ColorOcala!

ColorOcala Contest

Grab your crayons, colored pencils, watercolor markers and cray pas, and join the hot new coloring craze!

Floridians, are you ready to COLOROCALA? Create beautiful art and compete for valuable prizes in Ocala Magazine’s latest big giveaway contest. You could win tickets for four to the Walt Disney World® theme park in Orlando, a family Christmas for four at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, and more. Color us excited!

Our latest contest is specially designed with family fun in mind. With a contest for both children and adults, you and your kids will have plenty to do this summer. And best of all, you can be creative together!

You can always count on Ocala Magazine for the best in news and entertainment, family fun, and fabulous prizes, so let’s get coloring! Show off your artistic side, and you might have a summer you’ll never forget.

Feeling Social?

Visit Ocala Magazine’s Facebook and Instagram pages and Colorala’s Facebook and Instagram pages – and while you’re at it, we hope you’ll Like our pages!

Here’s How You Enter:

You must complete Steps 1 through 4 to qualify for prizes!

  1. Download, print, and color your favorite specially drawn Ocala-themed coloring page from contest sponsor Colorala. (You can download pages as many times as you like.)
  2. Fill out the entry form (below) on the Ocala Magazine website before 6 p.m. Eastern time, July 22, 2016.
  3. Upload a photo of your completed coloring page using the File Upload feature provided on the form.
  4. Post your photo on Facebook OR Instagram before midnight, July 22, 2016. Use the hashtag #ocalamagazinecontest on Facebook OR Instagram in your post. Don’t forget to tag your friends and show off your creative genius!

That’s it. You’ve entered!

Click Each Image to Download a Coloring Page! (PDF Format)

Adult Coloring Page – Thoroughbred
Adult Coloring Page - Thoroughbred
Adult Coloring Page – Silver Springs
Adult Coloring Page - Silver Springs

Children’s Coloring Page – Thoroughbred
Children's Coloring Page - Thoroughbred

Children’s Coloring Page – Silver Springs
Children's Coloring Page - Silver Springs

 

Entries Are Now Being Judged, Stay Tuned!

Click for Contest Rules

Official Rules

  1. By entering, you agree to abide by The COLOROCALA Official Rules.
  2. All contestants must reside in the state of Florida.
  3. The contest will be administered by contest sponsor 7Hills Communications of Tallahassee, Florida.
  4. Entries must be submitted through the online form located at ocalamagazine.com/colorocala and all entry requirements must be met before midnight, Friday, July 22, 2016 in order to qualify.
  5. Entries submitted will be screened by 7Hills Communications and/or contest sponsor Colorala of Newport Beach, California, to ensure all entries meet contest requirements.
  6. Ocala Magazine, 7Hills Communications, and Colorala cannot be held responsible for email that is misdirected or undeliverable.
  7. Entries that do not meet all the “Here’s How to Enter” criteria will be disqualified.
  8. 7Hills Communications may, at its sole discretion and depending upon volume of entries, notify contestants whose entries are incorrect and must be resubmitted.
  9. 7Hills Communications will send only properly completed entries to Ocala Magazine.
  10. Completed coloring pages, along with the artist’s name, will be posted on the Ocala Magazine Facebook page and Instagram profile, and the Colorala Instagram profile. If the artist is 12 years of age or younger, the artist’s age also will be published.
  11. Following the conclusion of the contest, a team of fine artists from Colorala will judge the entries and select the winners.
  12. A list of winners will be published on the COLOROCALA Contest official web page, located at ocalamagazine.com/colorocala; the Ocala Magazine Facebook page; the Ocala Magazine Instagram profile; and the Colorala Color Instagram profile.
  13. Winners must claim their prizes by 5 p.m. Eastern time Monday, August 22, 2016. Any prize not claimed by Monday, August 22, 2016 will be awarded to an alternate winner.
  14. Ocala Magazine and/or 7Hills Communications will make every effort to notify winners via email, telephone, or postal mail within the 31-day prize redemption period. Ocala Magazine and 7Hills Communications cannot be held responsible for winners who cannot be located for notification within the prize redemption period.
  15. Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications will hold all contestants’ personal information except name, age, and city of residence confidential, and will not reveal said information to any third party unless required by law.
  16. By entering, contestants agree to allow Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications to post their names, ages if applicable, and photographs of their coloring pages to social media.
  17. By entering, contestants grant Ocala Magazine permission to publish their coloring pages in Ocala Magazine without remuneration. Published entries will be credited.
  18. By entering, contestants grant Ocala Magazine permission to publish photos of the winners, if applicable, without remuneration.
  19. Anyone employed as a professional artist, or who holds a college or university degree in studio art or graphic design, is not eligible to participate.
  20. Employees of Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications and their families are not eligible to participate.
  21. Each participant may enter the contest only once.
  22. All children 12 years of age or younger in a single family may submit one entry each for the children’s contest.
  23. Only one contestant 13 years of age or older from a single family may submit an entry to the adults’ contest.
  24. Only one prize per family will be awarded.
  25. While we encourage parents and legal guardians to experience the joy of coloring together with their children, contestants 12 years of age or younger must color their own coloring pages without physical assistance from any third party.
  26. All contestants 13 years of age or older must color their own coloring pages without assistance from any third party.
  27. Because children must be 13 years of age or older to have a Facebook or Instagram account, entries from children 12 years of age or younger must be submitted by a parent or legal guardian.
  28. Entries submitted by children 12 years of age or younger without parental supervision and consent will be disqualified.
  29. Contestants must abide by all Facebook and Instagram rules. Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications cannot be held responsible for any adverse decisions made by Facebook or Instagram as a result of a contestant’s violations of their Terms of Service.
  30. Contestants may use crayons, colored pencils, watercolor markers, or oil pastels (cray pas) to complete their coloring pages.
  31. Contestants may not use online or electronic coloring apps to complete their pictures. All entries colored with electronic coloring applications will be disqualified.
  32. One grand prize and two honorable mention prizes will be awarded in the children’s coloring contest.
  33. One grand prize and two honorable mention prizes will be awarded in the adults’ coloring contest.
  34. Contestants, or the parent or legal guardian of contestants 12 years of age or younger, must pick up prizes by appointment at the offices of Ocala Magazine, located at 743 E. Fort King Street, Ocala, Florida 34471. Ocala Magazine, at its sole discretion, may waive this requirement for winners who are not area residents.
  35. Winners must present a picture ID to receive their prizes.
  36. Ocala Magazine may, at its sole discretion, require a scanned or faxed copy of a picture ID before shipping prizes to winners who are not area residents.
  37. The Children’s Grand Prize Package is subject to the terms and conditions of the Walt Disney World® theme park.
  38. The Adults’ Grand Prize Package is subject to the terms and conditions of Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center.
  39. While we invite contestants to be fans, liking or following any Facebook page or Instagram profile is not required to win a prize.
  40. No purchase is necessary to win a prize.
  41. All judging/winner decisions made by Colorala Color are final.
  42. All contest decisions made by 7Hills Communications are final.
  43. Questions about The COLOROCALA Coloring Contest must be submitted via email to contest@ocalamagazine.com. No telephone calls, please.

Men of Influence 2020

Jamie Ulmer

Chief Executive Officer | Heart of Florida Health Center

2553 E. Silver Springs Blvd.  |  352.732.6599  |  www.myhfhc.org

How many years experience in your industry and what’s your background?

I have been in the Healthcare and Public Health industry arena both in the private sector and in the military collectively for almost 32 years.  I am a retired United States Army Medical Service Corp Officer with multiple combat tours.  While serving in the Armed Forces, I was an Executive/Operations Officer and Director of Human Resources.  Since my military career I have served as the Fort Jackson, S.C. Installation Public Health Administrator and the South Carolina State Government Emergency Medical Service for Children Public Health Administrator. Prior to my current position, I was the Chief Operating Officer for a health center in Aiken, S.C.

How passionate are you about your work and why?

The healthcare field has been a lifelong passion of mine that has culminated into many incredible and fulfilling opportunities and experiences for me.  I believe everyone deserves high quality healthcare. I have been privileged to be part of extraordinary, mission-driven, and dedicated teams that are accomplishing this vision.

What do you love most about Ocala/Marion County?

When my wife, Bethany, and I were looking at the different opportunities that were in front of  us, what ultimately drew us to Marion County was the diversity and the beauty of the area. The philanthropic nature of this community is like no other I have ever seen.  People give from their heart!

How has your business changed since this pandemic?

As the largest health center in the county that has different locations throughout, we have had to carefully look at all aspects, possibilities, and outcomes of this virus to ensure the safety and well-being of not just our patients, but also our staff. We have had to, as others, look at operations, equipment, and procedures of our nine locations. We also needed to redesign our soon-to-open new building to fit the requirements needed to keep all who enter the building safe. In collaboration with many of the healthcare agencies and organizations in the county we continue to devise plans as information comes out that will most ensure the health and safety of the residents of Marion County.

Favorite way of giving back?

I am on a group of different boards within the community that each within their own right, are looking at better ways to improve Marion County. I feel due to my experience, passion, and dedication this allows me to share my voice to improve not only businesses and the community, but the lives of its residents.

 

Kevin T. Sheilley

PRESIDENT/CEO | Ocala Chamber & Ecomomic Partnership

310 SE 3rd Street, Ocala  |  352.629.8051 OcalaCEP.com

How many years experience in your industry and what’s your background?

I am a career chamber/economic development professional in my 25th year.

How passionate are you about your work and why?

I truly have the best job in the world! I cannot imagine doing anything else. Through our work, we have the ability to impact thousands of people throughout our community.

What do you love most about Ocala/Marion County?

What’s not to love?!? Our community offers the best of all worlds; amazing charm and convenience to whatever one wants and the convenience to major metros and beaches without the downsides.

How has your business changed since this pandemic?

I am so extremely proud how the CEP has responded to the needs of the business community throughout this pandemic. We have created tools and resources to assist every business regardless of their CEP partnership. Our new favorite word is pivot and it reflects how we have responded throughout this period.

Favorite way of giving back?

I serve on the Board of two great non-profits (United Way and Kids Central) but love getting to assist others by MCing and assisting events for groups like the Florida Center for the Blind, Interfaith, Project Hope, and Open Arms Village.

 

Nick Nikkinen

Assistant Property Appraiser | Marion County

501 SE 25th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34471  |  352-584-3475  |  justpicknick.com

How many years experience in your industry and what’s your background?

For nearly 30 years I have worked as a real estate appraiser, including 25 years in the assessment field. The Honorable Villie Smith selected me as Assistant Property Appraiser and I consider it an honor and privilege to work for the citizens of Marion County.  I have worked in every facet of this business, and my designations include: Florida State-Certified General Appraiser in 1992, Certified Florida Evaluator (CFE), Assessment Administration Specialist (AAS), MAI (roughly equivalent to a “doctorate level” of commercial real estate appraisal), and finally the highest appraisal designation bestowed by the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO), the Certified Assessment Evaluator (CAE).

How passionate are you about your work and why?

I am passionate about serving the community and have called Marion County home since marrying “Roz” Vandeven in 2009. After overseeing a real estate staff of 54 in the 4th largest county in Florida, I enjoy the diversity Marion County has to offer, from city life, cultural activities and, of course, the beautiful horse farms.

What do you love most about Ocala/Marion County?

Although I love to travel, I also enjoy gatherings around a table allowing me to experiment with my culinary skills. There are so many activities in Marion County to enjoy, from the civic theatre, to the Appleton Museum, to horse shows, to the Reilly Arts Center and everything in between. I love most that there is no reason to be bored, one just needs to be engaged!

How has your business changed since this pandemic?

The pandemic has changed all our lives and we are all more aware of health issues and how connected we are to the world!

Favorite way of giving back?

I joined the Kiwanis Club of Ocala years ago and have served as the Chairman of the Camp Kiwanis Foundation Trustees, Golf Committee Co-Chair, and club photographer.  I also serve on the Board of Directors for Interfaith Emergency Services and I am active in my church. 

 

George J. Albright, III

MARION COUNTY TAX COLLECTOR

209 S.E. 15th Ave., Ocala,Fla.34471

352-843-1624

How many years experience in your industry and what’s your background? 16 years as Marion County Tax Collector. 12 years as Florida State Representative in Tallahassee representing Marion County

How passionate are you about your work and why? We love serving the people of Marion County  on a daily basis. You have to earn your wings everyday!

What do you love most about Ocala/Marion County? The people are what make Marion County special.

How has your business changed since this pandemic? We closed the office to foot traffic for several weeks, serving the people over the phone, mail and through the internet. We are back open to serve people in person, while following CDC social distancing guidelines. The process is working well.

Favorite way of giving back? The Tax Collector’s Charity Committee raises about $20,000 per year through fundraising events, like our annual car show. We love supporting our local charities.

Dr. David A. Albright

FAMILY PHYSICIAN

David A. Albright, M.D.,P.A

2203 S.E. 3rd Ave, Ocala, FL 34471

352-622-2477 | daaone@msn.com

How many years experience in your industry and what’s your background?

24 years practicing in Ocala as a Board Certified Family Physician.

How passionate are you about your work and why? Very Passionate about my work as a Physician!  I feel honored to take care of families and individuals for many years and develop a close relationship with them.  I take my role very personally, and it is brings me great joy and satisfaction to help others.

What do you love most about Ocala/Marion County? I love the people and beauty of the county, and all the resources we have available here. Having been raised in the country, I can appreciate the hard work of those who strive to make this the best place it can be.

How has your business changed since this pandemic? We have had to shut down our office to seeing patients in person for a number of weeks in compliance with the CDC and State of Florida`s recommendations for social distancing during COVID-19.  We have remained functioning by telemedicine and telephone contact with our patients through this.

Favorite way of giving back? I enjoy giving back to our community through my church, First Presbyterian Church downtown, as well as to Interfaith, local schools, and in the past, Special Olympics.  As a physician. we often take care of the indigent as well as others who cannot pay.

Clay Albright

PRESIDENT/CEO

Clay Albright, Inc.

44 Southeast 1st. Ave. Suite 201, Ocala, FL 34471

How many years experience in your industry and what’s your background?

39 years in the Commercial Real Estate and Development Business. Served 15 years on various boards such as the Chamber, TPO, County P & Z commission in Marion County. Served 10 years on State of Florida Board.

How passionate are you about your work and why? Watching your community grow in a positive but protective way for the future generations is very gratifying to me. Personally knowing that every foundation of every structure that you create will be there for the next 50 years. We are always striving for perfection in bringing new assets to the community to enjoy.

What do you love most about Ocala/Marion County? Although we are a growing community of over 250,000 residents, it is still an incredibly small town. Every business, every restaurant, every stoplight I am at, I still know someone and am always treated with love and a kiss, a hug, and nowadays a bump of the elbow. I guess it is just part of being raised in the South.

How has your business changed since this pandemic? Essentially we are all in unknown territory. Everyone’s problems in my business rapidly becomes my problem and you have to be compassionate of how each and every household is different. In times like these we all have to help each other out no matter what the personal sacrifice is you are making. I hope we will in every way possible have a stronger sense of who our neighbor is, who our fellow citizen is. Things can always be worse, all you have to do is just look around.

Favorite way of giving back? I prefer to do it quietly to those who are in need and I never a let a day go by with out doing a good deed for someone even if it is just simply opening a door.

Justin Albright

SALES AGENT

Albright Properties

PO Box 725 Ocklawaha, FL 32183

352-427-5301

How many years experience in your industry and what’s your background?

I have been a licensed real estate agent in Marion County since 1996.  Through the years I have bought and sold many properties in the area, mainly vacant land and owner financed homes in south Marion County.

How passionate are you about your work and why? I am very passionate about what I do, as it is very rewarding to help local folks find the perfect home to raise their families and enjoy life.  I also enjoy knowing that I am carrying on the real estate tradition that my dad started over 40 years ago here in Marion County.  It was his passion, and it is mine as well.

What do you love most about Ocala/Marion County? Being a lifelong resident of Marion County, I appreciate the rich history and traditions of the area, and I love to see our commuity evolve year by year.  Ocala/Marion County is a unique community in the fact that we are all neighbors and the folks here always take care of one another, such as how people here have given back during the current pandemic.

How has your business changed since this pandemic? My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by the pandemic here locally.  Personally, business has been slower, but the way that I interact with my clients has not changed all that much.

Favorite way of giving back? I currently serve as Chairman of the Marion Soil and Water Conservation District.  Being involved in the organization is one of my passions, as we deal with water quality issues, helping local farmers through cost share programs, as well as participate with local schools with our contests and scholarships.

 

Jerry Glassman

Security Land Holding Company

352-237-1186

How many years experience in
your industry?

51 years

How passionate are you about your work and why?

The development that we did in Ocala was a lot different than the other things we did around the state. In Ocala, we put in a complete area and put in roads, sewer and water, developed the community, put in parks because there was more land here and it was more of an overall development.  In other places, we just did a small housing project, an apartment building, just one thing on one piece of land. In Ocala, we had a much bigger presence, and when I was developing here, there were very few people doing what I was doing. It was a smaller community, it was harder to bring people here, we had a small population, and we didn’t meet the requirements of businesses in density. The population was too small. Over a period of time, we brought in a lot of different users. A lot of it was due to the fact that the mall was built here, and that I-75 was a super exit. A lot of our properties were right next to I-75 that we developed. And of course Highway 200, going to 484, developed around 200 and 484 and the middle. Commercially, it took a long time, but now it’s developing all the way down the road.

What do you love most about Ocala/Marion County?

I love the country feel of the land. The horse farm community gives it a great presence. It’s delightful living in this county with great weather and lots of outdoor activities. You have parks, great springs, you have Rainbow Springs, Silver Springs, Scott Springs, Alexander Springs, Orange Springs, we’ve kayaked and canoed on all of these different places around the county. You don’t have to go too far to have a really great time. And of course, the horse community, and what’s happening now with the World Equestrian Center, it’s going to become the international place to become involved with horses. The future looks great and the community’s been growing. We have a lot of great people moving in here, making it a much stronger place. I’m very proud of it.

How has your business changed since this pandemic?

It stopped. People are planning to do things in the future, and they’re starting to work on this and that. Some of the houses are starting to sell again. It’s slowly coming back. It’s not going to come back over night. And you have to hope that we don’t get a second phase of this virus.

Favorite way of giving back?

We’ve always supported the college, United Way, the Humane Society, the Ocala/Marion County Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Center.   

 

Tom James

Director of Networking & Partner Services | Ocala Chamber & Ecomomic Partnership

310 SE 3rd Street, Ocala  |  352.629.8051 OcalaCEP.com

How many years experience in your industry and what’s your background?

Joining my hometown Chamber & Economic Partnership upon returning to Ocala seven years ago was a seamless integration.  I had worked in television as a sportscaster (and later in sales for Sun Broadcasting) in Virginia and South Florida.  In so many ways, those experiences helped prepare me to be part of this transformative team at the CEP.

How passionate are you about your work and why?

The engine room for me is being a link in the chain that furthers Ocala and brings to light all the incredible things that make it charming and unique.  I could not have scripted a more perfect position for myself than the one I currently hold.  In many ways, it’s a dream come true.

What do you love most about Ocala/Marion County?

Two things:  1) Ocala is brave. Throughout it’s 150 plus years, we have always been home to visionaries. In the new millennium, we are moving forward with wise, efficient growth that will make Ocala thrive for generations to come.     2) Elbow room… the open spaces… the way breezes slice through the oaks in Ocala. Go ahead and travel the globe, but you won’t find an equivalent anywhere.

How has your business changed since this pandemic?

The CEP touts itself as “the one-stop shop for the business community.” We’ve connected thousands of businesses to resources for applying for loans, supplied information on job openings, and have hosted key webinars focused on information that will help during the pandemic.

Favorite way of giving back?

Supporting the United Way. It’s in my blood.  My mom (Toni James) was our United Way President for 30 plus years.  I firmly believe her example of tireless perseverance and innovative spirit to move charitable giving forward helped pave the road for the overwhelming generosity Ocala’s warm-hearted citizen’s exhibit now every single day.

 

Randy Woodruff, CPA, CFE

Suncoast CPA Group PLLC

(352) 596-2883  |  suncoastcpagroup.com

How many years experience in your industry and what’s your background?

I have been helping clients with their tax, accounting and financial needs for 26 years.

How passionate are you about your work and why?

I am very passionate about my work.  I really enjoy providing guidance to clients and helping them make tax and financial decisions.

What do you love most about Ocala/Marion County?

All the amenities of a midsize Florida city, combined with the rural feel provided by the Ocala national forest and the large equestrian farms.

How has your business changed since this pandemic?

My business has not changed all that much due to the pandemic. We are considered an essential service, and have remained open to help our clients during these tough economic times.

Favorite way of giving back?

Due to  my tax and financial background, I am asked to serve on the Board of Directors of various community organizations ranging from chambers of commerce, other trade associations, hospitals and banks.

 

Edwin A. “Trip” Green, III

Partner/Shareholder | Blanchard, Merriam, Adel, Kirkland & Green, P.A.

4 SE Broadway, Ocala, Florida 34471 | (352) 732-7218 | www.bmaklaw.com

How many years experience in your industry and what’s your background?

20 years.  I have a background in commercial litigation, personal injury, and trust and estate litigation.

How passionate are you about your work and why?

Most days I enjoy what I do.  I get a great deal of satisfaction out of helping people and take my role as counselor and advocate very seriously.

What do you love most about Ocala/Marion County?

Small town feel where most people know one another, but it is big enough that there is plenty of economic opportunity.

How has your business changed since this pandemic?

It hasn’t.

Favorite way of giving back?

Raising money to help find a cure for pediatric cancer.   

 

 

Philip Glassman

Real Estate Sales

743 E. Fort King Street, Ocala, FL 3471  |  813-727-7657  |  philip@ocalamagazine.com

How many years experience in your industry and what’s your background?

I got my real estate license the day I turned 18 and I’ve been doing real estate sales and development with my family ever since. I bought Ocala Magazine in October of 2018 and have been loving this business as the Publisher and Editor in Chief ever since.

How passionate are you about your work and why?

Very passionate! I don’t do anything in any business that I’m not passionate about. I love to take a lead all the way through to a closing. It is extremely rewarding, as is taking a raw piece of land and developing it with a national AAA Credit tenant. On the magazine front, we are able to help so many people through the charity work of giving the amazing charities that are here in Marion County and the people behind them a voice to let this region know of their accomplishments through their hard work.

What do you love most about Ocala/Marion County?

The thing I love most about Marion County is the people who make the community and who are the backbone of this area. I’ve always had a love for horses. Actually, my name Philip means “the lover of horses.” Ever since my family moved up here from Miami to our farm in Romeo, I have always been deeply connected with horses. I also love the Granddaddy Oak trees in this area.

How has your business changed since this pandemic?

The real estate business has not really been affected by the pandemic. It has, however, completely gotten me out of the bar and night club business — which has been a blessing in disguise. Regarding the magazine, it brought a tremendous shift in our business model. We went from distributing all of our magazines through local businesses to mailing thousands of magazines to our readership, increasing the free subscriptions each month until everyone is able to go out and pick up a copy again.

Favorite way of giving back?

Highlighting a charity each month through Ocala Magazine in my publisher’s letter. Pinpointing people in the community who are making major changes for underprivileged people. 

 

 

Ronald W. Wetherington

SOCIAL EDITOR | Ocala Magazine

743 E. Fort King Street, Ocala, FL 34471 | Ron@ocalamagazine.com

How many years experience in your industry and what’s your background?

Early in my career, I started as a society columnist in Miami and worked at several different publications. Being a society columnist was my avocation. My vocation was being licensed as a realtor associate for a long time concentrating on commercial property such as apartment buildings.

How passionate are you about your work and why?

As social editor at OM, it has been my passion to always promote various charities. The good works that these charities do deserves promotion by all of us.

What do you love most about Ocala/Marion County?

I love the big city opportunities yet there is a small-town ambiance. Ocala/Marion County is beautiful with moss-draped oaks and scenic roads through horse county.

How has your business changed since this pandemic?

As social editor for OM, there are, as of now, no charity events to attend since they all have been cancelled. On the chance that there is a charity event in the future to attend, I have tailored shirts with matching face masks.

Favorite way of giving back?

I love attending charity events for my column. Over the years, I have featured various charities such as Royal Dames for Cancer Research, American Heart Association, Stirrups ‘N Strides, Kimberly House, Marion Senior Services and many more.

An Everlasting Legacy

By Carlton Reese

Born in Weirsdale. Lived in Weirsdale. Died in Weirsdale. To many, these three sentences likely describe an unaccomplished recluse of sorts – a non-traveled fellow of meager means and ambition.

But for George Albright, Jr., to have been born, lived and died in Weirsdale serves as testimony to a man who lived his entire life dedicated to the betterment of his small, beloved community. Successful, well-traveled and indefatigable in his many charitable efforts, Albright lived with a single purpose: Leave this world a better place than when he found it.

Nearly four years ago, Albright passed away and left behind a legacy not only in his children but in the many markers throughout Marion County and beyond which still wear his fingerprints. From Camp Kiwanis to the success of the local Boy Scouts, from the steeple of the Weirsdale Presbyterian Church to the many start-up homes he helped facilitate for new couples and families in need, Albright’s contributions take the form of not just concrete tangible monuments, but in an infectious goodwill that helped uplift a town.

He was 84-years-old and he left too soon.

In the month of June, we take stock in the fathers which reared us, taught us life’s lessons, showed us the value of laughter and living in the service of others. We show our appreciation for all they do and have done. And although Albright is no longer with us, it seems he is still fulfilling his fatherly duties, not just to his own flesh and blood but to a community that still relies on many of the projects he helped foster.

“Dad literally loved absolutely everybody in this community,” said son Clay. “He was like a surrogate father to so many people and that has been reaffirmed since his passing with just people I come across. There are so many people my age that didn’t have their parents that dad stepped in in some form or fashion.”

Descended from a line of Presbyterian ministers, Albright himself could often preach a few lessons, but without being preachy. Albright’s lessons were taught mainly through example, and many times out of the limelight.

In the late 1960s, a woman who worked for Albright lost everything when her house burned down. That’s when he stepped in to help.

Son George III recalls the episode and the effect it had on him as well.

“There was a house that had recently not been lived in and dad arranged to have the house moved about a half mile to right on the spot where she lost her house.

“I was in middle school and it was profound; something that I’ve never forgotten. He just did stuff like that all the time.”

After the big citrus freeze of the 1980s, Albright was able to turn his real estate acumen into helping low-income families with homes. Taking a listing of 1,000 acres of former orange groves and dividing it into 5, 10 and 20-acre plots at just $500 down and $200 per month, affordable home sites existed where none had before. For those with poor credit, Albright many times stepped in to carry the mortgage himself.

“Most of those people could not have owned a place at all because they didn’t have good enough credit,” said wife Aggie. “He helped so many young couples get places to live and buy property. He just loved helping people and making it possible for people that had a hard row to hoe.”

As a father, Albright was a consummate provider for his family. Having gone to work for National Standard Life Insurance Co. right out of the University of Florida, Albright would retire as the company’s Executive Vice President before moving on to establish Albright Realty, which would garner a financial well-being strong enough to send four boys to college and become successful in their own rights.

With the success of his real estate company and his orange grove business, Albright garnered a hefty prominence in Weirsdale and Marion County as well. From it all, his wealth existed mainly as a means to free him up to engage in the charitable projects he found so crucial.

In joining the Kiwanis Club of Weirsdale, Albright found his calling as a servant of the community. His work in maintaining and improving Camp Kiwanis, founded in 1948, is legendary.

“George was Mr. Kiwanis – that is where his heart was,” said lifelong friend Willet “Bud” Boyer, who worked side-by-side with Albright on most of the projects. “In a small town, you have to have advocates. If people in the community do not take a stand and take hold, these small communities just fall by the wayside.”

The golf tournament that bears his name has been responsible for ensuring the existence of the camp where Albright was a counselor and generations of Marion Countians have grown up. Thanks to George’s diligence rounding up sponsors, volunteers, patrons, food and beverage suppliers and auction items, the George Albright Memorial Golf Tournament to this day is at the top of area golf fundraisers.

Albright’s salesmanship came in handy when it was time to raise money for the Boy Scouts. The annual spaghetti dinner held to raise funds became a special project for George, who was able to use his connections to get most everything donated for free and increase the margins for the sales.

In selling tickets, Albright relied on his sharp business skills to make certain revenues would extend into five-figure dollar numbers. He knew you achieved such lofty goals by selling not one, but 10 tickets at a time.

“And once you got on his hit list, you were never off it,” Clay said. “He’d romance you to get the deal done, but after that, whoever he knew wrote the check he wouldn’t call you and say, ‘hey, can you help me out again this year?’ He never gave you the option of a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ – it was ‘how many should I put you down for?’

“If you ever got on his fundraising hit list, it was like the mafia – you could never get out of it.”

Such was Albright’s dedication to making his projects work: he expected everyone around him to share his enthusiasm and dedication to the cause. That white-knuckled will is the reason many ballfields, basketball courts and parks exist in Weirsdale, why libraries and food halls bear his name and why many children born to unfortunate means went on to achieve great things thanks to Boy Scout scholarships in which he played a major role.

Boyer recalled one of Albright’s methods of fundraising included a little bit of good-natured shaming. At one point, Albright went to community banks to raise money for the Boy Scouts and, of course, all pitched in . . . except one.

Albright could not stand for a lone holdout so he immediately went to leaning on the executives out of town.

“George takes the bull by the horns and calls the chairman of the board of this bank in Birmingham, Ala.,” said Boyer. “In essence he tells him what a cheapskate he is and that every other banker had given him some money and he just wanted him to know that his bank was the only piker in the bunch.

“The chairman of the board sat down and wrote him a check for $100 and sent it to him.”

Relentless in his efforts, George Albright simply could not accept ‘no’ as an answer.

“If you said ‘no’ to him, that was just a challenge. It was like waving a red flag.”

Not simply blessed with keen sales and business acumen, Albright’s engaging personality allowed him to cultivate important relationships including quite a few in some very high places.

In the 1950s, Albright attended the University of Florida, which was the place to be in terms of rubbing elbows with the state’s future movers and shakers.

“Dad grew up or went to college with the people that were going to run Florida for the next 30 years,” said son George III, a former state legislator and currently Marion County Tax Collector. “Ninety percent of the politicians that were in office from the 50s to the 80s went to the University of Florida and he knew all those people.

“It helped me immensely when I got (to the state legislature). There were a lot of people there that knew my dad and liked my dad: Gov. (Lawton) Chiles, Bill Gunter (former state treasurer and insurance commissioner) and (former governor) Ruben Askew.”

Those relationships came especially valuable when Albright became involved with the Life Giver Law in the mid-1990s. Spearheaded by Glenn Lane, the law was sought to streamline an outdated system of organ donations and transplants utilizing microfilm instead of computer technology and subsequent data bases.

Albright was recruiting Lane for Kiwanis membership when Lane explained the archaic system that was costing lives through its inefficiency. At that point, Albright could see how he could help.

“He said, ‘Kiwanis is exactly what you need! We’ve got people in every part of the state, and in politics – my son serves in the Florida legislature and serves on the Health Committee!’” said Lane, who became involved with the organ donor cause when his son needed a liver transplant at an early age. “He was right. He knew every aspect of the state and he was the catalyst behind the bill.”

The law created a computer registry pregnant with greater efficiency for matching donors with recipients and became a model for which other states would copy. The number of lives saved that would have otherwise been lost is incalculable.

The connections, the business savvy, the sharp sales skills and the catching personality all made George Albright a valuable commodity himself. His dedication to the Kiwanis service organization led him from local chapter president all the way to president of the Kiwanis International Foundation.

This position took him to all corners of the world where he was responsible for raising millions of dollars for children’s causes and more.

“I think his whole life was around Kiwanis, and mine,” Aggie said. “He loved people; he never met a stranger. It seems like he could meet a person and within the conversation he would ask three or four questions and he always had something in common.”

“How does a little boy go from Weirsdale to the University of Forida to travelling the world as an emissary for Kiwanis so quick?” rhetorically asked George III. “Weirsdale is a tiny place and it’s getting to be tinier. But it’s amazing to me how many people grew up here in the last 80 years and gone on to do great things not only in the state, but in the country and the world.”

In total, it was a life spent serving a small community he loved so dearly and trying to make things better. He used his business skills to not only accumulate personal wealth, but to improve the things around him, including people.

“He said, ‘you always leave things better than you find it,’” Clay said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re borrowing a piece of equipment. If I borrow your utility trailer and it has a broken taillight, it’s going to be fixed before I bring it back to you.

“The saying about him is kind of like the way he left his community. Hell or high water he was going to make sure the community was left in better shape than he found it.”

The parks and ballfields of Weirsdale, the mentor programs at Stanton-Weirsdale Elementary, the continuation of Camp Kiwanis, the Life Giver Law and the boy scouts who went on to successful careers and servants of their own communities are just a small fraction of elements that include George Albright’s efforts. He had a hand in it all and so much more that made Weirsdale, Marion County and the state of Florida a better place than he found it.

To this day Albright remains not just a pillar of a community, but a father to it as well. Everywhere around us are reminders of his presence, and in that sense, perhaps he has never left.

The Mothers That Made The Man

By BEN BAUGH

Mothers are the most amazing people. The gifts they provide are priceless, life, nurturing our souls, giving us maternal guidance that will resonate during the course of our lives. You are blessed if there is one such woman to help shape the course of your life, but imagine having five. Philip Glassman, the publisher of Ocala Magazine, is one such person, having five women whose impact continues to play a large role in his life.

His biological mother, Sharon Glassman; Gloria Oliver, who has known Glassman for the preponderance of his life, and who his mother refers to as her sister, and is the grandmother of Regas Woods (see pg. 38); Diane Curtis, a successful businesswoman and model, who’s now deceased, and was Sharon Glassman’s best friend, Francine Martin, an author, who has known Sharon Glassman since they were both 15 years of age and Jaye Katanick, all have had a profound influence on a man who has forged careers in business and entertainment most would be envious of, and it’s these women, composing a cadre of nurturing and encouraging maternal-figures, who offered support and shelter from a sometimes cruel and unforgiving world. 

Sharon Glassman is known for her business acumen, starting her first business at age 17, the Miami-native owns and operates Ocala Family Medical Center. Dr. Robert Panzer, let Glassman take over the clinic, and she built the business into what it is today. She is a self-described workaholic.

“We have really good doctors, really good help and everybody that works there is fantastic,” said Sharon Glassman. “That’s my job to keep everybody happy.”

She owned and operated the second largest pig farm in the State of Florida, when she was living in Romeo, which the Glassman’s had purchased in 1969. Her indefatigable spirit, unflappable nature and outstanding sense of humor are attributes that have helped her succeed, even in the most challenging of environments. Sharon Glassman has been an outstanding role model, not only for her children, but for anyone who hopes to succeed in life.

Sharon Glassman’s business savvy, intellect and judgment have played a large role in her success. She has never been one to shy away from responsibility, possessing the capacity to flourish and thrive in a number of environments. A woman of tremendous strength and courage, Glassman went to court so she could obtain her real estate license at the age of 18, as she had two young children to support, demonstrating it was necessary for her livelihood. Sharon was also one of the originators of the vacation certificate, something that she did in her early 20s. She would meet her future husband when she was 24-years-old, and assumed responsibility of the direct sales force at Royal Palm Beach Colony, a position where she oversaw 300 employees, salesman, solicitors and drivers. Her organization skills and business acumen would be on display again, when she set up Royal Highlands, which was a 44,000-acre project, located on Highway 19, on the west coast of Florida.

In 1974, after leaving the position at Royal Palm Beach Colony, Sharon Glassman would take on the challenge of managing the pig farm in Romeo, one that eventually became the second largest in the state. And although the Glassmans didn’t know much about pig farming, Sharon was undeterred, and went to the University of Florida, studied what to do and then implemented those practices.

The Glassmans developed Cala Hills, adding to her long list of accomplishments.

“My mom was always leading by example,” said Philip Glassman. “My mom was such a shrewd businesswoman, and so successful in her own right. It’s kind of like you aspired to be like her due to her actions, and who she was as a business person and a philanthropist within the community and on the global level with the United Nations.”

Sharon Glassman acknowledged the influence that both Oliver and Curtis had on Philip’s life, the encouragement they gave him, helping to build his character and integrity, while creating a nurturing environment, where he could learn and grow.

“They loved Philip, no matter what he did,” said Sharon Glassman. “He could do no wrong.”

It’s been a life well-lived for Sharon Glassman, whose influence is far reaching, having been involved with projects in the United Nations, in New York City, for a milestone date, including one task that took nearly two years to complete. The experience saw Glassman making trips to New York City and Washington, D.C. on a routine basis.

“They brought me in, this one guy, I met him in Tarrytown (New York), with Bob Schwartz, who’s passed away,” said Sharon Glassman. “He and I go walking around, and he said, ‘You’re going to do the 40th anniversary for the U.N.’ I said, ‘What are you crazy. I live in Ocala.’ He said, ‘I don’t care where you live.’ He has me doing the 40th anniversary of the United Nations. The next thing you know, he said, ‘I want you to go to all of the organizations and reorganize them.’ I’m an organizer, that’s what I really do. I go into every agency and reorganized the whole damn place. Oh God, we had a lot of laughs.”

Glassman, and her husband Jerry, have been married for more than half a century, and she remains as enthusiastic about the relationship today as when they first met, providing their daughter Tammy and son Phillip with an example of the importance of marriage, the strength of commitment, and what it truly means to be in love. They had a daughter Kathy who passed away as a teenager.

“Jerry’s my best friend, and I have to tell you that we’ve been together forever,” said Sharon Glassman. “I’m crazy about him, and still am. We’re married over 50 years and we still like each other. That’s what’s wonderful. We call ourselves two lucky duckies.”

The Glassmans have been inseparable, having had the opportunity to travel all over the world, and have experienced life to the fullest. But their altruism hasn’t been restricted to just the local community.

“We’ve helped out a lot of people all over the world too, in little villages, where the only thing they couldn’t get was water, and they had to carry it five miles,” said Sharon Glassman. “I put in the wells and the pumps for those people. It was everywhere, but we got it done everywhere. If you get the right people, give them a few bucks, they get the work done, and that’s what we did.”

However, Sharon Glassman’s influence can be felt in Ocala, it was while she was the President of the Central Florida Community College Foundation, that her business acuity would forever change the complexion of the area’s landscape.

“The best thing we did over there was that we built the college housing,” said Sharon Glassman. “Nobody wanted to do it, and I got the banks together and was able to get them to commit to give us the money to do it.”

Sharon Glassman’s generosity carries with it a powerful legacy, and those she’s influenced and impacted will resonate with generations to come. She worked closely with Judy Wilson for a number of years making a significant difference in others’ lives. Glassman’s presence was felt almost immediately, taking the foundation from having $500,000 in its coffers and growing it to several hundred million. She served in the capacity of president for nearly a decade, said Philip Glassman. Sharon Glassman has been involved in many charitable endeavors at the local level.

“We did a lot of work for the central Florida community to get the land, and I donated my commissions for the college housing square project with John Curtis, and there were just a lot of philanthropy things that my mom did,” said Philip. “She got me involved, and that’s why I’m so keen in helping charities, the community and the underprivileged people in our own community. There was always a slogan, ‘Think Globally, but Act Locally.’ We help people right here in our own community.”

The Glassmans along with five others, created the Social Venture Network. The organization engendered opportunities by bringing businesses to realize that it was good for them to invest in socially-minded projects, within their communities, with the thought of, ‘Thinking globally and acting locally.’ The idea was embraced by large national companies, as they began to place an emphasis on social responsibility.

The Glassmans were also part of the doughnuts, a group composed of nearly 200 young people who had inherited substantial wealth. People from different organizations who were socially responsible, and wanted to engage in projects to help better humanity around the world, improving urban developments, putting in wells so people could have access to water, providing cataract operations in foreign countries, etc… would then meet with the Doughnuts, to share with them their ideas and the projects they were hoping to have funded by the participating investors, the Doughnuts, who would approve the projects.

Philip Glassman followed in his mother’s footsteps by joining a philanthropic organization, when he was just 19-years-old, starting the process that has found him being a leader within the community for decades.

“When George Albright, Sr. got me in to Kiwanis, we started the College Park Kiwanis Club, which was over in Cala Hills, and then later the Hilton,” said Philip Glassman.

Diane Curtis was a model having appeared on the cover of Vogue, and had a fitness spa in the Fountainbleau Hotel in Miami Beach. She was Sharon Glassman’s best friend.

“She had the first spa, exercise place in Ocala (To Your Health Spa),” said Sharon. “When she died, we all cried over that one.” Curtis passed away Dec. 18, 2009

However, Curtis also played a significant role in Philip Glassman’s life, as an encourager, providing him with emotional support even during the most challenging times

“She was always there for me in a sense, whether it was when I went off to college, or went off to Los Angeles to get my SAG license for acting, she would always send me a note or card that was uplifting,” said Philip. “If I had been turned down for five auditions, she would say, ‘You’re going to get the next one, stay and keep doing it.’ She pushed me through to be able to accomplish the things that I did in Hollywood and in my real estate career for that matter.”

Gloria Oliver and Sharon Glassman are family. Oliver has worked for Glassman for nearly 50 years, and the two are best friends.

“We call each other sisters now, she’s black and I’m white,” said Sharon Glassman. “She’s my older sister.  She has 40-acres out by Dunnellon. She has a farm that she lives on, that’s been in her family for years. She has a brother that lives on the farm. She has a nephew who’s right there to help out with whatever she needs. She’s perfect. I talk to her every other day, and even though she’s not here (COVID-19 and social distancing). We still talk all the time because I have to call her to tell her I love her. We fight a lot too. We have good fights, like, ‘Did you leave the broccoli in the microwave?’ Serious stuff.”

Dr. Sheldon Katanick, Jaye’s husband, was like a second father to Philip Glassman, profoundly influencing him, in a way that continues to resonate. It was Katanick’s supportive nature and unwavering encouragement that made a significant impact in Philip Glassman’s life.

Francine Martin has known Philip Glassman since birth, having been friends with Sharon Glassman since the time the two women were 15-years-old. She’s seen Philip evolve into a man, and marvels at how wonderful of a father he is.

“He takes them (his children) everywhere, he’s with them all the time, he spends all the weekends with them.” said Martin. “Phil is like another son. My boyfriend and I hang around with him. He loves to cook, so we exchange recipes. He’s a terrific man and a good guy. He lived with my son Zach (Danny) DiLiberto on the west coast for a year (when the two were involved in the entertainment industry).”

A maternal figure doesn’t necessarily have to be your biological mother, but their nurturing ways, depth of caring and unconditional love are immeasurable, and often play a great role in our future.

“For me, I wouldn’t be the man I am today without my mother and father, and the influences they set for me and the guidance they’ve given me my whole life,” said Philip. “It’s a shame that some kids are born into life without a father or a mother, and aren’t given the guidance to help them along and be steered in the right direction.”

Never Say Never

By BEN BAUGH

The definition of persistence and determination has been redefined by one brave man

At first glance, Regas Woods doesn’t appear to be an elite athlete, a Pan American Gold medalist. But never look at looks. The Dunnellon-based athlete has been defying the odds his entire life. The bilateral above-the-knee amputee competed in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio Di Janeiro in both the 200 meters and long jump. Woods has never been one to let his disability get in the way. The multi-discipline athlete was born with a congenital abnormality as his tibia and fibula failed to develop properly. A decision of great gravitas had to be made, one that would alter the complexion of his life. “It was the choice to either put in rods or amputate,” said Woods. “They could do it when I was 6-years-old or 2-years-old. My mother chose to do it when I was 2-years old (having both legs amputated above the knee), so I wouldn’t remember the surgery, which I don’t.”

Mobility presented its own set of demands – something Woods referred to as a learning process – realizing he would have to learn things a bit differently, which at times was challenging and frustrating. “Those were the cards that I was dealt,” said Woods. “I played it to the best of my ability. I got my first set of prosthetics when I was 3-years-old. We actually have them in a trophy case at my mom’s house.” It was something that he did early in life that taught him about balance and helped strengthen his upper body, variables that would come into the equation years later when he turned his attention toward athletics. “I used to ride around on a skateboard in the neighborhood all the time,” said Woods. “I used my hands and arms and stuff a lot. I developed a lot of strength from that. I was always active and outside, doing something sports related. I had no idea I would be running.”

One person in particular made a huge impact on Woods’ life: his coach, Jim Beach. “I was at a school in Orlando, an elementary school called Lake Silver, and that’s where I met him, said Woods. “The school was designed to wean in the kids with physical disabilities with the able-bodied kids. So, they had this thing called the Junior Orange Bowl game that he entered. It started out like a little field day type thing. It was track-oriented and I started traveling with that team. I haven’t turned back since. I started running and competing when I was about 10-years-old. “

Athletics gave Woods a sense of self-worth, providing him with a challenge, and his success in running fueled his desire and his evolution and set him on a path where the 39-year-old continues to learn to this day.

“I was running before they came out with the actual running prosthetics,” said Woods. “They call them blades. They’re actually a running prosthetic foot. It sounds cooler when they say blades. I was around when the first generation of blades came out. I had a chance to try all that stuff. I actually used to run on regular walking feet, which isn’t good for running, but that’s all they had until they came out with the new technology, and technology keeps evolving.”

Woods would continue his sojourn, competing in running events, attempting to make the U.S. Paralympic team in 2004, 2008 and 2012, but didn’t succeed in attaining his goal. For most people, that would be enough to stop trying, but it just seemed to motivate Woods, whose confidence in himself is only rivaled by his faith in God.

His perseverance would finally pay off, as he made the U.S. Paralympic National team in 2013, providing him with his first opportunity to compete overseas in England.

It was while he was at the elite training facility in Chula Vista, Cailf. in 2013, where he added the discipline of long jumping to his portfolio. Woods had already been competing in the 100 and 200 meter running events, but it was at the suggestion of the facility’s resident coach, Jeremy Fisher, that he began practicing in a sport he had never thought about previously.

The year 2013 was pivotal year in Woods’s career: making the national team, something he would repeat in 2015 and 2017. Prior to that, he was just an adaptive sport athlete.

“Just because you have a disability, doesn’t mean you’re a Paralympian,” said Woods. “A Paralympian means you have qualified at a national championship or a trials, and you have made the team, and have went on to represent the U.S.”

Woods’s story is about how he has consistently risen to the occasion, overcoming adversity to succeed. At the World Championships in 2015, a miscalculation in which he didn’t get his chest up to jump correctly, found him over-rotating, landing on his side and breaking a rib. After the jump, he told his coach that he believed he broke his rib. His coach, Ocala’s Tony McCall suggested that he stop competing, but Woods was far from through, having sacrificed so much to reach this particular stage. He concealed his pain, continued on and secured the bronze medal and winning the semifinals of the 200 meters that same night. He ran off of pure heart and adrenaline.

“I showed the world that no matter what, never give up.”

He would go on to capture the gold medal in the long jump and silver in the 100 meters at the 2015 Pan American Games.

However, the amount of sacrifices athletes and their families make for their dreams to become reality can be heartbreaking, and for Woods it was no different. In 2015 Woods lost his job as a prosthetic technician at the company he had been working at for 15 years. They weren’t interested in supporting Woods for his Paralympic endeavors, even though he represented who they were.

“That was my only means of taking care of responsibility,” said Woods. “It was the only thing I did for 15 years, but it was a blessing in disguise.”

The untoward events were on his mind at the Paralympic Trials and the stress was enormous, knowing that if he didn’t perform well he would have to wait another four years to make the team. Woods had sacrificed a great deal and reached this stage without sponsors, endorsements or an agent.

“I just went out there on faith and was going to make it,” said Woods.

But as fate would have it, pitfalls would once again beset Woods. Coach McCall had already emphasized the importance of having a good first jump. The long jumps take a lot out of the athletes both mentally and physically.

Woods started with a perfect run down the runway, then inexplicably he broke both blades and did a front flip into the sand.

“I’m looking down at the blades, and I’m saying, ‘Did you really want to go do this right now?’ So, the official said, ‘Woods, can you continue?’ And off of instinct, and having had it instilled into me to never give up. I told them, ‘yes.’”

Woods had no time to spare, and his prosthetic background began to kick in, he knew how to work on the blades and had a couple of tools in his bag, and although he did have one spare blade with him, the other was back at the hotel. In the spirit of sportsmanship, the other athletes came over to check on him. There was only one competitor who had a blade that was compatible and would retrofit his socket. The other athlete lent him his blade, with Woods promising not to break it, fitting it to his left side because he jumped off his right side. But there was another problem: It wasn’t the best blade in the industry and it was 3 inches too short. But as intrepid as a warrior as Woods is, he didn’t let all those variables deter him. It was as if he was running on a flat tire, but Woods quickly adjusted and his jump would earn him a spot on the U.S. team for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio Di Janeiro.

“I made the team on another man’s foot,” said Woods. “Who can say that they’ve borrowed another man’s foot and made the team. Of course, I got my backup blade and I competed in the 200 and 100, won the 200 and got second in the 100. I do multi-events, so I ended up getting picked for the team.”

Woods’ mother Deborah Simon has played a huge role in the athlete’s life. Simon instilled in Woods that he would be able to do all things through Christ’s strength.

“She never treated me different than my other siblings,” said Woods. “I had chores like everybody else did. She never treated me like I had a disability. She always told me that I would have to learn how to do things a little different. “

It was his mother who taught Woods how to drive a standard shift transmission on his grandmother’s property.

“She told me, ‘Don’t wreck my truck,” said Woods. “She said, ‘You have the clutch, the break, the gas and the gear shift.’ I’m the only one of my mom’s kids that can drive a standard shift transmission. She never taught me to feel sorry for myself.”

Simon always told her son he could do anything he put his mind to, and those are the words he lives by to this day, and a message he tries to spread globally.

It was a proud moment for Simon when Woods was selected for his first national team, with it being the first time he was ever out of the country,

But it was different when Woods was selected for the Paralympic team. His reaction was caught on tape by NBC.

“The camera was right on my face when they called my name,” said Woods. “I just broke down. I’m sure the family did too.”

A propitious event occurred while he was working at the prosthetic company, one that would allow Woods to realize one of his dreams.

A man came into the facility who had been in a bus accident, and he was deeply impacted by the event. He had just lost one of his legs below the knee, and would eventually have his other leg amputated below the knee.

“We got to talking and normally, I don’t go to a patient’s house,” said Woods. “His mom and his parents kept on inviting me over. She said, ‘I had to be more supportive for her son because he hadn’t been through anything like this.’ We became friends, and I said to him, ‘One day, when I get some land, I want to do a foundation, to try to help people.’”

Woods taught the man how to run and walk on prosthetics. One day, while he was at the office, something would happen that would be life-altering.

“I get a call from his mom, and his mom said, ‘Meet me at my accountant’s office downtown.’ I didn’t know what was going on, so when I get there, there was Nick Stilwell (the man Woods had been helping), John Stilwell and Susie Stilwell and their accountant sitting at the table. They said, ‘I heard you want to start a foundation.’ I said, ‘Yeah, one day, when I win a big race, get big and get me some money. I’ll start this up.’ So Nick said, ‘You want to be partners?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’”

Stilwell asked Woods if he could use that name, Never Say Never, a phrase Woods always uses to sign his photos.

“It was told to me, that it was impossible for a bilateral above-the-knee amputee to run foot-over-foot; I was supposed to race in a wheelchair,” said Woods. “It was a gift from the Stilwells for helping their son get his life back and give him some hope. Now, Nick and I are running this foundation, and have been able to bless hundreds of kids all over the world with running prosthetics that insurance doesn’t cover.”

Quarantine Culture

BY ROBIN FANNON OF RSVP ROBIN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSHUA JACOBS AND ROBIN FANNON

People all over the world are being innovative, enterprising and resilient during this COVID-19 crisis. Whether they are doing their jobs remotely or running their businesses through new technology, Americans are rising to the challenge. Homeschooling their kids, doing home improvement projects and keeping the family fed and entertained are a large part of the challenge as well! A sweet silver lining is that it has given families a chance to reconnect and spend quality time together. Planet Earth is also getting a bit of a reprieve too. The American spirit is alive and well, and Ocala is no exception to this heartwarming shift. We decided to check in with a few of our favorite residents and see what they’ve been up to.

Robin Fannon
Chef, Blogger, Food and Lifestyle Editor for Ocala Magazine.

WEARING: Now and during normal times I always put on walking/workout clothes first thing, then shower up and change into something cute and comfortable, i.e. favorite jeans or linen drawstring pants and a soft t-shirt. Leggings and an oversized natural fiber blouse always feels good too. Oh, and my fluffy Ugg slippers are a must.  READING: My reading choices have remained pretty much the same for the last 35 years. Everything and anything related to food and nutrition; newspaper and magazine publications like the Star Banner, Ocala Magazine, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Atlantic, Origin, Vogue, Veranda, Vanity Fair, and Domino. I’m currently reading Ruth Reichl’s “Save me the Plums” and “Live Beautiful” by Athena Calderon.  WATCHING: I’m a huge movie buff, so Turner Classic Movies and all other movie channels. I love binging on a good series, so on HBO I am currently watching “Succession” and on Showtime, “Homeland.”  LISTENING: I listen to podcasts while I’m walking every morning: Cherry Bombe Radio, More Than One Thing, Ted Talks, Second Life and Eat, Capture Share. A lot of music that I grew up on: the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and Club Quarantine DJ “D’Nice” has me grooving to old Disco tunes.  EATING: Food is always at the forefront of my mind; I’m either cooking, reading a cookbook, planning the next meal, eating or doing all of these simultaneously. We are also trying to support our local restaurant scene by doing some takeout as well.

 

Priya Ghumman

President and COO of Oak Run Associates, Ltd 

WEARING: It’s business as usual—with one change.  Rather than high heels, I’m wearing flats. With all these crazy changes in this pandemic world, I need flats so I can stay nimble!   READING: “Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage” or his other book, “Dan Crenshaw: An Unauthorized Biography of the Texas Congressman and Former Navy Seal.”; “Leadership Strategy and Tacticss” by Jocko Willink; and last but most importantly – Scripture because I need God’s Word more than ever!   WATCHING:  Current TV show, “Songland.” Streaming Tom Clancy’s “Jack Ryan” season two. Weekly I tune to my amazing church, Church at the Springs, for services on line.  LISTENING:  Chris Voss, former FBI hostage negotiator, teaching the art of negotiation on the Masterclass app; Ben Shapiro’s daily podcast to get a brilliant, balanced and nuanced report of the day’s news; Craig Groeschel’s “Leadership” podcast, and Ed Sheeran’s album “No. 6 Collaboration Project.”  EATING: More cooking than I’ve done in a long time, and also take-out from my favorite place, La Cuisine! 

 

Jennifer Arvanitis

Full time paralegal and co-owner (along with her sister Kim) of Marley Mae Market and Paperie,

WEARING: Comfort is definitely key in this crazy time! I have been living in leggings and comfy tees for pretty much the duration of my time at home – most of which are from my store, Marley Mae Market & Paperie. On the off-chance that I need to look a little more presentable, I’ll throw on a comfy maxi dress. READING: For my job with Tucker & Welch, I have been doing my normal reading of pleadings and other legal related things. For the shop, I’ve been reading up a lot on small business assistance and creative ideas to keep our store busy while having so many necessary restrictions on our storefront. Watching: If you haven’t watched “Tiger King,” did you even quarantine?! I also introduced my husband to “Schitt’s Creek” (finally), so I’ve re-watched almost the entire series with him. It’s been super fun to watch the Reilly Arts Center’s Digital Series, too! Other than that, I’ve filled my time watching a whole lot of true crime shows and documentaries.  LISTENING: I listen to the *N Sync on Amazon Music pretty much exclusively. I’m also listening to a whole lot of our four dogs barking! eating: We’ve definitely made good use out of our Instant Pot and air fryer! We have also made it a point to support our local restaurants a few times per week for great food and drinks. Some of our favorites are Pi, Big Lee’s, Infinite Ale Works, Sayulita, and Courtyard on Broadway.

 

Kristina Sasser Donohue

Regional Director, American Heart Association for Marion County
and her children Liam and Sophie

WEARING: Like many of us who are working from home, I have been enjoying being more relaxed in my style.  However, because the American Heart Association hosts most of our meetings via Zoom, it’s still important for me to look presentable virtually. Having a few minutes to put myself together each day has really been helpful for my mindset, while being home-based.  READING: This has been such a unique time for each of us. Like so many other businesses and organizations, the American Heart Association has had to pivot how we serve our communities, partner companies and sponsors, and donors. The organization is working to make sure heart and stroke patients understand how COVID-19 could uniquely affect them, and arm them with the research and knowledge on how best to protect themselves.  That said, most of my time these last few weeks have been leaning into learning more about this disease and the long-term implications it will have. However, non-work related, I am reading Chelsea Handler’s “Life Will Be the Death of Me.”  Watching: Shows, movies, Netflix. Kids have been discovering Disney Classics, Disney+ and I have started “Unorthodox” on Netflix and catching up on PBS’s “Frontline.”  LISTENING: Music, podcasts, talk radio. More time at home has provided more time to binge on music. I am a huge fan of NPR’s “Tiny Desk” series and have had more time to share and discover new music on Spotify through friends. The kids and I have also been enjoying our time staying connected to our growing local, music scene, through the Reilly Arts Digital Series. “On Purpose” with Jay Shetty is a staple podcast for me.  eating: We have added home economics to our homeschooling curriculum! The kids have been amazing at helping out in the kitchen. Liam has mastered fried eggs and omelettes while Sophie has been preparing delicious pasta dishes her grandmother has taught her.

 

Kaitlyn and Kendrick Butler

Kaitlyn: Administrative Assistant at Ocala Regional | Kendrick: Regional Program Director at Zone Health & Fitness. They also own Brick City Food Tours.

Kaitlyn answers:

WEARING: I’m still working at Ocala Regional, but on the weekends I’m typically lounging in light cotton rompers or shorts and a t-shirt. Kendrick is working from home and spending a lot of time on our patio, so his go-to outfit is Columbia PFG shorts, a tank top, his dog dad hat and house shoes.  READING: I just finished “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah and Kendrick is reading “Leader Shift” by John. C. Maxwell.  Watching: I like to think of myself as a television connoisseur. My favorites right now are “Little Fires Everywhere” on Hulu and “Schitt’s Creek” on Netflix. Kendrick is binging “Comics Explained” on YouTube.  LISTENING: I absolutely love podcasts, and my current favorites are “Throughline” by NPR and “The Dating Game Killer” on Wondery. When it comes to music, I’m loving “Stupid Love” by Lady Gaga and “The Blessing” by Kari Jobe. Kendrick’s music choice is “Sunday Best” by Surfaces and his favorite podcast is “First Draft” on ESPN.  EATING: We’re the proud owners of Brick City Food Tours, and we’re doing our best to support local restaurants during this pandemic. Some of our favorites include Mahi tacos and the Greasy Goat at Pi, fajitas from La Hacienda and the 101 beef taco from Sayulita Taqueria.

 

Algenard Simmons

Owner of The Courtyard on Broadway

WEARING: I’m mostly wearing a lot of nothing. A good portion of my time is spent home alone, so I’m just in my underwear quite a bit. My dog, Lola, doesn’t seem to mind. Of course, when I go to work at The Courtyard on Broadway, I want to retain customers so I reluctantly put on clothes.  READING: It would seem like I have more time to catch up on some books I’ve been wanting to read but life is funny. It feels like I’m busier now than before. I still try to keep my daily routine of an hour or two each morning reading about current events in the nation and throughout the world.  WATCHING: I’m a huge fan of going to the theater to watch movies but since I can’t do that anymore, TV is my new escape. I’m keeping it light with comedies and shows that are easy to watch like “Scrubs.” I think I’ve watched that series in its entirety about six times. I also really love documentaries. I have a whole list of really interesting ones if you want it. LISTENING: My playlist is what you would get if you threw all the all the genres in a bucket, kicked it down a hill and it landed in a cement mixer. I listen to everything! I’m jamming out to P!nk, DaBaby, Korn, Josh Turner, Sir Mix-a-lot, *NSYNC, Leona Lewis, Jay-Z, Sam Smith, Prince, Harry Styles, Tupac and of course, Eminem, just to name a few. EATING: Oh, I’m eating so healthy! All the vegetables, oats and grains. I’ve never felt healthier in my life! (This next part will be off the record right?!) Ok, that was a lie, I’m totally eating way more Popeyes chicken than I should. Also, The Courtyard on Broadway has these Lobster Rolls, so I’ve definitely been eating a lot of my profits. Don’t get me started on the Seafood Boils and Beef Wellington Tacos The Courtyard serves! Just print the part about me being healthy so my mom won’t get mad at me when she reads this.

 

Justin Turner

Partner, Turner & Turner, PA with his wife Lindsey and their 4 children Collin, Dawson, Lawton and Truman.

WEARING: Gym clothing so I’m always ready to run after the kids!  READING: SBA payroll loan application guidelines that are being issued even after many have already applied. Wild ride for folks right now!   WATCHING: Watching?? No time for movies, but I have enjoyed watching my wife and kids!!  I don’t normally get to see them very much this time of year.  LISTENING: We’ve found ourselves listening to throwbacks from our dating years. It’s been fun! My Linz and boys have some awesome moves!  EATING: We are cooking simple, yet a feast, daily! We have a household of six, so it’s constant. A gallon and a half of milk everyday to put it into perspective!

Gardens of Eden

By Carlton Reese | Photography by Joshua Jacobs

William Shakespeare famously crafted the garden as a metaphor for politics and social constructs, love and romance, even the human psychological and physiological conditions. From Charles Dickens to D.H. Lawrence, Geoffrey Chaucer to the Bible itself, the garden as both a literal and figurative symbol has held a prominent place in western culture and beyond.

When properly nurtured, a garden is nothing less than a miracle and beautiful to behold; when left unattended the garden becomes wrought with weeds and pests, an ugly manifestation providing only a mere glimpse of its potential. The figurative relevance of the garden in literature, though, can only be upstaged by its tangible constructs through lush landscaping and poignant hardscapes.

Since the late 19th century, local green thumbs have sculpted the Ocala countryside and residential terrain into mini oases and garths of solitude and reflection, pleasing to the senses and the soul. As diverse as the myriad of gardens and landscapes may be, all share one common thread: they provide a conduit of departure away from the pangs of the modern industrial grind.

From proud Victorian elements and Asian-inspired motifs to rich color scapes and tropical themes, Ocala’s bountiful warmth and rainfall make it a haven for any design that spews from the imagination. Where woody ornamentals thrive side-by-side with delicate annuals, vibrant perennials, tropical palms and majestic live oaks, Ocala provides a canvas with seemingly limitless options.

Even the most pedestrian landscape compositions can provide the charm necessary to satisfy one’s sustained thirst for solace and connection to nature. And to a point, every man becomes the caretaker of nature’s estate.

Here, though, we provide a pictorial glimpse into a few local gardens which go beyond the rudimentary aspects of landscape and showcase noteworthy designs that may even give the gardening tenderfoot relevant ideas.

 

A Bit of Bali In Marion County

For Nora Colyn, a love and fascination with Asian culture and architecture, particularly of the Balinese variety, inspired a zen atmosphere in her back yard that commences upon the very entrance into the home.

Statuary crafted in Bali then shipped to her home in Ocala pepper the landscape without overwhelming it. From meditative Buddhas to protective dragons and Hindu goddesses, the statues hide amid tropical and local floras that take one to an Indonesian paradise without setting foot beyond the property.

“This is a sanctuary where I can forget about the outside world,” says Colyn, a native of South Africa who studied medicine stateside and earned her doctorate before settling in Ocala. “We’re 10 minutes from downtown, but you don’t know it when you’re here. It’s like an oasis—it’s very calm and peaceful.”

A pool enclosure that includes a Bali Hut along with black bamboo and other tropical flora inside can fool anyone into forgetting this is a man-made construct.

The house itself was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs that seek to incorporate an “inside out, outside in” feel as described by Colyn, “so when you walk up the front door you can see through to the back yard and it all flows together.”

Past the philodendron and sandstone reliefs is yet another escape: a trail winding through the tall bamboo and leading to a scene reminiscent of a Balinese resort where only the sound of crashing waves is wanting.

The essence of Colyn’s paradise is that the garden starts before the front door of the home, continues through the house and into the back yard and even beyond. Whether inside our out, one feels safely confined in nature’s womb.

 

Taking Care of History

For R.J. Jenkins, maintaining the garden at his residence on Fort King Avenue is more than just a labor of love—he believes it to be his civic duty.

With his purchase of the James Taylor house just a few blocks from downtown, Jenkins’ love of horticulture and “working in the dirt” made it a match in heaven. Built in 1907, the Taylor house is among Ocala’s original homes of southern splendor and Jenkins believes it his obligation to maintain it as a source of community pride, and that starts with the garden.

“We feel very strongly that we’ve inherited a piece of Ocala’s history and we want to be responsible curators of that,” says Jenkins, who grew up in the Sarasota area, earned his Masters degree at Cambridge in England, but lived in the bustling confines of Manhattan right before moving to Ocala. “We feel very strongly about making this space accessible to people.”

Jenkins simply took over a garden that has evolved many times over since its inception which included muscadine grapes at one point and still maintains some of its pristine Victorian feel with its entry gate and trimmed hedges. The grapes are gone, but the trellises remain to stand proud amid the evolving elements.

“I’m inspired by English country gardening,” says Jenkins. “I spent a lot of time in England…Cambridge is famous for its gardens so I was very much influenced as a young man.

“You’ll see a lot of properties that are devoted to order and a certain kind of pristine quality – everything in its place, everything beautifully manicured. I prefer something a little more organic, something a little less predictable. Victorian order mixed with southern gardening.”

Jenkins notes the gaura which he leaves during the down seasons, allowing seedlings to take over once the warm weather commences. It may not be the typical annual re-planting of most gardeners, but Jenkins likes the somewhat chaotic nature that is a delicate order in itself.

Beneath the massive live oak trees rest tightly-manicured hedgerows along with a wide array of colorful material from the gaura and snap dragons to multiple varieties of azaleas, annuals, penta and other hardy material. Joining Jenkins as caretaker are his six chickens which freely roam the grounds.

“These girls (chickens) really rattle people in downtown Ocala; people think they’ve gotten loose,” Jenkins says. “They are at constant work in the yard: fertilizing the soils, eating ticks and other harmful insects and they’re aerating our soil all the time.

“Everyone thinks the chickens will tear the garden apart, but I’m delighted whenever I see them in my flowerbeds; I know they’re doing good things.”

In addition to being his own master gardener, Jenkins is also a bit of a philosopher when it comes to tending the grounds:

“This is church for me. In a world that feels difficult to control, it’s nice to get out here and do good in any small way I can. Voltaire tells us you have to weed your own garden. That’s his way of keeping (the world) out.”

 

Modern Meets Classic

The property of Lt. Colonel Ed and Lois Johnson showcases much of what you would expect to see in modern landscape design while at the same time showcasing the living material that actually makes it a garden.

While featuring clean paths, brickwork and tight edges the Johnson property does not get obsessed with the man-made elements the way much modern design does. Here, the emphasis still remains on that which can breathe.

To find beautiful material, one need not traverse to exotic and distant locales – the indigenous product suffices quite well, thank you. The sheared boxwoods draw in the eye, only to be diverted by the proud King Sagos that welcome one to the stately domicile. But here, it is the brilliant hues that stop all comers in their tracks.

The Seminole pink and Tuscarora crape myrtle trees provide the central Florida flair matched by none for its summertime brilliance. Throw in the native hydrangeas and azaleas and the Johnsons provide the world with Marion County’s premier entry of its native flora.

Lois, a retired professional educator, and Ed, a retired Army combat aviator, have toured the formal gardens of America and the world and have nurtured one of their own right here in Ocala. A garden that blends modern sophistication and classic sculpting along with a subtle yet refined design that can please the eyes of elites and neophytes alike.

 

A Father’s Legacy

From boarding school in the Himalayan foothills to iconic Floridian developer, Kulbir Ghumman’s influences may be hard to peg, but the results of his inspiration lay bare for the world to enjoy. As a developer and builder, Ghumman’s company DECCA has built over 5,000 homes, golf and resort facilities along with the requisite amenities set off by “our trademark landscaping, waterfalls, ponds and fountains” — all aspects for others to enjoy. Finally, Ghumman has his own to enjoy and it may even exceed his own high standards.

In his blogpost, Ghumman says “. . . in 2011, after five years of planning and design, did we build my first ‘from scratch’ personal home on about two acres surrounded by centurion oaks that I had lived on in a renovated home since 1988. The house was demolished, the property was completely redesigned and landscaped and that is “the rest of the story.”

The rest of the story is a local treasure filled with koi ponds, rock formations, tropical landscape, vibrant colors, well-manicured lawns and pathways and statuary that renders itself subservient to its natural surroundings.

Ghumman has in a small manner recreated “the enchanted world that was not just an expression of my father’s passion for gardening, . . . but was also a remarkable engineering feat. . .”

As a boy growing up at the edge of the Thar desert in India, enjoying the “wheat millet and corn fields, orchards of exotic fruits . . . beautiful flowering annuals and extensive rose gardens” created an appreciation for gardening that Ghumman has finally fulfilled with his Ocala masterpiece.

Playing By Faith

By Joshua Jacobs

Not many musical artist can capture your attention like Ocala’s newest rising star, Hannah Matos. Though she is young, her voice reminds you of a time gone by and her lyrics give you a sense of wonderment and longing that only faith could fulfill.

For someone so young, your voice carries so much weight and timelessness to it. Where does that come from?

I think what influences that is the kind of music I listen to. I listen to so many different styles of music but what attracts me to specific genres or artists is the emotion that is portrayed through their voice, lyrics or melodies. I suppose it’s just natural for me to emulate what inspires me the most.

Where did your passion for music begin? 

In 2008, when I moved to Ocala, I didn’t have many friends and there wasn’t much to do so I picked up the guitar and would try to play all of the songs I listened to. When I started high school, I joined music classes and started developing my passion for singing.

Which artists have influenced you the most as you’ve grown as a musician?

When I first started singing and playing, Colbie Caillat, Kina Grannis, and Sara Bareilles were my biggest inspirations. Throughout the years, my list has expanded to Tori Kelly, JoJo, Catie Turner, Fleetwood Mac, Natalie Grant, and Lauren Daigle.

As amazing as your voice is, your guitar and piano skills are just as impressive! Do you have a favorite instrument?

It’s hard to choose a favorite but I guess I’ll have to go with the bass. I love a good bassline. I wish I would have put more time into learning the bass.

What other instruments can you play? 

Guitar and piano are pretty much the only instruments I play. In high school, I played cello, upright bass, and some percussion but that stayed in high school.

As a songwriter, what do you want to convey with your lyrics?

I really want to write and sing about things that matter. I want to move people with my lyrics and write songs that everyone can relate to on some level.

When writing a song, what comes first for you; melody or words?

Most of the time the melody comes first but sometimes I’ll get an idea of the main lyrics first and base the rest of the song around them.

As a relatively newcomer to the Ocala music scene, what is one thing you hope to see very soon in the community that could help you and others like you grow and flourish?

I would love to see more places that are dedicated to live music for artists to play at rather than just bars and restaurants. Maybe specific events for up and coming artists to share their music. I don’t know a lot about the Ocala music scene, but this is what I have gathered in the time I have been exposed to it.

What attracts you to the lifestyle of a singer/songwriter? 

Honestly, I can’t say the lifestyle itself attracts me. I just realize that God has given me the gift of singing and songwriting, and it is my responsibility to share that with people.

How would you like to use your platform as a musician?

I want to make a difference and not just blend in. With my music, I want to use my talent to build up God’s Kingdom. 

To listen to Hannah’s music follow her on her Instagram account
@hannahmatosmusic

Viva Havana!

By Benjamin Baugh

It’s a place that offers its patrons the clarity of a Hemmingway novel, whose ambiance makes the diner feel at home and every mouthful of food bursts with a flavorful explosion.

Havana Country Club is located in The Villages in the Village of Hemmingway, creating a dining experience where friends can eat, laugh and discuss the day’s events in an environment that’s welcoming and comfortable.

The restaurant continues to evolve, and its transformation places an emphasis on the customer, welcoming their feedback, by providing meals to satisfy even the most fastidious of palates.

The transformation began over three years ago when Vinny  Issa assumed the role of director of operations. He brings more than four decades of experience in the restaurant industry to Havana Country Club, having specialized in seafood and international cuisine.

Throughout his life, Issa has carried three things: quality, service and clearness. And he treats his employees the way he wishes to be treated, with all of those variables being found at Havana.

It’s that camaraderie between the employees that makes them seem more like family than professional colleagues nd resonates with diners, making the restaurant feel like home. The relaxed atmosphere sets a tone creating an experience that will make the diner want to return routinely. Some of the patrons can be seen dining at Havana twice a day, six times a week, said Issa.

As director of operations, Issa works closely with the restaurant’s chef Matthew Street, and their outstanding rapport has been critical to the restaurant’s success. It’s that communication that makes a difference, understanding what the patron likes to eat and what the food should taste like.

The cuisine itself is evocative of a different era, a familiar one, with Issa placing an emphasis on his experience, with many of the savory plates being found on menus from the 1970s.

“The customers love it because they’re mostly my age,” said Issa, whose sense of humor and warmth, add to the overall dining experience.

The interior of the restaurant is spacious and welcoming, featuring tasteful décor and an oval-shaped bar. The customers are familiar with one another creating a pleasant atmosphere.

“We have elite bartenders and service,” said Issa. “They’ve been with me since day one, and they’re not going anywhere.”

Many diners choose to sit outside so they can enjoy the idyllic environment that surrounds Havana, and its ingenuous nature accents the restaurant’s beauty. Live entertainment in the breezeway underscores the restaurant’s commitment to making the customer happy.

“We do whatever it takes to bring them in,” said Issa.

Havana has a diverse number of menu options. It’s lobster night on Mondays; Italian night (arguably the most popular) on Tuesdays; seafood nights Wednesday and Friday. On Thursdays, patrons can enjoy prime rib. Saturday is the catch and cut of the day, and customers can enjoy specials seven days a week, said Issa.  The menu changes every few months.

Chef Matthew Street boasts that every item on the menu, appetizers included, is prepared from scratch. Havana’s diversity in its offerings provides entrees not found anywhere else in the area, creating a ‘wow’ factor with distinctive and singing flavors.

Street, who has been a chef for 15 years, puts his own spin on Issa’s classics, creating a dynamic that’s funky and different. Street’s presentations make each entrée as visually appealing as they are delicious.

“We have stuffed flounder on the menu, and stuffed flounder has been around since Vinny’s been around,” said Street. “What I do is stuff it with crab, shrimp, spinach, a lot of different flavors. I put a spinach cream sauce on it, so it has a vibrant, bright greenness to it. It really pops out when you see it. The customers know it’s going to be good.”

The Korean Tacos and Shrimp Francese are two entrees that are worthy of return visits, making dining a memorable experience that will resonate long after a customer leaves the table.

“I think a reason that we have a lot of success here is that we put a lot of heart into this place,” said Street. “We love seeing it grow. We love seeing the business thrive. I go out and touch tables, and hear from the customers that the meal is fantastic, and that’s exactly what I do it for. That’s why I love doing it.”

The Korean Steak Tacos, are made from 34-day aged prime rib, cooked and roasted in the oven and shaved very thin before entering the honey-soy marination process which lasts 24-48 hours. The meat is so tender it melts in your mouth. Havana serves the steak in tortillas, which are accented by red cabbage, green scallions, sriracha and sesame seeds.

“I use to run these (Korean Tacos) as a lunch special,” said Street. “It wasn’t on my menu, but every time I ran it as a lunch special, I’d sell like 50 at a time. The next time the menu change came about, I was like, ‘I’m going to put them on there.’ They fly.”

IF YOU GO:
Havana is open Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.  It’s located at 2484 Odell Circle in The Villages. For more information, call 352-430-3200 or you can access their website at www.havanacc.com.

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