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HIGH SPRINGS – At 25042 US-27, on the outskirts of High Springs stands a small white cinder block building whose history is intertwined with the community. Its only distinguishing feature is the wall-mounted barbershop pole that has been rotating for more than half a century.

Over 60 years ago, Otto Duncan opened the shop and became the first African-American licensed barber in the area. From his two-chair barber shop he continued to cut the hair of the High Springs community until his death in March 2020 at the age of 92. After his passing, the barbershop sat shuttered, its antique porcelain and leather chairs vacant and the barber pole light that had rotated for so long remained off.

Andrew Miller grew up in High Springs and knew Duncan, who had cut his hair as a child. Miller became a master barber himself and studied barbering at Bly’s School of Cosmetology and Barbering in Gainesville. Miller, a graduate of Santa Fe High School, was active in several clubs including the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), which helped him establish his career. At the age of 19, Miller opened his first barbershop in High Springs and called it Poetic Cuts. By the age of 22 he was doing well enough to open a second shop in Gainesville. At the same time, he was also taking care of his elderly grandmother. When she died, Miller felt running two shops was becoming a burden and closed both shops and worked as a barber for Great Clips, which provided a steady paycheck without the responsibility of being the business owner as well. But his desire to have his own shop never faded away.

After Duncan's passing, Miller, now 25, heard that a stylist was going to move into the building. Miller contacted her to see about renting out the other chair as an independent barber. What happened next Miller describes as having come from nowhere but would change his plans completely.

The stylist contacted him the next day to suggest that he take over the lease and she was going to withdraw. “I was not really expecting to own my own shop again, but the opportunity suddenly came up and I decided to take it. With its history and Duncan's impact on the community I didn't want to see it disappear,” Miller said. “I am proud to follow in Duncan's footsteps and keep the place as it has been for over 60 years.”

He plans to keep the old chairs and furnishing as an old time feel. He has also tried turning on the barber pole and was surprised to find that despite being 60 years old, it still works.

On June 20, that pole will again be lit and rotating when Miller reopens the barbershop under the name of his first shop, Poetic Cuts. Starting at 10 a.m., there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony dedicated to Duncan. This will be followed by announcements by several city officials including the High Springs mayor. Miller also plans to have free food, a bounce house for children and prizes for attendees.

The small shop has two styling chairs and Miller said might add staff. He charges $12 for cuts for kids 12 and under and for 13 or older it’s $15. His barbershop is not just for men’s cuts, he said. “I can cut women styles as well,” Miller said, adding that he learned a variety of styles while working for Great Clips hair salon.

“I am setting up a telephone reservation system where people can call to be scheduled. As a barber its can be frustrating to set specific times for appointments and have people not show, which can then affect other appointments,” Miller said. Customers can call in to be added to the days list of appointments. “I give them the approximate time based on previous customers so there is a constant flow but not a long wait time for the customers,” Miller explained. “If someone isn't there for their appointment, they will get put on end of list, it will be first come first served so no one has to wait long.”

While Miller had not planned on reopening his own shop, he is looking forward to being his own boss and the flexibility of the hours while not being confined to a shift. The chance to carry on Duncan's legacy and keep this historic barbershop alive was an opportunity he had to take.

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HIGH SPRINGS – How thrilled would any child be to get a FaceTime visit from one of their favorite miniature therapy horses? That’s exactly what’s happening all around the nation as Mr. Jorge and various Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses drop in for a visit and a story.

With the nation in quarantine, the Gentle Carousel Mini Horses and their caretakers, Jorge and Debbie Garcia-Bengochea, have found ways to help cheer up children and adults in hospitals and rehabilitation centers around the country.

Therapy Horses Practice Social Distancing

“Normally, the charity would be visiting with people one-on-one and preparing for the library programs we do every year,” said Debbie. Since the couple and the therapy horses are observing social distancing along with the rest of the world, they have found innovative ways to continue the therapy program using social media.

In some cases, children have met the therapy horses at a Ronald McDonald House or hospital.  When they return to their home states, the couple and the horses can follow up with them. If they have met a specific horse somewhere, Debbie and Jorge try to have that horse check in with the child via FaceTime.

“People ask us if we’re bored since we can’t leave the farm and volunteers can't come over,” Debbie said. “Far from it. We’re just as busy as ever talking to children using FaceTime in our living room along with the horses.”

In addition, Jorge has been calling some of their long-time supporters and friends just to keep in touch with those he can’t FaceTime.

The organization has about a million social media followers. “Some people are so excited about the telephone calls they post about them on their Facebook pages,” Debbie said. When he calls, they tell him their story. Everyone is facing challenges right now. They get so excited that they call their friends and say, “The real Jorge just called me.”

The couple, other volunteers and the horses returned from New York City just four weeks ago.  They were visiting hospitals and also were at the Javits Convention Center (now a hospital) doing a large international toy festival along with NBC Universal Disney.

“This was a toy fair, which was not open to the public,” said Debbie. The event was open to distributors from all around the world. Children from Make-A-Wish® Foundation as well as terminally ill adults were allowed to attend the event and meet the horses.

As it is unlikely the quarantine will be lifted in time for the charity's normal library visits, they are videotaping “StoryTime on the Farm with Mr. Jorge.”

Jorge will be reading stories that include different horses that usually go to the libraries to visit with the children. “We will have videos of the horses doing some of the things that are included in the story being read to the children,” said Debbie. “It should be really fun for us and for the children,” she said.

The couple is also doing videos for children on things they can do at home…the types of things kids can tune into and enjoy. “We hope that will make their time at home more enjoyable,” said. Debbie.

Major Fundraisers Cancelled

On the down side, the two biggest fundraisers of the year had to be cancelled this year. The 501(c)(3) non-profit organization relies on fundraisers to pay for the work they do. “We don’t charge for our visits,” Debbie said. The Magical Gala, which is usually held at the end of March, was cancelled. In addition, a big Walkathon, which is scheduled for the end of April, has been severely curtailed.

The event is scheduled for the McKethan Brothers Training Center just north of Ocala, the training track used to train Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh. Although the event hasn’t been totally cancelled, it has been so severely downsized as to be a totally different event than was originally planned. Instead of stands full of people, kids who were planning to set up their own lemonade stands, additional horse riders and horse drawn carriages and lots more, there will be two horses walking around the track.

The event will be available for the public to see online, but not in person.  Folks can watch it from home on Facebook. Miniature Therapy Horse Scout, weighing in at no more than 100 lbs., will be walking the track with a 2,000 lb. Percheron named Tiny Prince Charming.

Help by Sponsoring Virtual Walkathon

“If people want to sponsor one of the horses for walking around the track, that would be great,” said Debbie. “People were excited about coming to this event, but social distancing has changed all that.” The horses will begin at the starting gate and go one lap around the track.

The couple is working alone right now. Volunteers are quarantined as well so the couple is busy feeding, grooming and taking care of the horses and other animals on their farm. “Expenses keep on coming. The horses need to be insured, fed and receive the same medical attention as any other time as do the livestock guardian dogs that protect the horses,” said Debbie. “We had counted on the two large fundraisers to help the charity financially, but that’s not going to happen this year,” she said.

Even though these are challenging times, the couple says they are going to continue to look at the positive ways they can send their love out to people. “We are always looking for creative ways to stay positive and send positive care out into the world,” said Debbie.

One item currently in the works is the possibility of the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, another non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to inspiring today’s youth through entertainment and education-focused initiative, running the Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses videos and live feed from the farm in their 10 studios located in various hospitals. The horses have visited the studios in person many times over the years.

“We’re still in the talking stages,” said Debbie, “but if it happens, hundreds of children will be able to see the horses and hear Jorge read them stories while they are in the hospital. How wonderful would that be?”

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GAINESVILLE - The Alachua County Library District is now offering curbside library card sign-up and renewal at all branches 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

To obtain or renew a card, follow these steps:

  • Collect your photo identification (i.e. valid driver’s license, passport, or other state-issued ID) and proof of address and go to a library branch.
  • When you arrive, call the branch and be ready to provide your name, address, birth date, email address, and phone number.
  • After you have spoken with a library staff member, follow their directions to show your identification and proof of address for review.
  • After reviewing your documentation, staff members will issue a new card or renew your card.
  • Visit www.aclib.us for details on obtaining a library card for a minor.

The Library District extended 2020 library card expiration dates through July 31. Patrons can visit their preferred branch to renew their cards before that date.

While the Library District’s buildings have been closed due to COVID-19, Alachua County residents could sign up for digital book access through OverDrive for a limited time with a phone number. OverDrive patrons can now sign up for a full access library cards to use all the Library District’s online resources and check out physical items.  

Please contact Rachel Cook at 352-334-3909 for more details on current servicers and visit www.aclib.us/CurrentServices.

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ALACHUA COUNTY — Qualifying for statewide, multicounty, county and special district candidates ended at noon today Friday, June 12, 2020. 
 
The Alachua County candidates who have qualified to have their name appear on the ballot, as well as the seat for which they are running, are listed below.
 
Alachua County Sheriff
 
Robert Walter Brinkman
1815 SE 50th Street
Gainesville, FL 32641
352-318-4934
Party Affiliation: N/A
Write-in candidate in General Election
 
Sadie Darnell
2603 NW 13th Street
PMB #276
Gainesville, FL 32609
352-281-5990
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot to determine General Election candidate
 
Clovis Watson Jr.
16591 NW 129th Terrace
Alachua, FL 32615
352-225-6264
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot to determine General Election candidate
 
Alachua County Property Appraiser
 
Glen Tyler Foerst
306 NW 148th Terrace
Newberry, FL 32669
352-318-3018
Party Affiliation: N/A
Write-in candidate in General Election
 
Matt Geiger
5432 NW 45th Drive
Gainesville, FL 32653
352-222-4338
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot to determine General Election candidate
 
Susan M. McQuillan
12516 SW 9th Avenue
Newberry, FL 32669
352-359-2409
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot to determine General Election candidate
 
Wendy Sapp
PO Box 5451
Gainesville, FL 32627
352-328-4134
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot to determine General Election candidate
 
Ayesha Solomon
1559 NW 29th Road
#6
Gainesville, FL 32605
352-562-2111
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot to determine General Election candidate
 
Kelly F. Suggs
9000 SW 106th Terrace
Gainesville, FL 32608
352-495-9603
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot to determine General Election candidate
 
Alachua County Commission District 1
 
Mary Alford
5208 SW 91st Way
#110
Gainesville, FL 32608
352-317-4480
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot to determine General Election candidate
 
Mike Byerly
PO Box 776
Micanopy, FL 32667
352-234-7010
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot to determine General Election candidate
 
Raemi Eagle-Glenn
9932 SW 54th Lane
Gainesville, FL 32608
352-316-7091
Party Affiliation: Republican Party of Florida
Name will appear on General Election ballot
 
Randolph L Kaufman
8729 SW 145th Place
Gainesville, FL 32618
352-495-2564
Party Affiliation: N/A
Write-in candidate in General Election
 
Alachua County Commission District 3
 
Joy W. Glanzer
190 NW 266th Street
Newberry, FL 32669
352-665-3534
Party Affiliation: Republican Party of Florida
Name will appear on General Election ballot
 
Anna Prizzia
2530 NW 11th Avenue
Gainesville, FL 32605
910-894-3441
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot to determine General Election candidate
 
Jason Stanford
PO Box 6175
Gainesville, FL 32627
404-545-9077
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot to determine General Election candidate
 
Kevin Thorpe
230 SW 2nd Avenue
#108
Gainesville, FL 32601
352-219-2218
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot to determine General Election candidate
 
Alachua County School Board District 2 (Nonpartisan)
 
Khanh-Lien R. Banko
601 NW 23rd Street
Gainesville, FL 32607
386-717-4965
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot
 
Diyonne L. McGraw
4331 NW 21st Terrace
Gainesville, FL 32605
352-246-8071
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot
 
Alachua County School Board District 4 (Nonpartisan)
 
Sande Calkins
628 CR 234
Gainesville, FL 32641
352-214-1027
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot
 
Leanetta McNealy
1266 SE 12th Avenue
Gainesville, FL 32641
352-219-3898
Name will appear on Primary Election ballot
 
The following candidates were elected without opposition:
 
Alachua County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller
           
J.K. "Jess" Irby
Protected Information
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Elected without opposition  
 
Alachua County Supervisor of Elections
 
Kim A. Barton
5212 NW 27th Drive
Gainesville, FL 32605
352-278-6062
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Elected without opposition
 
Alachua County Tax Collector
 
John Power
Protected Information
352-339-1406
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Elected without opposition
 
Alachua County Commission District 5
 
Charles S. "Chuck" Chestnut IV
11827 NW 71st Terrace
Alachua, FL 32615
352-215-0659
Party Affiliation: Florida Democratic Party
Elected without opposition
 
Alachua County Soil and Water Conservation District Group 2 (Nonpartisan)
           
Emily Faulconer
8119 West Newberry Road
Gainesville, FL 32606
434-485-9021
Elected without opposition  
 
Alachua County Soil and Water Conservation District Group 4 (Nonpartisan)
 
Daniel "Danny" Gordon
910 NW 40th Drive
Gainesville, FL 32605
352-301-0587
Elected without opposition
 
Qualifying for statewide, multicounty and special district candidates is handled by the Florida Division of Elections. For a list of those candidates, go to http://dos.elections.myflorida.com/candidates/.
 
The list of Alachua County candidates and additional information can also be found at https://www.votealachua.com/Candidates-Parties-Committees/Candidates-For-Office.
If you have any questions or need more information, call the Supervisor of Elections at 352-374-5252.
 
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ALACHUA – A two-story building on Alachua’s Main Street has been empty for some time. In the past it housed various restaurants and cuisines serving up Mexican, seafood, American, and bar-b-que.

Now Gallop-In-Gary's is bringing new life to the building in the form of a sandwich restaurant. Like the building itself, Gallop-In-Gary’s has also had several incarnations under the same name but in different places. Chef and owner Larry Greco originally had two restaurants in the area under that name. One location was in High Springs and the other in Alachua where Mi Apa is located. He later moved the High Springs location just over the Columbia County line on U.S. Highway 441.

But Greco also loved Alachua. “It’s a small town with a great community and friendly atmosphere, and I always wanted to reopen here,” Greco said.

Greco, originally from Florida, joined the Marines in the early 1970s where he served two tours in Vietnam. Afterward he went to California and served as a LAPD police officer, but knew he wanted something different. He had relatives back east and he moved to New York where he opened a restaurant and realized he had found his calling. He moved back to Florida and worked as a chef in several restaurants, including the Cordon Bleu in Miami, and he eventually opened his own restaurant in South Florida. After moving to Alachua County, he opened the Gallop-In-Gary's restaurants.

The restaurant's menu features 19 different sandwiches, all of which are much larger than normal, packed with the main ingredient. They feature a variety of meats and a vegetarian version. The restaurant also serves salads, homemade pastries and ice cream.

Referring to the sandwiches, Greco said, “We make them big because I feel that people should get their money’s worth. It can cost $50 to $75 for a family of four to go out. Especially in these tough economic times you need to make it affordable if you want people to come out to eat. None of my sandwiches are more $12.”

“With rising food costs, I basically break even on expensive meats like roast beef,” Greco said. “But it’s worth it to establish repeat customers that come for a great meal at a good price.”

Greco can help keep costs down because Gallop-In-Gary's is a totally family run business. His wife, daughter and son-in-law are currently his only employees. “If the economy improves and business warrants it, I will hire more staff, but for now this is it,” he said.

Currently, Greco is only using the first floor of the building, which helps keep utilities down and limits liabilities. “The upstairs is more of a bar setting, and I don't want to get into beer and wine sales. I have enough to work with and am geared more toward a family atmosphere,” Greco said.

Customers will be treated with music from an old 1960s jukebox in one room, and Greco is waiting on an old rolltop player piano for the other dining area. “I want people to feel comfortable and enjoy their meal. Down the road, in maybe six months I want to expand the menu with a seafood buffet on Friday evenings and a country buffet on Saturday and include musicians and bands upstairs on the patio,” he said.

Gallop-In-Gary’s opened on June 1 and is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. They offer both dine in and take out as well as delivery. To order for pickup call 352-660-3009.

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GAINESVILLE - A new webinar series, focused on professional development for agriculture and natural resources professionals during a global pandemic, is set to take place this summer.

Megan Stein, agricultural education and communication lecturer at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will lead the series.

“Our industry groups in agriculture and natural resources have adapted to a lot of change recently,” Stein said. “We are hoping to connect meaningful content about organizational change, resiliency and digital business meetings to help these groups continue to move forward.”

Starting June 18, the six-webinar series is set for every Thursday at 11 a.m. Eastern. The following topics will be presented:

  • June 18. Conducting Digital Business. Led by Anne Schwartz, leadership programs coordinator for the Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources, this webinar will focus on technology, tools and tips to help transition formal business meetings into a digital space.
  • June 25. Leading Organizational Change. Conducted by Nicole Stedman, professor of agricultural leadership in the UF/IFAS department of agricultural education and communication, this webinar helps participants understand change concepts and learn to leverage them to create change from within the organization.
  • July 2. Developing Personal Resilience. Facilitated by Ed Osborne, professor of agricultural education in the UF/IFAS department of agricultural education and communication, this webinar will help participants identify elements of resilience and cultivate a growth mindset to develop levels of personal resilience.
  • July 9. Panel on Rural Mental Health. Through this webinar panel, participants will gain a better understanding of rural mental health disparities, strategies to recognize a person in crisis and resources to address mental health concerns. Heidi Radunovich, associate professor in the UF/IFAS department of family, youth, and community sciences; Angie Lindsey, assistant professor in the UF/IFAS department of family, youth, and community sciences; and Marshal Sewell, territory sales manager for Bayer, will lead the panel discussion.
  • July 16. Tolerating Ambiguity: Being Comfortable being Uncomfortable. Led by Cecilia Suarez, assistant professor of agricultural leadership and intercultural communication, this webinar will focus on how to lead despite ambiguity and leveraging personal attributes to increase effectiveness.
  • July 23. Navigating Generational Differences. Facilitated by Stein, this final session will help participants identify methods to better work with others between generations. Additionally, the session will explain some ways in which the pandemic has brought understanding in bridging the gap between generations’ preferred working styles.

“These topics were selected because they are important for ANR industry professionals, but are sometimes avoided in conversation,” said Stein. “We want our industry to feel more comfortable working in digital spaces, while acknowledging mental health disparities, and work with others to lead their organization into the ‘new normal.’”

All webinars will be delivered at no cost to participants using Zoom, a video conferencing software. Interested individuals should register online to receive the login information. For more information regarding this webinar series, contact Megan Stein at mstein17@ufl.edu.

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 ALACHUA – With a familiar and welcoming face, Len Thomas is somewhat of an icon at the Alachua Post Office.

For 50 years Thomas has been helping customers at the post office, and June 8 will mark the 50th anniversary of his employment and also his retirement after a long career.

Thomas began his career at age 21 in the building which is now the City of Alachua Chamber of Commerce and Museum on Main Street. Thomas began his career as a part-time flexible clerk (PTF). Throughout the years he has filled in for postmasters, served as a safety ambassador and will finish his career as the lead clerk.

Over the years he has seen a lot of changes in the Postal Service. Thomas has moved with the Alachua Post Office into three different buildings. He moved from a tiny office downtown to the current location across the street from Alachua City Hall. He has watched the local mail service grow from two rural routes to 10. He witnessed all the services and records go from handwritten entries to computer and digital formats.

Prior to joining the Postal Service, Thomas served in the Army in a Reconnaissance Division. Upon his return to Alachua he worked at a local gas station called Odeas, and then joined the Post Office. Since then he has become a well-known fixture at the post office, and people often stop by to see him on a daily basis. Over the years, he and his wife Angie have raised seven children and 12 grandchildren in Alachua.

Thomas's involvement in the community covers much more than his job at the post office, and over the years he has been active in the community. He was a volunteer for the local fire department and a substitute teacher for 15 years at Santa Fe High School. He was a successful high school softball and basketball coach as well as a coach in local youth leagues.

Thomas was also involved in local city government, holding a seat on the City Board for Parks and Recreation, and from there he was elected to the Alachua City Commission. As a city commissioner he played an intricate part in shaping the community into what it is today. He has watched it grow from a small town of fewer than 2,000 in 1960 to nearly 10,000 today.

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