SATURDAY OCT. 16 8:11 a.m. Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties
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gears up to reduce drug abuse
Gilchrist Anti-Drug Coalition Executive Director Robert Wells speaks about anticipate programs to start for fifth graders in Bell and Trenton soon.
Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 14, 2021 at 8:11 p.m.
TRENTON – The Gilchrist (County) Anti-Drug Coalition (GADC) showed progress Thursday (Oct. 14) as it moved toward helping reduce death and destruction of families and lives.
GADC Executive Director Robert Wells, Chairwoman Sheryl Brown, Vice Chairwoman Sheila Smith, Treasurer Alesha Smith and Secretary Beverly Goodman were among the active coalition leaders in the one-hour Zoom meeting.
Brown, who is a captain in the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office, was not feeling well and did not participate much. Vice Chairwoman Smith took over leading the room after Executive Director Brown initiated the monthly meeting.
Treasurer Smith was nominated and approved unanimously after previous Treasurer Debbie Destin needed to leave the post as a result of more demands from her duties as the manager of the Otter Springs Park and Campground, and her commitment in helping establish Camp Valor at the campground.
The group unanimously approved a motion to spend up to $500 to initiate the construction of a set similar to one used by the Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition, where parents can learn about hiding places (stashes) disguised by children abusing drugs.
This is known as an “In Plain Sight” room.
Executive Director Wells was given authority to confer with other the Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition to find where it bought paraphernalia, such as fake soda cans with false bottoms, to use in this mockup bedroom scenario.
The Levy County Prevention Coalition does not have this type of setup established for parents to visit and find places where their children may be hiding drugs and paraphernalia such as pipes, needles, scales and the like.
Wells told the attendees about a grant to allow the Gilchrist Anti-Drug Coalition to initiate its Too Good For Drugs and Too Good For Violence programs in the fifth grades of Bell Elementary School and Trenton Elementary School.
The GADC is working on the grant with cooperation from CDS Family & Behavioral Health Services Inc. Wells added.
This will start with the Too Good For Drugs program and then go into the Too Good For Violence program, he said, and the hope is to roll this out during Red Ribbon Week 9oct. 23-31).
The Zoom meeting was attended by representatives from the Partnership For Strong Families, The Hanley Foundation, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, the Ad Litem Guardian program of Levy County and Gilchrist County, Another Way, Meridian Behavioral Health, the College of Central Florida and the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, where each agency’s representative was given time to speak about various programs and events that they have planned.
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Small County Coalition
honors Sen. Jennifer Bradley
(from left) Levy County Commission Chairman John Meeks, Okeechobee County Commission Chairman Terry W. Burroughs, Sen. Jennifer Bradley and Small County Coalition Executive Director Chris Doolin stand with the framed certificate presented to Sen. Bradley in her Tallahassee recently.
Story and Photo Provided
By Katelyn “Katie” Heffley. Legislative Assistant
Office of Senator Jennifer Bradley
Published Oct. 14, 2021 at 8:11 a.m.
TALLAHASSEE -- The Small County Coalition, a non-partisan statewide alliance of county commissions in Florida’s small and rural counties, presented a “Legislative Appreciation” award to Sen. Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island) recently.
This award commended the state senator for “leadership and support on issues of importance to local governments and Florida’s small/rural communities.”
Sen. Bradley represents Senate District 5, which includes 11 counties in rural North Florida. The award was presented to the senator in Tallahassee by Levy County Commission Chairman John Meeks, Okeechobee County Commission Chairman Terry W. Burroughs and Small County Coalition Executive Director Chris Doolin.
“Policy decisions that may be good for urban areas of Florida aren’t always good for our rural communities, so it’s important that we work closely with community leaders to advance the issues that our important to our region,” Sen. Bradley said. “I’m honored to be recognized in this way and look forward to continuing to work with the Small County Coalition and local elected officials as to address issues affecting Florida’s rural counties.”
Chiefland City Commission
hears from group, again
Redistricting meeting set
Chiefland City Hall is where the Chiefland City Commission meets, and it is where the next meeting of the Parks and Recreation Committee is slated to meet, according to what was said by Vice Mayor Norman Weaver during the Oct. 11 City Commission meeting.
Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 13, 2021 at 11:11 a.m.
CHIEFLAND – The Chiefland City Commission on Monday night (Oct. 11) again heard from a few residents who complained, especially about Buie Park but also for some alleged “disconnect” between the city government and the people.
All five members of the Chiefland City Commission heard from the group. The five Chiefland City Commission members are Mayor Chris Jones, Vice Mayor Norman Weaver, and city commissioners Lance Hayes, Rollin Hudson and Lewrissa Johns.
Michael Dockery of the Chiefland Neighborhood Task Force again addressed the City Commission.
Dockery spoke about a group of men years ago who he said partnered with the Chiefland Police Department. The men, who were not sworn law enforcement officers, were given walkie-talkies, Dockery said, and when they saw what appeared to be illicit activity, such as drug dealing, they would contact the CPD.
This led to a significant decrease in criminal behavior in Chiefland, Dockery said.
Dockery said he wants to see more communication between CPD officers and people in Chiefland.
With no more on that topic, he switched gears.
As he shared pictures he took at Charles Strickland Recreational Park, 2340 N.W. Old Fannin Road, and Eddie Buie Park, in the 900 to 1000 Block of Southwest Fifth Street (Buie Park Road), he seemed to infer that one park is given more city resources than the other.
He noted that Strickland Park has a large, paved parking lot, while Buie Park does not. Dockery said it was his opinion that access to Buie Park was not as easy for a person in a wheelchair, as the wheelchair-bound person had easier access in Strickland Park.
Dockery said the pavilion at the back of Buie Park is not as accessible as the picnic pavilion tables closer to the parking lot of Strickland Park. Providing pavement for parking at Buie Park, Dockery said, may be funded if the city seeks grants for that.
After spending several minutes detailing road building standards, Dockery switched to speaking about putting cameras in Buie Park. Then, he spoke about people drinking beer and smoking marijuana in Buie Park.
Then, he alleged there is a gate to Buie Park that is locked and therefore does not allow the public to use it.
Mayor Jones interrupted Dockery as he rambled on about his various complaints with Buie Park’s alleged shortcomings.
Jones told Dockery there is another forum for a productive conversation leading to action, in contrast with him sharing what he sees as faults at Buie Park during a City Commission meeting.
While everything the city has accomplished with improving Buie Park over the years may not meet Dockery’s standards, Mayor Jones said, there is no plan by the city government to stop spur-of-the-moment use of the park during regular park hours of operation.
The mayor again reminded Dockery there is a trail in Buie Park that was built using state tax dollars. That trail is for people to walk on. It is not a road, Jones said. If Dockery has a problem with poles placed to stop unlawful ATV use of that walkway, then the city can strive to improve it for wheelchair access.
“There is not a driving trail at Strickland either,” Jones told Dockery, who seemed to intimate that one park was given preferential treatment because it is on the north side of the city rather than on the south side.
Mayor Jones asked City Attorney Norm D. Fugate if the mayor’s assertion to Dockery that the general City Commission meeting is not the time to continually complain about what Dockery sees as shortcomings of Buie Park. There can be a specific separate meeting for that, Mayor Jones indicated, where specific changes to Buie Park can be sought for approval later at a general meeting.
Fugate said the City Commission can refer the alleged issues at Buie Park to the Recreation Committee.
Vice Mayor Weaver is the chairman of that committee, and he is the liaison to the City Commission for matters related to parks and recreation. Weaver can bring forward recommendations for consideration by the whole City Commission to improve the city’s recreational facilities.
Vice Mayor Weaver told Dockery he plans to schedule a Recreation Committee meeting in City Hall, and he will advise Dockery of the date and time for that meeting.
Even though the mayor had moved that discussion about specific problems Dockery saw at Buie Park, Commissioner Hudson then spoke about the money spent to build a walking trail in Buie Park. It was funded, Hudson said, but there was then no grant funding remaining to build a new parking lot for Buie Park.
Then, Hudson started speaking about the right-of-way of the road neat to the park and the Suwannee River Water Management District’s restrictions on nonpermeable asphalt without a retention pond. Engineering and construction of a retention pond would add cost, Hudson intimated.
Dockery said he is retired from the Florida Department of Transportation is familiar with driveways and SRWMD drainage requirements.
Then, Victoria Larkin came to the podium. She announced that she is part of the Chiefland Neighborhood Task Force as well as being a leader in a league that provides group sports team opportunities in Chiefland. It is named Tri-County Sports Commission (TCSC).
Larkin said she does not want to be known as a chronic complainer, however she said she works so much that sometimes she forgets what day it is. She said on Sunday, she tried to get her children ready to board a school bus because she thought it was Monday.
When parents of children involved in the TCSC repeatedly ask her about matters, Larkin said they are not complaining to her. Instead, Larkin said, they know she, like them, are very busy with their jobs, school matter with their children and other day-to-day chores, etc., and perhaps she has forgotten their requests.
Larkin said that she, as a member of this recently formed ad hoc neighborhood task force, is able to speak with people in Chiefland and then share that feedback with the Chiefland City Commission.
Larkin then said she knows investors who want to build a Dollar General, or a similar retail outlet, on the south side of Chiefland. She wants to participate in the Vision Committee meeting so that she can bring investors to the city government for development in south Chiefland.
Before speaking about the actual process for a person or company to buy and develop land for commercial purposes, she switched topics.
Larkin said she thinks placing video cameras at Buie Park will reduce the vandalism as well as the illegal alcoholic beverage and other drug consumption at Buie Park. Larkin repeated an ongoing statement that there is some sort of “gap” between the city government and people of Chiefland. This new task force is meant to be a bridge between those two points.
Alice Monyei, another member of the ad hoc task force, which is comprised of at least Dockery, Larkin and Monyei, said she wants the minutes to the City Commission meeting to be placed on the city’s website.
City Manager Laura Cain reminded Monyei that the minutes have never been on the website, and they will not be found there. When the city changed its website to make it ADA compliant, there was a choice then not to add minutes from meetings to the site.
Cain provided Monyei with a paper copy of the minutes from the most recent City Commission meeting. Monyei said she wanted minutes from the whole previous year. Cain said she would provide her with those minutes.
Monyei then asked for the Chiefland City Commission to broadcast its meetings on Zoom, YouTube or Facebook.
City Commissioner Johns said she agrees with using teleconference, where they people call in on a telephone to a specific number to “attend” the meeting that way. This is the process used by the Levy County Board of County Commissioners and the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners.
Williston City Council broadcasts its meeting live on YouTube.com.
City Attorney Fugate said when the records anything, that becomes a public record. Therefore, the city must maintain that record for a period of time, and there is some expense for equipment and personnel to meet that demand.
Just as he said at the meeting prior to the Oct. 11 meeting, Fugate reminded Monyei and others that any person can broadcast the meetings via Facebook or whatever, as long as that process does not interfere with the orderly function of the City Commission.
Fugate said there is an online publication in Cedar Key that creates video from that city’s meeting, and since it is a third party separate from the government, its requirements to keep those records are different.
Levy County Coordinator Wilbur Dean was granted permission to use the Tommy Usher Community Center, 506 S.W. Fourth Ave. (State Road 345), in Chiefland, on Oct. 25 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. for public comment and input of the redistricting lines of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners and Levy County School Board.
The City Commission voted 5-0 to waive the fees.
Each 10 years, these five districts are realigned as political subdivision of the county.
This will allow the general public to provide comments to the firm hired for this purpose of redistricting the Levy County Commission and Levy County School Board.
Students of the Month
Vice Mayor Weaver presented the Outstanding Student awards in a program that has become known as the Student of the Month.
Weaver who has been a professional educator for at least almost 30 years and continues to serve as a high school football referee through the Florida High School Athletic Association’s set of games, said students who earn the Student of the Month recognition are what teachers would love to see in their classrooms.
“It really starts with the parents and the parent at home,” Weaver said before presenting the certificates. “If those parents do their job, and work with that young person, and listen a lot, not berating all the time, (then) you’re going to have a good kid. They’re going to come out great.”
Weaver noted there are other situations, where the child succeeds despite a less-than-suitable environment.
“Sometimes a kid does well when they have a sorry parent,” Weaver said. “There’s a few of those and thank God for that. But I want to praise the parents for taking care of their child.”
He went on to note specifically that when a parent comes to a sporting event and watches their child compete, it has a positive impact on their son or daughter.
There was a student selected by a teacher or group of teachers from Chiefland Elementary School, Chiefland Middle School and Chiefland High School who were named as Student of the Month.
CF alum Ire Bethea to receive
statewide Hometown Hero award
(from left) Chris Knife, vice president of Development and CEO of the CF Foundation; Henrietta Flanders, CF Alumni Board member; Ocala City Councilman Ire Bethea Sr.; and Dr. Jim Henningsen, CF president, are seen together on the campus of the College of Central Florida.
Story and Photo Provided
By CF Marketing, Public and Community Relations
Published Oct. 9, 2021 at 7:11 a.m.
OCALA – College of Central Florida alumnus and Ocala City Council Member Ire Bethea Sr. has received the Association of Florida Colleges Leroy Collins Distinguished Alumni Award in the Hometown Hero Category and will be recognized during the virtual Association of Florida Colleges Conference in November.
Award recipients must have achieved success within their college service district and demonstrated notable community involvement.
The college service district for CF is Citrus, Levy and Marion counties.
Bethea retired after a combined 30 years of service with the City of Ocala and the Boys and Girls Club of Marion County and currently represents District 2 on the Ocala City Council. He is a lifelong resident of Ocala and a graduate of Ocala High School, Central Florida Community College (now the College of Central Florida) and St. Leo University.
Bethea has volunteered with multiple organizations and committees throughout his career and retirement, and many of his volunteer efforts are focused on helping Marion County’s youth. He is a graduate of Leadership Ocala/Marion Class XVII, Past-Polemarch of the Gainesville Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., serves as a deacon at New St. John Missionary Baptist Church and is chairman of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission.
His many honors include the CF Distinguished Alumni Award in Spring 2021; Man of the Year Award in 2006 from the Alumni Chapter, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.; the Racial Harmony and Cultural Awareness “Unsung Hero Award” in 2011; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People “Service and Uplift to the Community Award” in 2015; and the Rotary “Service Above Self Award” in 2019. He was also was inducted into the African American Museum of Marion County in 2015.
Two constitutional officers
who died in office are honored
State Sen. Jennifer Bradley and State Rep. Joe Harding sign resolutions to honor the late County Commissioner Mike Joyner and the late Property Appraiser Oz Barker.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 6, 2021 at 4:11 p.m.
WILLISTON -- State Sen. Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island, Dist. 5) and State Rep. Joe Harding (R-Williston, Dist. 22) honored two men who were constitutional officers of Levy County and who recently died from COVID-19 while they were still in active service to the residents and visitors of Levy County.
Sen. Bradley said that she and Rep. Harding wanted to honor the late Levy County Commissioner Michael Floyd “Mike” Joyner and the late Levy County Property Appraiser Osborn Gray “Oz” Barker for their lives of honorable community service for the people of Florida.
Providing a photo opportunity by accepting the resolution by the Levy County Legislative Delegation to honor the late Mike Joyner are (from left) his daughter-in-law Dedera Joyner, his widow Diane Joyner, Sen. Jennifer Bradley and Rep. Joe Harding.
The senator said she had the opportunity to meet Joyner during her campaign for office. She found him to be interesting and incredible with life experiences that are unmatched. Bradley said she enjoyed hearing Joyner’s stories from his days in law enforcement, and that she believes nobody loved their community more than he loved the community.
“He was selfless,” Bradley said. “He was humble. He was tough. He was just a very, very special person for me to get to know. And he will be missed.”
Bradley read the resolution.
The resolution noted Joyner was a beloved member of the Levy County Community. He served in law enforcement for 32 years. Those duties included work in undercover operations to find suspects dealing in illegal narcotics.
He received plaques of appreciation from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, the United States Marshals Service and the United States Customs Service. Likewise, he was honored with recognition by the American Legion, and the United States Narcotics Officers Association.
Bradley went on to say in the resolution that Joyner played a crucial role in combatting illegal drugs. He was active in collecting evidence for the capture and conviction of serial killer Aileen Carol Wuornos.
Gov. Rick Scott appointed Joyner in 2010 to the Levy County Board of County Commissioners, and he was reelected subsequently.
The resolution noted Joyner was a devoted family man, a Christian, a public servant and a friend to all in Levy County.
He died Aug. 4.
The Levy County Legislative Delegation therefore resolved for Oct. 5, 2021, to be a day of remembrance of Commissioner Mike Joyner, for his service to Levy County and the State of Florida.
Providing a photo opportunity by accepting the resolution by the Levy County Legislative Delegation to honor the late Oz Barker are (from left) Sen. Jennifer Bradley, his son Zachary Barker, his widow Lori Arrington Barker, his daughter Lauren Phillips and Rep. Joe Harding.
Rep. Harding spoke about Barker before reading the resolution.
Barker was a guy, Harding said, made certain that his word was his bond.
“When he told you that he was praying for you,” Harding said, “he meant it.”
Harding said with a man like Barker, it is not possible to note on one piece of paper in a resolution the treasure that he was for all to know.
Nevertheless, Harding said, it is important to commemorate for posterity the honorable life of Barker.
Like the resolution honoring Joyner, the one to honor Barker noted he was a beloved member of the Levy County community.
The resolution noted Barker was the director of Levy County Emergency Management before Mark Johnson held that post, which was later accepted by John MacDonald. For the past 13 years, Barker has served the people as the Levy County Property Appraiser.
Barker was a well-respected businessman who owned Chiefland Aluminum. Barker was noted for serving in numerous organizations, as well as being a very active member of the Chiefland Rotary Club.
The resolution noted Barker was a servant of Christ, a loving family man, a public servant and a friend to all in Levy County.
He died Aug. 29.
The Levy County Legislative Delegation therefore resolved for Oct. 5, 2021, to be a day of remembrance of Osborn Gray “Oz” Barker for his service to Levy County and the State of Florida.
CF, MCA celebrate ‘Sunny Daze’
at Vintage Farm Campus
(from left), Dr. Jim Henningsen, CF president; Jaye Baillie, executive director of the Marion Cultural Alliance; donor Irene McCracken; Laurie Zink, MCA board member and Horse Fever co-chair; and Chris Knife, vice president of Development and CEO of the CF Foundation stand next to 'Sunny Daze' during the recent celebration.
Story and Photo
By CF Marketing, Public and Community Relations
Published Sept. 30, 2021 at 3:11 p.m.
OCALA -- The College of Central Florida and Marion Cultural Alliance celebrated the addition of Sunny Daze to the CF Vintage Farm Campus on Sept. 29.
Ronda Richley painted the sunflower-themed horse sculpture as part of the Marion Cultural Alliance Horse Fever 20/20 project that benefited local artists and art groups. She painted Sunny Daze during the pandemic and said at the celebration that the horse symbolizes “happiness, peace and tranquility.”
Irene McCracken, a local benefactor and art enthusiast, gifted the horse to CF.
“Education is the cornerstone of the future and I donate this piece with love and great hope that for years to come it will be a warm welcome to the staff, students and everyone who comes to share and enjoy this special place,” McCracken said.
Levy County Prevention Coalition
shares summer fun and future plans
Levy County Prevention Coalition Chief Operating Officer Jonathan M. Lewis and LCPC Chairman Crystal Seley lead the oldest, strongest and most successful of three coalitions for helping reduce the death and destruction to individuals, families and communities caused by drug abuse in the Tri-County Area. The other two coalitions are in Dixie and Gilchrist counties. Among the key partners in Levy County are the Sheriff’s Office and the School District.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 26, 2021 at 9:11 a.m.
WILLISTON – The quarterly meeting of the Levy County Prevention Coalition provided an opportunity for everyone to learn about the extensive summer program this year and what may on the horizon for the rest of this school.
Gathering in a large room at Williston Elementary School on Friday (Sept. 24) more than a dozen people enjoyed soft tacos, rice, cake and drinks for lunch. While served buffet style, care was taken to reduce the odds of spreading COVID-19.
Levy County Prevention Coalition Chairman Crystal Seley welcomed everyone, called the meeting to order and served as emcee. The meeting lasted a bit longer than an hour, because the group has taken responsibility for Levy County Tobacco Prevention as well.
For the past several years QuitDoc has seen remarkable success in prevention of tobacco use as well as helping people quit the addictive drug. That has changed now.
As for the Levy County Prevention Coalition, Chief Operating Officer Jonathan M. Lewis shared information about its resounding success this past summer and some of its plans for the coming months.
There were 1,100 Levy County children who enjoyed educational, informative, entertaining and safe programs, which included significant field trips this summer thanks to the LCPC.
The LCPC obtained grants to provide after-school summer programs, Lewis said. Combined with mentoring grants and drug-free communities grants, this is what provided the financial fuel to power the human engine of educators and aides to help children this past summer.
Part of the method of preventing youths from using substances that hurt them, their families and their communities, the LCPC encourages healthy behavior. Education is among the cornerstones for achieving these goals.
This summer, the LCPC and participants overcame issues caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic by using the best methods for being able to function while preventing the spread of the virus.
COVID-19 has killed 54,000 Floridians as of Sept. 21, who are among the 675,000 Americans killed by the disease, according to United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. (That translates into one of every 500 Americans have died from COVID-19 so far.)
In Florida, deaths attributable to the coronavirus per capita are even more common than they are nationwide. As of Sept. 15, Florida had the 12th highest of the 50 states in a per-capita death toll, according to confirmed deaths by medical examiners.
The LCPC this summer sought to bring as many Levy County students as possible over their academic skill losses and social functioning deficits caused by necessary isolation at points during the previous year’s pandemic protocols. It succeeded.
The grant for the summer program, Lewis explained, covered Williston Elementary School, Williston Middle High School, Bronson Middle High School, Chiefland Elementary School and Chiefland Middle High School, Lewis said.
Through the effort of the Levy County School District, which Lewis noted is a significant partner with the LCPC, a plan for consolidation of school district summer plans was formed. This reduced the competition between the Levy County Prevention Coalition and the Levy County School District for staff and students.
By this cooperative effort, Lewis said, the LCPC achieved the goal of having a summer camp at all of the schools in Levy County. Those summer camps operated between 20 and 25 days, depending on which school served as the location.
Transportation to and from the schools was provided, Lewis said, and contracts with teachers and aides were created.
And by combining LCPC funds and School District revenue gained through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, some teachers and aides received a higher hourly rate for their services this summer, Lewis said.
For their services this summer, many of the people who went the extra mile to help children saw a benefit.
“Teachers who worked for us all summer, every day in that five-week period,” Lewis said, “some of them walked away with $10,000 to $11,000 of extra income.”
Aides enjoyed an added revenue stream as well, in contrast with typical school-year pay, he added.
The theme for summer camp was “Around The World,” which included field trips.
CES students went to Homosassa Springs State Park, where they saw and learned about manatees and other aspects at that state park. Students from the entire Levy County School District went to the Jacksonville Zoo.
Lewis was unhappy with treatment of the students and staff at the Jacksonville Zoo, He said Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is a much better choice for anyone weighing between the two about where to go. Despite rain and a relatively high level of inconvenience, the students enjoyed this field trip, Lewis said.
The group liked their field trip to the Clearwater Aquarium, Lewis said. During the summer, students found science experiments to be fun as well as educational, he added.
(To see a previously published story about the LCPC summer adventures, including a trip to EPCOT, click HERE.)
Teachers Melissa Lewis, Jaime Handlin, (and WES Principal) Rikki Richardson and several other excellent teachers in Levy County helped the LCPC design engaging, interesting, safe and educational science experiments, Lewis said. These were “really neat science lessons,” he added.
Lewis said that when children felt less enthused about learning reading or math or something a bit less exciting, “they knew that science was coming in the afternoon; so, let’s push through and get to the fun stuff.”
LCPC Youth Development Specialist Sarah Michelle Swartz speaks about the science experiments that were focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Each science experiment included reading and math, she added.
Undersheriff Brett Beauchamp of LCSO spoke about this agency’s part in the LCPC Summer Camp Program. Beauchamp and LCPC Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Lewis shared information about canine demonstrations and more that were provided with the help of Sheriff Bobby McCallum and all of the staff in the Community Relations Division, which includes the school resource officers. Beauchamp mentioned that the sheriff was happy to help in the prevention coalition’s program this summer. And Sheriff McCallum, who is an honorary board member of the LCPC Board of Directors said later on Friday afternoon that he sent the undersheriff to represent the LCSO due to him needing to serve in another area at that time in the late morning and early afternoon.
Another part of the summer included the Levy County Sheriff’s Office providing a week of Sheriff’s Summer Camp. (To read the story and photos about part of the final day of that camp, click HERE.
The LCPC summer camp field trip to the Crayola Experience, Lewis said, was extraordinarily excellent. People who want to take a group of kids to this attraction on the Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando are bound to be pleased. This attraction has staff who are organized and prepared to offer “a very nice place to visit,” he said.
“That (trip to the Crayola Experience in Orlando) was money well-spent, and the kids really, really enjoyed it,” Lewis said.
This summer the LCPC also helped the Levy County School District with its Bridge Program to assist fifth students in the transition from after summer into the sixth grade, where they will see middle school is different than elementary school.
As for the start of after-school programs by the LCPC, Lewis said that effort has been a bit slow.
The single most impactful issue here is lack of staff. Teachers occasionally feel overwhelmed now, he said, especially with the resurgence of COVID-19 in August and September. This virus has affected the LCPC by people becoming too sick to work.
“We hope to be in every school this school year for after-school (programs),” Lewis said.
The LCPC is aligning its after-school programs to assist the school district in meeting its goals academically, Lewis said.
On another aspect, Lewis mentioned that the LCPC and the Levy County Sheriff’s Office working together to bring the community to some place for a tentative tailgating event during the Florida-Georgia game next month. This idea is not firm, even to the point of having a place for the event to bridge a possible gap between minority communities, the faith sector and law enforcement.
The Levy County Prevention Coalition is a group of organizations pooling resources to achieve common goals.
Of the eight partner agencies listed for updates on the agenda, five sent representatives to the luncheon meeting Friday.
Lorrie van Voorthuijsen of the Hanley Center Foundation speaks about its part of helping people in Levy County and elsewhere during the past six years in Levy County. It provides a grant-funded free six-week course for parents of teens, and a course for parents of children aged 5 to 12 years old. Another program is the Alcohol Literacy Challenge that is provided in the schools. This 90-minute program shows how the party-fun-time aspect of alcohol comes from the mind, rather than from the substance. There are other programs available to schools from this foundation as well.
Gwen Love is of CDS Family & Behavioral Health Services, which is a social services agency that has provided services in North Central Florida for over 51 years. CDS has different programs and serves a wide variety of community needs, where all of its programs fall under the umbrella of the organization’s mission statement, ‘Strengthening Communities by Building Strong Families.’ She reminded listeners that Jonathan Lewis is a very great asset and ‘a community champion’ for the people of Levy County. CDS has been a partner with the LCPC since the inception of this coalition.
Levy County Superintendent of Schools Chris Cowart provided insight for listeners at the luncheon meeting, including that the staff in this school district love their role in the profession of education and they love the children. He is co-chairman of the Levy County Prevention Coalition, serving with Chairman Crystal Seley. Cowart also is a strong participant in the Rotary Club of Williston, which like all Rotary Clubs has members who put service above self.
Robert Wells, a founder of the LCPC, is the executive director of the fledgling Gilchrist (County) Prevention Coalition. He mentioned the Williston Community Task Force and Ministerial Faith Alliance are working with the Williston community over systemic racism and other issues. There is a plan to have a Fall Resource Festival, where vendors can bring what they offer to people as resources. Those vendors would include agencies and organizations that poor people may not know are available to help them now. This event is set for the Cornelius Williams Park – east of Williston, on Saturday, Oct. 23 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. In case no one noticed, his hat says 'God is my Boss.' Gilchrist Prevention Coalition Executive Director Wells practices what he preaches.
Joelle Covarrubia, a youth program specialist, is among the Levy County Prevention Coalition staff members involved with the LCPC’s start of its role in tobacco prevention for Levy County. Students Working Against Tobacco had chapters in schools in Levy County before, and there is some success in that effort this school year.
Dylan Washburn, project assistant, a youth program specialist, is among the Levy County Prevention Coalition staff members involved with the LCPC’s start of its role in tobacco prevention for Levy County. Rhett Munden (not pictured), an LCPC youth program specialist, also participates in the tobacco prevention aspect that the Levy County Prevention Coalition has accepted after QuitDoc left Levy County as the service provider.
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