Historic Council Bids Farewell

Historic Council Bids Farewell
Transformative Wellington Village Council Remained Unchanged For Eight Years

By Mike May

This month marks the end of an era in Wellington government. For the first time in village history, the Wellington Village Council remained unchanged for eight solid years. They were blockbuster years with major changes, led by a panel of leaders who were unusually cohesive — and almost always got along well, even amid a few significant disagreements.

Meanwhile, the Village of Wellington has garnered some special recognition in recent years, such as an All-American City finalist, Money Magazine’s Best 100 Places to Live in the USA, listed as one of the Top 10 Safest Cities in Florida in 2022, and the Eighth Best Place to Live for Families, according to Fortune.

Many of those accolades came due to policies put in place by the five individuals who made up the Wellington Village Council over the past eight years — Mayor Anne Gerwig, Michael Drahos, John McGovern, Michael Napoleone and Tanya Siskind.

The outgoing council is a quintet of dedicated, diverse, driven and dynamic individuals who are diehard advocates of Wellington with a goal to serve the best interests of the residents and the village, even if there is always some disagreement on how best to accomplish that monumental task.

They have worked closely together, effectively and efficiently, to guide and oversee Wellington’s growth and expansion, and sometimes redevelopment. Not only have they served and worked well together, they have also been able to cooperate, communicate and compromise in an effort to serve the best interests of the village.

“It has been a hardworking group of people,” said McGovern, and those sentiments were shared by his fellow council members.

Nothing — whether hurricanes or a pandemic — has impeded the ability of this five-person delegation to meet on a regular basis to successfully conduct the business of the Village of Wellington. For the last eight years, whenever the clock struck 7 p.m. on a meeting night, Gerwig, Siskind, Drahos, Napoleone and McGovern were almost always sitting in their seats on the dais.

“We worked hard to work together,” Napoleone said.

“We never rubber-stamped any issues,” Drahos added.

“We have made many decisions with the best interests of the Village of Wellington in mind,” McGovern explained. “I call it community unanimity.”

This council came together after a tumultuous time in Wellington history, following a council that was sharply divided on many significant issues, but more importantly, did not get along.

“We restored a sense of order to the council,” said Gerwig, who has lived in Wellington for more than 30 years, where she and her husband run a business and raised their three children. “Before us, the council had become dysfunctional.”

This council, which includes the first two council members (McGovern and Drahos) who actually grew up in Wellington, was determined to strike a different tone.

“We’ve listened to the residents of the community and made decisions which were in the best interests of Wellington,” said Siskind, who considers herself a public servant, not a politician.

“We brought an unprecedented era of calm, collaboration, cohesion and continued success to the council,” McGovern added.

According to Drahos, “We brought credibility and stability to the council. We showed how to properly behave as elected officials.”

Napoleone referred to it as “bringing civility back to council meetings.”

If you look at this council’s list of achievements, it’s impressive and worth reviewing. It includes, but is not limited to, the construction of the new Wellington Town Center, which included the expansion of the Wellington Amphitheater and Scott’s Place playground, as well as the creation of the new Lakefront Promenade. Behind the scenes, they oversaw a $50 million modernization of Wellington’s water and wastewater utilities. They expanded the Wellington Tennis Center and have approved the construction of a new Wellington Aquatics Complex be built at Village Park, replacing an aging and outdated facility.

The council also approved and funded the acquisition of 45 acres of land for the expansion of the Wellington Environmental Preserve at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Habitat located off Flying Cow Road. This adds significantly to what was already a huge passive park and natural area. They also approved, funded and constructed the new Greenview Shores Park at Wellington High School’s campus, which features the largest non-collegiate artificial turf field east of the Mississippi River and is being used by dozens of local sports teams.

After decades of discussion, the council passed Wellington’s first golf cart ordinance.

“It was a safety issue,” Drahos said. “It was not an easy issue. It was very complex and difficult. But it’s critical to our way of life in Wellington.”

Possibly the most high-profile decision by the council was its recent approval of the Wellington Lifestyle Partners project, which while controversial for allowing the removal of some land from Wellington’s signature Equestrian Preserve Area, it will bring two significant recreational improvements that will benefit all residents.

Wellington will gain control of 55 acres just north of Forest Hill Blvd., which will become a new passive park on former golf course land that has been repeatedly suggested for development.

More importantly, the approval paves the way for the construction of an expanded equestrian showgrounds to be completed by 2028, allowing Wellington to continue to shine as the Winter Equestrian Capital of the World.

“That was a super hard, intense issue,” Gerwig recalled.

The council has also looked into the future of the village-owned K-Park property and settled longtime litigation issues affiliated with the land around the Mall at Wellington Green.

“Making those decisions was essential for the next decade of Wellington,” McGovern noted.

Supporting public education has been another priority of the council, which has increased the village’s Keely Spinelli grant award amounts given annually to each public school in Wellington, which has helped to keep Wellington’s schools A-rated.

The council also made decisions that have positively impacted the lifestyles of Wellington residents, such as the approval of new events like weekly outdoor concerts, the inclusion of food trucks, an expanded green market, and special events like the Wellington Classic Brew Fest and Bacon & Bourbon Fest.

There were significant policy initiatives, too. “We designed, passed and funded the first paid parental leave policy in Palm Beach County, supporting our employees that are new mothers and fathers,” McGovern noted.

All these improvements and upgrades to the quality of life in Wellington have been achieved without raising the millage rate.

“Our ability to maintain our way of life without raising the tax rate was not easy,” Drahos said.

Gerwig pointed out that while the council made decisions that provided direct and tangible benefits to Wellington residents, these “big picture” decisions also positively impacted residents of nearby communities.

“Our amenities are also enjoyed by those living in the surrounding communities, such as Royal Palm Beach, Greenacres and Boynton Beach,” Gerwig said. “We don’t live in a bubble.”

While this diverse council often had different points of view, they all voted based on what they felt were in the best interests of Wellington. After each vote, they would transition to the next topic. For Drahos, Napoleone and McGovern, that behavior is second nature, since they are all attorneys.

“We are all trained to be prepared, and we never carry with us the baggage of disagreement,” Drahos said.

“We are trained to take input, assess the issue, make a decision, cast a vote and then move on,” Napoleone agreed.

“We may have agreed or disagreed, but we were never disagreeable,” McGovern added. “We know how to properly behave as elected officials.”

Siskind also has a tendency to think like an attorney. “I am married to an attorney,” she noted.

While Gerwig may have been Wellington’s elected mayor, her goal was to be a team player.

“I was just one of five votes,” Gerwig said. “I was always a critical thinker. You should always care about every issue equally, whether it’s parks, schools, education or business.”

Despite the success of the eight years, changes are imminent. When the council next meets on Tuesday, April 9, Napoleone will take over the gavel from Gerwig after being elected mayor. Two new faces will join dais, but who they are will not be known until after an April 2 runoff election.

The swearing in ceremony on April 9 will be a Wellington watershed moment.

“Because of term limits and staggered terms, this will likely never happen again,” McGovern said of having an unchanged council for eight years.

Moving forward, Siskind and McGovern will be part of a new council team, as Napoleone learns the ins and outs of being mayor. While Drahos is stepping back from public life, Gerwig is currently running for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives.

Drahos said he will always cherish his time serving on the council.

“I will be looking back at these last eight years for the rest of my life,” he said.

Gerwig, who was Wellington’s sixth mayor and served a total of 14 years on the council, takes a pragmatic perspective.

“Everything will be perceived in hindsight,” she said. “My focus has always been on the residents of Wellington. Only time will tell.”

Napoleone knows that having the chance to work alongside Gerwig, Siskind, Drahos and McGovern was a special experience.

“It was such a privilege to spend the last eight years together,” the new mayor said. “We had a great run.”

Siskind said that serving on the council is an important assignment and not an easy task.

“We always set the bar high,” said Siskind, who works as a Realtor. “We all brought professionalism to the council. We agreed to disagree, and we always respected other people’s perspectives.”

As one of the two council holdovers, McGovern pledges to continue serving Wellington for today’s residents and future generations.

“We as a village cannot be stagnant, so we must modernize and advance while remaining true to our core principles of being the premier place to raise a family with great schools, great parks programs, dedicated programs for seniors and continuing to be the Winter Equestrian Capital of the World,” McGovern concluded.


GPL Brings Global Grandeur To Wellington With The International Gay Polo Tournament

GPL Brings Global Grandeur To Wellington With The International Gay Polo Tournament

The 2024 Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament, presented by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, will bring together players and spectators from around the globe from April 4 to April 6, for a weekend that is equal parts competitive play and joie de vivre. For the first time, the Gay Polo League (GPL) will hold the tournament at the exclusive Patagones Polo Club in Wellington.

The annual tournament has become one of Wellington’s most anticipated events of the spring season, known for creating a culture of togetherness, equality and high fashion, to inspire and empower lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in sports and beyond.

“While this event is fun and competitive, it is the desire for equality that pushes us to do more each year,” GPL founder Chip McKenney said

The Flagship For International Play

While the GPL produces polo tournaments worldwide, Wellington has been the site of its flagship tournament since 2010. Players and allies from all over the globe descend upon the village each year for the highly engaging, multi-day event where everyone is welcome.

During the three-day event, celebrity players and novices mix with international polo aficionados and local entertainment-seekers. Creativity, energy and positivity are the vibe for players and spectators alike.

The tournament’s wildly popular Polotini Wigstock charity party on Friday, April 5, kicks off the weekend with a “hair-raising extravaganza” to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Wigs are the accessory of choice at this annual event, where partiers try to top the previous year with their elaborate and colorful hairpieces and compete for prizes. Live entertainment will be the highlight of the evening.

The merriment continues the next day at the tournament’s tailgating party and competition in anticipation of the main event. Whimsical tablescapes and décor add to the fun-spirited competitiveness that lines the polo field. Coveted awards for best in show, best cuisine, best cocktail, best single tailgate and best multiple tailgates are all up for grabs.

“Anyone who comes to the tournament will see that we are a community that shares a love for adventure, fun and the beautiful, challenging sport of polo,” McKenney said.



Fast And Open Polo Play

As the only LGBTQ+ polo organization in the world, the GPL is changing the perception of gay athletes and providing a place where all can come together around a competitive, international sport, and promote inclusion and diversity at the same time. How the four teams come together is a prime example, McKenney explained.

“Most polo teams play consistently as teams,” he said. “Ours don’t. GPL teams combine players from other countries — gay and non-gay — who have not played together before. Players have one day of practice, and then we put together the teams based on skill and experience. Over the years, we have attracted more experienced players, and now our games are fast and open.”

The polo field will be new to the players and spectators as well this year. The Patagones Polo Club is the new home for the 2024 tournament, a location that fits the spirit of the GPL, according to McKenney.

“The Patagones Polo Club is the perfect, chic and intimate environment for our players and the camaraderie that happens along the sidelines,” he said. “We are grateful and excited for our new venue.”

Four teams will compete for two GPL perpetual trophies: the Senator’s Cup and the Founder’s Cup. Confirmed players to date include Gus Larrosa (Argentina), Tyler Thompson (England), Tony Natale (United States), Jesse Lee Eller (United States), Adrian Pia (Argentina), Eva Marquard (Germany) and Juan Diego Patron (Peru).

McKenney is quick to acknowledge the number of polo pros who donate their time and knowledge to the tournament both as players and consultants.

“We are fortunate to have so many generous professionals and advocates supporting the tournament,” McKenney said. “The international world of polo is embracing the GPL and setting an example for how we can all come together to promote acceptance, on the field and off.”

Learn more about the 2024 Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament at www.gaypolo.com.


International Gay Polo Tournament Sponsors A Perfect Match For LGBTQ+ Luxury Consumers

International Gay Polo Tournament Sponsors A Perfect Match For LGBTQ+ Luxury Consumers

The 2024 Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament, presented by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, bears the names of two luxury brands known for their support of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Lexus and Douglas Elliman have offered extraordinary support since 2021,” said Chip McKenney, founder of the Gay Polo League. “They have made it possible to create the high-end event our audience expects. We are all about the luxury experience, and so are they.”

Lexus, while known for luxury and innovation, has also been recognized for its support of the LGBTQ+ community and for promoting diversity in its advertising campaigns. McKenney sees the far-reaching impact that the prestige brand has on inclusivity. “We are grateful for Lexus’ unwavering commitment to enact change,” he said.

Many other sponsors have come together at all levels to support the tournament. Cherry Knoll Farm, known for high-performance horses that compete internationally in dressage and show jumping, is the sponsor of the VIP tent and one of the teams. Goshen Hill is a team sponsor as well. 3 Graces Dressage is a silver sponsor. U.S. Polo Assn. and John Greene Real Estate are the tournament’s grand sponsors.

The crowd-pleasing divot stomp is sponsored by Equity Performance Equine. Both the United States Tennis Association, sponsoring the GPL Tailgate Competition, and Lauracea, a luxury brand of leather goods handcrafted in Italy with equestrians in mind, are new sponsors this year. RBC Wealth Management, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, Discover the Palm Beaches and the Village of Wellington have all signed on as sponsors as well.

“Our sponsors are not only reaching an incredible audience for their brands, but they are also sharing their core values of inclusivity and equity,” McKenney said. “That’s the message that is remembered by our community.”

Learn more about sponsorships at www.gaypolo.com/our-sponsors.


International Gay Polo Tournament To Support The Elton John AIDS Foundation

International Gay Polo Tournament To Support The Elton John AIDS Foundation

The players and spectators who come out for the 2024 Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament, presented by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, set for April 4-6, will join the Gay Polo League (GPL) in supporting the Elton John AIDS Foundation and its mission to be a powerful force in ending the AIDS epidemic.

Every year since 2016, GPL has chosen an LGBTQ+ charity to benefit from its Wellington tournament, raising awareness of the isolation and exclusion that has hurt gay people of every age. This year, GPL will harness the power of community and sport to raise crucial funds and awareness for the foundation’s lifesaving efforts.

Last year, the foundation launched the Rocket Fund to turbocharge its innovative work, targeting those most at risk of HIV/AIDS, including the LGBTQ+ community. Through their partnership, the GPL further solidifies its commitment to fostering an environment of inclusivity, while contributing toward a cause that makes a positive impact in the lives of millions of people.

GPL founder Chip McKenney is passionate about the partnership and the support the tournament will bring.

“The Elton John AIDS Foundation is one the foremost independent AIDS charities in the world,” he said. “We share their belief that AIDS can be beaten and that everyone must get compassionate support and care to stay healthy and safe, and live with dignity.”

A portion of the funds from tournament ticket sales and proceeds from the event’s signature GPL Polotini Wigstock party will benefit the foundation and contribute to its work to end stigma, prevent HIV infections, provide treatment and services, and motivate governments around the world to end AIDS.

The wildly popular GPL Polotini Wigstock party takes place on Friday, April 5, and features cocktails, light bites, a themed wig contest and fabulous entertainment that will captivate audiences while generating funds for the foundation.

McKenney noted the impact that the foundation has already had in the U.S. to build the health workforce, provide stigma-fee testing and compassionate care, and make it easier and more affordable for people to get HIV prevention and testing products.

“The Elton John AIDS Foundation is at the cutting edge of overcoming barriers to care and saving lives,” McKenney said. “We are proud to support their innovative and compassionate work that will impact people and communities across the world and right here in the United States.”

Anne Aslett, chief executive officer of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, is pleased to be chosen by the GPL.

“The Elton John AIDS Foundation proudly stands as the charitable beneficiary of the Gay Polo League in 2024,” she said. “Our commitment to the LGBTQ+ community extends beyond the polo fields, throughout the U.S. south and around the world. From working tirelessly to challenge discriminatory laws, to championing equitable standards of HIV care, we are guided by our fundamental belief that everyone deserves a life free from judgment, no matter who they are or whom they love.”

Learn more about GPL’s partner the Elton John AIDS Foundation at www.eltonjohnaidsfoundation.org.


Patagones Polo Club To Host 2024 Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament

Patagones Polo Club To Host 2024 Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament

Known for its lush gardens and acres upon acres of polo grounds, it was a simple decision for the Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament, presented by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, to make when deciding to move the annual event to the gorgeous Patagones Polo Club in Wellington on Saturday, April 6.

The event is one that brings together thousands of revelers to celebrate inclusiveness and pride and serves as a safe space for LGBTQ+ athletes who love the sport. In that spirit, organizers felt that a more intimate space to bring attendees even closer together was the best way to celebrate the annual event.

“Patagones is an incredible venue for GPL. The club is private, beautifully manicured and beyond stunning. The polo field is world-class, too. We are beyond grateful to the owners for opening the doors to us,” said Chip McKenney, who founded both the Gay Polo League and its tournaments, which take place aside from Wellington around the world in spectacular locations such as Buenos Aires, Argentina; Saint-Tropez, France; and London, England. “This year, we are planning for a record number of attendees who will, without a doubt, bring their ‘A Game’ to the party. We are counting the days to see the tailgates field side, hearing the supporters cheering the teams, and the unbridled feeling of togetherness and acceptance that will resonate throughout the grounds.”

Founded in 2004 by Gonzalo Avendaño, the Patagones Polo Club has become the home to many significant, high-level matches during the winter and spring polo seasons.

With on-site stabling, the Patagones Polo Club is a must-visit for equestrian athletes from around the world, and one that aligns perfectly with the Gay Polo League’s needs.

Once again, this year’s tournament will feature 16 LGBTQ+ and ally athletes competing for the Senator’s Cup and Founder’s Cup. In between the friendly competition matches, there will be everyone’s favorite champagne toast and divot stomp. Tickets, tailgates and sponsorships for the 2024 Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament, presented by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, are still available.

The Patagones Polo Club is located at 4656 125th Avenue South in Wellington.

To get your tickets for the tournament on Saturday, April 6, visit www.gaypolo.com.


Inaugural Event A Success

Inaugural Event A Success Hunt Ball Raises $285K For The Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County hosted the inaugural Baran Hunt Ball in Wellington on Friday, Feb. 9. This debut event was a resounding success with more than 400 attendees helping raise more than $285,000 to support local children.

The proceeds from the event held at Wellington International’s equestrian ring will benefit the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club and fund its career readiness and summer camps in Wellington.

“For a first-time event, the Hunt Ball was a smashing success that was so well supported by the equestrian community. It was a magnificent night watching these athletes, as both horse and riders performed under the lights for the title and $100,000 in prize money. It was an honor to be title sponsor and a special thank you goes out to our chairs Georgina Bloomberg and Jenny Oz LeRoy. We can’t wait to do this again next year,” Kristen Baran said.

The winning team was comprised of three riders: professional Brianne Goutal, amateur Grace Debney and junior rider Clara Propp.

Sponsorships included Title Sponsor Kristen Baran, Presenting Sponsor Sebilion, Platinum Benefactors Georgina Bloomberg and Pamela Walkenbach, Gold Benefactors Jenny Oz LeRoy and GLDN Events, and Silver Sponsors the Jacobs Family Foundation and Ovando Palm Beach.

The Baran Hunt Ball featured an exciting equestrian team format with innovative competitions for significant prize money. The teams consisted of a professional, an amateur and a junior rider. The prize money of $100,000 was split according to the finish of the top 12 teams.

“It is rare that an inaugural event goes so well and smoothly, but because of the hard work of Georgina, Jenny and Kristen, the Baran Hunt Ball was nothing but a triumph. Not only was it a fun and exciting night, but the funds raised will have life changing impact for so many of our families,” said Jaene Miranda, CEO and president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County.

Founded in 1971, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County is a not-for-profit youth development organization dedicated to promoting the educational, vocational, health, leadership and character of boys and girls in a safe, nurturing environment. The clubs, including the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club in Wellington, provide more than a safe, fun and constructive alternative to being home alone — they offer a variety of award-winning developmental programs to help youth build skills, self-esteem and values during critical periods of growth.

The 20 Boys & Girls Clubs throughout Palm Beach County serve more than 13,000 children ages 6-18. For more information, visit www.bgcpbc.org or call (561) 683-3287.


Where Luxury Meets Philanthropy

Where Luxury Meets Philanthropy Locally Owned Online Retailer Casa Cristalle Provides Elegant Tableware While Serving The Community

By Shannon Anastasio

In the realm of luxury home goods, where elegance and sophistication take center stage, locally owned Casa Cristalle is a beacon of both refined taste and heartfelt generosity.

Nestled within its offerings of fine china, exquisite linens and fragrant candles lies a deeper purpose — an unwavering commitment to giving back to the community. The story of Casa Cristalle is one imbued with resilience, inspiration and an enduring dedication to making a positive impact.

Casa Cristalle began as a reflection of its founder’s personal values and aspirations. Local resident Lissette Abreu Cabrera drew inspiration from the qualities and characteristics she cherishes in her daughters — transparency, delicacy, radiance and resilience. With a desire to infuse these characteristics into her home, Cabrera christened her residence Casa Cristalle. What started as a passion for creating captivating tablescapes soon blossomed into a thriving online venture, fueled by her love for fine china and antique treasures.

Specializing in luxury home gifts and antiques, Casa Cristalle curates a unique selection of esteemed brands, ranging from Antica Farmacista to Spode, from Vietri to Rosenthal. With an eye for both timeless elegance and contemporary flair, Cabrera meticulously sources each product, attending antique shows, estate sales and boutique shops to unearth hidden gems that elevate the art of table setting to new heights.

However, the Casa Cristalle story is not just one of commerce, but of triumph over adversity. Cabrera’s journey took an unexpected turn when she faced a formidable foe — non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

In the face of this life-threatening illness, she discovered an inner strength and resilience that would shape her perspective on life and business. Embracing her battle with unwavering faith and courage, Cabrera emerged victorious, her spirit unbroken, and her resolve strengthened.

The experience of overcoming illness infused her entrepreneurial endeavors with a profound sense of purpose. She realized that life’s most precious gifts are often found in the act of giving back. Thus, Casa Cristalle became more than just a purveyor of luxury goods; it became a vessel for philanthropy.

“My family supported the idea of combining my tablescaping entrepreneurial passion with my life mission,” Cabrera said. “We have donated to the Lord’s Place and Place of Hope, and we have helped individuals and families that reach out. Internationally, we have helped Fabrica de Milagros and a hotel and hospitality technical school in Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic.”

From donating profits to nonprofit organizations to spearheading initiatives for the less fortunate, Cabrera and her team are committed to making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. Whether it’s providing essential medical assistance, supporting orphanages or empowering aspiring artisans, the charitable efforts at Casa Cristalle are guided by a spirit of compassion and empathy.

The impact of these outreach initiatives extends far beyond material donations. It is measured in the smiles of children receiving toys, in the gratitude of individuals receiving much-needed support, and in the hope restored to communities facing adversity. Each success story serves as a testament to the transformative power of kindness and generosity.

Looking to the future, Cabrera aims to expand Casa Cristalle’s footprint in both the luxury home goods market and community outreach efforts. With aspirations of opening physical retail locations and broadening its charitable endeavors, she envisions a world where compassion and commerce intersect seamlessly. Through continued innovation, collaboration and dedication, Casa Cristalle seeks to leave a lasting legacy of hope, strength and love.

For aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to follow in Cabrera’s footsteps, her advice is simple yet profound: follow your passion, embrace adversity as an opportunity for growth and never underestimate the impact of giving back. By aligning business goals with a greater purpose, entrepreneurs can create meaningful change and inspire others to do the same.

To Casa Cristalle’s loyal customers and supporters, Cabrera extends her heartfelt gratitude. It is through their patronage and generosity that the company’s mission thrives, enriching the lives of countless individuals in need. With every purchase, they become partners in a journey of compassion and empowerment, leaving an indelible mark on the world.

Casa Cristalle stands as a testament to the transformative power of combining luxury with philanthropy. With its unwavering commitment to excellence and compassion, it serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration in an ever-changing world.

“Together, let us continue to spread love, kindness and generosity, one elegant table setting at a time,” Cabrera said, thanking her family for their support, including her husband Carlos Orlando Cabrera and daughters Cristalee Amber Garcia and Christine Angelee Garcia.

For those interested in reaching out to Casa Cristalle or joining its mission of giving back, the company can be found on the web and at numerous social media channels.

To learn more, contact Lissette Cabrera at (347) 512-6211, lissette@casacristalle.com or info@casacristalle.com. Find them online at www.casacristalle.com and on Instagram and Facebook @casa_cristalle.



Understanding Autism & More

Understanding Autism & More
The Village Of Wellington Shines Light And Offers Support During Autism Awareness Month

With April being Autism Awareness Month, let’s explore how Wellington’s Certified Autism Center designation sets the Village of Wellington apart as a beacon of autism inclusion and understanding of the neuro-diverse community.

April is not just a month of blooming flowers and gentle showers; it’s also a time to embrace diversity and promote understanding. As we step into Autism Awareness Month, it’s imperative to recognize and appreciate the unique perspectives and talents of our neuro-diverse community members and individuals on the autism spectrum. This month serves as a beacon of awareness, fostering empathy, acceptance and support for those navigating life with autism.

Certified Autism Center

In a groundbreaking move toward inclusivity, the Village of Wellington was recently honored with the prestigious Certified Autism Center designation by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). This designation marks a significant milestone in our community’s commitment to creating an environment that is welcoming, supportive and accessible to our neuro-diverse community members, individuals with autism and their families. This designation sets Wellington apart as a beacon of autism inclusion and understanding.

Understanding The Designation

The Certified Autism Center designation is a testament to Wellington’s dedication to understanding and accommodating individuals with autism. It involves comprehensive training for staff and personnel to ensure they possess the knowledge and skills necessary to interact effectively with individuals on the autism spectrum. By achieving this designation, the Village of Wellington has demonstrated its commitment to providing inclusive experiences across various facets of community life.

For individuals and families living with autism, simple activities like attending community events can pose significant challenges. The Certified Autism Center designation empowers residents and visitors alike by ensuring that our programs and facilities are equipped to accommodate diverse needs. From sensory-friendly events to trained staff members ready to aid, we are fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and included.

Enhancing Accessibility

Education is key to fostering understanding and empathy toward individuals with autism. The village is taking proactive steps to raise awareness about autism within the community. By offering training sessions and informational resources, we are equipping staff and volunteers with the knowledge and tools needed to interact with individuals on the spectrum respectfully and compassionately.

Recreation and leisure activities are essential for overall well-being and quality of life. With the Certified Autism Center designation, we are ensuring that individuals with autism can fully participate in these opportunities without barriers. Whether it’s enjoying a day at the park, attending a cultural event or participating in sports programs, residents and visitors with autism can now engage in activities tailored to their unique needs.

KultureCity Program

Wellington’s staff is also certified through the KultureCity Sensory Inclusive Certification Program, developed by sensory issue experts such as physicians, board-certified speech therapists, applied behavioral analysis therapists and occupational therapists. The program helps to ensure that all guests are included, regardless of the event they are attending. A KultureCity-designated area is set up at key events, like the village’s Fourth of July Celebration and Fall Festival, and the dedicated area is for those who may need a quieter and more secure environment. Sensory bags are available and filled with items to help lessen the sensory overload, with no additional cost.

Additionally, autism friendly/sensory-friendly inflatables are included as part of other regularly scheduled activities during key events. These inflatables are different than other inflatables because the team working them has undergone business-centered autism training to increase understanding and sensitivity about autism and related disabilities. Each section has only one entrance/exit and is secured by Velcro, so users aren’t interacting with each other, and a trained paraprofessional is included with every rental, positioned at the entrance/exit to the inflatable to supervise users and regulate the line. An ultra-quiet generator is also used rather than a traditional generator to accommodate those with noise sensitivities.

A Day For Autism

We have also held “A Day for Autism: Building Bridges with Law Enforcement” since 2018. This event is made possible through a collaboration between the Village of Wellington, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Atlantic University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities and has activities for everyone, including a petting zoo, face painting, a bounce house, touch-a-truck zone, a Relax Zone for parents and a DJ. The event provides an opportunity to engage with local law enforcement through interactive displays featuring therapy dogs, the mounted unit, ATV/motors, the 911 bus and fire-rescue. It provides a unique opportunity to learn, ask questions and build bridges with our community protectors.


Setting The Standard

By becoming a Certified Autism Center and making inclusion paramount in day-to-day operations, Wellington is setting a standard for others to follow. We’re demonstrating that inclusivity is not just a goal, but a tangible commitment that can be achieved through dedicated efforts and collaboration. As other communities take note of our success, we hope that they too will prioritize autism inclusion and work toward creating environments that celebrate diversity and accommodate all individuals.

Our achievement of the Certified Autism Center designation is a testament to our unwavering dedication to inclusivity and understanding. By prioritizing autism awareness, accessibility and support, we are leading the way toward creating a more inclusive and compassionate community for individuals with autism and their families. As other communities take inspiration from Wellington’s example, we move one step closer to a world where everyone, regardless of neurodiversity, can thrive and belong.

As we commemorate Autism Awareness Month this April, let us commit to fostering a more inclusive and accepting society. By promoting understanding, celebrating strengths and building support networks, we can create a world where individuals with autism are valued, respected and empowered to reach their full potential. Together, let’s shine a light on autism and embrace the beauty of neurodiversity.


Wellington’s First Mayor

Wellington’s First Mayor
Former Mayor Kathy Foster Shares Her Vivid Recollections Of The Early Years Of Wellington

By Joshua Manning

Our Wellington History series continues this month with a focus on Kathy Foster, a member of the inaugural Wellington Village Council who served as the first mayor of Wellington, back when the role was a position appointed from among the council members. She shares her vivid recollections of the early years of the community.

It has been 28 years since the inaugural Wellington Village Council met for the first time on March 26, 1996. Kathy Foster, who would be named the first mayor of the fledgling village at that meeting, had already been a leader in the Wellington community for years, first as a parent activist and then as an elected supervisor of the Acme Improvement District, Wellington’s pre-incorporation government.

“I really got involved as a mother of young children, when we first realized that there were no schools in Wellington,” recalled Foster, who noted that her children were first bused to Greenacres Elementary School. “I really thought it was about time that the school district focused on the community that was growing so rapidly out here.”

So, Foster and her friend Harriet Offerman organized a group of parents to attend a Palm Beach County School Board meeting to request an elementary school in Wellington. This led to the creation of Wellington Elementary School, led by legendary Principal Buz Spooner, who had been principal at Greenacres. “After that, I realized we had a voice,” Foster said.

Then came the discussion of opening the developer-controlled Acme board to residents. Spooner encouraged Foster to run and be a voice for schools and families. She was the only woman among 22 candidates running for various seats.

“I was the only one not representing outside influences. I worked here, had children here,” said Foster, who won with 48 percent of the vote.

The seat’s incumbent resigned on the spot, leading Foster to be sworn-in the next morning.

“They handed me a one-sheet agenda, which was all consent,” Foster recalled, noting that one item was about a bond refinancing. “Purely ironically, I had worked on Wall Street in college. I asked for the return on the ratio.”

Turns out, broker Smith Barney was making more on the deal than the district, and Foster demanded a public bid, which led to a better deal for Acme taxpayers. “I became a financial expert overnight, purely by accident. That was my introduction to politics in Wellington,” Foster said.

About that time, discussions over the possible incorporation of Wellington began to heat up.

“There was a small group of people led by Ken Adams, Dick Palenschat and Mark Miles, who had done quite a bit of extensive research,” Foster said.

The group hosted meetings to talk about the pros and cons of incorporation. They brought in the League of Cities and Florida International University to study the financial impact of incorporation.

“We all realized that incorporation was really the way to go,” Foster said. “We were paying much more to the county government than we were getting back. We were paying over $7.5 million in taxes to the county government but were receiving less than $700,000 back for the community, and that’s just not right. Everything at that time was focused on redevelopment east of I-95.”

An initial vote failed in 1992, but the discussion was revived two years later. And thanks to some last-minute heroics by sponsor State Rep. Rick Minton on the floor of state legislature, and a nail-biter of a referendum that passed by just a handful of votes, the Village of Wellington was born on Dec. 31, 1995. The first council elections were held in March 1996, and Foster’s name was on the ballot.

“I felt that I had a history in Wellington. I had been here since 1979. I had a point of view as a wife, mother and a small business owner,” she said. “I felt that putting a voice like mine on the council would give some balance to the community.”

By that time, Foster was not only an experienced Acme supervisor, she was a founding member of the Palms West Chamber of Commerce (now the Central Palm Beach County Chamber), was on the board at St. Rita Catholic Church and volunteered with school PTAs. “I felt those organizations needed to be represented within the community,” she said.

Her best recollection from that campaign was partnering with Ken Foster, who was then running for the Palm Beach County Commission, on signs that said “K Foster for Office,” thereby doubling their signs. Both ended up winning their races.

Foster fondly recalls the electric atmosphere of the first council meeting.

“It was wonderful. We were all so excited and happy that Wellington would have a chance at self-determination,” she said.

She was joined on the dais by Dr. Carmine Priore, Tom Wenham, Paul Adams and Michael McDonough.

“The one decision we had to make was determining who would be the mayor,” Foster said. “I had by far the most experience, and I had received more votes than any other candidate. They felt it was a logical way to make a selection, and it was unanimous, I recall.”

While the first board had its differences, Foster was impressed by how cohesive it turned out to be.

“Everyone wanted the same thing for Wellington, which was to try to preserve the neighborhood feel that had been established in the community,” Foster said. “We wanted to ensure that our children and grandchildren would enjoy that same small-town feel that had brought us to Wellington.”

This included working to bring together a new village still healing from a divisive incorporation fight.

“We wanted to reassure the people who had been against incorporation that we would work with them to preserve their way to life, in particular the equestrian and farming interests in the south end of Wellington,” Foster said.

Meanwhile, the county was not happy about Wellington’s incorporation. A fax came in from the county road department about no longer fixing potholes in Wellington. “We had to immediately figure out a roads department,” Foster said.

However, she remains grateful to Nancy Graham, then mayor of West Palm Beach, who reached out to help.

“I was so grateful to her for opening that door for us,” Foster said. “She was the only one of the other municipalities who reached out to help us.”

That inaugural council would go on to make key decisions that shaped the village into what it is today, but the key challenge, Foster said, was more theoretical.

“I think the biggest challenge we had was to convince the community that we were one village, regardless of where you lived, how much property you owned or whether you were a renter,” she said. “We, as the council, would treat everyone fairly and create an atmosphere that invited future homeowners to come and join us.”

This required getting the community involved in deciding Wellington’s destiny.

“There were so many unanswered questions. We had to take it step by step. We created committees for public input on multiple topics,” Foster said. “We opened the door to public input and asked their help in making these decisions. And I think that went a long way in establishing a sense that the village belonged to all of us, and everyone had a voice.”

Many of the key decisions involved what not to do.

“The most important decision we made was to preserve the entire village as it was,” Foster said. “No major zoning changes. Preservation of the existing zoning in all communities. Keeping [a village average of] two units per acre, and not widening Forest Hill past four lanes. There was an effort to maintain what we had.”

It has been nearly 25 years since Foster left the council in 2000. Her assessment of Wellington today? “So far, so good.”

“I think the village has done 95 percent of it very effectively over the years,” she said. “None of us could have imagined how well Wellington would turn out. It is an amazing place to live. We have managed to maintain multiple levels of neighborhoods, incomes, variety and diversity of population. Our schools are all A-rated schools. It is really a fantastic place to live.”

This includes the best recreation system in Palm Beach County and “a quality of life that is rarely found throughout this country,” Foster added. She is also glad to see that the equestrian community remains a key part of Wellington’s success.

“The equestrian industry is really the backbone financially that we based Wellington’s success on,” she said. “Without the equestrian industry, we would be a very different community.”

While no longer in elected office, Foster has stayed involved in the community, both through her business, K. Foster Designs, and her work with nonprofits. She served as executive director of the Adam Walsh Children’s Fund and Junior Achievement, and later founded Wellington Cares, which harnesses local volunteers to help seniors age in place. In 2020, her name was placed on the Wellington Founder’s Plaque to honor her contributions to the village.

“I hope that our future leaders maintain the vision that has supported us so well over the past 30 years and keep Wellington what it is today. As long as the families of Wellington are the priority, I think they will do a very good job,” Foster said.


Perfect Pastries Paired With Fresh-Roasted Coffee

Perfect Pastries Paired With Fresh-Roasted Coffee

It’s two great tastes coming together at Candid Coffee Co. and Anna Bakes, which opened in Wellington last year featuring coffee roasted on-site and made-from-scratch baked goods.

It’s a recipe for success with Candid Coffee Co. and Anna Bakes, which pairs a perfect blend of coffee with a pastry chef who specializes in elevated desserts. The two companies have joined forces in one location, bringing a new energy and sweetness to the Pointe at Wellington Green.

“Both our brands are so bright and colorful. It was all so very symbiotic immediately,” said Anna Ross, proprietor of Anna Bakes.

This must-try coffee shop and bakery specializes in on-site roasted coffee along with sweet and savory made-from-scratch baked goods and pastries — from the sweet and textured Birthday Batter Cupcakes oozing with filling, frosting and crunchy birthday crumb, to the savory Feta Pesto Danish, made with croissant dough, whipped feta cheese, pesto and grape tomatoes drizzled with a balsamic glaze.

These treats pair with an array of expertly crafted brews from Candid Coffee that include blends from Guatemala with notes of chocolate, almond and sugar cane, as well as one from Ethiopia with hints of milk chocolate, strawberry and merlot.

Coffee and bakery flavors rotate, while also keeping staples on the everyday menu, including traditional coffees.

Beans are roasted to perfection on-site, with the state-of-the-art Bellwether Coffee roasting system, which allows for customized, unique flavors by roasting beans to taste.

“We have an all-electric roaster for utmost quality and consistency,” said Candid Coffee co-owner Bryan Jenkins, who received his roasting certification in Seattle. “The whole goal is to roast on a small scale, so you can do a lot of fresh stuff quickly. It’s always fresh.”

“It’s a science and an art,” added co-owner Megan Jenkins.

A trendsetter herself, Megan began creating cold foam varieties four years ago, which have grown into 50 flavors that rotate, from funfetti to cookies-n-cream, hazy honey and malted vanilla.

“We switch them every month, and you can try a flight that includes all three of the featured drinks, as well as one of our staples,” Megan said. “I love experimenting with flavors.”

She began experimenting with ingredients, first creating a cocoa cinnamon variety. “If something’s good on a pastry, it’s probably good with coffee,” Megan said.

“Once roasted, you want to let it sit. It tastes the best between a week and two weeks after it was roasted,” Bryan explained. “My favorite coffee flavor is fruity and surprising. I like to drink them black because you get all the nuances.”

Ross said she has known since she was 15 that she would open a bakery. She was inspired by her mother. The family baked together every night, experimenting.

“I’ve always been Anna Bakes. My friends called me that in high school and college. My slogan is ‘Anna Bakes to make you happy,’ and I really feel like baked goods do that,” she said.

The Candid Coffee husband-and-wife team, Bryan and Megan Jenkins, started in Palm Beach County’s warehouse district. The Palm Beach Central High School sweethearts fell in love with the art of coffee during their travels after graduating from college. They began by roasting at their site, then remotely selling at green markets.

Meanwhile, Ross was baking from her parents’ kitchen in Lake Worth, but when they decided to sell their home, she had to find a new location. As fate had it, they found each other.

“We realized we were missing a huge ingredient, which was Anna,” Bryan explained. “We had coffee, but we needed a partner who would give us that other side. We wanted to feel like the love that went into the coffee would also go into the pastries.”

Ross, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, crafted her love of baking at the prestigious culinary university, and then took her studies abroad to France.

The fresh and welcoming coffee house-bakery is bright and open with hues of blue and muted pink, created by muralist Devin Noel. It’s also perfect for a coffee date for parents and little ones, who get their own child-sized lounge space.

“We have a kids’ latte. We foam the milk, put a little cinnamon on it, and serve it in a coffee cup, and they love that they can have a coffee date with their parents,” said Megan, adding that it is an ode to their three-year-old daughter, Riley.

Other fan favorites are the rich quiches by the slice, with scratch-made crust. Flavors include sweet potato and spinach, as well as the traditional Quiche Lorraine with ham, bacon, onion and Swiss cheese.

Scones are a savory staple, including the Everything Scone, stuffed with chunks of cream cheese and topped with “everything” seasoning. The Mama Ross Breakfast Burrito with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and tater tots, served with a side of homemade salsa, is a huge daily hit.

Special pastry rotations include the Baklava Twice Bake, drenched in honey orange syrup, pistachio and walnut phyllo crumble. The Lemon Raspberry Loaf is also popular with raspberry jam swirl and topped with lemon streusel.

There are always gluten-free and vegan options, as well as homemade granola.

The pastry and coffee creations are endless, made with a palpable passion, summed up by a bright yellow neon sign: “We go together like cake & coffee.”

Candid Coffee Co. and Anna Bakes is in the Pointe at Wellington Green at 10120 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite 160. For more info., visit www.candidandannabakes.com or call (561) 766-1742.


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