Chamber to honor community champions
John Rinehart has spent decades serving his community — in both professional and volunteer capacities — so it's fitting that the West Orange Chamber of Commerce is presenting the community developer with an award for his contributions, service and leadership to West Orange County.
The Chamber's Big Orange Awards, to be held Friday, Feb. 3, will hand out a number of honors to West Orange County business men and women who go above and beyond for their community.
He said he was surprised and honored to be recognized by the Chamber.
“I've tried to be involved in the community and do things I thought were helpful and beneficial to the community in West Orange County,” Rinehart said.
As a community developer for Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin Lopez Rinehart and, later, Castle & Cooke, Rinehart has helped create master-planned neighborhoods such as Keene's Pointe and Oakland Park.
“To me, Oakland Park is a great example of a traditional neighborhood and a lot of what we tried to incorporate in it related to a healthy environment and a great place to build community,” he said. “I think there's a great opportunity to build great environments.”
He likened Oakland Park to the city of Winter Garden, with its history, connections, West Orange Trail and hometown feel.
“In a large-scale project, you have to make it walkable and have parks close to the homes,” he said. “The West Orange Trail is a great amenity that we focused on instead of turning our back on.”
Oakland Park is a certified green neighborhood, as well.
His current project is a three-story mixed-use building on South Boyd Street north of Winter Garden's SoBo art gallery. The bottom floor will be retail space, and the second and third floors will have 22 apartments. This is the first downtown residential project in decades.
Rinehart said he never personally knew Hovsepian, but the two had mutual friends and were both Chamber members.
Of his contributions to West Orange County, Rinehart said the most impactful are the student gardens that were established at Winter Garden's five elementary schools. Health Central Hospital and the West Orange Healthcare District provided funding.
“It aligns with the hospital's focus on health, but it's an important opportunity for the children of the school to learn where some of their food comes from and learn its dynamics and encouraged them to take some of that home,” he said.
Throughout his career, Rinehart has served on numerous boards, including the Metro YMCA and the National Town Builders Association, and he performed regular volunteer work, mostly in downtown Orlando, where he had an office.
“(John Rinehart) bettered the community by serving on various boards, including Orlando Health/Health Central Board, Central Florida YMCA,” the Chamber said. “He continues to improve the community even now with a project in downtown Winter Garden.”
Rinehart grew up in Gotha, having moved there from Orlando when he was 8. He and his wife, Sally, moved to South Carolina in 2014.
He will be in Central Florida this week to check on the status of his latest project and to accept his award at the Chamber event at Disney's Contemporary Resort.
Sam Hovsepian, a former Oakland mayor and a pipe-organ builder, died in 1988 at age 78. He served three two-year terms on the Oakland Town Commission and was a member of the Community Development Advisory Board, which worked to get a fire station built in the town.
Hovsepian was a member and elder of Oakland Presbyterian Church and was a director of the West Orange (now Roper) YMCA, member of the West Orange Chamber board of directors and past commander of American Legion Post 63 in Winter Garden.
Contact Amy Quesinberry at AmyQ@orangeobserver.com.