Honoring Mom

By Robin Fannon of RSVP Robin

Celebrating motherhood has been done for centuries in over 40 countries worldwide. The roots of the modern day holiday, we celebrate each year, can be traced to the early 20th century and the social activist Anna Jarvis, who conceived the day as a way to honor her own mother and commemorate her death. She envisioned the holiday as an opportunity for children to not only acknowledge a mother’s influence and role within the family, but also offer their thanks. In her quest to have the holiday observed by every state in the union, she began writing to governors to ask them to officially observe the day. It wasn’t long before the idea caught on and the rest, as they say, is history. However, as the celebration became more commercialized and marketed into a gift-giving holiday, by manufacturers and retailers, Jarvis herself became disenchanted with the day she had once championed.

Today, Mother’s Day remains a beloved tradition and a charming way to express our love, appreciation and gratitude for the role these amazing women play in our lives.

For many, it is celebrated by taking mom out to a special local restaurant for brunch or venturing further afield, to one of our neighboring cities, for an elaborate “destination” Mother’s Day outing. For others, the idea of pampering mom at home is what’s on the menu. Whatever way you choose to celebrate, we’ve got some amazing options to show your mom just how much  you care.

On a personal note, this is my first Mother’s Day without my own beloved mom Millie, so it gives me great comfort to vicariously enjoy the day through all of you. It doesn’t matter how you chose to honor your mom; hand picked or store bought flowers, a hand written note, a hug—any expression of your love, appreciation, and gratitude is all any mom needs to feel special.

Celebrating Locally

Three of our finest downtown establishments are hosting Mother’s Day brunches; La Cuisine, The Ivy House and Katya Vineyards.

La Cuisine French Restaurant

48 SW 1st Avenue

(352) 433-2570 |  lacuisine.com

Owners Elodie and Patrice Peron have created the perfect atmosphere for a charming celebratory meal with Mom. The walls are the most beautiful shade of pink. The food is quintessential French with a modern twist. They have also recently added a new outdoor dining patio, which is perfect for the glorious spring weather. Need I say more?  Additional specials will be added for the Mother’s Day Brunch, which runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations are highly recommended.

Ivy on the Square

53 South Magnolia Avenue

(352) 622-5550 | ivyhousefl.com

Treat mom to some good old-fashioned southern charm y’all!   “Come on home, it’s suppertime.” is their motto and the friendly hospitality is contagious. This family-owned and operated set of restaurants (the original Ivy House is located in Williston) is set apart by the perfect combination of warmth and good southern fare. The newly renovated Ocala location has quickly become an institution amidst the thriving downtown scene. They will be hosting a special Mother’s Day lunch. Reservations are a must.

Katya Vineyards

101 E Silver Springs Blvd

(352) 528-2675 | katyavineyards.com

Another downtown, family-owned and operated endeavor, Katya Vineyards has developed an outstanding reputation for great food, a delicious selection of boutique wines and excellent service. Chef Tony Deras is wowing the community with his sumptuous weekly creations and gorgeous presentations. It is said that one eats with their eyes as well as their palate. If that is true, then you will dine very well indeed. Katya is hosting a Mother’s Day Brunch from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., featuring bottomless mimosas and sparkling rosé. Seating is by reservation only.

Destination Dining

For our out-of-town recommendations, we chose two of the prettiest and best-loved locations in our region; Preserved Restaurant in St. Augustine and Oxford Exchange in Tampa.   

Oxford Exchange

420 West Kennedy Blvd, Tampa

(813) 253-0222 | oxfordexchange.com

If you are looking to give Mom a truly unique experience, then look no further then this multifaceted venue. Located in what was once a stable, it has been painstakingly renovated to house a restaurant, bookstore, gift shop, tea/coffee house, and art gallery. The architecture and interior design will both awe and inspire you and your mom! They will be offering a Sunday brunch from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with several Mother’s Day specials. Reservations are required for parties of 6 or more.

Preserved Restaurant

102 Bridge Street, St. Augustine

(904) 679-4940 | preservedrestaurant.com

Located in the historic area of Lincolnville, in the beautifully preserved Jefferson House, this venture is spearheaded by James Beard-nominated Chef Brian Whittington. Whittington is committed to serving only the freshest ingredients, that are locally-sourced whenever possible.  He feels strongly about supporting farmers who have a responsibility to the preservation of our land and environment. Whittington is also no stranger to our city. He has twice successfully participated in the Ocala Culinary Festival, so make sure to say hello. You will be delighted that you made the drive. Brunch will be served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and reservations are highly recommended.

Celebrating Mom at Home

Whether your mom would prefer to celebrate at her home (which was the case with my mom) or you want to host the event at your home, here are some light and fresh spring recipes that may inspire you. And if you think that staying home will be boring, think again. You can create a beautiful tablescape with flowers and lots of special touches. If weather permits, a beautiful outdoor garden-inspired table setting, will make her feel like the Queen that she is!

Fresh English Pea Soup

Ingredients (Serves 6)

6 cups Fresh English Peas  (or frozen peas)

1 large Shallot (or small onion)

1 Tbls Olive Oil

1 Tbls Unsalted Butter

4 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth

½ Cup Heavy Cream or (half and half)

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Crème Fraiche and Chipped Chives for Garnish

Directions

1) In a heavy bottomed pot warm the olive oil and butter.  Add the onion or shallot and cook until translucent. Season with salt and pepper.

2) Add the peas and chicken broth. Simmer on medium heat until the peas are tender.

3) Carefully puree in batches in the blender.

4) Return puree to the pot and slowly add the cream or half and half.

5) Serve with a dollop or crème fraiche or sour cream and top with chives.

Crepe Salad with Poached Egg

While making your own crepes would be ideal,  and while they are relatively simple to prepare from scratch, a store bought version will work just fine.  Basically this recipe is using the crepe as a “vessel’’ for the salad.  You can also skip the crepe entirely and just serve the salad on a plate or shallow bowl. The extra step of toasting the nuts brings out all their natural oils and flavor.  The beauty of this salad is its versatility; you can use whatever nuts, citrus fruit or cheese that your family prefers. A simple vinaigrette dressing is recommended.

Ingredients (Serves 6)

One package of pre-made Crepes (or 6 homemade)

2 packages of Organic Mixed Baby Greens

Two bunches of Baby Beets

Two Navel Oranges

One Cup of Toasted Pecans

One Cup Gorgonzola Cheese (Feta or Goat Cheese will work too)

One dozen Eggs – Poached (or fried will work too)

Directions

1) Wash and place the beets in foil or parchment paper, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven, let cool and peel (carefully, they will stain – gloves are recommended).

2) Peel and “supreme” or segment out the oranges

3) In a nonstick frying pan, toast the pecans on low heat (be careful not to burn them).

4) Lay the crepe down in a large, shallow salad or pasta bowl and assemble the salad;
Mixed baby greens on the bottom, scatter the beets, orange segments, pecans and cheese on top.  Drizzle with Vinaigrette and top with two poached eggs.

5) Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with edible flowers if available.

Flower Power

By Nick Steele

 

 

Everyone’s favorite free-spirit has an inspired new home décor and furniture collection that you can’t afford to miss out on.

Drew Barrymore first entered our hearts in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and has been charming us with her comedic talents and carefree style ever since. With over 50 films to her credit, she established herself as queen of the rom-com starring in such fan favorites as Boys on the Side, Never Been Kissed, The Wedding Singer, Ever After, 50 First Dates. She also proved she could tackle more textured roles, such as “Little Edie”  Bouvier Beale in the HBO film Grey Gardens, for which she took home a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress In A Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television.

Beyond her accomplishments as an actress, she has distinguished herself as a producer, best-selling author and successful entrepreneur. She’s launched several well-received brands, which include her production company Flower Films, her wildly popular Flower Beauty cruelty-free cosmetics line and Flower Eyewear. Most recently, she has parlayed her vibrant sense of style and interior design aesthetic into a 220-item furniture and home décor line called Flower Home, which is exclusively available on Walmart’s family of sites, including Walmart.com, Jet.com and Hayneedle.com.

Barrymore worked closely with the retailer’s design team to create a collection that reflects her own eclectic style and her extensive travels. What she also wanted to deliver was affordable luxury. “I don’t feel that design has to be expensive,” said Barrymore “Everyone deserves a little luxury. That’s always been my goal, to offer the best quality for an affordable price.”

And Barrymore has created a truly inspired first installment of what will be an ongoing series of seasonal home offerings. Her debut collection features a charming mix of styles, textures, and materials. Barrymore has managed to channel her own sunny boho-chic vibe into each piece. The overarching theme is that of a well-curated home with such influences as luxe bohemian, mid-century modern and earthy California cool. Many of the items have the personality of vintage flea market finds. The collection is also packed with vibrant color, stylish prints, and appealing patterns.

“Creating spaces is what I love to do most!” said Barrymore. “Places where unexpected prints and patterns, shapes and styles, and colors and textures, come together—is where my heart is.”

 

 

 

 

 

The line includes earthenware pottery, vases, blankets and throw pillows, lamps and lighting fixtures, printed dinnerware, bed linens, hand-woven macramé baskets, pet beds, framed artwork and furnishings including sofas, loveseats, accent chairs, chaise lounges, tables, upholstered headboards and bed frames. Prices range from $18 to $899.

Barrymore is most proud of the fun prints she developed for this line, which took the most effort to develop and the longest to perfect. “Every single one is completely our own and original,” she explained.

If you follow her personal Instagram account, you will be able to glimpse Barrymore’s own home and how the Flower Home collection reflects her interior design style.

“I have always had a love for creating joyful spaces.” said Barrymore, who describes her home style as ”very poppy, colorful, and fun.” She describes herself as being in the “joy business” and wants the collection to make others feel enveloped and happy.

There are plans to add outdoor home items this fall. Barrymore is also planning to expand the Flower Home collection to include items specifically for children and would eventually like to launch a Flower fashion line. She’s also developing a YouTube channel of her own, which will feature fun lifestyle content centered on her interests.

For more information on Flower Home, visit walmart.com. To learn more about the Flower brands, visit FlowerbyDrew.com or follow @FlowerbyDrewBarrymore on Instagram.

Our Better Selves

Edited by Nick Steele | Photography by Jeff Roach

When we set out to salute Marion County’s top volunteers, we knew we’d never be able acknowledge all of the organizations and individuals doing such important work in our community. A truly comprehensive guide like that would surely fill a book. Our goal was, and continues to be, to highlight some of the amazing work being done and the everyday people who give so generously of themselves. We also wanted to offer you, some insight into each organization and ways that you can help. To all the organizations and volunteers that are not included on this list, please know we see you, we salute you and we offer our sincere thanks. It’s often said that the secret to happiness is found in doing for others. But as we learned in putting this feature together, the powerful motivations behind volunteerism rarely begin with the notion of personal gain. Many of the volunteers we contacted for this story, in fact, told us some version of, “I don’t do it for the recognition.” So we asked each volunteer to share something personal about why they give of themselves for the benefit of others. We are honored to be able to share their responses with you and grateful for their contributions to our community.

Rhoda Walkup, Lydia Kuttas, Karen Cyr, and Dawn Mitchell.

 

 

 

 

 

MIKE BAKER, ADVENTHEALTH OCALA “HEALTHY HOME” PROJECT, adventhealth.com

“I have always believed that giving back to your community is good for your soul and overall well-being. Volunteering at AdventHealth Ocala has given me the opportunity to help others, in their greatest time of need, in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I can’t think of anything more satisfying or uplifting than providing an understanding compassionate heart, along with spiritual support for patients, families, and staff. Witnessing the positive impact that volunteering has made on so many lives continues to give me hope, that together, we can make an everlasting difference in the lives of those who are in the greatest need of our support. I feel truly blessed to be a part of the ‘Healthy Home’ program at AdventHealth Ocala.”  

Impact of volunteers: “Healthy Home” is a free service to patients over 65, who discharge to their home and need a little TLC to heal at home after a hospital stay. The Auxiliary partners with Habitat for Humanity to provide safe home modifications to prevent slips and falls in the home and CF nursing program to provide BSN students as program volunteers. Mike coordinates 28 “Healthy Home” volunteers and College of Central Florida’s RN’s providing over 1,132 home visits in the past 3 years. The volunteers deliver fresh food and frozen meals, provide safe home checks, install smoke alarms, arrange medical transportation, along with a host of other non-clinical comfort care services. All services are free of charge and funded by the hospital Auxiliary, a not for profit charitable organization.

Number of active volunteers: We are proud to partner with 556 Active Volunteers. The figure expands in the spring, when we host over 125 teen volunteers to our summer volunteer program.

Volunteer opportunities: Call AdventHealth Volunteer & Senior Services at 352-671-2153 to learn about volunteer opportunities.

Patricia Gutman and Cathie Colella

 

PATRICIA GUTMAN, APPLETON MUSEUM, appletonmuseum.org/give/volunteer

“The reason I volunteer at the Museum is because I enjoy meeting people. I like helping the Appleton, love the artwork, and the people I work with.”

Number of active volunteers: 53 – most of our volunteers are Docents (about 30). A majority of them are weekly volunteers, who work in the museum’s Education, Curatorial, Membership, and Trips ‘n’ Tours Departments.

Volunteer opportunities: We are always looking for dedicated volunteers who love art and will help us meet our mission to inspire and engage present and future generations. We are seeking volunteers primarily for our Education program. The opportunities include teaching assistants (18 years and older) to help during the summer art camps or participate in our Docent training program. Docents learn about the museum’s collection during the training and then are able to lead group tours. For questions, contact Griselle Gonzalez-Vazquez at gonzaleg@cf.edu.

 

BRENDA CROSKEY VEREEN, THE BLACK HISTORY MUSEUM & ARCHIVES OF MARION COUNTY

“I chose to volunteer for The Black History Museum & Archives of Marion County after retiring from the Marion County Schools. Originally, the archive only displayed photographs. Restructuring for a museum, in order to display artifacts, collections, provide tours, and to share African American history with others, was the most rewarding experience.”

Impact of volunteers: The museum is a vital and rich part of the history of Ocala and we must keep it alive. Our volunteers not only help keep it alive, they help bring us together as a community, enrich our society and keep the organization afloat.

Number of active volunteers: Currently, we have six volunteers.

Volunteer opportunities: We are seeking volunteers for the museum. Being able to get passionate volunteers to help keep the museum afloat is huge help. For more information, email Laresa.Scott@marion.k12.fl.us

 

Jokisha King

JOKISHA KING, BLACK NURSES ROCK, OCALA CHAPTER (BNR), bnrocalafl.com

“BNR is full of like-minded professionals that want to inspire the change that we want to see. I’m fully committed to our mission which is to assist driven, determined, and dedicated nurses in Ocala to grow professionally—while addressing healthcare disparities within the Ocala/Marion County area. We are committed to making a difference, because our chapter members are empowered, engaged, and ready to embrace the needs of the community. My passion has always been to serve my community, in any capacity. While my volunteering may be seen as an ‘act of giving,’ it would be ‘robbery’ not to mention the wonderful benefits that are offered to the members, as well as future nurses. I’m currently a nursing student, I was awarded one of the many scholarships that BNR Ocala offer. BNR is also a great networking tool, ensuring every member is well connected with different colleges for continuing education, agencies for employment opportunities and/or program development.”

 

Impact of volunteers: Our volunteers are vital to our organization, because without them we couldn’t educate our community to live healthier. Our diverse group of healthcare providers go above and beyond, by coming out from the behind their employment facility walls to share their knowledge and expertise, as well as raising awareness.

 

Number of active volunteers: We have 44 volunteer-members, made up of advance practice nurses, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, CNA’s, student nurses and ambassadors.

Volunteer opportunities: Our mission is to assist dedicated driven and determined nurses to grow professionally while addressing healthcare disparities in the Ocala/ Marion county area. We seek volunteers that have a passion to educate vulnerable communities about diseases that plague them. If you are knowledgeable and passionate about creating a healthier community than contact us and join us as we help to make the city healthier. We are seeking nurses and nursing students to apply for membership. There are no restrictions on race or ethnicity; we only ask that members respect and align with the mission of BNR.

 

KAREN CYR, BROTHER’S KEEPER, btbrotherskeeper.org

“I volunteer because it makes my heart smile and to keep the good in the world outweighing the bad.”

Impact of volunteers: Brother’s Keeper has only three paid staff members. We rely on many dedicated volunteers.

Number of active volunteers: Each week more than 100 volunteers show their love for the poor by serving in our Soup Kitchen, Office, Retail Store, and Emergency Assistance Program.

Volunteer opportunities: We love our volunteers and are always looking for dedicated men and women with a heart for service. Those interested in volunteering in the Thrift Store or Emergency Assistance Program, should contact Karen at (352) 622-3846.

 

DAVID KINGSLEY, FINE ARTS FOR OCALA (FAFO), fafo.org

“The reason I volunteered with FAFO originally was for college. I am an art major going for game design, so I thought it would be a good experience for me and my career. I love the social interaction and giving smiles to people, which is rewarding to me. Little things, like helping the artists set up and assisting around the event is satisfying…like I’m creating a positive difference.”

Impact of volunteers: Volunteers help with all aspects of set up, staffing and breakdown for events.

Number of active volunteers: 22 active volunteers from the community.

Volunteer opportunities: Adult and student volunteers are needed beginning early April, for the Symphony Under the Stars/Mother’s Day event and in early August/September for the Art Festival in October.

 

CATHIE COLELLA, GUARDIAN ANGELS MEDICAL SERVICE DOGS, INC., medicalservicedogs.org

“I first heard of the puppies from my local woman’s club. Carol and Chris visited with one of their recipients and his dog. Carol explained what her mission was for the dogs and recipients. She also told us of the different things at the farm that we could help out with. She explained about ‘puppy hugging’ and I was hooked. I was just getting myself back on track, after having lung cancer. They had started a puppy hugging class on Saturdays. We were taught how to train and love on the puppies. To see the dogs go to their recipient is so sweet and tugs at your heart strings, but to see what they do for their recipient is so wonderful. It just makes you so happy to be a small part of their world. If you are looking for me on Tuesday or Saturday morning, I will be at the Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs—loving on some puppies”

Impact of volunteers: Whether you love calling for donations, hugging puppies, hosting fundraisers, or are an expert event planner, the contributions of our volunteers is invaluable. One of the most important roles at Guardian Angels is that of our Foster Training Families. These amazing families allow Guardian Angels to train more dogs for those in need, by enlisting volunteers to foster and train these amazing dogs, and helping prepare them for their recipients. If you want to be apart of a life-saving program, and have the time to work with, train and attend weekly classes with a foster service dog in-training, this program is for you.

Number of active volunteers: We have close to 550 volunteers in a given year.

Volunteer opportunities: We have lots of volunteer opportunities available. Puppy Hugger Saturdays (helping to socialize our future service dogs), Foster Family training opportunities, and more.

 

Sadie Fitzpatrick, David Kingsley, and Jill Adams

JILL ADAMS, HABITAT FOR HUMANITY OF MARION COUNTY, INC., habitatocala.org

“Why did I choose to volunteer at Habitat For Humanity? I knew they did good work. I had a friend that was already in a Habitat Home. I was in the office as an “office angel” and was responsible for hours-volunteered data entry. It really gave me the office experience I needed. I loved it and was treated like one of the staff. I also helped out with events that were done to raise money for the organization. I did house

blessings and wall-raisings. It has been seven years now. I have a disability and they always accommodate me when I volunteer. I feel like part of the family. What have I found most rewarding about being a volunteer? I love going to the wall-raisings, which is done at the start of the building.”

Impact of volunteers: Without volunteers there would be no Habitat. Volunteers are our lifeblood!

Number of active volunteers: We average about 3,000 volunteers annually.

Volunteer opportunities: We have much more construction going on in the 2019 and will need more volunteers going forward Including construction, volunteers in our ReStore locations and event volunteers (for events like our annual Strawberry Festival). Volunteers can visit our website at Habitatocala.org, email BFish@habitatocala.org or call (352) 351-4663.

 

MOLLY & HUGH LAPENOTIERE, HORSE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION OF FLORIDA, hpaf.org

“Molly and her husband Hugh have gone above and beyond volunteering to help the horses. They come to the farm to clean stalls and scrub buckets, even on holiday mornings. Horse Protection wishes we had fifty more like Molly and Hugh to help the horses. Unfortunately, Molly and Hugh are both one of a kind!” —Morgan Silver, Executive Director

Impact of volunteers: Volunteers are an essential part of the daily operations at Horse Protection. Volunteers are vital to the organization

Number of active volunteers: Horse Protection has 35 volunteers who help care for the horses and raise money to make sure the horses have the best of care and the highest quality feed and hay.

Volunteer opportunities: Volunteers are always needed. Volunteers help with grooming the horses, with daily chores and cleaning, with repairs and maintenance of the farm, with fundraising and as board members.   

 

Brenda Croskey Vereen and Bob Levenson

BOB LEVENSON, HOSPICE OF MARION COUNTY (HMC), hospiceofmarion.com

“I am proud to be a volunteer for Hospice of Marion County, where I started volunteering three weeks after my wife Jeanine, passed away December 13, 2014, following a 13 month battle with pancreatic cancer, which was not diagnosed until April 2014 (self referral) at UF Health. I saw and lived with HMC’s medical team, Dr. Lossada, Lisa Smith, RN Ann Friar-Jones, LCSW, Accent Medical Staff, HMC Pharmacy, the LPN’s, the CNA’s—all provided the most loving, caring, compassionate end-of-life care for five weeks at our home and the final 8 hours at Sylvia’s Hospice House under Michelle Lee, CNA. The most rewarding aspect of being a HMC Volunteer is assisting our friends, neighbors and veterans, in their time of medical crisis, to connect them with our incredible admissions team and to help them get the answers they need to care

for their, spouse, neighbor, friend or co-worker. My final reward came on March 31, 2017, Rebecca Rogers, Philanthropy Director, set up a lunch for us to interview Grace Dunlevy, an HMC Volunteer, to join our Philanthropy Board. We were engaged on July 7, 2017 and married on October 1, 2017. Grace and I are always together for all our HMC volunteer programs, and others, in our wonderful Marion County community.”

Impact of volunteers: Volunteers are extremely important to us here at Hospice of Marion County.  We couldn’t do everything we do without them in executing our mission to deliver exceptional, compassionate end-of-life care to our community. Our volunteers have and continue to make a huge impact not only in the services they provide, but in the positive financial impact they have on our bottom line as well as helping us with fundraising.

Number of active volunteers: We have over 700 volunteers assisting us execute our mission. Our volunteers serve in many different areas including patient support, our Transitions program that provides respite for clients and caregivers, hospice pet programs, community outreach, fundraising events and health fairs, ambassadors’ program, Camp Mariposa events for children, administrative/office support, greeters at our hospice houses, assisting at our thrift stores, and with our veteran-to-veteran support programs and veteran recognition ceremonies.  In 2018, our volunteers provided more than 85,000 hours across all these areas of support.

Volunteer opportunities: We currently have an urgent need for volunteers to assist us with our Transitions program in providing respite for clients and caregivers, helping us out in our hospice thrift stores, as well as administrative/office support, across various departments.

 

RHODA WALKUP, HEARTFELT, UNCONDITIONAL, GIVING (HUGS), hugscharities.org

“As the Director of Community Relations for RBOI, I quickly became aware that cancer affects our community in many more ways than simply being a health concern. A cancer diagnosis affects every area of a patient’s life, as well as their loved ones. Ideally, seeking treatment and getting well should be of top priority. Unfortunately, many patients are unable to do so due to the strains that treatment places on them financially, on their employment, their loved ones, etc. This not only affects their wellness, but our community’s wellness as well. I was immediately drawn to volunteer with HUGS when I saw how simple acts of generosity could change a patient’s and their loved ones lives forever—even playing a role in keeping them alive. When a patient is able to put gas in the car, miss work, get to treatment, have a home, pay bills, and still buy groceries, that can make all the difference. I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was just 2 years old, and I am told that both the healthcare and Ocala community at large went above and beyond to ensure that she was comfortable and with her family the last weeks of her life—even though it meant many were sacrificing time away from their families over Christmas. That is what makes Marion County so uniquely special and why I consider it a very personal, and a very great privilege, to work in this wonderful community helping families who are facing cancer. What a gift to all of Marion County to know that no one has to fight cancer alone—there is HUGS for all.”

Impact of volunteers: HUGS encourages Heartfelt Unconditional Giving to benefit cancer patients and the fight against cancer through the creation of the Cancer Alliance of Marion County and H.U.G.S. for Heroes initiative. Without our volunteers and the support of the donors/community, HUGS could not be effective in reaching its goal to support cancer patients in Marion County.

Number of active volunteers: 37 volunteers, which includes 15 volunteers of Cancer Alliance of Marion County. We are a fully volunteer run nonprofit organization .

Volunteer opportunities: We are always looking for volunteers to apply their talents, especially when coming up with new ideas on how to share our vision. Currently, we need help with our allocations committee, marketing, and grant writing. We always want help spreading our mission.

 

CRYSTAL HAWKINS, INTERFAITH EMERGENCY SERVICES (IES), iesmarion.org

“We all are such a good team. I get to meet new people from all walks of life and different cultures. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis seven years ago and coming to volunteer at IES makes me feel better—to interact with the clients and help them with shopping or just spend silent moments in prayer. When I am here, I feel my presence in the community as an individual and also in the greater picture. I also love to shop! But more importantly, volunteering at the store is like being with family. We spend so much quality time together in fellowship, from the customers to the staff that—it feels like home.”

Impact of volunteers: Our volunteers are the best. They pour out their hearts, time and talent and we are beyond grateful. We have volunteers that do maintenance work, office work, sorting donations and food, teach parenting classes, yoga classes, GED classes, bible study, and cook dinner for the residents every night off the week. They help put on neighborhood breakfasts and greet our clients. Without our volunteers our ministry would not work.

Number of active volunteers: Currently we have over 230 volunteers and only have 27 paid staff.

Volunteer opportunities: We are always seeking new volunteers. There are so many different ways and opportunities to get involved. Call Tina, our volunteer coordinator, to find out how you can get involved (352) 629-8868 ext 210

 

MARY NISBET, KIDS CENTRAL, INC, kidscentralinc.org

“I chose to volunteer with Kids Central because I am passionate about children, families, and helping those who are less fortunate. The most rewarding part of my job is to see families, who are in crisis, be able to get what they need. The families are often lost and need someone to listen to them. I try to offer a helping hand and just listen to them. I believe that others lives can be changed by me giving my time, my talent, my treasure to them and just caring for them.”

Impact of volunteers: Volunteers play a vital role in supporting the mission of Kids Central: protecting children, supporting families, and engaging communities.  Volunteers are viewed as extremely valuable members of the Kids Central team, as they assist with services that ultimately have a positive impact upon the communities and families that we serve.  

Number of active volunteers: 31

Volunteer opportunities: Kids Central serves five counties (Marion, Lake, Sumter, Citrus and Hernando). Our corporate office is located in Wildwood, Florida.  Our current volunteer opportunities include: neighborhood projects at our Family Resource Center’s located in Ocala, Wildwood and Leesburg. Volunteers can assist with clerical work (answering phones, faxing/coping), adult mentoring, event assistance, sorting incoming donations, and working in our clothing closets. Volunteers are also needed for our Dreams Education Program. Opportunities in the Education Program include attending ESI staffings, case research, and case file organization. Volunteer opportunities are available in community affairs and may include updating the website, writing for the blog or newsletter, creating flier/print materials, assisting with event planning, donor research, and fundraising. Volunteer opportunities in Kinship Care include filing assistance applications, assisting the support group facilitator, and childcare. Volunteer opportunities in IT include fingerprinting people, replacing printer toners, restocking paper products, computer and email troubleshooting, software demonstrations, and work station setup. For our Baby Sleep Basics, volunteer needs include teaching caregivers the basics of infant safe sleeping, SIDS, and SUIDS (training will be provided to the volunteer). For more information on volunteer opportunities please contact volunteer@kidscentralinc.org

 

DAWN MITCHELL, KIMBERLY’S CENTER FOR CHILD PROTECTION, kimberlyscenter.org

“I chose to volunteer at Kimberly’s Center because I love kids and it hurts my heart to hear of children that are being abused or neglected. I have been blessed in the last several years to leave the workforce and stay home to help with our grandchildren. I had some time and I felt the need to volunteer somewhere. Dawn and Niki from Kimberly’s Center spoke of their mission, at our church. I felt God was leading me there. I just wanted to help kids in anyway I could. I find it very rewarding to know that my volunteering is helping the staff do what they need to do to help the smallest victims of crime in our community. What the staff does is nothing short of amazing! They are so nice, caring and committed to helping these children. I admire the staff for working so hard to improve the lives of these children and their families. And I feel so blessed to be a part of it.”

Impact of volunteers: The work our volunteers do is vital to our mission because it enables us to respond, protect and restore abused children, so they can get the help, hope and healing they deserve.

Number of active volunteers: We currently have 10 active volunteers that assist us in a wide range of services including building maintenance, administrative duties, fundraising efforts and  prevention and awareness. Most recently we added the opportunity to assist in caring for the children being served in our Trauma Intervention Advocacy program.

Volunteer opportunities: We have several volunteer opportunities available which include: spending time with children who are waiting for foster care placement, volunteering in our fund development department and assisting with various administrative and operation needs at the center. We can always use volunteers and our currently taking applications. We encourage anyone who is interested to come in for a tour to learn more about our charity’s needs. These are hosted on the first Friday of each month at 11 a.m. The tour is transformative and provides a clear understanding of how we serve the most vulnerable children in Marion County.

 

SHELLEY SIZEMORE, KIWANIS CLUB OF OCALA, ocalakiwanis.org

“Our motto is, Improving the world, one child and one community at a time. My chosen career, as an elementary educator, made Kiwanis a perfect fit! Through Kiwanis, I can help build a stronger world for tomorrow, by building stronger kids today. We focus on health, safety, education and citizenship. I have loved serving through Kiwanis for 31 years.”

Impact of volunteers: Our members are active in many areas. Camp Kiwanis has been our signature project since 1948. Volunteers support the camp by attending one or more clean up/fix up days a year and by fundraising to support the camp. Our fundraisers include: our annual pancake breakfast, where almost every member helps out by selling tickets, securing sponsors and working at the event. We also have many other fundraising events that we need member support to put on. Volunteers also coordinate our programs in several public schools, including Reading is Fundamental, Terrific Kids citizenship program, and Bring up Grades. We sponsor Key Clubs in 4 schools. Our Club Satellite assembles hygiene kits which are used by homeless children in the public schools. We have three primary community Service projects: we man one Salvation Army Bell Ringing post at during the holidays, we assist Habitat for Humanity with their annual Strawberry Festival and we collect gently used books for our Reach Out and Read. We give these and an annual gift of $1000 for books to Heart of Florida, to encourage reading to infants.

Number of active volunteers: Approximately100 (all members).

Volunteer opportunities: We would love to have more member volunteers to assist in these and other areas, as we try to improve the lives of children and thereby improve the future of Marion County. We do not normally solicit non-member volunteers. Persons who who would like to volunteer with us may apply to join our noon time club, which meets every Friday at Noon, by calling Phillip Olstein 352-351-3770. Those with less time available, may apply for membership in our Club Satellite, which meets once a month on the second Monday at 6 p.m. For information, call Shelley Sizemore at (352) 875-4880.

 

MICHELLE MALSCH, MARCH OF DIMES, CENTRAL FLORIDA TERRITORY, MARION COUNTY

“Imagine the joy of finding out I would be a grandmother for the first time. Then finding out my daughter was having twins sent me to the moon! My daughter, who has Graves disease, went into premature labor at 24 weeks. She would be hospitalized for the next six weeks, on strict bed rest. In the 30th week of her pregnancy, in the middle of a horrific thunderstorm, she underwent an emergency c-section and the identical twin girls were born. Weighing just about 3 lbs each, their tiny little bodies were whisked away in the incubators to the neonatal unit. By daybreak, the storm had subsided, but the worst was yet to come. The doctor came into my daughter’s room and told her that the babies were not doing well and Patricia Gutman and Cathie Colella Sadie Fitzpatrick, David Kingsley, and Jill Adams were going to be taken by Lifeflight helicopter to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Both of the girls were suffering from severe pulmonary hypertension. It was one of the happiest days of my life and the saddest all rolled into one. We spent day and night at that hospital for the first few days, praying and hoping for a miracle. One of the twins looked so tiny and frail, while the other was so swollen she looked twice her size. After nine days, the doctor in charge of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit approached my daughter and told her there was nothing more that could be done for one of the twins, as she was showing no signs of improvement, while the other was still clinging on to life. That night, they removed Michaela from the respirator and she slowly passed, as I watched my daughter hold her in her arms. My heart was broken. One of the nurses in the unit, tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘Prepare yourself, Grandma. The other twin is not going to make it either.’ My daughter could not bear the thought of losing the other twin. She went home and got on the computer and looked up everything she could about pulmonary hypertension. She found a doctor who was a pulmonary hypertension specialist at Columbia in New York City, who was doing an experimental treatment on infants with a drug called Iloprost. She contacted him, As Bunco is such a fun game played by many here, I thought why not have a “Bunco for Babies” luncheon fundraiser? I continue to do the “Bake Sale for Babies” once a year, and “Bunco for Babies” is now in its 4th year and has raised thousands of dollars for the March of Dimes, March for Babies. I want every baby born prematurely to have a fighting chance. With fundraising to help research, maybe someday prematurity will become a thing of the past, and all babies will be born healthy. I have raised more than nineteen-thousand dollars.”

Volunteer opportunities: For information on volunteering, call (352) 502-5752

 

R.J. JENKINS, MARION COUNTY LITERACY COUNCIL, marionliteracy.org

“I chose to volunteer at the Marion County Literacy Council because I couldn’t think of a more powerful way to effect lasting change in my community than by helping people learn to read, write, and speak English. Improving literacy grows the economy, combats poverty, reduces crime, improves health outcomes, promotes civic engagement, makes people happier and more productive. The idea that I can help make that kind of change in our community is exhilarating. Working with students is hands down the most rewarding part of my work at the Literacy Council. It takes real bravery and humility for women and men to walk through our door and seek our help. What that means, is that every single student I work with has already proven that they are tough, aspiring, and hungry to better their lives and the lives of their children. I’m telling you, what goes on in these classrooms is extraordinary. I have so much respect and admiration for our students, who have decided to enrich themselves through education. What they’re doing takes more than just hard work; it takes tremendous courage. Our students are superheroes. Who doesn’t want to spend their time in the company of superheroes?”

Impact of volunteers: Our volunteers are the reason we are so successful in helping improve the literacy skills of Marion County adults. Although we have two staff members, it’s the volunteers who give us life. They are the reason we exist.

Number of active volunteers: We have over 75 active tutors and volunteers.

Volunteer opportunities: We are looking for volunteer tutors. They are the heartbeat of our organization. Without them, we cannot help the people we help. We are in desperate need of more tutors, as our services are being called on to expand. We need tutors in the areas of the GED (language, math, social studies, and science), reading and writing, English as a second language and to help our students prepare for the citizenship test. We will train you and give you all the materials. I can promise you that becoming a tutor is as life changing for the student as it is for the tutor. We are also always looking for volunteers for the following committees: marketing, fundraising and finances. If you would like to find out more please call Yamila at (352) 690-READ (7323) or email yamila@marionliteracy.org

 

David Knotts deceased

DAVID KNOTTS (DECEASED), MARION SENIOR SERVICES, marionseniorservices.org

“In 2018, eight months prior to the holidays, a very frail, 100-pound, 74-year-old man came to our office seeking help. David had been let go and was seeking employment and any volunteer opportunities to keep himself busy. His mother was spending her final days on earth in the hospital, where he slept by her bedside all day, knowing the end was coming soon. Hungry and not knowing where to go for help—Marion Senior Services welcomed him with open arms to our congregate café, providing breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday. We bagged some groceries from the agency’s humble pantry for the weekends. With everything else he was facing, he had a personal challenge, one that had him fighting for his life—Colon cancer. Despite his diagnosis, David religiously showed up for “work”, volunteering his time in any capacity for the agency. He always shared his smile and some encouraging words for our staff. He helped wherever he could—in the office shredding papers, joining the seniors to play games in the congregate café, cleaning the parking lot and much more. He did so until one week prior to his heart attack, when his physical body was unable to carry him any further. He passed away on Thursday, March 7th, 2019. Marion Senior Services will always remember David with a big smile on his face, always willing to do more for others. May we all learn and be better for knowing him.” —Jennifer Martinez, Executive Director

Impact of volunteers: Our volunteers are the mainstay of our organization. They deliver Meal on Wheels, call clients to check up on them, help with shopping, provide companionship, and other services.

Number of active volunteers: We currently have 250+ volunteers.

Volunteer opportunities: Assist with activities at our seven congregate dining clubs (i.e. Guest speakers, exercise classes, card games, etc), assist seniors with daily activities (i.e. Preparing meals, grocery shopping, runnung errands, and other activities (volunteer and paid mileage), assist impaired seniors or disabled adults maintain a clean and safe home environment, which includes light cleaning, laundry, meal preparation, and other light chores, assist senior with social interaction, relieve loneliness – activities include reading, playing games, writing letters, watching TV and more, assist with our commodities program packing & distributing non-perishable groceries once a month (for clients and pets), lead a group or business to coordinate donations of non-perishable items, holiday presents, dollars and more, and serve Meal on Wheels (paid and volunteer opportunities). Call Amy Brault at (352) 620-3501 ext. 111 to volunteer or Amanda Palmer ext. 140 for Meals on Wheels drivers. For more information, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Mary Jury at (352) 620-3501.

Sally Ann Lyle and Patrica Lepak

 

SALLY ANN LYLE, MARION THERAPEUTIC RIDING ASSOCIATION (MTRA), mtraocala.org

“Having been involved with horses most my life, I know firsthand the joys of working with these wonderful animals. It just seemed like a perfect fit to join the MTRA team and help to bring those same physical and emotional benefits to people with disabilities. After volunteering at MTRA for more than 20 years, without a doubt, the most rewarding part of being there has been the small and big transformations we see every day—a wheelchair bound person able to move freely, a nonverbal child speaking to their horse, an autistic person bond with a horse. It truly is a wonderful experience every day.”

Impact of volunteers: The volunteers are extremely impactful to the participants, caregivers and horses in our program they make a difference in the lives of so many.

Number of active volunteers: We have 110 active volunteers logging in 1252.75 hours per month. We are 99 % volunteer run with 2 full-time and 2 part-time staff. Without the volunteers we would not be able to operate.

Volunteer opportunities: We always need volunteers. The opportunities are many, work in the sessions, work with the horses, barn chores, facilities maintenance, community outreach, office work and fundraising events. For more information, email execdirector@mtraocala.org or call (352) 732-7300.

 

LYDIA KUTTAS, OCALA ROYAL DAMES FOR CANCER RESEARCH, INC (ORD), ocalaroyaldames.org

“I have volunteered for the Ocala Royal Dames for Cancer Research since 1994, because my husband, my youngest sister and I have all been battling cancer for some time. Many other loved ones have been taken by cancer, different types—same outcome. I needed to do something, and hence as a Royal Dame, I help raise money for cancer research and education for Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and UF/Shands in Gainesville. The seed money we provided Dr. Shari Pilon-Thomas at Moffitt, contributed to the development of Keytruda®, which is now the standard treatment for advanced melanoma. The drug has been approved as first line therapy in lung cancer. Last fall at the Royal Dames funded “Shop Talk” seminar, held at the college, we learned Keytruda® is also used for some breast cancers. That’s the reason that I, as a proud Royal Dame, will continue to raise those necessary research funds.”

Impact of member volunteers: Our volunteers have raised over $3 million to support educational programs and activities that promote, enhance and further cancer research and education on a local and regional level.

Number of active members: 100% volunteer based organization with 190 volunteers

Member opportunities: As a living endowment to cancer research and education, ORD is a membership-based organization that requires members to pledge $2,500 for life membership, payable over a period of 10 years ($250 per year). Community participation at fundraisers is also warmly welcomed and very much needed. For more information, email ocalaroyaldames@gmail.com.

 

JAN MCDONALD, PROJECT PUP, INC. (PETS UPLIFTING PEOPLE), projectpupinc.org

“Project Pup started in 1987 as a pet visitation program to area nursing homes and assisted living facilities and added the PMOW (Pet Meals on Wheels) program after realizing the need to help seniors feed their pets. My husband, Jerry and I work with PMOW (Pet Meals On Wheels). We do this because we recognize the significant difference pets make to the seniors. Both of our older parents had pets during their later years and it greatly improved the quality of their lives. Many seniors live with one faithful friend—their pet—and in many cases this pet is the most important thing in their life. Oftentimes their pet is the only person they see and interact with daily. We have all heard stories of older adults feeding their pets instead of eating themselves. This program eliminates that need and therefore gives both the adults and pets the nutrition they need. Project Pup of Ocala along with SPCA provides individually packaged food for either a small dog, big dog or cat, on a weekly, basis for Meals on Wheels, which is distributed by the Marion Senior Center. We currently distribute pet food, along with treats, to between 150 and 160 pets weekly.”

Impact of member volunteers: The primary mission of Project PUP Inc. is pet visitation to health care facilities in Marion County and the impact of that is the big smiles and  joy that we bring to the patients and staff of the facilities visited by members. We feed about 150 animals belonging to people who receive Meals on Wheels and for the last three years we have given educational grants to individuals going into the animal care field. For the last three years we have also given educational grants for persons going into animal care field.

Number of active members: We are an accredited charity of 32 years. Membership changes each year, but our members range from between 15 to 40 members visiting rest homes with their pets.

Member opportunities: Opportunities for members are unlimited, with so many healthcare facilities asking for more pet visitation. To become a member, first your pet has to have all of their medical records in order and must be checked out by our Pet Evaluator to make sure they have the right temperament and are well behaved. Membership is just $20.00 per year. For more information on volunteering, please contact Therapy Dog Evaluator Louise Cannatella at (352) 615-9277  or email vol@projectpupinc.org

 

EMMETT COYNE, RAMAL EDUCATIONAL AND SOCIAL SERVICES, INC., ramalservices.org

“RAMAL seeks to intervene and assist those who ‘fall through the cracks,’ whose needs are not easily helped elsewhere. Like providing non-traditional scholarships for older students and summer school program assistance for students who need help in areas like math, etc. For 24-years, I raised funds for organizations whose mission it was to help the poor. Administration and staff took care of themselves first, with larger and larger salaries. They did ‘good,’ but at what cost? No one has a salary at RAMAL—pure volunteerism and maximum financial benefits for persons with real needs.”

Impact of volunteers: RAMAL is fully volunteer-run and could not operate without our volunteers.

Volunteer opportunities: Opportunities exist to be a mentor, tutor, for those with computer skills and to help with special events.

 

Dr. Franco Diaz, Dr. Manal Fakhoury, and Emmett Coyne

MANAL FAKHOURY, SAGE PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM, Facebook.com/SAGE-Lessons

Impact of volunteers: Our volunteers impact the recidivism of the men and women in our correctional facilities. Sharing the opportunity to leave better than when they entered the facility. SAGE – Lessons of Experience is a personal development program at Marion Correctional Institution, that was created in 2017, to fill a need to help the inmate population to reset their lives and enjoy learning for self-betterment and community contribution. The group recognizes that learning is not passive but an active process. Every semester they offer new classes, that range from real estate, soft skills, business networking, advanced public speaking, re-entry, investments and more. SAGE instructors are volunteers and share the value of life-long learning.

Number of active volunteers: Between 5 to 10 volunteers, at a time, given needs of group and their availability.

Volunteer opportunities: We are seeking volunteers in the men’s and women’s facilities for Gavel Club and the SAGE program. Email manal.llc@gmail.com, for more information on volunteering.

 

STEVE FARRELL, SAVING MERCY, savingmercy.org

“I think it is apparent to most people that Marion County has a homeless issue. My wife Fran and I felt compelled to do something to help this population. God has blessed us many times over and this was an opportunity to thank God for these blessings by helping others. After speaking with city representatives, a conversation with Father Pat Sheedy of Blessed Trinity Church, and lots of research about homelessness across the country—Saving Mercy and the Housing First concept for Marion County was initiated. Housing First is the only program that has shown to be effective throughout the country. In ten short months, we helped four people [transition] into rental apartments and one into their own home. It is very rewarding to help people who are struggling, to better their lives and the community we live in. With the help of the city, county and residents, we can succeed with this endeavor.”

Number of active volunteers: We have a few dedicated volunteers, but anticipate the need for many more in the future.

Volunteer opportunities: We are currently looking for volunteers to help us with program development, site development, fundraising, maintenance, and office/clerical work. If you’re interested in volunteering or learning more, please contact Tatiana at Tatiana@Savingmercy.org  

 

Michelle Malsch, Shelley Sizemore, and Pamela Schutte

PAMELA SCHUTTE, SHELTERING HANDS, INC., shelteringhands.org

“I started volunteering with Adopt A Stray (a cat rescue in South Florida) in 2004. When I moved to Ocala I was looking for animal rescue organizations. I chose to explore Sheltering Hands because of their Seniors for Seniors program. This program matches senior cats that may spend the remainder of their life in a shelter with senior citizens. The cat and medical care remain the responsibility of Sheltering Hands, but the cat gets to live in a home and the senior person gets to have a wonderful companion. Once I reached out to Sheltering Hands, I found there were a myriad of volunteer opportunities. I choose to learn new skills by volunteering in the surgical center, where they offer low cost spay/neuter services and with foster cats and kittens who need a temporary home, until they are ready for adoption. It’s rewarding to know that I have played a small part in preventing cats from reproducing and adding to the overpopulation problem. Because Sheltering Hands is a smaller organization, the volunteers get to know the cats and their personalities, so it is incredibly rewarding when one of the kitties is adopted into their forever home. Personally, I have had the opportunity to meet and become friends with others who share my passion for helping cats. My favorite volunteer quote is by Edmund Burke, ‘No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing, because he could do only a little.’”

Impact of volunteers: Volunteers allow us to find loving homes for cats and kittens, provide support for our surgical team during low cost spay/neuter surgery, help with our community cats program, foster cats, feed and care for cats at our main facility, work as adoption counselors, help with fundraising, maintain our website, manage our facebook and other social media, create our newsletter, deliver cats to their forever homes, and much more.  Without them, we would not be able to find loving homes for over 250 cats and kittens a year or perform about 1000 spay/neuter surgeries a year. Our volunteers are the heart and soul of our organization.

Number of active volunteers: We currently have 40 volunteers. Sheltering Hands operates with one full time employee and two part time employees.

Volunteer opportunities: We need help in all areas, but the biggest need right now is volunteers for “Cat Care” at PetSmart (College Road) on Mondays and Tuesdays in Ocala, and also on Tuesdays and Thursdays at our main facility in Fellowship. Both opportunities primarily clean litterboxes, provide food and water for the cats. Other opportunities include: adoption outreach, cat socialization, public relations, landscaping, facility maintenance, working in our gift shop, working in the Surgical Center, data entry and working special events. Visit our webpage shelteringhands.org for more information.

 

Patricia Lepak

PATRICIA LEPAK

Remarkably, when we asked for organizations to choose their top volunteer, the name of one special individual came up twice. Lepak not only is a top volunteer for these two organizations, but generously gives her time to other worthy causes in our community.

 

“I am very honored and excited to be nominated by both Special Olympics Florida, Marion County and Stirrups ’n Strides Therapeutic Riding Center, as one of Marion County’s Top Volunteers. 50 years ago Eunice Kennedy Shriver began a movement in this country to ‘accept and include all people, with and without disabilities, alike.’ This movement strikes a deep chord within me and is an inspiration that drives me to give back to these communities. Special Olympics Florida, Marion County works diligently to make that inclusion happen every single day. I am supportive and grateful for all that Special Olympics Florida stands for and the opportunities that are provided to all people, volunteers and athletes alike. My second family on earth, Stirrups ’n Strides Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc., not only provides therapy for riders, but for volunteers and all involved. Our rider’s accomplishments, happiness and dedication is such an inspiration. Our therapy horses—such gentle, kind and loving creatures—bring a special joy to my heart each day. There is a true sense of family at Stirrups ‘n Strides, that is priceless.”

 

 

 

SPECIAL OLYMPICS FLORIDA, specialolympicsflorida.org/marion

Impact of volunteers: Volunteers are truly the backbone of Special Olympics Florida, and their dedication ultimately allows us to fulfill our mission of providing year-round sports training and athletic competition.

Number of active volunteers: 264

Volunteer opportunities: Whether you are a group or an individual, there is an opportunity available to volunteer. There are several types of volunteer opportunities, from one-on-one coaching and mentoring, to fundraising and day-of-event volunteers.

 

MARION COUNTY & STIRRUPS ‘N STRIDES THERAPEUTIC RIDING CENTER, INC., stirrupsnstrides.com

Impact of volunteers: Stirrups ‘n Strides Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc. is a volunteer-based program, with a board of directors and 3 employees. The impact our volunteers have on those with disabilities, behavioral challenges, and emotional trauma, who come to us for therapeutic riding and equine therapy, is immeasurable. Our volunteers are the heart and soul of what makes these programs successful. They truly make a lasting difference people’s lives through this unique combination of horses and people helping people.

Number of active volunteers: We have approximately 88 active volunteers of varying time commitments and growing.

Volunteer opportunities: We depend on volunteers, from caring for our horses, helping with events and horseshows, farm clean up days, and help in the office, to cutting up carrots—no task is too large or small. We are also currently looking for help with data input and grant research and writing.

 

RITA GONZALEZ,  SOUP KITCHEN (Brother’s Keeper), btbrotherskeeper.org/soup-kitchen

Number of active volunteers: We are staffed by volunteers, who work from 8 a.m until 1:30 p.m., to prepare and serve our daily meal. We have dozens of volunteers who help us each week.

Volunteer opportunities: If you would like to volunteer, we would welcome you for a day or as a regular, committed volunteer. We welcome students who are doing community service hours. If you’re interested in volunteering, please show up at 8 a.m. and check in with our Soup Kitchen Director, Sr. Concepta or call ahead at (352) 789-8139.

 

Jokisha King, Jennifer Martinez, and Barbara Bigby

BARBARA BIGBY, PUBLIC EDUCATION FOUNDATION OF MARION COUNTY/TAKE STOCK IN CHILDREN PROGRAM (TSIC), pefmc.org/programs/take-stock-in-children

“I initially volunteered in the TSIC program because I was concerned about the percentage of minorities in college. However, as I got more involved with my students, watching them progress through their academic journey, I got an even deeper sense of satisfaction—similar to watching my own children. It is especially satisfying seeing them successfully graduate from college and take their place as productive citizens.”

Impact of volunteers: The TSIC scholarship and mentoring program changes students lives. The success of the program is a result of a comprehensive approach with the key factor being the volunteer mentor, who works one on one with the students.

Number of active volunteers: 171 active volunteer mentors

Volunteer opportunities: Volunteer mentors donate 30-60 minutes per week, meeting with their assigned student on their high school campus to help them build establish goals, improve their academic and life skills, while developing their self-esteem and confidence. TSIC is currently looking for volunteer mentors at each Marion County Public High School to meet with mentees for approximately 30 minutes per week.

 

DR FRANCO DIAZ, MD (MEDICAL DIRECTOR), THREE ANGELS CLINIC, threeangelsclinic.org

“After my retirement, following 46-years in private medical practice in the state of New Jersey, I moved to Ocala. I looked for a place that I could volunteer and provide my services to the needy residents of Marion County. We physicians are invested in providing charity services in hospitals and clinics. I feel that volunteering is a part of America’s commitment to support ongoing social change. I enjoy participating with Three Angels Clinic and get great satisfaction from helping people.”

Impact of volunteers: Our volunteer team members are truly “compassionate” caregivers and medical providers to our patients, who are deemed the “working poor” and/ or are uninsured and are eligible for free primary care. Three Angels Clinic is a Christian or “Faith based” 501c3 non-profit medical clinic serving Ocala since being established in 2012. Our volunteers love serving and giving back to the community. Without our “angel” volunteers there would be no Three Angels Clinic, providing free primary care.

Number of active volunteers: We have 12 volunteers. Our clinic is operated 100% by volunteers.

Volunteer opportunities:  We are looking for non-medical /volunteers for office support, plus medical doctors (ie orthopedic, podiatry, nephrology, psychiatry, cardiac and pulmonary) and also nurse practitioners/ physician’s assistant. Please email patientcare@threeangelsclinic.org for more information.

 

SADIE FITZPATRICK, UNITED WAY OF MARION COUNTY, uwmc.org

“Growing up, I was taught ‘To whom much has been given, much is expected.’ So I believe it’s my responsibility to use my time, talents, and treasure to give back to my community through volunteering. I love the teamwork aspect of volunteering, knowing that we are all working together to raise funds and awareness for so many amazing causes in Marion County. United Way truly strives to impact as many organizations and individuals as they can and I’m so happy to be a small part of their mission!”

Impact of volunteers: United Way of Marion County’s volunteers are instrumental for the success of day-to-day operations, internal programs/initiatives and workplace campaigns that support the health, education and financial stability efforts in our community. As a non-profit, we must keep our overhead expenses as low as possible to make the biggest impact in our community. Volunteers allow us to do that and are vital to our ability to combat the largest issues facing our community.  

Number of active volunteers: The number of volunteers for the 2017/18 fiscal year was 1,259.

Volunteer opportunities: Currently seeking: annual fundraising volunteers, community impact volunteers for internal programs/Initiatives such as ReadingPals, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), and Strong Families Skill Building presenters and mentors, Vision Council members to review funded partner grant proposals and interview agencies, oversee funded partner progress, and make funding decisions for community grants, Day of Caring volunteers, Affinity Group volunteers (i.e. Women United and Youth United Way), and internal committees for public relations, major gifts, new accounts, governance, and endowment/planned giving.

 

LOUIS HUGHES, VETERANS HELPING VETERANS (VHV), USA, INC., vhvusa.org

“I am a disabled vet myself and I feel we all need to give back. The vets we help, and all the big hearted people I volunteer with, make it worthwhile.”

Impact of volunteers: Veterans Helping Veterans has a diverse group of volunteers that play an integral role in our success. These selfless individuals donate their time and endless energy to serving our veteran population. Their contributions make it possible for Vets Helping Vets to realize our mission while maintaining low administrative costs ensuring more of every dollar goes directly to services for our clients.

Number of active volunteers: 49

Volunteer opportunities: We are currently accepting volunteer applications in the following areas: Veteran Court mentor, reception and clerical, office and administrative support, information technology assistantance, program assistant, maintenance and custodial assistantance, food pantry and inventory assistantance. For more information, call (352) 433-2320.

 

TRACY WATT, VOICES OF CHANGE ANIMAL LEAGUE (VOCAL), vocalforpets.org

“Tracy has fostered dozens of cats and a few dogs for us. She runs the trap, neuter and release program on the west side of Ocala. She takes sick animals to the vet and helps feed a feral colony in west Ocala. Tracy is one of those people who always has a smile on her face, no matter what is happening in her life. She is always willing to help and pitches in. Tracy is someone we rely on and she has never let us down.” —Linda Norman, President/Co-Founder

Impact of volunteers: Without our amazing and dedicated volunteers, VOCAL could not: take in and adopt out hundreds of animals each year, distribute one-million pounds of pet food and items donated by Chewy to 50 different animal groups and over a hundred low-income pet owners each year, trap, neuter and return feral cats and feed cat colonies, maintain our Fix the Future program to sterilize pets owned by people in need of financial assistance, answer nine-thousand calls a year, walk and train our shelter dogs, or keep our youth engaged in activities that teach them responsible pet ownership and create advocates of tomorrow.

Number of active volunteers: 150 active volunteers.

Volunteer opportunities: We have many needs, but at the moment we are trying to find more dog walkers and shelter buddies. Shelter buddies choose just one dog to socialize and take on outings, walks, can hang out with you while you run errands, or even at work. It is a fun program for anyone who needs a dog fix, but cannot adopt right now and it gives a dog a break from the shelter. We also need additional people who want to help at adoption events and at our new low-cost spay-neuter clinic.  For more information on volunteering, visit vocalforpets.org/volunteer/

VICKY DUNSTAN, XTREME SOLUTIONS, xtremesoulutions.org

“When my husband and I moved to Ocala, I was no longer working due to disabilities. Since I had so much time on my hands, I thought I could do some volunteer work, but with my disabilities what could I do? A neighbor told me she was moving away and that maybe I could take her place at Xtreme Solutions answering phones. That’s how I started volunteering with them. Over time my duties have evolved. My volunteering has even taken me to Marion Correctional, for meetings with our soon-to-be-released students to discuss their exit plan and see if we can assist. Periodically, I host a bingo night with our students, which I really enjoy, as do they. I believe in what Xtreme Solutions does and I see the results. Their teaching and re-entry program at Marion Correctional Institution not only helps to guide the inmates to want a better life for themselves and their family, it benefits the community. Anything that can help reduce the recidivism rate is a win for all and that’s rewarding to me. Also, the fact that I’m told almost daily how much I’m appreciated is also very rewarding.”

Impact of volunteers: We have two paid staff members, but all of our teaching, counseling and re-entry preparation is conducted by volunteers. Without them we could not provide the services that are essential to the programs we conduct inside the prison walls. We have men and women who are passionate about helping others become better members of society through personal interaction, classes, mentoring and guidance. We provide classes on many aspects of life skills including effective communications, finances, parenting, anger management, as well as job preparation including CDL and food handling.

Number of active volunteers: 30+

Volunteer opportunities: We welcome anyone with a passion for bringing a biblical worldview to the inmates, through the teaching of our curriculum at Marion Correctional Institution. In addition, we would be glad to have some help with social media, website management and other media. If you are interested in volunteering, please send an email to info@xtremesoulutions.com

 

 

The Cookbook Connoisseur

By Robin Fannon of Rsvp Robin | Photography by Philip Marcel

My lifelong cookbook obsession began at 7 years old, when my Mom gave me Betty Crocker’s The Boys and Girls Cookbook. It had a cheerful, bright yellow cover and was full of clever recipes, colorful photos and amusing illustrations.

If someone asked me to describe a perfect afternoon, it would include delicious food aromas emanating from the oven, a favorite cooking program on the television and enjoying a sumptuous snack while simultaneously perusing a beautiful cookbook. I have found Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa series is particularly wonderful for such a day. While I do have a bookcase full of classics like Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Cookbook, Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking, The Silver Palate series by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso and Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck—my eyes are always peeled for the latest masterpiece for inspiration. Whether you are a fan of Martha Stewart or not, her books are incredibly detailed and, unlike many cookbooks, her recipes are thoroughly tested. When working at the Food Network in New York, I had the opportunity to spend time in the test kitchen. While recipe testing can be a fun and delicious occupation, it can also be disappointing, tedious and frustrating—which is why the best cookbooks are those where the recipes have been tested by professionals.

There’s also something so visually seductive about cookbooks that feature beautifully-shot, glossy photos, which is why I have included credits for the photographers and food stylists for each book. I believe that behind every great cookbook author is a great team of artists.

My current favorite cookbooks have all been released within the last few years, but are already becoming my go-to classics. I hope you agree!

 

Cook Beautiful

by Athena Calderon with photos by Johnny Miller — food styling by Rebecca Barthosheky

Miller won the James Beard Foundation award for food photography, so it’s a visual stunner. It also doesn’t hurt that Calderon is a former model, an interior designer and has great personal style. She is the founder of the incredibly popular “Eyeswoon” lifestyle blog and her Instagram page is swoon-worthy indeed. Although the recipes are “rooted in simplicity”, this is not a beginners cookbook. It definitely requires planning, foraging and may include unfamiliar ingredients to some. Heavily influenced by a Mediterranean diet, the ingredients are always seasonal and fresh, featuring lots of fruit, vegetables, proteins, herbs, spices and olive oil. Every time I pick up this book it inspires me to get in the kitchen and start rattling some pots and pans! My Favorite Recipes: Blood Orange and Roasted Beets with Yogurt, Tarragon and Hazelnuts and the Spinach and Goat Cheese Frittata

 

 

 

Simple

by Yotam Ottolenghi with Tara Wigley and Esme Howarth, photos by Jonathan Lovekin — food styling by Wei Tang

I first fell in love with Chef Ottolenghi’s food style when his amazing cookbook Jerusalem was released in 2011. If I had to describe his cooking style I would say he creates layers of flavors that are heavily influenced by Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. Ingredients such as tahini, za’atar and sumac make regular appearances. This is not your typical American diet fare. But if you are willing to explore different flavors and textures then this book is for you.

 

 

The title Simple is an acronym for

S “short on time”

I ingredients are 10 or fewer

M is for make ahead

P is for pantry-led

L is for lazy days

E is for easier than you think

While novice home cooks might find some of these recipes complicated they will be rewarded handsomely by the results. My Favorite Recipes: Hot Charred Cherry Tomatoes with Cold Yogurt and Orzo with Shrimp, Tomato and Marinated Feta

 

Food Swings

by Jessica Seinfeld with photos by John Kernick and Mark Seliger — food styling by Sara Quessenberry

Admittedly, I have a huge girl crush on this powerhouse of a woman. Yes, she is Jerry Seinfeld’s wife but that is hardly her claim to fame. Seinfeld is an accomplished best-selling author and founder of Good Plus Foundation, which provides much needed useful items to underprivileged families. Her energy and sense of playfulness in her approach to cooking is fun and contagious. The premise of Food Swings is that sometimes we eat healthy and sometimes we don’t. The recipes are all relatively simple and can be prepared with readily available ingredients. Her website www.jessicaseinfeld.com is easy to navigate and provides a plethora of delicious family-friendly recipes. My Favorite Recipes: Oven Fried Chicken and Creamy Mushroom Pasta

 

 

The Love & Lemons

Cookbook

by Jeanine Donofrio with photos by Jack Mathews — food styling by Jenn Elliott Blake

This dynamic husband and wife team are the co-creators of the award winning blog “Love & Lemons” (loveandlemons.com)

If you are vegetarian or vegan then this is the site and book for you. The New York Times describes it as “happiness in itself tossed in every bowl”. Many of their recipes are finished with a squeeze of lemon, which makes it all very light, fresh and cheerful. Prettiness aside, it does deliver some seriously delicious and healthy recipes. Local, seasonal produce are the stars here and the recipes are simple and perfect for the warm Florida summers. They can do some pretty gosh darn amazing things with Brussels sprouts! My Favorite Recipes: Lemon Broccoli and Caper Couscous and Apple Fennel Salad

 

 

 

Cherry Bombe,

The Cookbook

by Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu with photos by Alpha Smoot – food styling by Claudia Ficca

This book is about women and food. Part of the dedication reads, “Thank you for being domestic goddesses, culinary trailblazers and queens in the kitchen.” I am a big fan of Kerry Diamond and the Cherry Bombe brand she has built.

She is the owner of Smith Canteen coffee shop in Brooklyn, and in addition to this book, there is a quarterly magazine and Radio Cherry Bombe. Then there is “Jubilee”, an annual conference where culinary sisters can connect, network and discuss current issues. Fans and followers are affectionately known as “The Bombe Squad.” Personally I love to listen to her podcasts on my daily walk, in which she interviews mavens of food, health, and style. The book is simply gorgeous and it’s pink! My Favorite Recipes: Chicken Meatballs in Roasted Lemon Sauce and Pink Spaghetti with Beet and Ricotta Sauce 

 

 

 

 

Recipes:

PINK SPAGHETTI WITH BEET & RICOTTA SAUCE

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Kosher salt

2 red beets, the size of tennis balls

2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup olive oil

½ cup boiling water

2 cups part-skim ricotta

1 pound dried spaghetti

¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

½ cup chopped fresh basil

¼ cup chopped toasted walnuts

Zest of 2 lemons

Fill a large pot with water and several large pinches of salt and bring to a boil.  » Peel the beets, then shred them in a food processor, using a shredding blade, or on the large holes of a box grater. You’ll have about 4 cups shredded beets.  » Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the grated beets and a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes. Once the beets have softened, add the ½ cup boiling water and cook for 3 minutes more.  » Transfer the beets to a food processor, add the remaining ¼ cup olive oil, and purée into a smooth paste. Add the ricotta and 1½ teaspoons salt. Purée again until very smooth. Set aside.  » Cook the spaghetti in the pot of boiling water according to the package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti.  » In a large bowl, quickly combine the hot pasta with three-quarters of the beetricotta sauce and mix together well. If the sauce is too thick, add the reserved pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time. Add more sauce and/or water if necessary. Any extra sauce will keep in the refrigerator for a few days (see Tip).  » Twirl a serving of pasta onto a plate or into a bowl and sprinkle with some Parmigiano-Reggiano, basil, walnuts, and lemon zest. Repeat with the remaining pasta. Serve immediately.

Tip: Use the extra pasta sauce as a veggie dip, sandwich spread, or crostini topping

 

CHICKEN MEATBALLS IN ROASTED LEMON BROTH

Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer

Here’s a technique we never knew about: roasting lemon halves until puffy and caramelized so they release a deeply aromatic, concentrated juice. It’s the centerpiece of this soup and brightens the broth immensely, making it the perfect base for mini meatballs, veggies, and creamy potatoes. This recipe was inspired by a friend’s grandmother’s soup that Sarah and Sara tasted while in Israel. Their love of Middle Eastern flavors—so evident at their popular L.A. eateries, Madcapra and Kismet—are on full display here.      Makes 5 servings

Meatballs

½ cup pine nuts

1 leek, white and light green parts, only,
finely diced

1 fennel bulb, finely diced

2 shallots, finely diced

3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

1 pound ground chicken (dark meat only)

Freshly ground black pepper

Broth

2 lemons, halved

¼ cup olive oil

1 shallot, halved with the root intact and
outer skin removed

3 bay leaves

½ cinnamon stick

8 cups unsalted chicken broth

1½ teaspoons crushed dried mint

Kosher salt

4 cups cubed potatoes (use fingerlings or
another small creamy variety)

4 cipollini onions, halved and sliced into
¼-inch half-moons

1 bunch hearty spinach,
long stems trimmed

Make the meatballs: Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, tossing them several times so they cook evenly. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Once cool, coarsely chop the nuts.  » Combine the leek, fennel, shallots, thyme, olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt in a medium skillet. Sweat over medium-low heat until everything is soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the thyme and let the mixture cool.  » In a large bowl, combine the cooked vegetables, pine nuts, chicken, 2 teaspoons salt, and several cracks of pepper. Cover and refrigerate.

Make the broth: Preheat the oven to 400°F.  » Roast the lemon halves cut-side up on a baking sheet for at least 45 minutes, until the lemons are puffy and the bottom ends are browned. Let the lemons cool and deflate, then squeeze them over a strainer or sieve to catch any pulp and seeds. Set the juice aside. (You’ll have about ¼ cup roasted lemon juice, depending on the size of your lemons.)  » Heat the olive oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Place the shallot halves in the olive oil, cut-side down, and cook until well browned. Add the bay leaves and the cinnamon stick and swirl around a few times. Carefully add the broth, being mindful of the hot oil, and follow with the mint, a pinch of salt, and the potatoes. Slowly bring the broth to a light simmer, allowing the potatoes to absorb the flavors without breaking down.  » After 20 minutes, or when the potatoes are just tender, remove the shallot and the cinnamon stick. Add the onions. Next, add the roasted lemon juice 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste the broth after each addition and adjust the seasoning. » Finish the meatballs: With lightly wet hands, form the chicken mixture into balls about 1 inch in diameter. (You should have 25 to 30 meatballs total.) When done, add the meatballs to the broth. Gently poach over medium heat for about 7 minutes, or until just cooked through. Right before removing from the heat and serving, add the spinach to the broth to wilt. Remove the bay leaves and serve.

Living Proof

By Nick Steele | Photography provided by Denise Truscello

For many, Olivia Newton-John will forever be Sandy from Grease, the girl next door with a heart of gold, who sang and danced her way into our hearts alongside John Travolta. But the English-Australian singer, songwriter, actress, entrepreneur, and activist is so much more. And after five decades in the public eye, we’re being treated to a glimpse behind the headlines through her recently released autobiography Don’t Stop Believin’.

Olivia Newton-John has been in the news a lot lately. After reuniting with Travolta and some of the Grease cast for a special screening and talk to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the film hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last year, came the news that she was facing another health crisis. Although she had successfully received treatment for breast cancer in 1992 and believed herself to be cancer-free, she revealed that not only had her cancer returned in 2013, but again in 2017. The cancer had spread (or metastasized), first to her shoulder and most recently to her lower back, causing her to fracture her sacrum.

Speculation about her health actually led to reports that she was near death. The 70-year old Newton-John gamely faced down those rumors by appearing on social media, beaming her signature smile, confirming that her cancer had returned, but that she was feeling good and that reports of her being near death had been greatly exaggerated.

“When I first had cancer in 1992, I chose chemotherapy and surgery as my treatment,” she explains. “The second time, about five years ago, I just used herbs and specialized IVs to boost my immune system. I did very well on that,” she continues. “Then last year, I got a little more aggressive with it and added in some more Western medicines.”

But Newton-John is also exploring more natural treatments, including modifying her diet by cutting out all sugar and focusing her energy on a whole body approach to wellness. “From what I know, stress can affect your immunity. If you are in a constant state of stress or living under stress, your body doesn’t have the strength to fights things off that it would normally. We all have stress. We’re never going to get rid of stress. But we’re not just a body. Your mind and your spirit influence your body,” she offers. “What we need to do is find a way of releasing it, that works for you. Everyone is different and we all have our own way of doing that. I was able to do all these things for myself. I was able to afford to have meditation classes, acupuncture, homeopathy and massages. I thought that this should be available to everyone being treated for cancer and they should learn about helping their mind, body and spirit. So it was really, really crucial to me that we have all of those elements at my wellness center.”

The Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre (ONJ) at the Austin Hospital in Australia, officially opened in 2012 as a result of Newton-John’s tireless work to help create and fund a world-class hospital, wellness center and research facility. There are currently over 200 clinical trials in progress at the ONJ Centre, providing access to new breakthrough therapies and seeking a cure for cancer.

“I got to experience the center firsthand, this past September, when I ended up in my own hospital for treatment.” she explains of her stay there during last year’s recurrence. “I was able to do artwork in my room and have someone come in and massage my hands and feet. It was just so healing and made the experience so much more pleasant. I was really proud that all these things I was pushing so hard to provide were not only working, but also important to the patients.”

And while she acknowledges that her condition is chronic, she reports that she is stable. “Cancer is something I will need to stay on top of for the rest of my long life,” she says. “It’s up to me to manage my stress, to eat and rest well, and to continue with the healing protocols. I take it one day at a time and today is a great day!”

She prefers not to use words like battle or survivor, “Thriver has a different connotation than survivor,” she explains. “Survivor can mean someone hanging onto a lifeboat. A thriver is more like someone who is already in the lifeboat and is enjoying the view. It’s about that different view. Your words are important because they inform how you think and how you feel. You make that choice by what you say. So I am trying to reinforce the positive. Addressing your emotional health is a major part of your healing. My husband John is always happy to wake me up and remind me, ‘Be careful of what’s in your head. Your body hears you.’”

Her husband, John Easterling, is an American eco-entrepreneur, environmentalist and the founder of the Florida-based natural remedy firm Amazon Herb Company. He also is helping his wife treat her pain. “John makes me a green algae drink, every morning, with all these herbs and cannabis oil.” she says. “He grows the plants and makes them into liquid for me. I take drops maybe four to five times a day.”

But his work goes far beyond just reducing or eliminating the pain those with cancer have to deal with. His focus now with this plant is its natural ability to go after cancer on several fronts. Newton John explains, “The primary focus is on compromising cancer growth by interfering with its life cycle, preventing the cancer from developing its own blood supply by stimulating the natural process of cell suicide known as apoptosis, and activating an immune response to kill the cancer. Everything we do in life revolves around healing of some kind. It not only helps me, but I love that it might also help other people, too. It’s our life mission. He’s my rock. I‘m very lucky to have him.”

In fact, she admits that she hadn’t expected to find love again before she met Easterling. “It was a wonderful surprise and a wonderful gift,” she says of falling in love at 59 years-old.” I’m sure a lot of women can relate. You get into your late fifties, going into your sixties, and you think you’re never going to meet anyone. Well, I’m living proof that you can. I have the most wonderful relationship that I have had in my life. I’m very grateful.”

But she also believes a common goal is essential. “I think that relationships require give and take, compromise, understanding, forgiveness, and letting go of the little stuff,” she explains. “I think it helps to have a common goal that you are both working towards and passionate about really helps. The cannabis thing is something that we are both advocates of and working hard to help make it more available to people. It’s wonderful that in many states in America it is easy, but in many other places and countries, it is impossible. People are suffering and it’s needless suffering. People die from opiates, but people don’t die from cannabis. It’s healing plant has so many more secrets yet for us to discover. They are doing so much important research. Not everyone understands it, but there are so many studies available on the internet. If people really want to learn about it, they can just go on an read about all the positive stuff that is happening with cannabis and what a gift it is to us.”

In fact, cannabis has become something of a family business. “My daughter Chloe, her fiance and her dad have a cannabis farm and they’re doing really well with it.” she says “My husband and I are excited about it and trying to help however we can.”

When I ask her about the lessons that motherhood has taught her, she doesn’t hesitate, “Motherhood puts everything into perspective. With everything that has happened in my life, if anyone asked me what was the most important thing, I’d say it was my child. Nothing compares to that. It’s a gift. I’m just so thrilled to watch her grow. It is a really wonderful experience.”

Another of her favorite people is John Travolta, who she describes as a friend for life. “He just radiates pure joy and love. He is one of the most genuine and sweet people on earth,” she offers. “He really cares for other human beings on a deep level.”

And while she says that the potent chemistry they had for one another during the filming of Grease was real, their timing was always off and they never pursued a romantic relationship. “It was the type of chemistry that you can’t fake,” she recalls. You either have it or you don’t. We had it! In the end, we left the making out to Sandy and Danny, but the deep feeling of sisterly love that I have for John continues to this day.”

When she visited Travolta and had a chance to explore the Ocala/Marion County area, she was struck by all the natural beauty. “Gorgeous. I thought it was fascinating and quite beautiful. You’ve got a lot of horses and I love horses,” she says. “I also love the tropical nights. The nights in Florida, with that warm breeze, are just beautiful. You can’t reproduce that anywhere else.”

Travolta also provided her with a first, after their many years as friends. “I flew into John’s private airport there and I’d never seen anything like that before. I was quite impressed,” she enthuses. “When we were filming Grease, he told me, ‘One day, I’ll have a house with a runway.’ I knew he would.”

When she gets back home to Australia, her favorite place to unwind is the Gaia Resort, which she created with a dear friend. “We wanted to create it as a place where our friends could come,” she explains. “Now it’s turned into this magnificent world-class resort, retreat and spa, We’ve won all kinds of awards from all around the world for it. We have the best food and truly the best healers.”

But most of the time, you can find her on her farm in California with her husband John, two miniature horses named Harry and Winston, their dog Raven, cat Magic and a whole bunch of chickens.

“I love going out and collecting the eggs. How wonderful is that? It is such a gift,” she says. “We’re very lucky that there are a lot of farms near where we live, where we can get fresh produce. And we have friends who are great cooks,” she continues with that uproarious laugh. “We’re so lucky in that respect!”

Newton-John envisions a future for herself there on farm, where she’s an “old lady” sitting around contentedly with her husband, family and their animals. “What I focus on now is finding peace during my healing,” she offers. “I believe in moving forward in life—and never back.”

And what does she want  her legacy to be? “My legacy? Wow,” she replies, as if the question has caught her off guard. “I hope that my daughter has a wonderful, happy, healthy, fulfilling life. And I really hope that my hospital will end cancer.”

Nesting Habits

By Nick Steele

 

For Ocala-based artist Carlynne Hershberger, creativity runs in the family. “The art bug bit just about everyone in my family in some form or another. My mother paints, my grandmother painted, and my uncles and cousins have been involved in the arts,” she explains. “I remember visiting my great uncle and seeing the oil portraits he was working on; the smell of turpentine in his apartment; thinking how much I would love to get into those paint tubes. When I was little, my grandfather would ask me to draw cartoons from the Sunday comics. So I did that for him all the time. He was very encouraging.”

But her early passions were not limited to the funny papers. “According to my mother, I drew on the walls and furniture from the time I could hold a crayon,” she shares. “I remember art supplies being my absolute favorite thing in the world. I still remember the smell of my first box of 64 Crayola crayons. From kindergarten on up, all my favorite classes in school were art classes.”

From that point, her path as an artist was set and she began a period of exploration that led to her current style. “My first love was drawing, so I worked in graphite and colored pencil for 20 to 30 years. I gradually started adding other mediums. I worked in pastel, oil, acrylic, watercolor, and collage. Now I like to mix media,” she explains. “I mainly use acrylic on canvas but also add gold leaf. When I want to work on paper, I use watercolor combined with colored pencil and gouache.”

Hershberger’s advice to anyone interested in pursuing a career in the arts is simple. “Whatever your thing is, do it and continue to do it. Build a strong body of work. Learn as much as possible. Take as many classes or workshops as possible. The main thing is the quality of the work. That comes first,” she offers. “Then think about selling. You have to put the time in. If there was a shortcut, I would’ve found it!”

Hershberger has certainly put the time in and has risen to prominence in our community through a combination of public art projects, displays of her fine art, and custom portrait commissions. You’ve probably even admired her life-sized painted pony Aggie, from the Marion Cultural Alliance (MCA) public-art project Horse Fever, which stands in front of City Hall. As an artist, it was an exciting and rewarding experience for both Hershberger and her husband Mark.

“Love Horse Fever!” she enthuses. “I painted three of the horses, one in each group. My husband also did three horses, and he sculpted the original “Horse Fever in Motion” figure and built all the horses that were painted in that group,” she continues. “We loved working on those. They were fun, challenging, and a great thing for Ocala. People come from all over to see the horses and take pictures with them. It also seemed to spark more interest in public art. Just look at where we are now with the sculptures at Tuscawilla Park and now we have the art park. It’s been a wonderful thing for us and the town.”

Hershberger was also recently tapped by Ocala’s Community Cultural Arts Manager Laura Walker for another prominent public-art project. “Laura contacted me about painting the transformer on the square. It’s right across the street from the new Hilton building,” she explains. “It started out as a big, green electrical box—not that attractive—and they wanted to make something pretty to face the new hotel. We got together with Mike Zeak, from Zeak Technique (custom welding, fabrication, and restoration), and collaborated on the design. We wanted something that said Florida, so we came up with the palm fronds, and Mike did his design in the metal work fence around the box. I think our efforts worked well together and hopefully we’ll be able to do more in the future. Shouldn’t all transformer boxes be decorated? Towns everywhere have all these flat surfaces just waiting to be used as canvases.”

And while she can get pretty excited at the prospect of transforming America’s electrical boxes into works of art, her passion project is her Nest series. “For me, the nest has deep personal meaning,” she explains. “But it can mean many things to many people. Recently someone actually asked me what it is that people see in the nest paintings, so I asked the question on my Facebook page,” she continues. “One person said hope, another said family. For some, it’s about bird watching or being a nature lover and for some, it may just mean springtime. My friend Cheryl Ritter said, ‘For me, they represent nature’s intriguing architecture. Built with determination, purpose, and adaptability.’ I thought that was a great answer, because since I began really studying the nests I’ve become more and more enchanted with birds and their abilities. In fact, if there’s such a thing as reincarnation, I want to come back as a bird, maybe a crow. They’re very smart. I don’t look for people to have a specific takeaway from the nests. If they’re drawn to them, they’re seeing something personal and that meaning could be as unique as each individual. That’s how it should be with any art. Everyone sees something different in it.”

For the artist herself, her initial inspiration came in the form of a rather industrious lodger. “A wren began building a nest in my mailbox,” she recalls. “This happened for several years in a row and I got to watch the baby birds and see them fledge. After the nests were abandoned, I saved them when I cleaned out the mailbox. My interest in nests seemed like a logical progression of my work, since all my work is based in the natural world. I decided to paint the first one outside, just to explore it as part of my landscape work. I enjoyed it so much I did another and then another. People began to respond to them and I’m still intrigued by them so I guess I’ll be painting them for a while. I’ve also collected quite a few nests. I’ve been gifted nests by friends and relatives when they find them, so now I have a corner of my studio that’s filled with them. It’s great; I always have a reference on hand.”

There was, however, another more personal catalyst for the series. It is an exploration of coerced and unethical adoptions, from a birth mother’s point of view. “That first nest, that I painted, was part of my Silent Voices series,” she explains. “The series is about the view of a mother whose child was surrendered at birth in a forced adoption—about living with infant adoption from my point of view. It began as a form of therapy for me, a way of working through the trauma and healing,” she continues. “There are so many people affected by adoption, but the first mother’s view is seldom seen. I’m afraid that series does upset some people because it goes against the usual happy adoption narrative. It can be a difficult subject, but it can open up discussion about a reality that many don’t realize exists.  Silent Voices is also an ongoing project. I’ve had one exhibit with those paintings in Georgia. I’d like to have another, maybe closer to home. My ultimate dream is to have a museum show with it someday. I also have a book, available through Amazon, with some of the paintings and narrative poetry that I wrote to go with them.”

Hershberger is also often engaged to create custom commissioned portraits. “When I do portraits, I usually go back to my first love…colored pencil,” she explains. “I like the control and amount of detail I get with a pencil. I do children’s portraits mainly. They’re more fun than grown-ups. If possible I like to take photos of the subjects myself or I’ll work with the client’s photos. I’ll go over the pictures with the clients to choose the best one. For many of them, I like to work on colored paper. Different colors can set a mood and really enhance the portrait. I really prefer candid shots to work from because that’s when you see the child’s personality come through. It’s a real joy to bring that little face to life on paper.”

Her drive to capture that sort of authenticity in her work can also be witnessed in her paintings of the natural world. “There’s just so much I want to paint. Mother Nature keeps inspiring me,” she offers. “We need to keep our connection to nature, learn from it and protect it. For me, painting is how I stay connected.”

Hershberger recently staged a three-month exhibition at City Hall, and her work is frequently included in the MCA member shows. A few of her pieces are available through the MCA gift shop. She will also be part of some upcoming group shows at Blackbird Farm and Studio in Micanopy (micanopyblackbird.com). She is represented by Signature Art Gallery in Tallahassee and Macon Arts in Macon, Georgia. For more information, visit carlynnehershberger.com.

Skin Is In

We all know that citrus fruits are loaded with Vitamin C, which is essential for the growth and repair of tissues throughout our bodies. They are also natural diuretics that help the body eliminate toxins and promote healthy function of the liver, kidneys, and the digestive tract. But did you know that researchers have  identified over 60 unique types of flavonoids in citrus fruits that exhibit antioxidant properties, with the highest concentrations found in the peel? In fact, gram for gram, citrus peels contain higher levels of minerals, vitamins, and dietary fiber than the actual fruit. According to the USDA, one tablespoon of lemon peel has twice the Vitamin C and triple the fiber than a lemon wedge without the peel. In February, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how polymethoxyflavones, a unique class of flavonoids found in lemons and oranges, can prevent and treat inflammation in the colon and such associated diseases as irritable bowel disease and colorectal cancer. To get the benefits of these appealing fruits, chop, zest, or grate the peel into baked goods, savory sauces or your next smoothie.

 

Word Of Mouth

On April 5th, Dentistry at Bridlewood will hold their 10th annual Free Dental Event from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 7555 SW State Road 200 in Ocala. They will offer the choice of one free cleaning, filling, or extraction per patient on a first-come, first-serve basis. You must be 18 years or older to qualify for services. The first 300 patients are guaranteed to be seen. The practice is celebrating 30 years of business and explains, “This is the day that we give back to a community that has been so wonderful to us.” Call (352) 873-2000 or visit ocalasdentist.com for more information.

 

Bug Out

Much like snowbirds, fleas are attracted to warmer climates. So as things to start to heat up, it’s a good time to start thinking about treating your furry friend against these pesky creatures. “Here in the warm Florida climate, fleas and ticks thrive. This means that our dogs and cats need protection from these pests even more than animals living in other areas,” explains Magnolia Animal Hospital. While there are a variety of options available, from collars to topical treatments, it’s best to consult your vet for the right option. Many organizations discourage flea collars as they can contain substances that may be harmful to your pet’s health and could cause an allergic reaction. While there are no oral medications for ticks, there are oral medications for fleas. A good practice, as temperatures rise, is to wash your pet’s bedding once a week, bathe your pet regularly, and use a flea comb to check for any unwanted hitchhikers.

 

Lip Service

Want to know the secret to Jessica Alba’s perfect pout? She recommends that you exfoliate your lips before an evening out. Yup, that’s right…exfoliate your lips. She’s even posted a recipe for a DIY lip scrub made with brown sugar, organic honey, and organic coconut oil on her Honest Company blog. Not a “make your own” kind of gal? Don’t worry, she’s got a quick beauty hack for you, using her Honest Healing Balm. blog.honest.com

Diverse musical talent to the T

Conversation with country music singer, T Graham Brown

By: John Sotomayor

Few have had the diverse musical career of T Graham Brown. His range has been described from “R&B version of George Jones” to “Country Otis Redding.” Regardless of how his music touches one’s ear, everyone who hears his music agrees – they are listening to someone with a special gift.

With 15 studio albums throughout his career, Brown chartered over 35 singles on the Billboard, Cash Box, and Gospel charts since 1986. His hits include “Darlene,” Don’t Go To Strangers,” Hell and High Water,” I Tell It Like It Used To Be,” and “Wine Into Water.”

In 2014, Brown’s album “Forever Changed” was nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Roots Gospel. His song “Wine Into Water” was recorded by Loretta Lynn on her critically acclaimed album “Full Circle,” released in 2016.

Brown appeared on Country Music’s biggest stage – the Grand Ole Opry – nearly 300 times since his debut there in 1986. On April 5, Brown will perform some of his greatest hits at the Orange Blossom Opry in Weirsdale, Marion County. In this exclusive interview, Brown gives us his reflections on his career, an inside look at his 2019 tour, and insights on what his fans can expect from attending his concert.

Q: You began your musical career in 1973 while attending the University of Georgia in your hometown of Athens. What was your early career like?

Well, it was a learning experience – I had no idea what I was doing. My buddy and I were trying to figure out the music business. We were singing together … we just kind of learned as we went. It was really fun. We would sing at night – every night – five days a week then get up in the morning and go to class at the University of Georgia. Just college kids having a great time.

Q: Almost 10 years later, you moved to Nashville in 1982 and signed with EMI publishing company where you honed your skills as a songwriter that led to a stellar award-winning career that includes a Grammy nomination, Country Music Award, ASCAP Award, multiple Christian Music Awards, Diamond Addy Award for excellence in advertising, and back-to-back Prism awards. How did that happen?

Just staying busy, man! Doing everything I can do. Taking advantage of all the fun things. It’s been a great career. I’ve had a lot of fun. [The variety] was all mixed together from the beginning. [When] I started singing in Athens, GA, I was doing soul music. Then I put together like a country-rock kind of wild band, and then I moved to Nashville. I did a little bit of everything. I sang in the church growing up. Then it kind of got all mixed together, man! I never was just one thing. I don’t like doing just one thing – I get bored … To me it just keeps things more interesting.

Q: Your variety does make an interesting career. Early on, you established a recording relationship with Sony Red and a retail partnership with Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores, simultaneously starting a long and successful career singing advertising jingles, becoming the “face and voice” of Taco Bell’s wildly successful “run for the border” TV campaign for four years. How was that experience?

Yeah, I think those advertising things I started doing in 1983, something like that. I continued to do those but I got sidetracked in the ‘90s. I had an alcohol problem and, through the grace of God, and the love of my life – Sheila, I am sober now but I went through a really dark period in the ‘90s. Thank God I am still alive, because I could just as easily be dead. … God was not finished with me yet.

Q: You recorded for Warner Brothers and Sony. What happened to those songs?

You know man, I did an album for Warner Brothers that never got released. This would have been in the ‘90s. Then I got signed to Sony, and I cut some stuff for them that never got released. I kind of went through a couple of major label deals there but never had anything come out. So a lot of the ‘90s I didn’t have any product out there. It was kind of like I dropped off the edge of the earth. As far as the public was concerned, they didn’t know what happened to me. …I finally in 1998 signed with an independent label and we put out an album called, “Wine Into Water” … I don’t know how many of those we sold, but we sold a pretty good bit of them – I mean, hundreds of thousands of them. …It was a pretty decent comeback.

Q: It was quite a comeback actually, because, “Wine Into Water” is a multiple award winner, and recorded more than 100 times by artists world-wide, most recently by country super star, Loretta Lynn, on her critically acclaimed album, “Full Circle.” How did that song come to be?

Well, I was writing with a couple of friends of mine, and when we wrote that song, I don’t think we were planning on it being what it turned out to be. It really turned out to be about me. I was talking with one of the writers the other day, and he said, “you know, I don’t even remember writing that song, it’s just like I looked down, and there it was on the paper.” It was kind of a weird deal like that. As strange as some people will think this sounds, I think that song is anointed by God because its been used by so many people to get straightened out. It’s just amazing. We are working on a book right now with a lot of ‘Wine Into Water’ stories. We’d get emails all the time, or people would come up to us after shows and tell us how the song has changed their lives…. A couple of days ago I got a message from a guy, it said two years ago his mother had died, and he was really low. He said, “I came up to a red light, and I was going to take a left and go to the bar… But I turned on the radio and ‘Wine Into Water’ came on right that second.” He had never heard it before, so he said ‘instead of turning left to go to the bar, I turned right and went home to my kids. It’s been two years and I haven’t had a drop since.’ That’s the way “Wine Into Water” has been working. Stories like that – it is just amazing… We have script writers …and we are hoping to make a Broadway musical out of it, is what we really want to do… We are kind of letting it do its thing. God is doing some [miraculous] things with that song. It’s amazing.

Q: Your career “forever changed” by hitting the Billboard, Cash Box, and Christian music charts 35 times with hits like “I Tell It Like It Used To Be,” the self-penned “Hell and High Water,” and “Darlene.” What was your personal greatest moment?

That is a good question. I don’t know – I had so many good moments. When I first went out on the road, when “I Tell It Like It Used To Be” came out, I was out with Kenny Rogers when he was really hitting big – I mean, you know, he was like the biggest star in the world, at that time. I did probably, close to 300 shows with him. I got to tour everywhere. We played every major arena in North America. It was really, you know, just a heady time. We were playing the big crowds every day. You know, like 20 – 25,000 seat arenas. It was really cool. And I got to work with a lot of people. One of the things that have been the best for me, and the most fun for me, is I’ve gotten to work with all my heroes … like George, Kenny, Conway, Willie, Waylon, Meryl, Loretta, and all those people [the pubic] knew by their first name. It’s been a wonderful trip, man. A wonderful trip.

Q: You have had duets with some of the greatest artists of all time, including Grammy winners The Beach Boys, Tanya Tucker, Vince Gill, George Jones, Delbert McClinton, Jason Crabb, Brad Davis, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members Michael McDonald, Steve Cropper, and Leon Russell. What is your fondest memory of these duets?

Gosh, they were all just awesome. Working with those people is just a mind-blowing thing. I am really, really glad that I was able to get some stuff on MY records with Leon Russell. I have sung on some of Leon’s albums in the past, but I have never gotten Leon to sing on anything of mine until we got him on that “Forever Changed” album. That was the last thing he did before he passed away. That is really special. Leon, in many ways, was my best friend. His wife told me one time, that Leon considered me his best friend… Leon was a very sweet, gentle man, and so talented. You could not have asked to know a nicer guy.

Q: Your first Gospel album, “Forever Changed” received the 2014 Grammy nomination. How has that forever changed your life?

Well, I mean, gosh – I had never had gotten a Grammy nomination [before that one]. A friend of mine, Max Harris, was in the same category and he won. (laughs) He had a great record. (laughs again) And I told him he was going to win. We were out in L.A. [when the nominations were announced], that was not even on our radar, but when that came down, it was like, totally out of left field. We weren’t expecting anything like that. And it was really cool, man. I got a lot of compliments from it. It is pretty cool getting a Grammy nomination because, we were in a category with five other albums … and when you narrow it all down, it is pretty cool to be in the top five. …I mean – it’s the Grammys – so that’s really cool!

Q: You have performed on the iconic stage of the Grand Ole Opry hundreds of times, and maintain a busy tour schedule all over the U.S. and Europe. What is your 2019 tour like and how does it differ from others in the past?

Well, we had a meeting yesterday about the tour starting this fall, and they told me not to say anything. But its going to be really cool. Its going to be one of the coolest things I have ever been on. It’s probably going to be a pretty big deal, in a lot of different ways. I’ll be a minor player in the big thing, but I’ll be getting my two cents in. [Also,] I think we are going to do another gospel album this year, and we are working on putting together a solo record. I’ve got this thing we’ve been working on called, “From Memphis to Muscle Shoals,” which will be some songs, stacks, cut in Memphis, and some songs that they cut in Muscle Shoals that were hits… I’m looking forward to that.

Q: What can your fans expect from attending your concert at the Orange Blossom Opry in Weirsdale on April 5th?

Well, we’ve got a great band. I am really proud to be working with these guys. They are all wonderful musicians. I’ve always been lucky. I’ve always had a great band. We will come down there rompin’ and stompin’ and do most of the hits people expect, throw in a couple of surprises, … and we make it fun for everyone.

Q: After this tour is over, what’s next?

Probably take a break for Christmas and then a couple of nights in the winter, then hit the road again. One thing I have to do in January next year is go on this cruise called the Country Music Cruise. I’ve done it a few times. This year, I think Randy Owen from Alabama is on it… Delridge Boys, Larry Gatlin, Pam Tillis, Tracy Lawrence, Moe Bandy, Johnny Lee, David Frizzell, Larry the Cable Guy, Linda Davis … its always a good cruise because there is so much music going on. As soon as you wake up in the morning until 3 AM, there is always solid music going on the ship somewhere. That is a lot of fun. I never know what is coming up. I did a couple of movies in 2018 that will be coming out this year.

Q: What are those movies?

One is called “A Ticket to Nashville” and the other is called “Second Samuel.” They are both pretty cool little movies. And I got to be in the play “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I get to play the bad guy. There is a musical we did called “Scattered, Smothered, and Covered – a Waffle House musical,” believe it or not. It is about these people that get stranded in a Waffle House on Christmas Eve. It is really a fun thing, and I get to sing “Wine Into Water” in it. So, I am doing all kinds of stuff. There is a TV series that I’m going to do like next month, I think … a few weeks into the future. I’m doing all kinds of fun stuff, man.

Q: What do want your fans to take away most from experiencing your concert?

Oh, just a positive vibe, man. We just try to do what we think God wants us to do. We leave people in a positive place. I’ve had more fun now than I ever had… Everything is beautiful in my world. I’ve got the best job in the world – I get to make people happy for a living.

 

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