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Volunteers, donations needed

BuzzHIGH SPRINGS – Santa is coming to High Springs a little early – and he’ll be dressed in blue.

The High Springs Police Department (HSPD) has been hosting Operation Holiday Cheer for the past few winters. Through the department’s toy drive, officers collect donations to bring holiday joy to High Springs families in need.

HSPD Chief William Benck has been participating for two years. He said it's a project the community really gets behind. The city commission gets involved and the city’s public works department donates a truck that gets decorated especially for the occasion.

“It’s just a way of spreading good tidings,” he said. “Folks that are having a hard time get help from those who are blessed to be doing alright.”

The department is accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys, pajamas, books and money. Donations can be dropped off at the police station, located at 110 NW 2nd Avenue in High Springs until Dec. 16 at 4:30 p.m.

Benck said the department puts the donations in large Santa bags that they deliver to each family’s home. If they receive money, he and office staff find out the ages of the children and go out and purchase presents they think each kid would like. He said it is amazing how many donations they receive.

“It took hours, literally hours, to wrap them last year.”

The police department is looking for a few good elves who would be willing to help wrap the gifts.  Volunteers are asked to contact Office Assistant Angi Robertson at 386-454-1415. Wrapping paper and supply donations would also be greatly appreciated.

The department visits about a dozen families with these gifts. And they are still accepting names of families for consideration for donations.

Uniformed officers will make the special deliveries on Dec. 20. For Benck, that visit makes the hours of wrapping and buying gifts worth it.

“I remember last year there was this little boy, and he was so excited,” he said. “He read a book back to me that we gave him, and he wanted me to read one to him. His whole face lit up. It made my Christmas.”

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BuzzALACHUA COUNTY – With many more families in need this year, Alachua County Public Schools is seeking donations for its annual Alachua County Public Schools Food Drive.

Last year, more than 500 public school families receive food baskets thanks to the generosity of local businesses, churches, clubs and other groups and individuals. The need is particularly great during the two-week holiday break, which runs from Dec. 19 through Jan. 2.

“Unfortunately, many families are dependent on the school lunch program to feed their kids every day, and when school is out, it becomes a real struggle,” said Kelley Kostamo, the district’s business partnerships coordinator and organizer of the food basket drive. “Today’s tough economic climate is making that situation even worse.”

The district is collecting boxes that include the same basic food items, which are listed below. Anyone interested in participating in the program has a number of options. They can donate specific items from the list below, gather an entire box containing all the items or provide a cash or check donation. Filling an entire box costs $55.

“Especially at this time of year, people don’t have a lot of free time,” said Kostamo. “If they’d rather contribute the funds, we’re very happy to go out and purchase the items needed to fill a box.”

Checks in any amount may be made out to the Alachua County Public Schools Foundation and sent to 1725 SE 1st Avenue, Gainesville, FL 32641. Donors should include ‘Food Drive’ on the memo line. The deadline for submitting food or cash donations is Friday, Dec. 9.

Food items can be dropped off at Chiles and Terwilliger elementary schools and Lincoln and Westwood  middle schools. They can also be dropped off at the School Board headquarters at the Kirby Smith Building, 620 East University Avenue. Pick up can also be arranged by contacting Kostamo at kostamkb@gm.sbac.edu or by phone at 352-955-6900. Donations must be received by the end of the day on Dec. 9 to give the district and schools time to distribute the boxes to the families.

For anyone inclined to include additional items, some suggestions include: another breakfast cereal • snack pack pudding • additional canned meals (ravioli, etc.) • individual fruit cups • raisins • fruit snacks. Grocery gift cards to buy fresh milk or produce are also appreciated.

Each box will contain the following items: 2 large cans of sweet potatoes, instant or boxed milk, cranberry sauce, bag of rice, stuffing mix, 3 boxes of macaroni and cheese, instant potatoes, box meal with meat (i.e. Hamburger Helper), jar of gravy, spaghetti noodles and a jar of sauce, 4 cans fruit, peanut butter, 4 cans vegetables, jar of jelly, cake mix/can of frosting, 3 cans of soup, grits, oatmeal or pancake mix, $10 gift card or non-refrigerated ham, 1 large can of Ravioli, Spaghetti-o’s, etc.

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BuzzHIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs New Century Woman's Club will host a Holiday Expo on Friday, Nov. 18, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 19, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Many vendors will be offering unique gifts, baked goods, candies, decorations and lots of goodies to keep or for gift giving. There will be a drawing for 10 gift baskets at 3 p.m. Saturday. Frito pies, home baked desserts and beverages will be available. The address is 40 NW 1st Avenue, High Springs. For more information call Vickie Cox at 386-454-9828 or Ellie Hubler at 386-454-0772. Add a comment

BuzzALACHUA COUNTY – Other than emergency services, all Alachua County government offices will be closed on Thursday and Friday (November 24, and November 25, 2011), in observance of the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Garbage and Recycling Collection:

The Thanksgiving holiday will not affect curbside residential solid waste and recycling collection services scheduled for Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday (November 21, through November 23) in the Alachua County curbside collection area. Thursday and Friday (November 24, and November 25) services will be delayed one day. For Thanksgiving week, Thursday's collection will occur on Friday, Friday's collection will occur on Saturday. The regular collection schedule will resume on Monday, November 28.

The five Alachua County Rural Collection Centers and the Leveda Brown Environmental Park and Transfer Station will be closed on Thanksgiving Day. These facilities will reopen on Friday, November 25. The Hazardous Waste Center at the Leveda Brown Environmental Park will be closed on Thursday and Friday. It will reopen on Saturday, November 26. The office of Waste Collection will be closed on Thursday and Friday. It will reopen on Monday, November 28.

For more information, contact Alachua County Waste Collection Manager, Milton Towns at 352-338-3233.

Animal Services:

The Alachua County Animal Services' office (3400 NE 53rd Ave, Gainesville) will be closed from Thursday, November 24, through Saturday, November 27. The office will reopen on Tuesday, November 29.

For more information, contact Alachua County Animal Services at 352-264-6870.

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BuzzGAINESVILLE – Dance Alive National Ballet's (DANB) Nutcracker Festival runs Dec. 14 through 18 at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Gainesville, Fla., and really does offer something for everyone.   Sponsored by a Tourism & Development Tax Grant from the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners in conjunction with the Alachua County Tourist Development Council, Nutcracker Festival brings visitors from numerous counties surrounding Alachua County.

The main stage performance of the holiday classic, The Nutcracker, is the highlight of the festival. Performances are scheduled Friday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 P.M. and Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 17 and 18 at 2 p.m. at the Phillips Center. It truly "wouldn't be the Holiday Season without The Nutcracker!"

Children, and adults, will become entranced by the Sugar Plum Fairy and her court, enchanted by the swirling snowflakes and breathtaking snow. You'll cheer for the tiny toy soldiers and their leader, the Nutcracker Prince. With beautiful sets and costumes and brilliant dancing, this is truly the all-time favorite family show.

Following afternoon shows on Dec. 17 and 18, DANB offers Sugar Plum Teas at 4 p.m. at the Phillips Center. The perfect ending to the perfect day. After enjoying The Nutcracker, meet the Sugar Plum Fairy and her court - touch a snowflake, tease a mouse, enjoy a tea party that only a Sugar Plum Fairy could present. A wonderful memory for your child or grandchild.

For adults, Chocolate And Champagne Holiday Gala on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 8 p.m. on stage at the Phillips Center is the party of the season.  With the Nutcracker Winter Wonderland as background, you will dance onstage to the fabulous sounds of Gosia and Ali, dine on gourmet delights catered by Blue Water Bay, sip on complimentary sparkling champagne and wine, indulge in decadent chocolate desserts, and enjoy exclusive Holiday shopping at the silent auction.

For an intimate, up close and personal, look At Nutcracker - Mommy And Me Onstage! is the answer.   You'll join the dancers onstage during their final dress rehearsal of the Nutcracker, Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 5 p.m. at the Phillips Center. Sitting up close will provide your child a special experience never to be forgotten. Truly magical!

For school children, DANB offers two school shows at the Phillips Center on Thursday, Dec. 15; one at 10 a.m. and another at 11:45 a.m. These shows are hour long performances featuring all those performances that children REALLY enjoy! Check with your child's teacher to find out if their class is attending. There is room for private and home school students. For information, call 352-371-2986 or email dalive@bellsouth.net. Great curriculum material, lesson plans and things to do at www.dancealive.org!

For more information on any Nutcracker Festival Event, call 352-371-2986 or email dalive@bellsouth.net.

The Nutcracker Festival is sponsored by Shands HealthCare, Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, Collier Enterprises, Saliwanchik, Lloyd & Eisenschenk and a Tourist Development Tax Grant from Alachua County Board of County Commissioners in conjunction with the Alachua County Tourist Development Council.

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