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Families can get their kids off to a great start to the school year at the 2011 Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally set for Saturday, Aug. 13 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Santa Fe College Gymnasium.

For the 12th straight year the community group People Against Violence Enterprises (PAVE) will be hosting the event, which is expected to draw more than 2,000 people. The event, sponsored by a variety of businesses and community organizations, including primary sponsor Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., offers musical entertainment, guest speakers with anti-violence messages, a bounce house, an art table and other activities for kids. Meridian will also provide the first 1,200 children attending the fair with free backpacks filled with school supplies.

The purpose of the rally is to give parents and students important tips on preventing violence in their neighborhoods, homes and schools, and to help them prepare for the upcoming school year. This year’s theme is “Who U Reppin’? PEACE!” and the focus will be on preventing gangs and gang-related violence.

Alachua County Public Schools will again be partnering with PAVE this year to hold the district’s annual Back to School Fair in conjunction with the Stop the Violence Rally. District staff will be on hand to provide families attending the event with school bus schedules, calendars, school supply lists and other important back-to-school information.

As part of the Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally, the Leadership Gainesville Alumni Association (LGAA) will be providing backpacks, supplies and clothing to eligible students who have graduated from the local Head Start program. This is the 16th year the LGAA has sponsored the program for Head Start graduates.

Other local agencies will also be on hand to provide vital services and information. For example, the Alachua County Health Department will be offering free school immunizations and information on signing up for low-cost health insurance. Health Department staff members will also be sharing information about the upcoming Flu Mist vaccination program, a community-wide effort to immunize all students against the flu for free while they’re at school.

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ROBBERYSurveillance photograph of the suspect

The High Springs CVS located at 110 North Santa Fe Boulevard was robbed Saturday afternoon at around 5:25 p.m. The High Springs Police Department (HSPD) is currently investigating the armed robbery.  A clerk employed by the High Springs CVS called 9-1-1 to report that she was the victim of a robbery.

HSPD officers arrived on scene and learned that a man, described as a white male, mid to late twenties, 5’10,” between 165 and 185 lbs. He was last seen wearing a grey Nike ball cap, a dark colored Harry Potter tee shirt, long blue jean shorts (past his knee) and running shoes. He had a moustache and goatee. 

The suspect entered the store at approximately 5:11 p.m. and walked around the store for several minutes before he approached the check-out counter and paid for a small item. After his transaction was completed, the man handed the clerk a note which instructed her not to scream and that he had a gun. The man demanded cash from the drawer and after receiving an undisclosed amount; he took his note back and fled the store on foot. No one was physically injured during this robbery.

HSPD, ACSO and APD officers searched the area with negative results. Although a weapon was not seen, the man implied by note and via his actions that he was armed.

Anyone with information about this robbery is asked to contact the HSPD at 386-454-1415, or remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 352-372-7867 (STOP). Callers are eligible to receive a reward up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.

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SunStateSunState FCU employees Brad Walden and Cassandra Davis team up to build a prosthetic hand destined for an accident victim in a third world country.

SunState Federal Credit Union (SunState FCU) recently partnered with the CU Philanthropy Group, to provide employees with a truly unique training and team building exercise. Ninety nine credit union participants assembled 33 fully functional prosthetic hands during the Helping Hands program.  The event was part of SunState’s annual training day.

SunState FCU became the latest credit union nationally to participate in the Credit Union Helping Hands program. In teams of three, credit union employees worked together to assemble the prosthetic hands destined for victims of land-mines, as the central exercise in a team building and process improvement program.

This was “a huge win-win; probably the best team building exercise we’ve ever done; and in doing it, we attained the additional pleasure of helping someone else,” said SunState FCU CEO Jim Woodward. “What a powerful way to build teamwork,” echoed Vice-President of Marketing Robert Hart. “It’s a rewarding exercise that helps you take a very real look at how your teams truly interact. Not only is there valuable self-discovery, but helping to dramatically improve a person’s quality of life at the same time is a powerful thing.”

The prosthetic hands built by SunState FCU staff during their program will be distributed and fitted globally at no cost to recipients through Odyssey Teams, Inc. and Rotary International. Photos of each assembly team will accompany the hands to their final destination, where lives will be positively impacted by the power of this innovative event.

“Once the teams figured out what they were building, and then where the prosthetic hands were going, a regular team building exercise became a truly life changing event,” said SunState FCU Senior Vice President Joe Bour.  “In little over an hour, each team had built a hand for someone that needed it to survive in a developing country. The message that just a little effort on our part, and a few minutes of our time, can mean the world to our members, really hit home. I can’t say enough good things on so many levels about the Helping Hands project.”

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DrummThe city’s two newly elected commissioners are not opposed to the idea of bringing back former City Manager Jim Drumm, making it a possibility that he could be rehired.

High Springs Commissioner-elect Sue Weller said there’s a lot to discuss before she could decide whether she wants him to return to the position.

“I don’t know yet,” she said, “But I’m not ruling anything out at this point.”

Possible scenarios under which Drumm might return include a majority vote by the commission to reinstate him, or if the position was openly advertised according to the city’s usual hiring process, he could apply for the job and be considered like any other applicant.

Weller is sure the issue will come up one way or another, but she doesn’t yet know what she’ll do.

There needs to be open, public discussion among the commissioners before any decisions are made, Weller said.

Fellow commissioner-elect Byran Williams said he hadn’t really thought about Drumm’s return as a possibility.

But he agreed that it would need to be discussed, but was noncommittal whether he would support it.

“I’m not in favor, but I’m not opposed.”

Vice Mayor Eric May suspects there are those who intend to rehire Drumm, although he didn’t specify which commissioners, but did say it would be “a huge mistake.”

May said if a majority votes to hire the former manager again, he will be more than willing to work with Drumm, and he will respect that decision, but he wouldn’t vote in favor of it.

May said that as long as the commission follows the proper process of advertising the manager position fairly for all who are qualified to apply, then Drumm has the right to apply – but he shouldn’t be brought back carte blanche.  “We need to find a manager we all mutually agree on,” May said.  “There’s too much animosity surrounding Drumm.”

Facing termination, Drumm resigned on Oct. 21.  At that time, the city commission gave unanimous approval to accept a severance agreement which included $66,433.80 in severance pay, retention of city health insurance including family coverage for the next six months, and a neutral reference letter for future employers. 

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Civilians, veterans and active military personnel alike are invited to the High Springs Civic Center this afternoon to join in honoring the men and women who fight for their country.

The event, Veterans’ Day in High Springs, is sponsored by the Marine Corps League of Gainesville, and will run from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Local community activist, league official and Vietnam vet, Bob Barnas, has been planning the day for months. He said there is going to be live music, food and guest speakers from different military branches and different wars.

What Barnas referred to as the main event, a flyover by a World War II L-4 spotter plane, is scheduled for 3 p.m.

The plane and its pilot, Bob Oehl, hail from Wings of Dreams Aviation Museum in Keystone Heights.

The event is completely free and open to the public, and there will be special motorcycle and handicapped parking available. Though the event will be going on outdoors, the Civics Center restrooms will be open for use.

Barnas encouraged everyone to come out and either bring a vet or meet a vet, and of course, thank a vet.

The High Springs Civic Center is located at 330 Santa Fe Boulevard (US Highway 441).

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LibertyFestGraphicRev your engines and motor over to the south end of Santa Fe College's Northwest campus (by the large flagpole!) for the All American Liberty Fest, a new family-friendly event featuring a motorcycle Flag Run and a car show.

Sponsored by Santa Fe's Collegiate Veterans Society, this first-annual festival, 11 a.m-4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14, replaces the Bikers on Parade event as the fundraiser for Alachua County veterans' associations.

"We're hoping to get a lot of donations, because this one event holds over the veteran organizations for the entire year," said Tamsen Pintler, Santa Fe College's veterans' advocate specialist. "This is what sustains them, so I hope everybody opens their minds, their hearts, and their pockets to keep great veterans' organizations in Gainesville."

The All American Liberty Fest represents an official Veterans Affairs (VA) "Welcome Home" event, and a mobile unit from the VA hospital will be available enrolling veterans for their services and administering flu shots to those already enrolled. Veterans can also sign up for unemployment benefits at the event, thanks to the Florida Works Veterans Employment Services.

While grease monkeys can get their fill of automobiles old and new at the motorcycle run and car show, bounce houses, clowns, face painting, and a rock-climbing wall will be among the attractions aimed at the younger set. 

Other attractions include a SWAT team exhibit, military vehicles, and a Gainesville police department K9 demonstration. Food vendors will be out in force, and several musicians are booked for the event, including the country-rock group Sin Waggin' and Hartley Leacock's collective format band.

Leading this year's festivities is honorary chair Joe Galloway, a newspaper correspondent famous for co-authoring the book We Were Soldiers Once... And Young, which was adapted into a 2002 Mel Gibson movie.

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FeatureVetCeremony_DSF2749Dozens of military veterans were recognized a day early at Alachua Elementary School’s annual Veterans Day Ceremony. 

Invited as personal guests of students, staff and teachers, school principal Jim Brandenburg welcomed each of the veterans by name to Wednesday’s service held in their honor. 

Brandenburg recounted the beginnings of the annual ceremony.  At the urging of longtime Alachua resident and D-Day veteran the late Glynn Markham, Alachua Elementary School began recognizing veterans some 19 years ago, Brandenburg said.  Markham died in May 2007, but his legacy lives on in the numerous veterans’ memorials and services he saw to fruition.

“Veteran’s Day marks an important occasion for the Alachua Elementary family,” said Brandenburg, noting the large number of veterans who are part of that extended family.

One of the reasons the ceremony is held is to make sure the students know why they have the day off, Brandenburg said.  “Tomorrow is not just a day to goof off, but a time when you should take a few minutes to remember that veterans have made that day possible,” he told the students as they were gathered underneath the outdoor pavilion.

Officially kicking off the ceremony was the University of Florida’s Naval ROTC Color Guard.  Following a choral reading by “Uncle Sam,” everyone joined in for the Pledge of Allegiance.

A small group of chorus members led the school in several patriotic songs including “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Grand Old Flag.”  The school also sang Markham’s favorite, “God Bless America.” Closing out the ceremony were rousing renditions by the all of the school’s students of “This Land is Your Land” and “God Bless the USA.”

After the ceremony, Brandenburg invited veterans and their hosts to join him in the school’s cafeteria for a reception and breakfast also in their honor.

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