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ALACHUA COUNTY — The voter registration deadline for the 2020 General Election is Oct. 5.
 
All Alachua County voters will be able to vote in this election, which will be held Nov. 3.
 
Registered voters are encouraged to verify and update voter registrations. This can be done at https://www.votealachua.com/My-Registration-Status or by calling 352-374-5252.
 
There are numerous ways for prospective voters to register:
  • Online: Florida residents can register to vote online. The online voter registration portal — found at RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov — is a safe and secure option for voter registration.
  • In person: The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections’ office, located in Gainesville at 515 N. Main St. on the third floor of the Josiah T. Walls Building, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Supervisor of Elections Office will remain open until 7 p.m. on October 5. Registrations can also be completed and turned in at any Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles office or Alachua County Public Library.
  • After hours: The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections’ office has a white, secure, afterhours drop box outside its main entrance. Completed forms received through the drop box by 11:59 p.m. October 5 will be accepted.
  • By mail: Forms are available online at VoteAlachua.com. Mailed forms must be completed and postmarked by the October 5 deadline.
 
Currently registered Florida voters will be able to update their information through Election Day. It is recommended that they do so sooner, however, as it could mean a change in voters’ assigned polling places or a longer wait at the polls if not completed before Election Day.
 
For more information, contact the Supervisor of Elections at 352-374-5252. 

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ALACHUA ‒ The Swamp Bots of Alachua are working to make science more appealing to students. Composed of students from several Alachua County high schools, they recently held one of several upcoming exhibitions to engage kids in kindergarten through high school in exciting, mentor-based, research and robotics programs and is open to all skill levels. The goal is to help them become science and technology leaders, as well as well-rounded contributors to society. The initial exhibition by the Swamp Bots took place at the City of Alachua’s Hal Brady Recreation Center on Sept. 3. Kids faced a course laid out on a plywood board and were given Legos to build robots they could program to navigate the course

The Swamp Bots are part of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), which is an organization founded to build student interest in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These fields will play an important part in the jobs of the future. There are groups of FIRST members throughout the world with over 90,000 members.

The organization was founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen, who is best known for inventing the Segway PT, an electric, self-balancing human transporter with a computer-controlled gyroscopic stabilization and control system. Kamen was already a successful inventor when he produced the Segway.

Kamen created FIRST to foster the love of science in a younger generation. His vision was "To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders”. But FIRST is more than robots. The Robots are a vehicle for students to learn important life skills. “Kids often come in not knowing what to expect from the program or themselves,” said Kamen. “They leave with a vision, with confidence, and a sense they can create their own future.”

There are several levels to the FIRST program based on age. FIRST LEGO League introduces children ages 4-16 o science through fun, exciting hands-on learning. The participants gain real-world problem-solving experiences through a guided, global robotics program using Legos to build robots that can be programmed to complete a course.

FIRST Tech Challenge teams (up to 15 team members, grades 7-12) are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format. Guided by adult coaches and mentors, the students develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles, while also realizing the value of hard work, innovation, and working as a team. The robot kit they build is reusable from year to year and can be coded using different levels of Java-based programming.

Teams design the robots, raise funds to build it, design and market their team brand, and do community outreach to earn specific awards. Participants are eligible to apply for part of $80 million in college scholarships. Each season concludes with regional championship events

For high school students and their mentors, there is the First Robotics Competition. Under strict rules and limited time and resources, the teams of high school students are challenged to build industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game in alliance with other teams, while also fundraising to meet their goals, designing a team “brand,” and gives the teams an opportunity to work and create together.

“The competition is more than building robots and competing,” said Ben Sanders, mentor of the Alachua Swamp Bots group. “They also have to explain to the judges how they built it to show the analytical thought process. While the core value is problem solving, they also have to show the judges that they worked as a team with input from everyone. The judges want to see that they thought it out before acting,” Sanders said.

“In the competition, cooperation is important, not just within a team but against competitors as well,” said Sanders. “If a team or person is rude or arrogant to others or doesn't work as a team, the judges will scratch them from the event. While it is meant to be a fun challenge, it is also meant to teach social skills, cooperation and be a contributing member in society,” Sanders said.

The Swamp Bots group started in Sanders’ living room in 2012 and his son is one of the members. Sanders, a mechanical engineer, works in Progress Park and considers the Swamp Bots as his weekend hobby with his kids. But the Swamp Bots don't just compete, they also demonstrate the excitement of designing and creating, working together and gaining confidence in abilities to younger students. That's the group is holding free exhibits where any student between four and 18 can attend, build and program a Lego robot to work through the outlined course.

The Alachua Swamp Bots received a grant from the Children's Trust of Alachua to help start groups of middle school students. So far, they have helped initiate groups in High Springs, Alachua and Turkey Creek, all mentored by an adult. Another group is currently forming in Waldo.

More information on the FIRST program can be found at https://www.firstinspires.org/ . For information on local activities and groups, contact Ben Sanders at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“We want to make science exciting and show kids the achievements they can make both as individuals and as a team and help shape their future,” Sanders said.

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GAINESVILLE ‒ Healthcare facilities continue to face personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Haven included.

Gainesville’s Queen of Peace Catholic Church learned of a gown shortage and donated a large quantity of used sheets through a recent outreach event. The sheets would later be converted into gowns for Haven’s clinical staff and visiting family members to wear.

Greg Hollingshead, who oversees outreach ministry at Queen of Peace, said, “When the COVID pandemic became acute in March, we got in contact with our ministry partners and asked, ‘How can we help?’ This question turned into an expansion of our monthly food program. But in May and June, in talking to other organizations, we realized they had non-food missions we may be able to help with. To respond to specific needs, we made a wish list. We learned that Haven was experiencing difficulty getting gowns so we put sheets on the wish lists for Haven’s volunteer seamstresses.”

Haven’s volunteers are not currently able to visit patients due to COVID-19, but have been searching for ways to continue serving. When Queen of Peace donated sheets, volunteers in each of Haven’s service areas offered to sew the sheets into gowns.

The volunteers used a CDC-approved gown pattern to convert the sheets into safe, usable PPE. “I’m a retired nurse so I know how important protective equipment is. I didn’t know clinical staff at Haven were still having difficulty getting them,” said volunteer Joan MacLeod. “I’ve been sewing since I was a little girl and have a nice machine. I’ve got it down to where I can make one gown in three hours. I just finished the eighteenth gown. As long as Haven needs them, I’ll keep making them and am happy to do so.”

MacLeod, who is a long-time Haven Advance Care Planning volunteer, said that she is sewing gowns for the Gainesville area and that seamstresses in Haven’s other service areas have also volunteered to continually make gowns.

Haven proudly continues to serve patients, including those who are COVID-19-positive, across the state. Various challenges have arisen as a result of the pandemic and Haven is thankful for those who have helped creatively address these obstacles.

“Haven is grateful that Queen of Peace quickly and graciously donated sheets to be made into gowns in a time of need,” said Haven Director of Clinical Operations Brigid Doherty. “In a time where personal protective equipment is hard to come by, the community and our volunteers have stepped up to serve our clinical staff, as well as our patients and families, in unique ways.”

In regard to continued partnership, Queen of Peace’s outreach ministry leader Hollingshead said, “We were told that we far exceeded Haven’s expectations. As far as sheets are concerned, we had people clean out their entire linen closet and donate. We’re happy to do it. Hopefully this is the beginning of a long-term relationship between us and Haven.”

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GAINESVILLE/LAKE CITY ‒ September is Suicide Prevention Month and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) wants to remind Veterans and their loved ones through the “Be There” campaign that small actions can make a big difference to Veterans experiencing difficult times.

During this and every month the North Florida/ South Georgia Veterans Health System (NF/SGHVS) remains committed to spreading awareness of suicide prevention to Veterans and their supporters and connecting them to the resources they need.

“At VA we are proud to play a leading role in this important national effort” stated Thomas Wisnieski, health system Director. “Each one of us can learn to either be a resource, or direct people in need of resources.”

“Be There” suggests several simple actions that can help make a difference for a Veteran to include:

For more information and resources visit http://bethereforveterans.com/.

NF/SGVHS offers a range of services to Veterans who are at risk of suicide, to include same day urgent care mental health services and primary care mental health integration. Suicide prevention coordinators are available to speak with any Veteran and/or family member experiencing a crisis they are also able to provide education and outreach efforts.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at http://veteranscrisisline.net/Chat.

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NEWBERRY ‒ The Florida Department of Health has recognized the City of Newberry as a 2019 Healthy Community Champion. Alachua County Department of Health’s Kortney Gallivan Oliver was on hand at the Aug. 10 Newberry City Commission meeting and said the City takes a “Health in All Policies” approach to comprehensive planning. The application for the City was submitted by Principal Planner Wendy Kinser-Maxwell. There are 33 communities statewide receiving the recognition and include Alachua County and the City of Hawthorne.

“This is the seventh year the City of Newberry has been awarded this honor,” said Oliver. She said “Health in All Policies” is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a collaborative approach that integrates and articulates health considerations into policymaking across sectors to improve the health of all communities and people.

“This recognition demonstrates the commitment that these communities have to improving the health of their residents,” said Florida Department of Health in Alachua County Administrator Paul Myers.

Obesity rates in the U.S. have increased dramatically over the last 30 years, and obesity is now an epidemic in the United States. Florida’s county and municipal governments play an important role in decreasing the prevalence of unhealthy weight in their jurisdictions.

“In Florida, only 33.9 percent of adults are at a healthy weight,” said Oliver. “The increasing prevalence of obesity is most concerning when viewed in the context of its impact on overall health. Obesity increases the risk of many serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. For this reason, the Florida Department of Health is working to address obesity through the Healthiest Weight Florida initiative,” she said.

Oliver congratulated Newberry for its food programs, farmers market, open air produce market and recreation programs that promote fitness. The Healthy Community Champions Recognition is now a two-year designation with opportunities to receive technical assistance to further the adoption and implementation of health in all policies.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The City of High Springs has finetuned its purchasing policy but did not change purchase threshold amounts.

Commissioners unanimously approved Resolution 2020-G on Aug. 27, which amends the City’s purchasing policy and procedures. The main changes address the City’s competitive purchasing process price thresholds and approval requirements.

This item was carried over from the July 23 Commission meeting when Commissioner Nancy Lavin suggested several modifications. Commissioners asked for more time to consider the modifications and asked that the item be brought back at this meeting.

Commissioner Lavin expressed concern with currently policy language that states “The Director of Finance, under the City Managers leadership, is the authorized purchasing agent for the city, with the City Commission’s approval.” The wording has now been changed to reflect that the City Manager is the purchasing agent for the City, but that he or she may designate someone else to act in that capacity.

Another of Lavin’s concerns was wording that the City Manager should be the signer on any contracts involving financial responsibility. That wording has been changed to read, “All contracts will be signed per City Charter unless the City Commission directs otherwise.”

Lavin also expressed concern about the length of time records are retained by the City. The wording now reflects that records retention is “in accordance with public records law.”

Another concern was about threshold amounts. City Finance Director Jennifer Stull indicated that she had checked with the City of Newberry and High Springs was similar or lower than Newberry in that capacity. Therefore, no changes were proposed on this issue.

Lavin advocated that the City Clerk, Finance Director and Department Heads purchasing amounts should be lowered. Commissioner Linda Jones opposed the measure and the purchasing amounts were not modified.

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ The Florida Department of Elder Affairs’ (DOEA) Serving Health Insurance Needs of the Elderly (SHINE) Program has received multiple reports of Medicare phone scams involving Durable Medical Equipment (DME). The Social Security Act prohibits suppliers of DME from making unsolicited telephone calls to people on Medicare. The reports indicate people have not only received unwanted sales calls, but other people have received unordered supplies including back braces. One case involves a person receiving twenty different items from five different companies.

People on Medicare should be aware that DME sent by a supplier needs to be prescribed by their doctor. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), fraudulent telemarketing and DME supplies contribute to the estimated $60 billion in fraudulent Medicare payments each year. To help put a stop to unsolicited calls and unordered supplies, you may consider the following actions:

  • If you receive a call that pressures you to buy medical equipment you don’t want or need, simply HANG UP.
  • If you receive items in the mail you didn’t order, refuse the delivery or send them back and report it to your local SHINE Senior Medicare Patrol Office at 1-800-963-5337.

With your help, we can stop Medicare fraud one case at a time.

SHINE is a program of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and is operated locally through Elder Options. Senior Medicare Patrols (SMPs) empower and assist Medicare beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers to prevent, detect, and report heath care fraud, errors, and abuse through outreach, counseling, and education. To receive help from SHINE, please arrange to speak with a trained SHINE counselor at 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337). For a listing of SHINE counseling sites and enrollment events, please visit www.floridashine.org.

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GAINESVILLE ‒ As slow-moving Hurricane Sally approached the Gulf Coast – eventually making landfall as a category 2 storm near Gulf Shores, Alabama, early Wednesday morning – its bands enveloped most of the Florida Panhandle.

But like the rest of the state, the Panhandle is more than its tourist-attracting beaches. The seasonal crops, livestock and aquaculture products produced in the region are valued at approximately $400 million and directly support over 8,000 jobs, and that’s not including related economic contributions in supporting industries.

The affected counties represent major producers of several agricultural products. This includes, per 2018 data from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, approximately 100,000 acres each of peanuts, cotton and hay; around 10,000 acres of corn; nearly 4,000 acres of horse farms; plus other commodities like aquaculture fish and shellfish. To capture the full impact on the damages to these commodities from Hurricane Sally, the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program is preparing to conduct an assessment of the damages.

“These types of climate-related disasters are the most destructive to agriculture,” said Christa Court, director of the program and an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. “When we do our assessments, we’re really looking to capture the acute, short-term impacts, like losses of seasonal crops that were in the field when the storm hit, but we know that other impacts will appear in the long-term.”

The assessment surveys, completed via an online survey tool or paper survey by local Florida Cooperative Extension agents or producers themselves, aim to capture impacts to sales revenues for the wide variety of industries covered. Even ancillary components of operations can be affected, although Court adds that these will not necessarily be captured quantitatively within the survey.

“As examples, the area has grazing or pasture land that the USDA had classified as ‘in excellent condition’ in recent crop progress reports, as well as significant timber resources,” Court said. “Further along the supply chain, there is also food or crop processing in the area, such as timber mills, cotton gins, etc., that might be shut down due to flooding or be inaccessible due to road

closures that are not currently covered in our assessment efforts, which focus on agricultural production. Also, we know there are roughly 8,000 to 9,000 farm-related buildings – homes, barns, greenhouses, other structures – that are in the area and at risk of flooding or wind damage.”

Court cautions that power outages, impassible roads and other challenges could affect the ability to conduct assessments until those issues can be addressed.

“With roads and bridges being closed, it’s going to be some time before anyone is able to really assess what happened,” agreed Pete Vergot, who oversees all of the affected counties as director of the UF/IFAS Northwest Extension District. “Reports that I’ve gotten back from county Extension directors is that water is the biggest effect. Our producers were already dealing with saturated fields before all this happened.”

In addition to producers’ fields, also at risk in the region were several UF/IFAS buildings, which house programs that support growers and others in these communities: 16 county extension offices; four Research and Education Center sites in Marianna, Quincy, Milton and Jay; and 4-H Camp Timpoochee.

According to Jennifer Bearden, UF/IFAS Extension Okaloosa County agriculture agent, her local growers had been dealing with a rainy growing season that presented other challenges, like boll rot in cotton fields. Tropical storm force winds likely sent much of that crop to the ground, but she says what remains is now even more susceptible to the disease already sweeping through the fields.

She listed the other crops she helps troubleshoot for farmers in her county: “We still had some corn to be harvested but with the excess moisture and wind it may be a huge loss. Soybeans also were looking good but will likely suffer significant losses. Peanuts will probably be the least affected, but harvest will likely be delayed some due to transportation issues.”

But it’s not just plants at risk, Bearden added.

“Livestock owners face issues like trees down on fences and structures, feed and hay availability, and water availability due to power outages,” she said. “In the near future, mosquito-spread diseases can be an issue, such as encephalitis.”

Even still, Bearden noted, the rivers are rising.

“Time will tell if this will affect yields significantly,” Bearden said. “The longer we delay, the more yield losses we will see. We will have a better idea come next week when the rivers start receding.”

Court confirms that the amount of water brought by Hurricane Sally presents an unusual assessment ahead.

“Typically, we are assessing crops that have wind damage, and it is easy to tell what has been lost or destroyed,” she said. “It might be weeks or months before growers are able to determine the full impact of flooded fields – crops might be destroyed, experience lower yield or lower quality product,

etc. We also aren’t sure of the impact of soil erosion, things like sink holes, or even soil salinity for areas near the coast that got storm surge.”

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TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Division of Consumer Services issued administrative complaints, revoking the telemarketing registration for three Florida-based businesses conducting sham telemarketing operations. This  follows a court order obtained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Florida Attorney General.

FDACS revoked the telemarketing registrations of GDP Network, LLC, G&N Squared, LLC, and G&G Success, LLC. Since 2014, these three telemarketing businesses conducted sham credit card interest rate reduction operations that often targeted financially distressed consumers and older adults.

“As Florida’s consumer protection watchdog, we have zero tolerance for businesses attempting to defraud Floridians, especially those who may be struggling with debt and are seeking help,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Revoking these registrations is necessary to hold these bad actors accountable for their fraudulent actions, and to prevent Floridians from being taken advantage of.”

According to FTC complaints, these companies targeted vulnerable consumers with unsolicited telemarketing cold calls, which falsely promised consumers that they would substantially and permanently reduce their credit card interest rates in exchange for sizable upfront fees. The company’s telemarketers failed to identify themselves and misled consumers into believing that they were credible organizations associated with their bank, credit card company, or well-known credit card networks such as Visa and MasterCard.

These businesses charged significant upfront fees ranging from $995 to $3,995 for their alleged services immediately following the telemarketing call using remotely created payment orders with the promise of saving consumers thousands of dollars in credit card interest. However, their telemarketers frequently fail to provide the promised debt reduction results and typically fail to provide refunds to dissatisfied consumers, generating millions of dollars through this unlawful scheme.

In July, the FTC and the Florida Attorney General obtained a court order to freeze the assets and temporarily halt the operation of these Orlando-based businesses.

FDACS Division of Consumer Services is providing the following information on debt relief scams and legitimate practices:

Many reputable credit counseling organizations can help consumers manage their debt. Debt relief scammers offer fake guarantees to eliminate debt quickly and cleanly, but often only after the consumer has paid them. This request to pay upfront is prohibited under the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, and it is an early indicator that the offer is a scam. Legitimate debt relief firms can charge for their services but can only collect when they get results.

Signs that a debt relief company may not be legitimate include:

  • Promises of a “new government program” to bail out personal credit card debt
  • Guarantees about making unsecured debt go away
  • Instructions to stop communicating with creditors without explaining the serious consequences
  • Promises that they can stop all debt collection calls and lawsuits
  • Guarantees that unsecured debts can be paid for pennies on the dollar

Consumers who work with a debt settlement company may have to deposit funds into a dedicated bank account. This account is administered by an independent third party responsible for transferring funds to creditors and the debt settlement company when settlements occur.

Information that debt settlement companies must disclose about the debt relief program before the consumer signs any agreements includes:

  • The company must explain its fees and any conditions of service
  • The company must disclose how many months or years before it will make an offer to each creditor for a settlement
  • The company must tell the consumer how much money or the percentage of each outstanding debt the consumer must save before it makes an offer to each creditor for settlement
  • The company must explain the negative consequences if the consumer stops making payments to creditors, including possible damage to credit report and credit score, creditors may sue or continue with the collection process, and credit card companies may charge additional fees and interest, which will increase the amount the consumer owes
  • The funds deposited in a dedicated bank account for debt settlement belong to the consumer and the consumer is entitled to any interest earned
  • The account administrator may charge a reasonable account maintenance fee, is not affiliated with the debt relief provider, and does not get referral fees
  • The consumer may withdraw their money at any time without penalty

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WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service has announced it will reopen the registration period for federal beneficiaries who didn't receive $500 per child payments earlier this year.

The IRS urges certain federal benefit recipients to use the IRS.gov Non-Filers tool starting August 15 through September 30 to enter information on their qualifying children to receive the supplemental $500 payments.

Those eligible to provide this information include people with qualifying children who receive Social Security retirement, survivor or disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Railroad Retirement benefits and Veterans Affairs Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefits and did not file a tax return in 2018 or 2019.

The IRS anticipates the catch-up payments, equal to $500 per eligible child, will be issued by mid-October.

"IRS employees have been working non-stop to deliver more than 160 million Economic Impact Payments in record time. We have coordinated outreach efforts with thousands of community-based organizations and have provided materials in more than two dozen languages," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "Given the extremely high demand for EIP assistance, we have continued to prioritize and increase resource allocations to eligible individuals, including those who may be waiting on some portion of their payment. To help with this, we are allocating additional IRS resources to ensure eligible recipients receive their full payments during this challenging time."

Used the Non-Filers tool after May 5? No action needed.

For those Social Security, SSI, Department of Veterans Affairs and Railroad Retirement Board beneficiaries who have already used the Non-Filers tool to provide information on children, no further action is needed. The IRS will automatically make a payment in October.

Didn't use the IRS Non-Filers tool yet? Provide information by September 30.

For those who received Social Security, SSI, RRB or VA benefits and have not used the Non-Filers tool to provide information on their child, they should register online by Sept. 30 using the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool, available exclusively on IRS.gov. Remember, anyone who filed or plans to file either a 2018 or 2019 tax return should file the tax return and not use this tool.

For those unable to access the Non-Filers tool, they may submit a simplified paper return following the procedures described in this FAQ on IRS.gov.

Any beneficiary who misses the September 30 deadline will need to wait until next year and claim it as a credit on their 2020 federal income tax return.

Those who received their original Economic Impact Payment by direct deposit will also have any supplemental payment direct deposited to the same account. Others will receive a check.

Eligible recipients can check the status of their payments using the Get My Payment tool on IRS.gov. In addition, a notice verifying the $500-per-child supplemental payment will be sent to each recipient and should be retained with other tax records.

Other Non-Filers can still get a payment; must act by October 15.

Though most Americans have already received their Economic Impact Payments, the IRS reminds people with little or no income and who are not required to file tax returns that they remain eligible to receive an Economic Impact Payment.

People in this group should also use the Non-Filers' tool – but they need to act by October 15 to receive their payment this year.

Anyone who misses the October 15 deadline will need to wait until next year and claim it as a credit on their 2020 federal income tax return.

Available in both English and Spanish, the Non-Filers tool is designed for people with incomes typically below $24,400 for married couples, and $12,200 for singles. This includes couples and individuals who are experiencing homelessness. People can qualify, even if they don't work or have no earned income. But low- and moderate-income workers and working families eligible to receive special tax benefits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit, cannot use this tool. They will need to file a regular return by using IRS Free File or by another method.

Other important notices involving Economic Impact Payments:

Spouse's past-due child support. The IRS is actively working to resolve cases where a portion or all of an individual's payment was taken and applied to their spouse's past-due child support. People in this situation do not need to take any action. The IRS will automatically issue the portion of the EIP that was applied to the other spouse's debt.

Spouses of deceased taxpayers. Upon enactment of the CARES Act, the IRS initially implemented the legislation consistent with processes and procedures relating to the 2008 stimulus payments (which were transmitted to deceased individuals). After further review this spring, Treasury determined that those who died before receipt of the EIP should not receive the advance payment. As a result, the EIP procedures were modified to prevent future payments to deceased individuals. The cancellation of uncashed checks is part of this process. Some EIPs to spouses of deceased taxpayers were cancelled. The IRS is actively working on a systemic solution to reissue payments to surviving spouses of deceased taxpayers who were unable to deposit the initial EIPs paid to the deceased and surviving spouse. For EIPs that have been cancelled or returned, the surviving spouse will automatically receive their share of the EIP.

The IRS has taken steps to get payments to as many eligible individuals as possible. A recent oversight report confirmed that the IRS correctly computed the amount due for 98% of the payments issued. However, the IRS acknowledges the significance for those who have not yet received their full payment. The IRS continues to look at ways to help people get the right amount of the payment and will continue to provide updates on additional enhancements as they occur.

For more Information on the Economic Impact Payment, including updated answers to frequently-asked questions and other resources, visit IRS.gov/coronavirus. These online resources are helpful for people who might not understand (i) why the payment received is less than $1,200, (ii) that they are ineligible to receive a payment, or (iii) why they may not be eligible to receive the $500 per qualifying child payment.

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has recently received several reports of suspected Asian giant hornets (AGH) sightings throughout Florida. FDACS’ Division of Plant Industry has confirmed that there is no evidence that so-called “murder hornets” are present anywhere in Florida.

"With reports of suspected Asian giant hornet sightings in Florida, our department and the USDA have confirmed that there is no evidence of this species in Florida," said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. "Our partners at the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the USDA are continuing to study and contain the Asian giant hornet to Washington state. We have every reason to believe that these ongoing efforts will keep this invasive pest far away from Florida’s residents and 650,000 honeybee colonies."

Reports of Asian giant hornets, frequently known in media as "murder hornets,” in Florida are often cases of misidentification, as they bear a close resemblance to native hornet and wasp species in Florida. Residents are encouraged to consult this FDACS Asian Giant Hornet Quick Guide, a to-scale comparison of the AGH and common Florida native species, as a reference to identify this invasive species accurately.

According to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), AGHs  remain limited to a small part of Washington state. Currently, FDACS is providing technical and financial support to WSDA to help study and monitor the species, with the USDA's APHIS also closely monitoring the situation.

How to report a possible AGH sighting:

As a regulatory agency, FDACS' Division of Plant Industry works to detect, intercept, and control plant and honeybee pests that threaten Florida's native and commercial grown plants and agriculture resources. 

If you believe you have seen an Asian giant hornet, report it to the FDACS Division of Plant Industry by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or calling 1-888-397-1517 and provide as much detail as you can about what you saw and where. If possible, include a photo if you can safely obtain one. 

Please visit the USDA APHIS' Asian Giant Hornet website for more information.

Background: Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is the world's largest species of hornet. In December of 2019, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) confirmed the detection of several individual Asian giant hornets. Later that fall, Canada also confirmed sightings of the species in two locations in British Columbia.

Asian giant hornets are known to feed on insects, sap, and soft fruits, but rarely attack people or pets unless they feel threatened. Their stinger is longer than that of a honeybee, and their venom is highly toxic. They can also sting repeatedly. They are known to attack and kill beehives in the late summer and early fall when developing males and future queens need protein. 

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TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is continuing to warn Floridians about unsolicited packages of seeds received through the mail. The seed packets, which may arrive unexpectedly in packages bearing Chinese characters, may bear the name China Post, and may be labeled as jewelry, have been reported in multiple states including Virginia, Kansas, Washington, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, and others.

As of July 28, FDACS has received at least 631 reports from Florida residents reporting having received suspicious seed packages. The content of the seed packages remains unknown at this time, until testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) takes place.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the lead regulatory body on this matter, issued guidance. The  USDA believes the seeds to be part of a “brushing” scam, where unsolicited items are sent in order to post false customer reviews and boost online sales. Upon receiving seed packages from recipients, the USDA will test the contents to determine if a risk is posed to agriculture or the environment.

 The introduction of plant seeds into the United States is tightly regulated by the USDA. Seeds of unknown origin may constitute agricultural smuggling, may be invasive, may introduce pathogens, toxins, or plant and animal diseases, may pose a risk of foodborne illness, and may pose a threat to plant and animal health. FDACS is continuing to work closely to receive additional guidance from the USDA and APHIS, in consultation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“Plant seeds from unknown sources may introduce dangerous pathogens, diseases, or invasive species into Florida, putting agriculture and our state’s plant, animal, and human health at risk,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Anyone receiving these suspicious seed packets should not plant them, but should report it to our department immediately, so that our inspectors can safely collect them for analysis.”

Anyone receiving unsolicited seed packages from other countries should follow these directions:

  • Do not open the seed packet and avoid opening outer packaging or mailing materials, if possible
  • Place the seed packet AND mailing materials into a sealable plastic bag – this is important to determining the origin of the seeds
  • Do not plant the seeds or discard them in trash that will be landfilled
  • Report the seed package to the FDACS Division of Plant Industry at 1-888-397-1517 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • After reporting the seed package, an Inspector from the FDACS Division of Plant Industry will contact seed recipients to schedule a safe, contactless collection of the seeds, packaging, and mailing materials

 When reporting the seed package to FDACS and USDA/APHIS, please be prepared to provide one’s name, physical address, phone number, and email address for contact and seed collection purposes.

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Sometimes it’s the small singular events that eventually lead to major changes. This is what happened when ether (diethyl ether) was used as a general anesthetic during surgery.

William Garst HSThe first use of ether is somewhat clouded in controversy. Dr. Crawford Long of rural Jefferson, Georgia noticed after attending “ether parties” that the partygoers seemed to be immune to pain if they suffered an injury

Consequently, he used ether successfully on a patient in 1842 to remove two neck tumors. However, Dr. Long did not publish his use of ether, and it was not until 1846 when a Boston dentist, William Morton, used ether to extract an infected tooth safely without the patient being aware of any pain. Dr. Morton then convinced a skeptical leading surgeon to try ether on a patient needing surgery. The surgery was done in the presence of other surgical staff, and the stunned audience saw for themselves the wonderful effects of ether: the patient not being conscious of the surgery and successfully waking up. Until this time surgery was still a barbaric procedure. It was said the best surgeons were the quickest to lessen the time the patient was in intense pain. This demonstration of ether created almost an instant demand for the product by surgeons.

The drugs of that period were compounded by local apothecaries (drugstores). Ether is very flammable, highly explosive, and difficult to make. In addition, the variance between batches of ether made at different apothecaries was great and inconsistent at best. Even when ether was supplied by chemical suppliers instead of apothecaries there were vast differences in the batches. What was needed was a standardized product so if it was obtained in one part of the country it was the same as if obtained in another part of the country. This is similar to what happened in the energy field when Standard Oil was formed to “standardize” kerosene.

Edward Robinson Squibb was a naval physician (c. 1846) and complained about the poor treatment of sailors under his care and especially the quality of the drugs that were available at that time. The Navy assigned Squibb to establish the Brooklyn Naval Laboratory with the mission to produce high-quality drugs.

One of the first drugs E.R. Squibb focused on was ether. He quickly found out how difficult and dangerous the manufacturing of ether was. Squibb also evaluated the ether available at the time and found the batches all to be very inconsistent. He even went back to school to take a refresher course in chemistry, and in 1854 Squibb produced a breakthrough in the manufacturing of ether by finding a process that produced a consistent product in a much safer way.

In 1857, when the Naval Laboratory was closed due to budget cuts, E.R. Squibb went on to form his own manufacturing company to produce ether. E.R. Squibb and Sons was the first American pharmaceutical company founded to produce standardized products of existing drugs. It would not be until the early part of the 20th century that pharmaceutical companies would search for unique patentable drugs to bring to market.

Stay informed and stay healthy.

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William Garst is a consultant pharmacist who resides in Alachua, Florida. He received his B.S. in Pharmacy from Auburn University in 1975. He earned a master’s degree in Public Health in 1988 from the University of South Florida, and a Master’s in Pharmacy from UF in 2001. In 2007 he received his Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Colorado. Dr. Garst is a member of many national, state, and local professional associations. He serves on the Alachua County Health Care Advisory Board and stays active as a relief pharmacist. In 2016 he retired from the VA. Dr. Garst enjoys golf, reading (especially history), and family. He writes a blog called The Pharmacy Newsletter (https://thepharmacynewsletter.com/). William Garst can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Editor’s Note: High Springs Fire Chief Bruce Gillingham is also the Emergency Management Coordinator in High Springs, a position he has held for nine years, and he is the key contact between the City and other agencies regarding the Coronavirus. He meets remotely with Alachua County Department of Health three times per week, the Department of Health EMS twice weekly and the Florida Fire Chief’s Association weekly. He is knowledgeable about the Coronavirus pandemic, and periodically he will be writing about the pandemic and updates on best practices.

“Uncharted territory.” “Unprecedented times.” “Flatten the curve.” All phrases we have heard way too often. COVID-19 has changed life as we know it. Businesses have closed. There are now lines at grocery stores and millions out of work. To a certain extent, a modern day Pearl Harbor: “A [time] which will live in infamy.” (President Franklin Roosevelt)

As we continue to learn about this deadly virus, I encourage us all to do our part. The Stay-At-Home order is in place to protect your family and mine. Unless you need to travel for essential purposes, such as grocery shopping or going to an essential job, try to stay home. The only way to prevent the spread of this virus is to wash our hands often, wear a mask when in public and maintain social distancing.

As a department, we are taking extra steps to ensure our firefighters remain healthy and safe. Our lobby remains closed and new cleaning procedures, both for equipment and our personal gear, are in place.

While we manage a new normal, we are also trying to focus on a certain area of our community that is impacted the most by COVID-19—our seniors. Those are the people who may live alone, and who now find themselves in near total isolation with the cancellation of countless services and programs once available to them.

We recently launched the Caring Card Drive. With the help of members of our own community who are creating thoughtful and encouraging “caring cards,” we plan to deliver these cards to those in need in an effort to bring a moment of joy, and to remind them they have not been forgotten. This is the perfect activity to do with the kids. Cards can be big or small, simple or elaborate. Cards can include a saying, positive words, a poem or whatever card creators think fits best. A bin has been positioned outside of the main High Springs Fire Station lobby as a drop off location for cards. The address is 18586 N.W. 238th Street, High Springs.

In closing, let us remember to all do our part. We are in this together and we will persevere.

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During this time of crisis, America’s courageous patriots in uniform still deserve our utmost respect and admiration for keeping us free and safe from the bad guys of this world.

They are fulfilling an undying and faithful commitment to ‘'duty, honor, country” for every American no matter how they look or what they believe.

Today, these military heroes are joining countless millions of other American heroes in the brutal war against an adversary we call “Coronavirus or COVID-19.

The list of these patriotic heroes is long and consists of American warriors from every walk of life. They include:

  • Doctors, nurses, and other medical workers and support personnel,
  • Hospitals, nursing homes, and pharmacies,
  • Law enforcement and first responders,
  • Truckers and warehouse stockers,
  • Supermarkets and local grocery/convenience stores,
  • Restaurants and fast food chains who are finding creative ways to feed us and provide some degree of normalcy in our lives,
  • School systems for developing creative methods to teach our children,
  • Volunteers who are courageously putting others above self,
  • Corporations and small business who are “retooling” operations to make respirators, masks, and other personal protective equipment,
  • City, county, state, and national government bodies,
  • Broadcast and print media outlets, and
  • The millions of Americans who are faithfully committing to “social distancing” to combat the spread of this insidious and deadly disease.

Got the picture? We are all in this battle together. Sadly, just like every other war: “Some are giving some while others are giving all.”

Let us continue together as “One Nation Under God” in faithful commitment to “duty, honor, country” in fighting this war against humanity.

I am confident we will defeat this brutal enemy and come out stronger with renewed respect for one another. I know we can do it; I have to believe; I can do no other.

God Bless America!

Robert W. Wilford

City of Alachua

There is no legitimate argument for making this change now and sending government further into a black hole and out of the light.

If you haven’t heard, the Florida Legislature is attempting to abolish the requirement that governmental agencies publish legal notices in newspapers, which would push government further into the shadows and make it harder for Floridians to learn about public policy issues, make their voices heard and hold their leaders accountable. This bill, HB 7 is scheduled to be heard by the full House on Tuesday. 

First off, this bill flips public notice on its head by reducing government transparency. Simply put, putting legal notices on government websites means very few Florida citizens will ever read them.  Public notice along with public meetings and public records have been part of our nation’s commitment to open government since the founding of the Republic. Our Founders placed public notices in newspapers to be noticed.

Secondly, from the perspective of efficient use of technology, I believe the bill takes a step backwards by placing these notices on government websites. 

The Florida Press Association has a comprehensive website which aggregates and places all of the notices under one umbrella – it’s called floridapublicnotices.com.  We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars building this website to serve Florida’s state government as well as its towns, municipalities, businesses and taxpayers. To date, we have over 32,000 registered users and over 70,000 monthly page views in addition to the notices in the newspapers and their websites. And, it’s free for the public to use. Why re-invent the wheel now? 

If this bill is passed, city and county governments will be required to recreate the same infrastructure currently in place to make notices easily searchable, mobile friendly, and provide email notification upon request of a specific notice (which newspapers do today), that recreation will not be cheap. In fact, the promised savings may not be there.  Nor will the audience, without a major investment in marketing to direct our citizens to what would be hundreds of government websites.

Further, the bill has the impact of significantly reducing notice. 

Despite what you read and hear, newspapers or should I say, media companies are alive and well. Our weekly newspapers are growing, and our dailies are growing digital subscriptions and page views. In some cases, double-digit online growth.  

Newspapers in Florida alone are reaching 7.5 million readers in any given week, and our websites typically will reach more audience than most city or county websites. Our websites draw a minimum of 58 million unique online users in any given month.

By moving notices to less-frequently visited government websites, not only will you reduce the reach to the Florida public, you also lose the active and well-informed citizen. These are people who read often and find notices while they’re staying current with other community news. 

Finally, while this bill claims to save cities and counties money, the unintended consequence is that notices will lose both readership and the legally important third-party verification. 

With notices in newspapers -- in print and online -- it provides a verifiable public record through sworn required affidavits of publication.   Does the government really want to take on this responsibility of residents not being properly notified? 

In closing, 250 years ago our founders decided to place these public notices in a public forum -- newspapers – an open space where The People were most likely to see them… not on hundreds of different government sites hoping folks will find them.

Let’s keep Florida transparent and informed.  Please feel free to call your local legislator to share your voice before it’s too late.

Jim Fogler is the President & CEO Florida Press Service

336 E. College Ave. Suite 304, Tallahassee, FL  32301

 This Valentine’s Day, many Veterans who fought to preserve our freedoms will be hospitalized, receiving the medical care they earned, but separated from the homes and communities they defended.  No one should be alone on Valentine’s Day, and with the help of our grateful community, no Veteran has to be.

I would like to personally invite every one of your readers to show their love and appreciation to Veterans by visiting the Malcom Randall or Lake City Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers as part of the National Salute to Veteran Patients Feb. 9-15.

During the National Salute, VA invites individuals, Veterans groups, military personnel, civic organizations, businesses, schools, local media, celebrities and sports stars to participate in a variety of activities at the VA medical centers.

During the week we are excited to host many various organizations, groups, schools and others that are taking the time out of their busy schedules and visit our some of our facilities.

The love doesn’t have to end on Valentine’s Day.  Many of our Veterans are coming to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with special needs and challenges that require the hearts and hands of a new generation of VA volunteers. North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System invites citizens, young and old, to join us in honoring our Veterans year-round by learning more about VA’s volunteer program as well.

Every citizen can make a positive difference in the life of a Veteran patient.  Visits from community groups do so much to lift the spirits of our patients.  I invite every member of our community to participate.

Call our Voluntary Service office at 352-548-6068 for the Malcom Randall VAMC or 386-755- 3016, ext. 392032 for the Lake City VAMC to schedule a visit and learn how to join the VA’s National Salute to Veteran Patients.

Thomas Wisnieski, MPA, FACHE

Director

North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

When I started graduate school at Florida State University, I had never seen a sawfish in the wild but I was excited to be part of the recovery of a species I had been so awestruck by in aquariums.

The smalltooth sawfish, the only sawfish found in Florida, has been protected in Florida since 1992 and became federally listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2003. Little was known about the species when it became listed but since that time, scientists have learned a lot about its biology and ecology.

As sawfish recovery efforts continue, we expect there to be more sawfish sightings, especially in Florida. This includes anglers who may accidentally catch one on hook-and-line while fishing for other species.

Sawfish encounters

Sawfish can be encountered when participating in a number of activities including boating, diving and fishing. Further, the species may be encountered by waterfront homeowners and beach goers in the southern half of the state where juvenile sawfish rely on shallow, nearshore environments as nursery habitats. When fishing, targeting sawfish is prohibited under the ESA, though incidental captures do occur while fishing for other species. Knowing how to properly handle a hooked sawfish is imperative as sawfish can be potentially hazardous to you. One of the first things that stood out to me while conducting permitted research was the speed at which a sawfish can swing its rostrum (commonly referred to as the saw). For creatures that glide along the bottom so slowly and gracefully, they sure can make quick movements when they want to. It’s best to keep a safe distance between you and the saw.

If you happen to catch a sawfish while fishing, do not pull it out of the water and do not try to handle it. Refrain from using ropes or restraining the animal in any way, and never remove the saw. It is important that you untangle it if necessary and release the sawfish as quickly as possible by cutting the line as close to the hook as you can. Proper release techniques ensure a high post-release survival of sawfish. Scientific studies show us that following these guidelines will limit the amount of stress a sawfish experiences as a result of capture. Note that a recent change in shark fishing rules requires use of circle hooks, which results in better hook sets, minimizes gut hooking, and also maximizes post-release survival. 

In addition to capture on hook-and-line, sawfish can easily become entangled in lost fishing gear or nets. If you observe an injured or entangled sawfish, be sure to report it immediately but do not approach the sawfish. Seeing a sawfish up close can be an exciting experience but you must remember that it is an endangered species with strict protections.

If you are diving and see a sawfish, observe at a distance. Do not approach or harass them. This is illegal and this guidance is for your safety as well as theirs.

An important component of any sawfish encounter is sharing that information with scientists. Your encounter reports help managers track the population status of this species. If you encounter a sawfish while diving, fishing or boating, please report the encounter. Take a quick photo if possible (with the sawfish still in the water and from a safe distance), estimate its length including the saw and note the location of the encounter. The more details you can give scientists, the better we can understand how sawfish are using Florida waters and the better we can understand the recovery of the population. Submit reports at SawfishRecovery.org, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone at 1-844-4SAWFISH.

Sawfish background

Sawfishes, of which there are five species in the world, are named for their long, toothed “saw” or rostrum, which they use for hunting prey and defense. In the U.S., the smalltooth sawfish was once found regularly from North Carolina to Texas but its range is now mostly limited to Florida waters.

In general, sawfish populations declined for a variety of reasons. The primary reason for decline is that they were frequently caught accidentally in commercial fisheries that used gill nets and trawls. Additional contributing factors include recreational fisheries and habitat loss. As industrialization and urbanization changed coastlines, the mangroves that most sawfishes used as nursery habitat also became less accessible. For a species that grows slowly and has a low reproductive rate, the combination of these threats proved to be too much.

Engaging in sawfish recovery

During my thesis research, which focuses on tracking the movements of large juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish, each tagging encounter is a surreal experience.

The first sawfish I saw was an adult, and what struck me the most was just how big it was. I also remember being enamored by its mouth. Like all other rays, its mouth is on the underside of its body. The mouth looks like a shy smile and I found it almost humorous how different the top of the sawfish was compared to the bottom. After seeing my first baby sawfish, the contrast seemed even greater. It’s hard to believe upon seeing a 2 to 3 foot sawfish that it could one day be 16 feet long! No matter the size, anyone who has encountered a sawfish will tell you it’s an experience like no other.

The hope is that one day the sawfish population will be thriving once again, and more people will be able to experience safe and memorable encounters with these incredible animals. Hopefully, we can coexist with sawfish in a sustainable and positive way in the future.

For more information on sawfish, including FWC’s sawfish research visit:
MyFWC.com/research, click on “Saltwater” then “Sawfish.”

For more information on smalltooth sawfish and their recovery watch:
YouTube.com/watch?v=NSRWUjVU3e8&t=3s

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SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today
The Santa Fe High School Raiders football team got their first workout in on Aug. 25 since the completion of a state of the art 12 station workout room made possible by patrons. Nose guard Steven Williams, above, takes his turn.

 

ALACHUA – It is 8 a.m. and Building 25 at Santa Fe High School is about to fill up with the Raider Varsity Football Team.

Head Coach Bill Wiles has his list ready. Jog, Raider jacks, plank, side bridge, leg throw, bench bar, squat bar, shrug, iso neck with partner. 

This is the first full workout for the Raider team in the school’s new weight room that is about four times bigger than it was a few months ago. Walls are down and with the help of fundraising leader Faye Zuidema, local businesses and patrons stepped up to support the request for a better way for all Raiders to build strength.

“We had a vision,” said SFHS Athletic Director Michele Faulk. “It was going to cost about $52,000, and Faye Zuidema got a lot of community business leaders involved. In less than two months, we raised $62,000.”

On Aug. 21, patrons were invited to Building 25 to see what their donations turned into.

“You can do so many different things with this,” Faulk said and pointed to one of 12 universal workout stations that cost about $5,000 each.

Coach Wiles came in for a quick visit before kickoff and shook hands with platinum sponsors Greg Waitcus of Santa Fe Ford and Alan Hitchcock. He made his way around the room and greeted and thanked all of the patrons involved.

Faulk addressed the attendees, “We wanted you to see, this is what your money went for and our kids can’t stay out of here. This community amazes me beyond words. You are so giving in less than two months we raised this money.”

On the donor wall, plaques list the sponsors: Santa Fe Ford, The Hitchcock Family, Darrell Timberlake, Coach Warren Buck, O'steen Brothers, Inc., The Crane Foundation, High Springs Electric, Inc., Zac Zedlais, Bev's Burger Cafe', Rothseiden Family, Jack and Faye Zuidema, Cedar Lane Farms, Inc., Rembert Family Foundation, Inc., Hitchcock's Foodway, Santa Fe High School Advisory Council, Captial City Bank, Raoul Wallenberg, Reverend Hillery & Donna Bassriel, The Thomas Family:Clay, Kevin and Jackson, Renasant Bank, Custom Lighting, Inc., Bottita Family, Gussie M. W. Lee and Family, Main Street Pie Co., Mason J. Hancock, Alachua Farm & Lumber and Joel DeCoursey, Jr.

Former Raider athletes and coaches names are on the wall. Former SFHS Coach Warren Buck is standing next to one of his players who also donated to the project. Darrell Timberlake, class of 1989, broke the record in points in a game, Coach Buck says. Buck graduated from SFHS in 1964 came back to coach in 1974. “I coached for 30 years,” Buck said. “We’ve never had anything this nice before. I know they’ll utilize it use it real well.”

He pointed to Timberlake said, “He still holds the record 54 points in one game against Interlachen.”

Timberlake was a forward for the Raider basketball team, and he also helped support the expansion with a substantial donation.

“It’s fantastic,” Timberlake said about the facility. “We’ve been very blessed and very honored to help the school out.”

Principal Dr. Beth LeClear joked that the place “looks like a college locker room,” and added, “Our community knew that we needed something for our children, and look at what we got. It’s amazing. No other place than Santa Fe.”

Assistant Track Coach and Algebra Teacher Basil Wetherington said he is excited to get his athletes on the equipment.

 “These are half-rack multipurpose, so we can do all of the Olympic exercises, the traditional static, all the compound exercises, suspension training,” Wetherington said.

“You’re talking about complete 100 percent total body exercise, all confined in a small space that you can get 3 or 4 athletes at each rack. With 12 racks, that’s 48 to 50 athletes working out at once, plus excess space to do our other exercise.

Platinum sponsor Alan Hitchcock said he has always been a fan of the Raiders’ sports teams.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “Because it’s really a state of the art, brand new, first class facility that I hope the kids will really be excited about building their bodies and making themselves into bigger stronger athletes.”

Hitchcock said he was a basketball player and that he continues to follow SFHS sports.

“I’m a big supporter of Coach Wiles,” he added. “And I hope this really helps him take us to the next level.”

Wiles knew exactly what to do with the new equipment as he took over the workout room on Aug. 25.

“Front plank hold for 30,” he shouted out directions. “On your front, 30, on your right, 30, on your left, 30. Make sure your body is straight.”

Then he introduced his athletes to the equipment. “Take those off, lay them on the floor,” he said about weights on the rack. “Put them on about two or three, there you go,” he instructed.

Clink clank clink clank, metal on metal sounds took over the room.

The players dug into the workout.

“It a good atmosphere, said Isaiah Cromarty, 16. “It makes me want to work out.”

Junior Tryston Dejesus agreed. “It’s really nice, way better than we used to have.

Senior Defensive Nose Guard Steven Williams said his exercise of choice is the bench press. “It looks good,” he said about the new facility and added what he plans to get out of it.

“A lot of strength, a lot of team building.”

At the end of the workout, the team gathered in the center of the room and built up to the same team cheer they execute before taking the field. “Raiders, Raiders, Raiders,” they yelled in unison.

They showed up for that first workout filtering in one by one, stopping at the sponsor wall and reading the names of the people and businesses that made the workout space a reality.

They left Building 25 in a group, as a team and headed to class with more energy than they arrived with.