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Wellington The Magazine, LLC Featured Articles

Working With HomeSafe, Verdex Construction Is Helping Build A Better Community

Working With HomeSafe, Verdex Construction Is Helping Build A Better Community

When the nonprofit HomeSafe recently celebrated its new facility, Verdex Construction — the general contractor overseeing the Sylvester Family West Campus — did more than just show up to cut the ribbon and make sure the lights worked. The company presented a check for more than $125,000 back to the local charity.

Now in its seventh year of business, Verdex Construction considers the role it plays in supporting the community one of its core values.

“I’ve been involved in HomeSafe a long time, so everybody in the company knows I’m pretty passionate about the organization and what they do,” explained Wellington resident Rex Kirby Jr., founder and president of Verdex. “I insisted that it be a competitive bid. It wasn’t about making a profit for us, so we discussed ways we could cut costs from the beginning.”

HomeSafe protects the community’s most vulnerable residents — victims of child abuse and domestic violence. The new campus, located on Lyons Road just east of Wellington, was dedicated at a ceremony on April 6 and provides a safe home for 12 children.

“This donation from Verdex will help fund significant upgrades that we have planned for our Lake Worth and Boca Raton campuses,” HomeSafe CEO Matt Ladika said. “Our goal is for each client to have their own room, so major renovations will be made to the layout and square footage of our existing group homes. This next year and a half will truly be a transformative time for the agency.”

Kirby and Verdex employed a number of methods to save money on the Lyons Road project, which led to the large donation to HomeSafe.

One such method for saving money after the project began was as simple as painting the fence. They worked with painters to donate the equipment, and Verdex purchased the paint.

“It saved thousands of dollars. Staff volunteered their time to do it on the weekend. We made it a fun event and bought shirts that said, ‘Volunteers for HomeSafe.’ We had a huge turnout; probably 30 of us out there painting and helping,” Kirby recalled. “We wanted to make sure that HomeSafe was aware that we really weren’t interested in this being a profiteering job, so we decided to donate the profits.”

Verdex also applied savings from subcontractors and vendors, like MR Drywall Services, to the cost savings throughout the building process without cutting back on the quality of work. All the small decisions and man hours put into finding these savings added up to more than just a check to refill HomeSafe’s coffers. Giving back is more than just part of the company culture.

“We are definitely involved in other things in the community. We’ve had a group that gave their time to Habitat for Humanity. We have given time and money to the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County. We try to give back to the communities we work in,” Kirby said.

He put together a list of core values before launching the company. One of those pillars is, “We value our communities.”

A Florida native, Kirby is very proud of the growth and quality of the people and projects that Verdex Construction is involved with. Kirby has worked in the industry for 40 years and brought more than just experience to his new company.

“Honestly, after working and growing other companies, being able to start my own company makes me proud. When I started Verdex, it was more than a tagline of ‘Building Something Better.’ I wanted to build a better company throughout,” Kirby explained. “We’ll grow again this year. It is consistent growth because we don’t just grab bodies to fill a slot. We are very particular about the people we bring on board and build the company around people who fit that culture.”

Taking care to adapt intelligently during a pandemic has also been an important part of Verdex’s success.

“We were incredibly fortunate that construction was deemed an essential business, and we incorporated a lot of different practices to make sure we didn’t take it for granted,” Kirby said.

From temperature checks and mandatory face masks to increased wash stations and distancing as feasible, Verdex continued to operate as safely as possible.

“We quit having packed meetings and became very good at Zoom,” he said. “We spent money on enhanced video equipment and project management software, and we accommodated those who wanted or needed to work from home.”

Keeping a solid reputation with both clients and subcontractors is pivotal to Kirby’s success.

“We have a group of subcontractors and design professionals working with us, and we approach it as at the end of the day, it’s our job to make sure everybody is successful,” Kirby said. “We are not successful at someone else’s expense, and we approach the business that way. Some simple principles we put in place since the beginning — like we pay our subcontractors promptly and treat them with respect — then you get a good following and the better pricing because they know you are going to do business the right way.”

Verdex Construction works on a variety of projects, including multi-family housing and hotels to government buildings. Some recent projects include the Town Southern luxury apartments in Royal Palm Beach and the Canopy Hotel in West Palm Beach.

“We won our first Palm Beach County school; a remodel/update for Banyan Creek Elementary,” Kirby said. “And we won a Palm Beach County project for the mosquito control compound. We have a lot of projects from Miami and Fort Lauderdale, up to this area, and over to Tampa as well.”

Despite finding success, new challenges remain.

“Right now, the market is booming, but it is one of those plus-minus things. Material costs are also soaring,” Kirby said. “We have an incredible amount of opportunity on our plate, but we are spending a lot of time navigating through the material increases and working with our clients to keep these projects within a budget they can afford.”

To learn more about Verdex Construction, visit www.verdex.com or call (561) 440-1600. For more information about HomeSafe, visit www.helphomesafe.org.

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A Tribute to Mason Phelps Honoring The Life Of An Innovative Leader

A Tribute to Mason Phelps Honoring The Life Of  An Innovative Leader

By Lenore Rees Phillips

They say it is difficult to shop for the person who has everything. This aptly relates the sentiment one feels when composing a tribute to a man of as many words and lives as Mason Phelps Jr. As an athlete, philanthropist, entrepreneur, businessman, event manager and personality, Mason was never singularly defined by one role he played.

After his untimely passing in May, social media was flooded with tributes bearing one thing in common — how profound and unique they are to the individual and their relationship with Mason. After spending hours lost in the scrolling recounts of days gone by, it is clear that Mason curated his life to be involved in things that he was passionate about and people he found interesting. The culmination of those curiosities was a life fully lived and one that will not be easily forgotten.

As a young man, Mason Phelps was captivated by horses, and that fascination, combined with a competitive streak, led him to earn international-level acclaim as an equestrian athlete. At just 16, Mason took part in his first United States Equestrian Team (USET) clinic. By 1968, he was named to the equestrian team that was representing the United States at the Mexico City Olympics, and the same year he was Rider of the Year of the U.S. Combined Training Association. While still in his 20s, Mason expanded his horizons from eventing, into the hunter and jumper disciplines.

Never one to shy away from an event, Mason easily combined sport and social interests to create one-of-a-kind horse shows. Early in his career, Mason founded and produced the AA Rated Christmas Show in San Antonio, Texas. Later, he raised the bar on his ability to curate something truly world class and created the International Jumping Derby that took place in Newport, Rhode Island. He is also widely recognized for creating the New England Horsemen’s Association Hunt Seat Medal, among other signature classes and charity events held across the United States.

The event that captivated Mason’s interest the longest and for which he is most well-known is the National Horse Show. He held the role of president for a decade and later chairman of the board of directors of the National Horse Show and worked tirelessly to make sure that the historic horse show survived a transition from Madison Square Garden in New York City to Wellington, with the legendary Gene Mische, and eventually helping it find a permanent home at the Kentucky Horse Park. Mason deeply respected the event for its place in the cultural heritage of equestrian sports in the United States and campaigned to ensure the event retained that heritage while also having it evolve to meet the ever-growing demands of modern equestrian sport on a global stage.

All of the work Mason did around the horse shows and around the world also helped him to amass a list of connections that rivaled even the most-worldly professionals. Never one to let an opportunity go by, Mason decided to harness the power of his connections and use them to the advantage of the projects that he was personally involved with. This led to his flagship professional enterprise, Phelps Media Group. Founded in 2002 in Wellington, Phelps Media Group immediately became a pioneer in equestrian marketing and the go-to company to produce and manage high-profile events. Based on the success of the business, Mason was named to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce President’s Circle for “building America’s most progressive and successful equestrian public relations firm.” With the resources being built through Phelps Media Group, Mason helped organize many successful sporting events, nonprofit fundraisers and unforgettable social experiences.

Aside from his professional persona, Mason was larger than life. He was always the life of a party, and if there was no party, then he would make sure that one was put together in short order. He was fiercely loyal to his friends and always had many friends that he had known for many years, no matter where he roamed. In his later years, Mason found the most comfort at his retreat on the Canadian side of Michigan, Campement d’Ours. While he would never miss a winter season in Wellington and the chance to be social with the scene that molded him, he craved the time he spent on the water in Canada, in an arguably simpler life.

Although the stories about Mason and his triumphs abound, his legacy will ultimately be defined by the people whose lives he changed by simply giving them a chance to succeed. His uncanny ability to see the best in people, encouraging their strengths while carefully adapting their weakness, led him to be the launch point for many who now have prominent careers in the equestrian industry and beyond.

When considering his legacy at the time of his passing, the following words seem to resonate the most — a provocative innovator whose tenacity of spirit and vivacious personality will live on in the hearts of all who were fortunate enough to be in his orbit.

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Merger Of Central And Hispanic Chambers Creates Cross-Cultural Countywide Organization

Merger Of Central And Hispanic Chambers Creates Cross-Cultural Countywide Organization

By M. Dennis Taylor

The economic challenges over the past year have left many organizations shifting their missions and goals, often evolving into something new. In some instances, they are reimagining their purpose and developing a new brand for themselves.

Diversity and inclusion are key objectives for business organizations in recent years. That’s why two of Palm Beach County’s most successful business organizations chose the current era of unprecedented changes as the perfect time for a merger. The Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Palm Beach County have been reformed into a single organization. Since completing the merger last October, the new entity has held a number of virtual events. It will host its first in-person meetings this August.

“We have succeeded in aligning two organizations with similar objectives,” explained Mary Lou Bedford, CEO of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber, which is based in Wellington. “We are really excited to now serve a broader and more diverse group of some 600 businesses and growing all throughout Palm Beach County.”

Former Hispanic Chamber CEO Maria Antuña is now the executive vice president of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber. She will focus on business development and Hispanic affairs, facilitating meetings to allow members to maximize the benefits of the united chamber.

The four-decade-old Central Palm Beach County Chamber traditionally focused on the geographical region, but the merger makes the new organization truly county wide.

“We were already overlapping, but now we mesh as a single organization that creates a further synergy — a perfect storm of resources, current and future — of what were two separate groups before,” Antuña said. “With 30 percent of Palm Beach County of Hispanic background, now is the time to join the group which has even stronger opportunities.”

Antuña believes the merger is a win-win for both organizations.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a trend around the nation for chambers to become more innovative and sustainable by aligning with other chambers and business organizations,” she explained. “Strategically, this agreement makes sense and will bring more success to our membership.”

Antuña added that the chamber has been working closely as its member businesses deal with the problems brought by the pandemic.

“The chamber has earned and has already been operating a COVID-19 Technical Assistance Center from a MBDA [Minority Business Development Agency] CARES Act grant project,” she said. “It is a year-long partnership to help current and future Hispanic and minority owned business members navigate this economic crisis with leadership from the chamber.”

The united chamber serves members throughout the county with a goal to continuously improve the business climate and safeguard the economy by facilitating and assisting business expansion and increasing opportunities for growth of high wage jobs. As things continue to slowly return to normal, programs focused on advocacy, economic development, events and direct services to members will expand.

Along with small and medium business enterprises in the geographic and Hispanic culture area, the united chamber’s focus will be on the top employer sectors, including agribusiness, healthcare, equestrian, IT/telecommunications, business/financial services, manufacturing and aerospace/aviation/engineering in bilingual and bicultural marketing.

Bedford explained that the reasons to join the chamber remain as true now as ever: business growth, networking, advocacy, leadership opportunities, market-wide credibility, community awareness, visibility, corporate responsibility, economic sustainability, professional development, and now in multiple languages and cultures.

“The virtual luncheon discussions will continue and change to in-person over time,” Bedford said.

Bedford added that the in-person workshop this summer will be a perfect opportunity for so many members to meet other members they don’t yet know.

“It is the perfect opportunity for existing and new members to reach out in the hybrid organization with economic workshop activities on useful and interesting topics,” she said.

Other initiatives are on the horizon as well.

“By the third quarter of 2021, we will be hosting our business academy,” Bedford explained, highlighting the many resources of the combined organization. “Now we have grown to be truly county wide. Members will have more influence than ever.”

Contact the newly combined chamber at (561) 790-6200 or info@cpbchamber.com. Find the chamber on social media @cpbchamber on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or visit www.cpbchamber.com.

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Wellington’s Missy Clark Helps Philadelphia’s Urban Riding Academy Keep Horses Cemented In The City

Wellington’s Missy Clark Helps Philadelphia’s Urban Riding Academy Keep Horses Cemented In The City

For Wellington residents, the equestrian world seems like a way of life. Even if you are not a rider yourself, it is interlaced as a part of the community — seeing riders cross the road or gallop along a canal can be a daily occurrence. Where you would not expect to see a horse riding along the roads would be a busy city like Philadelphia. However, Netflix’s new film, Concrete Cowboy, starring Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin, has showcased a part of Philadelphia that few people knew existed, telling the story of the Black urban cowboys in the city.

The urban Black cowboy has been living throughout neighborhoods in Philadelphia for more than 100 years. From the early 1900s through the late 1950s, horse-drawn wagons delivered ice, milk and other produce to city residents. Horses were no stranger to Philadelphia streets. Eventually, modern vehicles replaced those delivery routes, but the urban Black cowboy still remained.

Fletcher Street Stable was one of the first urban stables and was one of the last standing homes of the urban Black cowboy. Like others preceding it, Fletcher Street held those similar values: family, friends and horsemanship. Over the years, generations of urban youth wandered into the barn, learning how to responsibly care for horses and how to ride. They became a part of an environment that gave them refuge from the more troublesome areas of the city.

Due to gentrification, many of the stables that once made up the community of Black cowboys in Philadelphia are now gone.

In 2019, the producers and directors of Concrete Cowboy partnered with the late Eric Miller and the riders of Fletcher Street to form the Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy (PURA) and preserve the life, legacy and culture of Black urban cowboys in Philadelphia.

Recently, PURA found an ally from Wellington’s own community — Missy Clark of North Run. One of the leading show jumping and equitation trainers in the country, Clark has been a longtime resident of Wellington, competing at the Winter Equestrian Festival most of her life. In June 2020, Clark learned about PURA’s executive director, the “Concrete Cowgirl” Erin Brown, through Instagram and wanted to support PURA’s mission.

“I sent Erin an e-mail and we connected with a phone call,” Clark recalled. “We probably talked for an hour and a half during that initial phone call. She was someone I really connected with, and I think she connected with me, and then it went on from there. I told her my idea about ‘Concrete to Show Jumping,’ hoping to encourage other professionals in our sport of show jumping to reach out and form alliances with organizations of their own.”

With a mission to open doors to diversified worlds within the horse industry, Concrete to Show Jumping aims to open the eyes, minds and hearts of equestrians by participating in new experiences, forming new alliances and building friendships with equestrians from diverse backgrounds.

The first initiative for Concrete to Show Jumping is to find a permanent home for PURA and all of the programs it includes. Together, they have launched the “Fresh Start for Philly Youth” fundraising campaign through GoFundMe. The campaign’s goal is to raise money for its new facility in the Cobbs Creek section of Philadelphia that will provide a unique, safe space for children, teens and adults to experience horses up close and personal.

“When I looked at the property, I fell in love,” Brown said. “I knew in my heart that this was the place. It’s perfect because although it’s backed into Cobbs Creek Park, it is also right across the street from a residential location. So, you are in the city, and then you cross the street, and you are in the park. It’s a gorgeous place. Once it is a barn, it is going to be absolutely amazing.”

The “Fresh Start for Philly Youth” fundraiser has the goal of raising $2,000,000 for PURA’s new permanent facility. This home will provide stabling for 20 to 25 horses, paddocks and a covered arena, as well as recreational space for other youth and veteran programs. With the help of the entire equestrian community, PURA and Concrete to Show Jumping believe that this goal is attainable. Every dollar raised will be put toward the facility, and the horses and students that will call it home. PURA currently supports multiple programs, including a 4-H Club, Cowboys Against Crime and the Junior Concrete to Cowboy and Cowgirls, which includes horsemanship and riding lessons for the urban youth of Philadelphia.

“If your child wants to learn how to ride but you can’t afford it, there will be a program for that,” Brown explained. “There will be recreational programs for those who just want to be around horses. This new facility will provide a safe environment for everyone in the community to be able to enjoy.”

Clark hopes that her fellow equestrians here in Wellington chip in their support.

“Horses are something that touched all of our lives in such a special way,” she said. “It’s important to continue that legacy and bring it to people who would not otherwise have the access to horses in their community.”

As a nonprofit organization, PURA is now collecting donations for the “Fresh Start for Philly Youth” initiative, creating a new facility that will provide a space unlike any other for children, teens and adults to experience horses up close and personal.

For more information, or to become a part of Fresh Start for Philly Youth, visit www.thepura.org.

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#1 Education Place Provides Students With Individualized Learning

#1 Education Place Provides Students With Individualized Learning

Twenty years ago, after many years of teaching in large private schools, Anita Kane found herself at a crossroads. Seeing a need in the equestrian community where she and her son, Sean, were very involved, Kane decided to start what she thought would be a tutoring service for young equestrians.

What began as a service for friends quickly grew, and she invited her friend and former co-worker Judy Blake to join her. They soon decided to set down roots and #1 Education Place, opened as a brick-and-mortar school with Kane as the head of the Upper School and Blake as the lead in the Lower School.

Many years and many students later, the school has become a lifeline for parents who find that their children do not fit into the cookie cutter of mainstream education.

“Having a more individualized learning plan helps me to keep my own pace, and the flexible schedule allows me to make time for both school and outside activities,” Class of 2021 senior Abby Estevez explained.

And Estevez has used her time to help her community. In addition to earning her Eagle Scout rank this summer, she was awarded the “My Brothers’/Sisters’ Keeper” scholarship for her noteworthy community service.

Serving grades 1 through 12, #1 Education Place has successfully navigated many students through what has become an increasingly “one size fits all” educational system.

“Many students need an environment where they can work effectively, successfully and sometimes differently than they are asked to work in a traditional school. This is where we come in,” Kane said.

With graduates heading to colleges throughout Florida and the U.S., it is apparent that the program helps create a culture of success.

The Lower School, which encompasses grades 1 through 8, is divided between elementary and middle school. Here students are encouraged to grow their executive function through decision making and learning from both their teachers and their peers. Students are encouraged to challenge their abilities and explore their interests while emphasizing the basics.

Blake pointed out that parents often comment on the ease of having one school for their child from first through 12th grades.

“It is hard to measure the immense value of having a group of teachers who know and nurture your child throughout their educational years,” she said.

This summer, #1 Education Place will be offering placement both for tutoring to combat the “summer slide,” as well as placement for the 2021-22 school year. If you are looking for a school where students actually enjoy learning and develop skills that help them function in the real world, contact #1 Education Place at (561) 753-6563.

#1 Education Place is located at 12794 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite 23, in Wellington. For more information, visit www.1educationplace.com.

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The NRI Institute Of Health Sciences Educates Future Nurses And More

The NRI Institute Of Health Sciences Educates Future Nurses And More

The NRI Institute of Health Sciences is a licensed and accredited, private degree-granting post-secondary school that offers programs in registered and practical nursing, nursing assistant and diagnostic medical sonography.

The ownership team of Chief Administrative Officer Dan Splain and his wife Dr. Elizabeth Stolkowski, who serves as president and director of the nursing program, work with a highly qualified staff to prepare students as quality medical caregivers, helping these students discover their own opportunities to serve in the healthcare field.

Both Splain and Stolkowski have extensive healthcare backgrounds in the U.S. and internationally, including hospital administration, managed care, nursing education and the international recruitment of healthcare professionals.

“We started out with eight students, and last semester we had 112,” Splain said. “Some go to work at Palms West Hospital and a number go to Wellington Regional Medical Center, as well as various hospitals on the Gold Coast and the Treasure Coast. We even have some teaching in fine institutions all over the country.”

Growing from an initial small location in West Palm Beach to the 13,500-square-foot facility in Royal Palm Beach, NRI offers two post-secondary school degrees: associate of sciences in nursing and associate of applied science in diagnostic medical sonography. The school added a medical assistant diploma this spring.

“Even before the pandemic, there was a nationwide shortage of one million nurses,” Splain said. “County residents are predominately people over 65, with more in season, so the need is great locally.”

He added that the reputation of NRI and the way the school provides personal attention to the students helps them to pass the state license exam, offering them a high level of confidence that they will be employed right out of school.

Stolkowski’s responsibilities focus on the education aspects of the school to deliver the promised education to the student population, orchestrating the right faculty and the right learning to qualify good nurses so they get licensed. “We are small, so we are quick and innovative, and we make sure the students’ success comes first,” Stolkowski explained.

Dr. M.J. Duthie is a highly skilled nursing educator who teaches five classes per week at the NRI Institute in health and anatomy, and also handles the upper level administrative and clinical needs.

“Our instructors were educated at some of the top 10 colleges and major universities in the nation,” Duthie said. “It is so nice to have the responsibilities and rigors of the larger, high-powered schools here in a smaller, more private setting. We have the same standards as the larger schools for our students here in a two-year, four-semester situation.”

The NRI Institute of Health Sciences is located at 500 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. in the Royal Plaza. For more information, call (561) 688-5112 or visit www.nriinstitute.edu.

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Wellington Preparatory School Offers A Unique Educational Experience

Wellington Preparatory School Offers A Unique Educational Experience

The Wellington Preparatory School is a coeducational, non-sectarian private school teaching pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Its mission is to deliver a top academic education while providing supportive co-curricular activities.

Looking ahead to the next school year, Wellington Preparatory School will continue to offer face-to face instruction with a commitment to keeping a focus on the health and safety of students, faculty, families and the community.

Wellington Prep is committed to making the school accessible to a wide range of families by not only offering the traditional on-campus classroom experience, but also by offering a distance learning program to approved families with reasons that necessitate virtual instruction.

For the 2021-22 school year, Wellington Prep expects that the school experience will begin to feel more like it was prior to the pandemic. However, many health protocols will still be in place, such as limiting visitors into buildings and limiting large gatherings. The school will continue to follow all recommendations from the CDC and the local health department. Meanwhile, school officials have worked closely with local health partners to ensure that faculty members have been given the opportunity to become fully vaccinated.

The school is planning great opportunities for the 2021-22 school year, including an accelerated academic program that not only concentrates on the core subjects but also on the importance of arts in students’ everyday academic experience.

School hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Parents can drop off their students in the front of the school with a teacher or administrator. A car line is operated at the end of the day for student pickup. Wellington Prep also offers before care starting at 6:15 a.m. and after care until 6:15 p.m. After care includes homework help, tutoring, outside activities and a snack.

The school operates on a trimester system and does not follow the public-school calendar. All students are required to wear uniforms and must also purchase or rent a violin.

After school clubs and activities vary by trimester, typically operating from 3 to 4 p.m., immediately after school. These opportunities include chess, art, social club, Spanish club, private violin lessons and private language lessons.

The admissions team welcomes all prospective families, including those who are just beginning their search for a unique school community. Wellington Prep is currently accepting applications for grades K through 8. Prospective parents and students are invited to call to schedule an in-person tour. Contact the admissions office at (561) 649-7900 for more information.

Wellington Prep’s main campus is located at 9135 Lake Worth Road in suburban Lake Worth. The high school campus is located at 12300 South Shore Blvd. in Wellington. For more info., visit www.wellingtonprep.org.

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Neighborhood Kids Preschool Now Expanding To Serve More Families

Neighborhood Kids Preschool Now Expanding To Serve More Families

Story By Deborah Welky  |  Photos by Abner Pedraza

Neighborhood Kids, which already operates two preschool locations in Wellington, recently announced expansion plans that will add locations in nearby Royal Palm Beach and Boynton Beach.

The preschool’s owner Frank Toral is pleased to be expanding into the neighboring community after taking over the oldest preschool locations in Wellington in 2019.

“Many of our parents used to be students themselves,” Toral explained. “It’s a real multi-generational community. The children become friends and stay lifelong friends. This faith-based preschool, once operated under another name, is the longest-running, continuously open preschool in Palm Beach County at 43 years. So many of the parents were once students themselves — their relatives and neighbors went here.”

Four decades ago, the western communities were known more as a retirement area with little available for growing families. But “family” is now the name of the game — and Neighborhood Kids aims to serve this growing market.

“We have waiting lists at both of our Wellington campuses,” Toral said. “So, our new Royal Palm Beach location, inside the longstanding Connect Church on Okeechobee Blvd., will offer additional space.”

Following the June 1 opening of Neighborhood Kids in Royal Palm Beach, Toral, together with his wife Olivia, will soon open a fourth location in Boynton Beach.

“It’s a Christian preschool that we’re continuing to expand throughout Palm Beach County,” Toral said. “We get a lot of feedback on the faith-based aspect of the school from our children’s parents. Many of their children will be going directly from our pre-kindergarten to public school, so this will be the only faith-based schooling they will get. We appreciate that the families recognize the value that our pre-K gives their kids for the short time we have them.”

Toral said that one thing that distinguishes Neighborhood Kids from other preschool and pre-K programs in the area is that it’s not attached to another elementary, middle or high school. Yet there’s the same neighborhood feeling throughout all Neighborhood Kids campuses.

“For example, we had a little girl in our three-year-old program. She comes home and tells her mom and dad about her friends, that she wants them to come to her birthday party and that she wants to go to their birthday parties. The point is, the kids form a community. And this has been happening for 40 years,” Toral said.

The two Neighborhood Kids stand-alone locations in Wellington currently serve more than 250 children combined, with 150 at the Greenbriar campus and 112 at the Wellington Trace campus. “The new Royal Palm Beach campus will be a smaller, a more intimate setting for the kids,” Toral said. “We will be able to host 83 children there.”

All the Neighborhood Kids locations will be accepting students starting at eight weeks old and continuing up to the VPK classes at age four.

Toral hopes that the waiting lists in Wellington will grow shorter with the opening of the Royal Palm Beach location. There are about 15 families whose children currently attend at a Wellington campus who are planning to transfer their children to Royal Palm Beach, which will immediately create a few openings at the original two locations.

There will also be a few spots opening up at the Greenbriar campus, as visiting equestrian families from across the United States and beyond leave for the season.

“My wife and I are Wellington residents, so we’re invested in these communities,” Toral said. “We live and work here, and we want to give families this educational and spiritual foundation for their children. It’s going to be the same uniform program throughout and the same curriculum in all four schools — the same mission and the same values.”

Some of the Neighborhood Kids teachers have been with the school for more than 20 years, teaching the internationally implemented Abeka and Creative curriculums, together with the Amazing Athletes fitness program and Go Picasso painting classes, all in a Christian, faith-based environment.

“We’ve heard from multiple parents that they get really emotional when they’re sitting at the dinner table and begin to eat, and their child tells them, ‘We need to pray before we eat dinner,’” Toral said. “We hear this over and over. We have gotten so many positive responses. It’s the joy of their hearts that their child is part of that gratitude of thanking God in a world that doesn’t always value that.”

The schools’ mission statement is to “partner with families to empower their child to discover and realize their potential in a nurturing and supportive environment.”

“To sum up what we do,” Toral said. “We provide an educational and spiritual foundation for your child’s future. In a world that values success, Neighborhood Kids distinguishes itself by teaching your child the value of character, without which, no success can be sustained. That’s the core of who we are.”

Toral also plans an active camp program for this summer.

“We’re looking forward to a robust summer ‘Fun Camp’ in June,” Toral said. “Last year, because of COVID-19, we were extremely limited in what we could offer the children. But this year, field trips are back on the schedule. We’re going to bring Lion Country Safari in. We’re going to have a lot of fun.”

The summer camp program is also open to older children. The summer camp is geared toward ages 5 to 12, Toral said. Registration is open now. For parents of older children — or those just looking to see what Neighborhood Kids has to offer — Toral recommends they contact the school or visit the web site to register. And for former Neighborhood Kids students who have graduated, it might be fun to see your former teachers in a camp setting.

Neighborhood Kids is located at 2995 Greenbriar Blvd. (561-790-0808) and 1040 Wellington Trace (561-793-5860) in Wellington. Visit www.neighborhoodkids.net for more information.

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Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Thanks Grand Champions Polo Club For Support

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Thanks Grand Champions Polo Club For Support

2020 was a year like no other. Life changed in an instant, leaving companies and individuals trying to plan their next steps. For nonprofits such as the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), this meant pivoting to a completely virtual platform that they had never done before.

The height of the pandemic hit as LLS was starting its Man & Woman of the Year campaign. The candidates and volunteers stepped up to the plate, knowing that even though daily life may have come to a standstill, cancer wasn’t canceled. One candidate and sponsor shined more brightly and made a huge impact for local patients fighting blood cancers — Grant Ganzi and the Grand Champions Polo Club.

Ganzi rallied during the extended 16-week fundraising period to claim the title of 2020 Palm Beach-Treasure Coast Man of the Year.

His persistence and focus on the mission of LLS raised critical funds for blood cancer patients. The Lynn University senior and third-generation polo player utilized his network to support lifesaving research.

On Sunday, May 2, DeAnn Hazey, executive director of the LLS South Florida Region, presented Melissa Ganzi and Grand Champions Polo Club with an award for being the presenting sponsor of the 2020 Man & Woman of the Year campaign in the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast market.

Hazey is looking forward to a longstanding partnership between the organization and the Grand Champions Polo Club.

“Thank you so much to the Ganzi family,” Hazey said. “I know the money they raised is helping families right here, right now, and what they did is truly saving lives. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is so grateful to have such an impactful supporter within the community. The polo club’s sponsorship and support will not only allow lifesaving blood cancer research to continue but will also help patients receive access to medications and other financial needs.”

As a breast cancer survivor, Melissa Ganzi recently finished her final treatment. She is healthy and is back to playing polo. With the start of 2021, Grand Champions is bringing back a sense of normalcy to the area with its spring season in full swing.

To learn more about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man & Woman of the Year campaign, visit www.mwoy.org/mwoy-palm-beach-0.

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Wellington To Continue Its Decades-Long Tradition Of Holiday Fireworks On Independence Day

Wellington To Continue Its  Decades-Long Tradition Of Holiday Fireworks On Independence Day

By M. Dennis Taylor

As this summer brings hopes of a return to something approaching normal, the Village of Wellington is planning a community celebration to make residents feel a bit like it is an Independence Day from years past. Included in the festivities will be the presentation of what is possibly the best fireworks display available in Palm Beach County.

Assistant Community Services Director Michelle Garvey is responsible for coordinating this year’s Fourth of July celebration, which will be conducted safely outside at Village Park on Pierson Road. As of May, plans were still underway, with complete details available in June. There are still sponsorships and vendor spaces available, but the biggest news is the magnitude of the Zambelli fireworks display.

Zambelli is renowned as one of the best fireworks display providers, entertaining area residents for generations. Founded in Italy in 1893, the family-owned business is now located in Pennsylvania and has provided the spectacular shows for Wellington throughout the years. These include past celebrations of Independence Day, as well as New Year’s Eve, which is also the anniversary of the incorporation of the Village of Wellington.

“Our objective is to put the most shells of anywhere in the county in the air during the 20-minute display,” Garvey said.

The celebration will be a day of family fun topped off by the impressive fireworks display. “Last year, we shot off the fireworks from two locations, but now everything will be at Village Park,” Garvey said.

The 2020 observance included fireworks but little else due to the pandemic.

This year, with restrictions eased, will be different. It will all be done safely outdoors with the restrooms sanitized frequently and sanitizing stations throughout the area. Village staff will likely be masked, but vaccinated attendees to the event are not required to wear a mask, unless regulations change.

There will be many activities that are aimed at making youngsters happy with lots of games. “There will be an obstacle course, parachute races and stilt walkers walking throughout the festivities,” Garvey said. “There will be a petting zoo with all the typical barnyard animals, plus surprises and favorites like the miniature cow.”

Food and entertainment will also be part of the experience.

“There will be lots of food trucks for a satisfying food experience, and there will be live music with the Studio 54 band,” Garvey said, adding that the entertainment will include a singing contest where winners get to sing on stage.

Wellington’s Parks & Recreation Department provides the community with exceptional parks, leisure and recreation programs that build strong, healthy lifestyles while contributing to the economic and environmental sustainability of Wellington.

Many popular activities in the usually busy department are returning to the schedule as the summer approaches. Parks & Recreation Director Eric Juckett noted that the village’s new Parks & Recreation Department newsletter has just published its first issue now that activities are gearing back up. It is frequently updated and lists the most current information on recreational activities.

“We are extremely excited to be once again offering so many programs to the residents of our community,” Juckett said. “Tell the community we are back, and we are super excited.”

The food trucks have returned to the Wellington Amphitheater on Thursday nights, along with concerts and movies on Friday and Saturday nights. Free tickets to the concerts are available on Eventbrite.

“The Wellington Community Center has opened back up, and programs and rentals have resumed,” Juckett said. “Swimming lessons in two-week classes will be taking place at the pool, tennis lessons are in the mornings, the all-day summer camps and academies have returned, and registration and availabilities are all in the newsletter on the village’s web site.

Visit www.wellingtonfl.gov/july4th for updates on the Independence Day celebration. For the latest on upcoming community events, visit www.wellingtonfl.gov/events.

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