Category Archives: Resident done good

Darden Gives Back to the Community…in a Major Way!

As we gear up for the year’s upcoming holiday season, it is nice to see some companies already on their way to giving back to the community (and those most in need) in a major way. Over 100 volunteers from Darden’s Specialty Restaurant Group, comprising The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze Island Grille and Seasons 52, took part in two community outreach projects during the group’s annual Leadership Conference.

Approximately 65 restaurant leaders volunteered at Second Harvest Food Bank to assemble food packs for the Hi-Five Kids Pack Program, which provides nutritious weekend meals to children who depend on free and reduced lunches offered by school cafeterias during the week. The Specialty Restaurant Group also donated $6,000 to the food bank to purchase kid-friendly items that make up the take-home packs. Volunteers created 2,000 food pack meals.


John Martin - President of The Capital Grille, Gene Lee - President of Specialty Restaurant Groups, Stephen Judge - President of Seasons 52, Laurie Burns - President of Bahama Breeze, and Dave Krepcho – President/CEO of Second Harvest



More than 60 members of the group painted the exterior of the Coalition for the HomelessCenter for Women and Families, which can provide shelter and services for up to 240 homeless single women and parents with children. The Specialty Restaurant Group donated $4,000 for the paint and supplies used during the project.

Now that’s what we consider real giving… maybe this might inspire you to give back, too?


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Filed under Charity, Non-profit, Resident done good

Dafoodie is da Best!, one of the Top 5’s favorite “tweeps,” has been selected to compete in the Road To Success Small Business Challenge by Marriott’s Fairfield Inn & Suites.  Dafoodie, created by Gustavo Hernando, is just one of ten small business selected from across the country to compete for the grand prize of $20,000. To win, he will be traveling the country to meet set goals, but will share his journey with us by posting pictures, blogging, and tweeting about it.

Gustavo and his famed Dafoodie Smart Car at a recent lunch at Dexter's of Winter Park.

So for those unfamiliar, with, here’s how Gustavo explains his site: came about after posting pictures of entrees I’d ordered from various restaurants on my Facebook page. I got a lot of comments like ‘Wow, it looks good! Where did you eat it?’ Even at restaurants, it’s happened that people ask me what it is that I’m eating. Not all restaurants have photos of their dishes. So that got me thinking, ‘If you’re a visual person like me, you’d probably rather see an example of a restaurant’s food than read about it.’ So I decided to make a site where all you look at is pictures of food.”

So, be sure to follow Gustavo on Facebook and Twitter as he takes Dafoodie on the road to success.

Good luck, Dafoodie, we’ll be rooting for you!


Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, General Info, New & Hot, Resident done good, Restaurant Row

Billy Gardell: Winter Park Boy Makes it Big in Hollywood!

Stand up comedian and actor Billy Gardell is starring in the new CBS primetime sitcom Mike and Molly.

Billy is originally from Pittsburgh, but attended my high school when his family moved to Florida. As a classmate at Winter Park High School, I don’t pretend to have known Billy well at all–who knows if he would even remember my name! Just my graduating class had over 900 students after all!–but I do claim to remember that he was a funny guy even back then. One year for a talent show,  he donned a brown paper bag over his head to debut as the “Unknown Comic” and had the crowd in stitches! I find it so refreshing that somebody who actually knew what he wanted to do as a career (starting back in high school) had the gumption and guts to persevere until he made it. Way to go, Billy!

Mike and Molly starts September 20 on CBS. Until then, catch this interview with Craig Ferguson on the Late, Late Show. Billy confessed this was his very first talk show and that he was nervous! (I must confess, I had never seen the Craig Ferguson Show as I am always in bed by then! But, the host was gracious and very funny… me likes the Scotsman!)  And, we think Billy did an absolutely great job and are proud to claim him as a local boy done good!

Warning: Rated PG for langauge.


Filed under Celebrity, Just for Me, Resident done good, TV Fame, winter park

Growing Bolder is Growing!

Congratulations to two former Wesh News anchors, Marc Middleton and Bill Shafer, for taking their show Growing Bolder TV national! Starting this weekend, Growing Bolder will be seen on 100 PBS stations across the country.

Bill and Marc. Photo from Bolder Media Group.

The show, the brainchild of Middleton, which began to ferment in his kitchen over a cup of coffee, resulted in first a radio show and then television show geared for the 50 and up crowd. It focuses on inspirational stories, such as “Broken Neck to Broken Records” featuring cyclist Sandy Scott, who didn’t start competitive cycling until age 64. Or you can find out Olympic Gold Medalist Dara Torres’ secret to success. And although the show claims to be for the “growing bolder” crowd, there’s something that every age group will enjoy! (I’ve even made my teenage son watch a few episodes for him to find out he actually enjoyed it!)

From the show’s website:

“What is Growing Bolder? It’s the newest show on PBS stations coast-to-coast. It’s inspirational, affirmational and entertaining. Produced by an Emmy Award-winning team, Growing Bolder tells the stories of ordinary men and women living extra ordinary lives. It’s about people reinventing themselves to pursue their passions and build lives of significance. It’s about entrepreneurs, cancer survivors, masters athletes, rock stars, artists, and more.”

You can also connect with Growing Bolder on Facebook as well as Twitter. So, do yourself a favor, and tune in this weekend… I promise you will be inspired!

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Filed under Celebrity, Education, General Info, Resident done good, TV Fame

Floridian to be featured on the Tonight Show tonight!

When Growing Bolder first featured Rachel Veitch and her 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente, little did they know the type of media storm that would set off… Since that time, their video has seen 6.5 millions views and has helped Rachel and her car, fondly referred to as Chariot, be featured on TV and radio stations, shown on the Today Show, and tonight, Rachel and Chariot will chat with Jay Leno on the Tonight Show. (Yep, the Tonight Show has paid to ship the car to Los Angeles!)

Rachel and Chariot in the early days.

Rachel and Chariot today.

Jay Leno is an avid car collector and especially likes vintage cars. He even has a website dedicated to his garage!

Rachel is excited to show off Chariot, which has over half a million miles on it, and has been kept running well with tender loving care as well as Valvoline, too. Way to go, Rachel and Chariot!

See more about Rachel and Chariot on Growing Bolder.

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Filed under Fun, Out of Orlando, Resident done good, TV Fame

Kids can just be kids…

Sandy Bonus of Swoope Studios in Maitland along with Day Gigliotti just finished hosting a special fine arts camp for children at B.A.S.E. Camp. If you are unfamiliar with B.A.S.E. Camp, it is a place just for children affected by cancer, whether they themselves are sick or simply related to somebody else suffering.

“We started having these camps about five years ago,” Sandy explained. “It is just a wonderful time where the children can express their feelings, have a little fun, and forget about everything for a while.”

Artwork from B.A.S.E. Camp participants

Thankfully, these children do have a special time when they can just be kids!

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Filed under Charity, Education, Resident done good

‘Her Universe’ Is Pretty Darn Cool! Interview with Ashley Eckstein

So, the Top 5 took time out from our vacation in the Florida Keys to speak with Hollywood actress Ashley Eckstein. (Well, actually, I was ankle-deep in green-blue water on the shores of Bahia Honda State Park while we were talking. I wonder if she’s ever been interviewed by somebody at the beach before… well, she is the famous Ashley Eckstein, so maybe she has!)

Ashley is coming back to Orlando this month for the upcoming Star Wars Celebration V.  This is the mother of all fan conventions and is officially supported by LucasFilm.  In fact, George Lucas himself will be in attendance, and maybe you will be lucky enough to catch his interview on center stage with the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart.  (Hmmmph!  I bet Jon’s never interviewed somebody while leisurely tanning at Bahia Honda’s beach!)

At any rate, Ashley is the voice of Ashoka Tano, one of the stars of LucasFilm’s animated spin-off, The Clone Wars.

Ashley posing next to her character, Ahsako Tano. Photo by Sue Schneider_Moonglow Photos

Ashley also has her own clothes line, Her Universe, inspired by the Star Wars films.  She started the line after finding there were very few sci-fi clothiers catering to the female fan.  As it turns out, nearly 50% of Star Wars fans are females, so a clothing line was born. (FYI: The shirts are totally awesome, and I have ordered one for my trip to the Star Wars Celebration, since I don’t have a Stormtrooper outfit handy!)

Ashley modeling merchandise from Her Universe website.

Both Ashley and her husband, David Eckstein of the San Diego Padres, are Central Florida natives.  Ashley grew up performing local theater and graduating from Dr. Philips, while David has roots in Sanford.  So, when the Top 5 caught up with them, we decided to ask just what it was they love about the Central Florida area.

Ashley Eckstein’s Top 5 Things to do in Central Florida:

1.  Go to Disney World!

Ashley’s father worked for Disney and it was also her first job in high school, as soon as she turned 16. She shared with me, “I was a cheerleader in the Hercules parade!”

Disney also played a part in her life when she got older: David asked her to marry him at the Grand Floridian and they had their wedding reception at the Yacht and Beach Club.

2.  Eat at Cafe Positano’s.

The couple eat at Cafe Positano’s “probably two to three times a week” during David’s off-season. She laughed, “I am obsessed with their pizza!”

3. Check out Orlando Theater’s Scene

Ashley got her start performing in shows at the Orlando Rep, so she enjoys going back to see the shows now being performed. She also loves when she can visit the SAK Comedy Theater, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, as well as trying to catch parts of the Orlando Fringe Festival if she’s in town.

4. Shop

She mentioned the Millenia Mall, but also gushed about Rocks Fine Jewelry on Park Avenue in Winter Park, where David got her engagement ring. She recalls how David Hernandez was just fantastic and how great their custom jewelry is.

5. Satisfy her Sweet Tooth

Although she’s a gorgeous actress, she is human after all, and places like Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt call her name.  There she can pile the toppings as high as she wants, even qualifying her for the store’s “Professional Mixer” category.  She also fondly recalls Goofy’s Candy Company in Downtown Disney.

To see Ashley Eckstein and other Star Wars celebrities in person, attend the Star Wars Celebration V at the Orange County Convention Center, August 12- 15. Tickets are still available for this once-in-a-lifetime event!


Filed under Celebrity, Convention Center, disney, Fashion, Resident done good