups and tutoring, and he's headed to MIT for a Residential Summer Research Program this month.

Volume 11, Number 3│June 2017

Publisher Susan Giddings Creative Director Lorraine Vogel Graphic Designer Valerie Wegener Editor Chris Felker Writers Rachel Buxton Raye Deusinger Cover/Feature Photographer Sandra Pearce Photographers Gary Burks Sharon Cannon Jane Kaufman Contributors Maureen Burroughs Chase Marsocci Mitch Smeykal Account Executives Trish Grygo Jonathan Holt Office Manager Patti Berglund

As always, Okeechobee The Magazine is there to cover our many events. Because after all, it is Okeechobee The Magazine – Your Magazine!

Susan Giddings

OTM Publications, Inc. DBA Okeechobee The Magazine 316 N.W. Fifth Street Okeechobee, FL 34972 Phone: (863) 467-0054 President Susan Giddings Founder Maureen Budjinski Okeechobee The Magazine, is published bi-monthly in Okeechobee, Florida. Copyright 2017, all rights reserved by OTM Publications, Inc. Contents may not be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher. The publisher reserves the right to refuse advertising. The publisher accepts no responsibility for advertisement errors beyond the cost of the space occupied by the error within the advertisement itself. The publisher accepts no responsibility for submitted materials. All submitted materials subject to editing.

4 | June 2017


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nside this issue

June 2017


10 Features:

More 2 Life Ministries......................24 By Raye Deusinger

Brian Melear.....................................46


Okeechobee Youth..........................60 By Raye Deusinger

Behind the Business: Pritchards and Associates..............86 Los Cocos Mexican Restaurant......90

In The Kitchen With: D & G Catering................................94


20 Community Events: Okeechobee Music Festival...........10 Okeechobee Cowtown Rodeo........16 Speckled Perch...............................20 Okeechobee County Fair.................40 Pregnancy Center Gala...................44 Livestock Show...............................58 March for Babies.............................68 Martha's House Event....................72 Torch Run for Special Olympics......76 Christian Academy Fun Shoot.........80 Women in the Outdoors...................84

Columns: Let's Go Fishing..............................98 Hurricane Preparedness................102 Cover photo by Sandra Pearce. 8 | June 2017



Around Okeechobee.....................104 Advertiser Index............................106

84 Like Us on Facebook. Look for the video and camera icons, then visit to view videos and additional photos!




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Community Event

Okee Music Festâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Second Year a Huge Hit

For the second year in a row, our small hometown played host to a music and arts festival of epic proportions. Featuring world-renowned headlining artists The Roots, Usher, Kings of Leon, and the Lumineers, and showcasing dozens of other musicians, artists and performers, the annual Okeechobee Music Fest was a veritable hit. From across the country, music lovers came by the tens of thousands to spend a relaxing weekend in our tropical backyard. Large-scale yoga classes, whimsical tree-shrouded stages and near round-the-clock performances kept festivalgoers of all ages entertained throughout the four-day weekend. For additional photos visit

10 | June 2017


Photos by Jane Kaufman and Susan Giddings

Community Event

Photos by Jane Kaufman and Susan Giddings

Okeechobee Music Festival

June 2017 | 13

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The Okeechobee Cowtown Rodeo entertained a great crowd of spectators the weekend of March 11-12 at the Okeechobee Cattlemenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Arena. The Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA)-sanctioned rodeo featured all the favorites, including bareback riding, calf roping and bull riding. The specialty act was the One Armed Bandit and Company.

16 | June 2017


Photos by Sandra Pearce

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Community Event

City Council members Noel Chandler, Monica Clark and Gary Ritter. The One Armed Bandit.

Kimcee Baker and GIanna Gaucin.

Miss Speckled Perch Julissa Hernandez.

Jennifer and Sydney Zbytniewski with Goose.

Sierra Coward, Miss Rodeo Okeechobee.

20 | June 2017


Puppeteer from His Church.

Photos by Jane Kaufman

Speckled PerchShowEvents Okeechobee Charm

Okeechobee's small-town charm was on full display during the annual Speckled Perch Parade and Festival, presented by Okeechobee Main Street. Local pageant winners were chauffeured down Park Street followed by Girl Scouts of all ages and local rodeo royalty. In the park, a variety of vendors entertained, sold art and provided a wide assortment of delicious treats for participants to enjoy. For additional photos visit


Beauty Lou and the Country Beast September 30, 2017 The Holiday Festival & Tree Lighting November 14, 2017 The 29th Annual Living Christmas Tree December 3, 2017 The Modern Gentlemen January 8, 2018 3 Redneck Tenors January 18, 2018 The Glenn Miller Orchestra January 23, 2018 Cirque Zuma Zuma February 1, 2018 Disco Inferno: a 70â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Celebration February 8, 2018 Live from Nashville: Country Legends February 19, 2018 Comedian Ventriloquist Taylor Mason February 23, 2018 The Annie Moses Band March 1, 2018 Million Dollar Quartet March 14, 2018 The MACG Band March 16, 2018 On Golden Pond March 23, 2018 All dates, artists and programs subject to change.

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‘We are not out to draw anyone from another church because we are all on the same team. But we are trying to reach those who have not come to church in a long time.’

Morgan Lumpkin Cary McKee

John Garner

– Co-Pastor Cary McKee Danny Enfinger

Pastors of ‘Different’ Church

24 | June 2017


James Garner


t the almost-center of a mostly cosmopolitan state lies the quite unique county of Okeechobee. Moving to a gentler beat, it preserves traditions discarded by the world around it; a laidback haven in a busy world. Among its more than 50 churches lies More 2 Life, a church with a “different” story. There are five “elders” of More 2 Life: Cary McKee, James Garner, John Garner, Danny Enfinger and Morgan Lumpkin. Together, they have created a church like no other, with the sole purpose of teaching the Word of God.

Thirteen years ago, five very different men combined God-given talents to form a church community based on the Word that feels more like a family than a congregation.

Many churches are formed when groups leave to form missions or other churches. It is not More 2 Life’s goal, however, to pull others from their current places of worship.

our people had been gone from regular church attendance for 10 to 12 years. They left the body of Christ for some reason — we’re trying to get them back.”

Cary said: “We are not out to draw anyone from another church because we are all on the same team. But we are trying to reach those who have not come to church in a long time. Most of

In 2001, at the First Baptist Church of Okeechobee, Cary was teaching a Sunday School couples class that began to grow quite large. It soon moved into the Fellowship Hall where there was more space.

Rescue Fallen-Away Faithful By Raye Deusinger Photos by Sandra Pearce and Courtesy of More 2 Life

The room was filled with tables and, since moving them to align chairs became a chore, they began just sitting around the tables. Soon Cary and James, a First Baptist staff member at the time, began praying about “planting a new church.” From there, More 2 Life Ministries was formed. Cary and James are co-pastors. James, having been in full-time ministry for 33 years, is skilled in teaching, discipleship and motivation, Cary through love and a huge heart. Morgan works in men's ministry, while John helps with church finances and benevolences. Danny's experience in the business world helps in outreach planning. While each has different skills, all work in every phase of ministry. Individual personalities and God-given talents have established their work within the church. On Sept. 11, 2004, More 2 Life began holding services in the Freshman Campus Auditorium. By that time, John, Danny and Morgan had joined them in their ministry. 

June 2017 | 25


‘God's invitation to join Him is unlimited, matchless and eternal.’ – Morgan Lumpkin, who works in men’s ministry

26 | June 2017


In 2007, continued growth found them moving into the Osceola Middle School Auditorium, where they used half its space. Today, they utilize all that space, setting up each Sunday, 83 tables and 527 chairs and even pulling out the bleachers for an attendance of 450 to 550 any given week. John said, “If all our regulars came at one time, we'd have about 750.”


At More 2 Life, dress is more casual. The church is like an extended family. “What we stumbled on originally became the norm,” said James. “The Christian Gospel, as preached in all churches, remains the same; we just have a different presentation and comfort level.” They emphasize that a church is not

the building; the people are the church. They also believe that all of Okeechobee's churches, though varied and dedicated, stand together on one principle — the love of God expressed through the gift of Jesus, the Christ. 

June 2017 | 27


Shawn and Courtney Crews.

28 | June 2017


James said: “We feel people are not just coming into a church, but into a community, just like the early church in the Bible where, in Acts 2:46b-47a it says, ‘They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.’” Explaining the difference they found at More 2 Life, Shawn and Courtney Crews said: “We both grew up in a traditional church. I (Shawn) had a disagreement and for 20 years did not attend church. We have been together for 23 years now and instead of being self-centered, God is the center of our life.” They found their way to More 2 Life because with two children still at home, they felt they should go. Shawn knew Cary, known to students as “Coach McKee” from school, so he considered, 


‘We feel people are not just coming into a church, but into a community, just like the early church in the Bible.’ – Co-Pastor James Garner

June 2017 | 29

family v

30 | June 2017


‘More 2 Life has changed the life of me and my family, and I will be forever thankful!’ – Church member, Dr. Christine Bishop

why not visit his church? They said: “We never went anywhere else. The music was inviting, and happy people raised their hands in praise. There were lots of friendly faces; it felt like family.” Courtney said, “It was about the individual and his or her relationship to God.” Both said the whole family has found a new and better life. “We have a three-point process,” James said. “Come and see, come and stay, come and serve. We want to let them know there is room at the table for them.”

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Dr. Christine Bishop and her husband, Hamilton, also “came and saw and came and stayed” at More 2 Life. “More 2 Life has transformed my life,” Christine said. “Growing up, I knew the Lord, loved Him and knew if I died I would go to Heaven, but I didn’t have a close relationship with Him. I now have a passion, a fire for my Savior Jesus Christ. I have gone from a mundane Sunday churchgoer who always looked at my watch … to a daughter of the King who is excited, and now I can’t wait for Sunday or my Bible studies. More 2 Life 

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has changed the life of me and my family, and I will be forever thankful!”


32 | June 2017


Hamilton said: “At our church there is a mixture of rich and poor, saints and former addicts, all colors, all backgrounds, all manners of dress, yet there is no judgment of anyone. It is nontraditional and nondenominational, but the Bible is the rule. You really get to know and learn about each other.” Another unique aspect that sets More 2 Life apart is the formation of what are called Salt Groups. These are patterned after Matthew 5:13 where Jesus told the

people, ‘You are the salt of the earth.’ As James explains, salt purifies and preserves; it affects whatever it is put upon. More 2 Life’s Salt Groups are gatherings that meet either in homes all over the community or in the church's offices during the week. Cary said: “Sunday morning is great, but many of us need more. These groups offer everyone an opportunity to speak, to question, to learn. There are groups for Couples, Love and Respect, Handling Money, Inner Healing, Experiencing God, Grief Sharing, Biblical Studies and more. We don't require, but we encourage, group involvement; they become extended family. We trust that the Lord knows what we need and let Him take us there. When people get on their knees before the Lord, minds and hearts are changed.”

The church has 25 ‘Salt Groups’ patterned after Matthew 5:13 where Jesus told the people, ‘You are the salt of the earth.’

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More 2 Life currently has 25 Salt Groups but would love to eventually reach a total of 55. People volunteer to lead groups, for which there is a training program. James said: “Our goal as elders is to train up leaders in ministry. Friendships are a result of that. SALT means ‘Serving And Living Together.’” “Our goal,” said Cary, “is a dynamic children's ministry, an active youth which leads to adult and senior ministries.” More 2 Life’s ministry expands beyond the “church,” as they provide jail ministry for both men and women, as well as local benevolences, that in 2016 totaled more than $62,000.

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June 2017 | 33


‘The music was inviting,

and happy people raised their hands in praise. There were lots of friendly faces; it felt like family.’ – Church members, Shawn and Courtney Crews


34 | June 2017


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than $400,000, which includes our contribution to local missions which we consider our tithe back to God,” Cary said. “We consider money given is to move through our hands like a river, always moving to help rather than as a pond which builds and gets bigger.”

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More 2 Life also supports missionaries — two in Haiti, one in Jacksonville, one in Daytona Beach and one in Paris. They have property north of town where, someday, they will construct a church building. “But,” said Danny, “ministry is more than a building.” “Many people have pointed out that if we had not given so much, we could already have a church building,” said Cary. “But God helped us build a church before we could build a building. We would love to break ground in 12 to 18 months or whenever God is ready for us to start.” 




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Despite being a pastor's son, Danny pursued a career in business but soon realized there had to be more to life than trying to scratch out a living for his family. “God has shown me that if we apply His goodness, His integrity, His honesty, His grace, His mercy and His forgiveness in the marketplace, He will do amazing things with ordinary people!” he said. “In 13 years at More 2 Life, I have seen lives changed, addictions broken, marriages repaired, forgiveness granted. God never ceases to amaze me.” “My time spent at More 2 Life has been a labor of love,” said John. “There are no words that can describe the love I have for the people of M2L … This church is an oasis of love and healing.” “God's invitation to join Him is unlimited, matchless and eternal,” Morgan said. “To witness men come to know Jesus Christ and fall in love with and serve Him is an amazing thing.” Cary said: “More 2 Life is as close to the Word as we can get. We let the love of Christ and the leadership of the Spirit set our direction. When there is a passion for the Word, passion for God’s people follows.” And for almost 13 years, God’s people

36 | June 2017



‘At More 2 Life, I have seen lives changed, addictions broken, marriages repaired, forgiveness granted. God never ceases to amaze me.’ – Danny Enfinger, Outreach Planning

have continued to follow His Word at More 2 Life; a church, not a building, led by five individuals with five very different personalities and five very different God-given talents, but with the sole purpose of doing nothing but teach the Gospel.

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Community Event

Hunter Woodham.

Sha'Kayla Tolliver, Joselyn Smith and Ma'Kayla Tolliver.

A F I Y R T N U Fills Agri-Civic Center O C With Local Pride for 11th Year

Ryan Goforth.

Celebrating its 11th year, the Okeechobee County Fair was once again held at the Agri-Civic Center March 17-19. This yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s festivities featured tasty food offerings, plenty of rides, a master illusionist and even an assortment of swimming swine. Farm favorite breeds filled the arena while a petting zoo offered guests a hands-on encounter with animals from around the world.

Having fun on the bumper cars.

40 | June 2017


Photos by Jane Kaufman

Melman the giraffe.

Robinson's Racing Pigs.

Jesus Ruiz.

Caitlyn Albers with Sally the camel.

Everyone's favorite donuts. Jason of Extreme Illusions and Escapes with volunteer Sabriel Goettert.

June 2017 | 41


We are Raulerson: founded on integrity, driven by quality, inspired by caring.

just experiencing stomach pain. Dowling only visits the doctor if he is extremely sick. Even so, he agreed to have some testing done. He scheduled it for several weeks in advance since he wanted to get through some upcoming social events without any medical appointments in the way. His symptoms had other plans, however. Dowling did not look or feel well. He needed medical treatment sooner, rather than later. After assessing him, Dr. Mavroides told Dowling to go to Raulerson Hospital right away because his condition had intensified. He was jaundiced and needed surgery. As emergencies and sicknesses often do, this sudden hospitalization interfered with the social plans Dowling had for the weekend, but he could no longer avoid dealing with his health. Many people know Dowling Watford as a long time Okeechobee City Council member. He was even recently elected to serve as Mayor. And if you know Dowling, you know he’s a good sport. He’s always up for volunteering and helping with historical activities, service organizations, as well as church-related events. One thing he is admittedly not so good at is being a patient, which had worked out well for him so far. “I’ve been blessed with good health,” said Dowling. He recounted that his grandmother lived to be 100 years old. “I hope that I’ve got those genes,” he joked. In fact, between Dowling’s good health and his anxiety about all things medical, he managed to avoid ever being an inpatient at a hospital…until recently. For about three months, Dowling had not been feeling well, but he was in a bit of denial about if he actually needed medical attention. He convinced himself that he was

Dowling said he was impressed with all of his doctors. Dr. Tarugu and general surgeon Dr. Sainnoval explained everything. “Dr. Sainnoval is very calming. He even drew pictures to help my family and I understand more about what to expect from surgery,” Dowling said. “Everyone at Raulerson Hospital from the admitting clerks to housekeeping and the nurses were very compassionate, and helpful,” he said. “The surgical staff made me as comfortable as I could be and were very nice and perceptive about my nervousness.” While Dowling may have had other plans for the weekend that he ended up spending in Raulerson Hospital, he appreciates the great care and personal attention he received at Raulerson Hospital. He is feeling much better today!


ON MARCH 30TH, RAULERSON HOSPITAL CELEBRATED DOCTORS’ DAY. We are truly grateful for the physicians on our medical staff and the great care and service they provide for our community.

- Dowling Watford, ER Patient

Share your story of caring by leaving a review on our facebook page.

Community Event

Drs. Manny and Trini Garcia.

Bill and Laurie Blomberg.

Ruth Graham Speaks at

Pregnancy Centerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s


7th Gala

The Pregnancy Center of Okeechobee hosted its seventh annual fundraising gala Friday, March 31, at the Recreation Outreach Center (ROC). The event featured keynote speaker Ruth Graham, founder of Ruth Graham Ministries. The Pregnancy Center provides women with positive, hopeful alternatives to abortion. To learn more, visit

Ruth Graham and Lisa Lumpkin.

Pregnancy Center Board Members: Frank DeCarlo, Bryan Royal, Kyle Reno, Lisa Lumpkin, Cheri Watford, Karen Matthews, Bobby Steiret and Donna Helton.

44 | June 2017


Photos by Sharon Cannon

Celebrating 86 Years Serving the Glades

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Justin and Shelly Doyle.

June 2017 | 45

‘Brian is always looking to the future and what the community needs.’ ~ Dr. Manny Garcia

A Son of Okeechobee Takes Over at


Photos by Sandra Pearce and Courtesy of Brian Melear

46 | June 2017


Brian Melear grew up learning a strong work ethic on his family’s dairy farm, fished and participated in sports like most other Okee kids, became an RN when he switched careers and rose to CNO in six years. Now his door plaque reads ‘CEO, Raulerson Hospital.’


t has been one year since Brian Melear first stepped into the office where the plaque on his door reads “Chief Executive Officer” at Raulerson Hospital. This step into administration did not follow the usual path one might expect for a hospital executive, but it has proven to be the right fit for Brian, the hospital and our community.

See, Brian — the son of Judy and the late Roger Melear — grew up living and working on his family’s dairy farm in Okeechobee. The Melears’ expectations for Brian to learn and perform many of the functions required to run the family’s business, including discing fields, baling hay, working cows and driving tractors, cultivated in him the strong work ethic and sense of responsibility that he is well known for today. When he was not helping with the dairy, Brian experienced many of the 

Brian age 4.

Brian and dad Roger on the family farm.

June 2017 | 47

usual activities that kids growing up in Okeechobee enjoyed, particularly fishing and sports. Brian played baseball in the O.C.R.A. and then later for Okeechobee High School. And it was at OHS where Brian met and fell in love with Jenni Burk. Upon his graduation, he continued to work for, and ultimately manage, the family farm, which had in the meantime been relocated to property in Georgia. The two began attending college courses at night. Jenni became an educator, specializing in elementary education. Brian and Jenni’s relationship grew until he was unable to imagine himself without her by his side. The high school sweethearts married in 1990. During the mid ’90s, his family’s farm was under new ownership, and this transition prompted Brian to consider a career change. Brian and Jenni returned to their roots in Okeechobee as he evaluated what career path he should take next. It was to the credit of Jenni’s mother, Ann Burk, for first suggesting that Brian consider what has ultimately become a rewarding and exciting career in the field of health care. Ann’s employment at that time with Indian River Community College made her aware of the need and opportunity for nurses in our area. 

OHS Baseball 1986.

Brian and son Sam (age 7) at T-Ball.

48 | June 2017


Fishing – age 16.

Brian and Jenni at their wedding in 1990.

Brian and Jenni.

Brian with football trophies.

‘The support of my family has helped me develop into the person I am today.’ – Brian Melear

Nursing school graduation, Grandmother Hazel and parents Judy and Roger with Brian.

June 2017 | 49

CEO Brian Melear and CNO Adam Kless.

‘His nursing background is very valuable because he has had the day-to-day relationships with the patients and he has dealt with physicians on a different level than other administrators have.’

Quality Director Mallika Sanker, Patient Safety Director Lance Richards and CEO Brian Melear.

50 | June 2017

– Frank Irby, former Raulerson Hospital CEO


So Brian began nursing school at IRCC. He joined the Raulerson Hospital family in 1999 as a registered nurse. Today, Brian still works alongside many of the nurses, staff and physicians who helped mentor him as a new nurse. He recounts, “I will always remember how, as a new nurse, they made me feel like family.” Brian quickly advanced to charge nurse, a position that supports and oversees the nurses assigned to inpatients. Brian’s calm and composed demeanor would serve him well in his next role as surgical services director of Raulerson Hospital. This promotion came in 2002. Brian led the operating room, a high-stress, fast-paced department that involves daily coordination with various general and specialty surgeons, patients and families, and the management of about 30 staff members. He excelled as a natural leader.

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June 2017 | 51

‘Brian treats all employees with respect and is well thought of by physicians. He always thinks of what is best for Okeechobee.’ – Raulerson Hospital Trustee, Sam Smith

Rehabilitation Director Christine Sanchez-Seng, Pharmacy Director Kurt Richter, Pharmacy Tech Rose Tijerina, CEO Brian Melear and Respiratory Therapy Director Shawn Poland.

then CEO of Raulerson Hospital, said: “I saw how he dealt with people. He is very good at decision-making, too. His dedication to patient care sets him apart. I detected he wanted to do more.” And he did! Brian accepted the position of chief nursing officer in 2005. As CNO, Brian began focusing on improving clinical operations and outcomes at Raulerson Hospital. In fact, when The Joint Commission, the leading accrediting body for hospitals in the United States, began recognizing their Top Performers on Key Quality Measures in 2011, Raulerson Hospital was among them and continued to be for five years in a row (the entire length of the Top Performers program thus far). Administrative Assistant Tara Minton, CNO Adam Kless, CEO Brian Melear, CFO Terry Brown and Administrative Assistant Robin Arrieta. 52 | June 2017


Strengthening and developing the relationship between Raulerson Hospital

and Indian River State College’s health care programs was and continues to be a priority of Brian’s that contributes to successful clinical operations and outcomes. He noted: “IRSC is an extremely important element for Raulerson Hospital’s mission to provide quality health care to our community. As a graduate, nurse and now as a hospital administrator, I place great value on the opportunity we have to work together to provide excellent careers for our community while also offering a professional health care workforce to care for our patients.” For the next 12 years, Brian worked as the top nurse at Raulerson Hospital, executing new clinical, patient-experience, technological and operational initiatives from Raulerson Hospital’s parent company, HCA.

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Raulerson Hospital Trustee and former Provost of IRSC Sam Smith said: “I have watched Brian grow personally and professionally for many years. As a hospital board member, I have seen employees show great respect for Brian, who always leads by example.” Last spring, Raulerson Hospital employees learned that their then, long-term CEO, Robert Lee, would be transitioning to another facility in the company in two short weeks. With that announcement, the staff also learned that their interim CEO would be Brian Melear. On June 1, Brian Melear, Okeechobee native, OHS graduate and RN, stepped into the office next door and began his career as Raulerson Hospital’s CEO. A month after he was named interim CEO, HCA confirmed the company’s decision by appointing Brian as CEO. "Brian proved himself as CNO," said Irby. “I’m very happy that he was selected as CEO. His nursing background is very valuable because he has had the day-today relationships with the patients and he has dealt with physicians on a different level than other administrators have.” 

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General surgeon Dr. Manny Garcia has been at Raulerson Hospital from the beginning, and is one of Brian’s most vocal supporters. “I recommended him for consideration as CNO and again as CEO,” Garcia said. “Brian is very responsible and qualified to lead Raulerson Hospital. He has never said no to any responsibility that has been delegated to him.” For 10 months, Brian performed the roles of two hospital administrators: both CNO and CEO, until Raulerson Hospital named Adam Kless as the new CNO in March. “Brian enjoys working and the staff want to work for him. That makes a difference,” Garcia explained. “Brian is always looking to the future and what the community needs ... we love him.”

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Brian is very excited and optimistic about the future of Raulerson Hospital. “I am focusing a lot of attention on physician recruitment. Adding physicians and specialists means the ability to offer our patients more services and the convenience of receiving their health care in Okeechobee,” he explained. He is also looking forward to further community involvement. “It is important for Raulerson Hospital to be supportive and active in Okeechobee.” Regardless of the leadership roles he has held, one of Brian’s favorite aspects has always been watching people grow. “I like to see people succeed,” he said. “When people talk about Raulerson Hospital, they are not talking about our building, they are talking about us. So it is important that we give our best every day.

Raulerson Hospital has 500-plus employees, and we all play a role in helping the patients and their loved ones.” Even prior to becoming CEO, Brian prompted Raulerson Hospital to reevaluate its Mission Statement. He felt the previous version was too wordy. He said, “A mission statement is important because it defines what is important to us and why we are here every day.” Brian began redeveloping the statement by engaging staff to submit their own mission wording suggestions to be voted on by their peers. Participation was important to him because he believed a grassroots response would be relatable for staff and it would be diverse and inclusive. After many staff submissions and several rounds of voting, Brian and Raulerson Hospital are proud of their new Mission Statement, which was adopted last fall: We Are Raulerson; Founded on Integrity, Driven by Quality, Inspired by Caring. 


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Brian, wife Jenni and son Sam.

“I am really pleased with it,” Brian remarked. “These are our core beliefs and characteristics. It is who we are, and I want our team to know them and make sure they are aligned with them,” he said. The core beliefs and characteristics that make up who Brian is are decidedly a combination from his mother and father. Brian said his mom is “the nicest, kindest, most considerate person that I know. She always puts others first,” which is how childhood friend Todd Raulerson describes Brian. “He is the nicest guy you could ever want to meet,” Todd explained. “You cannot help but notice how kind and gentle Brian is.” Smith agreed, adding: “Brian treats all employees with respect and is well thought of by physicians. He always thinks of what is best for Okeechobee.” Brian’s instinct to step up and take charge are admittedly characteristics passed down from his father. Brian said regardless if it was managing the farm or the hospital, the characteristics you

need to lead are the same. Irby remarked about Brian’s leadership skills, “He’s very humble, but I’ve seen him be very direct when he has needed to be.” “The characteristics your parents instill in you stay with you, regardless of your role,” Brian reflected.

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“For the last 17 years, Raulerson Hospital has been another home to me,” Brian explained. “I’m a guy who keeps coming back,” he said. “I walked in as a nurse and I will always have that vantage point when making considerations for our community and the hospital. Raulerson Hospital is not a stepping stone along my path. It is where I want to be.”


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Brian and wife Jenni are busy raising their own son now. Brian encourages his staff to find what he refers to as the balance of work and family life and to enjoy the time with the ones who “hold you up,” as he puts it. Brian, Jenni and son Sam enjoy being together as a family and going to movies, restaurants and sporting events, and fishing. Brian credits Jenni for being so supportive throughout his career in health care and their 27-year marriage. “I could not do it without her,” he admits.



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June 2017 | 57

Community Event

Photos by Sandra Pearce

Grand Champion Steer – Hannah Lewis. Kiss the Pig: J.D. Mixon, Lauren Butler, Jo’Dejah Sewell, Renee Juarez, Gerald Malone, Jamie Burnham and Jared Prescott.

Okeechobee Youth Livestock Show Winners at the Okeechobee County Fair

Grand Champion Overall Supreme Dairy – Ben Butler, Cole Verano, John Larson and Judge Rocco Cunningham.

Reserve Grand Champion – Shelby Kirton. Reserve Grand Champion Hog – Tucker Hargraves.

Okeechobee Youth Livestock Show Committee, back, from left: Ben Butler, Trey Marcum, Aaron Parriott, Joey Hoover, Scott Durand, Jay Crews, Matt Pearce and Frank Lewis. Front row: Dudley Kirton, Brad Lundy, Mariah Anuez, Miranda Casperson, Julie Schoonmaker, Jared Prescott, Jamie Mullis and Travis Larson.

58 | June 2017


Grand Champion Hog – Ryleigh Adams.

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cristian rios By Raye Deusinger


t can be disconcerting to look into the eyes of the person you are interviewing when you feel intimidated by that person's knowledge and ability. But remember the name Cristian Rios, because someday, you will read about him, about some radical medical discovery or a great breakthrough in the working of the mind, or about a life-altering chemical compound or a Nobel Prize award to the world's greatest humanitarian. Cristian has that potential. At 16, he is a young man of compassion, determination, logic and curiosity — someone you will be glad to know. A product of the world of migrant farming, Cristian has parents who recognized his zeal for learning and were determined to help. His mother is Minerva Rios-Paredes and father is Jose Luis Guerra-Garcia. He has a brother Eduardo, 9, and sister Sabine, 13. When he had the opportunity this year to go to the Florida State Science Fair, his father

60 | June 2017


Photos by Jane Kaufman

relinquished more than two weeks’ salary to get Cristian what he needed to go. Wendy Reister, Cristian's Advanced Placement chemistry teacher and National Honor Society sponsor, went with him and other Okeechobee High School entrants to see him win fourth place in the chemistry category. His project sought to find a correlation between socioeconomic status and water quality. Cristian said he met some “amazing kids” at the science fair who he projected “will one day change the world.” He is that kind of an encourager. Reister said: “Cristian is probably one of the smartest kids I've had in 25 years of teaching. He is one of those students I would love to clone. He motivates others, works well with all and encourages his peers. He is one of the team leaders in the NHS End the Hunger Program. As a service program, he leads a group in packing 1,240 bags of food each month to provide 155 local elementary children

with weekend meals. Cristian said the program has run out of money and they are looking for help because, ‘I will not let this program end.’” AP chem is only one of the subjects in which Cristian excels. He is also enrolled in AP calculus, where his teacher, Daniel Alford, calls him, “the hardest-working student I've ever had. This is the hardest math class on campus, and he not only prepares for himself but also helps his fellow students prepare, which is generally out of the norm.” Saying he’d never had someone like Cristian in a class before, Alford said Cristian meets with other students for study and discussion. He added that calculus is behind all modern technology from circuitry to dams to airplanes. “Cristian does well in my class,” he said, “but I really think he belongs in MIT.” Massachusetts Institute of Technology is definitely on Cristian's college list. 

‘I don't want to be an example but a part of the generation of change.’ – Cristian Rios

But, still a junior, he is also considering Harvard, Stanford and Yale. A few universities have a summer science training program, for which he applied. He had already been accepted for that at the University of Florida, but on April 15 he learned he had been accepted for the Residential Summer Research Program, which is scheduled June 10 through July 21 on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass. He chose MIT.

‘You can't interact with him for any length of time without realizing his brilliance.’ – Freshman biology teacher, Richonda Manson Cristian said: “In today's environment it can get depressing, with rampant drugs alcohol, crime, etc. But education — science and math, especially — can help us go beyond the confines of our environment. My peers and I are lucky that OHS pushes its students to go to college and overcome that environment. I was fortunate that Science Fair showed me what more is possible. It taught me about research, how to conduct it, how to present it and see its practical value. It also taught me about specialized styles of research, many of which interest me career-wise, and this summer at MIT, I hope to narrow my direction to one field.”

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As part of a migrant family, Cristian was 3 before he began learning English. As recently as seventh and eighth grades, he was still traveling, missing parts of the school year. “In Ohio, one day,” he said, “I sat in a car watching my parents

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Tutoring chemistry class.

‘I want to show my peers that even without money and resources you can still try to do good things.’ – Cristian Rios

The AP chemistry class poses with their class shirts. Back, from left: Sarah McNitt, Nicholas Amiet, Nickolas Montero, Wendy Reister. Front: Daniel Groso, Cristian Rios, Princess Salva, Delaenam Akahoho, Artha Jonassaint.

Chris Cobb, Cristian Rios, Ayan Desai, Delaenam Akahoho, Mary "Cady" McGehee and Abagail Holcomb.

64 | June 2017


picking cucumbers and knew I didn't want to do that. I began to try harder and saw school was the way to change oneself and improve the world.” His parents told him school was the only way. While still agricultural workers, they are no longer migrant workers. Florida Algarin, an advocate for migrants, works with families to help children get a stable education so they can graduate. She calls Cristian a model student, even tutoring his own peers. She calls on him to help and influence others and, when he graduates from college, hopes to bring him back as a motivational speaker for the younger groups.

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From Simple to Sensational. Dreama Brewer, Cristian's guidance counselor, said he asked her last year to get his younger brother, Eduardo, evaluated for the gifted program because “he's smarter than I was at that age.” Unhesitatingly, she did so because of Cristian's abilities. To help others succeed, she told how he organized and, in March, conducted a mock-SAT (Student Achievement Test) test for a group of students so they could get an idea of the pressures of such a test.

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He even encouraged them by creating documents online that they could use and study. He then got the library to conduct the mock test there to make it seem as real as possible. Principal Dylan Tedders calls Cristian one who takes pride in all he does. He said: “He is the best all-around student. Besides AP calculus and chemistry, he is in dual enrollment with IRSC in American history and in English. He co-studies with AP world history while also tutoring in pre-calculus and AP calculus.” Cristian said: “Group work helps. I promote academic success through any means I can, like study groups, practice exams, etc. Everyone should get the best possible help through any method — except cheating.” Richonda Manson, who had Cristian in freshman honors biology and leads the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program, said: “There is no limit to what he can or will do. When he finds something beneficial, he'll make sure others can learn of it through contact, phone, Facebook or any other beneficial way. He isn't always perfect, but he's always in the top echelon.”

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Community Event

Everglades Elementary was the overall top fundraiser for 2017.

Nearly $43K Raised at

March for Babies

Nikki Smith, Lillian Smith and Cade Waldron.

The annual March of Dimes March for Babies took place Saturday, April 1. The event raised over $42,500. Everglades Elementary was the top school and overall top fundraiser for 2017, also taking honors for best T-shirt.

March of Dimes Manager Cyndi Hernandez, BRAT Club President Teresa Bishop, March of Dimes Manager/BRAT Club Vice President Allison Chandler.

Leadership Committee, from left: Jack Nash, Erin Moore, Magi Cable, Gary Ritter, Laura McCall and John Rhoden. Not pictured: Sherry Pollard, Tammi Kelly and Karen Cassels.

Team Seminole Tribe of Florida.

68 | June 2017

Photos Courtesy of Magi Cable and Teresa Bishop



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June 2017 | 69

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70 | June 2017


Wayne Morgan


" Customer service means everything. If we have a problem they take care of it, no questions asked. Gilbert has always taken great care of my family."

Multigenerational businesses are becoming more and more rare. Morgan’s Furniture is one of these rarities and was was passed on to its second generation owner, Wayne Morgan, in 2005. Having worn a Morgan’s “trucker hat” since he was 2 years old, he has knowledge of the business on his side.  He also has the third generation at his side in his newborn daughter, Brynn Addison Morgan.   Wayne grew up in Okeechobee and graduated from Okeechobee High School in 1999.  He then attended Florida Gulf Coast University and earned a degree in Business.  He returned to Okeechobee in 2005 to help run the family business.   According to his mother, Wanda, “Wayne had big ideas to change up everything.  Thankfully we got him to concentrate on a few of his ideas and he really made some great improvements.   It was a learning experience for the entire family.”  She also said, “He has a unique way of treating all customers like friends, rather than potential sales.”

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According to his wife Kristi, since the birth of their daughter, Brynn, “Wayne has become more protective but more relaxed. He loves life and making people laugh and that makes watching him be a father that much more fun.” Wayne grew up in the business, cleaning and tidying up, and she is sure Brynn will do the same.  

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Community Event

Jim Benton aka Drew Carey and Mitch Vitella.

Miss ‘Live, Love, Laugh’ Fun? You Can Still Give to Bringing together celebrities from across the region, the annual Martha’s House fundraising “Live, Love, Laugh” benefit and game show took place April 1 at the KOA and was once again a Jim Sackett. success. Supporting Martha’s House and the women and children who have passed through its doors, this yearly gala boasts dinner, live and silent auctions, and — quite possibly — the zaniest game show in the state! For more information or to make a donation, visit

For additional photos visit

Seated: Gail Rupe, Linda Penrod, Laura and Kenny Feightner. Standing: Luis and Jackie Morales, Desireé and Corey Penrod.

Janelle and Jason Johns.

72 | June 2017


Standing: Angel Petty, Laura Miller and Keri Miller. Seated: Leslie and Mark Pineiro.

Photos by Jane Kaufman

Martha's House board members with special guests Bob Nichols, Jim Benton and Jim Sackett.

Auctioneer Bob Nichols.

Nathanael Bean plays the game show. Ed and Nancy Vaughn Fletcher.

Pam Peppers and Jim Benton aka Drew Carey.

Standing: Michael Hazellief, Matt Buxton, Bianca Keefe and Morgan Buxton. Seated: Jeanne Hazellief and Tabitha Berdie.

June 2017 | 73

74 | June 2017


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Community Event

Runners head down Park Street.

The Okeechobee County Sheriffâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Department hosted the 2017 Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics on Friday, April 21. This annual event began at the Sheriff's Department with men and women of law enforcement, along with members of the public running with a torch through downtown Okeechobee. BBQ rib dinners were sold to raise funds for the Special Olympics. Officers from the Florida Department of Corrections ran in the event.


Karl Holtkamp with the Torch.

76 | June 2017




Torch Run Aids Special Olympics Cause

Photos by Gary Burks

Jeanette Blackman and granddaughter Zoe Knapp.

Robin Marker, Joey Lane and Chalane Sheffield.

•APPLIANCES• Sales / Service / Parts

ears Y 5 2 for d te a er p O d n a d Family Owne HOURS: MONDAY - FRIDAY 8am-5:30pm

317 SW Park Street • Okeechobee, FL •


Sheriff Noel Stephen.

June 2017 | 77

WM Celebrates Earth Day Nationwide

Earth Day attendees take the pledge to recycle by adding their name to the pledge tree.

Did you know?

Last year Waste Management recycled enough paper to save 110.6 million trees!

78 | June 2017


WM supports communities on Earth Day and throughout the year teaching ways to keep our Earth clean.

Kidâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s play the RECYCLE OFTEN RECYCLE RIGHT bow and arrow game and learn about recycling at Earth Day events around Florida.

Community Event

Dan Groover, Wesley McClanahan, Bubba Hays and David Wemmer.

All Ages Join in Academy’s

Photos by Sharon Cannon

Brandon Catoe, Brian Emmonds, John Campbell and Jerry Hagen.

Fun Shoot Fundraiser

People of all ages came out for Okeechobee Christian Academy’s annual Fun Shoot. The fundraiser took place Saturday, April 22, at OK Coral Gun Club. Prizes were awarded for top-scoring individuals and teams, as well as the most fun team.

Ashley and Robert Hammock and Brandy and Cory Stephen.

Marcos Montes De Oca, Patty Orozco, Katheryn Montes De Oca, Robbie and Rick Chartier.

Megan Nelson.

Okeechobee Christian Academy staff.

80 | June 2017


NEW Residence



Abney Building & Consulting, Inc. is Okeechobee’s hometown Design, Construction, & Consulting firm. We offer plan design to turn-key construction. With over 20+ years of experience, we can handle all your residential and commercial construction needs.

NEW Residence


Walpole Feed Store

A name you can trust. Anchor Dental

210 NE 3rd Ave. Okeechobee, FL 34972 LIC #CBC058152

Contact us about our Free or Discounted Engineered Plan Design Offer

June 2017 | 81

Your Top Realty Company In Okeechobee That Your Family Can Trust To Be There For You!

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• Licensed nurse available 24 hours a day • Visiting Physicians available for on-site appointments • Transportation and accompaniment to all scheduled medical visits • Weekly organized day trips and off-site activities • Full time Activities Director AL#11944

For more information or to schedule a tour today, please call 866-986-2151.

Community Event

Bryana Hart.

Front, from left: Bryana and Karen Hart. Center: Ruth Padrick, Lisa White, Karen Smith, Tiffany Besancon and Michele Hall. Back: Janelle and Gail McCandless.

Women in the Outdoors

Gail McCandless.

Engages Gals Again

The Women in the Outdoors gathering took place Saturday, April 22, at Quail Creek Plantation. The women enjoyed a variety of activities, from shooting on the plantationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s renowned gun range to swamp buggy rides and artistic expression.

Front, from left: Patricia Oreskovich, Susan Hathcock and LaDonna Oney. Back: Lindsey Silvey, Sandra Silvey, Kristina Wellborn and Maria Mahlschmee.

84 | June 2017


Christal Stuhr and Susan Brown. Ann Vitunac.

Photos by Jane Kaufman

Gale Langford,Terri Hart and Balinda Mallard.

Heather Hawk and Kelly Gilbert.

Maria Mahlschmee.

Linda Weiksnar and Jennifer Williamson.

June 2017 | 85

S D S E R T A A I C H O C S S T A I D R P AN Reputation And Service At Pritchards Made It Okee’s ‘Agency Family’

Okeechobee's insurance needs, their road to success was a long and (sometimes) difficult one. Marilyn and Lowell, while living in Wisconsin, built a meatpacking plant that won state awards in sausage making and was later sold to Johnsonville Sausage. He also worked as a livestock buyer and livestock market manager. In 1984, they came to Okeechobee and managed a beef plant. Then in 1988, an insurance company in Okeechobee was looking for an agent with an agricultural background to be its representative to packing houses, feed mills and seed

companies across Florida. Lowell soon realized how big Florida really was and that he was away from Okeechobee too often.

He and Marilyn talked about their future in this town and decided to open their own independent insurance company, one where they would make their involvement in insurance something they could enjoy. In 1991, they rented a store next to Publix. “We had two desks, two computers and no customers,” Marilyn said. They enlisted their son Brendan to pass out fliers throughout the community. “Business began to grow until one day,” Marilyn recalled, “I called Brendan

By Raye Deusinger

L owell and Marilyn Pritchard not only

are the proud owners of Pritchards and Associates but have become a part of the very fabric of Okeechobee. They were among the winners of the 2016 Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Awards, one of the original founders of Martha's House, are active in His Church, have done prison ministries, and Lowell is serving on the Career Source Heartland Work Force Board. Lowell was a livestock auctioneer and now serves as a volunteer auctioneer for many nonprofit groups in the community. Though now in their 26th year of serving 86 | June 2017


The Pritchards team, back, from left: Monica Sales-Brand, Sam Mejia, Letty Madrigal, Elizabeth Aguilar, Francis Pittard, Devon Jimenez, Andrea Ott, Lowell and Marilyn Pritchard, Melissa Serrano, Inez Harvey, Sandy Hines, Melissa Ferrell, Rachel Espinoza and Cassandra Perry. Seated: Megan Slegenthaler, Ashley Douglas, Dana Buster and Kristi Morgan. Not pictured: Sandy Bryner, Denise Baker, Mary Alvarez, Brendan and Michelle Pritchard.


and told him to stop passing out fliers and get in here to help.” Success did not come without problems. “In the local insurance market, we were the insurance agency that was ‘new on the block,’” said Lowell. “One agent called and told us he'd run us out of business in six months.” But soon their hard work and dedication paid off and led them to expand into the next storefront. Today, they have thousands of customers in Okeechobee, south-central Florida and along the east coast. They and their employees are committed to putting themselves into the customer's shoes, listening to the customer and then getting them the most value possible for their insurance dollar. To keep the team sharp, they have weekly training sessions and teach their team members the intricacies of various insurance coverages and how to match the customer with the company that will meet their needs and give them the best value for their premium dollar. The Pritchards write with more than 150 insurance companies for life, auto, home and business coverage. “Virtually all our insurance companies are A-rated,” Lowell said. “We have a reputation as an agency that cares, and we know that is a direct result of the loyalty, commitment and continued efforts of our employees.” “We have never bought a book of business from other agencies,” Marilyn added. “Instead, we have worked to earn their business, one customer at a time.”

Lowell and Marilyn, Michelle and Brendan Pritchard.

The success achieved in Okeechobee has allowed Pritchards and Associates to expand to an additional office in Tradition in St. Lucie County. They now have about 30 employees, all of whom are state-licensed.

Another thing out of the ordinary for an insurance agency is the availability of their conference/classroom for community use and for small gatherings. They have hosted Bible studies and other community events there.

Their Okeechobee building is a beautiful retreat nestled under sheltering oaks. They said, “When we built this building it became our statement that we are here to serve the community and do it with excellence.”

Lowell and Marilyn are proud that their whole family is involved in the area school systems. Daughter Rebecca teaches at Yearling, and her husband, Carl, is a maintenance electrician for all schools; son Brendan teaches at the high school, and his wife, Michelle, at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School ; son Quenton is also at the Charter School and teaches classes at Indian River State College, and his wife, Janette is at Yearling. Even granddaughter Taylor Padrick became a teacher and is at Central Elementary.

When you first enter, you'll notice an astonishing array of antique items, including farm implements, signs and “What is that?” Lowell said: “Typical insurance offices are the most boring places in the world. We wanted to make ours interesting and fun. It is so much so, that often people come in just because they've heard about it and want to see for themselves. “We love antiques. People have even brought us things they have found in the garage or in cleaning out old storage and will ask us if we want it. They might not even know what it is, but want others to enjoy it.”

When Brendan retires from teaching, he will take over at Pritchards to carry on the legacy of excellence that has been earned by Pritchards and Associates. Pritchards and Associates 1802 S. Parrott Avenue (863) 763-7711

Log on to and click on the “Behind the Business” tab to learn more about Pritchards and Associates.

June 2017 | 87

Why advertise with us?

Looking for a local Primary Care Physician? Meet Denise Ricketts, M.D. with Treasure Coast Medical Specialists. Accepting new patients â&#x20AC;˘ Walk-ins welcome

1713 Hwy 441 North | Suite C | Okeechobee, FL 34972 (in the Okeechobee Medical Park building, located directly across from the hospital)


Because if you're reading this...there's a good chance your customers are too.

316 N.W. Fifth Street Okeechobee, FL 34972

Phone: 863.467.0054 88 | June 2017



as only your family-owned funeral home can

WILLIAMSON CATTLE COMPANY Providing funeral care for your family is our top priority. We believe the best way to serve you is by being here in the community for you, and with you. We are available 24 hours a day and at a moment’s notice. Turn to the name you can trust.

Presents ‘Photos of the Past’

400 N. Parrott Avenue Okeechobee, FL 34972


SNEIDER LAW Glenn J. Sneider Attorney at Law

Helping good people facing tough problems. Divorce




Criminal Law

200 SW 9th Street•Okeechobee, FL 34974



Celebrate their 65th Wedding Anniversary


At the time of their marriage the family ranch was named ‘Caloosa Ranch’ by the Founder, Frank Williamson, Sr. In a few years it was renamed Williamson Cattle Company, Inc. Presently there are three generations of the Williamson family running the ranch, Sonny, Wes and John.

Submitted by Betty Chandler Williamson

June 2017 | 89




Okeechobee Eatery Celebrates 35 Years Of Success

Spanish, after a beautiful street in Texas decorated with coconuts.

Yolanda, originally from Texas, and her husband, Juan, a native of Mexico, moved to Okeechobee and had a desire to do more with their lives. They saw a need for the other Mexican families living in rural Okeechobee who desired authentic Mexican tortillas. So together, they opened up Okeechobee’s first tortilleria on Park Street, where they sold freshly made corn tortillas. They named it Los Cocos, meaning “the coconuts” in

Starting from scratch, they purchased the equipment they needed, including the corn grinder, which they had no clue how to use, and began their adventure. However, not knowing anything about the restaurant business, Yolanda and Juan had to learn the hard way. “They closed me down,” Yolanda laughed. “I didn’t know you had to have a permit.”

By Rachel Buxton


n any given day, at any given time, you can walk into Los Cocos Mexican Restaurant and are almost guaranteed to see a familiar face, as it has become a staple eatery in Okeechobee. For 35 years, Los Cocos has been serving the residents of Okeechobee with its version of Tex-Mex cuisine. “Some people call it Mexican, others call it Tex-Mex,” said owner Yolanda Solorzano. “I couldn’t care less. I just say, ‘This is what we sell.’” Most residents can’t even recall a time that Los Cocos wasn’t in existence. And at one point, it almost wasn’t. 90 | June 2017


The Los Cocos team, from left: Jennifer, Adela, Salina, Kat, Irma, Diana, Bernice, Marasol and Irma. Seated: Yolanda and Juan Solorzano.


“What in the world were we thinking?” Juan reminisced on their past. But little by little and with help from their loyal customers, the Solorzanos began to learn what needed to be done to run a successful restaurant. Their fresh tortillas instantly became popular amongst people in the community, and they began asking for the usual fixings inside of them, such as chicken, lettuce, tomato and cheese. Juan and Yolanda realized that if they were going to make it in the business, they were going to have to create an actual menu. In 1989, they moved to their current location just off of State Road 70. Yolanda remembers the property going up for sale and sending Juan from bank to bank trying to get a loan. “We were moving to a different house at the same time,” she said. “We didn’t have extra money. Juan would go to one bank and come back and tell me they said no. I would tell him, ‘Go to another bank.’ He would come back with another no. I just kept sending him from bank to bank until we got a yes.”

when we went to three.” They always keep the basics that people associate with American-Mexican cuisine, such as tacos, burritos and enchiladas, but they have ventured out and tried new things, including the wet burrito — a dish Yolanda takes credit for creating and one that now is among the most popular items on the menu. Juan is the main cook and arrives at the restaurant by 6:30 every morning to meet the deliverymen and to begin prepping for the day’s menu. “Everything is fresh,” he said. “We prepare the beans, meat and rice in the morning, and we make our own flour tortillas from scratch, which takes a lot of time.”

They worked with a local contractor and built the new restaurant, only to quickly realize, just a year later, they needed even more space. They expanded once again.

Together, along with the help of their three sons when needed, Juan and Yolanda have created a thriving business. But they continue to remain humble and try to give back as much as they can to the community that has provided for their family.

Along with the building expansion, Los Cocos continued to expand their menu. “We are now on our fifth or sixth generation,” Yolanda said. “I was shocked

Each year, Los Cocos gives scholarships to graduating seniors, and they also contribute to local fundraising events and volunteer within their church. But most

of all, they work hard to take their young employees under their wings. “Parents want their kids to work here,” Yolanda said. “I’m very strict and they know their kids are going to grow up with me.” Yolanda makes sure her high school and college employees are involved in school activities and stay out of trouble. She says she wants them to be proud to work at Los Cocos. For 33 years, in what began as a necessity as Yolanda was having her last son and has now turned into a tradition, the restaurant is closed for the entire month of July. It is a month the locals dread, but they eagerly wait for the reopening. The month gives the couple a chance to recharge, travel a little and make any renovations needed to the restaurant. Juan and Yolanda are proud to be celebrating 35 years in business but have definitely not forgotten where they came from. “We can’t thank Okeechobee enough,” they said. “We have been so blessed.” Los Cocos 107 N.W. Sixth Avenue (863) 467-0922

June 2017 | 91

92 | June 2017


Caring Evaluation and Treatment of Women’s Health Issues*

James Bradfield, MD • Board Certified in Obstetrics & Gynecology • Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology • Serving our community since 2005 • Offering convenient healthcare services for women- including minimally invasive procedures


Visit our website to schedule an appointment and print your new patient forms.

* Practice is limited to gynecology.

1713 Hwy 441 N. Suite F, Okeechobee, FL 34972


Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast


(863) 532-9096

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Do you have a great story? We want to know. Email us at

June 2017 | 93

In The Kitchen With… D & G Catering

Summer is here and that means fire up the grill. These grilled marinated asparagus virtually take zero work to prepare and no one will be able to resist them at your next barbecue. Then put a refreshing twist on your backyard bashes with Chilled Fruit Galette and Mixed Berry Pavlova. These sweet, fresh fruit dishes are sure to cool you off during the upcoming dog days of summer. Chilled Fruit Galette Ingredients:

• 1 box (3 oz) of lemon jello (or your favorite flavor) • ½ pint of sliced strawberries • 1 cup sliced or chopped peaches, well drained (if using frozen peaches, cook slightly to soften) • 1 small bunch black seedless grapes, halved • 2 kiwi, sliced for garnish • Whipped cream for garnish


In a medium bowl, dissolve gelatin in 1 cup boiling water. Stir until completely dissolved. Stir in ½ cup cold water. Set aside. Spray 8-inch square dish with nonstick spray. Fill with gelatin mixture and refrigerate an hour or until slightly thickened. Stir in strawberries, peaches and grapes. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or until set. To serve, cut into desired portions, add whipped cream and kiwi slice.

Marinated Vegetable Display Ingredients:

• 1 bunch of grilled, marinated asparagus • 1 jar marinated mushrooms • 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts • ½ pint grape tomatoes • Greenleaf lettuce


Drain vegetables. Stand asparagus in a sundae bowl or small trifle dish. Place dish in the center of a clear tray and line tray with lettuce. Top lettuce with a section of mushrooms, artichoke hearts and grape tomatoes.

94 | June 2017


Grilled Marinated Asparagus Ingredients:

• 1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed (about one pound) • 1 cup prepared Italian dressing • 1 tbsp dried tarragon • Olive oil

Method: For grilled asparagus, toss asparagus in olive oil and grill over medium heat approximately 5 minutes until tender, but not soft. Set aside to cool in a shallow glass dish. For blanched asparagus, bring one quart of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and cover pan. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until tender, but not soft. Set aside to cool in a shallow glass dish. In a small bowl, combine Italian dressing and dried tarragon. Pour over cooled asparagus. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Drain before serving.

Diane Conway and Gary Burks

Mixed Berry Pavlova

Total Time: 2 hr 37 min Prep: 7 min Inactive: 1 hr Cook: 1 hr 30 min Yield: 6 servings

For the Pavlova

• 4 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature • Pinch kosher salt • 1 cup sugar • 2 teaspoons cornstarch • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Triple Berry Sauce

For the Sweetened Whipped Cream

• 1/2 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced • 1 cup cold heavy cream • 1/2 pint fresh blueberries • 1 tablespoon sugar • 1 pint fresh raspberries, divided • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract • ¼ cup water • 1/2 cup sugar • 1 cup seedless raspberry jam (12-ounce jar) • 1 tablespoon framboise liqueur or raspberry extract

Directions for the Pavlova: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees F. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Draw a 9-inch circle on the paper, using a 9-inch plate as a guide, then turn the paper over so the circle is on the reverse side. (This way you won't get a pencil mark on the meringue.) Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until firm, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar and beat until it makes firm, shiny peaks, about 2 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer, sift the cornstarch onto the beaten egg whites, add the vinegar and vanilla, and fold in lightly with a rubber spatula. Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper and smooth it within the circle, making a rough disk. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven, keep the door closed, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven, about 1 hour. It will be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Invert the meringue disk onto a plate and spread the top completely with sweetened whipped cream. Combine the strawberries, blueberries and ½ pint raspberries in a bowl and toss with about 1/2 cup of raspberry sauce, or enough to coat the berries lightly. Spoon the berries carefully into the middle of the Pavlova, leaving a border of cream and meringue. Serve immediately in large scoops with extra raspberry sauce. Sweetened Whipped Cream: Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer). When it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until firm. Don't overbeat! Yield: 1 cup

Triple Raspberry Sauce: Place 1/2 pint raspberries, 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam, and framboise/extract into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth. Chill. Yield: 2 cups

June 2017 | 95

What People Are Saying... “When we first came to Okeechobee from West Palm, we were a little bit worried how we were going to advertise our business. But as soon as I saw the stack of glossy magazines sitting on a table, I knew it was going to be just fine. Okeechobee The Magazine is definitely meant to be saved and not to be thrown away. — Paulette Bragel,

Brown Cow Sweetery

We at Domer’s are honored to have been a part of Okeechobee The Magazine for many years and plan to continue this relationship for many more! This magazine has been a great addition to our town and has filled a marketing need for many local businesses and individuals. I personally love how each issue is like a celebration of our community; it truly brings us the best of Okeechobee. — Justin Domer

Okeechobee The Magazine 316 N.W. Fifth Street Okeechobee, FL 34972 Phone: 863.467.0054

96 | June 2017



Gayle Molyneaux Independent Beauty Consultant 561-801-1336

IN HOUSE JEWELRY REPAIR STATE OF THE ART LASER WELDING Gift Certificates Available 411 W.S. Park Street â&#x20AC;¢ Okeechobee, FL 34972


The Berger Clinic Adult Health Care Diagnosis and Management of Medical Conditions Preventive Health

863-467-1117 Call For Appointment

Jay S. Berger, MD Okeechobee Medical Park 1713 Hwy 441 N. Suite D Okeechobee, FL 34972 (Located across the street from the hospital.)

Dr. Berger and Staff have proudly served the Okeechobee area since 1985.

June 2017 | 97

By Chase Marsocci


Shell Cracker, Bluegill Fishing Best April – September

ummer is here, and so are the shell crackers and bluegills. It’s a bad day to be a fish, when you fishermen know the scoop.

With a warm winter on Lake Okeechobee, the spawning season is well under way. Shell crackers, also known as redear sunfish, will be spawning first, followed by the bluegills. The best time to fish for shell crackers or bluegills is April thru September, five days before and five days after a new moon and the full moon. One other factor will be the temperature of the lake. Optimal temperature is 71 degrees to 75 degrees to start the spawning. The males will build a sandy nest (bed) that generally is round and depressed, approximately two to four inches deep, and a form of 12 to 24 inches wide. When the water is clear, you can see the bed; it will look like a shiny spot. The fish gather in large schools during the spawn. In most cases when you find the beds, you will find dozens in a small area. Depending on the depth of the water, the fish will generally make their beds in the same area year after year. It is not unusual to find shell crackers and bluegills intermingled and using the same bedding areas at the same time. Good areas to find shell crackers and bluegills are in boat trails, like Little Grassy, King’s Bar, Buckhead Ridge down to Indian Prairie Canal. Bluegill can also be caught in the Kissimmee River and the Rim Canal. Lake Okeechobee shell crackers and bluegills are the best fighting fish, pound for pound. When you find the fish on their

98 | June 2017


beds, the party begins. Catching your limit of 50 per person is common throughout the spring and fall. The best live baits to use are worms and crickets. I prefer crickets when targeting bluegills and red worms for shell crackers. You can use a beetle spin on an ultra-light rod and reel combo, it is a blast. The beetle spin works especially well when the water is dirty; you are able to locate the shell crackers and bluegills with this method. With low lake levels, to find the beds you might consider using an airboat or a duck boat with a mud motor. Game on when you find the fish. Food for thought: Shell crackers and bluegills are fun to catch and excellent in the frying pan. The Big O is famous for the largemouth bass. This time of year, guided bass trips catch 50-plus fish on a four-hour trip, with wild shiners for bait. Plenty can still be caught using artificial baits. Either way, you are sure to catch fish. My favorite is a War Eagle Spinner bait, golden shiner or white. My second choice is Gambler EZ Copperfield. Now is the time to take the family fishing. You are sure to have a fun time on the Big O. Fast Break Bait and Tackle Professional Fishing & Hunting Guide Service (866) 824-3474 or (863) 824-2474

Hello from the Mira Realty Team! We are so excited to be in business with you!

863 467-1545

At Mira Realty, LLC, the word is flexibility. Real Estate comes in all shapes and sizes.There is no cookie cutter you can fit every customer into. We embrace digital modernization, while at the same time, we offer a personal touch that comes with a deep knowledge of the Okeechobee area. Our goal is to provide our customers with a personalized and up to date integrated real estate experience!



From Your Farm, to Your Family Pet - We Have it All WE DELIVER!

104 SW 3rd Ave Okeechobee, FL. 34974 BUSINESS HOURS: Mon. – Sat. 9am -5pm (for buyers) (for sellers)


We look forward to seeing everyone at the Florida Cattlemen’s Convention, June 20-22 1852 NW 9th Street Okeechobee FL 34972 Store 863.763.3447 Fax 863.763.5205

(863) 763-8020

June 2017 | 99

A good neighbor has your back.

A good neighbor has your back.

Life’s a combination of good days and bad. I have your back for both. And who has my back? The company more people have trusted for 90 years. I’m here to help life go rightTM. CALL ME TODAY.

Rick Chartier (863) 467.9090

Life’s a combination of good days and bad. I have your back for both. And who has my back? The company more people have trusted for 90 years. I’m here to help life go right. CALL ME TODAY.

• Sales • Service • Audio Visual • Networking


Gretchen Robertson Ins Agy Inc Gretchen Robertson, Agent etchen Robertson Ins Agy 309 Inc NE 2ND ST etchen Robertson, Agent Okeechobee, FL 34972 eechobee, FL 34972 Bus: 863-763-5561 State Farm Bloomington, IL


State Farm Bloomington, IL


• Phone Systems • Cabling • Accessories

403 South Parrott Avenue Okeechobee, FL email:






863.763.4401 9-5 M-F

100 | June 2017


Professional Quality with a Personal Touch Diane Conway & Gary Burks

863.634.7840 or 863.634.3131

Breakfast • Lunch 1111 S. Parrott Ave. Okeechobee, FL 34974


Improving Your Property One Cut At A Time FREE ESTIMATES SE HABLA ESPANOL

Porcelain Esthetics “Begin your journey to healthier beautiful skin.” Chemical Peels Microdermabrasion Light therapies Therapeutic customized facials Acne treatment Resurfacing

Featuring G.M. Collin and Skin Deep Pharmaceuticals Products GIFT CERTIFICATES AVAILABLE

863.634.3615 221 NE Park St. Okeechobee, FL Cheryl Daniels, Licensed Esthetician, Certified Skin Specialist


NATIONALLY ACCREDITED Peace Lutheran School We accept VPK and Step Up for Students • Serving Children ages 2-K • Small Class Sizes Now taking Enrollment for the 2017-18 School Year and Summer Camp School Year: Ages 2 - Kindergarten Summer Camp: Ages 2 - 4th Grade

Office: 863-763-7566 750 NW 23rd Street • Okeechobee, FL 34972 • • FMI visit

License # FB9750329

jor a M l l A ds &

B r a n cturers

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1460 HWY 78 WEST • OKEECHOBEE, FL 34974

June 2017 | 101

Hurricane Preparedness County Stands Ready To Help in Storms By Mitch Smeykal

Okeechobee County Emergency Management Director

Okeechobee Emergency Management Mission Statement:

"Helping citizens, visitors and businesses prepare for and respond to ‘all hazards’ threats within Okeechobee County. We do this by partnering with non-government organizations, local, state and federal government partners to ensure a coordinated disaster response at all levels of the government and the community."


fter the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the Florida Legislature created Florida Statute 252.38, which requires political subdivisions (counties) to establish and maintain a robust emergency management program and comprehensive emergency management plan. We have been very fortunate the past few years with no landfalls of a major hurricane or tropical storm. Regardless of the annual hurricane season predictions, it only takes one! Since 1993, the hazards we face (fire, flood, tornado, pandemic disease, severe weather, terrorism, etc.) have not changed and can be just as devastating to a community as a major hurricane. As we saw with the EF2 tornado strike this April, disaster can occur at any time with little or no warning. All residents and visitors should make a plan, stay informed and have on hand at all times the following items: • Water, 1 gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation • Food, at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food per person and for your pets • Battery-powered radio and NOAA 102 | June 2017


weather radio with tone alert, and extra batteries for both • Flashlight and extra batteries • First aid kit • Whistle to signal for help • Infant formula and diapers, if applicable • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation • Dust mask or cotton T-shirt, to help filter the air • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place • Medications for yourself and pets • Can opener for food (if you’ve stockpiled canned food) Make sure you also have copies of important papers, such as insurance policies, titles, deeds and birth certificates. Board games and playing cards can also relieve some of the boredom brought on when electrical power is out for several days. And don’t forget the car charger for cellphones and tablets. Let’s talk about evacuation shelters. There are two different types of evacuation shelters. The first is general population shelters. These are for people whose homes may not structurally be sound enough to

withstand hurricane-force winds or those homeowners who live in a flood zone. The other is special medical needs shelters. These shelters are for individuals who need electricity or oxygen to live. This type of shelter also requires pre-hurricane registration for entry. A shelter should not be your first choice or a substitute for a disaster plan. A shelter should be your last resort to safely ride out the storm. In short, it is a lifeboat — NOT a plan. For more information download the mobile application “Okeechobee County FL Emergency Management” from iTunes or the Google Play Store. Citizens can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. If your group would like a disaster preparedness workshop, contact emergency management at (863) 763-3212 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. There are also several websites you can visit for more information and assistance in making your plan: www.florida,, and www. Editor’s note: Mitch Smeykal is a Certified Emergency Manager (accredited by the International Association of Emergency Managers) and a Florida Professional Emergency Manager (certified through the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association).

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207 NE Park Street Okeechobee, FL 34972

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June 2017 | 103

Around Okeechobee

When only the best will do.

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Chamber Ribbon-Cuttings

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Andrea Noelle's Boutique

Marker Ceremony Includes History Lesson, Lunch The Okeechobee Historical Society hosted its Tantie School House #14 Historical Marker Dedication on Monday, March 20, at the Historical Society Museum. Judge Bill Hendry gave a short history of the Tantie School, and a covered dish luncheon was served. 104 | June 2017


Around Okeechobee

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When only the best will do.

Okeechobee Main Street Installs New President and Board of Directors On April 26 Okeechobee Main Street elected a new board of directors. Angie Griffin was elected as the new president, Marion Heddesheimer as vice president, Paulette Bragel as secretary and Gary Scherrer as treasurer. Maureen Burroughs, who started Okeechobee Main Street and has been leading it for many years, remains on the board as past president. Seated, from left: Brittany Carner, Paulette Bragel, Marion Heddesheimer, Angie Griffin and Gary Scherrer. Back: Bridgette Waldau, Mark Bragel, Steffanie Immerfall, Phil Baughman, Anita Parker, Maureen Burroughs and Shelly Doyle.

Winners Crowned at Debutante Ball

The 2017 Pearl Andrews Black Butterfly Debutante Cotillion and scholarship program took place on Saturday, April 8, at the KOA, presented by the Ladies of Elegance and the Okeechobee Community Improvement Association. The Debutante of the Year was Clinesha Williams; Maliah Wright was named Miss Congeniality; and the Academic Award went to Shytria Ash. From left: Clinesha Williams, Taey Washington, Alarra Boswell, Shytria Ash and Maliah Wright.

Pictured are the board and staff of BBBS, from left: Robbie Chartier, Malissa Morgan, COO Rachel Heddings, Justin Domer, Audra Clemons-Abreu, Dawn Hoover, CEO Judi Miller, VP of Programs Dawn Hawley and Capacity Builder Kelly Chicvara. Not pictured: Kristy Crawford, Wayne Cunningham, Erin Moore and Paula Younger.

Boots & Burgers Fundraiser Keeps Donors Entertained Big Brothers Big Sisters of Okeechobee County hosted their Boots & Burgers fundraising event on Saturday, March 25, at the Okeechobee Livestock Market. Guests were treated to a dinner of delicious burger sliders, music, a live auction and a tour of the Livestock Market. To learn more about BBBS, visit

June 2017 | 105

List of Advertisers 14K Gold Store .................................97

Gilbert Chevrolet............................107

Quail Creek Plantation.........................9

Gilbert Ford.......................................71

Quality Air Conditioning...............92, 99

A & G Pools........................................65

Glades AC..........................................67

Abney Building & Consulting, Inc.......81

Glenn Sneider, Attorney.....................89

Rabon's Country Feed........................99

Advanced Alarm..................................103

Golden Corral.....................................82

Raulerson Gyn, LLC............................93

American Drilling Services...............101

Raulerson Hospital.............................43

Anchor Dental...................................14

Heartland Discount Pharmacy..............5

Raulerson Orthopaedic Specialists.....56

Anderson Realty.................................82

Highland Pest Control.......................36

Raulerson Surgical Specialists...........51

Andrea Noelle's Boutique..................69

Remington Real Estate......................93 ICS Computers.................................100

“Okeechobee The Magazine is definitely the best community magazine in the area. Through its content and excellent photography Okeechobee The Magazine captures the essence of Okeechobee. — Corey Penrod,

Badcock Furniture.............................88

Inkwell Tattoos..................................92

Bass Electric.......................................92

S. Cruz Lawn Service........................101

Berger Clinic......................................97

Lake O Real Estate.............................53

Sandra Pearce Photography.............103

Berger Real Estate..............................33

Lake Okeechobee Digestive Disease......33

Schuler, Halvorson, Weisser,

Big Lake Eye Care.................................3

Lakeside Grill...................................101

Zoeller & Overbeck...............................79

Big Lake Foot & Ankle Specialists......54

Law Offices of Lefebvre & Dixon........45

Seminole Casino Brighton..................23

Brown Cow Sweetery.........................65

Lawnwood Regional Medical Ctr......108

Shoe Box.........................................100

Buxton & Bass Funeral Home............89

Lehman Auto Body Service Center......37

Sprint Wireless Connection...................6

Lillies & Lace......................................36

St. Lucie Battery & Tire.......................15

Los Cocos Mexican Restaurant.........103

Staffords Salon...................................66

Penrod Construction Company Carpenter Insurance...........................55 Clear Title & Legal Services.................31

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Royal's Furniture................................45

State Farm.......................................100

Close Construction, LLC......................51

M&M Auto Brokers............................57

Superior Water Works.........................96

Crossroads Restaurant........................70

Main Street Salon..............................53

Syfrett Feed........................................59

Custom Sights and Sounds...............100

Mary Kay...........................................97

Custom Window Treatments.............96

Mill Iron Metalworks, Inc....................35

Teez 2 Pleez.......................................92

Mims Veterinary Hospital..................81

Tenniswood Dental Associates...........39

Only $18.00 a Year!

D4 Powersports................................101

Mira Realty LLC..................................99

Tin Fish..............................................93

D&G Catering...................................100

Mixon Real Estate Group...................42

Total Roadside Services........................7

Continental U.S.A. Only!

Doctors Clinic Family Health Center.....33

Mohawk Construction, Inc.................56

Treasure Coast Food Bank...................74

Keep up with “Your Community!”

Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center..........21

Murray Insurance Services.................77

Treasure Coast Medical Specialists......88

Enclose a check for $18.00 (made payable to Okeechobee The Magazine) and mail along with this completed form to:

Don's Appliances................................77

elor Mentor and Couns

Shirlean Graham

Okeechobee The Magazine

Domer's, Inc......................................59

Trinidad Garcia, M.D........................100 Okee-Tantie Title Company, Inc..........54 Okeechobee Health Care Facility..........2

Echols Plumbing & A/C......................57

Visiting Nurse Association..................83

Okeechobee KOA................................37

316 NW 5th Street Okeechobee, FL 34972

Edwards Jones...................................97 Eli's Western Wear..............................38

PCS/Sprint....................................63, 70

Wemmer Family Orthodontics..........74

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Everglades Pediatric Dentistry...........18

Peace Lutheran School.....................101

Williamson Cattle Company.............89

Penrod Construction..........................31

WOKC 100.9 FM.................................69

Family Dentistry of Okeechobee.........22

Platinum Performance Builders...........75

Worley Construction..........................17

Florida Outdoors RV...........................35

Plaza 300.............................................78

Florida Public Utilities........................19

Porcelain Esthetics...........................101

Flower Petals...................................103

Pritchards and Associates..................66

Name: Address: City/State/Zip: Phone:

Waste Management.........................78

Pueblo Viejo VI Restaurant.................67

106 | June 2017



Justin Domer “Gilbert has always made the car & truck buying experience very easy, very painless, very quick. I don’t know how many vehicles our family has purchased from Gilbert, but we keep coming back."

keechobee County is celebrating its Centennial this year and if you are in need of a history lesson, you needn’t look much farther than Justin Domer. A 7th generation Floridian, Justin not only has founding-roots in our community but has taken time to learn the background of many of Okeechobee’s other founding families. Justin graduated from Okeechobee High School in 2005 and traveled to Florida State University where he earned a degree in Political Science. In late 2009 while still attending FSU, Justin went to work with Governor Charlie Crist and continued to hold multiple positions through 2012 for Governor Rick Scott. The chaos of politics made Justin realize one thing; he had a teacher back home he still had much to learn from - his father, Ray Domer.   Before his passing, Ray was an Okeechobee County Commissioner, successful businessman, and father. He taught his children honesty, integrity, and accountability must always come first.   When Justin approached his father about return-

ing home, Ray initially told him to consider other options. He wanted him to utilize his education in politcal science. Justin ultimately convinced his father he wanted to move forward in the direction of Okeechobee and to allow him to interview for a position at the family business - Domer’s Inc. Applying the lessons learned from their father, Justin now runs Domer’s Inc. with his brother, Jacob. They both said the same thing about why they work well together, “We each have strengths and weaknesses and use each other to work through any situation.”  Jacob said, “People think Justin stays in the office all day but he will get out there and run a shovel or anything else it takes to get the job done.”  Domer’s Inc. will celebrate its centennial in 2026 and it’s that kind of attitude and camaraderie that will allow this family business to thrive for the next 100 years. From Okeechobee to Tallahassee and back home, thank you for always making Okeechobee proud, Justin.

(863) 763-3154 3550 U.S. Highway 441 South Okeechobee, FL 34974 Serving Okeechobee for over 90 Years!

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For average ER wait times, visit To speak to a Nurse 24/7 or for a physician referral, call Consult-A-Nurse® at 800-382-3522.


Okeechobee The Magazine June 2017