The beer industry is no longer a handful of massive brands, churning out mass-produced beverages with little experimentation. The craft beer movement is sweeping the nation and inspiring drinkers to break out of their comfort zone to try something new.

This is exactly what Mark Stillman is hoping people will do. He owns a Jacksonville Beach-based brewery known as Green Room Brewing. It isn’t a massive factory in an industrial district, manufacturing millions of bottles. Instead, it’s a facility comparable in size to a house.

Stillman and his business partner, Eric Luman, got the idea to open a brewery during some “R and D; research and drinking,” says Stillman. The pair started off by brewing an India Pale Ale (IPA) known as Head High.

IPAs are beers that include additional hops, one of beer’s basic ingredients, to give a bitter flavor and aroma. These beers have gained extra attention by brewers due to their local popularity.

Once the team perfected a flagship IPA, they began to experiment with flavors. Stillman said they began adding chocolate to recipes to create the stout named Count Shakula. But the Green Room didn’t stop there. They created beers with fruit flavorings, mint flavors, peanut butter and even a beer made with salt water from their close neighbor, the Atlantic Ocean.

Green Room is able to produce and distribute their foamy beverages using industrial equipment on site. Although smaller than what will be found at a major brewing facility, it’s still larger and more expensive than what a person might want if they prefer their beer with a little more do-it-yourself kick.

DIY beer, or homebrewing, is the process of making beer in one’s home. This allows people to “take water, the blank canvas, and create something yourself,” according to Gary Solomon, a homebrewer and employee at beer supply store Just Brew It.

Solomon has been making beer with his friends for about eight years and his setup might be a little beyond the skill of somebody brewing their first batch. No need to fear, says Solomon. Just Brew It carries starter kits and supplies for homebrewers of all levels. The shop has equipment, ingredients, resource guides and some friendly expertise.

Thanks to stores like Just Brew It, people can make and enjoy beer from the comfort of their own home. While there are some people looking to brew for profit and business, that’s not the goal for most homebrewers.

“The best is usually made for the people, by the people that are actually about it,” says Solomon. Because of this, he believes that homebrewing is its own art form, or rather, its own craft.


River Clean Up


Pollution is a common issue in waterways across the country. It’s especially evident in the city of Jacksonville, where several bodies of water are riddled with garbage and toxic chemicals. While occasional cleanup efforts are taking place around town from a number of groups, it’s still not enough to restore our waterways to the pristine state that they should be in.

(Group 3) McCoys Creek- online story

McCoy’s Creek, located in the Lackawanna area, travels through north Riverside and is an example of how occasional cleanups aren’t making that much of an impact. Waterway stewards, Eric Bersinger and Josh Woods, are the founders of the Clean Waterway Society. They’ve made it their mission to clear out creeks, streams, and lakes across the First Coast. As stewards, Bersinger and Woods clean up trash, clear out debris and invasive plant growth.


The pair, along with other volunteers, mostly friends and family, have done cleanup projects at McCoy’s creek, Durbin creek, and Pottsburg creek. Although the Clean Waterway Society has had successful cleans ups in the past, and have been able to maintain those areas, like their efforts at Durbin Creek, which has now become ideal for kayaking, other efforts have not been so successful. McCoy’s creek has been deemed a lost cause.



Woods admits that they’ve gone out and done clean ups at McCoy’s creek, and after following up, it looks like nothing had been done at all.


“Oh yeah, it happens all the time, says Woods regarding repeated efforts to clean up McCoy’s Creek. We’ve pulled out everything you can imagine. Tires, shopping carts, I even pulled a vending machine out once. He admits it can get frustrating and the city needs to do more, but understands that they don’t because, the budget keeps getting cut.


Bersinger says that the trash ending up in the creeks are from different sources. Illegal dumping, fishermen, liter trickling in from the highway, flooding, and those residing in the area all contributed or are contributing to the poor state the creeks have been in. Bersinger feels that regardless of how the trash gets there, in spite of their efforts,it still has to be cleaned up. We don’t care who put it there –it just needs to be cleaned. We have a group of committed volunteers, mostly in the paddling community. And we just get out, have fun, and pick it up, says Bersinger.

People may not understand that the smaller bodies of water feed into the St. Johns River. The St. Johns, which stretches 310 miles, is not in an ideal state says St. Johns River Keeper Lisa Rinaman, especially in the Jacksonville area. Rinaman, who isn’t a native to Jacksonville, fell in love with the St. Johns River when she moved here over 20 years ago. She says that we all have to share the responsibility of getting the waterways clean and keeping them clean.


You can go to to find out how to be river friendly, like picking up after your pets, using no fertilizer or slow-release fertilizer, Rinaman explains. She continues, So there’s simple things, and we can also do the big things, like working together and asking our elected officials to value our river and to protect her.

There are a number of groups who hold their own clean ups, or partner together with other groups for larger projects. We were not able to speak to a city employee regarding the city’s efforts to make sure out waterways stay clean, however, according to the website, a recent St. Johns River clean up event took place in mid-March.


The next city sponsored clean up won’t be until July, which will be for the beaches areas. There are no other clean up events for inner waterways scheduled for the remainder of the year. With littering taking place on a regular basis, one, maybe two cleanup events or projects a year won’t be enough to combat the pollution that is causing our creeks, lakes, and river to reach a slow decline. Whether it’s kayaking, fishing, boating, or just taking in the scenery, these are among the favorite past times for the residence of the River City. We have to make sure we do our part in preserving our resources for the marine life, as well as for our continued enjoyment.


Electric Cars

Electric Cars.pngThe new Tesla electric cars have been in the news a lot lately but electric cars themselves are not new. Inside Jacksonville’s Jake Stofan explains a local initiative to expand electric car infrastructure on the First Coast.


Pete King explained he has a long commute to his first professional job out of college which is why he decided to become a hybrid electric car user,

“Basically I’m spending the same amount of money on my car payment and my gas as I was spending just on gas in my last car,” he said.

Hybrid cars are great for saving money but for people who are eco-conscious, it seems fully electric cars are the way to go.

Tesla has been one of the leading innovators in electric vehicle technology for the past couple of years.

Steve Button is an owner of a Model-S Tesla, which is a pretty pricey car and it’s basically the top of the line model out there right now.

With the reveal of the Model-3, though, Tesla hopes to bring their high tech vehicles to the average consumer.

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“Most electricity is produced through fossil fuels oil, coal…however there is a huge economy of scale advantage when you’ve got a power plant generating electricity as opposed to an individual engine on a car which isn’t going to be as efficient as a large scale power plant,” Button said.

Teslas and other electric vehicles get about 350 miles on a full charge, which is plenty for the daily needs of the average driver. Still, the biggest worry people have when it comes to electric cars is range anxiety.

It just so happens that Telsa and companies like JEA are addressing this by placing free charging stations around local recreation hot spots.

There are two types of charging stations in Jacksonville -25 ChargeWell stations, which average about 10 miles of range for a half hour of charging, and then there is one lonely Tesla Super Charge Station which gives vehicles an impressive 170 miles of range for the same amount of charging time.

“If you’re an EV owner it’s fantastic obviously. The dealers, it’s obviously thank you for doing this. What these have done is as we’ve put these across the city we’ve now eliminated some of that range anxiety so you can get your car plugged in anywhere in the city,” Peter King, JEA Program manager said.

With plans already in the works to install more of both charging stations in the city, it seems like electric cars are here to stay.



Plants and Animals

Within the urban Jacksonville we all know lies untouched areas of the environment special to this region. With the help of the Atlantic’s coast, the St. Johns River and its marshes, and the warm climate Jacksonville boasts a wide array of plants and animals. All these plants and animals take advantage of parks and preserves spotted throughout the city. These patches of land set aside for preservation are important for the plants and animals who, just like us, need a place to live. This need becomes harder and harder to fulfill as humans build more and take away the remaining natural areas. Mark, the executive director at Tree Hill Nature Center, explained we should spend more time setting aside land. If we set aside more land and let the animals do their thing they won’t need much more help from us he said

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There is something we can do to help plants as well: watching out for the intrusive ones. When these plants come into an area they often become overgrown because the animals don’t want to eat them and they outgrow the other plants sometimes killing them off. When buying plants for your own yard make sure they are local and that they don’t have harmful pesticides on them. These can have negative effects on both the plants and the animals who eat them. The Sawmill Slough Preserve at the University of North Florida has a catalog of every plant and animal in it if you want an easy way to check and see what plants are local.


The Preserve also has plenty of trails one can go and walk or run. The curator of the Preserve, Charles, said that many people go on the trails ritually Friday after work to de-stress. Being out in nature can really help people, he explained, whether it be helping de-stress, lowering blood pressure, or simply helping free up the mind a bit by getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city.


The Preserve at the University of North Florida isn’t the only place in Jacksonville one can go, there are tons of parks and preserves all throughout the city. Some even have informational centers, such as Tree Hill Nature Center, where the whole family can learn a bit about the local plants and animals they might encounter.

Environmental Destinations

No matter where you go or whom you ask, there is one thing for certain about being a Jacksonville resident: we’re pretty lucky. Surrounded by wildlife, from the St. Johns to the Atlantic Ocean, living in Duval county means sharing our home with all different types of animals, some that live under water.

Dr. A. Quinton White, Executive of the JU Marine Science Research Institute, joined the faculty at Jacksonville University in 1976 and has been a leader on the First Coast when it comes to marine mammal conservation.

“We are blessed with and abundance of places. Immediately around Jacksonville, you’ve got things like going out to Fort Caroline, going to the Timucuan Preserve or Huguenot Park to Hannah Park or going to the beach, walking around the riverbank. There’s just so many things you can do. You can go to Mandarin and go to Mandarin Park and sit on the dock. There are just lots and lots of opportunities,” says Dr. White.

Snake Zoo

More specifically, Dr. White has worked with others in the area, including the University of North Florida, to founded the  JU Marine Science Research Institute. The LEED Gold certified 32,000 sq. ft. facility opened August, 2010.

Among other issues, Dr.White has focused on the conservation of manatees in and around the First Coast, and has worked in conjunction with the Jacksonville Zoo to found the

Along with conservation efforts, professions like Dr. Steven Davis, a JU Professor of Education, also find some uses for the river that runs through our city.

“There are a few paddling clubs that focus on the boat paddling like canoes and kayaks, and there’s stand up paddling groups as well,” says Dr. Davis about one of the many ways people can use and enjoy the river.

For those who want to make engaging with nature a day trip, The Jacksonville Zoo offers plenty of opinions for families, with different exhibits and a different experience every time.


” Although we are planning to design it so that can give our guests views into the facility,” says Craig Miller, the curator of mammals at the Jacksonville Zoo, “certainly behind the scenes tours as much as possible depending on the condition of the animals.

Dr. Adrienne Atkins is a veterinarian at the Jacksonville Zoo and helps heal animals that are brought into the zoo. “The public can bring us animals that they find that are injured and then we will triage them, stabilize them and take care of their medical problems… We do have a permit to keep some of the animals that come in and can’t be returned to the wild depending on their injuries or the status of them, but then we also currently have four gopher tortoises that are here for rehabilitation,” says Dr. Atkins.


Organ Donation


Sitting in her church pew years ago, Suzette Warren was praying for one thing: a kidney. After many years against wanting to try to find a new kidney and spending hours a week on dialysis, Warren decided that it was time to find a permanent solution.


Having family that went through the same trials of needing a new kidney, Suzette needed a new solution to live her live for her family and for her missions work with her husband. While most people who need organs find themselves on a waiting list hoping for a call in the middle of the night, through the grace of her church, Suzette found a kidney from a new friend.


Leslie recounts the support she had from the church that she called home: “By the time Leslie was aware of my story, she found out about it in a church bulletin. And I was very sick my husband and the Pastor got together and suggested we put it in the church bulletin. And so long story short, 21 people called Mayo Clinic to donate a kidney to me. Most of those were the wrong blood type. Only nine had the correct blood type if I remember correctly. So right before, I guess it was the fall, Leslie called me and said she had called and went through the testing and she was a match.”

Bible Verse


Leslie Workman also went to the same church and discovered that a fellow church member needed a kidney through a church bulletin. For Leslie, giving a kidney seemed natural, “There’s um, there’s a purpose to that, to be able to improve someone’s life, and potentially save someone’s life—its, its just an amazing thing.”


Stories like Suzette’s and Leslie’s are not common. Most people who need an organ are helped by someone like Tommy Mulligan of Mayo Clinic. Mulligan is an organ pecuric nurse, a professional that coordinates people on the waiting list to receive organs. Mulligan explains, “So I will get an offer whether it’s daytime, nighttime, whenever it might be. I’ll start the evaluation process I’ll start to work with the doctors whether it’s cardiology, hepatology, pal menology, if it becomes the Mayo Clinic’s recipient’s turn to actually receive that organ and we think it’s a good organ for them, we’ll start the logistics process and we will call the OR, the blood bank, the plane teams to send them out and recover them and bring them home.”


People like Tommy make it possible for lives like Suzettes to last after needing organs, and give these people hope. Suzette, Leslie and Tommy Mulligan all stress the need for people of all ages to become organ donors, because if not for Leslie’s gift, Suzette might never have gotten a kidney.


For more information about how you can become a kidney donor, go to



Oftentimes people have a roof over their heads but still may not be in the best situations.

The Jacksonville branch of Habitat for Humanity, also known as HabiJax has a mission to provide quality homes for people in need, one family at a time.

“We look for people who qualify that means people who are 50% below the average income here in Jax,” said Thomas Wehner a member of the Habijax Board of Directors. “We expect their credit rate to be above 600, if it’s not then we have a program that will help repair their credit program.”

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Homebuyers are required to put down a 5-hundred dollar down payment before the construction can begin on a home. Inside Jacksonville spoke to Shena Simmons a Habijax applicant who just recently reached the build phase.

“It’s affordable, it’s an investment and it’s kind of easy once you get in there and do what they tell you to do. You have your brand new home built from the ground up,” Simmons said.

Home buyers like Shena must put in 300 hours of community service into the program as part of the requirements to qualify for a Habijax home.Generally applicants accumulate these hours by participating in other Habijax builds. They’re not alone in this effort, volunteers from all around the community help make up the Habijax construction teams.

“We’re building a house for somebody. It’s the 16th year that we participated in Habitat for Humanity. As an organization we have a large presence in the city of Jacksonville, we feel it’s extremely important to give back in some way, and this is one of those ways,” said Craig Tomeo a volunteer helping to construct Shena’s home. “It’s a very rewarding experience, especially when the owner or pending owner is with us participating, it gives it that special touch.”

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HabiJax is a win-win for everyone. The volunteers get the opportunity to give back to their community and those in need get an affordable home in their name.


“One thing that HabiJax wants to give back to the community, is just that…community. Building families back over in this area again, giving families a reason to begin to move forward in building legacies for their families,” said Davetta Williams a Habijax Volunteer Serves Manager.


From start to finish building a HabiJax home takes around 9 weeks. Shena’s home should be done in April.