A crime alert was distributed Friday afternoon to the Gainesville and University of Florida community alerting residents to an active investigation of two armed robberies.
A crime alert was distributed Friday afternoon to the Gainesville and University of Florida community alerting residents to an active investigation of two armed robberies.
Mary Hausch announced earlier this month her decision to step down from her position as a producing director at Gainesville’s Hippodrome Theatre.
Hausch spoke for nearly 35 minutes about topics spanning the theatre’s history within Gainesville, pivotal moments, famous plays and playwrights, and her plans for life beyond the Hippodrome.
Theatre management hopes to have Hausch’s successor hired by Aug. 31.
Becky Covington, 34, is a minister working on her master’s degree, taking on another job and dealing with the end of a 10-year relationship.
She recently found herself praying to her car’s dashboard for life to be gentler with her. She is the composed leader of a congregation that itself is in transition, and most of the time she keeps her personal emotions locked tightly behind her kind, brown eyes, speaking reflectively but with restraint.
In the last couple months, she said goodbye to her partner, her home and her pets: five poodles, two cats, two African gray parrots, a scarlet macaw and a turtle. She has temporarily moved from the Gainesville area to North Carolina to be near the mountains she loves and to start a new job that she is excited about.
The new job has caused her physical separation from the Seraphim Center, the church she leads, for a few months, even as its members search for a new building that isn’t so cramped. Their current house-turned-worship-center barely has room for everyone on Sunday mornings.
The Seraphim Center currently meets at 1234 NW 14th Ave. in Gainesville, on a narrow street surrounded by tall oak trees. A large, triumphant angel floats on a painting in the living room where services are held: Seraphim is the plural of seraph, an angel of the highest order.
As Covington deals with the onslaught of change, she draws strength from her spirituality and her sense of purpose. She also draws from a different source: she has been taught to use psychic abilities and has been trained in energy healing.
Covington said she first saw an angel when she was 9.
It was “incredibly beautiful,” sitting on the edge of her bed as she hovered in the haze between sleep and wakefulness. She said it put its hand on her leg, and a sense of peace filled her.
It came just before her brother was shot and killed at age 17.
That was the first of many extraordinary experiences Covington would have. In college, where she attended a Presbyterian school in Tennessee called Tusculum College, she met others who had experienced abnormal things, too.
Some of them knew things they shouldn’t. Some of them heard things most people don’t. Some of them saw things others don’t. One of them, upon meeting her, asked her who Tim was, explaining that Tim was “around her a lot.”
Tim is her deceased brother.
Covington dropped out of college to return home and take care of her family in Daytona Beach, but she started studying different philosophies on her own. She read about subjects like astrology, past lives and psychic abilities.
She started a cleaning business and met Jai Mai, a hypnotherapist who eventually put her in contact with the Rev. Bob Estling, the founder of the Seraphim Center.
Covington uses terms like “lightworker-awakener,” “crystal balancing” and “inner knowing” when talking about the skills she has developed since deciding she believes in paranormal things. Things most people in the United States would dismiss as imaginary. Deep inside, her intuition tells her that it is real, she said.
“We are trained in school to trust logic,” Covington said. “But we have to listen to our inner wisdom.”
Covington’s mother still refers to her as a preacher. Her father is more understanding. Her Southern Baptist sister tried to save her the last time they talked about religion.
She assured her sister that she believes Jesus lived to show people the way to God. To her sister’s dismay, she couldn’t resist adding that she believes the same is true of Buddha, Muhammad and other spiritual prophets and leaders.
Covington grew up in the Church of Christ, but she was ordained through an organization that has no institutional religious backing, and now she leads a church that describes itself as “interfaith, multidenominational and transreligious.”
At the Seraphim Center, a menorah stands watch over Jesus, pharaohs, angels, Buddhas, dream-catchers and other spiritual and religious symbols crowded upon a table. The members conceive of God as a sort of energy, and the purpose of the services are to help each other better connect to that energy.
Having learned about so many religious philosophies, Covington chose to write her master’s thesis, which she is still writing, on the turmoil and shift occurring in major religions in recent years.
She said she sees beauty in each of the major religions but doesn’t think there is a set path to God or heaven.
One of the things that Covington says makes her feel most connected to God is performing a healing. There are many forms of energy healing, including individually developed techniques and widely practiced techniques such as reiki. Covington’s specialty is called crystal balancing.
The goal of crystal balancing is to remove “negative energy” that has built up within a person. She uses soothing music, relaxing scents and deep breathing to create a peaceful, meditative atmosphere for her clients. She invites her clients to talk to her about their stressors, and then has them lie flat on a table, eyes closed. She then uses hand movements and crystals, which some believe to absorb energy, to try to clear negativity.
At the end, she leaves the crystals around the client’s body to absorb the negative energy, and she sits quietly, waiting for words of advice or encouragement to come to her. She calls these “downloads” and said it is part of her inner knowing.
It was a different type of healing that Covington credits for the recent changes in her life.
Sherry Gustafson, whom Covington calls her “soul mother,” performed a healing intended to help her let go of negative words, moments or actions from her childhood that, to this day, affect her.
Gustafson calls it “rewriting the script” of experiences that have shaped one’s way of thinking.
Covington said the experience helped her realize she was stuck in a pattern of basing her life around things others asked of her or expected her to do – starting with her brother’s death.
She was only 9, but as the next-oldest child, she tried to fill his role in taking care of her family. Later, she gave up college to help her family. And when Estling, founder of the Seraphim Center, started grooming her to lead the congregation after him, she stepped into his shoes, too.
“I have not been living for myself since I was 9 years old,” she said.
The onslaught of change in her life started right after the healing, which happened in October. The decision to take on another job was one she made for herself.
Glory Days Presents!, High Dive and Pelican Brothers will be hosting The Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally on Saturday. The event, the city’s third rally, will be held at High Dive, 210 SW 2nd Ave, from 5 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.
The event is free and does not require visitors to get tickets.
“This is a really new and exciting thing in Gainesville right now,” Pat Lavery, Glory Days Presents! owner and operator said. “They’ve been happening all over the country for a while now. We came up with the idea to try it out in Gainesville sometime toward the end of last year. ”
Previous food truck rallies were held in January and March.
“Currently, the city only allows us to do this event once every two months due to their zoning laws,” Lavery said. “But we hope that will change in the future.”
Lavery said the featured foods at the rally run the gamut of grilled cheese sandwiches, lobster rolls, burritos, wood-fired pizza and Hawaiian shaved ice.
Vegan and vegetarian options are also available.
Food Truck Rally vendors include Pelican Brothers, Charlie’s Snow Shack, Go Go Stuff Yourself, Grilled Cheese Wagon, Humble Pie, Kona Dog, Monsta Lobsta, Off the Griddle and Sizzle Wagon. Pelican Brothers will be hosting the event.
Vendors served about 2,000 people at the last rally, and half of the trucks sold out of food, the organizers said.
The Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally will also incorporate a free concert starting at 9 p.m. featuring local bands like Pilly Wete, Leela & the Rams and The Partials.
“We’re kind of creating a starting point for people’s Saturday night,” Lavery said. “It’s creating a really positive economic impact for downtown and all of our surrounding businesses.”
He said the food truck rally has helped to support business at neighboring restaurants such as Five Star Pizza, The Jones B-side and Loosey’s.
“There’s really not a lot of places for food trucks and mobile vendors to set up around town because of different restrictions,” Lavery said. “This is giving a lot of these mobile vendors a place to go other than, say, festivals outside of town. They’re able to set up right here in Gainesville.”
Lavery also said the next food truck rally event will be held in July, which will coincide with the second anniversary of the opening of High Dive.
Parking for the event is available at the SW City Garage, 105 SW 3rd St., for $5. Free street parking is also available.
The sound of wind rushing around you.
Falling at 120 miles per hour.
Praying the parachute will open.
But what happens if it doesn’t?
First-time skydiver Brittany Higgins was surprised by her dad when they showed up to Skydive Palatka for her birthday. She said she kept asking herself why she wanted to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.
Australian resident Alan Parker and Linda O’Birdy from Jacksonville decided they were going to cross off one of the most exhilarating items on their bucket list together.
Art Shaffer, owner of Skydive Palatka, said all of his jumps are memorable, but some stand out more than others.
James Gary Hancock, a tandem instructor, said he doesn’t focus on the risks of skydiving, he just likes to enjoy it.
Shaffer added the issue of parachutes not opening has been around forever, but there are other things to worry about.
Shaffer said there’s something about skydiving that makes people keep coming back for more.
Shaffer said he has done about 14,000 jumps and doesn’t see himself stopping anytime soon.
Hancock added the parachutes these days are more reliable. He advises not to do low turns and check your equipment before every jump to ensure a safe trip back down to earth.
Jensen Werley wrote this story online.
Mike Myers has a Santa Claus-inspired white beard about as long as a candy cane. It stands out against his deeply tanned skin.
Myers, 66, can move through a house, removing windows, doors, lighting fixtures, appliances and even hardwood floors or granite countertops. He works quickly, first taking the things he knows will be easy to sell later.
But he’s not a Grinch. He’s the founder of Bearded Brothers Solutions, a nonprofit that deconstructs buildings and salvages the materials to divert them from the landfill.
Myers sells most of the materials, which range from wall studs to kitchen sinks, through Craigslist.
He keeps the salvaged items in a 4,000-square-foot warehouse, which sounds large until you have to find room for things like the 350 doors he saved from a Gainesville housing project that had been condemned for “structural defects.”
Some of those gray metal doors now form a ceiling in part of the Repurpose Project’s building, 519 S. Main St. Myers is the cofounder of the Repurpose Project, a nonprofit that focuses on finding new uses, especially in art projects or crafts, for old items.
Most items are donated, but Bearded Brothers provides some materials to the Repurpose Project. Myers recently helped deconstruct a deck, and its wood will line a wall that will be used as an art gallery.
Myers said he has been recycling for more than 40 years, but that most of his generation — the Baby Boomers — really didn’t understand the significance of the waste piling up in landfills.
Through his work, he is devoted to increasing the amount of recycling and reuse of items. Still, he hopes to do more by taking on additional recycling projects and by encouraging others to do more, too.
He said he and his friends first started recycling by collecting bottles and other objects in their small Arkansas town and driving to larger cities to turn them in for money. Recycling was new then, and their efforts weren’t that profitable, but the concept stuck.
He got involved with deconstructing buildings and started salvaging parts of them, but he said he “just dabbled” in recycling until it took off in the last 10 years.
Recycling has been gaining momentum, and a recent report by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shows that Alachua County had the highest recycling rate in Florida in 2011 — about 50 percent. It marked the second year Alachua earned the top spot.
According to the department’s Solid Waste Management in Florida 2011 Annual Report, Alachua County recycled 205,070 tons in 2011. That leaves more than 200,000 tons that weren’t recycled, but Myers is optimistic about the progress.
“This is new territory,” Myers said. “It has always just been dumped in a hole.”
At the Repurpose Project, soda can tabs are made into earrings. So are cassette tapes and buttons and microchips. Todd Bicker makes picture and mirror frames out of scrap wood and old frames. Screw-on lids, film cases and corks are stored in orderly jars on crowded shelves until they find their place in someone’s artwork.
But as successful as Alachua County has been in recycling, it still needs to reach a 75 percent recycling rate by 2020, as mandated by the Florida legislature.
Curbside collection of recyclables began in 1989, according to the Alachua County Public Works website. It took 22 years to get the recycling rate to almost 50 percent. Momentum has gained, but it needs to be sustained to meet the legislature’s goal.
Sean McLendon, sustainability program manager for Alachua County’s Office of Sustainability, said he thinks the recycling movement is just getting started in Alachua.
“The enthusiasm that we’ve seen from people that see the value in these materials continues to grow,” he said. “It should be very encouraging to everyone.”
McLendon, who became interested in recycling after a research project he worked on as a student at the University of Florida, said the county will continue its educational efforts and will work on expanding its recycling abilities.
Meanwhile, Myers is continuing to find more ways to help the cause.
Bearded Brothers recently joined five other recycling-oriented companies to create a group they call the Sustainable Waste Stream Solutions Team. The team plans to work together to tackle a large-scale recycling project. It hasn’t decided upon anything yet, though.
“It’s an infant right now,” Myers said.
Members of the group are Bearded Brothers Solutions, Gainesville Compost, Tropical Recycling, Recycling Services of America, Wood Resource Recovery and Technology Conservation Group.
Rod Ingram, owner of Recycling Services of America, said the group formed when UF began looking for a company to handle all of its recycling. Ingram’s company does office paper recycling for the university, and he didn’t want to lose their business, but he couldn’t imagine how a single local company would be able to handle all of its recycling.
He said he started contacting other local companies, and they realized they would work well as a group and would be able to offer a comprehensive service.
“By forming this, there’s a lot that we can handle that we couldn’t handle individually,” Ingram said. “We challenge each other to go a step further.”
They don’t know yet whether they will get the contract with UF, but they plan to keep working together either way.
The business opportunities should be there. Ingram said business, at least for his paper recycling company, has generally improved steadily over the years.
The Repurpose Project has done well since it opened about a year ago, although it faces the challenge of needing to raise enough money to purchase a new building. The city has plans to build a fire station that would include the project’s current property.
Bearded Brothers, on the other hand, has seen work slowed for several years. Myers said that, with the struggling housing market, developers have been less active and so fewer buildings have needed to be deconstructed.
“But, in a way, that’s good because it’s not going into landfills,” Myers said.
Editor’s note: On Jan. 12, 2010, Haiti was hit with a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that left the world shocked and eager to help. Since the earthquake, the New York Times estimates that nearly seven billion dollars has been given to Haiti from around the world. Florida’s 89.1 WUFT-FM’s Leah Harding recently visited Haiti and reports on the growing push for sustainability within the small Caribbean country.
It has been three years since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, killing an estimated 200,000 people. Despite suffering, rebuilding and years of recovering, some Haitians still possess joy and hope worth singing about.
Ernst Ladeceaur, 22, said the earthquake brought him out of poverty.
Before the quake, Ladeceaur had no income, could not speak English and was struggling to finish high school. But after, he began teaching himself English. He started working as a translator and a construction worker.
For the first time in his life, he has an income of $20 a day.
“Honestly, the earthquake changed a lot of things in Haiti,” Ladeceaur said. “It is true. It’s sad. A lot of people died. But it helped a lot of people also.”
Ladeceaur is being sponsored to attend a university in Port a prince} and hopes to graduate in three years. He said he plans to become a diplomat when he graduates, helping others realize their potential the way that he was shown his.
“I did not have the opportunity,” Ladeceaur said. “I found it. God put someone in my way to give it to me.”
Ernst is not the only Haitian looking to learn English and take advantage of opportunities.
Haiti is Bertrhude Albert’s birthplace, but she moved to the United States as a child. Now, she is the president and co-founder of Projects for Haiti, a Gainesville-based non-profit organization that helps teach English to Haitian locals.
She said teaching them the language is a way to encourage long-term sustainability.
“One of the things that we have is an English Association,” Albert said. “We supply them with books, audios, cassettes, training so that they can have an organization that fosters teaching yourself English.”
Albert says that teaching Haitians how to thrive is more effective than giving them handouts to survive. Projects for Haiti requires participants to pay a small fee which is used to fund the organization’s teaching resources, she said.
“They have paid for it, they have worked for it, and they value it, they cherish it because they’ve given a piece of themselves,” Albert said.
Even after the progress since the earthquake, ruins of homes and buildings and cracked pavement are proof that this Caribbean country still has a significant journey ahead.
Rachel Crosby wrote this story online.