Locala Magazine, September 2022, Ocala, FL

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JOHNNY DEL VALLE

The Next Level: Life Coach Appreciates Hard Lessons

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LINA PIEDRAHITA

A Mother’s Sacrifice: She Was Given the Opportunity To Thrive & Become a U.S. Citizen

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DENNIS GONZALEZ

Self-Taught: A Focus on Customer Relationships & Out-of-the-Box Thinking Leads to Success

Volume 02, Issue No. 04 • SEPTEMBER 2022


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ALL-IN FOR PEACE WOMEN’S SUMMIT HOSTED BY OLLIN WOMEN INTERNATIONAL

A one-day summit for women, by women, dedicated to peace literacy and empowerment THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22ND, 10AM-3PM AT THE APPLETON MUSEUM OF ART IN OCALA, FLORIDA Special Guest

Special Guest

Keynoter Speake

LISA ANDERSON, PUBLISHER lisa@lisaandersonmedia.com senior copy editor JODI ANDERSON staff advisor CHAD TAYLOR

ART DEPARTMENT Marianne Williamson

Medea Benjamin

media manager JOSHUA JACOBS contributing photographer MARK ANDERSON stock photography service DEPOSITPHOTOS.COM stock photography service PEXELS.COM

Dot Maver

EDITORIAL Jessica McCune

Dr. Jillian Ramsammy

Dr. Manal Fakhoury

Jessi Miller

Spend a day learning from women who have been leading the charge for peace, and get inspired by ideas and resources you can take home and put to use right away.

Tickets $45 | ollinwomen.org

contributing writers APPLETON MUSEUM TEAM MEMBERS contributing writer MARK ANDERSON contributing writer DR. MANAL FAKHOURY contributing writer CYNTHIA MCFARLAND contributing writer CIERRA ROSS contributing writer TAYLOR STRICKLAND

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© Lisa Anderson Media, LLC and Locala™. All rights reserved. Online: ISSN 2771-1056, Print: ISSN 2771-1048, September 2022, Volume 02, Issue Number 04. Locala™ is a monthly publication, which is published by Lisa Anderson Media, LLC, 2320 NE 2nd Street, Unit 5, Ocala, FL 34470. Nothing may be reprinted in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. For reprint or reuse permission, email info@localamag.com. Cover price for sale distribution is $5.84. Proudly printed at First Impressions Printing, 1827 SW 27th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34471


TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

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Dear Ocala Ocala’s Hispanic Community

BREAKING SOCIAL NORMS

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The Next Level: Life Coach Appreciates Hard Lessons

F R O M T H E PA D D O C K

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Full Speed Ahead: Making the Most of a Second Chance

FROM THE EXPERTS

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Generation Gaps: Enabling a Multi-Generational Workforce To Coexist

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Conversation Is Key: Speaking the Language & Then Some

THE CHEWS LETTER

ON THE COVER

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Kitchen Lessons: Young Restaurateur Learns from His Mistakes

ARTIST CORNER

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Couch Sessions: 2022 Series • September Artist Q&A

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Laurie Kopec: Fine Artist

O C A L A’ S H I S P A N I C C O M M U N I T Y

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A Mother’s Sacrifice: She Was Given the Opportunity To Thrive & Become a U.S. Citizen

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Starting Over: Tradesman Begins a New Life in Florida

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Saying Yes: Successful Colombian Immigrates & Starts Over for Love

F E AT U R E

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Self-Taught: A Focus on Customer Relationships & Out-of-the-Box Thinking Leads to Success

GIVERTORIAL

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Sagi Asokan: Passion for the Arts Woven Throughout Her Life

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Championing the Arts: Non-Artist Works To Support Creative Talent

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

JODI ANDERSON “America is an improbable idea, a mongrel nation built of ever-changing disparate parts, it is held together by a notion, the notion that all men are created equal...” Anna Quindlen writes in her famous essay “A Quilt of a Country.” She continues, “Out of many, one. That is the ideal.” The essayist goes on to point out that we often fall far short of this ideal. And, indeed, humans have a tendency to “other” those who come from outside— making them feel unwelcome at best, dehumanizing them at worst. Quindlen asserts, correctly, that what may be expected to make us weaker—difference— actually makes us stronger. Different people come to this country with the same desire that is claimed as a right in our Declaration of Independence: the freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. Their contributions build up and enrich our country. In this issue, we celebrate Ocala’s vibrant Hispanic community. All of our subjects are entrepreneurs— builders of businesses and job creators. Regina Jaramillo (page 11), who immigrated as a child with her sisters, and Lina Piedrahita (page 16), who chose to follow her husband as a political refugee, are from Colombia. HVAC technician Alfredo Domenech (page 14), EPIC co-founder William Rullan (page 19), and our expert Sherry AllenReeves (page 25) came from Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory. Dennis Gonzalez (page 28) grew up in both Puerto Rico and New Jersey and uses his non-profit to ensure families in need have a wonderful Christmas.

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Restaurateur Angel Cortes, spotlighted in The Chewsletter (page 33), is the son of a Mexican immigrant and credits his father for teaching him how to cook. We are also honored by contributions from immigrants who came from beyond Latin America. As a child, columnist Manal Fakhoury immigrated from Palestine with her family and has been a dynamic member of Ocala’s philanthropic community for almost three decades. This month, she offers her expert advice on making the most of a multigenerational workforce (page 23). FAFO Emeritus Board Member Sagi Asokan (page 7) grew up in India and has spent nearly 40 years cultivating our local arts community.

Speaking of local artists, be sure to visit our Artist Q&A section on page 37 and get to know Laurie Kopec and Jeff Jarrett. My sister Lisa and I are proud descendants of immigrants. Our Norwegian greatgrandfather thought he would find streets literally strewn with money, but when didn’t, he went to work. He was criticized for marrying a daughter of Swedish immigrants; the two did not usually mix. Together, they built a family who started businesses, farmed, and fought for our country in World War II. Without their bravery and industry, we would not be here. All My Best,

Photo by Joshua Jacobs

DEAR OCALA,


Trip Green, Esq. U.S. Army Vet • Offices Ocala


2022 Series

sponsor

LOCALA™ IS A PROUD SUPPORTER OF THE

OCALA ARTS COMMUNITY

CREATING FORWARD

A New Non-profit Organization Supporting Creativity & Kindness to Animals TO LEARN MORE & TO DONATE CONTACT: chad@creatingforward.org

PASSPORTS ARE NOW AVAILABLE! Get VIP access to all four shows, meet-and-greet with the artists before each show and receve Couch Session Bucks as a voucher to purchase an artist piece.

2022 Schedule & Featured Artists June

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08 August

05 September

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Scott & Kimber Davis Ryan Neumann Nate Mercado Aaron Thomas Macey Mac Jessica Carter Jeff Jarrett Melissa Ann Taricic

Visit couchsessionsocala.com to purchase your passport or individual show tickets.


Sagi Asokan

PASSION FOR THE ARTS WOVEN THROUGHOUT HER LIFE hen Fine Arts for Ocala (FAFO) launched in 1966, Sagi Asokan was a young woman living on the other side of the world in her hometown of Tamilnadu, India. FAFO was formed with the goal of promoting fine art and art education in Marion County. In the beginning, the organization’s primary fundraiser was a black-tie auction party, the only event of its kind in Ocala. The Ocala Arts Festival soon became an annual event, and Symphony Under the Stars was added to the lineup in 1988. Sagi and her husband, Dr. R. Asokan, moved to the U.S. in 1974; the couple moved to Ocala in 1980. With her passion for the arts, it didn’t take long for Sagi to discover FAFO: She attended her first Ocala Arts Festival in 1981. After Dr. Asokan, a plastic surgeon, established his Aesthetic Center in Ocala, Sagi worked as his practice manager for 40 years, until he retired in 2018. For many years, Sagi enjoyed international travel and returned to India annually with their daughter to share that culture with her. Sagi’s continued love of the arts led to her nomination and approval as a FAFO board member, where she served for nearly 25 years, during which she’s seen many changes. For example, in the “old days,” artists submitted their work on slides for review

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to be accepted in the show, a time-consuming process for both artists and board members. Today, of course, the submission process is all digital. Many people don’t realize Symphony Under the Stars wasn’t always on Mother’s Day. “It got moved to that weekend, one year, because of rain and has stayed there ever since,” says Sagi, who greatly appreciates the long-standing tradition of FAFO’s annual events, and the opportunity to be part of them. “We have some artists who’ve been coming to the festival ever since it started,” she adds. “About 15 years ago, we didn’t have people working for FAFO, so everything was done by the board members. We did the whole thing and were there for the whole show wherever needed. Now we have an administrative assistant; we’re lucky to have found Maggie Weakley.” An avid supporter of the arts, Sagi remains an Emeritus Board Member of FAFO and continues to participate on the investment committee. This May, Sagi had to skip one beloved FAFO event due to knee replacement surgery. She’s going through the recovery process now. “This year was the first Symphony Under the Stars I’ve missed since FAFO started doing it,” says Sagi. “I hope to be back on schedule for the next one and also, to help out at the art show this fall.”

GIVERTOR IA L S P ONS ORED BY LO CAL A IN CO N J UNCTIO N W ITH CO UCH SE SSIO N S


BREAKING SOCIAL NORMS

The Next Level LIFE COACH APPRECIATES HARD LESSONS

JOHNNY DEL VALLE Story & Photo by LISA ANDERSON

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BREAKING SOCIAL NORMS

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he interview is coming to a close, and the final question is asked: “Is there anything else you would like to add?” Johnny Del Valle takes a breath before stating, “I would like to tell everyone that the truth that sets you free is the honesty you keep with yourself. It’s not really out there for you to find. Nothing is hidden, and there are no secrets. It’s all inside of you.”

FINDING TRUTH THROUGH TRAUMA

Johnny was born and raised in New York City. His mother was Brazilian and Puerto Rican, but she passed away when Johnny was just 2 years old. His grandfather was friends with the pastor of a local congregation in New York, and Johnny was adopted by the pastor. “My biological father is still in my life. That’s pretty amazing. We reconnected when I was an adult. He went through a lot of struggles on his own, and then he reached back out to me when I was in my twenties. I already had kids, so he had grand-kids. He started being part of my life, and we found a very strong bond. I talk to him almost every single day, and the kids call him Grandpa Banana,” Johnny chuckles. “He used to bring bananas around all the time.” Johnny was doing well for himself in New York as a high-end event designer. His clients included celebrities and politicians. “Unfortunately, after 9/11, that kind of business wasn’t profitable anymore, and we moved out to Tampa.” He was married and ready to start a new chapter in his life. He continued to design events but not on the same large scale as in New York, and he started a cleaning business.

The end goal is always peace and security. — Johnny Del Valle

THINGS FALL APART

Then, one day, it all just seemed to fall apart; it was a domino effect. First, he lost some of his contracts, then his marriage came undone, and finally, the local ministry he was a part of no longer felt it was appropriate for him to be involved due to his failed marriage. “It caught me by surprise. I really didn’t know. I had my head down, taking care of my family, and just working as hard as I possibly could. I didn’t know what was coming for me.” Johnny had been helping his adoptive father get a Hispanic Christian radio station in Ocala. “When this series of events happened, the only other place I really had to go was in that small, little broken down studio that I was building for my dad. That was the only thing that I had left. Everything else was gone.” Slowly, Johnny started to find a way to get back on his feet. “I had this notion that I was doing things in the right way. When you do things in the right way, you feel like things should go right. This was the first time I learned that, sometimes, when you do the right thing, things don’t go the right way, because that is the right way. I don’t know if that makes sense. “I had a lot of things in my life that I didn’t know were stopping me from the next level of abundance, and that’s why these situations happened to me. I can see it clearly now, in hindsight.”

STARTING FRESH

Those situations led Johnny to Ocala and to meeting his wife Yamy. They were married in 2013. “That’s the year my mom passed away. My wife left everything in Fort Myers. We started fresh.” Johnny ended up purchasing an old synagogue, just off of Baseline Road, about four years ago. “That’s when my dad got ill. I stopped every project that I had, and I didn’t do anything. No radio station, very small efforts in podcasting. I kind of disappeared for about two years. I learned a lot about mental conditions and about how our spirit

works. I saw [my dad] go through so many things. If I had the ability to cure him, I would cure him. That’s how passionate I was about trying to make sure that he had everything he [needed]. He suffered very highly with dementia and had a lot of issues with family members. They didn’t believe that he had it.” Johnny felt like his life was spiraling out of control, again. It was only a few months ago that he started recognizing another shift in his life and is now using the building to build a community of like-minded individuals. As a life coach, he loves to witness this process with his clients. “It’s incredible how divinely things just open up in relationships and connections, and I just love helping people. I’m passionate about seeing people smile and get fired up about something that they are trying to do or accomplish. I’m just having a blast doing that right now.” For Johnny, it has never been about the money, the car, or the house. Oh, he admits he likes to have those things, but it has never been his endgame. “The end goal is always peace and security.” Despite all the trips and falls along the way, Johnny keeps stepping up to the plate. He wants to help people, he believes everything has a purpose, and he is always seeking peace and security—even when he is fortunate to be living it. Those moments he appreciates the most.

LEARN MORE

Facebook: @1johnnydelvalle

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SUMMIT

Leading with Light Live on Stage

Shameless: 15 Women Share Their Journey of Self-Awareness, Self-Love, and Leading with Light is a powerful and engaging work of essays from women who wrestled with hardship, trauma, body image, divorce, discrimination, and more. Women who rose above their circumstances, took the message life gave them, and handed it back. They turned their shame into shamelessness and found the courage to be leaders of light, shining the truth on the path for us all. This book serves as a blueprint to help you understand how your failures can serve as momentum for a positive life.

COMING SOON • Author Talks • Book Signing • Swag Bags Come hear the authors tell their stories Live on Stage! Date and Location Coming Soon! Follow Us @lisaandersonmedia on IG & FB

Watch Our Website for More Information www.lisaandersonmedia.com


O C A L A’ S H I S P A N I C C O M M U N I T Y

A Mother’s Sacrifice SHE WAS GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO THRIVE & BECOME A U.S. CITIZEN

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REGINA JARAMILLO Story & Photo by LISA ANDERSON

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egina Jaramillo was only 13 years old when she and her two sisters left her parents in Colombia for a new life in Miami, Florida. She was scared and alone. Regina was the middle child, and her older sister was 21, while her younger sister was only 9 years old. That was nearly 30 years ago, and now that Regina is a mother, she realizes what a big sacrifice it was for her parents. They gave her a chance at a better life. Regina took full advantage of the opportunity she was given by her family. Today, she and her husband Juan are co-owners of Bright Corners®, a cleaning company in Ocala that has been in business for 10 years. “I am blessed to be born in Colombia, but I’m blessed to be here and to be a U.S. citizen. I would have not been able to do what we’re doing right now in my own country. My mother’s sacrifice paid off.”

I am blessed to be born in Colombia, but I’m blessed to be here and to be a U.S. citizen. — Regina Jaramillo

A NEW LIFE

A mother of three children, Regina is struggling with the idea of her oldest heading to college. Luckily, her daughter is sticking close to home by attending University of Central Florida in Orlando. “I can’t fathom the idea of separating myself from my kids. I can’t imagine the sacrifice and the pain that my parents [went through]. [My mother] just thought that it would be a better life for me,” states Regina. “In the years without my parents, it was very painful. Eventually, my two sisters ended up going back. My youngest sister, she couldn’t take it without my mom. My oldest sister, at the time, she had plans to stay and finish school, but then things didn’t go well for her—being an immigrant and all that—she went through difficult times. She was forced to go back,” Regina recalls. “I stayed by myself with a Cuban family that took me in and practically raised me from 13 until I was 18, and I was able to be on my own. It was a sacrifice to stay here as an immigrant and all the hard things that immigrants go through.” Regina had gone to a bilingual school in Colombia, and that made the transition a little easier for her. “I had an English tutor from the school, and she would come to my house two or three times a week. I remember telling her, ‘Someday, I want to be able to speak like you.’ She [didn’t have] an accent. She was an English teacher [who spoke] proper English. I wanted to do that. That was my number one goal.”

BUILDING A DREAM

Regina and Juan have been married for 20 years, and they had their first child when Regina was 24 years old. They have three children, now, whose ages are 18, 17, and 10. Their oldest was 2 years old when Regina and Juan decided they wanted to raise a family in a safer environment than Miami could provide. “We love Miami. You know that saying, ‘You can take the girl out of Miami, but you can’t take Miami out of the girl?’ I love to visit, but not to raise my family.” They had some friends who had moved to Ocala, and Regina instantly fell in love with the area when she and Juan came for a visit. “As soon as I stepped out of the car at the gas station in Ocala, I [knew] this is where I wanted to be.” Regina and Juan made the decision early on that Regina would be a stay-at-home mom “because of my history, of what I had gone through, being without my parents at such a young age. My husband came from a different family [background]. His parents are still together, and they’ve been together probably for almost 50 years already. And we knew what that meant to be with our kids. So, my husband did not care if he had to work three jobs.” Juan had a corporate position that allowed him to transfer to the Ocala area. Still, it wasn’t an easy transition coming from a multicultural city like Miami. “At

some point, my husband wanted to leave his job and have his own thing. Instead of working for somebody else, he wanted to work for himself and start building our legacy for our family.” They decided to open a cleaning business. They originally opened under a different name, but it was unsuccessful. The couple now jokes it was the name that was the problem. They’ve had Bright Corners® for 10 years, and they built the business together. It’s definitely a family business, with the kids pitching in sometimes.

A BEAUTIFUL ENDING BEGINNING

Regina waited until she became a U.S. citizen before returning to visit her family in Colombia. It was 20 years later. She was able to see her 93-yearold grandmother. “That was a prayer [answered]. I wanted to be able to go back, and I would pray, ‘Lord, allow me to go back and have her there.’ I’ve been blessed enough to be there three times already, and she’s still there,” Regina smiles. She is so grateful for the opportunities she has had here in the U.S. It hasn’t always been easy, but Regina was happy to put in the work, to be able to build a business, and to teach her children not to take things for granted. Without the sacrifices made by her parents, Regina would not have the love story with her husband, and they are proud of the life they have built together.

LEARN MORE

bit.ly/brightcorners

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Starting Over

TRADESMAN BEGINS A NEW LIFE IN FLORIDA

ALFREDO DOMENECH Story & Photo by LISA ANDERSON

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lfredo Domenech ran a successful HVAC business in Puerto Rico, until the economy collapsed in 2013-2014. “I was very successful. I made a lot of money [there], but I thought everything was done by my efforts. I neglected my family and worked really extended hours. I lost out on a lot with my kids, when they were small, because I thought I was doing the right thing. I lost everything, [and that’s when] I recognized that without God first, family second, and business third… That’s my priority now.”

A FORK IN THE ROAD

Alfredo was born and raised in New York City until the age of 14. The hustle and bustle of the city and the challenges of his single mother took them to Puerto Rico to be near his mother’s family. “[It] was a drastic change—very hard to adapt— coming from a city to the countryside where there was nothing around you.” Alfredo and his brother spoke very little Spanish when they arrived in their new home. “My mom inspired us. She almost obligated us to read the newspaper, read magazines. We learned really quickly. We had no choice.” After high school, Alfredo decided to serve in the Army. “I wanted to have a military career,” he recalls, but when his mom got sick, he left his aspirations behind. It might not have been the life he planned, but Alfredo is happy for the life he was given. In 1992, he got married. They celebrated their 30th anniversary in April of this year. “We have two beautiful children.”

I believe in one thing: I believe that God has been really good to us. I will honor Him by honoring my customers. — Alfredo Domenech

HUMBLED

“I went to trade school, and I became an electrician. I moved over to air conditioning because it was a lot more money, and it was challenging for me. It wasn’t just pulling wire. I’m the type of person that likes challenges, and I get bored really quickly. So, air conditioning has been good to me. I love what I do. I love HVAC, because everything is different. It puts my brain to work.” “In 2013, I had a very successful business in Puerto Rico. I did very well, because in our town, we had the largest concentration of pharmaceutical companies in our area. We had maybe 13 or 14 pharmaceutical companies in a 10-mile radius, because Puerto Rico, being a territory of the U.S., had given a tax [exemption] to [these] companies.” Unlike Florida, most residential homes in Puerto Rico did not have AC units, but the industrial and commercial market did have them. Alfredo was fortunate enough to build his HVAC business by servicing these large companies. The 2008 recession did not immediately affect the island, but when the tax exemption was removed, the pharmaceutical companies all left. “Puerto Rico took a little bit longer, but 2012-2013 really hit us hard,” Alfredo remembers. “I lost everything. I lost my company. I lost my property. I lost my home.” In the midst of their losses, Alfredo’s daughter was planning to go to Gainesville, Florida for college. That’s when he asked his family if they should just move to Florida, too. In 2014, Alfredo arrived a month ahead of his family to establish a place to live and settled on Ocala as a midway point between their daughter and Orlando, where Alfredo thought he would be able to get work. “I came with the idea to start my [HVAC] business here. Florida [didn’t] recognize my license from Puerto Rico.” At the age of 40, he found himself back in school for a license he had already earned. Not only that, but Alfredo had to work for a company for two years before he could start a business of his own. “I quickly became their project

manager. After two and a half years, I left and started Thermal Solutions.” He opened his business four years ago. “The beginning was so rough. I remember going to Brother’s Keeper to get food. I was always able to provide for my family, and not being able to provide [at that time] was just heartbreaking.” With strong support from his wife and their faith that God would provide, the family got through those hard times. “Little by little, people started to know who I was. I went from having no customers to a little bit more than 100 customers now.” Alfredo does a lot of residential work, but he has also gotten several large commercial clients, which he enjoys. “I believe in one thing: I believe that God has been really good to us. I will honor Him by honoring my customers. So, I will always do the right thing. That’s my motto: Do the right thing.” The family currently resides in the first apartment they moved into eight years ago, but they are looking forward to purchasing a home in the near future. “I’m starting all over at 50. Not a lot of people start all over at 50. I thought I had my retirement set, but that got cut. But, then again, I love to work. I’m not afraid to work, and I’m exactly where God wants me to be.”

LEARN MORE

Call: 352-208-3162

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Saying Yes

SUCCESSFUL COLOMBIAN IMMIGRATES & STARTS OVER FOR LOVE

LINA PIEDRAHITA Story & Photo by LISA ANDERSON

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ina Piedrahita is a real estate broker and owner of Professional Realty of Ocala, but her career looked a lot different when she graduated from the university in Colombia. She had a degree in agriculture, and her first position was at Chiquita Banana. The degree program took six years, and there were only 22 people in the class. Of those 22, Lina and one other were the only women. At 21 years old, when she started with Chiquita, she was the only woman in her department that wasn’t a receptionist. Lina’s employment took her about nine hours away from her hometown. “Back in 2001, it was very dangerous in Colombia. [Chiquita was] pretty close to the coast but also close to the mountains. So, it was a perfect place for kidnappings and drugs and stuff like that. It was my first experience out of college. It was great, because it was very challenging.” Lina helped to manage farms, export planning, drainage design, pest control, and fertilization schedules and to manage people. “I had so many farms and thousands and thousands of acres under my wing.” She was eventually offered a position with the governor to help manage his farms. “It was a huge company, but they didn’t have the infrastructure.” The challenge, more than the money, is what appealed the most to Lina about the new position. She had to be a lot more creative due to fewer resources.

LIFE-CHANGING

Lina had met her now husband Andres Arcila in college, but after graduation, they parted ways due to long distance. They did keep in touch, however, and when Andres decided to move to the U.S., Lina suddenly found herself facing a difficult decision: follow the man she loved or stay in Colombia at her current job, where they were offering to send her back to school for her master’s degree. Lina talked with her boss about the situation, and “he looks at me and he’s like, ‘Lina, once in my life, I had a similar decision to make. I said no. There is not one day in my life that I don’t think about what if I would have said yes. You’re young. What’s the worst thing that can happen? If it’s definitely not what you want to do, then your family is here, and your job is here.’ I was looking for a signal and that was it!” When Lina came to Ocala, the plan was to go to school in Gainesville and earn her master’s degree. “I couldn’t understand one word of English. People were talking to me, and I was like just give yourself some time.” She had taken English, but she had learned it from Spanish-speaking teachers. Now, Lina found the American accent difficult to understand, and people spoke faster than she expected. She was constantly trying to get them to talk more slowly.

LEARNING THE LANGUAGE

Finally, she gave up on the idea of getting her master’s degree and, instead, focused on learning English. After Andres was replaced with another employee, the couple lost their home and found themselves in a difficult position. They couldn’t find any place willing to rent to them without a social security number. In the end, they landed in a motel, which could be rented by the hour, week, or month. They paid for a month not realizing the scary conditions they were placing themselves in. Her husband found a job in Citra, and they only had one car. So, Lina would need to walk to the school for English classes. At first, this was not a big deal because people walked everywhere in Colombia, but after a few scary encounters with men following her, Lina started locking herself in the motel room and missing class. She didn’t tell her husband about the events until just recently. He was working so hard, and she didn’t want him to feel worse about the situation they were in. Lina simply asked to drive him to and from work so she could drive to school to escape the heat.

STARTING FROM SCRATCH

Eventually, the couple were able to purchase a mobile home that they bought directly from the owner. “It was old and dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty. We were not rich

in Colombia, but I had everything I needed. I was trying to look past everything, thinking, ‘We can make it pretty. We can make it our own. It’s going to be okay.’” Lina tried to find work, but again, not having a social security number made it difficult. It was with the help of her English teacher that Lina was matched with a former agricultural engineer from Ecuador who now owned a restaurant. Working in a restaurant was far from the type of position Lina had in Colombia, but it helped her get on her feet and opened the doors to new opportunities. Lina and Andres got married and filed for political asylum, as Andres’ former employers had been dangerous people. This meant that they could not return to see their families or friends in Colombia for 10 years, and they needed to become U.S. citizens, first. Today, Lina and family are U.S. citizens and have since been back to visit their family. Lina worked her way up through several companies before opening her brokerage firm in 2017. Now, she has the ability to help other people in her similar situation find housing, so they don’t wind up in the same places as herself and Andres. Lina is highly active in the community and volunteers and donates to several charitable organizations.

LEARN MORE

prorealtyocala.com

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F R O M T H E PA D D O C K

Full Speed Ahead

MAKING THE MOST OF A SECOND CHANCE

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F R O M T H E PA D D O C K

WILLIAM RULLAN Story by CYNTHIA MCFARL AND

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Photos by JOSHUA JACOBS


F R O M T H E PA D D O C K

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rowing up on a coffee bean farm in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, William Rullan was a horse-crazy kid, who rode all the time. Determined to make a career in the equine industry, he attended the University of Mayagüez with that goal. Eager to pursue their dreams in the “land of opportunity,” William and his brother Alberto moved to the U.S. to fulfill their mission of working together in Ocala, Florida and helping injured horses find healing.

LIFE-CHANGING

In August 2007, while William and Alberto were working with a horse, William got kicked in his right knee. He soon developed a bruise that never went away, eventually spreading to cover his entire leg. “A week afterwards, I started getting a runny nose. I thought it was allergies and then it turned into something like a cold. I was coughing and sweating a lot; then, I’d have cold spells,” William recalls. “I just thought I had a cold, so I continued working and was taking over-the-counter cold medicines.”

On October 3, 2007, I went to work and my heart rate was so high, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. — William Rullan

After four to six weeks, he noticed he was getting tired quickly, which wasn’t normal. “My skin was also turning yellow,” says William. “On October 3, 2007, I went to work and my heart rate was so high, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. The scary part was that Alberto was in Puerto Rico, at the time, and I was barely speaking English.” He went to the emergency room where doctors examined him and drew blood. “Then they said they needed to repeat the bloodwork because something wasn’t making sense,” says William. “After that, they sent me right into the hospital for an emergency blood transfusion because my body wasn’t producing blood.” Doctors performed a biopsy and within two days. William was given a shocking diagnosis: leukemia. He was 23 years old. “I wasn’t sure if that was the last stop. I didn’t want anybody crying or sad about it. I thought, if it’s my time, it’s my time,” says William, who was relieved when his brother returned, and they could talk about what to do. When his doctors mentioned a stem cell research study at Shands Hospital that could treat leukemia, William was willing to give it a try. He and Alberto used stem cell therapy on horses, so he knew it could be a game-changer. For four months, William underwent chemotherapy and stem cell research treatment. Throughout that time, he basically had no functioning immune system and lived in a filtered room where anyone who entered had to be suited up, masked and gloved. “They treated me, so my body could produce good bone marrow. After several treatments, the biopsy came back negative and they collected stem cells from my bone marrow,” William explains. “On February 14, 2008, I received a bone marrow transplant of my own bone marrow. This was from specific research that Shands was doing then; it took only one transplant.” William had literally been given a new lease on life. “Once I got out of the hospital, it took about two months for me to stabilize. After that, I considered myself back to normal,” he says. “Basically, I didn’t change anything from what I’d been doing before. The doctors and nurses were amazed at my recovery.” In 2009, the Rullan brothers founded Performance Equine Veterinary Services in Ocala—Alberto as the veterinarian, William as the technician.

HAPPY SURPRISE

Back when William was undergoing chemotherapy, doctors said it would sterilize him. Not being able to father children didn’t really cross his mind, until he met his future wife Carolyn in 2010 and they married in 2016. After a year of marriage, William thought he’d have a sperm count, just to confirm what the doctors had said earlier. To his surprise, his count was normal. In 2018, Carolyn got pregnant. It was the same year William was declared cancer-free, 10 years post-treatment. Sebastian Andres was born in 2019, and Ana Sophia came along in 2021, making the Rullans a happy family of four. Today, William is busier than ever. In 2017, he and Alberto launched Equine Performance Innovative Center (EPIC), an equine rehab facility. William is director of medical services for both clinics, where he typically works six to seven days a week, helping horses heal. When he’s not working, William loves spending time with his family, “mudding” in his Jeep, and riding his Harley. He and Alberto also share an ongoing competition to see who can cook the best ribeye. “It’s a brother thing!” he laughs. “Every single person has 24 hours; it just depends on how you divide them,” says William. “My brother and I like to divide that time to be more productive and also to give love to our families.”

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Trying to have a baby after pregnancy loss? Struggling to naturally conceive? Together with Reboot Self Care, we provide tailored programs to meet your needs before, during, and after pregnancy. This includes support for those struggling with recurrent miscarriage and infertility.

Contact us for support and resources ourheartsalign.org | ourheartsalign@gmail.com

@ourheartsalign


FROM THE EXPERTS

Generation Gaps ENABLING A MULTI-GENERATIONAL WORKFORCE TO COEXIST Story by DR. MANAL FAKHOURY

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Members of each generation or age cohort tend to have in common certain values and perceptions of work that arise from the shared experiences of their formative years. Each group brings its own expectations regarding authority and hierarchy, work ethic, work behaviors, and life issues, at times causing conflict or stress in multigenerational workplaces. Employers need to not only embrace the

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ABOUT DR. MANAL FAKHOURY For the past 35 years, Manal has been making a difference in Ocala with hard work, generosity, and outstanding leadership. Visit: myfli.com or vestechpartners.com

Employers now have five generations working side by side: • Traditionals/The Silent Generation (generally defined as those born 1925-1945). • Baby Boomers (generally defined as those born 1946-1964). • Generation X (generally defined as those born 1965-1980). • Millennials/Generation Y (generally defined as those born 1981-1994). • Generation Z (generally defined as those born 1995-2012).

traits of each generation, but also provide training and education to enable them to coexist productively. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says, “The labor force growth rates of those 55 and older are projected to outpace all other age groups over the 2020-2030 decade. Specifically, the 75-and-older age group is projected to have a growth rate of 96.5 percent, while the growth rate of the 55-to-74 age group is expected to grow by 7.7 percent.” What this means is leaders need to look at how they will manage an aging workforce at their company, as the generations have different expectations for feedback and different motivators for engagement and retention.

Photo by lacheev/DepositPhotos.com

A

ugust 21st was Senior Citizen Day! It seemed appropriate to send out a thank you to the world for all those who have come before us and created a path for our success. As we look at the generations that make up our nation, many of the men and women that laid the foundation for business as we know it are senior citizens (over 60 years old) today. Many people might think that means they are all retired, but is that really the case?

Photo submitted by Dr. Manal Fakhoury

FROM THE EXPERTS


FROM THE EXPERTS

Conversation Is Key SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE & THEN SOME Story by CYNTHIA MCFARL AND

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here’s no doubt Sherry Allen-Reeves is doing exactly what she was meant to do. After moving to Florida in 1994, Sherry—a native of Fajardo, Puerto Rico—started Trans-Caribe Communications, Inc., providing professional translation and interpretation services to businesses and organizations throughout Florida. When Sherry became a single mother in 2010, although dedicating more time to her daughter, she continued doing business as an independent contractor. In 2013 she launched 1-2-3 Spanish My Way, LLC to specifically offer Spanish and English translating and interpreting services.

HELPING HAND

More and more of Sherry’s work is with business owners who have discovered that relying on a bilingual family member or office personnel doesn’t guarantee translation will be done correctly. In legal and medical situations, accuracy is critical. This is when the services of a professional translator and interpreter are a necessity. “When a business contracts with 1-2-3 Spanish My Way, they work directly with me,” says Sherry. “I make sure the translation is accurate and that the dialect is the standard Spanish, not targeted to a specific country, unless that is the client’s request.”

“This is why it is important to have accurate interpretation of the context,” smiles Sherry. 1-2-3 Spanish My Way also provides conversational Spanish lessons to help Englishspeakers trying to reach the Latin American market. For the sake of convenience, many services are provided virtually.

LEARN MORE

123spanishmywayllc.com

PROTECTING BOTH PARTIES

“There are so many Hispanics entering this country with a work visa, hungry for work. Their sole objective is to feed their families and make better lives for themselves,” says Sherry, noting that these individuals are strong and willing to do hard outside labor. “Communication is the key to a good work environment and running a good business,” she adds. “If a company is going to hire Spanish-speaking employees who do not speak English, the services of a professional Spanish-English translator and interpreter are needed. She explains that this protects both the employer and prospective employee by ensuring that Spanish-speaking employees can understand written bylaws and company rules.

Photo submitted by Sherry Allen-Reeves

AVOIDING ERRORS

Wrong translation is commonly found on billboards and in advertisements and documents. “When making a legal document or trying to sell something, you have to know who it’s going to target and make sure it’s totally accurate for that market. There are at least 12 dialects in the Spanish language, so it is important to use the right words,” says Sherry, adding that machine translation is not the same as human translation. For example, an American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts to promote the Pope’s visit to that city. Unfortunately, the shirts proclaimed, “I saw the Potato!” not “I saw the Pope!”

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NOMA Gallery presents...

BALLARD

PEEK ON VIEW

SEPT 10OCT 08

SHANTI


Championing the Arts NON-ARTIST WORKS TO SUPPORT CREATIVE TALENT

B

orn in St. Augustine, Jaye Baillie has lived in Ocala since the age of 2, so the Florida native has been part of the town’s evolution through the decades. “I’ve been really lucky to have worked in the business and education sectors and now the creative,” says Jaye, who has been executive director for Marion Cultural Alliance (MCA), since April 2016. Prior to that, she was president of Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce for more than a decade and spent 10 years as executive director of the Public Education Foundation. “Growing up here, I’d look at other cities and see their arts and culture. It’s been wonderful to have the long view I have now to see how robust and diverse our cultural community is,” Jaye notes. Although a lifelong lover of art, she smiles when explaining that she isn’t personally gifted in that area. “I took art lessons in second grade and failed miserably. I think that’s why I like working with artists so much. I am not an artist and appreciate where that creative talent comes from,” says Jaye. The popular Horse Fever public art project was the inaugural project of MCA after it was established in 2001. A nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization, MCA’s goal has always been to support and create opportunities for artists and arts groups. Since its founding, MCA has donated over $2.5 million to the arts and other charitable organizations in Ocala/Marion County and established a Cultural Endowment fund of $900,000.

“We have increased our funding for the arts through our grant program,” says Jaye. “In addition to cultural grants, we have the 4 Friends Grants for artists.” Among these are the Megan Boone Performing Arts Grants. Best known for starring in the NBC drama The Blacklist, Boone was raised here and graduated from Belleview High School in 2001. Boone established these grants with MCA in honor of two arts educators who made a difference in her life. MCA is currently working with community arts leaders on Ocala’s first-ever Artoberfest, a city-wide collaboration of art and cultural activities, which will run throughout October. Included in the activities is MCA’s signature event Applaud the Arts, the community’s largest gathering of arts patrons, artists, and business leaders. Now in its 15th year, the event will take place Saturday, October 8 at the NOMA Black Box and The Reilly Arts Center. Even when she’s not championing the arts in Marion County, Jaye stays on the move. “I just completed the Camino de Santiago, a 225-mile hike across northern Spain, with a group of 15, led by Father Jonathan French from Grace Episcopal,” she says. “We walked an average of 12 miles a day for three weeks. I never knew there were so many mountains in Spain!” LEARN MORE For more information on MCA and the Applaud the Arts event, visit mcaocala.org.

JAYE BAILLIE WITH LISA MIDGETT (NOMA GALLERY) GIV ERTO RIAL SPO NSO RE D BY N O MA G AL L E RY


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Self-Taught A Focus on Customer Relationships & Out–of–the-Box Thinking Leads to Success Story by LISA ANDERSON

Photos by JOSHUA JACOBS

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D

ennis Gonzalez spent his youth moving between New Jersey and Puerto Rico. “My parents had a house in Puerto Rico and a house in Jersey. Every three to four years, they would move to one, and then every three to four years they would move back.” Dennis would help his father in his machine shop. When Dennis was old enough to work out of the home, he worked for a company in Puerto Rico in their production department. “I noticed that there was a machine shop and immediately asked my supervisor if they were hiring.” He quickly transferred to the department, and when the company relocated to Ocala in 2000, Dennis decided to make the move with them. He had been dating his wife for five years. They swiftly got married, so they could make the move together.

SHIFTING GEARS

Dennis was with the company for a total of seven years but, eventually, decided to head out on his own. His love of cars steered him towards a used car dealership. “Fast

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forward three and a half years, I had really grown. That’s when the market took a hit in 2007.” He shifted gears again and started looking into graphic design. “I was always kind of passionate for graphics, since I was very young. So, I started getting into business cards. I started by knocking on doors.” Slowly but surely, Dennis built his business called LocoGraphics, Inc. With the help of YouTube tutorials and real-life experience, he taught himself about design. “I love getting involved with

customers. Their success was my success. I learned quickly it wasn’t really so much about the money.” Dennis admits he needs the money, but that first year in business, his wife supported them, because he had only made about $350 for the year. However, he continued to help his customers by making them stand out. He would even offer advice for things he didn’t get paid to do, such as suggesting his customers paint the front of their unit, if they are in a plaza. “I would spend three or fours


Operation Hope by L.G.

“As the holidays approach, it can be easy to forget many of our local families who struggle to make ends meet. Operation Hope works with local sponsors to help provide Christmas support to families in need. Operation Hope gives “the entire Christmas experience” for local families in need during the holiday season. They provide gift cards for parents, Christmas trees, decorations, and gifts for the children. The only qualification to be a participant is that you have to have children; other than that, there are no questions asked.” LEARN MORE operationhopebylg.com hours on a business card, and I’d actually drive [over] with a printed proof to the client just to see [their] expression. I love the reaction.” LocoGraphics has grown over the years, and they now primarily design car wraps and signs in a 10,000-square foot building, but they still have many clients who reorder business cards on a regular basis.

SELF-TAUGHT

Dennis is primarily a self-taught artist and wrapper. “One day, I fired a guy that was my head wrapper. He was the only wrapper we had and would only do one wrap in two weeks.” Dennis had a car waiting to be wrapped, and as he began to look at the process and the materials, he quickly understood the method. He had already been working with vinyl through their sign designs. These days, Dennis often teaches his employees and other wrappers, because he has mastered difficult techniques through out-of-the-box thinking.

SUPPORTING THE COMMUNITY

He has the machines, so why not help the community? When a non-profit puts on a fundraising event, it can take a lot of money to create marketing materials. “They always need things, whether it’s yard signs, banners, directional signs, and even t-shirts. They will call us, and we always say, ‘You know what? It’s for a non-profit. We can donate this.’ “About seven years ago, my wife [and me] wanted

to give back. We created Operation Hope by L.G.” According to the website, “Operation Hope is a wholly owned subsidiary of LocoGraphics, Inc. It is a not-for-profit organization formed under section 501(c)3 to give back to the community and to those families that are less fortunate and do not have the means to provide their families with Christmas food and gifts.” Dennis’ positive attitude and generous nature are seen throughout his business and in all he does for the community. “I tell my customers, run your business, and treat your customers like they’re gold. Sometimes, they’re not easy. Sometimes, it is very complex, but nevertheless, we still [need to] keep moving mountains.”

LocoGraphics

“Our trained team is always eager to be involved with local businesses and establish a long-term relationship as we help them grow their company. For every customer that walks through our door, we ensure 100 percent satisfaction and strive to secure their trust in our Loco Team. FACT: Our commitment is our success, due to our customers and their word of mouth. We take great pleasure in assisting them and guiding them to perfection.” LEARN MORE locographics.com

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THE CHEWS LETTER

Kitchen Lessons YOUNG RESTAURATEUR LEARNS FROM HIS MISTAKES

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ANGEL CORTES Story by JODI ANDERSON

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Photos by JOSHUA JACOBS

Angel pictured with fianceé, Jontel Hammond

THE CHEWS LETTER


THE CHEWS LETTER

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wenty-five-year-old La Cocina owner Angel Cortes came to Ocala with his father to start a food business just seven years ago. They started with nothing, working odd jobs to collect money to rent their first trailer. “I really learned to grow through this business,” he says. “There were times I didn’t know how to communicate, how to articulate my vision well. I’ve made employees cry. It took a lot for me to listen to my mistakes.” Angel grew up in his dad’s various food ventures—a grocery store, a Spanish kitchen. He was the kid stocking shelves, cutting meat, and dicing fruit, instead of playing video games. The family moved around Florida until they settled in New Port Richey, when Angel was 8. He recalls being at the grocery store when the landlord came to collect the rent. “I wanted to be that guy. I want to come collecting. I always had that inspiration, like I don’t want to work for anyone.”

It’s important to me to show that there’s another way than being in the streets. — Angel Cortes

LOSING THE SILVER SPOON

The youngest of five kids (“I was a surprise!”), Angel remembers looking up to his oldest brother, who was successful on the street. His father was always working and wasn’t around much. Angel started getting into trouble, stealing, “selling things I shouldn’t sell.” He was just a kid with a “silver spoon,” with everything handed to him, except what he wanted most: attention. And then financial tragedy befell his family. When they arrived in Ocala, he and his father set up their first food truck in “Little Mexico.” It was not a good neighborhood, and Angel was presented with opportunities that could have taken him in a different direction. But he had a belief in the future. “I knew it wasn’t going to be like that forever,” he says of his dire financial situation. And he saw that the people who offered him those opportunities are not where he is today. “I’ve always seen my worth.” Angel and his dad had different philosophies, and they soon parted ways. “When I was with my dad, I felt like I was wearing a size shoe that wasn’t mine.” With his high school sweetheart—now fiancée—Jontel Hammond at his side, he continued to run the truck until a new opportunity to open a restaurant in a gas station presented itself. He continued to grow his business with the help of his dad, but he admits that they made some expensive mistakes in their expansion. They now work at separate locations.

THE PAST INSPIRES THE FUTURE

La Cocina is located in the Shell gas station off of Airport Road. Angel takes some inspiration from his Hispanic roots (his father immigrated from Mexico), such as burritos and tortas. His biggest seller is the birria taco: barbacoa (shredded beef), cheese, onion, and cilantro on a tortilla. But he has an extensive menu that includes fried chicken, ribs, Italian sausages, burgers, and Philly cheesesteaks. “I sell a lot of things,” he says, with a gleam in his eye, and then deadpans, “but actually, I’m pescatarian. I only eat fish.” He claims his favorite menu item is the birria taco with fried fish. His experiences with his dad were not all bad. “My dad really helped me with cooking, working with customers, being innovative when things break.” But he learned the nuts and bolts of running a business from books. And he got an accountant.

“That’s something that’s helped me a lot.” He also learned to plan for the future. Angel’s favorite book is Napoleon Hill’s Outwitting the Devil, crediting it with helping him to manage his stress. He also admires Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad Poor Dad. And he continues to learn. “I’ve still got a lot of developing to get to where I want to go.” Angel foresees starting a chain of restaurants. “At this point, [I’m] looking for people that see the vision like I see it. I see a lot of potential in what I’ve got going on.” He doesn’t want just employees; he wants a team. “I want people who see the vision and want to add on to it. We can take it to a bigger level, having the right minds together.” This ambitious young man looks to the past as well as the future in building the brand of La Cocina. “I wanted to incorporate who I was and who I’ve become.” In doing so, Angel has already had people in his neighborhood come to him and thank him for inspiring them to start their own small business, like car washing and lawn mowing. He’s humble about his impact, but it’s obvious it means a lot to him. “It’s important to me to show that there’s another way than being in the streets.”

LEARN MORE Instagram: @lacocina_ocala

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ARTIST CORNER

Couch Sessions

2022 SERIES • SEPTEMBER ARTIST Q&A

SEPTEMBER 2

Jeff Jarrett • Melissa Ann Taricic www.couchsessionsocala.com

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ARTIST CORNER

JEFF JARRETT, JEFF & THE JARRETTS What are you besides an artist? How do you define your role in life? I’m a father to two beautiful daughters: Cloey (12) and Josie (3).

What types of art and culture do you like to consume? I love going to concerts and music festivals! Anything involving music. Is there a connection between your message and the way you make your art? I just try to leave everything out there on the stage. Music is a way for me to escape. A certain song will take me back to where I first heard it or when I listened to it the most.

How can we support you? The biggest way to support me is coming to shows. I have merch for sale, as well. You can follow me on all social media. Visit linktr.ee/jeffandthejarretts for all of my links.

Photos by Phil Stokes

What type of an artist are you? I perform mostly as a solo acoustic act—playing anything from bars and restaurants to weddings, corporate events, private parties, and festivals.

How do you define success as an artist or person? What do you hope to accomplish? As an artist, I feel success depends on what you want out of it. I always wanted to be a full-time musician and play music as my only source of income. So, I feel I have succeeded in that. As a person, I just want to be a good dad and be there for anything my kids need.

Melissa was featured in the October 2021 issue of Locala magazine. Visit localamag.com/blogs/post/locala-magazine-october-2021 to learn more or scan the QR Code to be taken directly to her story.

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Melissa with clay, Photo by Dave Miller

MELISSA ANN TARICIC


ARTIST CORNER

Laurie Kopec FINE ARTIST

What type of an artist are you? Oil painter/Plein air painter (painting on location, outdoors), using palette knife and brushes in impressionist style. I paint the local scenery, the springs, and downtown.

Photo by Jenny Eggers

What types of art and culture do you like to consume? Plein air magazine, other art magazines, local magazines, online streaming services, art videos, online classes. I am involved with Brick City Gallery and local art organizations. Is there a connection between your message and the way you make your art? Yes, I am part of a group of artists across the world trying to spread the word about plein air painting, how it enriches your life, soul, and spirit and gets you out in nature to observe it directly. What are you besides an artist? How do you define your role in life? I am a Guardian Ad Litem, and my role is speaking for children that don't have a voice in court. I was also a

Landscape Architect for many years. I believe it is my role to bring as much joy to others as I can and to serve those that need help where I'm able. A portion of my art sales also goes to help foster families. How do you define success as an artist or person? What do you hope to accomplish? I define success by sharing beauty with people, whether by having one of my pieces in their home to bring enjoyment or learning how plein air painting and creativity can enrich their lives. I believe we are put on this earth to serve a

purpose and I like to give back by teaching art and serving others. How can we support you? Website: lauriekopec.com Instagram: @lauriekopecart

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AUTHORS CONNIE ROSE DANA OLMSTEAD ESMIRNA CARABALLO FANNIE OCASIO JACQUELIN KORPELA JEANNE HENNINGSEN JODI ANDERSON KATERINA MACKENZIE KHADÍJIH MITCHELL-POLKA LAURA FLORES LAUREN DEBICK MANAL FAKHOURY SHEREESE FLOYD SYDNEY RAFFERTY WENDY MESTAS

NOW AVAILABLE

ON AMAZON