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Best Community

From the tastiest scoops to the splashiest influencers, here are your winners of the 2024 readers’ choice awards!

best local influencer
& most likely to take a selfie

Michelle Meachem

Michelle isn’t just a person; she’s an experience. She radiates joy, embodying the spirit of community love like no other. With an uncanny knack for finding the best in everyone, she effortlessly spreads smiles and ease wherever she roams. As the unofficial mayor of Winter Garden, her presence is felt at every community event within a 20-mile radius, bridging gaps between friends and strangers. Michelle’s confidence and charm are infectious, making her the best kind of influencer.

Local Influencer Runner-Up: Sean O’Neill
Selfie Runner-Up: Melissa Ried

best assisted living community

The Blake at Hamlin

The Blake isn’t just a premier senior living facility—it’s a vibrant social hub. Hosting events with local musicians, entertainers, and charities, The Blake cares for your loved ones and enriches the entire community.

Runner-Up: The Summit of Winter Garden

best networking group

Solutions Networking

Well loved for its dynamic mix of locations and opportunities! Whether you choose Mondays at Stoneybrook or Wednesdays at Cheeser’s Palace, this group connects professionals in both Orange and Lake counties.

Runner-Up: West Orange Chamber Wednesday Group

best local podcast

Straight Talk, No BS (Matthew’s Hope)

Ready to get real? Pastor Scott and Shelley pull back the curtain on homelessness, tackling some of the biggest misconceptions surrounding the homeless crisis every Monday at 7 pm.

Runner-Up: Winter Garden Vibes (Chris Chan)

best local spiritual leader

Wes Beacham | Hope Church

Mentor. Advocate. Servant. All this is true, but what people love most about Wes is that he doesn’t just preach it; he lives it.

Runner-Up: Renuet van der Riet | Mosaic Church

best local charity

Polka Dogz Pet Rescue

How can you not love a charity whose sole purpose is to rescue and rehabilitate abandoned dogs, offering them loving homes? Senior, abandoned, paralyzed, or neglected, Polka Dogz gives them a chance when no others will.

Runner-Up: Matthew’s Hope

best teacher (k-12)

Ashley Andersen | Sunset Park Elementary

By day this third grade teacher nurtures, mentors, and challenges her students to grow. By night, she’s a yard game evangelist, helping neighbors and friends find more fun.

Runner-Up: Meke Smith | West Orange High School

best entertainment &
best person to invite to a party

DJ Bubbles | Florida Foam Factory

What’s not to love about a guy who brings bubbles, lights, music, and outrageous outfits to the party? DJ Bubbles, a.k.a. Stephon Herron, creates a one-of-a-kind party experience sure to leave you the talk of the neighborhood.

Party Runner-Up: Michelle Meachem
Entertainment Runner-Up: Giant Yard Games

best place for a first date

Simply Capri

If the island of Capri isn’t an option, Simply Capri should be. They bring the best of Italy’s Amalfi Coast to the table; now you bring the charm and conversation.

Runner-Up: Chef’s Table

best local singer/songwriter

Francesca Tarantino

From belting out classics to crafting her own lyrical gems, Francesca’s rising star is fueled by passion, talent, and sheer determination.

Runner-Up: Layla Brisbois

best local author

Hayley Whiteley

With a knack for whisking readers away on whimsical adventures, Hayley Whiteley’s fantasy series, The Kerafin Chronicles, is a spellbinding cocktail of intrigue, magic, and friendship. Prepare to lose sleep over this enchanting tale!

best company to work for

LiveTrends Boutique

With a dynamic work environment that fosters creativity, values innovation, and supports personal growth, LiveTrends is the place for passionate professionals. Plus, their offices in Apopka are pretty fun, too!

Runner-Up: Horizon West Happenings

best local band

Brian+Hannah

With a versatile repertoire spanning Pop, Soul, Motown, Jazz, and R&B, Brian+Hannah bring infectious energy that captivates local audiences.

Runner-Up: Layla Brisbois Band

best life coach

Jessica Villegas | Hi-Lite Coaching

With empathy and grit, Jessica illuminates paths for teens and young adults, helping them shine with confidence and clarity.

Runner-Up: Jeff Forrester | Hi-Lite Coaching

best company to work for

LiveTrends Boutique

With a dynamic work environment that fosters creativity, values innovation, and supports personal growth, LiveTrends is the place for passionate professionals. Plus, their offices in Apopka are pretty fun, too!

Runner-Up: Horizon West Happenings

best local band

Brian+Hannah

With a versatile repertoire spanning Pop, Soul, Motown, Jazz, and R&B, Brian+Hannah bring infectious energy that captivates local audiences.

Runner-Up: Layla Brisbois Band
best life coach

Jessica Villegas | Hi-Lite Coaching

With empathy and grit, Jessica illuminates paths for teens and young adults, helping them shine with confidence and clarity.

Runner-Up: Jeff Forrester | Hi-Lite Coaching

best power couple

Dave & Pamela Helton

Power-Pair Dave and Pamela radiate synergy, balancing law, community, and love with grace and gusto.

Runner-Up: Luis & Omari Santiago

most likely to win on a game show

Matt Leiva

No surprise here! The owner of Missing Link Entertainment is primed to steal the show, proving he’s got the winning charm.

Runner-Up: Michelle Meachem

best local club

Home State Run Club (Home State Brewing)

Open to sprinters or strollers, this very active run club meets Monday nights at 6:30 pm for a fun group run! Camaraderie, motivation, fitness, and beer turn every run into a social event.

Runner-Up: Horizon West Golf Cart Club

best power couple

Dave & Pamela Helton

Power-Pair Dave and Pamela radiate synergy, balancing law, community, and love with grace and gusto.

Runner-Up: Luis & Omari Santiago

most likely to win on a game show

Matt Leiva

No surprise here! The owner of Missing Link Entertainment is primed to steal the show, proving he’s got the winning charm.

Runner-Up: Michelle Meachem

best local club

Home State Run Club (Home State Brewing)

Open to sprinters or strollers, this very active run club meets Monday nights at 6:30 pm for a fun group run! Camaraderie, motivation, fitness, and beer turn every run into a social event.

Runner-Up: Horizon West Golf Cart Club

Your votes matter

Thank you for participating in our inaugural readers’ choice awards! Each of these honorees illustrate the truly diverse talent and excellence within our community. A few categories were decided by just one or two votes, so we mean it when we say that every vote counted!

We are especially grateful to anyone who contributed extra votes to help us raise $4,000 for two local charities.

Lift Disability Network

Disability has a far-reaching impact — not just on the individual, but also on the family that supports them. Due to their unique challenges and limitations, disability families are more likely to experience loneliness, poverty, and helplessness.

Lift Disability Network creates opportunities for these families to connect to one another, building new support systems and a welcoming community. Throughout the year, Lift provides camps, community events and family services that elevate life for families and individuals impacted by disability.

Funds Raised: $2,000
To Support: liftdisability.net

Polka Dogz Pet Rescue

Polka Dogz specializes in second chances. Its mission is to rescue senior, disabled, neglected, and abandoned dogs, which are less likely to be adopted in ordinary shelters, and provide them with shelter, medical care, and love that they may have never gotten before.

Polka Dogz is 100% donor-supported and needs both funds and donations of daily-use items such as dog food, treats, toys, and cleaning supplies. Above all else, their goal is to find forever homes for their animals, but volunteers and foster home applicants are just as vital to their success.

Funds Raised: $2,000
To Support: polkadogz.org

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The Winter Garden App celebrates 5 years of digitally connecting the local community.

Feature

From the tastiest scoops to the splashiest influencers, here are your winners of the 2024 readers’ choice awards!

Feature

From the tastiest scoops to the splashiest influencers, here are your winners of the 2024 readers’ choice awards!

Feature

From the tastiest scoops to the splashiest influencers, here are your winners of the 2024 readers’ choice awards!
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