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ALACHUA ‒ Police are still searching for an assailant who shot an individual over the 4th of July weekend. The Alachua Police Department (APD) received a call on July 4 about an early morning shooting that took place at 14011 N.W. 158th Avenue. Officers responded and were told a person had been shot and that the victim had been taken to Alachua County Fire Rescue Station 21 for treatment. Alachua police officers arrived at Station 21 and identified the victim as a 54-year-old female from High Springs.

According to witnesses, a silver sedan drove by the residence and fired several shots, striking the vehicle in which the victim was sitting. The silver sedan then fled the scene. The victim sustained gunshot wounds and was transported to UF Health Shands Hospital where she was listed in stable condition.

This is an on-going investigation and detectives continue to follow up on leads. No suspects have been identified at this time and no further information from the department was available.

The Alachua Police Department asks that anyone having any knowledge of the incident to contact the police department at 386-462-1396. Those with information can also remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 352-372-STOP or download the Alachua Police App from your smartphone and submit a tip.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Summer can be hard on parents trying to balance work and accommodate time for young children. Pastor Adam Joy of the Deeper Purpose Community Church is offering parents of nursery and pre-school children an all-day program at the church called the Kid's Academy for toddlers and preschoolers ages 1-5.

Parents needn’t worry this is just a babysitting situation. In addition to meals and play time, youngsters will also receive educational assistance. Children will be helped to prepare for the Florida Department of Education approved Pinnacle Program curriculum, which offers a wide range of both secular and faith-based age-appropriate lesson plans and activities for children ages birth to 5.

The Academy is available Monday -Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The church also offers transportation by bus for parents who can’t bring their children to the church. While the program currently is for children over 1 year old, there are plans expand it to accept ad enroll infants in August according to Pastor Adam Joy.

“We feel it’s vital that we have the best teachers, assistants and childcare workers assisting us in ensuring your child is always able to play, learn and grow in a safe, caring and loving Christian environment,” Joy said. “We believe it is important to offer educational opportunities and socialization with other children to help children grow and expand their abilities.” Joy said the preschool is a member of Green Apple Accreditation of Children Services that licenses and accredits childcare centers and preschools nationwide.

In addition to the Kid's Academy program, the church also offers a summer camp for kids age 5-12, with educational classes in math, art, social studies, English and writing. The summer camp runs Monday -Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On Wednesday evenings they also offer a youth services for kids ages 12 to 18, which provides teens an opportunity to learn about the bible, play games and hold group discussions about issues involving their age group. It also includes a free dinner.

The church may also be offering a Head Start Program and an Early Head Start Program this fall that will start Aug. 18. In addition, there will also be before and after care for school aged children in the upcoming 2021-22 school year.

Joy said the church also plans to offer programs to families during the Alachua County Public Schools Thanksgiving break, and spring and winter breaks, based on the school calendar.

“We have also decided that since we now have the room, we will do our own pre-kindergarten program for this coming school year beginning Monday, August 16,” said Joy. This program will have 20 spots for students who are turning 4 no later than Sept. 1. Unlike VPK, which is only a three-hour program, this will be a full day for students to better prepare them for kindergarten.

“We really feel that three hours just isn’t enough,” said Joy. “Children are our future, and we have a responsibility to provide as many opportunities as we can to help them build successful lives.”

Deeper Purpose Community Church is located in High Springs at 19930 N U.S. Hwy 441. Additional information and registration can be discussed at 386-454-5300 or at https://www.facebook.com/KidsOfPurpose.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ More nurses will be deployed to Alachua County Public Schools this fall to support COVID mitigation efforts thanks to a new collaboration between the district and the Alachua County Health Department.

The Health Department has hired 30 nurses to work in local schools for the upcoming academic year. They will be joining the nurses who already work at each of the district’s schools.

The additional nurses will be taking on most of the COVID-related tasks at schools, including contact tracing, testing, vaccination support and education. During the last school year, much of that work had to be done by school administrators and other staff members.

“This will be an enormous benefit for our schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon. “With this additional support, principals and other staff members can focus on the educational needs of students while still promoting the health of everyone at their school.”

Paul Myers, administrator of the Health Department, says the ongoing collaboration between his department, the district and other partners is critical to mitigating the impact of COVID. Those partners include the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners, the Florida Department of Health, the University of Florida and UF Health.

“We are collectively building upon the successful reopening of our local K-12 schools,” said Myers. “We have demonstrated that through coordinated efforts, the detrimental effects of COVID-19 can be minimized and the critical in-person instruction of our children can continue.”

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HAWTHORNE ‒ The City of Hawthorne recently received a grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) for $500,000. The funding will allow Hawthorne to install green infrastructure stormwater gardens, also known as rain gardens, on Southeast 221st Street (Johnson Street).

The grant will also allow the city to add curbs and gutters to the existing roadway. Landscaping and stormwater gardens will go into the unused areas of downtown as well.

The grant will enable the city to take another step toward the vision its citizens have for the downtown area and attract more businesses to that part of town.

In addition to helping to beautify the downtown, this project is a benefit to the environment as well. “Instead of sending the runoff out to the lake and draining it out in the wetlands, the gardens will help filter the water before it goes into the stormwater system,” said Mayor Matt Surrency.

Residents, commission and staff conducted a visioning workshop approximately seven years ago. “This is continuing the vision of what we’ve done in downtown already,” Surrency said. “We have a vision of what we want to see downtown look like. This is just another component of that vision.”

Surrency said the city has about 30 grants in process at any one time. “Some may be starting. Some are almost finished. We go after any grants that we feel we are qualified to submit on in order to help us accomplish the city’s vision,” he said.

One of the things the city did prior to submitting the grant was to complete the design process. “That gave us some extra points and makes it so that we can hit the ground running with the bidding process.”

Surrency is hopeful that they can quickly go out to bid and begin implementing the project by the end of the year. However, it is unknown at this time when the project will be completed.

The city is currently working with engineers and FDEP to begin the next steps in the procurement and bidding process.

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GAINESVILLE ‒ Santa Fe College Coordinator of the Academic Advisement Center, Thomas Beckwith, was honored as a “Best of State” winner by the Florida Academic Advising Association (FLACADA) for his session at the 2021 FLACADA conference entitled “The Benefits and Challenges of Being a Black Male Academic Advisor in an era where Black Lives Matter.”

“Thomas has continued to show why SF stands for ‘Students First,’” SF Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Naima Brown said. “His dedication to our students, his innovative approach toward serving students and his constant focus on the network of support our students need is what makes him invaluable to our team and is one of the reasons why our students excel both in the classroom and in their careers.”

FLACADA serves as a statewide network of advisors, counselors and faculty who work to enrich the educational development of students. FLACADA’s national partner, the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), named Beckwith to its Emerging Leaders list earlier this year.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ Alachua County Public Schools announces that Alachua County children and their families are invited to attend the 22nd annual Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally on Saturday, July 31 from 10 a.m. to noon.

The event will be held at Citizens Park, behind the MLK Center off NE 8th Ave. and Waldo Road. The event is once again being organized by People Against Violence Enterprises (PAVE) and is supported by a wide variety of local sponsors, including primary sponsor Meldon Law.

Gun violence will be the main focus of this year’s rally.

“With the recent increase in gun violence in our community involving our youth, it’s necessary for us to wrap our arms around them like never before by working together in the area of intervention promoting gun safety,” said Reverend Karl Anderson, the founder of PAVE.

The rally’s keynote speaker will be actor Todd Bridges, who rocketed to fame as Willis Jackson in the popular TV sitcom Diff’rent Strokes and had many other roles on TV as a child. Bridges will talk about overcoming struggles with drug addiction and trouble with the law to again become a successful actor, director and producer.

The event will feature entertainment and other speakers, as well as information provided by community organizations about gun safety, counseling and other topics. Free COVID vaccinations and testing will also be available.

The first 3000 school-aged children in attendance will receive a free backpack filled with school supplies, provided by Meridian Behavioral Healthcare. Children must be present to receive the backpacks.

More information about the rally is available at 352-505-6839 or at www.pavingpeace.org

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ALACHUA COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County has rescinded a rabies alert for N.E. Gainesville. This was in response to a stray cat that tested positive on Friday, May 14, 2021.
 Although the alert is being rescinded, all residents and visitors in Alachua County should be aware that rabies is present in the wild animal population and domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated. The public is asked to maintain a heightened awareness that rabies is still a concern.
 The center of the rabies alert was 3400 N.E. 53rd Avenue and included the following boundaries in Alachua County:
  • N.E. 15th Street, Gainesville
  • N.E. 39th Avenue, Gainesville
  • N.E. Waldo Road
  • N.E. 73rd Avenue
 An animal with rabies could infect other wild or domestic animals that have not been vaccinated against rabies. All domestic animals should be vaccinated against rabies, and all wildlife contact should be avoided, particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats, and coyotes. Rabies is a disease of the nervous system and is fatal to warm-blooded animals and humans. The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies-specific immune globulin and rabies immunization. Appropriate treatment started soon after the exposure will protect an exposed person from the disease.
 Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:
 Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.
  • Keep pets under direct supervision, so they do not come in contact with wild animals. If a wild animal bites a pet, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact Alachua County Animal Services at 352-264-6880.
  • Call the local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from neighborhoods.
  • Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
  • Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas, where they might come in contact with people and pets.
  • Persons who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical attention and report the injury to the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County at 352-334-7930.
 For more information on rabies, visit the Florida Department of Health’s rabies website, call the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County at 352-334-7930, or contact Alachua County Animal Control at 352-264-6880.

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