Nov. 24, 2014: Afternoon News In 90

By on November 24th, 2014 | Last updated: November 24, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Taylor Trache produced this update. 

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Cart Program Gives Rural Disabled New Opportunities

By on November 24th, 2014 | Last updated: November 24, 2014 at 4:23 pm
Jeannine Cawthon, a Gainesville native, paints the body of a PET cart on Thursday morning.

Carla Vianna / WUFT News

Jeannine Cawthon, a Gainesville native, paints the body of a Personal Energy Transportation cart on Thursday morning.

Seun Oke, pronounced Shay-oon Oak, was 8 years old when she permanently lost use of her legs.

She was in fourth grade when diagnosed with polio in her hometown in Nigeria.

“My parents always carried me to school and they used to bag (piggy-back) me at times,” she told a crowded room of volunteers at Penney Farms. “But most of times, I was on the ground crawling.”

The 27-year-old is part of a much larger community of people who have lost use of their limbs – people who have been labeled as “diseased” or “disabled” and consequently shunned by the rest of their rural communities.

PET International, an organization headquartered in Columbus, Missouri, has made it its mission to give these individuals “the gift of mobility.”

This “gift” comes in the form of a brightly colored hand-cranked cart, simply described as a wheelchair for places where wheelchairs can’t go.

The Personal Energy Transportation cart resembles a wooden wheelbarrow turned tricycle, with a seat at one end supported by two wheels and a third wheel in the front. Handles extending from the cart’s front wheel give the rider full control over its motion.

Turning the handles in a clockwise motion moves the cart forward, and moving the handles from side to side changes its direction.

With solid wheels and a sturdy wooden frame, the carts are made to last a long time on the rural grounds of developing countries. It takes a $250 donation to build and distribute a PET cart overseas, but they are given to people at no cost.

Twenty-three PET production sites, three of which are in Florida, are run by hundreds of volunteers across 13 different states.

Oke spoke at a workshop known as The PET Project at Penney Farms, about an hour northeast of Gainesville, in October when the organization celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Oke, who was able to go to school on her own and now has a local government job, told the volunteers that the PET carts give an individual his or her independence.

“Since the day I got a PET cart, I’m totally free,” she said.

Located within a 500-member retirement community, the PET warehouse sits at the end of a road on a large, grassy field. Inside, different models of PET carts hang from the ceiling. About 10 volunteers are scattered about, each a part of an intricate assembly line that will produce a single cart.

They are people like Sid Rooy, who encountered people who had lost their limbs to explosive land mines during his time teaching in Latin America.

Or the Schmaltzes, a couple from Michigan who spent each winter volunteering at the PET facility until finally moving into the retirement community next door.

Dave Quirk, PET procurement coordinator at the workshop, said the workshop sees about 100 to 120 volunteers.

Quirk said they’ve built more than 7,000 carts since the workshop’s founding in 2001. Between all the production sites, more than 48,000 have been built and distributed to 100 different countries.

“Somebody asked me the other day, ‘Geez, but that many, are you getting to the end? Is the demand going away?’” Quirk said.

“And I said, ‘Well if you can stop polio, if you can stop wars where nobody’s planting war mines, if you can stop diabetes … There are so many reasons why people need a PET,” he said. “And I don’t see it ending any time soon.”

Two women painting in the back of the shop make the drive up from Gainesville once a month. Jeannine Cawthon and Cindy Rohlwing have been volunteering with PET for almost two years now.

Rohlwing recounts her best day at the shop, when she worked on a cart that was going to a specific person she knew of. The mission director at her church had gone to Guatemala and encountered a woman in need, and Quirk arranged for a cart to be sent to her.

“These go all over the world, but to come to work after knowing one particular person in Guatemala got a cart was just the nicest thing,” Rohlwing said. “Everybody was so excited because that’s what everybody works for, and it just really brings them home when you have that one individual that you have a connection to.”

When asked what her favorite part of working at the shop is, Rohlwing’s response matched the others’.

“It’s just been so wonderful to meet the people that work here. The volunteers that work in Penney Farms — a lot of them are retired missionaries,” Rohlwing said. “Most of them have spent their life in service, and they are fascinating because they’ve lived all over the world.”

Two new volunteers walk in as Quirk recounts the workshop’s history.

“We’re new here!” the two men say in unison.

Quirk looks up at them from the PET cart he’s sitting on and smiles.

“Come when you can, leave when you must,” Quirk says.

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In The News: U.S. Conducts Air Strikes, Jake Kerouac Letter Found, China Building Island, FSU Shooting Victim Paralyzed

By on November 24th, 2014 | Last updated: November 24, 2014 at 2:15 pm
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Nov. 24, 2014: Morning News In 90

By on November 24th, 2014 | Last updated: November 24, 2014 at 11:08 am

Michelle Manzione produced this update. 

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In The News: US Defense Secretary Steps Down, Orange County Pot House Busted, Netflix Aims To Surpass Networks, Tourists Hunt Florida Turkeys

By on November 24th, 2014 | Last updated: November 24, 2014 at 10:40 am
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Muschamp Gets Win In Last Game At The Swamp

By on November 22nd, 2014 | Last updated: November 22, 2014 at 9:05 pm
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Community Members Urge City to Keep NW 8th Ave. Two Lanes

By on November 22nd, 2014 | Last updated: November 21, 2014 at 6:39 pm
Cars travel through the two-lane trial section of NW 8th Avenue just east of NW 34th Street in Gainesville on November 21st. The blacked-out lines from the previous setup are still visible.

Kelly Audette / WUFT News

Cars travel through the two-lane trial section of NW 8th Avenue just east of NW 34th Street in Gainesville on Nov. 21. The blacked-out lines from the previous setup are still visible.

A recent response from the Gainesville Police Department to the trial two-lane configuration has some community members questioning the validity of the survey, as well as the safety of a four-lane configuration.

“I’m still hoping to find out which policemen actually took that survey,” Arnall Downs, a former City Beautification Chair member, said. “I’ve never seen 97 percent of the people agree on anything.”

Downs has lived in Gainesville for 21 years and has designed a number of projects for the city, including the way signs in the downtown area. Downs has been a proponent of a two-lane configuration for upwards of 19 years.

Opposing the trial configuration is a large number of Gainesville Police Department personnel, with 98 percent of the 164 employees surveyed about the changes not wanting them to be permanent.

The survey also found that 80 percent of the personnel surveyed used the road daily, and 81 percent also believed the two-lane configuration impeded emergency response to calls for service in the area.

Despite the many suggestions and comments included on the survey bemoaning the two lanes, many residents along the road prefer the configuration over the original four lanes.

“There have been plans over the last 25 years to make this neighborhood street into a pass through for suburban traffic,” Goldstein said. “The neighborhood and the city have resisted it for good reasons — it’s a neighborhood street.”

The University Park Neighborhood Association consists of about 300 members, including Downs, and covers around 2,000 residential properties along NW 8th Avenue, according to former Gainesville mayor, Dr. Mark Goldstein.

Goldstein has lived in Gainesville for 43 years and is on the board of the association, which voted overwhelmingly to permanently switch the one-seventh of a mile stretch of NW 8th Avenue just east of NW 34th Street to a two-lane configuration.

“This is an urban residential area,” he said. “Having a strip that is high-speed and runs 50-60 miles an hour doesn’t make any sense, never did.”

The city implemented the current two-lane configuration in August of 2013 as a trial before a 3.3-mile section of the road is resurfaced in early 2015. The Public Works Department collected usage data before and after the trial.

The findings show that during the evaluation period in 2011, about 15,100 cars used the section of NW 8th Avenue daily, where as about 14,300 cars used it daily during the trial. Cars traveled approximately four to five miles slower with one lane than they did with two. Bicycle usage also increased during the trial.

Cars head east on NW 8th Ave. after having to merge from two lanes into one just after passing NW 34th St. on November 6 in Gainesville.

Kelly Audette / WUFT News

Cars head east on NW 8th Avenue after having to merge from two lanes into one just after passing NW 34th St. on Nov. 6 in Gainesville.

“I think that cyclists would use the route more often,” Chris Furlow, president of Gainesville Citizens for Active Transportation said. “With 16th Avenue not having bike facilities added in its reconstruction, it would be the main east-west throughway for bikes.”

Supporters of a two-lane configuration stress it is the safer option. The Public Works Department has designed four different options, one of which is a four-lane design, with different safety features such as a pedestrian-refuge median, sidewalks and bike lanes.

Furlow, who has been avidly biking since the 1980s, rides his bicycle on NW 8th Avenue frequently. He is in favor of design option two.

Downs supports a two-lane configuration with a bike lane and median, similar to options one and two, for safety reasons.

“Four lanes is not really conducive for people crossing the street at any point,” she sad. “Even at an intersection, that is why it is a constrained area.”

As mentioned in a previous article, the City Commission voted 4-3 last December to keep the two-lane configuration. However, after the March election there are new commissioners, such as Helen Warren, that may vote differently than their predecessors.

“At first I did not favor the idea of bringing it back to two lanes,” Warren said. “But since the trial I’ve found that it has a lot of positive points.”

The city also hired engineers to conduct a study of NW 8th Avenue between NW 31st Drive and NW 34th Street to determine the operational impact of the lane reduction. The report concluded that fewer lanes would slow traffic down by a few minutes, depending on the time of day.

“All the data shows that two-lane option is as good or better for cars,” Furlow said. “It is safer for bikes and pedestrians than the four-lane option, so why not?”

The commission is scheduled to vote on the configuration Dec. 4th. Warren acknowledged that the road has generated emotional turmoil within the community.

“This is a design that will be in place for some time,” Warren said. “We’re not looking at what worked yesterday but what is going to work for tomorrow, and for the future.”

The neighborhood association plans to have at least one representative present to champion the two-lane configuration. Goldstein plans to attend.

His message to commissioners is simple.

“Slow down, move in, and enjoy life. If you love the city, work with us instead of telling us how fast you want to get out of it.”

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Local Immigrant Family Reacts To Obama’s Executive Order

By on November 21st, 2014 | Last updated: November 21, 2014 at 6:46 pm

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Nov. 21, 2014: Afternoon News In 90

By on November 21st, 2014 | Last updated: November 22, 2014 at 10:08 am

Samantha Sosa produced this update.

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The Great American Smokeout Urges End Of Tobacco Use

By on November 21st, 2014 | Last updated: November 21, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Smoking. Chewing. Dipping.

Tobacco-Free Task Force and the University of Florida partnered to inform tobacco users the perils of the plant.

The daylong Great American Smokeout shared information and tools on how to quit tobacco use. Volunteers and UF faculty and staff handed out educational materials around campus about the services available to smokers at UF on Nov. 15.

The University of Florida Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program and GatorWell Health Promotion Services partnered with various organizations to provide free and discounted medication and counseling to help UF staff, faculty, students and their families quit using tobacco.

Kathy L. Nichols Associate, director of Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) manned a table in UF’s Plaza of the Americas to inform people about the dangers of tobacco use.

“We’re encouraging people to make a quit attempt, and we’re going to be able to provide to them any of the services that they need to help them,” Nichols said.

The American Cancer Society marks the third Thursday of November as the Great American Smokeout. On this day tobacco users are encouraged to not smoke for a day and make plans to quit and take steps toward a healthier life.

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