Thursday, October 21, 2004

Citrus Tax Ruled Unconstitutional

LABELLE, FL -- Following the prior rulings of the U.S.
Supreme Court, five federal courts of appeal and more than seven federal trial
courts, the Second District Court of Appeal today affirmed the ruling of a
court striking down a tax producing more than $30 million imposed on citrus
growers to fund the Florida Department of Citrus generic advertising program.
The tax represents two thirds of the Department's annual budget.

Eight major citrus growers filed the suit about two years ago, claiming
that the
tax, imposed on each box of citrus produced, is used to fund multimillion
generic advertising campaigns they disapprove of and say "does more to help
sell Brazilian oranges than Florida orange juice."

A circuit court in Polk County earlier ruled that that tax was unconstitutional
because it forced growers to pay for generic advertising (speech) over which
they have no control. Since that time, the Department of Citrus settled a suit
by the Brazilians on the same issue by making the tax voluntary on foreign
producers. It remains mandatory on Florida growers, however.

The Second District Court of Appeal upheld the Circuit Court decision saying in
effect that the tax of up to 20 cents per box violated the growers' First
Amendment rights and amounted to unconstitutional compelled speech. Following
numerous federal courts who held beef, pork, mushroom and other generic
tax-funded ad programs unconstitutional, the court rejected the DepartmentÂ’s
argument that the box tax is part of a more comprehensive program governing
citrus production and marketing.

The Department of Citrus has stated under oath that its generic advertising
benefits imported juice from Brazil as well as domestic juice produced in
California and the Southwestern United States. But those growers are not
subject to the tax.

"All of the theories the Department of Citrus has asserted to save this
unconstitutional tax have failed," said McMahon, "The Department has spent
effort to litigate this case in the media and continues to spend the growers'
tax money unconstitutionally."

If the ruling stands, the eight growers will seek $16 to $17 million in refunds
from the Department. That amount is growing at the rate of about $3 million a
year. The growers said they additionally would seek a permanent injunction
against further collection of the tax. Other growers not a part of this
litigation could file similar suits and collect refunds.

This victory by the growers could be a severe blow to the Department of Citrus
if it were forced to end the box tax and get out of the advertising business.
Two-thirds of the agency's $65 million budget comes from the box tax and 80
percent of their budget is dedicated to advertising.

McMahon said, "The growers want to continue to fund some of the non-advertising
activities of the Department of Citrus and were pleased that the research
activities of the Department were not included in the current court opinion.
They believe an opportunity exists for the Florida Legislature to
reorganize the
Department of Citrus."

The growers who have filed suit include Graves Brothers Co., Evans Properties
Inc., Southern Gardens Groves Corp., The Latt Maxcy Corp., Fellsmere Joint
Venture, Oak Hammock Groves, Ltd., Silver Strand III Partnership and Barron
Collier Partnership.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Hendry Deputy Under State Investigation

LABELLE, FL. -- Resigned Hendry Deputy John Childers has been notified that
a Hendry Sheriffs Office Internal Affairs Department investigation has been
forwarded to Tallahassee to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's
Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission for review. The Criminal
Justice Standards and Training Commission Board will determine if
punishment will be forthcoming after an arrest incident involving Childers.
The Board, after its findings, may file a written reprimand, issue a
probation, or suspension of certificate, or possibly revoke his Florida Law
Enforcement Officer Certification.

Burglar Suspect Nabbed

LABELLE, FL. -- Investigators with the Hendry County Sheriffs Office have
arrested James Daniel White on numerous counts of Burglary, Grand Theft and
theft on October 5, 2004.

Investigators were able to determine that White was involved in committing
a number of burglaries in the western portion of Hendry County.

He is currently in the Hendry County Jail charged with four counts of
burglary, three counts of grand theft and two counts of theft. He is being
held without bond pending additional charges.

More Hendry Drug Busts

LABELLE, FL. -- In the early morning hours of Friday, October 15, 2004,
Narcotic Investigators and deputies with the Hendry County Sheriffs Office
executed a Search warrant at 425 Broward Ave., in LaBelle. Mario Martinez
and Benjamin Gallegos were taken into custody on drug related charges.

Once investigators entered the residence a search revealed drug
paraphernalia and as well as various quantities of marijuana and cocaine.

Mario Martinez was arrested and charged with one count of Possession of
Cocaine with intent to Distributed, one count Possession of Cocaine, one
count Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute, one count of
Possession of Marijuana over 20 grams, and one count of Possession of Drug
Paraphernalia. He is currently being held at the Hendry County Jail on
$56,000.00 bond.

Benjamin Gallegos was arrested and charged with one count of Possession of
Marijuana under 20 grams, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Gallegos
was released from the Hendry County Jail on October 15, 2004 on a $2,000.00

Friday, October 15, 2004

Sheriff Releases Statement On Shooting

I have a duty and a responsibility as your Sheriff to dispel the numerous
rumors and misstatements of facts regarding the officer involved shooting
on September 22, 2004. As your Sheriff I have wanted to keep all of you
thoroughly informed about the circumstances of September 22nd, however it
is important that you, the citizens understand that a criminal
investigation is on-going by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and
the State Attorney's Office, and I, as Sheriff have limitations placed on
me by law to not do or say anything that jeopardizes this on-going

It is important to provide our citizens with additional information
that has been revealed to date. I have conducted a departmental
administrative review and determined that our deputies acted appropriately
in their efforts to protect the public as well as themselves. They
complied with our departmental policy, and the laws of the state of Florida.

On September 22nd, eight deputies were involved in one way or
another in the pursuit of a vehicle that was being driven by the lone
female suspect. I have reason to believe that she was under the influence
of alcohol and cocaine. FDLE is expected to submit formal charges as soon
as the final lab results are received by the Florida Highway Patrol, who is
investigating the traffic crash aspects of this case.

The driver fled the scene of an automobile crash here in LaBelle
with no apparent regard to the injuries that may have occurred to other
persons involved. Our deputies attempted to stop the suspect, which law
enforcement officers are obligated to do. The suspect driver ran off the
road into the median on a couple of occasions causing the deputies to run
for their life. She refused to stop, which necessitated that the
deputies continue their pursuit. During the ensuing pursuit, the suspect
made a sharp u-turn through the median traveling east back toward LaBelle,
after first having fled westbound. Several deputies attempted to stop her
vehicle with "stop sticks". Although, the deputies were able to flatten
one tire, this suspect continued to drive for several miles, sometimes
traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes of SR-80. During the pursuit
the driver intentionally struck the occupied patrol vehicles several times
with a manner of force to pen two deputies in their cars, placing them in a
life-threatening situation.

I personally responded to the scene of this incident and arrived
just moments after the driver was stopped. I personally assure you that
medical assistance was administered to this suspect immediately following
the termination of this pursuit and is the reason she is alive today.
This suspect has an extensive criminal record and was driving a large 7,200
pound SUV that day after her driving privilege had been revoked. If she
had been obeying the law and had not been behind the wheel that day, this
incident would have never happened.

It is my belief, as your Sheriff, that my deputies did everything
within their power to lawfully stop this recklessly fleeing driver to
prevent her from entering a crowded intersection and causing serious
bodily injury or death to an innocent person or a family.
This was a no win situation for the deputies. They could not allow
this violent criminal to continue placing more lives in danger. There
were limited options available to stop this suspect who was utilizing her
motor vehicle as a deadly weapon. Four of the deputies were forced to stop
her from further endangering the public and the officers. As we all know,
automobiles kill people everyday, especially when used intentionally as a
deadly weapon.

The deputies' response to this level of force, while unfortunate,
was in response to the suspect's placing our deputies and the public at
risk. The action of the deputies was necessary and justified.

I am aware that FDLE has submitted an affidavit which supports
felony criminal charges against this suspect to the State Attorney's
Office, and that the State Attorney is awaiting receipt of all pertinent
evidence, including video of the pursuit and subsequent shooting, before
making its final determination. When this video and other evidence are
released, I am confident that there will be no doubt that our deputies
conducted themselves properly.

Finally, I assure you as your Sheriff that the good men and women
of the Hendry County Sheriff's Office will continue to protect and serve
the citizens of our community.

-Steve Worley, Sheriff of Hendry County

Hendry Candidates Night

Your Opportunity To Get Acquainted And Ask Questions Of The Candidates:

Labelle High School Auditorium, Tuesday October 19 7:00 Pm

Clewiston High School Auditorium, Thursday October 21 7:00 Pm

Co-Sponsors: LHS Student Govrnment And Chs Student Government And Impact
Of S. W. Florida

Impact--(Involved Motivated People Advancing Civic Thought)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Okeechobee Farmer Wins Award

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson and the
Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Foundation today announced the
agricultural leaders who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in February
2005 including Frank "Sonny" Williamson Jr. of Okeechobee, Fl.

A successful citrus grower, rancher and aquaculturist, Frank "Sonny"
Williamson Jr. is among Florida's most progressive farmers. He is arguably
Florida's -- and the nation's -- premier agro-ecologist. A visionary
leader, Williamson understands that farmers must protect and preserve the
natural environment in order to sustain their industry. For the last 25
years he has become increasingly committed to promoting responsible
environmental stewardship.

A fifth-generation Floridian, Williamson was born in Clearwater on December
15, 1929. After graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in
agriculture, he went to work on his father's ranch, Williamson Cattle
Company, in Okeechobee. He devoted the first 25 years of his career to
Williamson Cattle, building it into one of the state's largest cattle
producers. The company now owns more than 10,000 acres in Okeechobee
County, as well as land in Alabama. Its holdings in Florida include over
1,000 acres of citrus and 2,500 heads of cattle. In Alabama it operates 48
ponds that cover 1,200 acres and produce more than 9 million pounds of
catfish each year. Not only is Williamson Cattle one of the largest and
most diversified farms in the Southeast, it is also a model for economic
and environmental sustainability.

Ever mindful of agriculture's interface with the natural environment,
Williamson is a firm believer that agricultural decisions should be made
based on sound science. To that end, he has been a tireless supporter of
agricultural and environmental research. In the 1990s as a governing
member and chairman of the South Florida Water Management District, he
persuaded the district to fund agro-ecology research conducted by the
University of Florida on Buck Island Ranch at Archibold Biological Station
in Lake Placid. Today he is leading research efforts at the UF/IFAS Indian
River Research and Education Center Aquaculture Demonstration Project.

Williamson has gained a high level of respect among agriculturists,
environmentalists and urban leaders and is known for his moderation and
fairness. Lending his leadership skills to a diverse array of industry
groups and conservation groups, he displays an uncanny ability to mobilize
people to make rational decisions and work together toward a common goal.
He has held leadership positions with the Okeechobee County Farm Bureau,
the Okeechobee Soil and Water Conservation Board, the Florida Chapter of
The Nature Conservancy, the Florida Cattlemen's Foundation and the
University of Florida SHARE Council.

Williamson is one of seven national winners of the 2004 National
Cattlemen's Beef Association National Environmental Stewardship Award,
presented by the Resources Conservation Service of the USDA. His special
talents as a negotiator and mediator were recognized by the Florida
Conflict Resolution Consortium in 2000 when he received the Ninth-Timer
Powers Dispute Resolution Leadership Award. In 2003 he was named the
Lancaster Sunbelt Farmer of the Year from Florida. That same year he
received the Commissioner's Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award
from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the
Florida Environmental Stewardship Award from the Florida Cattlemen's
Association. He has been named an honorary member of Future Farmers of
America as a result of his ongoing support of the organization.

Williamson's progressive vision has helped keep agriculture strong and
viable in Florida. He will be long remembered for his efforts to improve
agricultural management to sustain the industry and protect the natural
resources on which it depends.

Williamson lives in Okeechobee with his wife, Betty. They have three grown
children, Wes, Kim and Karen

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

17-year Old Found At Tampa Motel

LABELLE, FL, -- Investigators with the Hendry County Sheriffs Office were
notified late Tuesday evening, that Hillsborough County authorities located
Maria Ramos and placed Victor Resendiz into custody.
The pair was located at the Red Roof Inn on Busch Blvd in Tampa.

It was reported Monday morning that Maria Ramos might have been abducted
according to witnesses, as she was on her way to the bus stop. It was
reported that Resendiz exited his vehicle grabbed Ramos and forced her into
a 1995 Honda Civic, that he was driving.

Maria Ramos Still Being Sought

LABELLE, FL. -- During the late night hours, Investigators with the Hendry
County Sheriffs Office have received information that 17 year old Maria
Ramos and 19 year old Victor Resendiz may be in the Hillsborough / Pasco
County area.

Investigators are working closely with authorities in Hillsborough County
and are continuing to follow up any and all leads concentrating their
efforts in the Tampa area.

Anyone with any information please contact local law enforcement, or the
Hendry County Sheriffs Office at (863) 674-4060 or Crime Stoppers at

Monday, October 11, 2004

Gov. Bush Applauds Tax Deduct For Florida

Regarding Passage of Federal Tax Relief Legislation

TALLAHASSEE - "I applaud the bi-partisan action by Members of Congress to
provide tax relief for Floridians. The provision passed today allows
Floridians to deduct sales tax on their federal income tax returns for the
next two years. The move will save the average Florida taxpayer
approximately $300 each year, for a total of $730 million in annual relief

"Florida is grateful for the continued support of our federal partners,
especially the strong advocacy of our state's congressional delegation."

Victor Resendiz, 19, also known as Victor Guerro and Victor Figueroa, is being sought in connection with the possible abduction of 17-year old Maria Ramos this morning. Contact the Hendry Sheriffs office with any information.

The Hendry County Sheriffs office is looking for 17-year old Maria Ramos, possibly abducted this morning in LaBelle at Calhoun Street and Bryan Avenue.

Assistance Wanted In Possible Abduction

LABELLE, FL. -- At approximately 7:05 am this morning deputies with the
Hendry County Sheriff Office received a report of a possible abduction at
Calhoun Street and Bryan Avenue.

Witnesses reported that 17-year-old Maria Ramos was walking toward the bus
stop when they saw her ex-boyfriend,19-year-old Victor Resendiz, pull up
next to her in a 1995 Honda Civic Delsol, black in color, with star rims.
Witnesses stated that he pulled up next to her and attempted to speak with
her, however, she continued walking toward the bus stop, he then got out of
his vehicle and grabbed her, forcing her into the car. Witnesses reported
that Ramos was shouting and appeared to be placed in the vehicle by force.
The vehicle was last seen headed westbound on SR 80.

It has been discovered that Resendiz also uses the name of Victor Guerro
and Victor Figueroa, date of birth, 11-06-1985, 11-06-1984 and 07-08-1978.
Resendiz is a 19-year-old Hispanic male approximately 5'6" with
mustache.Last seen wearing yellow shirt and black pants and brown Lugz shoes

Victim Ramos is a 17 year old Hispanic female approximately 5' - 5'1" -
Requires prescription lens known to wear both glasses and contacts lens.
Last seen wearing Black shirt with the silver or gray letters JNCO, long
gray or white pants. Ears pierced once

Suspect vehicle
1995 Black Honda Civic Delsol - possible convertible - Chrome Star rims
White letters on back window - Tuner Passion - tag number J45CVH
This vehicle has currently been reported stolen as of 11:46 am
October 11, 2004

It is reported that suspect, Resendiz has just returned from Virginia and
has relatives that live there and may be returning or Tampa where Resendiz
may be employed. Resendiz has multiple arrests for DUI and giving false
name to law enforcement. Resendiz has a Florida Drivers License Number
R253-860-84-406-0, which is currently suspended

Anyone with any information please contact the Hendry County Sheriffs
Office at (863) 674-4060 or Crime Stoppers 1-800-780-TIPS (8477).

Hendry Schools Could Receive $1M From Gambling

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County could receive an additional $1 million in
supplemental education funding as a result of Amendment 4, according to an
official estimate by the Florida School Boards Association. Amendment 4, a
statewide initiative on the Nov. 2nd ballot, would authorize
Miami-Dade and Broward counties to hold separate elections on whether to
allow slot machines at seven existing parimutuel facilities in South
Florida. If slot machines are subsequently approved by local voters, the
revenue generated from this taxed, regulated and licensed gaming could
provide at least $438 million in its first year to public education spending

The Florida School Boards Association estimates Hendry County could receive
$1,251,545 in the first year alone. The FSBA used the FEFP (Florida's
Education Finance Plan) to estimate the
lowest amount each school district would receive if voters in Miami-Dade and
Broward Counties approve Amendment 4.

"Amendment 4 can make a significant difference for our kids," said Wayne
Blanton, Executive Director of the Florida School Boards Association. "The
money each county could receive would go a long way to improve the quality
of education for all Florida's students."

"Good schools cost money and passing Amendment 4 is a great first step
towards generating the funds our schools desperately need," said Jim Horne,
Florida's former Education Commissioner. "This money can help give children
in Hendry County the tools they need to compete in the global market. The
new revenues from Amendment 4 could provide students with their own laptop
computers, enhance teacher salaries, or fund new science labs."

The projected distribution for each of Florida's 67 counties and a full text
of the Florida School Boards study are available for viewing at the YES for
Local Control Campaign's website at

Alico Shareholders Offered High Price

LABELLE, FL. -- Two Massachusetts real estate firms have bid over $50 a
share to buy out LaBelle's large agribusiness company, Alico. This would
represent about a 100% gain in stock value from only a year ago. Alico's
largest shareholder now is Atlantic Blue, controlled by three of the
sisters of Ben Hill Griffin III, the late chairman and CEO of the company.
The sisters gained control of the company from their brother after a legal
battle several years ago. Alico owns citrus and ranch land throughout the
area, and sells to developers as the Southwest Florida area expands into
housing development and commercial shopping areas. Alico has been a large
force in developing rural areas into commercial development. In Hendry
county, they have been keen on sponsoring laws to favor tax breaks for
business and development of educational facilities and the development of
the county airports.

Grapefruit Grower Expecting Higher Prices

LABELLE, FL. -- With crop damages running high throughout the state after
high winds blew fruit off trees, Hendry county grapefruit grove owners may
reap a windfall this season if prices rise. Central Florida growers have
lost about 80% of their crops due to Hurricanes Francis and Charley.
Grapefruit has been a money loser for several years statewide due to over
production and lower demand from consumers. Florida growers expected a
2004-05 crop of about 38 million boxes which was low enough to put supply
and demand back in synch. But the expected crop should be only about 13
million this season. The last time a grapefruit crop was that low was in
1937. Hendry county has about 5770 acres of grapefruit, and suffered
substantially no crop losses due to the hurricanes last month.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Author Giving Free Lecture

"When Bad Things Happen to Good People" Author Returns to Fort
Myers. Hope Hospice again presents internationally acclaimed writer and
speaker Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of international best
sellers and award-winning inspirational and motivational books, is
returning to Fort Myers to make a free presentation to the public on
Monday, October 18. The event is presented by Hope Hospice.

"Rabbi Kushner's appearance here last year was a huge success, and
we are delighted to host his return at this time," said Hope Hospice
President and CEO Samira K. Beckwith. Kushner's presentation will
focus on two of his best-known books, When Bad Things Happen to Good
People, and The Lord is My Shepherd. "When tragedy comes into a life
or a community, people ask, 'Why me?' Rabbi Kushner brings positive
and reassuring answers drawn from his own experience," Beckwith said.

Harold S. Kushner is Rabbi Laureate of Temple Israel in the Boston
suburb of Natick, Massachusetts, after serving that congregation for
twenty-four years. He is best known as the author of When Bad Things
Happen to Good People, an international best seller. The book has been
translated into fourteen languages and was recently selected by members
of the Book of the Month Club as one of the ten most influential books
of recent years.

The late-October event is Hope Hospice's lead-in to National Hospice
Month in November. Books will be available for purchase and the Rabbi
will sign them after the presentation.

The presentation, free and open to the public, will take place on
Monday, October 18 at 7 PM at the Harborside Event Center.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Letter From Sheriff Worley

I would like to take this time to address the citizens of Hendry County
regarding the incident which occurred on Wednesday, September 22, 2004,
which unfortunately resulted in an officer involved shooting and comment on
the rumors that have become rampant throughout the county.

As several of our officers were involved in this incident I made the
immediate decision to contact the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
(FDLE). I felt that it was imperative to have this incident investigated
by an independent agency that remains independent from this department and
has the resources available to adequately investigate.

This incident is very complex and has been diligently pursued by FDLE.
Statements have been taken from all the officers involved as well as
witnesses on the scene and others who have been able to provide pertinent

To reiterate, this pursuit became a very dangerous situation for not only
the officers but the public as well. I would like to take this opportunity
to address some of the rumors that have surfaced. There was no child in the
vehicle; the suspect driver was the only occupant. Remarks such as ramming
the car, - use of a vehicle in such a manner is considered a deadly
weapon; they already shot her tires out, etc. Some of these are rumors and
some are fact, however, many people whether in Hendry County or any other
county for that matter, have only been given the general facts of the case,
to reveal any more information would compromise the integrity of the
investigation and to remain fair, to not only to those involved, but the
suspect and the citizens of this county, we are restricted to the amount of
information that can be released, as much as I would like to share all of
the facts of the case, BY LAW I am prohibited from doing so at this time.

I have complete confidence in knowing that the FDLE will evaluate the facts
as they have found them and present any and all findings to this agency and
the State Attorneys Office. I will then look forward to answering all of
your questions regarding this matter.

As Sheriff, my concern is not only for deputies and administrative staff
but the citizens of whom I serve in this county. Based on the findings of
the investigation I will take any administrative actions that may be deemed

I want to thank the citizens who have remained nonjudgmental during this
time and have continued to be supportive and shared that view with others.
I respectfully request that we all remain patient until the final outcome
of this investigation and remain unbiased pending the completion of the
investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

-Sheriff Steve Worley, Hendry County

Friday, October 01, 2004

7 Deputies On Leave After Incident

LABELLE, FL. -- After completion of interviews conducted by the Florida
Department of Law Enforcement, Sheriff S. Worley has releasing the names of
the officers involved in the Wednesday evening vehicle pursuit that
resulted in an officer involved shooting. Those officers involved in the
confrontation, their age, and years of service to the Hendry County
Sheriffs Office are as follows:

Lt. Chad Schipansky, 38 -10 years service

Sgt. Jamie Thorpe, 26 - 5 years

Sgt. Andrew Drew, 36 - 6 years service

Sgt. Curtis Clay, 30 - 8 years service

Investigator Steven Maldonado, 40 - 4 years service

Deputy Martin Meyer, 30 - 7 years service

Deputy Perry Short, 35 - 7 years service

Deputy David Gallegos, 37 - 2 years service

All Deputies are currently on paid Administrative Leave and receiving
professionally conducted critical incident debriefings.

The names listed above are those who have been placed on paid
administrative leave pursuant to Department Policy and Procedure,
regardless of their involvement in the incident.

Hendry County Employee Arrested

LABELLE, FL. -- On September 30, 2004 Narcotic Investigators of the Hendry
County Sheriffs Office arrested 50 year old, Jose Serrano for Possession of
Zanex without a prescription (illegal purchase). Investigators were able
to obtain information that a Hendry County Social Services worker was
making illegal purchases of Zanex, a controlled substance obtained legally
only by prescription.

A confidential source made telephone contact with Serrano and offered to
make a sale of Zanex to him. Serrano agreed and requested that the
informant meet with him at his office located in the Hendry County
Courthouse. Upon the arrival of the informant he and Serrano left the
office and went into the hall where the transaction took place. In
exchange for the 20 Zanex pills, Serrano gave the informant $3.00 stating
that he would pay the informant the remaining balance the next day with WIC
After witnessing the sale, Narcotic Investigators placed Serrano under
arrest charging him with Possession of Zanex without a prescription,
(illegal purchase). At this time he is currently being held in the Hendry
County Jail on $5,000 bond.

Health Officials Visit Glades County

Just following Hurricane Jeanne, Florida Department of Health Secretary
John O. Agwunobi, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., and Elder Affairs Secretary Terry
White had the opportunity to visit Okeechobee and Glades counties -- areas
that have been impacted by Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne within
six weeks.

"These beautiful rural counties have been ravaged by this year's storms.
Small, humble communities have exhibited great resilience in the face of
giant challenges," Agwunobi said. "The state and federal government will
do everything they can to help these friends, families and neighbors as
they rebuild in the heart of our state."

Terry White, Secretary of Elder Affairs, reassured storm victims: "Elders
living in communities impacted by this hurricane season have some of the
greatest challenges and will be rebuilding for some time. Elder Affairs is
working to address the needs of Florida's revered elder population so that
these communities can begin to heal."

Agwunobi and White first toured an Okeechobee special needs shelter at the
Okeechobee County Health Department building. Meeting with County Health
Department Administrator Mike Hill, Environmental Health Director Ed Trent,
Nursing Director Connie Thacker along with other health department staff
and shelter volunteers to reassure health workers and residents of
continuing support from the state and its partners during the hurricane
relief effort. They also visited with clients of the special needs shelter.

A young man named Tyler led Agwunobi's tour of the shelter. Tyler
volunteers at the shelter assisting the staff with delivering meals,
bringing in water to flush the toilets, cleaning and helping to tuck the
clients into bed each night.

Agwunobi and White then visited the Buckhead Ridge in Glades County, of
which 80 percent of homes sustained major damage. They met with Emergency
Management Director Ken Howard, Glades County Health Department Director
Dr. Martha Valiant and Nursing Director Patricia Dobbins, emergency medical
services personnel, Red Cross volunteers, and residents to assess the
impact of the storm and the community's anticipated needs during recovery.
While visiting residents of Buckhead Ridge, White was able to work with
AARP to secure four generators for homebound elders with health conditions
that depend on electricity.

Agwunobi, a pediatrician by training, met 1-month old Jacob William Dixon,
who was born just after Hurricane Frances. Jacob's grandmother, Carolyn
Conrad, who delivered him, was rocking Jacob as his mother caught some
much-needed sleep while her newborn napped.