Tag Archives: Featured

Grant Ganzi Of Wellington Named Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Chapter’s Man Of The Year

Grant Ganzi Of Wellington Named Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Chapter’s Man Of The Year
Every nine minutes, somebody in the U.S. dies of a blood cancer. In today’s uncertain times, cancer patients need support now, more than ever. On Friday, June 26, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Palm Beach-Treasure Coast chapter held its Man & Woman of the Year Grand Finale. The program raised more than $670,848.

The two winners were Grant Ganzi of Wellington and Teri Klotz of Lake Worth. Ganzi raised $149,063, while Klotz raised $78,367. The money will support LLS’s goal to find cures for blood cancers and ensure that patients have access to lifesaving treatments.

During a spirited 16-week fundraising campaign, candidates compete in honor of local Boy of the Year Aiden and Girl of the Year Lily, both blood cancer survivors, to raise the most funds to ensure a world without blood cancers.

Ganzi’s campaign was focused around Aiden and Lily, making sure that other children and their families don’t have to face what they went through. In addition, Ganzi has had other close friends who battled leukemia and wanted to help make a difference.

“I wanted to raise money for this amazing cause and organization because of my friend Brandon Phillips. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 14 and was only given six months to live. He beat the odds and has been in remission for more than 25 years. His story has inspired me to help others,” Ganzi said.

As a Lynn University senior, third-generation polo player and the Polo School’s USPA delegate, Ganzi engaged his polo community, family and friends for support, as well as holding two virtual trivia nights via ChukkerTV to raise money for his campaign.

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 Man & Woman of the Year Grand Finale was held via Zoom. Ganzi was awarded the title with 16 other candidates and more than 100 guests in virtual attendance.

“We could not be prouder of these 17 individuals, who used every creative resource they had to raise dollars for our mission during a pandemic. Many would have given up, but these candidates were all in to help us in our mission to find cures for cancer,” said Pamela Payne, executive director of LLS’s Palm Beach-Treasure Coast chapter.

Candidates and their campaign teams were judged solely on virtual fundraising success this campaign season, each dollar counting as one vote. Their totals will then be considered for the national title. Candidates in each LLS chapter across the country vie for the local title, and the highest fundraisers earn the national title.

Ganzi’s initial goal was to raise $75,000. “I surpassed my goal, and I’m surprised I was able to. There were moments in my campaign where I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to reach my goal,” he said. “Thank you to my family, friends, team members, fellow candidates, Aiden, Lily and everyone at LLS. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Through programs like this, LLS has invested nearly $1.3 billion in research to advance breakthrough therapies. The funds raised through the Man & Woman of the Year campaign are used for research to advance targeted therapies and immunotherapies that are saving thousands of lives; blood cancer information, education and support for patients; and policies that ensure patients have access to blood cancer treatments.

This year, the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast chapter had 16 candidates, one all-star and more than 200 team members competing for the title. The campaign ran from March 5 through June 26.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is a global leader in the fight against cancer. Its mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care. Founded in 1949, LLS has chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

To learn more about LLS, visit www.lls.org. Patients should contact the Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572. Learn more about the Man & Woman of the Year program at www.mwoy.org.


‘Frank DiMino Campus’ Unveiled At Joe DiMaggio Children’s Health Specialty Center Great Legacy

‘Frank DiMino Campus’ Unveiled At Joe DiMaggio Children’s Health Specialty Center
Great Legacy

The Joe DiMaggio Children’s Health Specialty Center, a medical home close to home for Palm Beach County children with specialized and/or acute medical needs, is now located on the “Frank DiMino Campus” in Wellington.

The new name was added to signage on the building, near the entrance and in its lobby to recognize DiMino, a 93-year-old philanthropist.

The Wellington resident made a significant contribution to the nonprofit Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation, which chose the Wellington campus naming as a way to honor him for his support. The gift was one of the largest in the foundation’s history.

“This will help us improve access to and delivery of high-quality pediatric care for children and families in South Florida,” said Aurelio Fernandez III, CEO of the Memorial Healthcare System, the facility’s parent organization. “This generous donation goes a long way toward keeping our kids safe.”

DiMino recently visited the Wellington campus and was met by staff carrying signs expressing appreciation. He connected with Fernandez and other Memorial Healthcare System leaders, including Nina Beauchesne, Caitlin Stella and Kevin Janser.

“I’m honored to support such an outstanding organization that does so much for the health and well-being of children and families in South Florida,” DiMino said.

The donation was made to the foundation’s “Catch the Love” capital campaign, which will help underwrite the cost to expand the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood. The initiative will double the size of the stand-alone facility, to 320,000 square feet within an eight-story building.

“It’s a $150 million construction project, with $50 million, or a third of it, being raised through philanthropy. This donation will help underwrite the additional four stories that will be added to the existing structure,” Fernandez said.

The expansion will provide the main hospital with the additional space it needs for specialized cardiac, intensive care and medical surgical capabilities. It will also increase access to leading-edge pediatric care and treatments, including those for cancer, orthopedic, neurology and neonatal patients. Additional services will also be extended into the community and support will be provided to families during their most challenging times.

The donation is DiMino’s second significant contribution to the children’s hospital foundation. A previous gift, through his own family foundation in 2018, resulted in the DiMino name being added to the emergency department at the hospital.

“We’re just so happy to now have something he can drive by, in his community, with his name on it,” said Stella, CEO of the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. “It’s a great legacy for him and a great gift for us, so we’re very thankful.”

Established in 1994, the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation provides philanthropic support to underwrite the cost of facilities, programs and services for children and families at the hospital and specialty center. These actions support the Memorial Healthcare System mission to heal the body, mind and spirit of those it touches.

The Joe DiMaggio Children’s Health Specialty Center in Wellington features high quality, patient and family-centered care in a warm, kid-friendly environment. The facility features medical experts in audiology, cardiology, craniofacial, endocrinology, general surgery, immunology, neurology, neurosurgery, orthopedics, otolaryngology and pulmonology, plus comprehensive imaging (MRI and ultrasound), outpatient surgery and rehabilitation services.

Part of the Memorial Healthcare System, the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Health Specialty Center is located at 3377 S. State Road 7 in Wellington. To learn more, or make an appointment, call (561) 341-7000 or visit www.jdch.com/wellington.




Community Comes Together To Provide Basic Necessities For Healthcare Workers At WRMC Grab-N-Go Pantry

Community Comes Together To Provide Basic Necessities For Healthcare Workers At WRMC
Grab-N-Go Pantry

You know how it is. You finish a long and difficult workday and then realize you still have one more task to accomplish before you can go home — you need to stop at the grocery store. Some days, it can be simply overwhelming.

Now imagine how daunting that task would be if you had just completed a masked, gloved and emotionally draining extended shift as a healthcare worker. Wouldn’t it be nice if just that one thing — shopping — was taken off your to-do list?

For the healthcare heroes at Wellington Regional Medical Center, community volunteers stepped in to help out.

Wellington Councilman Michael Napoleone, together with Anne Caroline Valtin of the Great Charity Challenge and Liliane Stransky of the Step by Step Foundation, created the Grab-N-Go Pantry in partnership with Wellington Regional Medical Center.

By organizing donations and making purchases of essential items such as toilet paper, these volunteers made it possible for hospital workers to “shop” just prior to heading home. Non-perishable food, soap, cleaning products and more were all available at the pantry free of charge.

Napoleone saw the need and got the ball rolling early.

“Back in mid-March, when everything was starting to close down and people were panic-buying, I asked [WRMC CEO] Pam Tahan what we could actually do that would make things easier for her staff as they manned the front lines,” Napoleone recalled. “She thought a pantry would be a good idea because medical personnel were working long hours and, by the time they got to Publix, there was nothing left on the shelves.”

He reached out to Valtin to help make the idea a reality.

“I asked myself, ‘Who’s the most giving, volunteering person I know?’ and I called Anne Caroline,” Napoleone said. “In a matter of just a few hours, we had drafted a flyer, signed on with the Step by Step Foundation to handle monetary donations, created an event page and pushed it out.”

The event page read, in part: “We all owe a debt of gratitude to those medical professionals who show up every day and are dealing with the virus head-on. They know it will get worse before it gets better, but they are working long hours and putting themselves in harm’s way because it’s their job and their passion.”

Healthcare workers were first able to “shop” March 27 and throughout April, although the need died down a bit once supplies became more abundant at the stores.

“At the program’s inception, it was a key time,” Valtin said. “Personal cleaning supplies were getting hard to come by, so we donated antibacterial soap and shelf-stable pantry items like breakfast cereals and granola bars. When we found out some of the staff had young children, we began bringing in diapers.”

Valtin thanked Stransky for her assistance.

“She is known for fulfilling wish lists for local nonprofit organizations, so she was instrumental,” Valtin explained. “Anyone who wanted to help but was not comfortable with going shopping or dropping things off could donate via her Step by Step web site.”

When a donation would come in via the Step by Step web site or Facebook page, Stransky started shopping for essentials.

“I thought the Grab-N-Go Pantry was a great idea — marvelous,” Stransky said. “First responders have less time to buy groceries for themselves and for their kids at home. It was nice idea. The most important thing in a crisis like this is that people trust what we are doing in alliance with other organizations. People came together, especially the horse people. They responded right away to help. We become one, which is amazing.”

Napoleone estimates that approximately $8,000 was raised for the effort, not counting the dollar value of donated goods. Several thousand dollars were donated through Step by Step, and other organizations jumped in to help by offering grants, such as the Wellington Community Foundation, the Wellington Rotary Club, the Crowned Pearls of Wellington and the Village of Wellington. WRMC estimates that several hundred hospital staffers were served by the project.

“The Grab-N-Go Pantry was successful from the beginning because we live in a great community,” Napoleone said. “People stepped up in a big way, even those who may not have been sure where their next paycheck was coming from. The hospital had set up a big wire rack with wheels and, when I dropped off my first supply, it was packed.”

Valtin gave credit to the hospital as well.

“Wellington Regional did an amazing job organizing the items being dropped off,” she said. “Before you even stepped into the lobby, there was a shelving unit where you could drop things off. Items were moved throughout the day into a multipurpose room, where they were organized by categories. And they were very good about finding out what the workers were missing so we could bring them the most-needed items.”

Valtin was proud of how the community came together to support the Grab-N-Go Pantry. “I love facilitating things between a nonprofit and a donor,” she said. “This was just another one of those moments. It gave people a way to say thank you and support the people on the front lines. Change happens at the local level. Everybody played a small role.”

For Napoleone, actions speak louder than words.

“I’m a big believer in doing things, not just talking about things,” he said. “It’s important to look for ways you can help through actions, not just words. Grab-N-Go will definitely come back in a big way if it’s needed.”

While the pantry is not as crucial as it was in March and April, the Step by Step Foundation is still accepting donations, both monetary and in items for the pantry. Learn more at www.facebook.com/StepByStepFoundation.


Palms West Hospital And JFK Medical Center Have Taken Action To Protect The Community Safe Hands

Palms West Hospital And JFK Medical Center Have Taken Action To Protect The Community
Safe Hands

In the COVID-19 pandemic, the human race has faced an enemy like no other these last few months — one that has made time stand still for our nation and our world.

Never in the modern era have we faced a crisis like this one. Homes have turned into offices, schools and sanctuaries. Social distancing has become common language. Everyone has been stretched to imagine a new way of life — a new normal. Yet each day that passes brings the hope of a healthier tomorrow.

Through it all, the HCA Healthcare hospitals of Palm Beach County, including Palms West Hospital and JFK Medical Center, have remained focused on one thing — the care and improvement of human life.

In times of uncertainty, healthcare workers show up. When faced with a challenge, they see a path forward.

Joining with HCA colleagues and physicians, the hospitals have taken action to ensure — now more than ever — that community members are in safe hands.

The hospitals have established enhanced protections throughout its facilities to create a safe environment for everyone who walks through the door. There’s a lot to worry about in these uncertain times, and getting healthcare shouldn’t be one of them.

The goals of the hospitals are to move beyond fear, to define this new normal and to find a healthier tomorrow, all while fixing broken hearts and broken bones, lessening the pain and curing disease. This means tending to ailments, so patients can find peace of mind.

At Palms West Hospital and JFK Medical Center, as well as all HCA Healthcare facilities, they continue to take proactive steps related to COVID-19 preparedness and implementation of security measures for the health and safety of patients, visitors, colleagues, physicians and the community.

Steps the hospitals are taking to keep communities and clinical teams safe include:

  • Screening for all patients, visitors and staff before entering facilities.
  • Separate areas for COVID-19 positive patients and patients under investigation. Non-COVID-19 patients, including elective procedure patients and outpatients, are being grouped separately.
  • Patients enter the hospital through an entrance where screening and temperature checks are performed.
  • All caregivers wear masks throughout the facilities, which exceeds CDC guidelines.
  • Heightened infection prevention policies, including the removal of high-touch items. Food and drinks are prohibited in clinical units to prevent the spread of illness.
  • The hospitals have also limited visitors to only individuals necessary to the patient’s care. However, the healthcare teams are equipped to assist patients and families in communicating during a hospital stay using a variety of technologies, such as FaceTime.

The precautions that have been taken, and the new protections put in place, make HCA’s clinical care facilities, such as Palms West Hospital, among the safest possible places to receive healthcare at this time.

The hospitals have been and will continue to collaborate with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), maintaining and often exceeding the strictest of standards. As the entire community adjusts to this new normal, the hospitals encourage the community to continue to follow current CDC guidance regarding social distancing and hygiene.

Meanwhile, hospital officials thank friends, neighbors and community partners for their support during this unprecedented challenge and for standing with them in this shared commitment to protecting the health and safety of everyone, today and every day.

Palms West Hospital and JFK Medical Center are also helping the community in other ways, such as through a new insurance hotline.

“The COVID-19 crisis has challenged our communities in a number of ways, and we know many of our friends and neighbors have experienced the stress of losing their health insurance,” said Charles Gressle, president of HCA’s East Florida Division. “Just as we set up a COVID-19 hotline at the start of the crisis, we want to make sure we’re there to help our community as we move forward.”

If you need insurance coverage option assistance, call (833) 867-8771 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Through this free service, hotline advisors can discuss eligibility and advocacy services appropriate for a variety of scenarios. HCA will not be representing any specific company or selling insurance plans. The goal is simply to help the community get important information to manage their health needs.

Learn more about how Palms West Hospital has responded to the COVID-19 virus emergency at www.palmswesthospital.com/covid-19.


Wellington Q&A: The Village Updates Residents Regarding The Virus Pandemic COVID-19 Response

Wellington Q&A: The Village Updates Residents Regarding The Virus Pandemic
COVID-19 Response

As our community begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Wellington The Magazine invited Wellington officials to participate in a question-and-answer session regarding the village’s response to the virus emergency.

How did the Village of Wellington become informed about the possibility of a pandemic due to COVID-19?

 Wellington received notification through the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention health advisory on Jan. 9 of an outbreak in Wuhan, China. Since that notification, Village Emergency Operations staff has been closely monitoring the pandemic. Following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ issuance of Executive Order 20-51 on March 1, directing the Florida Department of Health to issue a public health emergency, Wellington activated its Emergency Operations Center with monitoring on March 4. Wellington’s call center activated its COVID-19 assistance information on March 16. Full EOC activation occurred when Wellington declared its Emergency Order Number 1 on March 26. “Once we became aware of the thread of the virus, the village began taking several steps to both be prepared to coordinate and communicate with county and state health officials, and ensure the health of our community and the continuity of critical operations of village government,” Wellington’s Director of Emergency Management and Public Safety Nicole Coates said.

What were the responses that the village took to address residents’ safety during the pandemic?

Wellington activated its Emergency Operations Center and established an incident management structure to optimize the coordination of public health and safety strategies for village residents. The village’s response included preparation, prevention and mitigation strategies to limit the spread of infection, such as canceling public gatherings and events. Officials evaluated critical services to maintain continuity of government, such as solid waste and wastewater operations. The village further ensured that all public facilities were sanitized in accordance with CDC guidelines and implemented an enhanced disinfection plan.

Since early March, the village has been providing COVID-19 information and updates to residents and business owners. Wellington’s COVID-19 web pages and links provide extensive information regarding updates, videos and resources for residents, businesses and the equestrian community. “Keeping our residents informed is essential to minimize the health effects of a pandemic,” Village Manager Paul Schofield said. “The village’s public information office and call center have communicated measures that the public can take to minimize risk and decrease the spread of infection.”

How and when did the village decide to cancel public activities and shut municipal facilities? What criteria were used to determine when it was safe to re-open?

During the week of March 9, the village started discussions on canceling programs and activities. To protect the most vulnerable populations, senior activities were canceled first. The Community Services Department reached out to all seniors who were signed up for upcoming programs and events and informed them of the cancellations. The Wellington Seniors Club helped by mailing out an emergency newsletter to let their members know about the cancellations of the programs and upcoming events.

Soon after, all other programs and events were canceled. Updates were shared through social media, media releases, e-newsletters, e-mails to participants and information was shared on Wellington’s web site. The village continues to work closely with officials from the Florida Department of Health, Palm Beach County and the State of Florida to review the data and benchmarks for the safe re-opening of village facilities.

“The vital role that parks, recreational facilities and programming play is even more evident during challenging times, including the situation the entire world finds itself in now,” Parks & Recreation Director Eric Juckett said. “While we had to make some difficult decisions to close many of our parks and facilities, our focus remained on offering programming to help keep our residents active and healthy.”

What did village staff do during the height of the pandemic? Were any staff members furloughed? How many were working from home?

The Wellington Village Council, the village manager and senior staff advised employees of the village’s commitment to support them throughout the pandemic from the very beginning. A majority of village employees have worked together through multiple events, including hurricanes and previous potential pandemic events. The village enacted its emergency operations protocols in early March. This structure gives clear direction to employees and each department as to their responsibilities and plans. However, some village departments started preparations in early February based on world news and the need for additional supplies and different planning.

Executive orders and CDC guidance served as the basis for decisions. No employees were furloughed. Some staff was reassigned to other departments. For example, two Parks & Recreation staff members were assigned to help the Public Information & Communications Department. Approximately one-third of all full-time employees telecommuted and worked from home and are continuing to do so. The remaining employees separated to comply with social distancing and split into teams or shifts that rotate schedules to prevent an entire department from potential exposure.

“These protocols — telecommuting, social distancing, physical relocation, rotating schedules and working in teams — have been very successful. Wellington has continued to perform all work and deliver essential services while village facilities remained closed to the public,” Deputy Village Manager Tanya Quickel said. “We give special thanks to our Building Maintenance and Public Works departments, who take such good care of our residents, our employees and our facilities. They go above and beyond to take all precautions and work diligently in cleaning and implementing preventative measures throughout the village.”

What was the village’s role in the closure of non-essential businesses? What did the village do to ease this transition?

Essential and non-essential businesses were defined by state executive orders and further defined by Palm Beach County executive orders. The village followed direction from the governor’s office regarding business closures and worked with businesses to make sure they understood these orders. Wellington continued to monitor the businesses with respect to whether they were open or closed and posted a list of open restaurants with locations and contact information, along with operational status (i.e.: takeout, delivery, curbside service) on Wellington’s web site.

Wellington continues to communicate with the local business community. Most recently, Wellington launched its Voluntary Business Compliance Inspection program to recognize local businesses complying with Gov. DeSantis’ COVID-19 guidelines for re-opening. The goal of the program is to help promote safety and consumer confidence. “Our local businesses are the lifeblood of our community,” Planning, Zoning & Building Director Tim Stillings said. “We are doing everything in our power to help guide them through this unprecedented time. From visiting businesses to inform them about new executive orders to sharing resources and helping them develop alternative ways to serve their customers, we continue to be there for our business community to let them know we support them.”

What special initiatives did the village become involved with during the height of the pandemic?

Wellington has become involved in a wide array of community initiatives during this virus emergency. For example, while in-person events and recreational programming are on hold, Wellington’s Parks & Recreation team created virtual programming live via Zoom and through its Virtual Recreation Center. Virtual programming includes a variety of free instructor-led classes, at-home activities, updates and ideas to keep residents of all ages healthy, entertained and informed.

Wellington has also provided special relief and assistance for vulnerable populations. Anticipating financial hardships associated with the closure of businesses and loss of jobs, Wellington decided early on to temporarily cease disconnects, waive late fees and to work with customers with payment plans. The Senior Services team continues to provide older residents information and referral assistance on programs and services available to meet their needs. The village expanded its Senior Transportation and Rides (STAR) program to include free, unlimited grocery store and prescription pickup and delivery. “From teacher parades to joining forces with first responders for surprise drive-by birthday celebrations to celebrating National Hospital Week with a car parade at Wellington Regional Medical Center, to daily neighborhood outreach, we continue to come up with creative ways to engage our residents and maintain a sense of community during this challenging time,” Mayor Anne Gerwig said.

Tell us more about the food distribution event now held each Tuesday at the Mall at Wellington Green. How did this come about, and how long do you expect it to continue?

The village is working with Feeding South Florida to provide meals to families every Tuesday at the Mall at Wellington Green. The distribution includes dairy, fruits, vegetables and protein. Each event provides food for a family of four for approximately one week. The village will continue the food distribution events as long as there continues to be a need during the COVID-19 crisis. “We are all feeling the economic impacts of the coronavirus; many of our families have been affected. Some of these families are struggling to put food on the table, and we are always looking for ways to help. Wellington is proud to support Feeding South Florida’s mission to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and the increased food needs in our western communities,” General Services Director Ed De La Vega said.

Tell us about the village’s involvement with the COVID-19 testing site at Village Park in collaboration with Premier Family Health? How did this come about?

Wellington partnered with Palm Beach County and Premier Family Health to set up a testing site to serve the western communities. The Village Park gymnasium was sectioned off for the test site and approximately 2,000 test kits were provided for free testing. The test site could process up to 320 appointments per day, including scheduled and walk-ups. The testing started May 13 and ended May 29. “Premier Family Health was instrumental in the success of the COVID testing site in Wellington,” Director of Human Resources Kim Gibbons said. “Dr. Vincent Apicella and the Premier Health team of more than 15 staff members arrived each day to work with everyone, providing information and reassurance during this difficult time.”

Testing is a critical part of getting the community back to normal, Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes added. “Collaborating with Palm Beach County and Premier Family Health allowed us to bring testing closer to the western communities and offer this free resource for our residents,” Barnes said. “When we look back at what will be the first wave of COVID-19, testing data will be an important piece of the puzzle for stopping or slowing the disease in the future.”

What has the village learned during this unprecedented pandemic?

The village expanded its use of technology to continue delivering services to residents. From additional call center staffing to changes in online contact options, using technology to allow village staff to work with residents from home, it became clear that Wellington can provide cost-effective and professional service to residents remotely. Changing the service model to include community partners such as Feeding South Florida, the Crowned Pearls of Wellington, the Wellington Rotary Club and Premier Family Health allowed us to adapt to new demands and continue to provide the level of service that residents expect. “Wellington stepped up to every challenge, from assisting seniors with food and pharmaceutical deliveries to partnering with Palm Beach County and Premier Family Health to establish a local test site, to working with Feeding South Florida on ongoing food distributions,” Councilman Michael Napoleone said. “Wellington is there to work out a solid solution.”

What steps has the village taken to ensure a stronger position in the event of a resurgence of this virus in the future, as some predict?

The village continues to communicate updates regarding COVID-19. The community is not in the clear yet, and health officials have predicted this to come back in the late fall. We continue to share CDC guidelines, Palm Beach County and village updates on social media, the village web site, e-newsletters and media releases. The village is committed to following the CDC guidelines and requires that those who enter Wellington buildings wear facial coverings. Staff has been using the Zoom platform for conducting meetings, and Wellington continues to promote using its online resources and services. “Taking the lessons we’ve learned in the past months, we will continue focusing on delivering important services to our residents in this ‘new normal.’ Until a vaccine is developed, we will stay vigilant and committed to following all health mandates to keep our community safe,” Councilman John McGovern said.

Do you have a message to Wellington residents during these challenging times?

Wellington will continue doing everything it can to keep residents safe, informed and connected through these unprecedented times. Personal responsibility is the single largest factor in limiting the spread of COVID-19. Everyone knows the right things to do. Remember, precautions are not necessarily about us individually, but rather about our families and our community. Make safety and precautions a priority, follow CDC guidelines and use a bit of everyday common sense to navigate your day.

“All of us here at Village Hall will continue to pay close attention to the impacts of the COVID-19 public health crisis in the coming months,” Vice Mayor Tanya Siskind said. “Whether it be sharing Palm Beach County assistance programs, working with our community partners to offer food distributions and special assistance for our senior residents, opening up more recreation opportunities and more, helping our community get through this is our priority.”

When it comes to interacting with the village, residents are urged to take advantage of online services and stay safe at home. Normal activities like paying your water bill, applying for permits and requesting inspections can all be done with a smartphone, computer or by phone. Speaking of phones, the village is just a phone call away at (561) 791-4000 on Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We want our residents to stay healthy and remember to use safety precautions in public,” Councilman Michael Drahos said. “Each of us can make at least a little difference, but working together, we can make a big difference in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Wellington, our great hometown, is getting through this together with our residents.”


The Village Of Wellington Partners With Feeding South Florida To Help Those In Need Feeding Thousands

The Village Of Wellington Partners With Feeding South Florida To Help Those In Need
Feeding Thousands

With all the economic uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, Wellington has partnered with Feeding South Florida to make sure that village residents and many other Palm Beach County neighbors don’t go hungry.

Thanks to leadership from the Village of Wellington, people who are having financial difficulty buying food for themselves and their families are now receiving a helping hand. What’s great is that the price tag for the food is very affordable: it’s free.

Every Tuesday morning from 9 to 11 a.m., fresh produce and perishable food items are being distributed to those in need at the Mall at Wellington Green, in the former Nordstrom parking lot between Dillard’s and Macy’s. This local effort is being conducted in conjunction with Feeding South Florida, the largest food bank serving Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

According to Assistant Director of Parks & Recreation Michelle Garvey, this Wellington effort is a response to the current COVID-19 crisis, which has impacted the ability of many families to buy food and feed themselves on a steady basis. Garvey is in charge of implementing this particular local program for the Village of Wellington.

“This effort is so worth it,” she said. “We are simply trying to help community members get back on their feet.”

In the early days of the pandemic, Wellington staged food giveaways at sites such as Village Park and the Wellington Community Center. The Wellington Green site was put into operation in early May and is continuing every Tuesday until further notice. It is one of a number of area food sites offered with help from Feeding South Florida. Others are in Boynton Beach, Lake Worth Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Royal Palm Beach and West Palm Beach.

This weekly charitable effort in Wellington requires a small army to make it happen. According to Community Services Manager Jenifer Brito, 35 employees from the Village of Wellington and 20 to 25 local volunteers show up every Tuesday morning to distribute the food — rain or shine.

The crew from the Village of Wellington comes from many of its divisions, such as parks and recreation, public works, community services and aquatics. One person who has been present every week is Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig.

“Mayor Gerwig is leading by example,” Garvey said. “The other members of the Wellington Village Council have been there, as well.”

Local volunteers have come from several community organizations, such as the Rotary Club of Wellington and the Crowned Pearls of Wellington. There’s also a small contingent of deputies from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in attendance every Tuesday morning to help maintain order and safety.

In accordance with the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), those who are distributing the food are wearing masks and gloves, which are supplied by the Village of Wellington. If it rains, ponchos are provided by the village. The food is placed into vehicles by the volunteers.

This weekly effort starts at dawn on the day of distribution. Each Tuesday morning, two big semi-trucks containing the food from Feeding South Florida arrive at approximately 6:30 a.m. at the Mall at Wellington Green. Wellington staff and volunteers are on-site by 7 a.m. The food is distributed starting at 9 a.m.

According to Brito, cars start arriving at the parking lot as early as 4:30 a.m. Before a box of food is placed in a car, one of the people in each car fills out a voucher form, which indicates their level of need.

As many as 900 vouchers are processed each Tuesday.

“If a family has more mouths to feed, then it gets more food,” Brito said. “The whole process is a big operation.”

The type of food being distributed includes items such as chicken, fish, turkey, milk, eggs, shredded cheese, apples, oranges, bananas, salad kits and a wide variety of fresh vegetables.

The distribution of the food is being done in accordance with guidelines from the CDC. A key part of this process is that recipients of the donated food must stay in their vehicles with either their trunk or a window open. After a completed voucher is approved, a basket of food is then being placed in the vehicle.

The food is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. To help expedite the food distribution process, there are four lanes of traffic for the cars, which helps move the process along quickly and efficiently.

The level of appreciation by the recipients of the food is quite sincere.

“Since people can’t shake your hand to say thanks, many have made signs which are on display in their cars that say thank you,” Garvey said.

Getting the right food to the right people at the right time at the right place in the right way has been a true team effort. “Many thanks to the Mall at Wellington Green, Starwood Retail Partners, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, the Rotary Club of Wellington and the Crowned Pearls of Wellington for their support,” Garvey said. “We all are working well together and making a big difference in the lives of others.”

To learn more about or support the efforts of Feeding South Florida, visit www.feedingsouthflorida.org or call (954) 518-1818, ext. 1835.


Wellington, Premier Family Health And Palm Beach County Partner On COVID-19 Testing Testing Site

Wellington, Premier Family Health And Palm Beach County Partner On COVID-19 Testing
Testing Site

When initial plans for a pandemic testing site in the western communities didn’t come to fruition, an innovative and first-of-its-kind, three-way partnership was formed between Palm Beach County, the Village of Wellington and Premier Family Health to fill the void.

“The Western Communities Council had a desire to see if anybody else could get a testing site going after the initial effort for a testing site at Walmart in Royal Palm Beach could not be executed,” Wellington’s Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes explained.

Barnes said that Wellington quickly volunteered to provide a site at the gymnasium facility at Village Park on Pierson Road.

“The county was interested and was looking for a municipality as a partner,” Barnes said. “The village stepped up with a location at the Village Park facility, and we already had a relationship with Premier for our wellness program.”

While the village supplied the site and Premier the healthcare expertise, the county was instrumental in getting the necessary testing kits.

“The county took the role of the state and provided the test kits, and Premier provided the testing staff,” Barnes continued. “We prepared a tri-party agreement, and we were off to the races.”

Premier Family Health’s Dr. Vincent Apicella was proud to be part of the area’s testing solution.

“We saw the need in the western communities,” Apicella said. “It was a no brainer. We used the Village Park gymnasium as the location, and we used our personnel and clinicians. The initiative came down from the Palm Beach County Emergency Operations Center to the village. It was a team effort, and we supplied the resources, strategy, procedures and time. Our clinicians sacrificed their time and effort and risked exposure. We were honored to be a part of it.”

The testing started May 13 and ended May 29 after the initial demand waned.

“It worked out even better than any party had anticipated,” Barnes said.

The county supplied the testing kits and Quest Diagnostics labs tested the swabs for the more than 2,000 patients who were tested. The objective was to test 2,000 residents of the western communities. For people with no insurance, the testing was a free service. Those with insurance had no co-payments.

Premier’s Chief Operating Officer J. Anthony Nelson said the program was done within the specified timeframe and was completed over 13 days.

Nurse Practitioner Elizabeth Lofaso of Premier Family Health ran the operation and said that the team members did it because they believe in serving the community. She was glad they were getting some recognition.

“People were shocked at how calm and safe feeling the operation was,” Lofaso said. “With the virtual waiting room, there was no handwriting. The computer filled out the forms, so everything was legible. The whole process took five to eight minutes from start to finish. It was a five-day to seven-day turnaround for the clients to get their results. The space was beautiful, there was social distancing and we are confident in the results.”

For patients interested in antibody tests, which reveal prior exposure, Premier Family Health was able to offer that procedure at its office separately.

A virtual waiting room was set up, similar to the web site Quest Diagnostics uses to take appointments, answer frequently asked questions and provide links.

“It was a portal through the village’s web site, so there was one web address and it was easy to handle,” Barnes said. “The village also fielded telephone call-ins to answer questions and set up appointments for those not using computers.”

The operation was one of the first walk-up testing sites; previous ones were drive-through facilities.

“I can’t say enough about the county. Their people were very responsive to schedules. In fact, all the parts worked well together,” Barnes said. “We are proud and pleased to have provided this service for the community of Wellington and surrounding areas.”

Lofaso agreed. “It was a unique effort to partner with a private company and a municipality, and it was the first such effort between the county and the village and a private company,” she noted.

If you are looking for a COVID-19 test currently, Palm Beach County’s web site provides a list of available locations at www.pbcgov.com/coronavirus. To learn more about the services offered by Premier Family Health, visit www.premierfamilyhealth.com.


Pathologist Dr. Gordon Johnson Studies COVID-19 While Also Working To Help His Community Healthcare Guardian

Pathologist Dr. Gordon Johnson Studies COVID-19 While Also Working To Help His Community
Healthcare Guardian

As a recipient of this year’s Palm Beach County Medical Society’s 2020 Heroes in Medicine Lifetime Achievement Award, Dr. Gordon Johnson of Wellington nowadays spends his time giving back to the community while also studying the COVID-19 virus.

A pathologist with deep ties to Wellington Regional Medical Center, Johnson retired early, nearly a decade ago, to devote all his energies to unpaid work for Wellington and the wider region. During the current pandemic, that includes research work into the COVID-19 virus.

“As a pathologist, a doctor who studies diseases, it is natural that I would be interested in COVID-19,” Johnson said. “It requires between one to three hours each day for me to do research and study of the literature of therapies being used to remain current on the state of the virus.”

Much of his volunteer time over the past several months has been assisting in studying COVID-19 treatments.

“I am working with the retired physicians of the Palm Beach County Medical Society to study COVID-19 convalescent plasma for people that have had the virus,” Johnson explained. “Currently, we don’t yet know for certain that a person who has had the virus develops immunity from contracting repeated infections. It is something that needs more study.”

Johnson is one of thousands of physicians currently engaged in this type of research.

“It is a lot of time and work to stay actively involved and stay on top of the virus situation,” Johnson said. “I follow what we are finding out about the disease, such as where the research is and what we know about the tests. Some data are anecdotal results of antibody tests. There is so much that we don’t yet know.”

As the community responds to the virus emergency, Johnson is doing some consulting on sports in the village and the possibility of normalizing the resumption of basketball in Wellington. They are discussing the measures needed for the players and coaches to make sure CDC recommendations and standards are being met relative to protection, social distancing, hygiene and cleanliness, and even how to take the participants’ temperatures.

Johnson stressed that returning to daily life will require a great uptick in testing. “Testing is the key. We’ve got to test, then trace connections, then isolate those exposed. That’s the method: test, trace, isolate,” he said. “It’s a big initiative to get all this out to the community. There is a lot to be done. We are sequestered, and you think you can’t do something, but with ingenuity and hard work, you can.”

In retirement, Johnson, who will be 70 on his next birthday, spends his time in service to others.

“I am running into men and women all the time who are afraid to retire,” said Johnson, referring to one of his pet causes. “Their job defines them, and they fear they will have no purpose once they retire. ‘What do you do all day?’ they ask.”

From picking up trash along the highway, to advocating for future citizens whose maladies mean they can’t pass a traditional citizenship test, to providing transportation for oncology appointments, to consulting on cancer and other diagnoses daily, to reporting up-to-date, frequent, expert presentations to spread awareness and knowledge on COVID-19 via Zoom meetings, Johnson is busy each and every day of his “quieter” years.

“I have plenty to keep me occupied as a husband, family patriarch, father and grandfather, but I would like to provide some insight beyond this,” Johnson said. “I have managed to have a very good life. I have had some very nice positions in medicine, and now I get to do fun things. I have spent the last 10 years giving back. I work just about every day, although no one pays me in money anymore, and that’s what it is all about.”

Married for 42 years to his wife Linda, they have three sons: Gordon, a molecular biologist; Grant, a certified financial planner; and Gareth, a concert violinist.

Born in El Reno, Oklahoma, about 30 miles northwest of Oklahoma City, Johnson attended St. Louis University for his medical degree and practiced in the St. Louis area for many years.

Moving to Wellington in 2001, Johnson worked closely with Wellington Regional Medical Center. He now serves on the hospital’s board of governors.

“I also chair the tissue review and blood component utilization committee and sit on the safety committee at the hospital. Wellington Regional has a very good record on treating COVID-19,” said Johnson, who also serves on the board of the Wellington Community Foundation and is a member of the Council of Dads.

A typical week may find him providing home repairs to help seniors age in place; activities, scholarships and clothing for less fortunate children; a variety of help for veterans; and more, plus assistance in raising money to fund these activities. “I am drinking from the saucer,” Johnson said jovially. “My cup is running over.”

Johnson is also a mentor to students in elementary through post graduate school and helps facilitate large disaster relief efforts, such as the recent pledge for $2 million worth of roofing material for the Bahamas, in addition to many airplane loads already delivered.

“Today, the mentoring is done by keeping in touch by telephone,” Johnson said. “Of course, many of my activities have been preempted by the virus and the social distancing rules. So, I’ve had to look for other avenues to stay involved.”

Johnson warned people against being defined by their job, to instead make a career of helping their community, and when they retire, help their community as both vocation and avocation.

“I am promoting a lifestyle of a life well lived,” Johnson said.

Johnson himself wants to be defined as a guardian of his community’s healthcare.

“I want to be remembered for helping local students, perpetuating science, fundraising and for my efforts beyond healthcare,” he explained.

He invited fellow residents to add meaning to the “quieter” time of their lives in community service. “Come join us, it’s a start,” said Johnson, inviting people to support the Wellington Community Foundation.

To learn more about the Wellington Community Foundation, visit www.wellingtoncommunityfoundation.org. As for Johnson’s lifetime achievement award, the awards ceremony in May was postponed. It is currently scheduled for October.


Stories From Inside Wellington Regional Medical Center During The Global Pandemic Healthcare Heroes

Stories From Inside Wellington Regional Medical Center During The Global Pandemic
Healthcare Heroes

For most families, by the time they are expecting their second child, they are already experienced veterans with the whole delivery event. Since they are birth-experience veterans, parents are usually not as nervous because everyone knows what to expect. It is more or less routine. The father helps coach the mother and tries to keep her focused and calm; some dads even cut the umbilical cord as their first official parenting act. It happens regularly every day across the country — then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and healthcare was suddenly anything but routine.

For Zach and Amanda Threlkeld, they were excited about the impending arrival of their second son. Because of visitation restrictions due to COVID-19, they already knew that Zach could not be in the room during Amanda’s cesarean section. They were disappointed, but they understood that the restrictions were in place to protect patients and visitors, as well as the medical team.

“I was told about a week before my son’s delivery,” Amanda said. “I was upset because I wanted him to experience the birth as well. I knew the restrictions were in place for everyone’s protection, and I was able to mentally prepare for him not being in the room.”

However, that was when Wellington Regional Medical Center nurse anesthetist Robert Stroud had an idea. He would connect Amanda and Zach through FaceTime and hold the phone so Zach could be part of the birth process. Zach was thrilled, and Amanda felt relieved as well.

“It made me comfortable that Zach would not be left out,” Amanda said. “He could still talk to me and calm me down, which made me feel a lot better.”

William Case was born that day weighing 9 pounds, 13 ounces and has joined his big brother James Ryan, 2, to make the Threlkeld home just a little more crowded. However, with a new baby in the house, nobody in the Threlkeld family wants to miss any part of William’s milestones. And because of the quick thinking of Stroud, Zach did not miss William’s biggest milestone — his birth.

A Meaningful Life

Beth Eyestone was a giver. As a licensed mental health counselor who primarily specialized in sexual abuse, she was quick to smile and the first to raise her hand to volunteer. She was selfless with her time and always wanted to help people… and in the end, that is exactly what she did — help others.

Tragically, Beth died at WRMC on Memorial Day in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic after she suffered a significant stroke. Before her death, she had made her wishes to her husband clear. She wanted her last act to be the ultimate gift — she wanted to be an organ donor.

Allen Eyestone, her husband for 31 years, knew his wife was a hero, but what he found in those last few minutes of her life was that she was also surrounded by nursing heroes who were committed to honoring Beth for her generous gift. As the transport team arrived and was preparing her, a dozen or more nurses who had been involved in her care gathered in Beth’s room, and Allen was encouraged to tell them about her life.

And he did. He focused on how she had committed her life to helping others, and the donation was just one more selfless act in a lifetime of service to others. Eventually the donation preparations were complete, and the time had come.

“Everybody was crying, and all the nurses in her room came to attention as they began to take her from the ICU to the operating room,” Allen said. “As we walked down the hallway, another 10 to 15 nurses on the unit came out of the rooms and stood at attention as we passed. They all thanked us as we passed. It was very moving.”

During a devastating time, the nurses were a comfort.

“The nurses changed my life because I had no family there with me. But I realized I did have my family there, and they were the nurses at Wellington Regional,” Allen said. “Nobody could have acknowledged her the way they did. I felt so honored that I could say goodbye how I did because of the nurses.”

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, good could came from a terrible situation, as Beth eventually donated both her kidneys, her liver and her eyes so others could have a better life.

She was a hero, but Allen believes the Honor Walk and the way the nurses treated both Beth and himself at the end, made them heroes, too.

Protecting The Protectors

When thinking about healthcare heroes, it is easy to picture frontline caregivers, like physicians, nurses or respiratory therapists performing lifesaving medical procedures on critically ill patients. But there are other departments in the hospital that are vital in protecting direct patient caregivers and allowing them to safely focus on their critical duties.

Wellington Regional Medical Center uses an inventory method called Just in Time (JIT). The principle of the strategy is to keep a reduced amount of supplies stockpiled and replace them just as they are being used. That meant the hospital had about a week of supplies, like personal protective equipment (PPE), on hand when the full scope of the pandemic was understood.

Jim Watson, director of supply chain at WRMC, knew that there were only a few days of certain types of PPE stockpiled. The hospital needed to change its supply chain operations from JIT to stockpiling PPE. And it needed to do it quickly.

“The minute they announced the travel bans, we saw the writing on the wall and started to act,” Watson said. “We reached out to our home office and started the process of increasing our orders. Many of those items were backordered, so we began to activate local options while the national supply chains were opening. That local level of supplies secured us about a month of PPE, by then the national external support through the home office began to kick in. We also can’t underestimate the importance of private donations of homemade masks and shields to help protect our staff in the early phases of the pandemic.”

As part of the plan to protect PPE, WRMC sequestered the excess equipment, removed supply boxes from the floors and instituted a checkout system to reduce the amount of waste. Slowly, between the newly opened supply lines and the protection of existing PPE, the supplies began to increase. With increased PPE supplies came protection for the medical staff and patients.

“As a company, it was a combined logistical effort between each facility of Universal Health Services (UHS), the home office,” Watson said. “It was an insane amount of work and coordination with the home office and the hospital to find certain things and get them allocated to the units. I feel a lot more comfortable now than I did a few months ago.”

Heroes come in many shapes and sizes, but a crisis usually brings out the best in people. But one thing is for certain, the way the healthcare industry has responded to the worldwide pandemic has been inspirational. Putting their personal health and lives on the line each day to care for patients during the most vulnerable moments of a person’s life may be all in a day’s work for healthcare providers, but for the people who depend on them for their health, the commitment has been inspiring.


Faces of Dressage

Faces of Dressage

The elegance of dressage has returned to Wellington once again with the 2020 Adequan Global Dressage Festival, where some of the best horse-and-rider combinations can be seen in action, from top-level Grand Prix events to the ever-popular musical Freestyle classes. Dressage is often called “ballet with horses.” It’s a simplistic idea, but it helps people understand the magnificent level of dedication, training and effort it takes for a rider and horse to become one in a sport dating back to ancient times. While many riders taking part in the AGDF are not top-level professionals, many of the sport’s top riders are here this winter with their eyes on Tokyo, where the 2020 Olympic Games will be held this summer. From elite, international dressage to the sport’s more introductory levels, to the uplifting sport of para-dressage, all levels of this unique discipline are on display here in Wellington. On the following pages, we highlight just a few of these riders in Faces of Dressage 2020.