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ALACHUA, Fla. - Mavis Tires & Brakes is now open at 16113 NW US Highway 441 bringing affordable vehicle services to the Alachua community at its newest Florida location.  

Local drivers are invited to stop by the new store for a free tire pressure and visual tire check.

“Underinflated tires decrease fuel efficiency,” said Brian Sisson, Senior Vice President of Retail Operations, “while overinflation can lead to irregular tread wear and reduced tread life. Tire pressure increases or decreases by 1 PSI per 10 degrees of temperature fluctuation. A simple tire pressure check can help drivers save money on fuel and extend the life of their tires.” 

Mavis now has 53 retail locations in the Sunshine State of Florida and more than 850 stores nationally.  

“It is a privilege to be part of the Alachua community and provide quality automotive service for our neighbors,” said Sisson. “Mavis offers tires and services at the prices customers want and we are excited to welcome more drivers to our growing family.” 

Alachua Mavis Tires & Brakes 

The new Mavis Tires & Brakes in Alachua offers the following services: 

  • New Tires and Installation
  • Flat Repair Services
  • Brake Repair Services
  • Oil Changes
  • New Wiper Blades and Installation
  • Wheel Alignment
  • Suspension Repair
  • New Shocks and Struts Installation
  • New Battery Replacement
  • Muffler and Exhaust Repair
  • AC Repair 

To make an online reservation for tires or automotive service, visit mavis.com. 

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) invites Florida residents and visitors to go fishing during two license-free weekends: June 3-4 for saltwater and June 10-11 for freshwater.

License-free fishing weekends offer a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and experience the many fishing opportunities the Fishing Capital of the World has to offer. The FWC encourages everyone to take advantage of these weekends to spend time enjoying the beautiful Florida waters.

“Fishing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and experience Florida’s abundant fishing opportunities,” said Roger Young, FWC’s Executive Director. “License-free fishing weekends allow Floridians and visitors to get outdoors, connect with nature and create lasting memories with family and friends.”

During the license-free weekends, all bag limits, size limits and fishing regulations still apply. Anglers must also follow all other fishing rules, such as gear restrictions, seasons and closures. To help ensure a fun and safe fishing experience, the FWC encourages all anglers to review the regulations before heading out on the water. For current recreational fishing regulations, visit MyFWC.com/about and click on “Rules & Regulations” or download the Fish Rules App to stay up to date on saltwater and freshwater regulations in your area.  

Find a location to go fishing through the pier finder tool or visit a Fish Management Area. Launch your vessel at a local boat ramp or access point. View the quarterly FWC’s Freshwater Fishing Forecasts by region.

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GAINESVILLE ‒ HSNCF, ACAR, and Puppy Hill Farm Animal Rescue team up to offer free pets June 10 and 11. Hundreds of pets from two local animal welfare organizations will be sterilized, vaccinated, microchipped and free to adopt the weekend of June 10 and 11. The 10th Annual North Florida Pet Adoption Days will take place across North Central Florida that weekend.

Founded in 2013 and formerly known as Maddie’s Pet Adoption Days, the two day adopt-a-thon seeks to find forever homes for hundreds of puppies, dogs, cats and kittens. The participating agencies include Humane Society of North Central Florida and Alachua County Animal Resources this year.

Over 200 adoptions were conducted during the 2022 event. “We are so pleased to be part of this life-saving effort and are proud to work alongside so many rescues and municipal shelters across North Central Florida to increase our life-saving abilities and create a region where no healthy or treatable pet is euthanized for lack of space,” said the Humane Society’s Executive Director, Chelsea Bower.

Adoptions will take place at Humane Society of North Central Florida on Northwest 6th Street, Alachua County Animal Resources on Northeast 53rd, Feline Good Cat Cafe on Southeast 2nd Place, and PetSmart on Archer Road from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 10. Adoptions will continue at the Humane Society of North Central Florida from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 11.

Adoptable animals will be available free of charge with the exception of puppies and kittens under 5 months of age. There will also be free adoptions at Feeline Good Cat Cafe in downtown Gainesville. Check out all the available pets at NFPAD.org.

North Florida Pet Adoption Days Animal welfare organizations are aiming to find homes for hundreds of pets in North Central Florida in just one weekend.

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ALACHUA COUNTY, FL - Alachua County is reminding residents that the Alachua County Climate Fair at the Cuscowilla Nature and Retreat Center (210 S.E. 134th Avenue, Micanopy) begins tomorrow, Friday, June 2, 2023, at 5 p.m. There will be vendors, food, games, and tips for saving money while saving the planet.
 
Before the 5 p.m. festivities, the County is hosting a workshop to review the results of the County’s Climate Vulnerability Analysis. While attending the 3 p.m. workshop is space-limited, all are welcome to join on the Livestream hosted by the Alachua County Public Schools on their YouTube channel. The final video will be available in the same location over the following days.
 
Learn more about the Alachua County Climate Fair.
 
Visit the Climate Fair Facebook event.
 

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Gainesville, Fla. - The Alachua County Library District is kicking-off Summer at the Library with Reader Palooza! Join in the fun Saturday, June 3, from 10 a.m. until noon at Depot Park.

Get the summer started off right with fun activities and informative vendors. Support literacy in our community and encourage summer reading. Patrons can sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge for chances to win a free tablet from PDQ restaurant. The ACLD will have a free goodie bag for kids, teens, and adults who sign up for summer reading.

More the 20 vendors will be on hand at Reader Palooza, including Fun 4 Gator Kids, Escapology, UF CARD, Florida Museum of Natural History, REI, Matheson Museum, Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, Children’s Home Society, United Way, and many more.

Enjoy roaming performances from Gainesville magician Magic Mike, the Gainesville Circus Center and Bubble Man. Marc Radio and Classic Hits 100.9 will be broadcasting live from the event.

Our popular kids’ reading program, Read with a Dog, will have a station at Reader Palooza this year. Sit and stay a while to read with a very good dog.

Come out and support community reading and kick off Summer at the Library during Reader Palooza.

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BY JENNIFER CABRERA/Alachua Chronicle

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Dance Alive National Ballet hopes to purchase a 5.5-acre parcel of land in northwest Gainesville that will eventually be the home of a new building with three dance studios, three music studios, an art gallery, a black box theater for rehearsals and rentals, and all the other miscellaneous spaces needed by a performing arts group.

Dance Alive, which makes its home in Gainesville, is the only professional ballet company in North Central Florida and has been a fixture in the world of performing arts for over 50 years. The Company has been sharing space with Pofahl Studios but has outgrown the space, and they will soon be raising money and applying for grants to build a 22,000-square-foot facility that will add to the cultural landscape of North Central Florida.

Dance Alive comprises an international roster of award-winning professional dancers who have full-time contracts and live in the local community; these dancers perform locally, nationally, and internationally and also teach at the resident school. The Company has toured 17 states, Costa Rica, Brazil, Cuba, and Russia, and it is the only arts organization in Florida to be on the State Touring Roster for 40 consecutive years. Dance Alive presents four annual mainstage productions at the Curtis M. Phillips Center, including The Nutcracker. The Company also has an outreach program for students in Alachua and Marion counties and programs to benefit veterans and persons with disabilities.

The proposed new building will include spaces for dance instruction, music instruction, rehearsals, and performances; it will also feature a physical therapy room, a kitchen, a laundry room, storage rooms, dressing rooms, and administrative offices. A large green space behind the building will be available for plein air painting, yoga and meditation classes, and other outdoor events.

 

Dance Alive National Ballet co-founders Kim Tuttle and Judy Skinner will continue to serve as Artistic and Administrative Directors during the transition to the new facility. Tuttle told Alachua Chronicle, “The arts are in us from childhood and as we grow, they make us better people, filled with humanity. A home for the arts celebrates this, with strength and love.”

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 Governor DeSantis also announced his intent to appoint J. Alex Kelly to lead the newly created Florida Department of Commerce

Source: From the Office of Governor Rob DeSantis \ May 31, 2023

TALLAHASSEE —  Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on May 31, 2023 signed House Bill 5, creating a singular Department of Commerce in Florida to streamline and modernize Florida’s economic development agencies to meet the needs of today’s businesses. The bill:

 

  • Consolidates the responsibilities and resources of Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) into the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), which the bill also renames as the Department of Commerce;
  • Creates a new direct-support organization (DSO) responsible for international economic development within the Department of Commerce;
  • Reconstitutes VISIT FLORIDA and the Florida Sports Foundation also as DSOs of the Department of Commerce; and
  • Repeals several underutilized and duplicative economic incentive programs that often create more confusion than answers for business and industry.

 To lead the newly created Department of Commerce, Governor DeSantis has announced his intent to appoint J. Alex Kelly, who currently serves as Deputy Chief of Staff for the Governor.

 “Florida continues to be the nation’s top destination for new businesses, workforce development, and tourism, and streamlining our economic development programs in the Florida Department of Commerce will further support Florida’s thriving economy,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

 “Floridians deserve a level playing field that empowers local entrepreneurs to thrive,” said House Speaker Paul Renner. “Governor DeSantis is championing good stewardship of taxpayer’s hard-earned money by eliminating wasteful entities like Enterprise Florida. By establishing the new Department of Commerce, we will embark on a revitalized mission to strategically pave the way towards an even brighter future.”

 Florida’s economy continues to thrive under the leadership of Governor DeSantis. Earlier this month, Governor DeSantis announced that Florida has the lowest unemployment rate of the nation's 10 largest states, experienced record tourism in the first quarter of 2023, and outpaced nationwide job growth for the 25th consecutive month.

 The Department of Commerce will continue to support Florida’s robust economic development and growth through performance-driven job creation and capital investment grant programs, infrastructure grants, rural county and small city grants, broadband grants, small business and rural loan programs, and other small business programs.

 Moreover, the Department of Commerce will continue to support and collaborate with Florida’s family of economic development and workforce development partners, including Space Florida, CareerSource, Florida Housing Finance Corporation, VISIT FLORIDA, the Florida Sports Foundation, the Florida Defense Support Task Force, the REACH Office, the Florida Department of Education, and the State University System Board of Governors.

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TALLAHASSEE — In a May 31, 2023 press release from the Office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, it was announced that the governor signed the following bills:

CS/CS/HB 5 – Economic Programs

CS/CS/HB 657 – Enforcement of School Zone Speed Limits

CS/CS/CS/HB 799 – Property Insurance

CS/HB 881 – My Safe Florida Home Program

HB 1169 – Hamilton County

SB 662 – Student Online Personal Information Protection

CS/CS/SB 766 – Enforcement of School Bus Passing Infractions

CS/SB 7052 – Insurer Accountability

To view the transmittal letters, click here and here.

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Nearly two years after a father killed his young sons, burned the family's vacation home and fatally shot himself, Florida's Legislature is nearing passage of a new law that would shield details of autopsies of children.  Sponsored in the House by Rep. Charles “Chuck” Clemons, R-Newberry, and Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, the effort in Tallahassee is on behalf of the boys' surviving mother, 44-year-old Minde O'Sullivan of Gainesville. She said she never wanted to learn details of her sons' murders that were described in media coverage in the case that drew public interest across Florida. The bills would also ban release of photographs, audio or video in all cases when a minor is killed by anyone, not just in domestic violence crimes. The Senate has already passed a version of the bill. The House is expected to vote on the bill Thursday.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Nearly two years after both her sons were killed by her estranged husband, a surviving mother is picking up the pieces of her life to move forward as untold storylines about the murders are just emerging.

Minde O'Sullivan, 44, of Gainesville said her new marriage to the University of Florida baseball coach, Kevin O’Sullivan, and a non-profit foundation she created in honor of her boys, Rex Reinhart, 14, and Brody Reinhart, 11, have given her a new purpose in life. 

Meanwhile, her sons’ legacy may be legislation – “The Rex and Brody Act” – that is so far sailing through the state Legislature. One bill passed the Senate 39-0 earlier this month, and the House is expected to vote Thursday on another, after it passed unanimously through three committee votes. Similar efforts failed in Tallahassee last year.

The bills would ban the public release of autopsy reports for minors killed by domestic violence – and also ban release of photographs, audio or video, such as police body camera recordings or in reports by child abuse investigators, in cases when a minor is killed, no matter the circumstances.

Minde O’Sullivan’s estranged husband, Paul Otto Reinhart, 46, fatally shot the couple’s sons in May 2021 at the family’s waterfront vacation home in western Florida then set the house on fire and killed himself. The family, which ran a lucrative medical device sales company, was prominent in the region’s social and political circles.

The boys’ autopsies, which were released publicly, revealed that their father had shot both sons before he shot himself and set the fire – even though Minde O’Sullivan had initially assured a 911 dispatcher that her husband did not own any guns during the frantic hours when authorities were still searching for her missing family. Sheriff’s investigators also believed Paul Reinhart didn’t have a gun, based on their review of recent firearms transactions. But detectives later found two 9mm Glock pistols in the burned home in Suwannee.

“I was unaware he bought one two weeks prior,” she said in a recent interview. “I had no idea that he was capable of doing anything like this, or else I never would have left my children with him.”

Court and investigative records showed that the murders happened after Reinhart learned about an extramarital affair, the two traded angry texts about her wishing her husband dead and he made moves to withhold the family’s millions of dollars from her.

“You changed your life insurance policies so I don’t get any f***ing money,” Minde O’Sullivan told Reinhart in a conversation that Reinhart apparently recorded, according to a sheriff’s office report. She later said during a deposition in a related court dispute with Reinhart’s family that she had been unaware of Reinhart’s efforts to change his $4 million in life insurance policies.

When the boys’ autopsies were made public under Florida’s public records law, in August 2021, investigators had not yet released any details about how the boys had died three months earlier. Most media coverage then focused on the disclosure that Reinhart had shot the boys, without graphic descriptions. A local television station went further, detailing in a brief news article published on its website how many times and where on their bodies each boy was shot. Photographs and videos taken during autopsies are already blocked from public view under existing Florida law.

Minde O’Sullivan made clear to lawmakers she did not want to learn details of her sons’ tragic deaths – in a case that generated public interest across Florida – because it would be too upsetting.

The proposed law would have kept details secret. A surviving parent or spouse who was not involved in their child’s death could review an autopsy report. The legislation said such reports contain “highly sensitive descriptions of the deceased” and “could result in trauma, sorrow, humiliation, or emotional injury to the immediate family and minor friends of the deceased, as well as injury to the memory of the deceased.”

The bills would also ban release of photographs, audio or video in all cases when a minor is killed by anyone, not just in domestic violence crimes. The ban would cover accidents, such as car or boat crashes or cases when a child falls off an amusement park ride. It would cover killings even by police or sheriff’s deputies and even if there were questions about whether they acted lawfully in such cases. It would also cover evidence of deaths of children in cases that may have been handled or mishandled by government regulators, such as Florida's Department of Children and Families. 

That provision – which was not in the version of the bill that failed last year – was added last month by the House Judiciary Committee, saying it worried that release of recordings of killings may encourage others.

The bills were sponsored by two Alachua County lawmakers: Rep. Charles “Chuck” Clemons, R-Newberry, and Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville.

Clemons said he supports Florida’s public records law, sometimes known as the Sunshine Law, because it shines a light on government programs and activities. “What I’m asking you to do today, with this bill, is to put into the shade the gory photographs, the descriptions, the videos, etc…of minors who have been murdered,” he told lawmakers on the judiciary committee last month. 

Minde O’Sullivan pleaded with lawmakers to draft a bill so no surviving parent has to undergo the same hurt ever again, Clemons said. This year, the Senate version passed on April 11, Minde O’Sullivan’s birthday. When the Senate voted, she broke into tears in the Capitol as her mother, Tammy Prince, put her arm around her to comfort her.

“This was just the biggest birthday gift that I could ever imagine,” Minde O’Sullivan said. “It was so emotional.”

Clemons said he looks forward to Gov. Ron DeSantis signing the law once it passes the full Legislature, as is expected on Thursday. He said it would have prevented young friends of Rex and Brody learning graphic details online about the deaths of the boys. DeSantis is widely expected to sign the measures into law.

“Think about the psychological impact and the hurt it has not only for those young boys but for the surviving parents, the grandparents, the friends, the close-knit community – it's all out there and it's out there forever,” Clemons said.

Under the bill, a judge who finds good cause could disclose autopsy reports in certain cases. The court would have to evaluate the intrusion into the family’s right to privacy and consider whether there is similar information available in other public records.

While Minde O’Sullivan attended legislative hearings in Tallahassee, she also founded and focused her efforts on the Rex & Brody Foundation. The charity honors her sons, who were avid baseball players, to support youth and school baseball teams. Brody regularly served as the unofficial batboy for the University of Florida baseball team. She married baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan on Sept. 24. The two were friends for years and began dating after the murders.

Some details about Reinhart’s actions – and interactions with Minde O’Sullivan – ahead of the murders have not been previously reported.

Eight days before the murders, Reinhart filed paperwork to change two life insurance policies to keep his wife from collecting money after his death. At the time, the couple was separated and intended to divorce. The policies were worth $2 million each and permitted full payouts even in a case of suicide.

The changes by Reinhart named his sons as primary beneficiaries and one of his brothers, Konrad Reinhart of Gainesville, a secondary beneficiary if the boys died. After the murders, Minde O’Sullivan settled a federal lawsuit with Konrad Reinhart last summer over the $4 million. Court records did not specify how the money was divided.

Separately, Paul Reinhart also updated his will 15 days before the murders to prevent his wife from receiving any assets after their 19 years of marriage. He named his brother, in place of his wife, the beneficiary of a retirement account worth more than $600,000.

Two days before the murders, Paul Reinhart began moving large sums of money from the family’s bank accounts: He transferred $299,000 from his business account to a personal account controlled by himself and Konrad Reinhart. He moved $100,000 out of Brody’s account and $100,000 from Rex’s and transferred it to the same account controlled by him and his brother, according to court records. 

The same day, Paul Reinhart used his phone to search: “selfish and having an affair” and “how to break someone psychologically, mentally and emotionally,” according to the final Dixie County Sheriff’s Office report. 

“The thing that is so upsetting is that it was planned out weeks before,” Minde O’Sullivan said in an interview. “It wasn't like he just snapped on a whim. He was still walking around with a smile on his face while he was planning all of this.”

The morning of the murders, Paul Reinhart emailed her a message that read, “You got your wish and you can keep the millions.” Attached to the email was an audio recording Reinhart made of the two arguing. 

In the recording, Paul Reinhart said, “Honestly wish I were dead.” Minde O’Sullivan responded: “Yes, I do. I do, but you know what sucks? Is you changed your life insurance policies so I don’t get any f***ing money,” according to the sheriff’s office report.

As part of their bitter family legal fights over the estate, Konrad Reinhart accused Minde O’Sullivan of a role in Paul Reinhart’s violence. The sides settled their probate fight in July, according to court records.

“Paul told me that she told him… to go kill yourself multiple times, and Paul said, ‘Are you serious?’” Konrad Reinhart said in a deposition. “And she said, ‘Yes,’ and then she got angry because the life insurance was changed into the boys’ name, and that’s all she was concerned about was the money.”

Minde O’Sullivan’s charity, which raised $82,222 last year, pays for baseball facility improvements and sponsors local teams to compete in national tournaments. Its next major fundraiser is Sept. 23 at UF’s football stadium. 

Minde O’Sullivan said the charity gives her a purpose, staying involved with youth baseball. She still attends high school games, she said, and stays in contact with her sons’ teammates.

“I wake up every single morning and think, ‘This is not real, this didn’t happen,’” she said. “But you have choices to make: You either get up and get going, or you choose to give up. And I've never chosen to give up.”

She added: "Staying involved in sports and baseball, which was their true passion, has helped a lot. It gives me a purpose. I knew I won't have my own ever again, but I have hundreds of other children and I'm going to continue to help."

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This summer and fall, UF/IFAS Extension will host the Ag Entrepreneurship Series, a program designed to help aspiring and beginning farmers sow the seeds of success.

“Extension offices across the state often hear from residents who are interested in starting a small farm or related business. However, many of these folks don’t have an agricultural background and need help getting their idea off the ground,” said Tatiana Sanchez-Jones, commercial horticulture agent with UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County. “In response, a few years ago we created the Ag Entrepreneurship Series, and it’s still going strong,”

Sanchez co-leads the program with Kevin Athearn, regional specialized agent for rural agribusiness development.

“Even those with business experience can benefit greatly from the program,” Athearn said. “That’s because agricultural enterprises are quite a bit different from other types of businesses. Our program helps people factor in those important differences and be in a better position to get financing for their farm and make the most of that investment.”

The program is open to anyone in Florida. Registration for the 2023 Ag Entrepreneurship Series is available through UF/IFAS Extension Online Learning.

The award-winning Ag Entrepreneurship series first launched in 2018 and has since expanded to include three workshops. Each workshop starts with a two-week, online course that includes recorded presentations, case study videos, worksheets and a discussion forum where workshop members can ask questions of the workshop leaders and network with each other.

  • Starting a Farm (June 16-30): Introduces learners to the basics of starting a farm business and includes setting a vision and goals, assessing financial readiness, evaluating suitability and feasibility of the enterprise, and the ins and outs of business structures, registration and regulations.
  • Farm Business Planning (Aug. 10-24): Takes learners through the more technical aspects of developing a farm business and includes conducting market research and a SWOT analysis, developing a mission statement and plans for marketing, operations, human resources, finances and risk management.
  • Marketing for Your Small Farm (Oct. 13-27): Walks learners through business plan implementation and includes marketing and promotional strategies, avenues for selling to consumers, and technologies for taking orders and accepting payment online.

At the end of the two weeks, participants attend a two-hour presentation and Q & A session with industry experts, including representatives from program partners Farm Credit of Florida and the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement. Participants can attend these sessions in person or via Zoom.

People can sign up for one or more workshops in the series. Each workshop is $45, and participants who register for all three get a discounted rate of $100. Workshops are capped at 35 people, so early registration is recommended.

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TALLAHASSEE – This morning, the Lauren’s Kids foundation kicked off a 42+ hour continuous advocacy walk at the Florida Capitol to honor the 42 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse living in the U.S. today. The “42 Hours” event will close out National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month by bringing advocates, survivors and state leaders together to walk inside the walls of the Florida Capitol while raising awareness and advocating for change.

“We are walking together over the next 42+ hours to honor survivors, advocate for change, and bring awareness to something we know unfortunately impacts 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys before they graduate high school,” said Senator Lauren Book, Founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids. “Every 98 seconds, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted – which means that over the course of the next 42 hours, more than 1,500 people will be victimized. We will be shining a light for each one of those survivors to help amplify the messages of prevention, hope, and healing.”

Every 15 minutes, walkers will light a candle on a wall of the “42 Hours” display to symbolize the 10 survivors of sexual assault who were victimized during that time.

“The Florida Council Against Sexual Violence works to ensure victims and survivors have a voice in the Florida Capitol, and to ensure prevention and treatment programs are present in communities throughout the state,” says Jennifer Dritt, Executive Director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, a “42 Miles” event partner. “Even if we do not realize it, statistically, each one of us knows someone who has experienced sexual violence – and each one of us likely knows a perpetrator, too. It is up to us all to educate ourselves and become a part of the solution.”

Armed with the knowledge that 95 percent of childhood sexual abuse is preventable through education and awareness, Lauren’s Kids offers familiesschools, and youth-serving organizations free tools and EMMY Award-winning video lessons to help teach personal safety from a place of fun and not fear. The Foundation has also created free resources for survivors, including the Guide to Hope & Healing, which helps families navigate the time following a child’s disclosure of sexual abuse.     

This will be Lauren’s Kids’ third year hosting the “42 Hours” event, an offshoot of the Foundation’s 1,500-mile “Walk in My Shoes” statewide awareness walk from Key West to Tallahassee, completed annually from 2010-2018. To learn more and watch the “42 Hours” event livestream, visit www.laurenskids.org.

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OCALA, Fla. - A GoFundMe account has been set up for an 8-year-old Ocala girl to purchase challenge coins to give to first responders.  According to GoFundMe Regional Spokesperson Claudia Curiel,   Aubryn has a huge appreciation for first responders and everything that they do. She's been hosting first responders at her home on Christmas Eve for the past five years. She serves them hot chocolate/coffee, treats and pastries. She plays games, colors and has made ornaments with the first responders that have shown up.

The Marion County sheriff presented her with a challenge coin thanking her for going above and beyond in thanking those who serve her community. She ended up collecting coins from each agency that stopped by. In January, she asked her parents if she could give them something to carry as a reminder that they are loved and appreciated. They had a challenge coin made for her to hand out.

She has since been invited to the Department of Corrections meeting and was honored by them for showing her appreciation. Now she's been invited to participate in a state meeting to honor elite first responders and asked to hand out her coins there. She's also been asked to present her local SRO's (School Resource Officers) with coins.

Her mother has set up a GoFundMe account to help support Aubryn's efforts.  "We would love to take part in these events but we are lacking the funds to have more coins made," said Aubryn's mother.  "We would like to have 300 additional coins made for these events and possibly more to have on hand for her annual events."  Aubryn's mother says that donations will be used to purchase more coins, and if there are any additional funds they will be used for her first responder events and will directly benefit first responders such as firefighters, police, sherriff, Department of Corrections, nurses, doctors, EMTs and veterans.

To view the GoFundMe please visit:https://gf.me/v/c/76rg/appreciation-of-first-responders

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Today, we pause in reverence to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his unyielding courage in the face of adversity, his boundless love in the face of hate, and his servant leadership in the face of supremacy. This great American not only chartered a new course in the fight for civil rights, he also illustrated how we should boldly advocate for our causes while exhibiting grace and humility. 

 Our nation and the City of Gainesville are still grappling with many of the same issues Dr. King fought valiantly for more than 68 years ago. While we face serious matters – lack of affordable housing, poverty, racial and social inequities – I truly believe this community has the talent, heart, drive and resolve to find lasting solutions. Like Dr. King eloquently proclaimed in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1964, "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits." I also believe we can pay our neighbors a living wage and provide desirable housing that is affordable for all. 
 
So, as we observe this holiday in honor of Dr. King, I implore you to commit with me to be stalwart in efforts to alleviate inequities in our community. Join me in protecting the unique charm of our beloved Hoggetowne, while building a city in which all its neighbors are able to thrive. Together, as One Gainesville, we can do this.
Harvey Ward
Mayor, City of Gainesville

As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the Alachua County Labor Coalition typically avoids weighing in on electoral contests. And we never endorse political candidates. But a recent dark-money mailer attacking one of our dedicated activists who is running for office and two of our signature policies he worked on requires us to speak up.

Residents of Gainesville Commission District 2 recently opened their mailboxes to find a cowardly postcard attacking Commission candidate James Ingle. It was paid for by the so-called Responsible Leadership Committee, Inc.—a dark money PAC. Two of three false claims made in the mailing are that Ingle “worked to limit our private property rights” and “fought for more government control over our wages.” These are references to the Alachua County Renters’ Rights and Wage Theft ordinances, respectively.

The Renters’ Rights ordinance does not limit private property rights any more than do laws prohibiting retail shops on your neighborhood cul-de-sacs or rats in restaurants. The reality is that the ordinance offers three simple, commonsense protections for Alachua County’s tenants. First, it requires universal inspections of rental properties. This merely ensures that landlords are adhering to the rules and regulations of the building code that ALREADY EXIST. Without universal inspections, tenants are forced to choose between blowing the whistle on hazardous living conditions or risking retaliation from a minority of bad landlords. Second, it requires landlords to inform tenants of the rights they ALREADY HAVE. Why should landlords be afraid of their renters knowing the law? Third, it sets reasonable water and energy efficiency standards for rental properties. These are necessary to lower utility costs for renters, reduce greenhouse emissions that cause climate change, and protect our aquifer. Why landlords would want to deplete our aquifer, unnecessarily spew harmful emissions into the air, and subject their tenants to unaffordable utility bills is beyond our understanding. But the bottom line is this: the landlord-tenant relationship is a business relationship, not a relationship between a landholder and their serf, and it should be regulated as such.

Describing the Wage Theft ordinance as “government control over our wages” is possibly more bizarre. This ordinance merely provides an avenue for workers to ensure the contracts between them and their employers are enforced—an avenue much cheaper than seeking recourse in the courts. The ordinance does not limit how much an employer can pay their workers, which is what I presume the mailer attempts to falsely imply. What’s more, the program has been a smashing success! Since, 2014, the ordinance has allowed the Office of Equal Opportunity to win back over $100,000 of unpaid wages for 152 workers.

It should be clear by now that the folks over at the so-called Responsible Leadership Committee, Inc. are not trying to protect your freedoms. They are promoting serfdom!

Lastly, the mailer asserts that James Ingle’s leadership has “failed us.” While we cannot endorse James or any other candidate (and this letter is not an endorsement), readers should know this is as big of a lie as any other in the mailer. James Ingle has been a great leader in the Alachua County Labor Coalition, the AFL-CIO, and his own union—International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 1205. In fact, the basic protections afforded to tenants in Alachua County and the over $100,000 returned to workers would not be possible without him. We thank him for his leadership on these issues. Perhaps the best description for James is, in fact, responsible leader.

Bobby Mermer, Gainesville, Florida, PhD, ACLC Coordinator

 

It’s high time the local business owners speak up. I am a small business owner in High Springs for seven years now, and before that, helped run the High Springs Art Coop for six years. As we all know, our area is growing at a crazy rate. People have discovered our area for the treasure it is, as we all have at one point, so we have to learn to accept change in a reasonable way. The key word is reasonable.

Landlord greed with unreasonable rents kills business, most of all small business. Even big business suffers. I remember a story before Covid of the famous Barney’s of NYC, an icon for years that closed because the owners of their building raised the rent. They were already paying a million dollars a month!

Locally, look how the lovely town of Alachua went from being a vibrant historic downtown that we in High Springs envied and now it struggles to make it. Why? I feel it is because of large land owners who own the majority of real estate. They get renters in the first year at a low rate and after a year jack up the rent. I was told by a previous store owner than they over charge for utilities, too. These small places can barely make $1,000 to $1,500 a month total and most don’t bring in a monthly salary for themselves. How are they going to pay over $2,000 a month rent? Shame on what has happened in that lovely town.

Micanopy is another depressed town because of unreasonable people and then just look at downtown Gainesville. I wonder how long all those huge apartment houses will sit empty because of the humongous rents they are charging.

We can still save High Springs. We can make it a model historic small-town success. Here we have a few local hero landowners who are logical, honest and smart business owners. They charge rents that these small businesses can sustain.

The Barber and Grady families in our town are a blessing to all who rent from them—unlike some of the newbies who have bought up some of our buildings. The newbies’ unrealistic expectations can kill small businesses, or no one will pay such high rents, so their structures remain empty.

For example, in downtown High Springs there is the corner spot where River Run Olive Oil sat. It is a prime location, and here it is another year that it sits empty. The original owners sold because they wished to retire.

Across the street from me is the largest group of modern local store spaces. There was a quilt store there for a bit, but she couldn’t sustain the high rent. The same with rentals on the other side of her, the buildings have sat empty for years now. The owner is from Miami and thinks she is going to get Miami prices. All of these are prime real estate, front and center on Main Street and empty.

The main inspiration to this letter is The Florida Springs Institute. It is our local nonprofit, which does so much good protecting and bringing awareness to our local waters. I understand they are being kicked out of their corner space by their landlord. I heard they weren’t even given the offer to stay at a higher rate. The landlord is going to put someone in there at a huge increase in rent.

Although the landlord professes to support the springs, it seems that is the bottom line is taking precedence. We will see if the “new” business can sustain the ridiculously high rent or will downtown have another empty store front?

I had to say something and bring attention to this issue, even though I don’t think there is much we can do. The town is at the mercy of landowners who decide the bottom line. We can only hope and pray that our little town of High Springs continues to grow with sweet businesses that add to our charm with newbies coming who want to add to our world.

We are not against “reasonable” change. We welcome new and younger people looking to share in our small-town dream. Younger entrepreneurs bring vitality and freshness. We are just asking new and old landlords to keep it real and not let the over inflated prices for everything else invade common sense business practices. We expect you to make “reasonable” incomes, just not overpriced ones.

The future is determined right now. We either jack up rents, run the little charming business out and we get replaced by offices, empty stores and decay, or we support the small-town flair, encouraging the entrepreneur and make a small local business possible for everyone.

Remember that a store that sits empty for years produces zero rent. The more spaces that are filled, the better it is for all businesses.

Tina Corbett

High Springs, Florida

It is a great honor to serve High Springs as your new Postmaster. In my years with the United States Postal Service, I have seen firsthand the role the Postal Service plays connecting neighbors and our community to the nation.

Our Post Offices serve as a lifeline for our small businesses to reach customers no matter where they are. Under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s leadership and Delivering For America, the Postal Service’s 10-year plan, we are maintaining universal six-day mail delivery and expanded seven-day package delivery, stabilizing our workforce, and spurring innovation to meet the needs of our modern customers.

Just as the Postal Service continues to provide a vital service for our nation, the staff of the High Springs Post Office will proudly continue that same public service in this community.

On behalf of the 650,000 women and men of the United States Postal Service, I thank you for continuing to support the Postal Service. Providing reliable mail delivery while strengthening the future of this treasured institution is our commitment to you.

Angel Cruz

Postmaster High Springs, FL 32643-9998

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As a volunteer and advocate with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, this month I am asking everyone to join us and demand #MoreForMentalHealth.

I am doing more by calling on my legislators at the federal and state levels to support legislation that will fund the implementation of 988 and the suicide and mental health crisis system across our nation, particularly for those in underserved communities.

Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255 and de-escalates the crises of tens of thousands of callers each day. On July 16, those in distress and those that support them will be able to reach the Lifeline through a simple 3-digit number: 988.

By making the Lifeline more accessible through this shorter number, calls, texts, and chats to the Lifeline's network of crisis call centers are expected to increase. It is vital that the federal government work with states to ensure callers in distress will have: 1) someone to call, 2) someone to come help, and 3) somewhere safe to go.

We must act NOW to secure funding to equip call centers and community crisis response services throughout the country with the staff and resources to respond to everyone in crisis.

Join me this month in urging our federal and state public officials to do #MoreForMentalHealth. You can start by visiting moreformentalhealth.org.

Together, we can help #StopSuicide.

Peggy Portwine

Alachua, Florida

“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” These words are as moving today as when first spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the passionate and influential civil rights leader who stood as a “pillar of hope and a model of grace” in his fight towards equality for all.

On January 17, we will reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King, who, with his brave supporters, stood in strong opposition to racial discrimination, as well as the wrongful and unequal treatment of people who differed in national origin and religious beliefs.

The State of Florida continues to carry Dr. King’s legacy forward, committed to ending discrimination and ensuring all within our state have fair and equal access to employment and housing - because every person deserves to live the American Dream. The Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) was established in 1969 to enforce the Florida Civil Rights Act and address discrimination through education, outreach, and partnership. Annually, the FCHR recognizes and honors Floridians who advance civil rights throughout the state in the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

As we take this time to honor Dr. King, let us consider how we can improve our own communities. Everyone should have the opportunity to live the American Dream. Dr. King paved the way for our society to embrace equality, and it is our job as Americans and Floridians to ensure the civil rights of all people.

Angela Primiano, Vice-Chair

Florida Commission on Human Relations

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ALACHUA COUNTY - Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the appointment of five members to the Children's Trust of Alachua County (CTAC): Dr. Patricia Snyder, Nancy Hardt, Dr. Margarita Labarta, Dr. Karen Cole-Smith, and Charles "Lee" Pinkoson. These members were appointed by the Governor from a list of 15 candidates submitted by Alachua County's Board of County Commissioners.
In speaking of the appointments, Alachua County Commission Ken Cornell, Chair of the Children's Trust, said, "The Governor has appointed five excellent CTAC members. I am very glad to now have a full slate of highly qualified and devoted individuals who are ready to roll up their sleeves and make a difference in the lives of our children." He continued saying, "I want to thank all of those who were willing to serve and I encourage everyone to attend our meetings and stay engaged."
Governor DeSantis' CTAC appointments:
Dr. Patricia Snyder
Dr. Snyder, of Gainesville, is the director of the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies at the University of Florida. She earned her bachelor's degree in speech pathology and audiology from the State University of New York, her master's degree in special education from Millersville University and her doctorate degree in early childhood special education from the University of New Orleans. Dr. Snyder is appointed to a four-year term.
Nancy Hardt
Hardt, of Micanopy, served as a professor at the University of Florida's College of Medicine with specialties in obstetrics, gynecology and pathology from 1981 until her retirement in 2014. She earned her bachelor's degree from Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia and her master's degree in gynecology and pathology from Loyola University Chicago. Hardt is appointed to a four-year term.
Dr. Margarita Labarta
Dr. Labarta, of Gainesville, recently retired as the president and chief executive officer of Meridian Behavioral Healthcare. Currently, she serves as chair for the Florida Council for Community Mental Health and as a member of Mental Health Corporations of America and the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology and mathematics from Barry University and her master's degree and doctorate degree in clinical and community psychology from the University of Maryland. Dr. Labarta is appointed to a four-year term.
Dr. Karen Cole-Smith
Dr. Cole-Smith, of Gainesville, is the executive director of community outreach at Santa Fe College. She earned her bachelor's degree in criminology and sociology from Bethune-Cookman University, her master's degree in sociology and criminology from Ohio State University and her doctorate degree in sociology and criminology from the University of Florida. Dr. Cole-Smith is appointed to a two-year term.
Charles "Lee" Pinkoson
Pinkoson, of Gainesville, served as an Alachua County Commissioner from 2002 until 2018. He served on the Florida Association of Counties' Board of Directors from 2002 until 2019. He earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Florida. Pinkoson is appointed to a three-year term.
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