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Pinwheel garden highlights child abuse prevention

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                CAROLE TATE/Special to Alachua County Today
High Springs New Century Woman's Club members and High Springs city officials, City Manager Ed Booth and Vice-Mayor Sue Weller, joined forces to raise awareness of child abuse and nationwide efforts to prefvent it.

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HIGH SPRINGS – The bright blue and silver pinwheel garden planted just outside of High Springs New Century Woman's Club, 40 N.W. 1st Ave., is part of a national campaign designed to focus local awareness on the issue of child abuse in America.

General Federation of Woman's Clubs (GFWC) New Century Woman’s Club members and High Springs city officials, City Manager Ed Booth and Vice-Mayor Sue Weller, joined forces on Thursday, April 3, to plant the garden as a symbol of child abuse and neglect. The number of pinwheels planted represent only a fraction of the number of children identified as abused in the United States.

Partnership for Strong Families is a community based care agency that provides child welfare services to abused and neglected children. Proceeds from a chance drawing that was held at the April 3 meeting of the GFWC New Century Woman’s Club were donated to the organization.

As April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, the GFWC and Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA) Pinwheels for Prevention teamed up to conduct a campaign to focus on activities locally to bring awareness to community and to help keep children safe.

Pinwheels for Prevention began as a grassroots campaign in Georgia, Florida and Ohio, according to information on the website www.pinwheelsforprevention.org. The first National Abuse Prevention month was proclaimed in April 1983.

Pinwheel distribution began in 1998 with 400,000 pinwheels to help create a national symbol for child abuse and neglect prevention. Since that time more than 3.5 million pinwheels have been distributed by the group for display in all 50 states.

This year’s awareness focus is on bullying and cyber bullying. Recent deaths resulting from both have escalated. Additional information is available at www.preventchildabuse.org or contact Anita Odom, Executive Director, Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website at www.ounce.org.

Shining in the sun, the 250 blue and silver pinwheels are reflective of the bright future all children deserve as well as representing commitment to provide a happy, healthy and safe childhood for all children.

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Alachua Spring Festival arrives in full bloom

W - Alachua Spring Fest - DSC 0181Sunday’s Alachua Spring Festival brought beautiful weather and upbeat crowds to the downtown Main Street area.  Spring flowers were on the list of this shopper as she wheeled her colorful purchases along the street.

ALACHUA – Explosions of colorful flowers and art lined Main Street on Sunday afternoon. The sound of bands and vocalists filled the street at this year’s Alachua Spring Festival. The annual festival took place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and featured a variety of vendors, such as homemade dog treat bakers, churches, charities, artists, flowering plant vendors and a host of activities geared toward children..

Cap’n Jack trotted down the sidewalk, taking in the full effect the festivities could have on such a little guy as he.

There was food at every turn, children playing and laughing, music and even some dancing; entertainment all around, and Cap’n Jack, or C.J. as he is called, enjoyed every bit of it.

“It’s his first time here, but I’ve been to the last five or six at least,” said Susan Dotson, C.J.’s walking partner. Dotson, from Lake Butler, was referring to the Alachua Main Street Festival, and she brings a different dog every year. This time, it was C.J. taking a walk on the town.

“I get dogs through a program called Paws on Parole, and foster them until they’re ready for an inmate to take them,” Dotson said. “I’ll more than likely be back next time around with another dog too.”

Dotson did not just go out for the food and family atmosphere, although she said that adds to the experience. She has a friend who owns one of the shops that sets up a booth each time the festival takes place.

“I always come out and support her, and look for some things myself from the shops,” Dotson said. “It’s a great place to find some things for dogs, too.”

Cap’n Jack wasn’t the only one to visit the festival for the first time though. The Lam family also made their way to Alachua as newcomers to the event. Gwen Lam, of Fort White, said her husband, Frank, was volunteering at the Irish Water Dogs booth, and she figured if he was going to be there the whole day, it was a great chance to take the kids along, too.

Lam stood with her children, daughter Autumn and son Joseph, as they petted some of the goats near the pony rides.

“The favorite part for us would have to be feeding the animals,” Lam said. “I know my kids enjoyed that the most.”

Whether it was walking a dog, or walking a child, the crowd enjoyed a wonderful day on the town. There were food vendors at every corner, offering anything from fried specialties to cotton candy.

“It is a beautiful day,” Lam said. “I would certainly come back again.”

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Lions 75th Cattlemen's Banquet

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L-R: Long-time Alachua Lions Club member Ralph Cellon,  Alachua County Director for the Florida Cattlemen’s Association Dr. Ashby Green and Jim Strickland.  Strickland was the 2014 Lions Club Cattlemen of the Year award recipient.

ALACHUA – It was another fun filled evening of laughter, good food and music at the 75th Annual Alachua Lions Club Cattlemen’s Banquet on March 27.

A change of venue was in store this year as the banquet was held at the Santa Fe River Ranch. The evening’s program this year included the addition of a social hour and silent auction leading up to the main event, as well as a live auction afterward.

Opening the banquet and welcoming guests was Alachua Lions Club President John Hopkins, who then handed off the evening’s agenda to Master of Ceremonies J.K. “Buddy” Irby, Clerk of the Circuit Court, who has strong ties in Alachua and graduated from Santa Fe High School.

As is tradition, Gussie Lee led the crowd in singing “God Bless America” to kick off the evening’s program. Providing musical entertainment during dinner was Zack Emerson.

Before presentation of the Cattleman’s award, Irby used his time at the podium to share a few jokes and offer a good ribbing to some in attendance, eliciting roars of laughter from the crowd.

Dr. Ashby Green presented Jim Strickland with the 2014 Cattlemen of the Year award. Green said, “From his early days as a ‘cow hunter’ or ‘day worker’ on central and south Florida ranches, to today’s leadership roles in the state and national cattle industry, Jim Strickland epitomizes service.”

Strickland currently serves as Director of the Agriculture Department for the Manatee County property appraiser. He is a former president of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association and has served on a number of statewide and national boards and committees.

Keynote Speaker Jim Handley, a fourth generation Floridian from Sebring, Fla., shared his experiences and insights on the agriculture and beef industry. Handley is currently the Executive Vice President of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, Chief Executive Officer of the Florida Beef Council and Executive Director of the Florida Cattlemen’s Foundation, all of which are located in Kissimmee, Fla.

In keeping with tradition, the Santa Fe High School Chapter of FFA was on hand to assist as guests helped themselves to the choice aged controlled steaks, loaded potato casserole and dessert.

Following dinner, an animated, and oftentimes comical live auction was led by Alachua Lions Club member and “auctioneer for the evening” Rod Smith.

The Cattlemen’s Banquet is the Alachua Lions Club’s largest fundraiser of the year, and all profits from the banquet support charitable sight, hearing, youth and community service activities.

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High Springs Historic Society makes way for spring

W - HS historical society Museum

L-R: Roger Chambers, High Springs Historic Society (HSHS) Secretary, Jim Dyksterhouse, HSHS Vice President and Bob Watson, HSHS President picked a sunny day in March to begin recreating a garden in front of the High Springs Elementary School and Community Center, which also houses the Historic Society Museum. The beautification project is just one of several currently underway.

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City manager claims investigation; FDLE denies

HIGH SPRINGS - The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) denies it is conducting an investigation of former High Springs Police Chief Steve Holley. High Springs City Manager Ed Booth maintains otherwise, according to statements he made earlier this week and last week.

Booth issued a press release on March 24, 2014 stating that the State Attorney instructed the city to “contact the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct an investigation” after evidence from an 8-month-old case involving a death was found in Holley's car and the “weapon involved in the case was not found in the Evidence Room.” The press release goes on to say, “The Jacksonville office of FDLE was contacted and is conducting an investigation as of Friday.”

“The definition that FDLE uses for investigation apparently pertains to criminal investigations only,” said Booth in an interview earlier this week. “We never saw any criminal action. We only saw neglect. Our purpose was not to pursue the incident as criminal misconduct. It was to determine why the evidence was not turned in properly by the chief, especially for that length of time, and to determine why the weapon was not in the Evidence Room where it should have been,” he said. “Had criminal activity been found, FDLE was the agency that would have pursued it.”

“The police department cannot investigate themselves in a case like this,” said Booth. “Another impartial agency must be brought in to investigate the circumstances. In my way of thinking,” he said, “this was an investigation and FDLE was doing it. It's a matter of semantics. We are still looking into this matter and don't yet have all the facts,” he said.

Meanwhile, FDLE Special Agent Jeff Vash paid a visit to the High Springs Police Department (HSPD) on Friday, March 21, along with Booth. Vash looked at the details of the situation and, according to Booth, urged the city to proceed with their plans to have the Alachua County Sheriff's Office perform an inventory of the HSPD Evidence Room, something Acting Chief Antoine Sheppard requested when he took over supervision of the department.

“Our personnel met with Chief Sheppard on Tuesday, March 18, and provided him with a time and personnel estimate to conduct the inventory,” said Art Forgey, Alachua County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer. “We have not begun the inventory to date,” he said, “but estimate it will take between two weeks and one month to complete. We will send two deputies from the Office of Professional Standards, the same group that reviews our Evidence Room, and the city will provide one person to work with them to conduct the inventory,” he said.

When completed, the inventory is expected to provide the city with an accurate list of the items stored there, identify any items that might be missing or unaccounted for and, if there is a need to do so, give the acting chief a list of procedures to consider implementing as he goes forward.

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