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WWII vet speaks
with fellow Rotarians

Gilchrist County Rotary Club
Rotarian John Johnston, in his VFW Cootie hat, explaining his volunteer work at the Veterans Home Center

Story and Photo
By Holly Creel, Rotarian
Published May 14, 2019 at 4:09 p.m.
     TRENTON --
Service Above Self is the motto that reminds Rotarians to put performing service for others as the utmost priority.


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     At the Rotary Club of Gilchrist County’s weekly meetings, usually held at the Woman's Club in Trenton, Rotarians are encouraged to share examples of where they have done good for others in the community. John Johnston recently described an example of how he did some good for his fellow veterans.
     John, a WWII Veteran, is a member of the VFW and he explained to us why their VFW subgroup is called "The Cooties." In WWI the soldiers slept on bags made of straw and those bags were most often full of bedbugs, or cooties. That is how his subgroup of veterans took on the name of Cooties.
     The Cooties recently went to Gainesville and spent the day at The Veterans Home Center, a facility that provides shelter and training for homeless Veterans. Supporting this Center with funding to train homeless veterans to get a new lease on life is something Rotarian and veteran John Johnston is passionate about.
     John explained that too often, when veterans are discharged from their time of military service, they have difficulty transitioning back into civilian life. In military service one’s lodging, meals, electricity and other basic needs are provided. Sometimes when returned to civilian life, the changes and challenges can be overwhelming and the veteran may not know how to provide for him or herself, so they end up on the streets, homeless and afraid.
     The Veterans Home Center in Gainesville has 45 rooms and provides lodging and special training to help the discharged veteran men and women get a job and learn to pay for their daily living expenses.
     They live at the facility for up to three months to acquire the skills to return to society and pay their obligations in civilian life. Every few months a new group of veterans comes in for the support and training. What a wonderful service to provide for those that have served our country and are now in need of help.
     John Johnston, the Gilchrist Rotary thanks you for what you do for our club, and for your service in WWII and what you now do for our fellow veterans!


Animal shelter improvements
celebrated at groundbreaking

Groundbreaking LCAS Shelter
(from left) Architect Eugene Russell Davis, Mary Flickinger, County Commissioner Lilly Rooks, Bob Echols, LCAS Director David Weatherford, Commission Chairman John Meeks, County Commissioner Rock Meeks, County Commissioner Mike Joyner, County Procurement Coordinator Alicia M. “Ali” Tretheway, Jimmy Jones and Commission Vice Chairman Matt Brooks are in this picture of breaking ground.
In this version of the ceremony, it is (from left) Mary Flickinger, County Commissioner Lilly Rooks, Bob Echols, LCAS Director David Weatherford, Commission Chairman John Meeks, County Commissioner Rock Meeks, County Commissioner Mike Joyner, County Procurement Coordinator Alicia Tretheway and County Commission Vice Chairman Brooks.

Story, Photos and Videos
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 8, 2019 at 11:29 p.m.
All Copyrights Protected
A groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday afternoon (May 7) heralded the official start of a project to add 50 more kennels for dogs at the Levy County Animal Services (LCAS) compound, located near the Solid Waste Transfer site between Bronson and Williston.

In this video, the people are breaking ground in the traditional manner.

In this video, LCAS Director David Weatherford guides a machine to break ground in a bigger and more functional manner. Construction Supervisor Jimmy Jones moved vehicles to allow Weatherford to accommodate a request from one journalist for this form of groundbreaking.

Levy County Animal Shelter Groundbreaking
In this still shot, LCAS Director David Weatherford starts a machine to break ground.

Levy County Animal Shelter Groundbreaking
In this still shot, LCAS Director David Weatherford starts a second pass to break ground. Construction Supervisor Jimmy Jones is in the background with a white hardhat and dark green shirt.

     Levy County Supervisor of Construction and Maintenance Jimmy Jones served as the emcee for the event. Construction and Maintenance Assistant Chuck Cook opened the event with a prayer and LCAS Director David Weatherford led the Pledge of Allegiance.
      Jones, who is leading the county’s efforts at construction of the new facility, said he feels honored that Weatherford invited him to speak at this groundbreaking ceremony.
     This significant improvement is thanks to a generous donation of Robert M. "Bob" Echols of Ocala, the founder and president of For Our Friends The Animals. The whole project is budgeted in the $220,000 to $300,000 range.
     Echols is donating the lions’ share of the cost, with annual donations promised.
     Echols has already donated enough for the county to build a phenomenal Cat Room in 2016, where prospective owners can look at cats and visit with them before adopting them.
     Click HERE to see the video of the ribbon-cutting for that 2016 event.
     This gentleman has donated to the county to help with tests and vaccines, and surgical equipment to provide for the medical needs of the stray or abandoned dogs and cats of the county – to help improve the odds of them being rescued or adopted.
     During the ceremony Tuesday, Jones also introduced some other members of the whole team who brought this dream to become reality. Architect Eugene Russell Davis was able to take drawings on napkins to make them into the pages of designs for construction of the facility, Jones said.
     This structure is more than just 50 humane kennels. There are also support rooms for the various needs of the LCAS.

Levy County Animal Shelter Groundbreaking
Commissioner Rock Meeks (left) speaks to Construction Supervisor Jimmy Jones before the ceremony. County Commissioner Lilly Rooks was noted as being the most involved commissioner in regard to helping animals.

     Every member of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners -- Chairman John Meeks, Vice Chairman Matt Brooks, Commissioner Rock Meeks, Commissioner Lilly Rooks and Commissioner Mike Joyner were thanked for their part in the project.
     Jones recognized County Coordinator Wilbur Dean, Procurement Coordinator Alicia "Ali" Tretheway, and members of the LCAS team – Director Weatherford, County Veterinarian Dr. Darlene Esler, DVM, Crystal Pruitt, Morgan Anderson, Animal Control Officer Nathan Mercer, and Animal Control Officer Lamar Sears for their work.
     Mary Flickinger, a volunteer who helps with animals, was described by Jones as “a good person inside and out,” as he introduced her.
     Flickinger introduced Echols, noting that she considers him to be “a wonderful humanitarian.” She mentioned the Cat Room that he gave to Levy County in 2016, and she spoke of the countless contributions he has given to help animals in Levy County – right up to the ground being broken to build 50 new kennels.

Levy County Animal Shelter Groundbreaking
Mary Flickinger introduces Bob Echols.

Levy County Animal Shelter Groundbreaking
Bob Echols watches as the program starts.

Levy County Animal Shelter Groundbreaking
Jimmy Jones welcome Bob Echols to the podium.

Levy County Animal Shelter Groundbreaking
Bob Echols explains why he sees helping animals as an important aspect of being human.

Levy County Animal Shelter Groundbreaking
Architect Eugene Russell Davis of Gainesville listens to the introductions of significant members of the team who made this plan for the future structure come to be.

     Flickinger said she is honored to know Echols, whose kindness and giving shows him standing tall in the community. She expressed her heartfelt gratitude for his donations to help the animals.
     After Echols took the podium, he explained that the foundation he created – For Our Friends The Animals – is predicated on some of the philosophy of Dr. Albert Schweitzer.
     Dr. Schweitzer (14 Jan. 14, 1875 – Sept. 4, 1965) was a theologian, an organist, a writer, a humanitarian, a philosopher, as well as being a physician. As a Lutheran, Schweitzer challenged both the secular view of Jesus as depicted by the historical-critical method current at this time, as well as the traditional Christian view.
     Echols said Dr. Schweitzer held a strong reverence for life.
     “Dr. Schweitzer believed that we humans, because of our intelligence and our organizational capacity,” Echols said, “should show a compassionate caring for all life; but most especially should be friends to the animals, sharing the blessings of the Merciful on the animals.”
     Echols said it has been his honor and pleasure to see the level of care and compassion the people of Levy County show for the animals that abide within the four corners of this county.
     “It is a privilege, I assure you, to be a very small part in getting this building off the ground and ready to go,” Echols said.
     Echols expressed his thanks to Construction Supervisor Jones for this gentleman’s work in assuring the county could dedicate some level of manpower to complete the project. Echols then thanked the county as a whole for allowing him to spread Dr. Schweitzer’s view of a compassionate, caring reverence for life.
     Jones told that he and Assistant Director Chuck Cook, and workers Brock Brower, Josue Roque, Joe LaLonde and Dean Shouse are going to work on this project, which Jones is hoping to have ready for a certificate of occupancy in six months.
     Jones, Cook, LaLonde, Ben Matthews, William Stalvey, and Brian Cannon are working on refurbishing the former Bronson High School structures to move Levy County Tax Collector Linda Fugate, Property Appraiser Osborn “Oz” Barker and other staff out of the courthouse.
     The work on the former school, to help alleviate growth and security issues in the Levy County Courthouse, Jones said, is planned to be completed by October.

Click HERE to read the Feb. 20 story about the meeting where the Levy County Commission agreed to accept the donation from Bob Echols and work toward building improvements to the dog and cat facility for the people of Levy County. There are also diagrams of the structure in this story published in February.


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LCFA President Amanda Havard

113th Jingle Performer

Levy County Fair Association President Amanda Havard sings the Jingle on April 4, 2019 near the entrance to the county fair on Williston Municipal Airport property in the City of Williston. This was the first day of the four-day annual fair, shortly after the opening ceremonies. If you want to sing the jingle, just let Jeff M. Hardison know or send an email to He asks people to sing it, too, and some of them agree to sing it. (Thanks people!) {Click on the lower photo to see and hear the jingle.}
Published April 27, 2019 at 7:09 a.m.

© Video by Jeff M. Hardison, All Rights Reserved
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