ALACHUA – The City of Alachua is proud to announce their Youth Advisory Council (YAC) was named a 2024 Municipal Youth Council Community Service Contest winner. This annual competition hosted by the Florida League of Cities (FLC) showcases community service projects performed by municipal youth councils that successfully address specific needs in their local communities.

Alachua 2The YAC’s most recent service project, “Restoring Dignity,” aimed to provide for the essential needs of school-age children whose families do not have the ability or resources to provide for such needs. YAC members reached out to several businesses of various sizes in the area, as well as some community members, for donations toward the mission. The Alachua community answered the call without hesitation, donating dental supplies, soap, shampoo, socks, first aid supplies and more.

“The volunteer work done by these youth councils to serve their communities is truly inspiring,” said FLC President Greg Ross. “These future leaders identified powerful ways to help their cities, and they are setting an example for all of us who are working to improve our communities.”
“Working with the [Alachua] Youth Advisory Council has been really rewarding; I’ve never done a project of this size,” said Selina Liu, a graduating senior on the YAC. “Restoring Dignity was definitely my favorite part of my time with the Council.”

Liu has many reasons to celebrate alongside her fellow councilmembers, as she was also accepted into Harvard University. She plans to begin her studies there this fall.

The FLC will present a trophy in recognition of the YAC and their contest-winning project during a regular Commission meeting in the near future.

“We are just so proud of our Youth Advisory Council,” said City of Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper. “Year after year, these young people really challenge themselves to go bigger and bigger in their service to the community.”

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Auxiliary President of VFW Post 2811 in Gainesville, Ronna Jackson


ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ On a holiday associated with many as the unofficial start of summer, the auxiliary president of Alachua County Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2811 knows differently. Since her son Staff Sgt. John A. Reiners was killed on duty in Afghanistan more than 14 years ago, she has honored his sacrifice each Memorial Day by serving veterans and their families.

VFW2811AuxiliaryPix2And her efforts have helped hundreds. Because Ronna Jackson not only keeps Memorial Day in honor of her son, but each and every day in tribute.

“I’m a mom just trying to keep a promise made to my son — to take care of his troops and his men,” she said of a vow made when the young staff sergeant was sent on his second deployment.

She reminded herself of that promise while at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, during the transfer ceremony of her son’s remains. It was Valentine’s Day, 2010.

“For years, I couldn’t think of Valentine’s Day as I did before,” she said. “It kept reminding me of one of the saddest times in my life.”VFW2811AuxiliaryPix3

On Feb. 13, 2010, Reiners and two other soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado, were killed after an insurgent on a motorcycle detonated an improvised explosive device near them. Several others were wounded. The action also widowed Reiners’ wife, Casey, and orphaned his son, Lex.

In recognition of his bravery, Reiners was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He had earned a previous Purple Heart while serving in Iraq.

Reiners’ other awards and decorations include three awards of the Army Commendation Medal, two awards of the Army Achievement Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Air Assault Badge and the Army Ranger Tab. His grandfather — Ronna Jackson’s father-in-law Jay Jackson of Haines City, Florida, – earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart while serving two tours in Vietnam.

“The military and service were always part of our family,” said Jackson.

As a VFW post auxiliary president, Jackson continues this tradition. Around the combat veterans in VFW Post 2811, she experiences the camaraderie shared by those who’ve fought to help preserve the freedom of others.

Jackson’s responsibilities as post auxiliary president include organizing and managing dozens of fundraisers, dinners, breakfasts and outreach activities. By her own admission, she devotes approximately 20 hours each week above her full-time job.

This past month, she helped with the Young Marines recruit graduation ceremony, a cookout for veterans living at Gainesville’s Sunshine Inn, a post steak night, several canteen dinners, a post clean-up, an outreach with Grow Gainesville, and the Florida4Warriors, Inc. Nick Tilliman Silkies Memorial Walk.

She is quick to point out that none of this could be accomplished without her fellow auxiliary members.

“From the first day that I joined, I was welcomed with open arms of love and support from the entire VFW auxiliary and all of Post 2811,” she said. “They were also very supportive of me as a Gold Star parent. Any events or service projects that we do, they are all there to help and support for the good of the cause.”

In addition to her work with the VFW, the auxiliary president has volunteered with several other veterans service organizations, such as the American Legion, the American Gold Star Mothers, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart. She has also organized fundraisers and assembled gift packages for veterans and troops deployed overseas.

Her efforts and that of the entire post, said Jackson, help fulfill the VFW’s motto — ‘to honor the dead by helping the living.’

“I feel that my service to our heroes here in the Gainesville community help keep my son’s legacy alive,” she said. “I would be honored to keep working with our auxiliary to help those veterans in the post and in our community.”

Jackson said that her work with the VFW auxiliary is also helping heal her heart. During a Valentine’s Day outreach event for those living at the VFW Veterans Village in nearby Fort McCoy, she was struck by the happiness she brought to the former soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

“Many of the residents there haven’t any family,” the auxiliary president said. “But they’ve all served in the military, and that bond they share brings them together. A kind word, a handshake or a small gift goes a long way. For the first time in many years, I was able to enjoy Valentine’s Day again.”

Other Gold Star parents, Jackson said, could also benefit from meeting and working with veterans.

“It helps you take one day at a time, because every day is an emotional roller coaster,” she said. “You will have good days and not so good days. But you can take comfort in knowing that the community is here to support you, and to get you through this difficult time.”

Those interested in VFW Post 2811 and its Auxiliary can call 352-376-7660.

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Editor’s Note: Michael P. Mauer is a life member of VFW Post 2811. He served as an Army photojournalist during Operation Desert Storm, and was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal by Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf for his actions during the war. This year, Mauer won the Grand Award for top feature article in the VFW National Publications Contest.

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GAINESVILLE ‒ Just after noon on May 15, 2024, units from Alachua County Fire Rescue and Gainesville Fire Rescue responded to a motor-vehicle accident at the intersection of Southeast 39th Terrace and Southeast Hawthorne Road.

Units arrived to find a single-vehicle that struck a tree in the median. Units on scene quickly extricated an entrapped individual with the Jaws of Life. Two individuals were transported to Shands. The accident is currently under investigation.

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ALACHUA ‒ A little-known spring located near U.S. Highway 441 and Turkey Creek in the city of Alachua was the center of a presentation May 20 during a joint City of Alachua, Alachua County commission meeting.

Pinkoson Trades Union Picnic PoolSeeking a partnership with the County, City Manager Mike DaRoza said the City embarked on the Pinkoson Spring project after completing the Mill Creek Wetland Park project behind Sonny’s near I-75.

Assistant City Manager Rodolfo Valladares and Economic Development Manager David Wisener presented the joint commissions with the findings of a report by Water & Air Research, Inc. commissioned by the City of Alachua.

Analysts reviewed several metrics in concluding that the site known as Pinkoson Spring is indeed a spring and not just stream from overland flows. The report contains an analysis of water temperature, depth of stream, specific conductivity, dissolved oxygen and pH and compares those values to five other Florida spring runs.

Analysts found the Pinkoson Spring measurements to be consistent with ranges of others. Water & Air Research, Inc. also measured several other downstream components of Pinkoson Spring’s water chemistry, including alkalinity, calcium, magnesium, nitrogen, sodium, and sulfates.

While flowing an average of just 140 gallons per minute in recent months, analysts stated that the flow rate would fluctuate seasonally and was similar to those flow rates of Boulware Springs and Glen Springs, in Gainesville. The report states that both Boulware Springs and Glen Springs have experienced reductions in discharge rates.

These discharge rates would classify Pinkoson Spring as a 4th magnitude spring in 2024 and 5th magnitude in Spring 2023,” the report states.

Pinkoson Spring also shares with Boulware Springs and Glen Springs a history of being a swimming area. Pinkoson Spring was not always so obscure.

In the 1920s, it appeared to be a popular picnic location. Historic photographs dated for Sept. 5, 1927, Labor Day, show hundreds of people gathered around a large swimming area for a “Trades-Union Picnic.”

By the 1940s, the name of the site had been changed to Milwaukee Springs and was marketed as a “colored only” swimming area. According to Wisner, who is also a local history buff, in the 1940s, it had been hoped that the site would garner attention and be a rest and relaxation destination for African-American soldiers stationed at Camp Blanding. That endeavor did not seem to have gained momentum, although at least one picture shows what appears to be a building with a ticket booth and possibly a restaurant. Historic newspaper advertisements also refer to a restaurant at the site and at times, called it “Mineral Springs Park,” and featured swimming, dancing, and roller skating.

Historical knowledge of the spring together with the few photographs known to exist depict a large pool with concrete fortified walls creating a substantial swimming area, which was built by Charles Pinkoson, Sr. Feirmon E. Welch, now deceased, said in an oral history interview in 1999 that Pinkoson Spring was popular and there was even a bus running from High Springs through Alachua to take people to the park.

Wisener said it was not known when the site ceased operations, but he speculated that a redesign of U.S. Highway 441 might have been the cause of the spring’s decline. Wisener based this on aerial photographs between 1949 and 1955, which depict a new layout for the highway, bringing it significantly closer to the spring. Wisner also alluded to the site’s archaeological significance, referencing 1962 and 1977 limited surveys in which the site was recorded as a prehistoric one where a projectile point and a projectile point base had been recovered.

Valladares said the City hopes to establish partnerships with Alachua County, Suwannee River Water Management District, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Among the City’s objectives are to restore and protect habitat, community engagement and education, and water quality monitoring and management, among others.

Valladares envisions tying the Pinkoson Spring site to the Mill Creek Sink site for an educational demonstration of aquifer outflow and inflow.

Commissioners from both boards received the presentation with great anticipation, with several commissioners expressing excitement about this largely unknown site. City of Alachua Commissioner Shirley Green Brown described the news as “extraordinary,” adding, “It is an incredible opportunity for the City of Alachua and the County.”

Commissioners expressed their unanimous support for moving forward in partnership to explore possibilities for the site.

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HAWTHORNE ‒ On Saturday, May 11, at approximately 11:20 p.m., a potentially life-threatening situation unfolded in Hawthorne, as a man was arrested for reportedly threatening a woman's life with a knife. The incident, which occurred in the front yard of a residence, led to the arrest of Jimmy Lee Floyd, Jr.

Jimmy Lee FloydAccording to reports from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to a call regarding a domestic dispute. Upon arrival, deputies found Floyd and the woman engaged in a heated argument. The deputy was able to separate the parties and detained Floyd.

Floyd reportedly said he had been at a tattoo party earlier in the day, and the tattoo artist and another man jumped him in the front yard and stole $40 from him. He said he left but came back later to confront the tattoo artist. Floyd further said he didn’t come back with a knife but wanted to fight the tattoo artist. He reportedly admitted that he said “he would kill the tattoo artist, but said he said it out of emotion.”

The victim said that Floyd and the tattoo artist had gotten into a fight earlier in the day, and Floyd left but came back five or six hours later armed with a knife. She said Floyd tried to enter the home, but she said she would not allow it. She said Floyd got in the victim’s face and started cursing and threatening her.

As law enforcement walked up, Floyd threw the knife, which was picked up by the witness and placed on a table outside the front door. The victim wanted to pursue charges due to being threatened with the knife and being fearful that the defendant would carry out the act. The victim started to write a sworn complained but stated that she would fill the sworn complaint out a later time.

A search incident to arrest reportedly produced a small baggie of a substance that tested positive for Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV).

Floyd has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of synthetic narcotics with intent to sell.

Floyd has seven felony convictions, four of which were violent, and four misdemeanor convictions, one of which was violent. He has served three state prison sentences, with his most recent release in 2022.

Bail was set at $25,000 by Judge Kristine Van Vorst.

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NEWBERRY ‒ Residents and visitors gathered for the highly anticipated Newberry Watermelon Festival on Saturday, May 18, 2024 at Country Way Town Square, just south of Newberry High School. The 79th edition of this cherished tradition brought together young and old for a day filled with community spirit, and, of course, plenty of juicy, red watermelon.Newberry Watermelon Festival Parade NHS cheerleaders2

The annual festival brought out crowds who enjoyed picture perfect weather, dozens of vendors, refreshing watermelon, games and activities, and entertainment. Highlights included the traditional festival parade, seed spitting contest, hog calling contest and of course, no one could resist the allure of free watermelon, which was available in abundance throughout the day.

Festivities kicked off with the sounds of marching bands echoing through the air as the colorful festival parade made its way through downtown Newberry. Spectators lined the sidewalks, cheering on gayly decorated floats, shiny cars, and a variety of contestants vying for Watermelon Queen titles.

One of the festival's most anticipated events, the Watermelon Queen Pageant, saw a surge of excitement this year as it was held on the same day as the festival. Contestants showcased their poise and charm, with spectators enthusiastically supporting their favorites, adding anticipation and excitement to the day's events.

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ALACHUA ‒ Spring Season has officially signed off. Staff at the City of Alachua’s Recreation & Culture Department appreciates all the teams, coaches, volunteers and participants for another successful Season.

399 Recreation & Sports hosted the Alachua County Task Force on Recreation (A.C.T.F.O.R.) volleyball tournament at Legacy’s Multipurpose Building this past week. Teams from Alachua, High Springs, Newberry and Chiefland all participated.

Santa Fe Soccer Alliance, among many other teams throughout Alachua & Levy County – roughly 80 teams combined, traveled to Williston to participate in the Annual Spring End of the Season Soccer Tournament this past weekend. Thank you to the City of Williston’s Youth Athletic Association for providing amazing hospitality and a wonderful tournament.

The Alachua Raiders Football & Cheer threw a Hail Mary this past Spring Season. For the first time in over a decade the City of Alachua and High Springs residents had the opportunity to participate in Youth Flag Football. The result ended in a touchdown for the entire community!

Santa Fe Babe Ruth Baseball & Softball are in preparation for their All-Star Summer Classic. The City of Alachua will host Baseball Districts at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex and Preacher Copland Park Progress Field from May 30 thru June 2.

This past Mother’s Day weekend the City of Alachua hosted Legacy Melodies at Legacy’s Amphitheater. The group/band “Smooth Operatives” put on a performance of a lifetime. Refreshments and food were provided by Pizza in the Neighborhood. And a big shout out to business owners Leon Barrows of Music Junction for engineering the event and Mellissa Hough of Magnolia Lane Photography for snapping amazing photos throughout the entire concert.

Coming soon – 399Sports and Santa Fe High School Varsity Head Coach Glen Banks presents Summer 2024 Youth Basketball with former Santa Fe Basketball standouts. Also, Trell Saucy Elite Basketball Camp will be sponsored by 399 Sports this coming June 22 at Legacy’s Multipurpose Building. The camp will feature college athlete and two-time Gainesville Sun Player of the Year, Dontrelle “Trelle Saucy” Jenkins.

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