Protecting Exotic Species Is All In A Day’s Work At McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary

Protecting Exotic Species Is All In A Day’s Work At  McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary

With a focus on the rescue, rehabilitation and release of wild animals, McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary is a nonprofit that melds all facets of this important mission. The eight-acre facility started out as a small, private space for Mark McCarthy and his exotic animal collection.

“At the time, in 1990, there were very few houses,” McCarthy said. “I talked to the neighbors beforehand, and they are my best ally. They never complain — and it gets loud here sometimes.”

The noise level isn’t due to loud music, but the sounds of exotic wildlife ranging from lions to lemurs. The sanctuary is a permanent home for more than 150 animals, in addition to a wide array of temporary creatures there receiving treatment for injuries before heading back into the wild.

While McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary works with many species, the rescue, rehabilitation and release process is for native animals only. Every year, the facility handles countless squirrels and birds, but this past season proved to have some surprises in store.

“We received an otter who was completely nonresponsive,” Office Manager Barbara Drury recalled. “He was unconscious for three or four days. All that time, we were still giving him medicine and treatment, so we were thrilled he pulled through. Eventually, he recovered and grew up enough to be released back into the wild.”

A reptile-guy for sure, McCarthy started his love of animals with snakes. When he was just 16, he moved to Florida by hitchhiking from Michigan to Miami with a backpack full of snakes and a dream to work at the Miami Serpentarium. Some dreams come true. He was hired on the spot.

Throughout his 30-year career working with animals, McCarthy also spent a significant amount of time in the television, film and print production business, during which he collected more exotic species, including birds and big cats. These animals often came to him under scary circumstances.

“I came back from Africa and had just brought back my wife, Aneth, and I get a phone call at 3 o’ clock in the morning from Officer Rick Brown from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission,” McCarthy recalled. “He does the Orlando area, and said, ‘Mark, I’ve got a problem. I just seized a tiger and a cougar out of a Motel 6 up here in Orlando, and I have nowhere to put them.’ We go up there, and sure enough there was this magician who was wanted in Minnesota for abandoning his facility, and he was literally doing magic shows out of his van on International Drive.”

Animals needing to be rehomed is a big concern, as the exotic pet industry often finds uneducated owners in deep trouble dealing with more than they expected. For example, nearly 30 large African spur-thighed tortoises, who grow to weigh well over 100 pounds, lived at McCarthy’s at one time.

“I built this place on birthday parties, and those parties turned into teachers seeing me, and eventually all these school programs on top of the production jobs,” McCarthy said. “I really enjoyed the school shows — it was probably my favorite thing to do. I mostly focused on elementary schools, but this grew so big, I don’t do them anymore.”

Now that McCarthy no longer travels to schools, guests are able to come in person to visit the animals at the sanctuary by calling and reserving a spot in one of the available tours.

Guided tours run multiple times a day, Tuesday through Saturday. Aside from getting the chance to see some rare creatures such as ligers (yes, that is a real thing), another benefit are the guides themselves. McCarthy prides himself in having keeper/guides — individuals who work with the animals every day and are able to share personal stories and insights with guests.

One such keeper/guide is Alexis Opisso, who was happy to share the story of Larry the Nile crocodile.

“Crocodilians have one of the strongest bite forces in the animal kingdom, and Larry here was a pet surrender. He was bought as a birthday present for somebody’s daughter. They were keeping him in a bathtub,” Opisso explained. “We got Larry when he was about three years old. We conditioned him not to come up to us for food. When I go in there to change his water or scrub his tub, he never bothers me.”

She then immediately shifted to fun facts about crocs, like why their teeth are so white and how she finds tooth caps that have fallen out on a regular basis as new teeth replace them.

“Education is a big part of what we do,” Drury said. “Between Mark going out to schools all those years, and all the people who come here with their families — some kids have never seen a tiger up close. So, that experience may inspire them to learn about how we can save the tigers in the wild. Then they grow up to be a child who wants to conserve what we have.”

More than 20,000 people visit McCarthy’s every year, and the organization continues a lengthy track record of excellent ratings on Trip Advisor, which also puts them in the top spot for things to do in the West Palm Beach area.

Despite all the attention, staff keeps the tours limited for the sake of the animals’ well-being. “The tours are scheduled in a way that guests are gone late in the afternoon and the animals can have a normal evening routine to finish the day,” Drury said. “All of this started because of Mark’s first impression, and now all of these other children get a ‘wow’ moment, too.”

McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary is located at 12943 61st Street North in The Acreage. To make a reservation for a guided tour, call (561) 790-2116. For more information about the mission, animals and how to get involved, visit


Law Firm Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith Supports Animal Rescues

Law Firm Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith Supports Animal Rescues

Tina is a four-year-old terrier mix. She misses her four-legged friends who have found forever homes, but she is also happy for them. She hopes someone will eventually adopt her as well, although she has been rejected time and again.

Tina is blind, but what she lacks in vision she certainly makes up for with a huge heart. She has a lot to give. One local law firm is determined to find Tina, and other dogs like her, a forever home.

Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith is dedicated to giving back to the communities it serves. The personal injury law firm, with 11 lawyers and four local offices, including one in Wellington, still abides by the moral directive of its founder, Joe Lesser.

In 1927, Lesser founded the firm by opening an office in West Palm Beach. He believed in providing excellent representation for the firm’s clients — that was a given. Lesser also believed strongly in giving back to the community, noting, “In the time we have on this earth, we have the opportunity and obligation to make a difference in some way.”

One of the many ways in which the firm tries to make a difference is through its Paws for Patriots campaign. Longtime Wellington resident and law firm partner Mickey Smith is particularly proud of this initiative.

“This program is a partnership with Big Dog Ranch Rescue,” Smith said. “We seek to place dogs from the ranch, ages two and up, with veterans and first responders. The law firm has committed to paying the adoption fee for 100 such placements.”

What he loves about the Paws for Patriots initiative is that he is unsure who benefits the most from it. “Anyone who has ever had a rescue animal knows that the emotional tide quickly turns,” said Smith, who has had several rescue animals through the years. “Initially, we feel the rescue was fortunate to find us. We soon come to realize, though, how truly fortunate we were to find the rescue. That’s a universal truth.”

The initiative began in November 2017, and there are still openings for interested veterans and first responders.

Paws for Patriots grew out of another partnership with Big Dog Ranch Rescue, Every Dog Deserves a Home. Smith said he is extraordinarily proud of firm partner Glenn Siegel’s tireless work with the local nonprofit, and with Every Dog Deserves a Home specifically.

“Glenn created this program,” Smith said. “Every month, the firm uses its social media clout to place the spotlight on a dog that is harder to adopt because of factors such as age or physical disability. Since the program began in May 2017, 27 dogs have been showcased and 21 have been adopted.”

For his part, Siegel humbly calls it “a labor of love.” Every Dog Deserves a Home is also an ongoing program, with the law firm again paying the adoption fee. The firm’s goal is to find a forever home for all of its sponsored dogs, including Tina.

The law firm has been involved in other projects for animals in the western communities. For example, Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith sponsored a room at Big Dog Ranch Rescue that is painted in a courtroom motif. Earlier this year, the firm sponsored the Rotary Club of Wellington’s Kevlar for K9s raffle that raised money to buy Kevlar protective vests for PBSO K9s.

Smith believes that the firm’s affinity with these animal-related projects arises from the personal injury work that is the firm’s focus.

“We fight insurance companies all day long on behalf of individuals and families who are suffering,” he explained. “Our heart is with the underdog and trying to make things better.”

Smith added that the law firm has been very impressed by the tireless work done by the animal rescue groups in the western communities, but they cannot do it alone.

“It is vitally important that local businesses and professionals leverage both their dollars and their contacts to help support these deserving groups,” he said. “After all, Wellington is known worldwide because of its connection with horses, and the local economy certainly benefits from that connection with animals. It’s only fair that we give back to less fortunate animals right here in our midst.”

For more info., contact Smith at or (561) 655-2028.


Justin Bartlett Animal Rescue Saves Lives One Dog And Cat At A Time

Justin Bartlett Animal Rescue Saves Lives One Dog And Cat At A Time

Wellington High School graduate Justin Bartlett was only 24 years old when he was tragically killed in a car accident. Now, more than a decade later, countless lives are being saved in his honor.

Tucked away in a shopping center at the northwest corner of Southern Blvd. and State Road 7, professional animal lovers work rigorous hours to save dogs and cats at Justin Bartlett Animal Rescue, giving them a new lease on life.

Peter Torres, the organization’s founder, was a friend of the Bartlett family. As a token of his appreciation to the Bartletts for supporting his previous rescue organization, as well as of Justin’s love for animals, Torres named the organization after him. The nonprofit, no-kill rescue consists of an adoption center, an animal hospital and a thrift store.

The organization maintains high standards when adopting out animals. In order to assume ownership of a Justin Bartlett pet, interested individuals must first complete an application and then be approved by one of the rescue’s adoption counselors. Applicants are asked to include information on subjects such as their previous pets, family veterinarians, HOAs, the type of home they live in and references.

According to Torres, the in-depth process applicants must complete is a necessity, as an unfit owner can be detrimental to the physical and mental well-being of the pet. The case isn’t always that the owner is irresponsible, but that the dog and owner may not be the best fit for each other’s lifestyles.

Torres used the example of a newly married couple, living in a one-bedroom apartment, in search of a husky or German shepherd. The couple may be perfectly fit to own a dog, but not one as high-energy as these particular breeds.

The goal of the rescue is to find the animal a loving, permanent home.

“Dogs need someone to look up to, and once they have that trust in you, they’ll do anything for you,” Torres said. “But if today it is you, and six months from now it’s somebody else, they feel that, and they know it.”

Despite the team’s best efforts, Torres said that dogs walking out of their doors don’t always end up staying at its new home. Sometimes the owners decide it’s too much effort to own the dog, and sometimes, to their own disappointment, the dog has behavioral issues.

The rescue has a dog trainer for such cases, and if the owner is willing, the trainer will evaluate the dog and see what can be done. If it’s a fixable issue, he tells the owners what to do, and they decide what action to take from there.

The evaluation is at the cost of the organization. Another amenity they offer is a free vet visit within seven days of the adoption, and if the dog or cat has an ailment, the clinic will treat it free of charge.

In addition to these services, all the pets adopted through Justin Bartlett Animal Rescue have had at least two sets of vaccines, are dewormed, fecal tested, spayed or neutered, and microchipped. While donations and adoption fees are beneficial in keeping the rescue in business, additional funds are always needed.

Justin Bartlett’s CFO Debra Mammino, who is also an adoption counselor, hospital and rescue manager, and “jack of all trades,” is in charge of transferring animals to adoption events. Where a company bus used to be utilized for such purposes, both vehicles are currently out of commission.

The buses, which include crates and supplies for the animals, are expenses that have had to be put on the backburner, as more serious needs must first be met.

“On Saturdays, I have seven or eight dogs, and I’m trying to fit them into a little Xterra because the buses aren’t working,” Mammino said.

Torres must keep the focus simultaneously on saving animals while also carefully watching the bottom line.

“You cannot bite off more than you can chew,” he said. “You cannot rescue more than you can handle — financially, mentally and all of the above.”

According to the nonprofit’s founder, animal rescue workers tend to fight emotional exhaustion because as much as they want to save them all, they simply cannot. It all takes quite a toll on the team.

“And it takes a toll on me,” Torres said, “but at least I always find a way to think positive.”

Mammino also has to battle against the challenges of the work. Her plan of attack? Puppy love.

“When I have a bad day, I go home, sit in the middle of my floor, and get all the puppies out that I’m fostering, and [they] just jump on me,” Mammino said. “And that soothes it.”

Mammino advises anyone overwhelmed by the bleakness and severity of animal suffering in the world to simply “save the ones you can.”

If you’re looking for a new pet, perhaps a visit to Justin Bartlett Animal Rescue is in your future. If not, Torres urges people to visit one of the many available shelters and animal rescue organizations.

“If you want to go to any other shelter, that’s OK,” he said. “You’re saving a life.”

Justin Bartlett Animal Rescue is located at 10405 Southern Blvd. in Royal Palm Beach. If you would like to learn more about fostering or adopting through this local nonprofit, call (561) 684-1010 or visit


Big Dog Ranch Rescue Where Dogs Get A New Lease On Life

Big Dog Ranch Rescue Where Dogs Get A New Lease On Life

Over the last decade, Big Dog Ranch Rescue has found a home for more than 31,000 dogs, but founder Lauree Simmons clearly recalls her first canine client back in 2008. It was a lab mix named Angel, who was pregnant, homeless and living under a tree in Miami.

Two days later, Angel gave birth to 10 puppies in Simmons’ garage. In many respects, Angel is the “acorn” that blossomed into the tree now known as the Big Dog Ranch Rescue.

Today, Big Dog Ranch Rescue is dedicated to rescuing and providing a happy, safe and loving home for dogs while providing families with healthy, loving and loyal canine companions. Located on 33 acres in Loxahatchee Groves, the rescue is a cage-free setting. In fact, it is the largest cage-free, no-kill shelter in the U.S.

“We have built a happy environment for dogs,” explained Robin Friedman, Big Dog Ranch Rescue’s director of development. “Our focus is rescue. We save dogs from shelters that are on the list to be euthanized, and we accept owner-surrender dogs. We also try to find homes for rescue dogs by networking with other shelters like us.”

At Big Dog Ranch Rescue, dogs are saved and then given a new lease on life. While the organization’s name indicates that it’s a safe haven for big dogs, in reality, dogs of all sizes can be adopted through the organization.

“We have at least one of every type of dog,” Friedman said.

Currently, roughly 500 grown dogs and 100 puppies live at Big Dog Ranch Rescue. But once dogs arrive here, they are often adopted in less than three months, Friedman said. Puppies are adopted the quickest.

Once dogs arrive, they are fed healthy food and given lots of TLC. “Big Dog Ranch Rescue is the way the rescue experience should be for all dogs,” Friedman said. “We rescue dogs of all sizes, provide the necessary medical care, and find them their perfect forever homes. Big and small, we save them all.”

Most of its dogs come from shelters in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. However, during natural and humanitarian disasters, the organization reaches out to help.

Following devastating hurricanes, Big Dog Ranch Rescue provided food drops and rescued dogs from Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands and the coastal U.S. And recently, following a request from monks saving dogs from the Chinese dog meat trade, the organization began work with an Asian counterpart to provide assistance.

The dogs from China are often less than a year old. “Getting healthy dogs delivered from China has its challenges,” Friedman said. “Logistically, it’s difficult, but we figured it out.”

Friedman emphasized that her group remains local-focused, but humanitarian issues and disasters trigger their efforts to save dogs from other parts of the country and the world.

Big Dog Ranch Rescue is also specially equipped to house pregnant dogs,

Canine mothers and their puppies are housed in Puppyland, which features 10 small structures, each one specially equipped to care for mother dogs and her litter. Puppyland is sponsored by Rachael Ray Nutrish, which also donates most of the food fed to the dogs at Big Dog Ranch Rescue.

Other programs help senior citizens and cater to military veterans.

According to Friedman, Seniors for Seniors is focused on getting older dogs, which are at least six years old, trained to visit senior citizens living in retirement homes. Seniors, who often want an older canine companion, can also adopt a senior dog.

“Our Seniors for Seniors program improves the lives of senior citizens,” Friedman said. “We are also currently training 24 dogs to become companions for the Veterans Service Dog Training Program. It helps veterans with PTSD.”

If you are interested in supporting Big Dog Ranch Rescue and love to have a good time, the third annual Big Dog Ranch Rescue Valentine’s Night Out helps unite the local horse and dog-loving communities. The next one is set for Friday, Feb. 14, 2020.

“It’s a great time and attracts strong interest from Wellington’s dog-loving equestrian crowd,” Friedman said. “We are fortunate to have many fosters, adopters, donors and friends from the equestrian world.”

Adoption fees vary. For example, puppies are $350, adult dogs are $250 and senior dogs are $150.

While these adoption fees generate money for Big Dog Ranch Rescue, the majority of its income comes from outside sources. Big Dog Ranch Rescue’s biggest benefactor is the Fleming Family Foundation.

“We rely mostly on donations,” Friedman said. “Adoption fees cover a fraction of the costs to save a dog. We rely on the generosity of our supporters to further our mission to save more lives.”

Big Dog Ranch Rescue is located at 14444 Okeechobee Blvd. in Loxahatchee Groves. If you feel that you can provide a happy, safe and loving home for a dog, drop by between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., call them at (561) 791-6465 or check out the list of available dogs at


Recently Renovated Home In Wellington’s Aero Club Community

Recently Renovated Home In Wellington’s Aero Club Community

PRESENTED BY Marley Overman | Illustrated Properties Wellington

This recently renovated four-bedroom, four-bath home is located in Wellington’s Aero Club community. Situated on a one-acre lot, the transitional style house is just minutes from all local amenities, including the equestrian venues. The open concept living area has a gas fireplace, dining area, breakfast nook and high-end chef’s kitchen with a gas stove. The luxurious master suite has dual sinks, a walk-in closet and a separate water closet/shower. There are also three guest bedrooms, two of which feature en suite bathrooms. The exterior has a covered patio, plus a newly redone marble sundeck surrounding the pool. There is also an expansive, fenced backyard and a newly redone driveway.

The home’s front elevation features well-maintained landscaping, giving it great curb appeal. 


The open concept living area is spacious and bright, featuring a renovated kitchen with high-end appliances.


The home’s nearly 3,000 square feet of living space includes four bedrooms. Among them is an impressive master suite, along with three spacious guest bedrooms.


The home’s newly renovated pool deck is easily accessed from several areas of the one-story residence. Meanwhile, the expansive yard offers plenty of privacy.


SoBol Brings Unique Creations Stocked With Super Fruit To Wellington

SoBol Brings Unique Creations Stocked With Super Fruit To Wellington

Serving acai bowls packed with flavorful bursts of rainforest super fruit and granola, SoBol is a different take on fast food, and Wellington is home to the first Florida franchise.

“We call it ‘the better bowl,’” said Nick Pesko, SoBol’s director of marketing. “It became so popular on Long Island after our first location opened. People kept asking, ‘Can you open one in my town?’ So, we decided to franchise.”

Wellington resident and New York native Suzanne Madison, mother of four girls, is the proprietor of SoBol’s 37th location. While there are 36 others across the northeast, SoBol’s first Florida home is in the Courtyard Shops of Wellington.

SoBol is a departure from the more typical fast food, and Madison describes it as a great alternative for breakfast, lunch or just an anytime go-to snack.

“My older daughter suffers from food allergies, like gluten and dairy. So, I’m always looking for something that’s not commonly found to eat,” Madison said. “I taught for 15 years in New York working with autistic children, many of whom are on restrictive diets. I feel strongly about the product and wanted to offer a healthy alternative to the Wellington community.”

At SoBol, you’ll get only the freshest of ingredients. “Our granola is gluten free. It’s raw oats, almonds and cashews. So, it’s protein and fiber,” Pesko explained. “The acai has an energy-boosting agent. There’s a really positive feeling you get. It’s gluten free, and vegan and vegetarian friendly. It’s vegan if you take off the honey completely. We’re dairy free. We use no dairy in any of our menu items. We’re traditionally soy, almond or coconut milk, as well as apple juice and acai juice.”

The bowls are also served up fast, making it convenient for those on the go.

“We try to keep it as simple and quick as possible, and it allows us to get you your bowl in what we hope to be two minutes or less,” Pesko said. “That’s our goal every time. So, it’s a quick service, fast-food-style restaurant, but we focus on a healthier alternative to your traditional fast food. Everyone’s looking for healthier options out there.”

The café primarily serves acai bowls and fruit smoothies. “We blend everything fresh daily and carve our fruit fresh each day for our customers, and everything is made to order, so all our bowls are customizable to whatever it is you like,” Pesko explained.

Each bowl starts with two layers of homemade granola and comes with SoBol’s puree. “If it’s the Acai Bowl, it’s acai berry that’s flash frozen that we get shipped directly to us from the Amazon, and then our blend with strawberry-banana and a splash of soy milk, that’s like a thick fruit smoothie. Then on top of that, you get fresh-cut strawberries, bananas and blueberries, as well as coconut flakes and a drizzle of honey,” Pesko described.

What’s different from other concepts, he said, is the way the bowls can be customized. “You can customize that one bowl any way that you like, so if you don’t like blueberry, you can take it off, and add any of our other standard or specialty toppings,” Pesko said.

Specialty toppings include all-natural peanut butter, almond butter and Nutella, as well as fresh-cut kiwi and pineapple.

Aside from the popular Acai Bowl, there are other flavorful options.

The Green Bowl is made with spinach, mango, banana and kale with a splash of almond milk. It’s all blended and layered between SoBol’s signature homemade granola then topped with mango, strawberries, blueberries, also with a sprinkle of coconut and a drizzle of honey.

The Pitaya Bowl features a super fruit with origins in Southeast Asia, Central America and South America. Also known as dragon fruit, pitaya is filled with several antioxidants. It’s blended with strawberries and banana to make a thick smoothie, also layered between granola, then topped with fresh mango, kiwi, pineapple, as well as a coconut sprinkle and honey drizzle.

Aside from the exotics, fruits and vegetables are sourced locally. The bowls come in three different sizes, including a kids’ 8-ounce bowl, up to a super-sized 32-ounce bowl, with prices ranging from $6 to just under $14.

Smoothies are also served fresh. Flavors range from acai, super green and very berry to pitaya plus and a strawberry banana blend.

The intimate café seats about 20, as well as some outdoor seating. SoBol is looking to expand the brand across Florida, including Tampa, as well as Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

Pesko is upbeat on SoBol’s future in the Sunshine State.

“It’s incredibly delicious and invigorating,” he said. “I think it’s what people are looking for to live and lead a healthier lifestyle.”

And for franchise owner Suzanne Madison, opening up shop in Wellington is an opportunity to become entrenched in the community with SoBol’s healthy options, as well as involve her four daughters, ages nine to 27, helping to empower them to do things on their own and showing them that they, too, can do anything they put their minds to, whether it’s for their health or their career path.

SoBol is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. They’re busiest at lunchtime and plan to offer delivery service soon. The restaurant is located at 13860 Wellington Trace in the Courtyard Shops. For more information, call (561) 631-9900 or visit


Karen Allen Puts Her Decades Of Experience To Work For Clients

Karen Allen Puts Her Decades Of Experience To Work For Clients

Karen Allen is good with numbers, and she’s great with people. After spending more than a decade as a mortgage lender, she transitioned to real estate and is determined to help buyers and sellers with what she calls “one of the most significant transactions of their lives.”

A native of Brooklyn, Allen has been a resident of Palm Beach County for 35 years, where she currently heads up the Karen Allen Group at Keller Williams Luxury Homes International in Wellington.

 “My father and sister moved to Florida, so I wanted to be near family for my kids growing up, and to have an opportunity to buy a home here,” she recalled of her decision to relocate to the Sunshine State.

Mortgage lending was a natural fit for her, but as it turns out, it was only part of Allen’s journey.

“My background is in financing, and I worked on Wall Street,” she said. “I really enjoyed the financing end, given my background, but wanted to help people on the other end. That is when I got into the real estate field.”

Allen’s passion for being of service to others is a primary reason why so many of her clients come back to her time and again, and refer her service to friends, family and co-workers.

“I love helping people and to look out for them in every way,” she said. “I have worked with many first-time home buyers, investors and luxury properties. I have been with Keller Williams for almost 18 years full time, and two years ago moved to the Wellington office, where I currently have a team of my own.”

Allen prides herself on staying steps ahead of the competition by keeping up with the latest industry changes and innovations.

“At Keller Williams, we specialize in technology and are a learning-based company,” Allen said. “I am a designated luxury agent and have been a top-producing agent since entering real estate. I have been a board member of the Agent Leadership Council for 14 years and have served on the culture and charity committees each year.”

She’s equally at home working with first-time or experienced home buyers. Whether a property is luxury or distressed, Allen and her team know how to close the deal.

“I am both passionate and dedicated, and I believe in being honest and ethical to do what it takes with my knowledge and commitment to make each transaction a special one,” Allen said.

She believes that her experience and creativity give her an edge when it comes to selling homes in the shortest period of time while achieving maximum value.

The same can be said for helping buyers identify their perfect home at a fair monetary estimate. She stays involved in every step of every transaction, which provides clients with both a sense of security and well-being.

As comfortable as she may be in any kind of situation, Allen does have her preferences.

“I love boating, so ocean/waterfront properties are among my favorites to sell,” she said. “Florida has so many other opportunities as well, such as golf communities, equestrian and aeronautical neighborhoods.”

Wellington is one place where she enjoys doing business. “Wellington has so much to offer,” Allen said. “Whether it be estate homes, equestrian properties, waterfront properties, A-rated schools, as well as an abundance of community activities, including concerts, festivals, events and more.”

To contact Karen Allen, call (561) 818-8403 or visit


Gwen Gottlieb Helps Clients Boost Their Brand’s Influence

Gwen Gottlieb Helps Clients Boost Their Brand’s Influence

Gwen Gottlieb has found a way to have it all in life by exploring her passion for creativity while helping others build their brands.

Several years ago, Gottlieb was looking for something to complement her day job as the marketing director at Florida Eye Microsurgical Institute. This led to her new business, known as Gwen Lives Well.

“I was looking for something I could do in my spare time — something that would let me express my creative nature,” Gottlieb explained.

So, she melded her interests in the current cultural, food and social media trends to find success as a lifestyle influencer. She uses a vast network of online connections to put her clients’ message directly in the path of potential consumers.

“I love the Instagram community of people I’ve ‘met.’ I’ve gotten to ‘know’ folks from all walks of life, and believe it or not, have had several real friendships develop as a result,” Gottlieb said.

This one-woman army is equipped with a valuable skill set in a global economy driven by social media outlets. She has a strong client list ranging from hotels and restaurants to other businesses, and Gottlieb thrives on opportunities to collaborate.

“Social media is an amazing way to reach additional potential customers. Add that element to your traditional advertising methods, and you’ve got a more well-rounded campaign,” Gottlieb said. “What sets me apart from other influencers is that I’ll always go the extra mile for my clients. I treat their brand with respect and consideration. I do my best to present and help meet the client’s goals, whether it’s brand awareness, more sales or growth on social media.”

Another reason that her clients find Gottlieb a perfect fit for their campaign strategy is her ability to stand apart in a field teeming with young internet influencers. She has a depth they often lack, and the capacity to connect with both younger and older crowds. In addition, Gottlieb enhances her work with a multi-strategy approach.

“Potential clients can contact me for information on branding campaigns, or anything else related to marketing, public relations and business development, including web site copy, brochures, press releases, blog posts and any other creative copy needs,” she said.

Since Florida Eye Microsurgical Institute has four locations, one of which is in Wellington, this gives Gottlieb frequent opportunities to spend time in an area she has come to enjoy.

“I just love being in Wellington any chance I get — terrific restaurants, people and the community as a whole,” she said. “I also enjoy working with the Wellington Chamber of Commerce. It’s one of the most dynamic and active chambers I’ve ever been involved with.”

Her reputation as a seasoned foodie and Florida lifestyle influencer have also given Gottlieb some fun and unique experiences.

“I was thrilled to be a judge at this past year’s Flavors of Wellington event,” she recalled. “I had a blast meeting other judges and sitting next to Mayor Anne Gerwig, a fellow judge.”

With experience in a variety of subjects, working on everything from Canada Dry to Wells Fargo projects, Gottlieb is always excited to see what potential clients want to pursue. She has also worked with businesses outside of Florida, including the Hermitage in Nashville, Tenn., and the Peabody in Memphis, Tenn.

“Currently, my particular strengths lie with Instagram, and I’m also trying to spend more time working on my blog, Gwen Lives Well. I would also like to work more on my Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter accounts,” Gottlieb said. “My business is a work in progress. I’m always evolving — looking for ways to grow my own brand while doing my best to deliver what my clients expect.”

Gottlieb is also on the lookout for travel information, great vacation spots and new product lines that she can share with her network of followers.

“I like to tell my clients, ‘Let’s grow together,’” Gottlieb said. “I’m available to brands, restaurants and really any business that wants assistance in getting the word out about what they do.”

She approaches every client and project with personal attention, tailoring individual quotes for any potential venture. “I am an award-winning newspaper creator and publisher, award-winning television documentary writer and an experienced corporate communications specialist,” Gottlieb said. “My social media persona is authentic.”

Outside of travel and managing her own Instagram account, @GwenLivesWell, she loves to cook for her family, do Pilates and yoga. Between herself and her husband Gary Gottlieb, a principal partner with the commercial real estate firm Avison Young, they have four children, two in New York and two in South Florida.

Contact Gwen Gottlieb through direct message on her Instagram account @GwenLivesWell, e-mail or visit her blog at


The B-12 Store Offers An Array Of Popular Vitamin Injections

The B-12 Store Offers An Array Of Popular Vitamin Injections

The B-12 Store, a unique concept with locations across Florida and beyond, opened recently in the Mall at Wellington Green. Along with a line of vitamin supplements, the B-12 Store also offers vitamin injections that are growing in popularity in today’s health-conscious society.

“We offer a full range of vitamin injections for people’s general health,” owner Mary Karatal explained. “We have vitamin C, B-12 and D-3. We also have a range of lipotropic shots for weight loss.”

The store also carries two specialty shots: Glutathione and the Amino Blend. “Glutathione is increasing in popularity — it is a master-antioxidant, supports liver health and aids in treating inflammation in the body,” Karatal said. “It is also wonderful for brightening the skin and treating acne and eczema. Some of our clients who have arthritis or an autoimmune disorder have seen an improvement after regular Glutathione injections.”

Also available is Biotin for hair, skin and nails. “Our Biotin shot is wonderful for people who want to stimulate hair growth; have thicker, softer hair; and encourage nail growth as well,” she explained.

Karatal is a Florida native. “I grew up on the west coast of Florida in beautiful Clearwater,” she said. “After graduating college at USF, I received a Fulbright Fellowship and lived abroad for some years. I finally moved back to Florida four years ago.”

She first learned about vitamin injections while seeking to solve her own health challenges. “I have been diagnosed with a severe vitamin B-12 and D-3 deficiency twice over the past 10 years,” Karatal said. “It was through this eye-opening experience that I learned about the effectiveness and importance of vitamin injections. After my last diagnosis, I started taking B-12 and D-3 pills but felt little difference in my everyday health. It was only after receiving regular B-12 and D-3 shots at the B-12 Store’s Sarasota and Pembroke Pines locations that I saw a quick turn-around in my energy level and mood.”

Karatal then decided to open a location herself. The B-12 Store in the Mall at Wellington Green opened Feb. 1.

“Wellington is a community that is focused on wellness, and we’re so happy to be a part of it,” Karatal said. “Many of our customers come in having done their research or, having already had injections in the past, know exactly what they want. Many of them mention that their increased energy gave them a much-needed boost at work or at home.”

The B-12 Store makes getting a vitamin injection simple and convenient. It is open seven days a week, including evenings.

“Clients can trust that we are offering only the highest quality, medical-grade injectable vitamins available,” Karatal said. “We run under the direction of our medical director, Dr. Chris Ham, who actually owns the four B-12 Stores in the Tampa Bay area, and everything in our store is FDA approved and administered by a licensed nurse. There are many people who are actually recommended to receive a B-12 injection on a regular basis. For instance, vegans, vegetarians and people who have undergone gastric sleeve surgery. People no longer have to make a doctor’s appointment for something as simple as a vitamin B-12 shot.”

Karatal said that there are many benefits to giving vitamin injections a try.

“Increased energy and better sleep are the two benefits that we hear about the most,” she said. “We also have many athletes and personal trainers using the Amino Blend, and they have said that there is a true difference in their performance and muscle tone.”

Another specialty increasing in popularity are custom cocktails, such as the Immunity Shot.

“We actually have several local doctors who come in for the Immunity Shot when they are starting to feel like they are coming down with something,” Karatal said. “We also have clients who come in for this injection when they are about to take a long flight or a cruise. Our Revival Shot is also highly effective and is perfect for when someone is feeling incredibly tired or when they know they have a very busy week coming up.”

Karatal noted that her team is made up of experts who specialize in helping customers feel comfortable. “We have an amazing group of nurses who are extremely knowledgeable and really take the time to get to know our customers and their needs,” she said.

The B-12 Store is located in the Mall at Wellington Green at 10300 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite 213. For more info., call (561) 513-6919 or visit


Technology Services Department Keeps The Village Of Wellington Working At The Speed Of Business

Technology Services Department Keeps The Village Of Wellington Working At The Speed Of Business

Technology stretches across every facet of modern life. There are always new and innovative ways to use digital tools, which is a perfect way to describe the Village of Wellington’s Technology Services Department — commonly referred to as the “IT” department, short for the industry term “information technology.”

“It’s the 21st century, and we are the least visible but one of the most important departments because every single department is using some facet of mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop system to monitor things, record things, make alerts or create reports,” Chief Information Officer William Silliman explained. “More and more of the work is going less and less analog, so everything is pretty much digital nowadays.”

As times change, the IT department continues to integrate and upgrade every section of the village’s operations to improve the flow of work. As businesses and the community continue to develop more tech-savvy habits, Silliman’s seven-person team is on high alert at all times.

“The most critical issue I tell my staff is if e-mail, internet or telecommunications goes down, drop everything and figure it out,” Silliman said. “Security is also a big concern. We are constantly monitoring and watching everything from phishing scams to ransomware. We try and watch every little piece — making sure everything is backed up in a way that is recoverable.”

Technology Services continues on a strong path forward as they roll out improvements during a special three-year plan. The five-phase project includes upgrading the entire system to an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software that streamlines everything for staff and residents from paying utility bills to building codes.

“Every iteration of the web site gets better as we try to keep it simple, friendly and easy to use,” Silliman said. “We’ve got a really great department and very smart people, and there is always something to improve. I don’t want IT to be a hole into which you pour money. We shop around, and with each innovation are working to save Wellington time and money. The key is we don’t perpetuate the way things have always been done.”

Perhaps one of the most striking changes to IT over the years is the integration of a quality Geographic Information Systems (GIS) team to support the village as a whole.

GIS Manager Nicole McPherson, who first worked for Wellington in 2004, returned home in 2010 to run an innovative team that is making big strides in the field and winning honors for creativity.

“We just received the 2019 Florida Excellence in Technology Award from the Agency for State Technology for our Emergency Operations GIS Portal,” McPherson said. “We have mobile apps collecting damage assessments that is connected to the FPL map of their outages and the county’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC).”

Essentially, this portal allows workers in the field after an emergency, like a hurricane or severe storm, to upload data including images and location information directly to the EOC. This allows senior staff to look at damage assessment information in as close to real time as possible, and decisions for dispatching repair teams and assistance is based on reality instead of speculation.

“Eventually, the idea is to have something publicly accessible so people can see real-time road closures and more after an emergency,” McPherson added. “Our team is awesome. I can’t do what I do without IT. They are so critical, and they don’t get the credit. I’ve had other people, including outside vendors, tell us our IT is amazing, and they are right.”

GIS is now a part of our everyday lives, whether we know it or not. Programs like Google Maps is one popular example of GIS in action, and IT is always finding new ways to use it.

“I used to challenge the team to think outside the box, and now I don’t have to — they just do it,” Silliman said. “I’ll play devil’s advocate and am always asking ‘what if’ so we can identify potential problems. Having redundancy means that the end users, both residents and village staff, don’t even know there was an issue.”

That’s all part of the department’s primary goal to always keep the machine running.

“Wellington uses a cloud-based system, so that it is not just reliant upon village hall being here. If it was gone to tomorrow, the data is still up and running, and you could go to a neighboring community and still function, pay bills and use the web site,” Silliman said. 

In the grand scheme of a growing Wellington, IT is striving to ensure the least amount of impact for residents, businesses and employees. Having layers and backup plans in place allow Technology Services to keep the entire community connected and running smoothly.

After working in the private sector, and now at the village for the past seven years, Silliman feels more connected to his work than ever.

“I like the public sector. Being a resident here, I know who I’m working for, while in the private sector, I didn’t get to see the end user,” he said. “Instead, I’ve got the entire environment of Wellington. When we use a road application for surveys, I actually see the roads being paved. It just keeps going and growing each year.”

Silliman likes the fact that Wellington does not have a fear of technology, which is one thing that brought him to his current position.

“It’s one of the reasons why I came to Wellington,” he said. “While getting my water bill information filled out, I looked around and thought, ‘Wow, they’ve got a lot of technology.’ I pulled out my iPad, found a position and started applying right then and there.”

That was in the past, and thanks to Technology Services, Wellington is ready for the future.


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