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L-R: Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe Trail Project Organizer Linda Rice Chapman and Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe President John Manley proudly display the new sign which reads: The Santa Fe Kiwanis Fitness Trail.

HIGH SPRINGS — On a windy Wednesday, Nov. 13, Kiwanis Club members, funding donors, city officials and interested residents gathered for the unveiling of the sign commemorating the opening of the new Fitness Trail. The trailhead is located behind the High Springs Cemetery at the High Springs Sports Complex and is now open to the public.

The fitness trail, now formally known as The Santa Fe Kiwanis Fitness Trail, was the brainchild of Kiwanis Club member Linda Rice Chapman. Chapman is quick to point out that she was not alone in this project and had a great deal of help from her fellow Kiwanians and the High Springs Parks & Recreation Department, under the leadership at that time of Robert Bassford. She also acknowledged the great support she received from former city manager Ed Booth.

Chapman was, however, instrumental in obtaining the grant funds for the project and keeping everyone focused. The project began in early 2017, with the group clearing a walking trail on weekends. As she says, "Many members of our club and their friends spent countless hours chopping vines and clearing brush."

Although there were setbacks, the group stayed on task and completed Phase 1 of the project. In doing so, they had to battle inclement weather, poison ivy and weed growth that seemed to be akin to the speed at which Jack's beanstalk grew in the nursery storybook.

As Phase 1 continued, club members began looking for grant programs and community support for the project. Luckily, they learned about the Clay Electric Coop, Inc.'s Operation Round Up grant program. Chapman prepared the paperwork and applied for the grant on behalf of the Club. "Clay Electric obviously shared our vision for this community project," said Chapman, "because they awarded the grant to our club."

Six months later, club members learned that the Florida Kiwanis Foundation had a matching grant program. Again they applied and were awarded the grant.

Meanwhile, it had taken so long to obtain the financing that the City went forward with a five-year master plan for recreation. “Our site had morphed into an overflow parking lot,” said Chapman.

A meeting with former recreation director Robert Bassford resulted in grouping the equipment into two pod sites, which ultimately led to finalizing the project.

The City's current Parks & Recreation Director Damon Messina sees potential in not only having the fitness trail at the Sports Complex, but also in ways in which it could be utilized and even expanded in the future. "For instance, I'm hoping we can incorporate the trail into the Frozen Foot event," he said. "I believe we could also expand the fitness trail and do another phase."

The Recreation Department's five-year plan will incorporate lighting, which could make the trail usable even after sunset. During the hot summer months, the light might be a benefit for folks who don't want to exercise in the heat of the day.

“Our five-year plan also proposes a playground in 2021,” Messina said. “That could be a real benefit to parents who want to work out and also keep an eye on their children.”

Messina was quick to praise Bassford and his recreation maintenance person, Dave Sutton, for the work they did to restore and develop the nearby fields. "They did the groundwork, so that's something we don't have to do to use and develop the sports complex," he said. "High Springs has been lucky to have open fields available for recreation. In more congested cities, available land for recreation is difficult to come by."

“This project reaches those people who cannot afford a health club membership and those with no transportation to a gym, even if they could afford membership,” said Chapman. “It gives seniors and others with limited income and transportation an incentive and an opportunity to keep fit at no cost to themselves,” she said.

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ALACHUA — It’s safe to say that most people have hard times and sometimes troubles seem too much to overcome. In America, troubles are generally over relationships, school drama, jobs, money, and the other similar issues. And teenagers tend to see these everyday challenges as more distressful. On Dec 10, students at Santa Fe High School gathered in the auditorium to hear Dr. Jacob Atem as he spoke to them about preserving in times of trouble and overcoming obstacles to create their own success.

Atem knows about hard times and adversity. He is one of those known as “The Lost Boys of Sudan.” Born in Sudan, his country became embroiled in a brutal civil war that claimed the lives of close to 2 million people and lasted for 22 years. It is one of the longest civil wars on record.

Village burned to the ground

When Atem was seven years old, he watched as his village was attacked and burned to the ground. This young child watched as his parents and almost every adult he knew was murdered. He escaped and joined over 20,000 other orphans (mainly boys) trying to flee the country. Much of the travel took place by foot in large groups with the boys traveling in single file lines.

The journey from South Sudan to the nearest refugee camp could be up to thousands of miles. Travel ranged from a span of weeks to two or more years. Often, the children traveled with no possessions besides the clothes on their backs. The Boys often depended on the charity of villages they passed for food, necessities, and treatment of the sick. However, most of their travel was in isolated regions with very little infrastructure and few supplies to spare.

Orphans attacked by Ethiopians

Groups of Boys were often organized and led by the oldest boy in the group, who could be a young adult or sometimes as young as 10 or 12 years old. Repeatedly attacked as they fled toward Ethiopia, young Atem saw many other children die from military attacks,thirst, starvation and wild animals including lions, hyenas and crocodiles. An estimated 50 percent didnt make it.

Once the children finally crossed into Ethiopia, they were put in crowded refuge camps where malnutrition, starvation and disease continued to kill them. After two years in these makeshift camps, they were told they had to leave because the country was embroiled in its own civil war and could not afford to feed or care for the children. On the Sudanese side of the river were militias that wanted to kill or enslave the refugees. Caught between the two, the Boys refused to leave and were attacked by the Ethiopeans and forced into the river where many drowned or were eaten by crocodiles. Many more were killed or captured by Sudanese militia and forced into being child soldiers.

Refuge in Kenya, then America

Atem survived and continued with others on a journey to find refuge in Kenya where international aid groups had set up camps. The world was now aware of their plight and some, including Atem, were given a chance to immigrate to America.

But Atem told the students that immigration is not as easy as often portrayed politically. It took two years to get through the paperwork, pass the citiizen exam and find a sponsor family in the United States. Ones that were over 18 had a three-month visa to get a job and pay back their travel costs or be deported. Those under 18 had to find foster parents willing to sponsor them.

At 15, Atem did not know how to read, write or speak English and even simple things taken for granted in America required learning, such as light switches, television or cooking with a stove. They were all foriegn to the world he had grown up in. Placed in school, he faced bullying,was called stupid and riduculed. But he knew he had an opportunity to have a better life and persisted in his studies.

Education key to future

The reason Atem told the students his story was to show how bad adversity could be and yet not defeat you. He worked hard, eventually working his way into college and finally graduating with a Ph.D. The point of his lecture was to show that no matter how bad things seem, you can make your own future if you work hard and don’t give up. He urged the students to take their education seriously, saying, “Education is a commodity that determines your future abilities.”

He also discussed using education and privledge to help others by doing volunteer work for the less fortunate. Atem has established a medical clinic in rural South Sudan to help rebuild the country of his birth that also drove him and thousands of other out. Atem holds no animosity towards others and has learned to heal and better himself by helping others. He said that the mission of his clinic is to provide medical services and education to uplift the people of South Sudan and bring hope where it has been lost.

He told the students that he was not smart, but rather, achieved his goals and current life through hard work and urged the students to do the same. "If you have a teacher trying to help you learn and you don’t show up or care, you only hurt yourself and limit your ability,” Atem said. “Success in your life is only gained by your own efforts.”

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ALACHUA – On Saturday afternoon, the Santa Fe Lady Raiders volleyball team defeated Bishop Kenny High School, in a Class 6-A Final Four showdown. The Lady Raiders swept Bishop Kenny in three sets (25-20, 25-19, 25-17).

The Lady Raiders advanced to the State Championship for the first time since 1976 and the first time any Santa Fe team has advanced to any state championship game since 1994 when the Raider football team won their second State Championship.

With the win over Bishop Kenny, the Lady Raiders earned a berth in the Class 6A State Title match this coming Saturday, Nov. 17.

First year Head Coach Eric Marshall (an alum of Santa Fe High School himself) said that, historically, Bishop Kenny’s team of exceptional players has been nearly impossible to beat, so this victory was especially exciting and encouraging.

Santa Fe High School Athletics Director Michele Faulk stressed that the win was the result of a true team effort, not a one-person show.

“Our girls were so well balanced it threw them off guard. This year we don’t have one standout player, we have a whole team of standout players. It keeps opposing teams on their toes.” Faulk also noted how proud she is of them, saying, “Not only are they exceptional volleyball players, but they are exceptional girls as well.”

The girls on the team range from freshmen to seniors, and according to Marshall, when volleyball is concerned, they are very superstitious. He says they plan to prepare for the State Championship by maintaining their exact routine and regimen, down to making sure they start practice at the exact same time. He said, “I encourage them to do that, because it not only makes them comfortable, but it makes them more confident when game time comes.”

The Santa Fe Raiders will play in the State Championship game this Saturday, Nov. 17 at 4 p.m. in Fort Myers, Florida against Merritt Island.
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L-R: Owners of Hodge Farms David and Gail Hodge and Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe. The Newberry City Commission and mayor recognized the Hodge family’s contribution to farming and to Newberry as they celebrated their family’s Centennial Anniversary.

NEWBERRY — Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe delivered a proclamation to David and Gail Hodge, owners of Hodge Farms, recognizing their family’s contribution to farming in Newberry for the past 100 years. The Hodges are third and fourth generation farmers who own a 1,200-acre farm, the location of which is easily identified by their 2003 establishment of the Newberry Cornfield Maze.

Marlowe traced the family through the generations beginning with Ease and Alice Hodge, who settled on 80 acres in Newberry along with their mule, Pet, in 1919. At the time they grew cotton, corn, cattle, hogs and five children.

In 1945, Evert and Maggie Hodge were married. The couple worked the land adding acreage, peanuts, tobacco and two more Hodge children.

In 1971, David and Gail Hodge were married. They added watermelons, blueberries and a variety of small grains to their farm. Sons Mark and Brad Hodge now work the 1,200-acre farm with their parents. “Each generation has added blood, sweat, tears and the love of farming,” said Marlowe.

“The celebration of Hodge Farms’ 100th Anniversary milestone is a celebration of people, employees, clients and family and a celebration of the family’s colorful history which traces and reflects the development of the city of Newberry,” Marlowe said as he recounted the family’s history.

Marlowe also said that the Hodges are continuing to develop their farm in other ways by constructing a wedding and event pavilion on their land,

The couple received a round of applause following the presentation of the proclamation by Mayor Marlowe.

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ALACHUA – The Turkey Creek Golf Course restoration is moving forward. The course has been aerated and calcium has been applied to stimulate root growth. In addition, the recent showers are helping.

The next large project is to get the sprinkler system operational again. Currently there is an initiative to replace all 362 sprinkler heads at a cost of $300 per sprinkler. The cost includes installation, wiring, and the electronic computer boards. If anyone is interested in a sprinkler sponsorship they are available.

Also, the Turkey Creek Golf LLC has decided to sell partial shares. As little as one-tenth a share ($500) can be purchased. Some restrictions may apply, but dividends will be paid.

It is anticipated that in the middle of May 2018 the former Mulligans will be reopened as the “Chef Brothers at the 19th Hole” restaurant.

Last, but not least, there are a variety of advertising and promotional opportunities available from the Leaderboard to the tee markers. All reasonably priced and sure to be seen by a great many people as they play our course.

For more information please call 386-518-6815 or stop by the office located at the entrance of the subdivision.

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HIGH SPRINGS — City of High Springs Police officers and City Recreation Department personnel surprised several children Saturday morning, Dec.21, as they drove through town blaring Christmas music from police cruisers. Surprising children was their goal as they were delivering gifts to several households as part of “Operation Holiday Cheer.”

High Springs Police cruisers with lights flashing and a High Springs Recreation Department truck towing a trailer laden with gifts wove through town as the gift-bearing visitors waved and called “Merry Christmas” to everyone they passed as they traveled to each home.

Children still in their pajamas, a few of whom were still groggy from sleep, received deliveries of large bags of presents. Children tore open colorfully-wrapped gifts as fast as they could to find clothes, shoes, stuffed unicorns, a hoverboard, skateboards, bicycles, hot wheels and more. Police officers helped keep things tidy as they gathered shredded wrapping paper, which the kids had strewn around their yards as they tore into their gift bags.

The joy on the children’s faces made the entire event worthwhile said Recreation Director Damon Messina, who rode shotgun as Dave Sutton drove the Recreation Department truck.

In addition to the participation of the police officers and City personnel, Police Chief Antoine Sheppard’s son, Noah, and Officer Treese’s son, Camden, also rode along to help.

This event was months in the making by Angela Robertson, Administrative Assistant to Police Chief Antoine Sheppard. Robertson communicated with parents and business owners in the area to make sure the appropriate gift items would be provided to each child. In one case, her quick thinking saved the day as a cousin of the children she had provided gifts for showed up unexpectedly. “We just couldn’t give a gift to the others without including the extra child as well,” she said. She grabbed a gift in the trailer and gave it to that child to make sure he wouldn’t feel left out.

She is reluctant to take credit for her efforts preferring instead to talk about the church group who helped wrap each of the gifts and the employees who donated the gift, which they had received from the City (a turkey or ham,) to help out families with limited food resources.

In addition to gifts for the children, each family received an envelope from the City that contained gift cards from Walmart and Winn Dixie and another for a pizza night out from Hungry Howie’s Pizza.

One of the officers involved in the gift distribution was High Springs Community School Resource Officer J.T. Taylor, who likely was the person who helped determine which families were most in need this Christmas. All of the children and parents were familiar with him and with Chief Sheppard. Although some of the other officers were less familiar to the children, each child thanked them one by one for the gifts, and in many cases, the officers were rewarded with hugs as part of the children’s appreciation.

Quietly, and in the privacy of his vehicle, Officer Taylor talked with Robertson saying that he had observed that a sibling of one of the children who had received a significant gift item did not have one of their own, either. Although Robertson thought there might be $20 left in the gift fund, Taylor said he would buy one more item for that child out of his own money and would return later in the day to deliver it.

Although Taylor may not have wanted others to know of his observation and decision, it is symbolic of who he is and how much he cares about the children he sees at school every day.

Other officers and staff at the High Springs Police Department involved in the gift giveaway were Suzy Mowery, Officer Williams and Sgt. Hampton.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Spring is a great time to enjoy North Florida’s springs. From Wednesday, April 11 through Sunday, April 15, 25 local and out of town emerging and professional artists will be painting the springs of the Santa Fe River as part of the 2018 Santa Fe Springs Plein Air Paintout.

The schedule for painting includes details on Public Viewing Days. Artists will paint during normal operating hours at each location.

Wednesday Apr. 11 – Artists Painting Days

Various Springs locations - Artists Choice

Thursday April 12 – Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, 7450 NE 60th St, High Springs, FL 32643

Painting - Public Viewing Day (State Park fees, $4 per person or $6 per car.) Artists will be painting throughout the park.

Friday April 13 – Ginnie Springs, 7300 Ginnie Springs Rd, High Springs, FL 32643

Painting - Public Viewing Day ($12 Entrance Fee) Artists will be painting throughout the park.

Saturday April 14 – Artists Painting Days

Various Springs locations - Artists Choice

Sunday April 15 – Downtown High Springs

Painting - Public Viewing Day - Artists will be painting throughout downtown High Springs followed by a Special Art Preview Pop Up Show at Great Outdoors’ Opera House

Exhibit Schedule

Once completed, the paintings will be available for viewing and purchasing at three art receptions and during two exhibits through July 30th:

Saturday, April 14 – The Great Outdoors Restaurant, Opera House, 65 North Main Street, High Springs, FL 32643

Special Art First Preview Pop Up Show 5 - 8 pm.

Sunday, April 15 – Lanza Gallery & Art Supplies, 23645 W US Hwy 27, High Springs, FL 32643

Opening Art Reception, 5pm - 7pm

Paintings for exhibit and sale April 15 thru June 20

Saturday, June 23 – Rum 138 Springs Gallery, 2070 SW CR 138, Fort White, FL 32068

Art Reception 6pm - 8pm

Paintings for exhibit and sale June 23 thru July 30.

The Santa Fe Springs Plein Air Paintout is sponsored by Lanza Gallery & Art Supplies. Maps and information are available during the event at Lanza Gallery & Art Supplies, 23645 W US Hwy 27, downtown High Springs. Hours are Tuesday – Thursday and Saturday from 11am to 5pm and Friday open 12 Noon - 6pm.

For more information, visit www.lanzagallery.com or call Lanza Gallery & Art Supplies at 352-474-9922.

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