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Amelia Islander

They Make a Difference

Jun 05, 2020 02:50PM ● By Tom Barrett
By Dickie Anderson
Photos by Steve Leimberg,

What makes Amelia Island such a wonderful place to live? There are so many answers to this question, so many dimensions, that make life on Florida’s northernmost barrier island so ideal. What do we treasure, and who are the people working behind the scenes every day to make life so good here?
While profiling some of the familiar faces we see every day, I came to understand that what makes our island so vibrant is the compassion and commitment of the people that call the island home. In this feature, we will take a look at a hospital administrator, an island artist, an author, a police chief, an ocean rescue supervisor, the president of a tennis club, a community volunteer, a musical theater owner, island photographers, and the curator for the Amelia Island Museum of History, and learn why they are so dedicated.

Haynes Cavendar
Born and raised on Amelia Island, Haynes Cavender started working for the Division of Ocean Rescue as a teenager and is now the Supervisor of Ocean Rescue for the Fernandina Beach Fire Department. He is a critical person in securing the safety of the many people who enjoy Amelia Island’s beaches. He supervisors 60 seasonal lifeguards. He also is a CPR instructor in a program that very actively promotes CPR training.
As a young lifeguard, he found he had a strong passion for water rescue. He continues to expand his certifications, attending EMT school, the U.S. Lifesaving Association Training Officer Program, and receiving a CPR/First Aid Instructor certification. He has an Associate’s degree and is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
Growing up on Amelia Island, Haynes has experienced so much of its history. He loves being here in the busy, busy times like the Shrimp Festival and the quieter, more peaceful winter months. He treasures the beauty of an island the delivers a beautiful sunrise over the ocean, and then a breathtaking sunset over the Intracoastal Waterway.
He is never far from the beach, but he can often be found home with his cat, Oscar. “I love that you wake up in the morning and watch the sunrise over the ocean, and then you can watch the sunset over the Intracoastal Waterway.”

Dee Torre Kaufman
Dee Torre and her husband, Adam, bought a home in the Historic District in 2003 and started a restoration. As an independent consultant, the couple fell in love with all that the island offered. Their home was featured on the Amelia Island Museum of History’s Holiday Home Tour in 2008. Committed to the museum’s annual tour, she volunteered for the next nine years as a “house mother.”
Priding herself on giving back to the community, she also joined the Friends of the Library board in 2008 and took on the challenge of their highly successful $2.4 million capital campaign. Since 2006, she has been on the board of Take Stock In Children Nassau, where she wears many hats and is currently in charge of Marketing and Development.
Prior to her move to Amelia Island, Dee evaluated statewide and national education programs. Dee now devotes her time to volunteering. Adam is president of the Restoration Foundation and serves as chair of the City’s Code Enforcement and Appeals Board. They share their home with three dependent cats: Leon, King Arthur, and Simon. When not sharing her energy with the community, she is busy reading, cooking, gardening, and enjoying friends and the island’s natural beauty.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss.

Mandy Haynes
Mandy Haynes is familiar face at Story and Song Bookstore and Bistro, where she shares her knowledge and enthusiasm for the written word. Three years ago, she left her job in Tennessee, sold her house, and gave everything away. Her plan was to travel the East Coast with her three dogs, emulating John’s Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. Instead, she fell in love with Amelia Island, bought a house, and is living the creative life she yearned for.
She has published her first book, Walking the Wrong Way Home, to great critical acclaim. Amelia Island’s Live Ink Theater has produced a staged reading featuring Hayne’s quirky characters that will be scheduled in the near future. Her second book, Sharp as a Serpent’s Tooth, is due out this summer and a novel is in the works.
Mandy never tires of new projects, whether welding, metalsmithing, painting, designing jewelry, or repurposing furniture. A vibrant mural of dragonfly wings adorns a wall at Story and Song. To say she loves creatures is an understatement. In addition to her three rescues, Moe, Curly and Pearl, she has a large water turtle name Albert.
“What I love most about Amelia Island is the creative and free spirit jive that surrounds it. It’s in the air, you can’t miss it. Artists of every kind—musicians, painters, sculptors, storytellers, actors, writers—are everywhere.”

Ed Hubel
Ed Hubel serves as Hospital President for Baptist Medical Center Nassau. The hospital has received an A rating for five consecutive years, making the hospital another point of pride for Amelia island and Nassau County. Ed has held many positions since joining Baptist Health in 1986. Prior to his work with Baptist, Hubel was in the aviation industry and proudly received his pilot’s license while in high school.
Committed to his community, he is a member of Nassau County Chamber of Commerce, Nassau County Economic Development Board, and the Health Planning Board (NE Florida). He is a mentor for the Boys and Girls Club of Nassau County and also serves as a mentor for future healthcare leaders through the American College of Healthcare Executives and local college and health organizations.
Hubel and his wife, Kristie, and their Golden Doodle, Lily, reside in Fernandina Beach. Hubel has a passion for servant leadership, his faith, and his community. He enjoys fishing, music, sports, and journaling.
“As we’ve been weathering this pandemic, I have never been more proud to be a Nassau County resident,” says Ed. “Seeing the community come together and step up to support each other has been phenomenal. We are a strong and vibrant community, and we’ll come out of this even stronger.”

Dawna & Scott Moore
Photographers Dawna and Scott Moore capture beautiful images of Amelia Island and share their talents with other local photographers. They lead photo walks and teach photography on everything from a cellphone to a professional camera.
Scott is retired from Kings Bay Naval Base, and Dawna is a full-time real estate photographer with East Coast Virtual Tours. The pair grew up in New Hampshire and still have lots of family in New England. They are self-taught photographers, who have learned the art of photography through classes, workshops, and spending time with other photographers.
Recently, they collaborated with their good friend, Steve Leimberg, on a commission from the White Oak Conservation Center to create a book featuring the center’s activities and its amazing menagerie of protected animals. One memorable photo shoot arranged by Leimberg at the Jacksonville Zoo allowed the couple to photograph the early morning activities of the animals before the zoo opened.
Some of their favorite photo spots are sunsets at Amelia Island State Park, wildlife at Egans Creek Greenway, sunrise at Boneyard Beach on Talbot Island, and the Historic District. When at home, they enjoy their cats, Max and Molly. “We treasure the small-town vibe and community, and spending time in state and national parks and historic destinations.”

Joshua Whitfield
Curator of the Amelia Island Museum of History, Joshua Whitfield has lived on the island since 2018. A Georgia native, he has found a home he loves. As curator, his duties include running two monthly lecture series (the “3rd on 3rd” and “Brown Bag Lunch” lectures), developing quarterly exhibitions, conducting local history research, and overseeing the archives and research library in partnership with the museum archivist.
In addition, he represents the museum in community organizations, including Arts and Culture Nassau and the Amelia Island-Fernandina Restoration Foundation. During the recent pandemic, Whitfield produced a series of videos called “Collections Connections” for the museum’s Facebook page in which he discussed local history and objects, allowing people to stay in touch with the popular island museum.
When not working, Joshua loves to explore Egans Creek Greenway, American Beach, and Fort Clinch State Park. He shared his enthusiasm for a cruise on the river with its views of the island, as well as the dolphins that can be spotted. He also admits to visiting the Orlando theme parks every five years or so. 
“We work to maintain a vast repository of the community’s knowledge, history, and culture. That being said, I also believe that history is fun. It’s a balance of keeping our visitors entertained and informed.”

Sandra Baker-Hinton
Award-winning artist Sandra Baker-Hinton maintains her studio in Fern and Dina’s Gallery and Gifts on South 5th Street. There is always something going on for Sandra – she may be painting one of her large paintings celebrating turtles or nature or cuddling a baby squirrel she has rescued. The multi-talented artist is not limited to painting. She also makes jewelry and ornaments fashioned from bits of colorful glass and acrylic pours.
Her passions include the endangered turtles that nest on Amelia Island. As a longtime member of the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch, she patrols the beaches off Fort Clinch from May to October. In addition, she raises monarch butterflies from chrysalis to maturity and is a resource for rescued baby squirrels.
Baker-Hinton is an active member of Amelia Island’s vibrant arts community. Her work has been featured in regional art shows, and she is one of the few Florida artists recognized as Signature Member of the prestigious National Watercolor Society. She offers individual and group classes in acrylic pouring, jewelry making using acrylic pour paints, watercolor in different techniques, and acrylic painting, both on canvas and paper.
She shares her home with husband, Bruce, and a variety of squirrels she has rescued. “Amelia Island provides a perfect environment for artists passionate about their environment. My art is infused with the area’s beauty, which is my inspiration.”

James "Jim" Hurley
Police Chief Jim Hurley takes great pride in “Community Policing,” which, as he says, is all about strong relationships helping to solve community problems. Jim began his service to the citizens of Fernandina Beach in 2006. Under his watch, many neighborhood strategies have been implemented, including an enhanced Crime Watch program and an active group of volunteers in the Police Auxiliary Corps. These volunteers can be seen directing traffic and conducting elder checks.
Starting his career in Ft. Lauderdale, Jim and his wife were glad to return to Florida after a brief stop in Texas. Committed to career development, Hurley also attended and graduated from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia and the Senior Management Institute for Police at Harvard University.
Jim is proud of his teams and how they handled the challenges that the community faced with the Covid-19 pandemic. The community cooperated with the mandates and guidelines and contributed to keeping the island safe.
When not on the job keeping the island safe, Jim can be found teeing it up at the Fernandina Beach Golf Club. “We have a great hospital,” says Jim. “Our restaurants are fantastic, the beaches are uncrowded, and we have two state parks. What other small town has a marina, a golf course, an airport, miles of beaches, a natural greenway, a low crime rate, and free parking!”

Richard Restiano
After moving to Amelia Island in 2016, Richard Restiano, an avid tennis player, quickly became involved in Kraft Tennis Partners, a private tennis club located mid-island. He is currently the president of the club founded in 2008, which has 200 active members. The club has become popular not only for its clay courts and riverside setting, but for its league and social activities.
As part of their community outreach, the club has partnered with the Fernandina Beach High School tennis team to provide support, equipment, and a scholarship awarded to a deserving student on the tennis team. Members quickly jump in to support worthy causes like the island’s food bank and the Ackerman Cancer Fund. Prior to retirement Joyce and Richard Restiano lived in New York, Chicago, Chattanooga, and West Hartford, Connecticut. They agree they will not miss moving and are happily settled on Amelia Island.
The Restianos enjoy so much about Amelia Island— the uncluttered beaches, like-minded adults with diverse backgrounds and interests, the downtown, and the island’s wonderful restaurants. They share their house with their miniature schnauzer, Mesa. “Recreational opportunities are important part of an active life living on Amelia Island. We are blessed to have the highest quality golf courses, tennis courts, a skateboard park, and pickle ball courts for everyone to enjoy.”

Jill Dillingham
Jill Dillingham is the dynamo that brought Broadway to Amelia Island. Along with her husband, Gregg, they opened Amelia Musical Playhouse in 2013. The Florida Keys were home to the couple for 30 years. They headed north and bought a house on Amelia Island, where they have made a huge impact with their theater. The theater offers an amazing array of entertainment, almost all with live music. They also make the theater available for various organizations that need a stage for fundraising events or other special events.
The couple can be found together onstage and off. Jill directs, performs, and mans the ticket office. Gregg, one of those people who can literally fix anything, is the master of the sets and stage lighting. If you see a really tall actor on stage, you can bet it is Gregg. The pair are ready to meet the challenges of offering performances in a time where seating and performances may have to change.
A trio of dachshunds—Juniper, Victor, and Gustav—share their home on the north end of the island. When not working, they enjoy walks on the beach, escaping to their cabin in North Georgia, or to New York City for inspiration. “Work has become play for us as we are at the Playhouse almost every day. We love working together, and with all the creative and talented people that spend their time there.”