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ALACHUA COUNTY - The UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County Office has announced the 2022 4-H Summer Day Camps. These camps are being offered by Mary Lee Sale, 4-H Youth Development Agent, at the Alachua County Ag Auditorium (22716 W. Newberry Road, Newberry) unless otherwise indicated.
 
Food Challenge Day Camp – June 14 – 16, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
 
Youth between the ages of 11-18 years old (ages are as of September 1, 2021), who are interested in cooking and food preparation, can attend this day camp to learn more about food safety and best practices in the kitchen. Campers must wear closed-toe shoes and tie back long hair.
 
At the end of this camp, youth teams will compete in a Food Challenge using a provided pantry and one mystery ingredient.
 
Camp registration fee is $200.00 (includes lunch). Limited to 20 campers.
 
Wilderness Survival Day Camp – June 28 – 29, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Poe Springs Park (28800 N.W. 182 Avenue, High Springs)
 
Youth between the ages of 8-12 years old (ages are as of September 1, 2021) and are interested in learning how to survive in nature should attend this day camp. Campers will learn how to start fires, navigation, building shelters, edible plants, and more. This camp will take place at Poe Springs Park, and youth will be outdoors practicing the skills they learn. All campers should wear closed-toed shoes, long pants, and bug spray. Each camper should bring a bagged lunch and refillable water bottle.
 
Camp registration fee is $100.00. This program is limited to 16 campers.
 
Aqua Adventures Day Camp – July 12 – 13, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
 
Youth between the ages of 8-12 years old (ages are as of September 1, 2021), who are interested in learning more about water from the springs to the inner city should attend this day camp. The focus of the camp will be on water and the environment. Youth will have the opportunity to follow water through Gainesville, visit a local spring, learn about pollution and conservation, and more. Each camper should pack their swimsuits, towels, and a bagged lunch with a refillable water bottle.
 
Camp registration fee is $150.00. This program is limited to 16 campers.
 
Registration must be completed through 4-H Online in conjunction with paying through Eventbrite. Both 4-H Online and Eventbrite must be completed for campers to be fully registered. Visit v2.4honline.com to create a member profile and join the “Alachua County 4-H Day Camps” club. 4-H Online profiles will need to be approved prior to camp registration, and this approval can take up to three business days. Participants will receive an Eventbrite payment link after their registration has been submitted.
 
For more information regarding these summer day camps, visit the 4-H website or contact Mary Lee Sale, 4-H Youth Development Agent, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 352-955-2402. These camps are opened to all youth. Visit Extension Office website for additional programs offered by the Extension Office.
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NEWBERRY ‒ The Newberry Watermelon Festival was back for its 77th annual celebration on Saturday, May 21.  The annual festival brought out thousands who enjoyed sweet and juicy watermelon, games and activities for the young and not-so-young alike, and entertainment.

The nation’s longest-running watermelon festival was held at the CountryWay Town Square. The festival featured more than 100 vendors offering items for sale, food and drink, nonprofits sharing information, and politicians promoting their 2022 campaigns. There was also plenty of activities for kids including bounce houses, face painting and pony rides. As in previous years, the free slices of watermelon were popular with the crowd.

The event started at 10 a.m. with a parade in downtown Newberry featuring floats sponsored by local businesses and organizations that included a golf cart decoration contest. At the Country Way Town Center, some 100 vendors lined the streets and at the gazebo, K Country 93.7 FM announced events along with singer and DJ Brandon McFarlan.

The previous week the festival committee had held its annual pageant for naming the annual Newberry Watermelon Queen, teen queen and junior queens.  Kensley Catelynn Durrance was crowned the 2022 Newberry Watermelon Queen, Ashlee Thomas was crowned the 2022 Newberry Watermelon Ms. Teen Queen and Laney Grinstead was crowned the 2022 Newberry Watermelon Teen Queen. The Newberry City Commission also awarded Bethany Barfield with a key to the city. Barfield was the Newberry Watermelon Queen in 2019 and then went on to win the Florida Watermelon Queen for 2020-21 before claiming the National Watermelon Queen title.

Watermelon festival traditional events included the popular pet contest featuring four dogs. Link, Duchess, Callie and Ellie Mae won prizes for Best Dressed Boy, Best Dressed Girl, Best Behaved and Best Overall, respectively. There was a hog calling contest and the traditional watermelon seed spitting contest that has been held every year featuring local politicians competing for bragging rights for the longest spit.

Last year, Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr. took the crown from Congresswomen Kat Cammack with a 23-foot mark.  The winning marks this year were much farther than Watson's record last year. Daniel Fisher, running for Alachua County School Board, launched a watermelon seed 41 feet. He won the contest with that shot, leaving Newberry City Commissioner Mark Clark in second place with 37 feet.

Newberry’s Watermelon Festival started in 1946 after the end of World War II.  A group of local citizens decided to hold a festival celebrating the area’s watermelon production and the Newberry Watermelon Festival was born. The event has now been held yearly on the third Saturday in May.  

The festival is organized and produced by a committee of local residents with the support of the city and business sponsors. The actual event is produced with a large group of volunteers, including Police Explorers who help manage traffic and parking. Sponsors provide donations either as cash or in-kind products. The festival also receives additional funds through a $5 parking fee. Some of the money raised funds four $1,000 scholarships for Newberry High School seniors to cover tuition and books to attend Santa Fe College. Any additional money goes to the schools for supplies and to the Red Cross for any local need that arises.

While last year’s festival was smaller due to COVID-19 health concerns, the crowds were back in full this year. Just like its beginning in 1946 after World War II, the festival again brought a sense of community and return to normalcy.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ For many Americans, Memorial Day is a three-day weekend to travel, enjoy the outdoors or party. The original meaning of the holiday may be acknowledged, but oftentimes little is done to honor it during their weekend plans. For others, the true meaning of Memorial Day carries a more somber quality as we remember those who served and did not return as well as those who came back but have since passed. This is the real meaning of Memorial Day.

On May 28, the High Springs Lions Club will host a Memorial Day concert to raise funds for a Gold Star Monument in Gainesville. Although all who serve deserve respect and appreciation, those who did not come back deserve more in recognition of a life cut short by war, leaving families and friends to mourn the emptiness of their loss. Their families suddenly belong a singular group that no one wants to join, known as a Gold Star Family.

What sets Gold Star families apart and makes them special is the sacrifice they have made and the loved one they have lost in military service to the country. That death is not only a devastating loss of their loved one – it can often also seem like the loss of an identity, of a community, changing lives forever. There is another group that is strongly affected by these lives lost, and that group is their fellow soldiers who survived, remembering the comrades who didn’t come home.

Hershel “Woody” Williams was born on a dairy farm in 1923 in Quiet Dell, West Virginia. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Williams’ actions, commitment to his fellow service members, and heroism during Iwo Jima were recognized on Oct. 5, 1945, when he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Truman at the White House. Williams is now the sole surviving Marine from WWII to wear the Medal of Honor.

As War II began, Williams came into direct contact with families in his own community when he delivered Western Union telegrams informing the Gold Star families of the death of their loved one. Williams says that those experiences gave him a “greater appreciation for life and an understanding of a difference in death in the normal world as expected in life, and those lost serving in the military for their country.”

Williams noted that “consideration and recognition of the families of those lost in military service was very inadequate.” This observation and his personal commitment to veterans and their families brought about the creation of the Woody Williams Foundation The foundation’s goal is to honor these families by creating large granite Gold Star Monuments in every state. To date, Williams and his foundation are responsible for establishing 96 Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments across the United States with more than 79 additional monuments underway in 50 states and one U.S. Territory. They are currently building one in Gainesville.

Eric “Roscoe” Mattingly is a 100 percent disabled veteran of the Iraq War who was injured during the battle for Taji. When he returned from the war and mindful of his injuries, he sought a career that was achievable. Mattingly had always loved music and earned a degree in Live Show Production from Full Sail University. He has continued producing music shows and as a veteran he became involved with the Woody Williams Foundation and their Gainesville project. By organizing a benefit concert to raise funds for the Gold Star Monument.

The High Springs Lions Club and the Military Vets MC Club have a large stage and plenty of audience space. They have hosted a number of benefit concerts at their location and were happy to coordinate with Mattingly to produce the show. Mattingly contacted regional bands he had worked with who would provide their time and talent for a concert. The concert will be dedicated in honor of four local soldiers who paid the ultimate price—including Sergeant Campbell, Lance Corporal Clark and Staff Sergeant Reiners.

On May 28, the High Springs Lions Club will host Mattingly's “Roscoe's Memorial Day Celebra-Jam” featuring four Florida bands. Starting at 2 p.m., The Huligans from Jacksonville will take the stage. Dustin Monk and the Hustle are another Jacksonville band. Trae Pierce and the T-Stones are based in Miami and are four-time Grammy winners. Jesse Smith is originally from High Springs but is now based in New Orleans and New York. His band, Jasper Smitty & Gumbo Funk will close out the concert.

The show costs $25, which, after expenses, will go to fund the Gainesville Gold Star Monument. The concert takes place at 26900 U.S. Hwy 27 in High Springs. Gates open at noon in an outdoor venue and chairs are suggested. On this Memorial Day weekend, this is a concert for a good cause to honor the soldiers who paid the supreme price and the shattered families they left behind.

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ALACHUA COUNTY - With summer quickly approaching, Alachua County Fire Rescue (ACFR) reminds parents and other community members to be safe when children are enjoying their time in and around pools or Alachua County’s waterways.
 
Drowning is the leading cause of death for children one to four years old, and although children are more prone to drowning, anyone can drown. About 3,400 people drown each year in the United States. These events happen quickly and silently. Fortunately, drowning is preventable.
 
Before the splashing begins, teach children about pool and water safety. Children should learn how to swim before jumping into the water and should also be taught to stay away from drains and other outlets.
 
Families with a pool at home should install alarms and a four-sided fence surrounding the pool. These devices can limit a child’s access and will notify parents if anyone is in the pool. Life jackets also reduce the risk of drowning, and children should wear one if needed. Additionally, make sure that a first aid kit and other rescue equipment are easily accessible. To take extra precautions, parents should take CPR classes to be prepared in case of an emergency.
 
Parents and guardians should always supervise children in or near water and never leave them unattended.
 

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GAINESVILLE– Celebrate Juneteenth with special programs across the Alachua County Library District throughout June.

All branches will host programs in June to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in 1865. Events include read-ins at the Alachua and Hawthorne branches, craft programs at Archer, Micanopy, and Waldo branches, and a podcast by the Library Partnership Branch featuring Dr. David Canton, director of the African American Studies Program at the University of Florida.

“We are proud to celebrate Juneteenth with a variety of programs for children, teens, and adults. We hope these events provide an opportunity for patrons to learn more about the holiday and celebrate the date,” said Library Director Shaney T. Livingston.

All events are free and open to the public. Registration is required for some programs and seats can be reserved at www.aclib.us/events or by calling your preferred branch. The full schedule of programs is as follows:

From Emancipated to Entrepreneur, June 5, 3 p.m., Newberry Branch, all ages, registration required
Antoinette Chanel, author and founder of Feathered Press Indie Publisher, will reflect on the importance of Juneteenth, and how its meaning informs her work as an author, an artist, and an advocate. 

Juneteenth Celebration Read-In, June 12, 2:30 p.m., Alachua Branch, all ages
This mini festival will feature readings by Alachua County Poet Laureate E. Stanley Richardson and Carol Velasques Richardson, song performance by a local youth group, and speakers including Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper. Meet local author Tabitha Jenkins, visit the craft tent, and enjoy refreshments.

Creativity for Change, June 14, 3 p.m., Archer Branch, ages 12-18
Make buttons and discuss how we can positively create change in our communities.

Story Time on the Green programs, 10:30 a.m., ages infant-5
Gather for songs and stories, including readings of Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper and similar books.

  • June 15 at Headquarters Library, Archer and High Springs branches, and Hawthorne Recreation Park with the Hawthorne Branch team
  • June 16 at Waldo Branch and Veterans Memorial Park playground with the Tower Road Branch team

Juneteenth ArtSpace, June 15, 3 p.m. Waldo Branch, all ages
Celebrate Juneteenth with an art project inspired by Kente cloth from Ghana and discover the rich symbolism of colors and designs.

Teen/Tween Book Club, June 15, 4 p.m. Headquarters Branch, ages 12-18, registration required

Discuss the book Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes.

Patrons and Partners Podcast featuring Dr. David Canton, director of the African American Studies Program at the University of Florida, posting June 16 by the Library Partnership Branch
Dr. David Canton is an associate professor of history at the University of Florida. He teaches courses on civil rights, hip hop music and culture, and introduction to African American Studies.

Juneteenth Story Time, June 16, 10:30 a.m., ages infant-5, registration required
Share songs of jubilee, Juneteenth themed books, and a coloring craft.

Depot Park Story Time, June 16, 10:30 a.m. Depot Park, ages infant-five
Gather for songs and stories, including a reading of Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper.

Juneteenth Book Talk, June 16, 3 p.m., Zoom and Facebook, ages 5-11
Check out fiction and nonfiction reads for children to celebrate Juneteenth and Black history.

Juneteenth: Celebration of Freedom, June 16, 3 p.m., Millhopper Branch, ages 12-18, registration preferred
Learn about the history and importance of Juneteenth, and then explore what freedom means to you through a papercraft.

Freedom Collages, June 17, 3 p.m., Micanopy Branch, all ages
Explore what it means to be free by learning about the history of Juneteenth and creating your picture of freedom using images and words from magazines, paint, glue, markers, and more.

Juneteenth Celebration, 3:30 p.m., June 17, Cone Park Branch, ages infant-5
Come for story time and a craft to celebrate Juneteenth, plus contribute to a group mural.

Harriet – Juneteenth Movie, June 18, 12 p.m., Library Partnership Branch, adults
Watch the award-winning biopic, Harriet, starring Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monae, and Joe Alwyn.

Juneteenth Read-In @ HAW, June 25, 2:30 p.m., Hawthorne Branch
Come for a program rich in African American history and culture and celebrate works by African American authors and artists.

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Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim A. Barton (third from left) and Assistant Supervisor of Elections Tim Williams (second from right) receive their Florida Certified Election Professionals plaques at the 2022 Florida Supervisors of Elections Conference.

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ALACHUA COUNTY — Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim A. Barton and Assistant Supervisor of Elections Tim Williams completed the required coursework and training to become Florida Certified Election Professionals. They were recognized at the Florida Supervisors of Elections (FSE) Conference in Destin alongside other election officials in the state.
 The FCEP program curriculum consists of more than 30 core courses concerning election law, leadership, and best practices. In 2015 the program was awarded the Professional Practices Award by The Elections Center, a national organization of election officials and administrators.
 Supervisor Barton and Assistant Supervisor Williams were recognized for their achievement by election officials from across the state and representatives from the Florida Department of State, including Secretary of State Cord Byrd. They began the process of becoming certified in 2007.

Barton will continue serving on the Florida Supervisors of Elections Board of Directors, representing district four of the association, which includes Marion, Putnam, Levy, Dixie, Gilchrist, Columbia and Alachua counties. She is the past chair of the association's scholarship committee.

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TALLAHASSEE - On May 22, Florida angler, Dale Dew, caught the first pink-tagged bass of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) TrophyCatch 10-Tag Celebration. Dew will receive a $5,000 gift card to Bass Pro Shops and $1,000 to shop at AFTCO. This catch also means he has a chance to win an additional $10,000, which will be awarded at a ceremony this fall.

FWC biologists tagged this specific largemouth bass in February on Lake Griffin. Dew caught the fish near the same spot it was tagged, using a plastic worm. He successfully submitted his catch according to TrophyCatch rules.

Dew is originally from Antiqua and he and his family now live in central Florida. While he was not originally going fishing for the pink tag, he saw a sign about the promotion that day.

“It was the first time we heard about it, and we were like, ‘Whoa what’s this? We aren't going to catch it. We’re two guys who can’t fish!’” said Dale Dew, the first lucky angler to catch a pink-tagged largemouth bass. “We don’t have all the nice equipment or a nice bass boat but we got lucky and caught it! So, it could be any ordinary person who catches it. You never know, it’s crazy.”

Nine more pink-tagged bass are swimming in other waterbodies across the state: Newnans Lake; Lake George; Lake Talquin; Lake Walk-in-Water; Tenoroc Fish Management Area; Lake Trafford; Lake Istokpoga; Lake Rousseau; and Johns Lake. Anglers have until the end of September to fish for these special, prized fish.

To celebrate Season 10 of the TrophyCatch program, biologists with the FWC tagged and released 10 largemouth bass with bright pink tags in 10 different locations across the state. Anglers should check the TrophyCatch website for rules and updates.

The TrophyCatch program rewards anglers who provide documentation of their catch and release of largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds or heavier in Florida. To be eligible for prizes, anglers are required to submit photos or videos of their catch to TrophyCatch.com, showing the entire fish and its weight on a scale, before releasing it back into the water. Participants are also automatically entered in a free boat drawing just for registering. FWC biologists use TrophyCatch data for bass research to make informed decisions about the management of Florida bass fisheries and to promote the catch and release of trophy bass. The associated TrophyCare program promotes best handling practices for trophy bass to ensure that each TrophyCatch bass is released alive.

For the latest news about the TrophyCatch 10-TAG Celebration subscribe to the program’s topic email (select “TrophyCatch” under “Freshwater Fishing”). For more information about the TrophyCatch program or the 10-TAG Celebration, email KP Clements at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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TALLAHASSEE, - Today, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) is encouraging businesses throughout the state to prepare for the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which begins June 1. DEO urges businesses to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season by visiting FloridaDisaster.biz, which provides business owners with resources to prepare for potential disasters, critical updates during a disaster, and post-disaster resources to help Florida’s businesses recover and Floridians return to work.

 During the Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday, which runs from Saturday, May 28 to Friday, June 10, business owners can also purchase some equipment to prepare their businesses for a disaster tax-free, including batteries, tarps and generators. A full list of eligible tax-free items is available here.

 “Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ strong leadership, Florida businesses have access to the resources they need to prepare for disasters and make a quick recovery following a disaster,” said DEO Secretary Dane Eagle. “FloridaDisaster.biz enables businesses to make the best decisions for their employees and business operations during disaster events, and DEO encourages all businesses to utilize this valuable tool.”

 Taking the steps to build a business disaster continuity plan, as well as encouraging employees to create a family emergency plan, can reduce the financial and physical impact that a disaster can have on businesses. 

For information about how to create a plan, what to include in a disaster kit, where to find storm updates, and more information, please visit the resources below:

  •  FloridaDisaster.org is maintained by the Division of Emergency Management, with resources and information about what businesses should do during and after a disaster.
  • FloridaDisaster.biz is a partnership between DEO and the Florida Division of Emergency Management that provides a hub for businesses before, during, and after emergencies.

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GAINESVILLE – The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention invites applications for its 13th Annual Cade Prize for Innovation. Inventors and entrepreneurs in Florida, Georgia and Alabama may apply June 1 – August 1, 2022. 

“The Cade Prize for Innovation supports an ecosystem of invention throughout the Southeast,” said Richard Miles, Cade Prize Committee Chair. “It rewards early-stage ideas with the promise to change the world and fuel billion-dollar economies.” 

This year’s Cade Prize is one of the largest cash prize competitions for innovation in Florida, awarding $64,000: $34,000 for first place, $13,000 for second place, $8,000 for third place, $5,000 for fourth place, $3,000 for fifth place and $1,000 for the People’s Choice. Each winner also receives $2,000 of in-kind legal services. 

Designed to help early-stage inventors move beyond invention and into the marketplace, the Cade Prize provides capital to help secure patents, licensing, manufacturing, distribution and marketing.  

The Cade Prize awards candidates whose work addresses critical issues impacting the Southeast: Agriculture/Environment, Health Care/Biomedicine, IT/Technology, Energy and a Wild Card category. Applicants do not need to have a working prototype. 

Since 2010, hundreds of inventors with groundbreaking inventions have applied for the coveted prize. Some have achieved great success. “Winning the Cade Prize helped take us from an invention to a sustained business,” said 2010 Cade Prize winner, Ethan Fieldman, co-founder of Tutor Matching Service.  

 Fieldman and his team developed Tutor Matching Service, a website and Facebook application matching college students with educators from around the world. “Winning the Cade Prize validated our proof of concept, led to industry-wide support and an explosion of sales,” he said. After many universities partnered with the company, it attracted a multi-million dollar investment from several venture capitalists to expand its offering to an app. In 2021, Fieldman sold the business to the Carlyle Group and enjoys staying connected with the Cade Museum team. 

To be eligible, individuals or companies may have no more than $500,00 in outside investment such as funding from investors in exchange for stock or convertible notes. R1 research universities in Alabama, Georgia and Florida are invited to nominate one entry for automatic inclusion to the first round of judging. Applications may be submitted virtually at cadeprize.awardsplatform.com with a $55 application fee. 

The first round of judging, to determine the 21 Fibonacci Finalists - named after the 11th century Italian mathematician who created the building blocks of Western mathematics – is August 15, 2022. The Fibonacci Finalists are invited to the Cade Museum in Gainesville, Florida for a public Q & A about their inventions on September 8, 2022. The Cade Prize Awards Ceremony takes place at the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention on September 29, 2022.  

This year’s Cade Prize is sponsored by Scott R. MacKenzie, Florida Trend, Modern Luxury, James Moore Certified Public Accountants and Consultants, Community Foundation of North Central Florida, and Saliwanchik, Lloyd & Eisenschenk law firm. To learn more about the Cade Prizevisit cademuseum.org/cadeprize

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ALACHUA COUNTY – The Alachua County Tax Collector’s office has been awarded the 2022 Governor’s Sterling Award for performance excellence in management and operations.

The Sterling award is presented annually to organizations and businesses that meet or exceed the Sterling/Baldrige National Criteria for Performance Excellence – a framework for achieving and sustaining organizational performance excellence and efficiency. The Tax Collector’s office is the only organization in the state of Florida receiving the prestigious award this year.

The award follows a rigorous assessment process based on criteria from seven categories:  leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement analysis, and knowledge management; workforce focus; operations; and results. 

The Sterling Council’s panel of judges consists of six judges that are nationally and internationally recognized experts on organizational performance excellence in the Sterling/Baldridge Management System.  Throughout the last four years, the Alachua County Tax Collector’s office boasts high performance ratings exceeding their comparative peer groups.

“We are an organization focused on continual improvement with the goal of mastering all aspects of organizational efficiency. This award shows the citizens of Alachua County our office is committed to excellence and is achieving great success,” said Alachua County Tax Collector John Power. “I respect and admire every member of our team and thank them for their dedication and hard work. Receiving this award from the Sterling Council is an honor for our team and the entire community.”

The Alachua County Tax Collector’s office acts as an agent for multiple local and state agencies, providing a wide range of services to the public.  Total collections are approximately $390 million annually in taxes and fees, which are distributed among 25 taxing authorities.  The Tax Collector also provides services for Motor Vehicle titles and registrations, Driver Licenses including road tests, Concealed Weapons licenses, and Birth Certificates.

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TALLAHASSEE – With the 2022 Hurricane Season quickly approaching, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis is urging Floridians to use the 2022 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday to save money on hurricane supplies. Beginning this Saturday, consumers will be able to purchase much needed hurricane-preparation supplies tax-free. This 14-day tax holiday allows Floridians to prepare for hurricane season while saving money on disaster preparedness items such as flashlights under $40, batteries less than $50, tarps under $100, generators less than $1,000, and more.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “The 2022 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday starts this weekend and now is the time to prepare for what is predicted to be a busy hurricane season. I am encouraging Floridians to take advantage of the special savings between May 28th – June 10th on emergency supplies, such as batteries, flashlights, generators, items for your pets, and so much more. There is nothing more important than having a disaster plan in place to protect you, your family, and your home. As we’ve seen before, hurricanes can intensify and develop fast so don’t wait until it’s too late. Prepare now to keep your family safe during storms while saving money in the process.”
 
More information and a full list of tax-free disaster preparedness items can be found here.
 
CFO Patronis’ disaster preparedness website, Prepare Florida, contains a host of resources to protect your home and help you insure, secure, and recover in the event of a storm. Visit PrepareFL.com for more information.

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Tallahassee, Fla. – On May 19, 2022, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement (OALE) arrested Terrance Jamahl Allen of Wyoming, Michigan after approximately 1,900 pounds of cannabis was found in his vehicle following his failure to enter and submit for inspection at an Agricultural Interdiction Station off Interstate 10 in Suwannee County.

OALE officers stopped Terrance Jamahl Allen of Wyoming, Michigan, for failing to enter Agricultural Interdiction Station 6A and submit for inspection. Allen, driving a rented six-wheel U-Haul truck, was found to be transporting a large amount of cannabis (64 boxes for a total weight of 1907.8 lbs). Allen was booked into the Suwannee County Jail on the following charges with bond set at $1,037,000:  

  1. One count FS 893.135.1a Trafficking cannabis over 25 lbs.; Felony 
  2. One count FS 322.212 Possession of Fictitious Identification; Felony 
  3. One count FS 322.212.1a Possess or Display Fictitious Identification; Felony 
  4. One count FS 570.15 Failure to Stop for Agricultural Inspection; Misdemeanor  
  5. One count FS 843.02 Resisting Arrest Without Violence; Misdemeanor

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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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Floridians,

This week, I announced the new Mental Health Care Service webpage on the Department of Financial Services (DFS) website, which aims to provide resources and assistance to mental health services for consumers. This past legislative session, HB 701 was signed by Governor DeSantis and establishes new communication duties for health insurers and HMOs and creates reporting requirements for DFS.

I’m proud to provide Floridians with resources they need to seek vital treatment so they can live a healthier life. As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, mental health challenges are on the rise nationwide, especially within our first responder and front-line healthcare communities. Thank you to Governor Ron DeSantis, First Lady Casey DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for stressing the importance of mental health resources in our communities.

On Tuesday, I recognized, October 12th, as National Savings Day and urged Floridians to make saving a priority to secure their financial well-being. Saving is the cornerstone of a strong financial foundation. Setting money aside each month allows families to handle unexpected costs or prepare for future expenses, like college tuition. As your CFO, I remain focused on ensuring all Floridians have the tools they need to make their hard-earned money work for them. For information about financial literacy programs available through the Department, please visit Your Money Matters, which is a one-stop shop for tips and resources to help Floridians manage their finances wisely.

Lastly, in recognition of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, I encouraged Floridians to 'Be Cyber Smart' and raised awareness in an effort to stay safe and secure online. Recently, officials are warning consumers of a new scam where fraudsters are creating fake Google Voice accounts to scam people without being detected. Scammers are always searching for new ways to trick their next victim and using fake Google Voice accounts is their latest ploy. I encourage all individuals and businesses to take action today to 'Be Cyber Smart' and learn how to protect your identity online to ensure you don’t fall victim. Learn about the latest scams and report signs of fraud immediately at FraudFreeFlorida.com

Jimmy Patrons

State of Florida CFO

With Memorial Day behind us and Independence Day on the horizon, I’m happy to report that our state parks have never been more popular.

Our beaches – two of which were recently named among the 10 best in America by beach guru Dr. Beach – and our springs have attracted a record number of visitors, and we expect that trend to continue in the weeks and months ahead.

Not only that, but our campsites are filling up too as more people discover the joys of camping and RVing.

As it turns out, now is a great time to plan an overnight stay. June is National Camping Month, and the Florida Park Service has just launched a new reservation system that provides our visitors with quicker, easier access to their favorite parks.

The new system shows clearly which parks and sites are available for camping and provides online users with a streamlined process for making reservations. Additionally, campers can now reserve same-day accommodations, which is something that we’ve been wanting to implement for a long time.

The changes will also be apparent at each park’s ranger station, as we’ve updated our point-of-sale system to be more modernized and, most importantly, faster. That means less time at the park gates and more time inside the park.

You might also notice welcome additions such as the ability to be notified when a site becomes available. And, in the future, we’ll be looking to add expanded reservation capabilities for Florida residents.

When thinking about your favorite parks, you might remember an unforgettable paddling adventure or boat tour. But take a moment to consider the park operations needed to offer our visitors the best experiences possible.

Food sales, camp stores, kayak rentals, ferries and trams are services that we could not provide if not for a specially selected group of businesses – many of them owned locally. These companies and their employees are a part of our park community, and they’re just as committed as regular park staff to making your visit safe and enjoyable.

The business that helps us with reservations is just one of our partners that help make 800,000 acres, 30 springs and 100 miles of beaches special places to visit.     

Eric Draper

Director, Florida State Parks

 

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is on June 15. On this day, and throughout the month, communities, seniors, caregivers, governments, organizations, and the private sector unite to prevent the mistreatment of and violence against older people.

Social Security imposter scams are widespread across the United States. Scammers use sophisticated tactics to deceive you into providing sensitive information or money. They target everyone – even the elderly – and their tactics continue to evolve.

Most recently, Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has received reports of phone scammers creating fake versions of the identification badges most Federal employees use to gain access to Federal buildings. The scammers may text or email photos of the fake badges to convince potential victims of their legitimacy. These badges use government symbols, words, and even names and photos of real people, which are available on government websites or through internet searches.

If you receive a suspicious letter, text, email, or call, hang up or do not respond. You should know how to identify when it’s really Social Security. We will NEVER:

  • Text or email images of an employee’s official government identification.
  • Suspend your Social Security number.
  • Threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee.
  • Require payment by retail gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or cash by mail.
  • Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment.
  • Send official letters or reports containing your personal information via email.

We only send text messages if you have opted in to receive texts from us and only in limited situations, including the following:

  • When you have subscribed to receive updates and notifications by text.
  • As part of our enhanced security when accessing your personal my Social Security account.

If you owe money to us, we will mail you a letter with payment options and appeal rights.

We encourage you to report suspected Social Security imposter scams — and other Social Security fraud — to the OIG website at oig.ssa.gov. You may read our previous Social Security fraud advisories at oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/news-release. Please share this information with your friends and family to help spread awareness about Social Security imposter scams.

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The first drug developed to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD), the modern term for alcoholism, was disulfiram (Antabuse). Today disulfiram is still used, but as a second line William Garst HSdrug behind acamprosate (Campral) and naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol). Disulfiram works by blocking the enzymatic breakdown of alcohol and allowing a metabolite to build up in the blood, producing very unpleasant effects. People taking disulfiram will be deterred from ingesting alcohol because they know they will become very ill. The drug is used as an aid to help alcoholics overcome their cravings and addiction.

Disulfiram (a compound that contains sulfur) was first synthesized in 1881 as an industrial chemical, and in the early 1900s was introduced in the manufacturing of rubber. Adding sulfur in rubber manufacturing produces varying degrees of hardness in the final rubber compound.

During the late 1930s sulfur compounds, including disulfiram, were being investigated because of the antimicrobial effects of drugs containing sulfur, and the search was intense. Two scientists at the Danish firm of Medicinalco, Erik Jacobson and Jens Hald, began investigating disulfiram for treatment of intestinal parasites. This company had a group of employees called the “Death Battalion” who would experiment on themselves.

During this phase of testing the drug on themselves, they discovered they became ill after ingesting alcohol. This discovery was made in 1945, but a few years later disulfiram was considered to be used in the treatment of alcoholism as an aversive-reaction drug therapy. Jacobson and Hald’s work was finally published in 1948 and disulfiram was approved by the FDA in 1951.

The discovery of disulfiram led to a renewed interest in the metabolism of alcohol in the body. It was known alcohol was metabolized in the liver and broken down to acetaldehyde then to acetic acid and carbon dioxide by unknown enzymes. In 1950 it was discovered that disulfiram blocked the action of the enzyme that converts acetaldehyde, thus causing an accumulation of acetaldehyde in the bloodstream, which is the cause of the unpleasant effects.

Effects that occur when disulfiram is taken with alcohol include flushing, sweating, nausea and vomiting, chest pain, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. One should not take disulfiram within 12 hours of alcohol ingestion or 14 days from the last dose of the drug. In addition, products that contain alcohol such as aftershave, cologne, perfume, antiperspirant, and mouthwash can produce unpleasant reactions for people taking Antabuse. Other products to avoid are paint thinners, solvents, and stains, along with dyes, resins and waxes, because even small amounts of alcohol absorbed through the skin can produce the effects.

Other drugs can produce adverse reactions, commonly called the “antabuse-like reaction.” The most notable of these drugs are metronidazole (Flagyl, an antibiotic), griseofulvin (an antifungal), and some cephalosporin antibiotics. If a drug is known to have this side effect, it should be pointed out to the patient by the prescriber and the pharmacist. Always read the drug information given to you when starting a new medication that tells you about side effects that may occur and how to avoid them.

Substance abuse of any kind is not good, but alcohol abuse has been especially devastating to society, families, and individuals because of the convenient availability, relative inexpensiveness, and its association with festivities. In addition, the abuse of alcohol leads to lack of inhibitions and unpredictable behaviors, which are many times violent and destructive. When people take disulfiram, they are acknowledging their problem, and they know that very unpleasant reactions will occur if alcohol is consumed, thus it helps to deter the first drink.

The history of disulfiram is still being written. Currently, it is being studied to treat certain cancers, parasitic infections, HIV, and Covid-19.

Stay informed and stay healthy.

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William Garst is a consultant pharmacist who resides in Alachua, Florida. He received his B.S. in Pharmacy from Auburn University in 1975. He earned a master’s degree in Public Health in 1988 from the University of South Florida and a Master’s in Pharmacy from UF in 2001. In 2007, he received his Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Colorado. Dr. Garst is a member of many national, state, and local professional associations. He serves on the Alachua County Health Care Advisory Board and stays active as a relief pharmacist. In 2016, he retired from the VA. Dr. Garst enjoys golf, reading (especially history), and family. He writes a blog called The Pharmacy Newsletter (https://thepharmacynewsletter.com/). William Garst can be contacted at communitypharmac
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TALLAHASSEE  – Under the direction of Governor Ron DeSantis, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) submitted a request to Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis, to indefinitely defer all referrals to collection agencies for all non-fraudulent debts owed by claimants for state Reemployment Assistance benefits owed for weeks beginning March 1, 2020, through September 4, 2021. This request does not apply to fraudulent overpayments and DEO will continue to investigate fraudulent overpayments to ensure individuals and bad actors are held accountable for their fraudulent actions in accordance with the law. 

A copy of Governor DeSantis’ letter to DEO Secretary Dane Eagle is available HERE.

“As Florida’s strong economic recovery continues under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, DEO is focused on encouraging Floridians to return to the workforce and helping employers attract job seekers to continue fueling the state’s economic growth,” said DEO Secretary Dane Eagle. “Today’s announcement affirms the Governor’s commitment to a compassionate and graceful approach to help Floridians elevate above avoidable setbacks in their personal economic recoveries following the pandemic. As part of this mission, DEO is also implementing several proactive measures to continue relieving the frustration and confusion being experienced by claimants regarding federal and state overpayment issues.”

Federal and state law requires DEO to issue a Notice of Disqualification that may have overpayments attached. However, DEO understands how confusing and burdensome these federal and state requirements may be following the economic hardship experienced by claimants throughout the pandemic. To ease the burden of overpayments on claimants, DEO: 

·         Requested to indefinitely defer all referrals to a collection agency for non-fraudulent debts owed to the state for weeks of unemployment beginning March 1, 2020 through September 4, 2021. DEO first requested the suspension of debt referrals on January 7, 2021, and was recently extended until January 2023. 

·         Announced the opportunity for claimants to apply for federal overpayment waivers on April 21, 2021. Claimants should still complete overpayment waivers as they become available to relieve federal overpayments created on their account. 

·         Announced numerous resources to assist claimants navigate this process, including their appeal rights. Visit FloridaJobs.org/Overpayments for additional resources. 

Issuing Overpayments: 

The pandemic created financial obstacles for many claimants, which caused millions to file claims for Reemployment Assistance benefits. During the height of the pandemic, DEO’s number one priority was to ensure claimants received their benefits in a timely manner. Since day one, DEO has remained focused on reducing red tape to speed up that process. As a result, many claimants have received overpayments from the state. 

Federal and state law requires DEO to issue a Notice of Disqualification that may have overpayments attached. An overpayment may be issued when a claimant is paid state or federal Reemployment Assistance benefits and they were not eligible to receive the benefits. 

Claimants who received a prior Notice of Disqualification with an overpayment for any underlying state or federal Reemployment Assistance program (i.e., state Reemployment Assistance, Extended Benefits, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), Short Time Compensation, or Trade Readjustment Allowance) will also soon receive an overpayment notice for the same weeks for the supplemental benefits paid for Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC), Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), or Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) benefits. 

Next Steps:

Claimants who have received federal Reemployment Assistance benefits may be eligible to receive an overpayment waiver for federal overpayments established on their claims. Previously, DEO announced the availability of an overpayment waiver for the PUA and PEUC programs in the CONNECT system on April 21, 2021. The overpayment waiver request form for MEUC, FPUC, and LWA programs will soon be available to claimants in their CONNECT account. 

DEO encourages claimants to check their Reemployment Assistance account frequently and take actions on their claim when prompted. In some instances, a claimant may be required to complete additional forms or, at the claimant’s option, file an appeal to ineligible notices to reverse overpayments created on their account. 

Resources: 

To assist claimants in navigating overpayments on their accounts, DEO has made the following resources available:

·         FloridaJobs.org/Overpayments - with easy-to-understand information and resources on overpayments

·         Reemployment Assistance Overpayments Guide for applying for an overpayment waiver

·         Informational Flyers with helpful information on overpayments and overpayment waivers

·         FloridaJobs.org/RAHelpCenter - Reemployment Assistance Help Center self-service paths for notice of disqualification, overpayment, and appeals assistance

For more information about Reemployment Assistance overpayments, click here

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