Takeaways from Tallahassee — Helping out

Blue Tally Takeaways (5)
Florida reaches out to those heroes who could use emotional support.

Peer-to-peer

Florida is doubling down on mental health services to first responders.

This week, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced plans to invest $12 million into peer-to-peer mental health services provided by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The services will cater exclusively to emergency workers and their families.

“Our first responders have made it their life’s work to put the needs of others before their own,” the First Lady said at a Tampa news conference. “It is vital that we provide them with resiliency and mental health resources to continue serving our communities. By expanding these services, we can help to create a strong network of support for our first responders.”

Ron and Casey DeSantis are there for heroes who need a little help with mental health.

The funding intends to bolster existing local peer-based services across the state. The service connects first responders and their families with fellow responders trained in counseling and familiar with mental health resources.

“First responders impact the lives of Floridians every day, and they deserve our support,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis. “In Florida, we realize that on top of financial support, our first responders need to have resources available to support their mental health. We will continue to make investments in our first responders that will make lasting impacts.”

DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris described prevention and early intervention as the “cornerstones” to the service. The key, she said, is support at the “first moment of impact.”

Throughout the news conference, first responders themselves detailed the variety of traumatic experiences they face regularly.

“We are thankful for our partners across the state who respond with urgency to their client’s needs,” Harris said. “By further building out and establishing a permanency in resources for mental health services for first responders, we know that the Department will be able to more effectively and efficiently meet the needs of those who give their all to keep our state safe.”

Mental health and first responders are among the top priorities of the DeSantis family. Throughout DeSantis’ first term, the Republican Governor and Casey have launched a series of programs and initiatives.

Earlier this year, the pair prioritized a website providing “emotional support” to survivors of the Surfside building collapse and first responders. Ninety-eight died in the condominium building collapse.

The emergency response was among the largest in state history and included emergency workers from across the globe.

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Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers, and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Jason Delgado, Christine Jordan Sexton, and the staff of Florida Politics.

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

House releases first redistricting drafts to Democratic criticism — Leaders in the House redistricting process this week rebuked criticism from Democrats and outside interests over the first four draft maps released by the Redistricting Committee. The maps, particularly a congressional map that could give an 18-10 advantage for Republicans, follow a more aggressive approach than the Senate’s drafts. However, committee chairs stressed that the drafts are being workshopped and are not the final product. “The partisan narratives and rhetoric will not have a place in this committee process,” said Rep. Tyler Sirois, Chair of the House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee. Sirois stressed the maps were generated to show how different approaches to drawing boundaries could produce wildly different products.

Ron DeSantis eyes Florida State Guard revival — DeSantis on Thursday said he wants to resurrect the Florida State Guard, a World War II paramilitary force disbanded in the late 1940s. Unlike the Florida National Guard, the FSG would answer solely to the Governor. No federal deployments. No federal missions. No federal dollars. Just $3.5 million in state funds. The State Guard could respond more quickly to emergencies. The upside, DeSantis added, is they’re “not encumbered by the federal government.” The proposal quickly drew criticism from the Governor’s critics. Some likened the force, which parallels 23 states and territories, like California and New York, to the Gestapo.

Tallahassee officials voice opposition to triple House split — It was-all-hands-on-deck for Tallahassee’s top elected officials during the Legislative Redistricting Subcommittee on Friday. Rep. Allison Tant, Mayor John Dailey, and Leon County Commission Chair Rick Minor spoke against a proposal that would split Tallahassee into three House districts for the first time. Tant said she wants to ensure Tallahassee isn’t “cannibalized,” watering down residents’ voices by splitting them between two rural counties. Dailey said he doesn’t want Florida State University’s campus divided either, as the plan would. “We are a university town. We have Town and Gown issues that we work on each and every day,” Dailey said. All three supported the alternative House plan, which kept Tallahassee in just two districts.

Senate plans COVID-19 liability extension — A Senate panel on Tuesday voted to introduce a committee bill to extend COVID-19 liability protections for nursing homes, hospitals and physicians until June 1, 2023, a tacit acknowledgment that the COVID-19 pandemic remains a concern. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Danny Burgess, the proposed bill’s sponsor, said he did not have any data on the number of COVID-19 related lawsuits filed. “I don’t have a stack of data one way or the other, but I think us getting out on this early helped to mitigate what might have been coming down the pike,” he said. The June 1, 2023, expiration date for the enhanced legal protections aligns with the sunset date included in other recently enacted laws relating to COVID-19.

Man charged with cyberstalking, extorting Book — A Plantation man was arrested last month for cyberstalking and attempting to extort Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book. Jeremy Hugo Kamperveen, 19, was charged with cyberstalking, sexual harassment, and extortion on Nov. 17, including “distorted, fake and stolen images created in an effort to intimidate, threaten, and extort” her. “My family and I are most grateful to law enforcement for their swift action,” Book said. “However, the investigation is active and ongoing to ensure that other individuals that could be behind these serious criminal acts that are targeting me are apprehended and brought to justice.”

Use the FORCE

More than 70% of U.S. retailers say they’ve fallen victim to organized theft in the past year, and Attorney General Ashley Moody wants to prevent the trend from taking root in Florida.

Her office this week launched a statewide task force and interactive database known as the Florida Organized Retail Crime Exchange, or FORCE.

The database is designed to bridge the gaps between retailers, law enforcement, and prosecutors by allowing shareable, searchable information on incidents of theft statewide. Moody’s office said the tool will help spot trends, identify suspects and take down organized retail theft rings.

Retailers will be able to upload data, such as what was stolen, suspect descriptions, a description of their methods, and vehicle information into the FORCE database. Other retailers and law enforcement will use that information to link crimes.

Ashley Moody developed a new tool to help fight theft rings.

“We are seeing lawlessness and out-of-control mobs preying on businesses and consumers in major cities outside of Florida, and we will not allow these crime sprees to harm Floridians or our retailers. While we have done a good job of catching and prosecuting major retail theft rings in Florida, the threat is growing, and we must evolve with it,” she said.

The initiative has buy-in from local law enforcement, with Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd saying FORCE will prevent consumers from getting “ripped off” by way of higher prices to cover retailers’ losses from theft.

Retailers are on board, too.

“We are honored to collaborate with Attorney General Ashley Moody and her team on the creation of this ORC task force,” Florida Retail Federation President and CEO Scott Shalley said. “Organized retail crime continues to pose a serious threat to retailers, with a significant increase in activity over the past year. FORCE will play a key role in facilitating the collaboration between retail and law enforcement to protect Florida retailers, prevent crime and hold criminals accountable.”

Dialing for dollars

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis hosted a live phone bank in Tampa and urged viewers to call about unclaimed property under their name.

The results, Patronis says, were big. In just under 15 hours, more than 1000 TV news viewers in the Tampa area discovered thousands worth under their name.

“Tampa just got a little extra holiday cheer in the form of $230,000 in unclaimed cash returned back to area residents,” Patronis said. “During my Holiday Money Hunt, we are working to return as much money as possible” to Florida families during December.

You never know who might be on the other end of the phone. Image via Twitter.

Unclaimed property is a lost or uncollected financial asset in the state’s possession. It can take many forms, such as dormant bank accounts, uncashed checks, or a ring left inside a safety deposit box.

All Floridians should search for unclaimed money ahead of the holidays, Patronis said.

“It’s the time of year where everyone could use a little extra spending cash, and an unexpected check from the State of Florida could help make things a little brighter this year,” he added.

Over the years, celebrities and politicians, including former President Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and former MLB star Derek Jeter have been among those listed in the unclaimed property log.

Florida residents and businesses can search for unclaimed property online.

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

Florida’s 9th Circuit Court — The Governor appointed Michael Deen of Winter Park to the 9th Circuit Court. Deen has served on the Orange County bench since his appointment in March 2021. He previously served as an Assistant State Attorney in the 9th Circuit for nine years. Deen received his bachelor’s degree from Samford University and his law degree from Barry University. He fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Donald Myers Jr.

Florida’s 17th Circuit CourtNatasha DePrimo of Davie has been appointed to the 17th Circuit Court. DePrimo has served on the Broward County bench since her appointment in 2018. She previously served as a Senior Attorney for the Florida Department of Transportation for nine years and as an Assistant State Attorney for three years. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami and her law degree from the University of Florida. She fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Tarlika Nunez-Navarro.

Hillsborough County Court — DeSantis named James Giardina, Susan Lopez and Matthew Smith to the Hillsborough County Court this week. Giardina is the owner and lead attorney at The Consumer Rights Law Group. He received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Lopez has worked as an Assistant State Attorney in the 13th Circuit since 2005. She received her bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College and her law degree from Suffolk University. Smith worked as an Assistant Statewide Prosecutor in the Attorney General’s Office and as Chief Assistant State Attorney in the 13th Circuit. He received his bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy and his law degree from Florida State University. All three appointees fill new judgeships on the court.

Junior Rangers

First Lady DeSantis and Junior Rangers Madison and Mason DeSantis helped plant longleaf pines as part of the continued Hurricane Michael recovery effort.

The First Family joined Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton at Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna to help replant seedlings. The park sustained devastating damage during the 2018 Category 5 storm, losing more than 90% of its forest.

“Floridians enjoy our award-winning state parks, and planting these pines will restore healthy ecosystems, while also providing an essential connection for Floridians of all ages to get outside, volunteer, and enjoy the life-enhancing benefits of nature and the outdoors,” the First Lady said. “Today’s event emphasizes the importance of both large and small efforts to help communities recover and become more resilient. From day one of his administration, Gov. DeSantis has stood with Panhandle communities impacted by Hurricane Michael, and this is another way to revitalize a stunning, historical part of Florida’s history.”

Casey DeSantis and Junior Rangers Madison and Mason DeSantis lend a helping hand in Hurricane Michael relief.

The Florida State Parks Foundation created the Plant a Pine initiative, in which 100,000 longleaf pine seedlings were planted at state parks across Florida. Following that success, they recently announced another goal to plant an additional 100,000 longleaf pine trees by Earth Day 2022 — April 22.

“Today, we celebrated not only the importance of protecting Florida’s State Parks, but also the importance of hurricane recovery through environmental restoration,” Hamilton said. “These opportunities allow us to witness firsthand how Gov. DeSantis’ leadership has aided hurricane recovery efforts in our state.”

Healthy Start

Maternal and child health advocates have honored House Speaker Chris Sprowls for the success of Florida’s Healthy Start program and his continued support for children and families.

Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions Chief Executive Officer Cathy Timuta celebrated Sprowls for his commitment. Last Session, Sprowls took on an effort to extend Medicaid benefits for pregnant women until one year after the birth of their child.

Chris Sprowls is recognized for his commitment to protecting Florida children.

“Every baby should have the opportunity to be born — healthy. And every mother should have the maternal health care she needs to set up herself, her family, and her child to thrive,” Sprowls said. “The Florida House is proud to stand together in support of moms and babies across our state, and we are thankful for the work that groups like Healthy Start have done and will do with our investment to bring vital health care services within the reach of more mothers.”

Healthy Start is part of the umbrella and safety net for the maternal and child health system of care in Florida. Championed by then-Gov. Lawton Chiles and First Lady Rhea Chiles, Healthy Start was officially created by the Florida Legislature in 1991 to address the alarming rates of infant mortality and precariously low birth weights in Florida, and to remove systemic barriers to prenatal and early childhood health care.

Today, Florida’s 32 Healthy Start Coalitions are successfully implementing systems of prenatal care in every community, as well as providing services for postpartum women, young children up to the age of three, and their families.

High mileage

The Florida Department of Transportation’s Safe Mobility for Life Coalition will join organizations across the nation in celebrating Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, starting Dec. 6.

Organized by the American Occupational Therapy Association, the week aims to bring attention to — and promote understanding of — the important role transportation plays in helping older adults remain active in the community through activities such as shopping, working or volunteering.

However, older drivers can present a safety risk to themselves and others. Sometimes the best solution is getting older drivers used to sitting in the passenger seat.

Sometimes, putting dad in the passenger seat is the best thing.

“Achieving zero fatalities and serious injuries takes everyone working together,” FDOT Secretary Kevin Thibault said. “With the Coalition’s collaborative, data-driven approach, we are helping residents drive safer while they become comfortable using different modes of transportation to get to their destinations.”

FDOT said all Floridians have a responsibility to learn about how aging can impact driving skills and address the concerns of those who may need to retire from driving.

Older Driver Safety Awareness Week provides seniors an avenue to learn safe driving skills while exploring transportation options to keep them independent.

The department has prepared a website with tips, information, and a checklist for building a “personalized transportation plan” for older drivers. FDOT will also host a “Working Together Webinar” on Wednesday at 10 a.m.

BearWise

Four Florida communities and U.S. Air Force Hurlburt Field have achieved BearWise Community Recognition for taking efforts to reduce bear attractants.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is among the 15 member organizations of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which launched BearWise in 2018. As the human footprint continues to expand into bear habitat, particularly in the Southeastern United States, the association found a growing need for people to share the land and avoid human-bear conflicts.

Securing attractants, such as garbage and bird feeders, is the most effective and long-term solution to preventing and resolving human-bear conflicts, according to BearWise.

Time to grin and bear it.

Hurlburt Field in Okaloosa County purchased bear-resistant trash cans for all on-base housing units and converted all dumpsters to keep bears out after increased bear activity in the mid-2000s. After just one year of those and other efforts, in 2013, human-bear conflicts on-base fell 70%.

“The Hurlburt Field community is fortunate to have undeveloped areas on base and be bordered by the Eglin Reservation,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas Pulire. “This gives the base a great natural feel and provides frequent opportunities to see bears and other wildlife in their natural habitat.”

Unfortunately, not all communities have the same resources as Hurlburt Field, BearWise notes. Income disparity, community structure and residents’ willingness and perceptions of black bears can be barriers to reducing encounters. BearWise is prioritizing making its program more accessible to a variety of communities.

Wingfield North and Wingfield Reserve in Logwood, Cypress Dunes in Santa Rosa Beach and Stoneybrook in Estero each met the six “BearWise Basics” and passed ordinances requiring trash be kept secure from bears.

Survivor anonymity

Sen. Lori Berman and Rep. Robin Bartleman have refiled legislation to ensure victims of sexual violence have to consent for their names to be disclosed in public proceedings, an effort to make it easier for victims to report crimes if they fear going public with it.

Identifying information, including employers or schools, can currently be disclosed alongside the survivors’ names. The legislation (SB 1084/HB 775) would put an end to that.

Robin Bartleman and Lori Berman are helping keep abuse survivors safe from further harassment.

“We know that many sex criminals victimize numerous others unless stopped by law enforcement,” Berman said. “But we also know that many victims are reluctant to come forward out of fear for their attacker or feeling that somehow they were to blame for the assault. This bill helps prevent breaches in their security so that justice can prevail for these victims. Survivors deserve our support and encouragement, and that begins by assuring them of their privacy.”

“Sen. Berman and I have spent the last year refining this important legislation because we believe this bill is necessary to protect victims of sexual assault,” Bartleman said. “They are entitled to access Florida’s courts without fear of retaliation and should not be re-traumatized and threatened with public exposure for reporting a crime of this nature. House Bill 775 will protect the anonymity of a survivor.”

Anonymous donors

A bill to protect the identity of individuals that support efforts combating human trafficking in Florida passed its first committee stop unanimously.

The measure (SB 294), sponsored by Miami Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia, would also strive to increase the effectiveness of the Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking. Senators on the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee voted Tuesday in favor of the measure.

“In order to end human trafficking, we must ensure that those who wish to support our efforts in Florida are not deterred due to the fear of disclosing personal information, and this bill aims to provide that protection,” Garcia said. “I became a State Senator to help defend and protect the most vulnerable in our community, and children being trafficked and abused deserve all the support we can provide.”

To fight human trafficking, Ileana Garcia says there must be some anonymity for the vulnerable.

Garcia’s bill will exempt donors and prospective donors to the Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking from public records requirements if they ask to remain anonymous. Specified meetings with those donors or prospective donors would also remain anonymous.

The Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking is a nonprofit organization created by the Florida Legislature to provide funding, support, and assistance to the statewide effort to end human trafficking. Florida ranks third in the United States in human trafficking cases reported and second for labor trafficking cases reported, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

In July, Senate President Wilton Simpson appointed Garcia to the panel’s Board of Directors. Garcia also chairs the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee.

Get rolling

The supply chain crisis is complicated, but most experts agree that the country needs more truck drivers on the road.

But getting a commercial driver’s license is expensive — it costs roughly $6,500 for a four-week course, which is either paid out of pocket or through student loans. Even with high demand and booming salaries in the field, many potential truck drivers never give it a shot because they can’t afford it.

FleetForce Truck Driving School and Florida Trucking Association have devised a plan to remove that barrier.

The Florida Trucking Association wants you to hit the road.

This week, the two organizations launched a joint initiative that will give aspiring truck drivers a full ride as they work toward their CDLs. Once their training is complete, a job will be waiting for them.

The joint effort will see FleetForce conduct the pre-hire screening to ensure applicants meet the qualifications and criteria for the job while FTA members pitch in to cover tuition.

“Trucking is a central part of growing and maintaining a strong economy, but it’s also a life-changing career opportunity for so many people,” said Tra Williams, president and CEO of FleetForce. “This new program is offering free training and guaranteed employment for applicants who meet the qualifications. There’s excellent earning potential in this industry right now, and there’s a dire need for entry-level drivers. It’s a win-win.”

Florida Trucking Association president and CEO Alix Miller added, “FTA is always looking for creative solutions to solve industry challenges. The driver shortage limits capacity for trucking companies, and directly impacts the economy and Floridians’ daily lives. This collaboration matches some of the most well-respected companies in the state with well-trained drivers, eager to get on the road.”

Clerks

Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers is celebrating the first legislative action on the organization’s priorities for the 2022 Session, restructuring courts to help reduce driver’s license suspensions and more.

The legislation would allow Clerks to submit quarterly requests for reimbursement for no-fee services for mental health and substance abuse cases. It would also attempt to secure stable funding sources for Clerks. Finally, it would further standardize monthly payment plans for driver’s licenses to make them more affordable and easier to pay off.

Jim Boyd and Chuck Clemons are putting Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers on the top of the 2022 to-do list.

“We are thankful that last year the Legislature provided us the framework to begin fixing the challenges that have affected the system that funds our services,” FCCC President Angel Colonneso said. “Clerks of Court are committed to continuing to build on this foundation with a new set of creative solutions laid out in SB 552 and HB 397, and we look forward to working with our legislative partners to move these bills forward to better safeguard our services for residents.”

Republican Sen. Jim Boyd filed the Senate bill, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously on Tuesday. Boyd also successfully sponsored the effort last Session to fix the funding sources for Clerks of Court, which dried up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Over the years, Clerks have taken on a number of responsibilities to better serve residents in our state,” Boyd said. “With this legislation, we are aiming to build on last year’s practical solutions to safeguard the critical services Clerks provide, and I’m excited to be a part of these efforts along with Rep. Clemons.”

Republican Rep. Chuck Clemons filed the House version, awaiting its first committee hearing.

“Clerks of Court are significant partners to local governments across the state, ensuring access to justice and critical services that promote public safety,” Clemons said. “Unfortunately, their unique funding system has seen its challenges worsen. They have been asked to do more with less.“

Marching ‘100’

Florida A&M University’s Marching “100” will be featured in a 60-second Pepsi ad spotlighting HBCU band culture that airs on ESPN 2 on Saturday during the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game.

“This ad campaign provides a fitting showcase for two exceptional music programs,” said FAMU Director of Bands Shelby Chipman. “Our marching band students are committed to excellence in the classroom and performing on the field. This campaign celebrates their dedication and talent.”

HBCU alum Alan Ferguson directed the ad in partnership with Pepsi’s in-house studio.

The FAMU ‘Marching 100’ is not just a band; it’s a state of mind. Image via FAMU.

“Fans of the incomparable Marching ‘100’ will be pleased,” Chipman said. “It was an amazing experience for our students to work with the production team during their visit to our campus.”

The ad, which also features Jackson State University’s “Sonic Boom of the South,” highlights the electricity and history they bring to game day. Pepsi is investing more than $3 million behind the ad, set to run across SWAC media, including on ABC during December’s Celebration BOWL, as well as on national media outlets throughout the end of the month.

The ad campaign is part of PepsiCo’s larger Racial Equality Journey, which in 2020 saw the company announce commitments of more than $570 million over the next five years to elevate diverse voices within the company, supply chain partners, and communities while helping to address issues of inequality and create opportunity.

Rural resiliency

Florida State University researchers have received a national grant to explore an underused space for disaster response, public libraries.

Researchers will zero in on Calhoun County, which remains devastated after 2018’s Hurricane Michael. The researchers will work with librarians and community members to establish a transferable design and assessment process to let rural public libraries be “Resiliency Hubs.”

Resiliency Hubs are community-serving facilities tailored to support residents, coordinate communication, distribute resources and provide technical assistance while enhancing the quality of life. They offer an opportunity to effectively work at the nexus of community resilience, emergency management, climate change mitigation, and social equity while also providing opportunities for communities to become more self-determining, socially connected, and successful before, during, and after disruptions.

FSU researchers help turn rural libraries into ‘resiliency hubs.’ Clockwise from the top left: Marcia A. Mardis, Eren Erman Ozguven, Scott M. Pickett, Jessica De Leon, Faye R. Jones, Ellen Piekalkiewicz, John Mathias, and Mark Horner.

“We’re bringing together multiple disciplines and engaging multiple stakeholders, including citizens, to forge deep collaborative relationships that help us and our community partners better understand the key elements of disaster resilience,” said Marcia Mardis, the professor who will be the principal investigator. “This project might not be long in duration, but it is sizable in opportunity and reach.”

The researchers will inclusively design tailored rural Resiliency Hubs in all five districts of Calhoun County and identify opportunities to expand and strengthen community collaborations.

“Our public librarians support Calhoun’s citizens in good times and bad,” said Rita Maupin, director of the Calhoun County Public Library System. “We are so pleased to continue our relationship with FSU so that our support best meets the community’s needs.”

Spicy

Saturday is the last day to join Tallahassee’s jolliest contest of the season: the Leon County Community Gingerbread House Competition.

Leon County invites residents to enter the confectionery competition or swing by the third annual event to appreciate holiday masterpieces.

The deadline to drop off gingerbread creations is Saturday between 10 and 11 a.m. at the LeRoy Collins Library. The public, meanwhile, can view the displays from 1 to 3 p.m. A winner will be announced at 2 p.m.

“Sugar and spice and all things nice are in store at the Leon County Main Library,” the county said in a news release.

Sugar and spice are winners in Tallahassee’s sweetest competition. Image via Facebook.

A winner, the county says, will be selected in three age categories — child, teen, and adult — to earn gift card prizes.

Gingerbread houses not your thing? Fret not, says the county.

The county will also provide free grab-and-go gingerbread-themed youth bags, ensuring a prize for everyone.

In addition, Leon County on Saturday will also host Andy’s Room: a life-size toy box for children in preschool through elementary school.

“Attendees can explore science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics through fun activities, and enjoy snacks, photos ops, and more,” the county announced.

That event will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Main Library.

Learn more about the competition and register to participate here.

12 Days of Giving

The Tallahassee Police Department will host a 12 Days of Giving celebration ahead of the Christmas holiday.

A first-of-its-kind effort, officers and department employees will involve themselves in various events and causes intended to serve the community.

“Through the 12 Days of Giving, we hope we can help alleviate some of the stress that often comes with the holiday season,” Police Chief Lawrence Revell said. “Giving back means a lot to those we serve, but it also means a lot to the officers. 12 Days of Giving is a reminder of why Tallahassee is such a special place to live.”

TPD gets in the holiday spirit.

TPD staff will involve themselves in various events, including Shop with a Cop, Coffee with a Cop, and a can collection for veterans.

The department will also attend holiday parties around town and volunteer at clothing and food drives. Command staff and specialty police units will also participate in the events.

Details, the department added, are soon to come and will be featured on their social media accounts.

Full circle

A 29-year-old Hollywood resident feels like she won the lottery twice.

When Reshena Clark stopped at a Circle K in Gainesville, she picked up a “LUCK” scratch-off ticket and it turned out to be one of just a dozen tickets statewide with a $5 million grand prize.

Clark chose to receive her winnings as a one-time, lump-sum payment of $3.82 million. Clark told the Lottery that, despite the big payday, she will continue pursuing a career in nursing.

What sets Clark apart from other winners? The Florida Lottery also picked up the tab for her college education.

Winner, winner: One nursing student is a two-time beneficiary of the Florida Lottery.

“I feel like I’ve won the Florida Lottery twice now,” she said. “The Lottery-funded Bright Futures Scholarship is the reason I was able to attend college in the first place. Now that I’ve won as a player, I feel like everything has come full circle.”

The Florida Lottery launched in the late 1980s after voters approved a constitutional amendment setting it up to fund education, including the Bright Futures college scholarship program.

The Lottery’s transfers to the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund have topped $1 billion a year for the past 20 years. It broke the $2 billion for the first time last fiscal year when sales skyrocketed amid the pandemic — and more than two-thirds of the money came from scratch-off sales.

In its history, the Florida Lottery has made 3,100 people into millionaires. More impressive; however, it has sent 880,000 Floridians to college.

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