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NEWBERRY ‒ Crews from the Newberry Fire Department (E28), Alachua County Fire Rescue and the High Springs Fire Department were called to the scene of a fire in the 900 block of Northwest 252nd Drive in Newberry late Wednesday night, March 2. When firefighters arrived, they found heavy smoke coming from the garage.

Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the fire, which was contained to the garage.

“Most of the damage to the garage was smoke damage,” said Newberry Fire Chief Ben Buckner. No firefighter injuries were reported and the residents were able to exit the house safely.

Alachua County Fire Rescue is investigating the cause of the fire.

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HAWTHORNE ‒ Hawthorne area children have an improved area for outdoor recreation. A new playground and ADA-accessible sidewalk has been completed at Grove Park, 6300 S.E. 152nd Street in Hawthorne. These improvements provide expanded play amenities and shade over the playground and improve accessibility for the community.

These improvements were completed with Wild Spaces Public Places funding at $121,000, according to the Alachua County Parks and Open Space Department.

Alachua County Parks and Open Spaces Manager Jason Maurer said, “We are very thankful for the Wild Spaces Public Places program, which makes improvements like these possible.”

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The City of High Springs has added four officers to the police department.  During the Feb. 10 City Commission meeting four new High Springs Police officers were formally sworn in by Sgt. Jason Taylor.

School Resource Officer (SRO) Debra Parker joined the High Springs Police Department in July 2021, after 27 years with the Gainesville Police Department.  Fourteen of those years were spent as SRO at Gainesville schools.  SRO Parker is currently assigned to First Christian Academy.

School Resource Officer Duane Gainey joined the High Springs Police Department in March 2021.  SRO Gainey is presently assigned to High Springs Community School.

School Resource Officer Adrian Lumpkins joined the High Springs Police Department July 2021.  Officer Lumpkins began his law enforcement career in 2002.  He has focused most of his career teaching youth to make better choices.  SRO Lumpkins is assigned to the High Springs Community School.

Patrol Officer Austin Dampier joined the High Springs Police Department in October 2021.  Officer Dampier comes from a law enforcement family, where his father, Freddie Dampier, previously served as Police Chief for the Alachua Police Department.  Officer Dampier has worked in corrections for the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Corrections, and he has worked for the Florida Department of Agriculture as a state police officer.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Each year on the first Sunday in March, the High Springs Lions Club opens its doors and makes dreams come true for local teenage girls by offering free prom gowns, shoes and corsages. The motto of the event is “If it Fits, It’s Yours.”

The dresses and accessories are donations from past proms, formal affairs or weddings and are collected throughout the year. The event is successful due to support and sponsorship from the local community, and the event serves an increasing number of girls each year.

Items and funds are donated by people throughout the community through the club’s “Donate a Dress - Support a Dream” team project. Local businesses provide additional services to make it a complete magical experience for the teenagers. Referred to as Fairy Godmothers and Godfathers, they offer such free services as boutonnieres and corsages from flower shops, tailors for alterations, limos and party buses, hair salons for nails, hair and makeup, photographers, DJ /bands, tux rentals and caterers.

The Lions Club also creates a book for the girls for use at special events throughout their lives. “We are trying to create a guide book so they can use it not just for prom but also for their next prom (senior) or wedding as well as a memory book of their event,” said Lions Club member Barb Kowats.

Cinderella’s Closet was founded in 2006 in Lakeside Park, Kentucky, after Erin Peterson overheard a teenager ask a consignment shop clerk if a gown on display could be put on hold while she figured out how to pay for it. The teenager asked her foster mother for the money, but a prom dress was an extra in life, and its price was out of their reach. Seeing her disappointment, Peterson stepped in bought the dress for her. As tears flooded her eyes, said she would look “just like Cinderella.”

In partnership with Immanuel United Methodist Church, Cinderella’s Closet was born. Through donations of new and gently used formal dresses and accessories, the organization was able to “Turn Dresses into Dreams” for juniors and seniors referred to the organization by their schools, community organizations or social care agencies. The program ensures that costs associated with attending prom are not a financial burden on a family by offering the gown shopping experience at no extra cost. But the benefit is more than just a dress, Cinderella's Closet provides an unforgettable experience for these girls to remember for the rest of their lives.

In High Springs, Kelly Dees, who owned All Creation Salon, heard about the idea and began working with the High Springs Lions Club to sponsor a local event in 2010. Dees ran the program and recruited sponsors while the Lions Club provided the location, additional sponsors and staff to hold the event. Lion member Karen Drake said, “Kelly's passion for Cinderella's Closet to make a difference was unparalleled, and without this program many young people wouldn't have been able to attend their prom or other formal events.”

While most donations and services have already been collected, the HSLC is still accepting donations until the event on March 6. The club also accepts cash donations they can use to buy accessories or more dresses from thrift stores.

“We currently have about 400 dresses that we will be putting out at the club for the girls to pick from on Sunday,” said Karen Drake.

Anyone who would like to donate a dress or money can contact Drake for more information by messaging her on Cinderella's Closet at the High Springs Lions Club Facebook page or by calling 386-454-4521 and leaving a message.

“The greatest reward for doing this is the happiness on the faces of the girls as they pick a dress and have a chance to enjoy their prom and the memories it will leave them,” said Drake. “Without this charity event many of these girls could not afford to go to their prom. To be able to help them make this dream come true is worth all the work the club puts into the event.”

The Cinderella’s Closet event will take place March 6, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the High Springs Lions Club at 26900 West U.S. Highway 27 in High Springs and is open to everyone.

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ALACHUA COUNTY – Students who competed in their schools and took top honors in spelling were welcomed to Terwilliger Elementary School on Wednesday, Feb. 16, to compete at the district level in a highly-competitive spelling bee. The competition drew high-achieving elementary and middle school students from 34 schools throughout Alachua County.

Thirteen rounds of competition were nerve-wracking for students and their families. Patrick Gallagher, who patiently listed word origins, defined the meaning of words and used the target words in sentences several times throughout the afternoon, periodically asked the students and their families to take a deep breath to help break the tension.

Gallagher, who teaches AP Language and Composition at Buchholz High School, patiently explained the procedures for students to follow at the beginning of the event and the students worked in an orderly manner to appear before the judges at the microphone to spell their words. Some of the students seemed to handwrite their word into one of their hands with the other to use muscle memory to help them come up with the correct spelling.

The event judges had a small bell at their table and rang the tiny tinkling sound whenever a word was misspelled. Students who missed a word went to their seats and waited until the end of the round to join their families in the audience or leave the auditorium.

By the fifth round the group had been whittled down to seven students. By the seventh round only four students remained. By the eighth round only two students remained. By the ninth round the two remaining students, Abhith Kasala from Lincoln Middle School and Jeevan George of Hidden Oaks Elementary School, were correctly spelling “epilepsy” and “reggae.” Round 10 words were “resplendence” and “espousal.” Round 11 saw both boys correctly spelling “complacency” and “paisley.” In Round 12 Jeevan George correctly spelled “antics,” but Abhith misspelled “mottled.”

Jeevan George was given one last word to spell in Round 13 and it was "churn,” which he spelled correctly and that ended the head-to-head competition of two of the best spellers in Alachua County.

Both boys received a medal to commemorate their first and second place wins. George also received an engraved plaque.

Due to his win, George will be representing this district as Bee Champion at the 78th Annual First Coast Regional Spelling Bee on Friday, April 1. This event will take place via Zoom.

Alachua County School District representative Don Fitzpatrick explained how that will work. “The student will receive a Zoom link along with the other spellers from our region. He and the other spellers will be un-muted when it is their turn to spell.” The winner of that competition will go on to compete in the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Bees are the most vital insect on the planet for plant pollination and the human food supply. Bees pollinate 80 percent of all flowering plants, including approximately 75 percent of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in the United States. The sweet nectar is widely used as a natural sweetener and by many people in treating coughs and sore throats.

Daniel Dorosheff started beekeeping seven years ago. “At first, I got a few chickens for my yard, but found I wanted to expand to other animals. Both my father and grandfather had raised bees, so I already had an interest in it,” he said. “I read everything I could find on beekeeping to improve my chances of success.”

The practical value of bees as pollinators is enormously greater than the value of their honey and wax production. Bees are entirely dependent on flowers for food, which consists of pollen and nectar, which they modify and store as honey. As bees go from flower to flower gathering pollen, a small amount is rubbed from their bodies and deposited on the flowers they visit. The pollen transfer results in cross pollination, and without this process, plants cannot reproduce. A hive of bees will fly over 55,000 miles to make one pound of honey and can create 100 pounds in a year.

“Over the years I built from one hive and now have 27 hives in various locations,” said Dorosheff. “It was basically a hobby and a way to get honey, but it got to the point I had a large stock of honey.”

Dorosheff said, “At the time, my son Spencer was 16 and asking about getting a car. I offered to split the profits in half if he could sell some of the stored honey.” What began as a small operation turned into a booming business. “Like most of his generation, he made use of social media as a marketing tool and we were suddenly flooded with orders,” said Dorosheff. “Before that, we had just been selling to friends, but we now realized it could be a commercial business and founded our LLC as “Thy Will Bee Done.”

While beekeeping has been around for thousands of years, recently there has been growth in home-based small production beekeepers. Several local beekeepers now offer classes for the novice. Dorosheff received inquiries about how to become a beekeeper, and now with help from his son, they offer classes.

The first half of each two-hour class is lecture focusing on equipment, construction of the hives and the behavior of bees. The second half of the class offers hands-on training of handling the bees safely and the racks. Each hive contains between five and 10 racks that bees build their honeycombs on. In the center of each hive are brood racks, which house both honey and eggs. The outer racks contain mainly honey and are the ones they harvest from.

Classes are small with a limit of five students. Dorosheff outfits each person attending in personal protection gear (PPE) consisting of a hat with netting to keep bees off the face. Each person must wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants as well as gloves so all exposed flesh is covered. While bees are only aggressive when threatened, they will protect the hive and attack. Bees communicate through pheromones scent and if one feels threatened, the others will react to that.

The best way to calm bees is with smoke that both covers the pheromones and has a calming effect on the bees, letting the beekeeper make the hive inspection or honey harvest without major problems.

Dorosheff gathers the class around the hives and applies smoke to the bees, allowing him pull a rack to illustrate construction of the hive, how they harvest the honey and to show the queen and the brood nest.

Each student gets a chance to hold the rack as Dorosheff explains the harvesting process. He says that you never take all the honey since it is also the bee’s food source and good beekeeping management keeps the hive healthy.

Although there is no set schedule for a class, Dorosheff expects to have another class in mid-March. Interested people can contact Spencer at spencerdorosheff@gmail.com or on instagram@thy.willbeedone and facebook at thywillbeedone to register for classes.

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NEWBERRY ‒ Candidate qualifying for the City of Newberry’s Municipal Election closed on Feb. 24. The election is scheduled for April 12, 2022. Each commissioner serves two-year terms in Newberry with no term limits. All seats are elected at large and are non-partisan.

Commissioners for Groups I, II and III are elected in even years. Incumbents for those seats are Ricky Coleman, Mark Clark and Monty Farnsworth, respectively.

Citizens eligible to vote in City of Newberry elections must be residents and must be registered to vote with the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections. The voter registration book closing date is Monday, March 14, 2022. Residents must be registered to vote by this date.

Residents who are already registered to vote are encouraged to verify and, if needed, update their registration by visiting RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov online or by contacting the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections office. For additional voting information, registration or questions, citizens should visit VoteAlachua.com.

On Tuesday, April 12, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. A photo ID, with signature, will be required. All City of Newberry residents may vote on election day at the Municipal Building, 25420 W. Newberry Road, Newberry.

The City of Newberry does not provide early voting in municipal-only elections. However, if a citizen wishes to vote by mail, they may call the City Clerk’s office at 352-472-2161, ext. 7 for additional information.

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