Wellington Village Council Recognizes Community Partners

School representatives gathered in the council chambers to receive the Keely Spinelli grants.

The Tuesday, Jan. 26 meeting of the Wellington Village Council was an evening filled with gestures of appreciation for those making a difference in the community.

During the meeting, the council recognized its community partners who are helping residents, particularly over the past year of the pandemic, and also awarded the annual Keely Spinelli grants to area schools.

Senior Services Manager Jenifer Brito said that the organizations recognized that evening have been instrumental in supporting village programs and events. She explained the importance of the groups’ support and said that the village couldn’t accomplish all that it does without their help.

Brito then announced each organization and thanked them individually. For those present, which were many, she invited them up to receive their award.

“Without all of you here, we wouldn’t be the great place that we are,” Mayor Anne Gerwig said, explaining that the organizations being honored are those that provide both monetary contributions and commitments of resources.

The list of sponsors honored during the meeting include: Baptist Health South Florida, ComForCare, Conviva, the Crowned Pearls of Wellington, Dedicated Senior Medical Center, the Gehring Group, HarborChase, Healthy Partners, Humana, Premier Family Health, Priority Towing, Prominence Health Plan, the Wellington Community Foundation and Wellington Regional Medical Center. Additional sponsors unable to attend the presentation included: Devoted Health, Florida Blue Medicare, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital and Mohip Dental.

“We wouldn’t have been able to fund a lot of the things that we did without you,” Vice Mayor Tanya Siskind said. “It makes our village a great hometown. We look forward to your continued support when we can do things again safely.”

Councilman John McGovern said that the list of community partners helps sustain the village.

“So many of the companies and partners and community leaders are friends that have sustained the village, sustained its government, sustained this community and sustained our people on every level,” he said. “Thank you is not enough acknowledgment tonight, and a small token of our appreciation is not enough. Wellington has remained what it is for all these many months [of the pandemic] because of these businesses and our staff doing great things every day.”

Councilman Michael Drahos said that the community partners are needed to get things done.

“It can’t be just government. We need multi layers to accomplish [these projects]. With your help, we’ve been able to provide the lifestyle for our community, and in many cases, they didn’t even notice the challenges that were being faced,” Drahos said.

Councilman Michael Napoleone also thanked the plethora of supporters.

“So many of you have done more than just write checks,” he said. “You have supported all our many activities. You sponsored those events, and we thank you for it. You’ve made an investment and commitment to the community.”

Gerwig particularly thanked groups involved in healthcare and village staff for helping bring it all together.

“It’s about more than just money, it’s the sweat equity in the community,” she said.

At the meeting, the annual Keely Spinelli grants were also distributed to principals and representatives of 11 area schools. Totaling $400,000 this year, the individual grants were more than $36,000 per school, earmarked to help students struggling in reading and math.

“I want to thank the council for thinking out of the box and thinking of our students over the years,” School Board Member Marcia Andrews said.

She said that Wellington’s efforts help make sure that small successes happen every day.

McGovern noted that it is better for property values and for the community to have better schools, and that this grant program is a hallmark of the residents putting their money where their mouth is when they say they want excellent schools.

“We are the envy of other communities,” Siskind added.

Drahos said that despite recent challenges, local schools are putting forth a great product. “This is really a statement about the 60,000 residents in Wellington who support education,” he said.

Napoleone agreed. “It is remarkable what you’ve been asked to do, and you’ve done it,” he said. “I am embarrassed that other municipalities don’t do this. It is an investment in the community and the children.”

Gerwig said that she is very proud that the grants have Spinelli’s name on them. The longtime teacher and principal in the community died in 2008.

“She held everybody to a very high standard. She loved the higher achievers and wanted to challenge them to do more,” Gerwig said, adding that she also really loved those who need a bit of extra help.

Below: Representatives of the Wellington community partners receiving awards lined both sides of the Wellington Council Village Council chambers.