Hourly News Update
By Kathryn Williams on September 24th, 2014 | Last updated: September 24, 2014 at 10:26 am
Cindy Kabiru produced this update.
By Emma Neagu, Shahd Ellamey and Jonathan Muñoz on September 23rd, 2014 | Last updated: September 23, 2014 at 5:51 pm
By Robin Andrews on September 23rd, 2014 | Last updated: September 23, 2014 at 5:01 pm
One less youth football league will hit the field this fall.
The North Central Florida YMCA youth flag football league has been sidelined due to lack of registered participants, which typically consists of at least 100 children. This change may be permanent.
“We usually do have enough to fill the teams to play the tournament, but this year we did not have enough to make it a worthwhile program for the kids,” said John Bonacci, CEO of the North Central Florida YMCA.
Gainesville’s collegiate influence has spurred a market with too many organizations pursuing little league football teams, he said.
Throw a stone in any direction and you’re going to hit someone who’s starting a league, Bonacci said.
The YMCA league runs flag football instead of tackle in consideration of possible injuries and to provide accessibility in an area where families are less likely to be able to afford the costs of proper equipment and safety gear.
Due to the fact the Gainesville area is saturated with football teams, some parents, such as Krista Philpot, believe that competition and location are the biggest issues for the YMCA when there are leagues closer to home.
“I want my boy to play local, personally. So that may be it, instead of taking them to the ‘Y,’” said Philpot, team mom for the 10 and Under Boys and Girls Club Panthers.
Summer Hester, another Panther mom, said she would never face the time and traffic of a commute from Newberry to Gainesville for a YMCA practice.
The other YMCA’s fall sports are continuing their seasons as planned.
While no affected families’ personal information was released, Bonacci said he presumes children who missed out on the YMCA league either joined another organization’s league or switched to a different sport at the YMCA.
And while parents received full refunds, the YMCA did not lose any money due to the cancellations because its goal for each season is to simply break even.
“We don’t have the budget to lose money on it. Can’t afford to, but we’re not looking to make a profit off of these kids either,” Bonacci said.
The league was canceled in a time of financial analysis. The YMCA can’t be competitive in its current financial state even though the demand for football isn’t weakening.
The YMCA is currently conducting a small-scale version of a market study to assess if the community needs its football league.
“We are reevaluating the entire program as to what sports we should be moving forward with and what sports we just don’t have the resources to be competitive,” he said.
During the reevaluation, the YMCA is keeping its main goals in mind: giving youth an outlet, getting them off the streets, providing a safe environment with positive influences and moving away from technology in a fight against childhood obesity.
While the YMCA redesigns its programs, many other organizations are still romping fields this fall.
By Alexandra Go on September 23rd, 2014 | Last updated: September 23, 2014 at 4:45 pm
Food insecure locals received extra food resources thanks to the Salvation Army and the Nourishment Network Food Bank. The organizations, in partnership with Farm Share, held a free food distribution at the Salvation Army of Gainesville.
About 500 local individuals and households received bags of food at the Sept. 22 distribution. Salvation Army Captain, Preston Lewis, said the event gave additional help to those, “whose resources are very slim and aren’t really sufficient to get them from week to week.”
“Chopper Dave” Rothfeldt, a local homeless man, said he and his wife attended the event because they ran out of food stamps and food. Fortunately, Rothfeldt and his wife were able to receive free food bags.
The donated food was a big help to Rothfeldt. “We’ll be alright now, until we get our food stamps again.”
Chris Hughes, manager of USDA/TEFAP at Nourishment Network, said the event targeted low-income locals and their families struggling with food insecurity.
“One in six people are food insecure, meaning, they don’t know when their next meal is going to be; that number rises to one in four when you’re talking about children, ” Hughes said. “We’re hoping to reduce those numbers in the Gainesville-Alachua County community.”
While the organizations supplied food to around 500 local individuals and households, the turnout of local volunteers at the event was low.
Emma Holt, a lead volunteer at the Nourishment Network, was surprised by the lack of volunteers and support from the local community. “We had a problem getting volunteers, so we were very blessed and honored to have some of the clients in line agree to volunteer,” Holt said.
Holt hopes more local volunteers can be recruited in the future as these distributions usually need 30 to 40 people to properly provide service to attendees. Holt said the Nourishment Network Food Bank, which is based in North Florida, now recognizes the need in the Gainesville-Alachua County area and wants to return to aid the community again.
By Leah Harding on September 23rd, 2014 | Last updated: September 23, 2014 at 3:33 pm
Extended exclusive interview with WUFT’s Leah Harding and Jay Martin. Martin was questioned and had his DNA swabbed by the University of Florida Police Department in regards to the recent attacks on women on and near UF’s campus.
By Aaron Brand on September 23rd, 2014 | Last updated: September 23, 2014 at 2:41 pm
Gainesville’s No More Homeless Pets is offering select individuals free spay and neuter services for cats and dogs for a limited time.
NMHP has received a grant from Florida Animal Friend for $25,000 that will allow them to spay or neuter about 380 dogs and cats free of charge for Alachua County’s low-income residents, veterans and students who receive financial aid. The grant covers the cost of surgery, anesthesia and pain medication for the animals.
The program runs until the grant money runs out, which NMHP Executive Director Sandi Richmond estimates will be in about two to three months.
Richmond said applicable low-income residents include those on government assistance such as food stamps, Medicaid or Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
“We’re able to fix almost 400 animals for people that are low-income, Alachua County residents,” Richmond said. “We’ve expanded it to military veterans or students that have Pell grants. We want to help everyone fix their pet.”
This is the third time NMHP has received the grant directly because groups can only receive the grant every other year. However, NMHP has received the grant each of the last five years when other animal rescue groups signed it over.
The grant is paid for from sales of the Florida Animal Friend specialty license plate. The plate costs an extra $25, all of which goes to Florida Animal Friend, according to the Florida Animal Friend website.
Florida Animal Friend specialty plate owner and Alachua County Animal Services investigator Jessica Lauginiger said she’s happy to see her money is being well spent.
“Usually, when you spend extra money and pay for a specialty tag, you don’t get to see the effect in your community,” she said. “It’s nice to see a direct positive impact in my community.”
Richmond said they have spayed or neutered more than 20,000 dogs and cats since they began Operation Petsnip in 2009. More than 2,000 of those surgeries have been free under the Pets of Alachua County Targeted Sterilization, or PACTS program.
“One of the things we found is that there are barriers to spay and neuter,” she said. “A lot of times people want to do the right thing, but if it’s between feeding their family or fixing their pet, they really don’t have a choice.”
Felicia Calvert took advantage of the program Tuesday by having her Chihuahua Missy and Chiweenie Nickie spayed at no cost. Calvert said she would not have been able to have her dogs spayed without the program, which she heard about from her mom who also used it.
“I think it’s awesome. I think it’s brilliant,” she said. “I’ve wanted to (have them spayed), but it’s a lot of money.”
No More Homeless Pets is located behind the Alachua County Humane Society at 4205 NW Sixth St. in Gainesville.
By Nathalie Dortonne on September 23rd, 2014 | Last updated: September 23, 2014 at 11:34 am
Stephanie Alvarez produced this update.
By Michelle Manzione on September 23rd, 2014 | Last updated: September 23, 2014 at 11:18 am
The Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office released the 911 phone call made by Don Spirit today.
Don Spirit called 911 on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014 at approximately 4 p.m. to inform the police that he had shot and killed his daughter, Sarah Spirit, and his six grandchildren. Spirit told the dispatcher that he would be waiting on his porch for police to arrive, at which point he would shoot himself. The children’s bodies were found throughout the inside of the home, while Sarah Spirit’s body was located outside the residence.
When police officers arrived on the scene, the deputies had verbal contact with Don Spirit before he shot himself, which ultimately resulted in his death, according to the press release issued by the GCSO and FDLE.
The motive behind the slayings are unknown at this time. However, further investigation revealed that Don Spirit was a convicted felon. Police officials are currently investigating how he obtained the firearm: a .45 caliber handgun.