Thursday, February 28, 2019

Conviction In Massive Lee County Fraud Case

Fort Myers, FL – A federal jury has found Kay F. Gow (68, Naples), Robert T. Gow (77, Naples), and John G. Williams, Jr. (67, Virginia Beach, VA) guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. The Gows were also found guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering and illegal monetary transactions. 
In 2010, the Gows formed VR Laboratories, LLC, in order to apply for a $5 million grant from Lee County through the Financial Incentives for Recruiting Strategic Targets (“FIRST”) program. The FIRST program consisted of taxpayer funds set aside by the county to bring economic development projects to the Ft. Myers area. In seeking the FIRST grant, the Gows made numerous false and fraudulent representations to various individuals and government entities about their financial success and that of HerbalScience and VR Labs, including that VR Labs was poised to become a leading global formulator and manufacturer of botanical pharmaceuticals. Ultimately, Lee County awarded VR Labs $5 million in FIRST grant funds to build a manufacturing facility that the Gows had claimed would bring hundreds of high-paying jobs and economic growth to Lee County.  
Each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in federal prison for the conspiracy to commit wire fraud count and up to 20 years’ imprisonment for each wire fraud count (Gows: 4 counts each, Williams: 2 counts). The Gows each also face up to 10 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering and for each count (4) of illegal monetary transactions. And the defendants face the forfeiture of more than $5.1 million in proceeds traceable to the offenses. All three are scheduled to be sentenced on May 20, 2019.
According to the evidence presented at trial, the Gows owned and controlled multiple entities, including HerbalScience Group, LLC, and HerbalScience Singapore Pte, Ltd. 
Once VR Labs executed an agreement with Lee County, Williams, a long-time friend of the Gows, registered a fictitious name, “Williams Specialty Bottling Equipment,” with the Florida Secretary of State. The Gows then represented that Williams would provide the bottling line for the manufacturing facility, when he had no such experience or expertise. Williams used false and fraudulent invoices for work and services allegedly performed on the bottling line to make demands for payment and, once paid, kicked back a substantial portion of the funds to VR Labs and the Gows. The Gows then used Williams’s false and fraudulent invoices to justify requests to Lee County for the payment of the grant money. Once VR Labs received the grant funds, the Gows fraudulently transferred those funds to entities they owned and controlled, and ultimately to themselves, by disguising the transfers as licensing fees, salaries, expenses, and other items. They also tried to conceal the source of the kickbacks through the creation of fictitious entities and documents.         
Ultimately, Lee County disbursed approximately $4.7 million in FIRST grant funds to VR Labs, but the manufacturing facility was never completed or operational.

Christina Dempsey Dies In Crash

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Christina Dempsey, 33 of Moore Haven died after a crash in Glades county Wednesday at 8:18 p.m.

She was westbound on West State Road 78 nearing the address of 8020 West State Road 78 near Ortona Road and veered across the eastbound lane running off the roadway to the left (south).

Her truck entered the grassy shoulder and continued to travel west as she then over corrected back to the right, then crossed through the westbound and eastbound lanes running off the roadway, then
traveled onto the grassy shoulder and entered a ditch.

Once again she over corrected and the vehicle overturned and came to final rest in a heavily vegetative area on the north shoulder of the roadway.

After the crash, Dempsey exited the vehicle and walked back toward the roadway, entering the westbound lanes of West State Road 78.  Hezekiah Reed, 55 of Fort Myers was traveling westbound on West State Road 78 approaching the initial crash scene. The front right of his truck struck Dempsey in the westbound lanes.

The crash remains under investigation

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Girl Scout Brownie Troop Salutes Ace Hardware

The Girl Scout Brownie Troop 1017 would like to extend a huge thank you to Roy at Ace Hardware, LaBelle for donating plastic five-gallon buckets to their Troop! The girls will complete a project by creating a "sit-upon" with these buckets and also use the buckets to store their camping supplies. They are scheduled to go camping in a couple of weeks. 

Thanks again to Ace Hardware, LaBelle for their support! Also, look for these Girl Scouts selling cookies at Ace Hardware and other locations around LaBelle

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Medicare Advantage Counseling March 20 In Clewiston

Clewiston, FL  – It’s not too late for Medicare beneficiaries hoping to change their Medicare Advantage plan for 2019. Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment is underway through the end of March. Beneficiaries are invited to attend a free presentation about Medicare Advantage and more in Clewiston on Wednesday, Mar. 20.  The presentation will feature professionally trained counselors of the SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) program. 
The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment presentation will be offered at the Florida B. Thomas Library (Harlem Public Library), located at 1010 Harlem Academy Ave. in Clewiston.  The presentation will begin at 11:00 a.m. and a SHINE counselor will be available to answer questions and assist beneficiaries after the presentation.

“Medicare Advantage open enrollment gives beneficiaries with buyer’s remorse an opportunity to switch plans,” explains Camilita Aldridge, SHINE Manager at the Area Agency on Aging (AAASWFL).  “Depending on your doctor, your medical conditions, your prescriptions, where you live, and your budget, there might be a better plan for you. Our counselors can help you evaluate all of the plans available to you, and the service is completely free.”

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs’ SHINE program provides free, unbiased information and assistance for Florida Medicare beneficiaries year-round as they carefully evaluate their health care options.  SHINE is administered locally by the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida (AAASWFL).   SHINE counselors are not affiliated with insurance companies or brokers.
Medicare Advantage plans, sometimes called Part C plans, are typically HMOs or PPOs offered by private insurance companies. They cover all of the services offered by Original Medicare but typically work with a network of local health care providers. Beneficiaries who are currently enrolled in Part C plans may switch plans once during the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period.

SHINE empowers seniors, their caregivers, and family members to make informed decisions about health care coverage. SHINE counselors can also help beneficiaries understand benefits available through Medicare, like preventative health care services. Additionally, SHINE counselors assist low-income Medicare beneficiaries with applying for cost-savings programs and educate beneficiaries to protect, detect, and report potential errors, fraud, and abuse with their Medicare coverage. 
AAASWFL provides SHINE counseling services at locations across Southwest Florida. To make an appointment with a SHINE counselor, call AAASWFL’s toll-free Elder Helpline at 1-866-413-5337 (866-41-ELDER). A list of counseling sites can also be found on the statewide SHINE website:

Monday, February 25, 2019

Obituaries - Bauer, Kellogg, Osceola, Beheeler, Hall

Emily JoAnn Bauer passed away on 2/21/19 in Sebring, FL. She went peacefully in her home, surrounded by her friends, family, and beloved dachshund Max. 
Emily was born on 5/2/37 to Anna Lou and Woodrow Howard in LaBelle, FL, and moved to Sebring in 1995. She was well-known for the delicious home cooked meals and desserts she prepared for 10 years at her restaurant, EJ's Cafe. 
Affectionately known to many as "Nana," Emily leaves behind George, her husband of 60 years, and her children George Jr. (Wendy), James (Emily), and Dee Dee (Stephen). Emily was predeceased by her daughter JoAnn Bauer. Emily loved being around her eight grandchildren: Taylor, Connor, Ariel, Hannah, Jamie, Sarah, Lucy, and Owen. 
Regularly Emily could be found in the kitchen teaching whichever one was visiting to make banana bread, or any of her hundreds of recipes. Emily also loved being a great grandparent to Caleb. She was an active member of the First Christian Church in LaBelle and enjoyed attending services at Bible Fellowship Church in Sebring. 
Emily is best known for her kindness, hard work ethic, and strong faith. She will be missed by many. Her family wishes to thank everyone at Compassionate Care Hospice, as well as her wonderful caretaker, Helen. A viewing took place at Akin-Davis funeral home in LaBelle on Sunday, 2/24/19 from 1-3 pm. Graveside service was on Monday, 2/25/19 at Ft. Denaud Cemetery in LaBelle at 11 am.
Robert N Kellogg, age 72, of Moore Haven, passed away February 20, 2019 in West Palm Beach.
He was born Feb. 8, 1947 to the late Willis and the late Ethel (Langdale) Kellogg. He served in the US Army.
Survivors include :
one brother: Orie Kellogg
one sister: Patricia Lucas
Arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - LaBelle.
Rudy Osceola, age 74, of Clewiston, passed away February 19, 2019 in Clewiston.
He was born September. 24, 1944 in Clewiston, FL, to the late Henry and the late Betty Mae (Cypress) Osceola.
Rudy Osceola had many characters. He was a famed rodeo roper for the Seminole Tribe. He loved his church, his friends, family and most of all God. He was a father to many as well as a teacher to most. He was a wonderful husband, father and comedian. He loved all sports especially basketball. His cattle and horses were a huge part of his life. He was very strong with his family nothing could bring him down ever.
Survivors include his wife: Lisa (Jones) Osceola, son: Cicero Osceola and wife Celeste, brother: Don Osceola, sister: Henrietta Henry, grandchildren: Rowdey Lee Osceola, Ryan Osceola, Quenton Cypress, Sarah Osceola, five great grandsons, one great granddaughter, cousins: Mitchell Cypress, Jonah Cypress, David Cypress, Esther Buster, David Cypress and Terry Cypress, nephews: Mike Henry and Joey "Wahoo" Henry and wife Karen, niece: Marla Wilson, caregivers and friends of the family Betty Perez, Roland Long, Judy and Curtis Weeks and their son Bear, Paul Bowers, Richard Bowers, David Bowers, mother of Rowdey Osceola, Buffey Powell, sisters of Rowdey Lila and Leah Hill and many other family and friends.
He was preceded in death by his son, Carl Osceola, brother, Solomon Osceola, and sister, Callie SueJane Herrera and niece, Helena Henry.
Funeral services were held Friday, February 22, 2019 at 9:30 am at Big Cypress First Baptist Church, Clewiston with Pastor Salaw Hummingbird officiating. Interment in Big Cypress Cemetery, Big Cypress Reservation. Visitation was Friday from 8:00 - 9:30 am at Big Cypress First Baptist Church, Clewiston, FL.
Arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - Clewiston.
Crystal Lanette Beheeler, age 57, of Clewiston, passed away February 19, 2019 in Clewiston.
She was born July 6, 1961 in Greenville, West Virginia, to the late Charles and the late Janet (Kessler) Copen. Crystal worked for USIC for many years as a locator. She was a loving daughter, sister, and aunt. She will be dearly missed by her entire family.
Survivors include her brother; Carl Copen, special niece April Hall and friend Lisa Mayo whom took care of Crystal during her illness.
Arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - Clewiston

Charles Malcolm "Scooter" Hall, age 64, of Clewiston, passed away February 15, 2019 in Loxahatchee, Florida after a short illness.
Scooter was born October 17, 1954 in Clewiston, Florida to Joseph Malcolm and Ardis (Bolton) Hall. He married Sandra DeVane on May 2, 1981 in Clewiston. He was a supervisor for U.S. Sugar Corporation for many years. He was a member of the Elks Lodge # 1853 in Clewiston for many years. He enjoyed spending time in the woods riding his four-wheeler. Scooter was a loving man who will be missed by his loving wife, daughters, grandchildren and sisters. e enjo
Scooter leaves behind his loving wife of 38 years; Sandra Hall of Clewiston, daughters; Lauren and Lindsay, three grandchildren, two sisters; Ardis Hammock and Candice Hall.
Scooter's life was celebrated at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, February 20, 2019 at First United Methodist Church of Clewiston with Pastor Jeff Smith celebrating. Visitation was one hour before the celebration at the church.
Arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - Clewiston.

Patch Of Heaven Topic At Audubon March 11

LABELLE, FL. -- You are invited to learn about the unique “Patch of Heaven Sanctuary”, 20 acres, with seven acres of hardwood forest, located in Miami, on March 11 and to a carpool trip to visit the sanctuary on March 30. This special place is dedicated to preserving a historic tropical forest, native habitat and local wildlife, as well as the integrity of the property’s historic structures.

Roberto Del Cid and Frederick Hubbard will present an information program about the beautiful gardens, bat house, and apiary at the Hendry-Glades Audubon Society program, Monday March 11, 2019 at 7 PM, at the Dallas Townsend Hendry County Extension Building 1085 Platt Boulevard, LaBelle.

Roberto was born in Honduras. He received his Bachelor’s Degree at Kansas State University and as a Fulbright Scholar received his Master’s in Horticulture at the University of Florida. During his career he has taught and been employed in horticulture. Currently Roberto works for the Florida Department of Agriculture in LaBelle during the week and shares the position of Head Horticulturist a Patch of Heaven with Frederick Hubbard on weekends. Roberto continues to work on developing an environmentally sustainable landscape both at this home in Montura and Zamorano, his alma mater in Honduras.

Frederick Hubbard was born in Oswego, New York, graduated from Clewiston High School and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Horticulture and Master of Education in Elementary Education from the University of Florida. After graduation Fred taught school until 2013 where he is currently working as the director of the Patch of Heaven Sanctuary where he oversees the newly formed nonprofit's program development and fundraising efforts, as well as forest restoration and  garden design with Roberto. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Strike Up The Bands - Trot Those Horses - Festival Parade

LABELLE, FL. -- Once again crowds were wildly entertained at the annual Swamp Cabbage Festival Parade, held at the end of each February, traveling slowly down Bridge Street in the county seat of Hendry County, the city of LaBelle.

The hour-long event showcases local community and school groups from Hendry, Glades, and Lee county with floats, bands, dancers and equestrian troupes making their way from the Caloosahatchee riverfront and then southward along two miles of LaBelle's Bridge Street.

Video: 2019 Festival Parade Highlights

From Parade To Park - Lots of Fun Today

LABELLE, FL. -- Thousands of folks from miles around came this morning to watch the annual Swamp Cabbage parade, and visit Barron Park and the Barron Park House Gallery with artists demonstrating their talents on the grounds and inside the gallery.

Video: Barron Park scene, Swamp Cabbage parade, potter at Barron Gallery

At The Swamp Cabbage Festival Parade

LABELLE, FL.-- The annual Swamp Cabbage Festival in Hendry county clicked off at 10 a.m. Saturday with thousands of parade-goers crowding Bridge Street for several miles southward from the Caloosahatchee River to hear the bands, and see the floats, queens, swamp buggies, and horses marching on a warm sunny morning in LaBelle.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Swamp Cabbage Festival Parade Saturday February 23

What's Happening For Swamp Cabbage Festival 2019
LABELLE, FL. -- The annual Swamp Cabbage Parade steps off on Park Avenue near the river at 10 a.m. Saturdaty and moves south down Bridge Street ending at the Catholic Church about 11 a.m. This is the second year the parade travels southward instead beginning at the Church and moving north.

After the parade, Barron Park takes the crowds Saturday and Sunday for free entertainment on the stage all day long including cloggers, vocalists, bands and dancers. For sale will be crafts, food and drink.

Nearly all the community organization, motels, and restaurants will be serving up music, food and beverages at their locations, and the annual rodeo entertains at the Rodeo Grounds, while the LaBelle Heritage Museum offers up boat rides and history lessons along the Caloosahatchee River Saturday and Sunday.

Photo: Budweiser Clydesdales from the 2018 Parade

Friday, February 15, 2019

Obituary - Susan J. Browning

Susan J Browning, age 68, of LaBelle, passed away February 13, 2019 in LaBelle.
She was born July 17, 1950 in Vero Beach, FL, to the late John B and Kathleene D (Hogan) Johns.
Survivors include her husband: Arthur E Browning
son: James E (Cathy) Beck
two daughters: Laura D (Bo) Norris and Amy S (Ronnie) English
Mother: Kathleene D (Hogan) Johns
two sisters: Janet (Juan) Santos and Kathleen (Kenny) Hamilton
13 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren
Memorial services will be held Saturday, February 16, 2019 at 11:00 am at Christ Central Church 540 1st Street LaBelle with Mitchell Wills, Keith Barber, and Jim Yates officiating.
Donations in her memory can be made to the Susan G Komen Foundation.
Arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - LaBelle.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Captain Chris And Little Toot At U Of Findlay Event

FORT MYERS, FL. -- LaBelle's own little "giving tugboat" Little Toot and Captain Chris made an appearance at the gathering of friends and alumni of the University of Findlay (Ohio) and the Mazza Musuem Tuesday evening at Pincher's Restaurant and Edison Marina in Fort Myers.

Captain Chris made a presentation about how he found Little Toot in LaBelle in a shed along the Caloosahatchee River, then owned by Mr. Campbell, and how finding the boat and the restoration of the 25-foot Crosby Tug became life changing for Chris.

The University's Mazza Museum, with one of the world's largest collections of original children's book art was represented by it's director Ben Sapp and a presentation of watercolor art by Linda Gramatky Smith, daughter of world famous author and artist Hardie Gramatky (photo left), a senior animator for Walt Disney, and author of the children's book Little Toot, first published in 1939.

Mrs. Smith finished Gramatky's  latest book in the series, Little Toot And The Loch Ness Monster in 1989 on the 50th anniversary of Little Toot, with the help of her mother Dorothea Cooke Gramatky, also an artist. Much of Gramatky's art and a copy of his desk is on display at the Mazza Museum in Findlay, Ohio

The University's President Dr. Katherine Fell and other faculty members also gave short presentations Tuesday night before an audience of about 100.

The University of Findlay is a private University established in 1882 known for science, health professions, animal science and equestrian studies programs.

Captain Chris has been sharing his stories and the non-profit Little Toot Foundation activities with the city of LaBelle community through cooperation with the Barron Library, LaBelle Heritage Museum, Downtown Development Corporation, and the Hendry Schools, where this week he made a presentation to LaBelle Elementaty School students accompanied by Chris' parents Mr. and Mrs. Robin Obetz.

(Gramatky photo courtesy Mazza Museum, University of Findlay)

Obituary - Antonio Canales

Antonio H Canales, Jr, age 67, of LaBelle, passed away February 10, 2019 in Fort Myers.
He was born Aug. 28, 1951 in Calallen, TX, to the late Antonio and Fidela (Hernandez) Canales Sr.
Survivors include his wife: Mildred (Caustrita) Canales
two sons: Antonio Canales III and Thomas Canales,
two brothers: Benito Canales and Adan Canales
two sisters: Rachel Canales Wise and Delia Canales Garcia
10 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild
several nieces & nephews
The family will receive friends on Thursday February 14th from 5 to 7 PM at the Akin-Davis Funeral Home- LaBelle Chapel.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Friday February 15th at 11 AM at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Church, LaBelle. with Father David Vidal officiating.
Interment will be in Fort Denaud Cemetery, LaBelle.
Arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - LaBelle.

Monday, February 11, 2019

How Long Will You Live? - Extending Your Lifespan

The Social Security Administration has a handy web page that will allow you to see on average how many more years at your current age and gender you may be expected to live. They point out the result is an average and will depend on many factors.

A page from the University of Pennsylvania similarly gives your expected years left to live, but factors in lots of additional facts, including smoking, drinking, and exercise history, and how changing lifestyle can add or subtract to your lifespan.

Click to check your estimated lifespan:

Obituary - Elio Karaian

Elio Karaian, age 72, of LaBelle, passed away February 6, 2019 in Lehigh Acres.
He was born Dec. 8, 1946 in Cuba, to the late Nicolas and Aida (Prado) Karaian.
Survivors include: Mother: Aida (Prado) Karaian
two brothers: Carlos Karaian and Jesus Karaian,
two sisters: Osky Karian and Blanca,
Arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - Fort Myers.

Romance Scams - How To Protect Yourself

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services suggests the following:

Recent statistics show there are almost 8,000 dating sites worldwide and that more than 49 million Americans have tried online dating. Unfortunately, not everyone you meet on these sites is being honest and aboveboard. There are scammers out there who will tug at your heartstrings and take advantage of your search for love.
Romance scammers are masters of "catfishing," the act of setting up a false personal profile for fraudulent or deceptive purposes. These profiles are often comprised of information, such as photos, names, addresses, etc., stolen from legitimate online profiles. Romance scammers will troll dating sites and tailor their profile to make themselves as attractive as possible to potential victims.
In addition to online dating sites, romance scammers may also use social media or email to connect with potential victims. Whatever their initial approach, romance scammers will soon want to move your conversations to the telephone, email, or instant messaging, in other words, somewhere more private. They will take the time and steps necessary to gain your trust, but once they have set the hook, the requests for money, favors, gifts, and possibly things of a more intimate nature will start rolling in.
Confidence fraud or romance scams ranked among the top 10 crime types reported in 2017 to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Internet Crime Complaint Center. These scams resulted in losses to victims totaling over $211 million. There are warning signs to look for and steps to take to make sure a search for love and romance doesn't lead to heartache and financial ruin at the hands of a scammer.
Warning Signs
  1. Scammers generally come on strong in the beginning and try to quickly move communications to email or private messaging, just in case their profile gets flagged or shut down.
  2. The information in their online profile may not match what they say or how they sound.
  3. Their messages are often vague and poorly written.
  4. Their camera never works if you ask to video chat.
  5. They always have an excuse or reason for why they cannot travel to meet you in person. One common scam involves the scammer asking for travel money, so they can come to meet you, and then never showing up.
  6. After gaining your trust, possibly over an extended period of time, they share an elaborate story that ends in a request for money, gifts, or bank account/credit card information.
  7. The scammer's messages become demanding, desperate, and persistent if you do not send money when they request it.
Protect Yourself
  1. Run an image search on the profile picture or any other pictures they send to determine if they are really who they say they are.
  2. Be careful about sharing personal pictures or videos with someone you have only met online.
  3. Never send money, gift cards, bank account/credit card information to someone you have only met online.
  4. Do not transfer money for someone else.
  5. Do not pick up or accept a package and forward it or deliver it for someone you have only met online.
  6. Tell family and friends when and where you are going if you agree to meet an online "friend" in person.  

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Democratic Party Meeting February 16 At Beef O'Brady's

LABELLE, FL. -- The quarterly meeting of the Hendry County Democratic Party will be held at LaBelle's Beef O'Brady's, 21 South Lee Street, on Saturday, 16 February 2019, at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. 

Food and drink may be ordered from the menu. The meeting is open to the public, and all Democrats and like minded voters may participate in the discussion; although, only certified members of Hendry County DEC may vote on issues.  

Among the items to be discussed at the meeting will be the possibility of a major fundraiser later in the year that will allow the Hendry County Democratic Party to run its own voter registration drives, Vote By Mail, Early Voting, and GOTV (Get Out The Vote) campaigns before each election between now and the 2020 Presidential Election. 

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Fake Sheriff's Deputy Phone Call Scam

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Sheriff’s Office has received a number of complaints from people who are reporting scam calls. 

Callers advised that they are receiving phone calls from phone number 863-674-4060 and caller ID identified that number as the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office. 

The caller is identifying himself as either Sergeant Mike Taylor or Clifton Green. 

They are telling individuals that they are calling from the Hendry County Sheriff‘s Office and that they have warrants for their arrest or have missed jury duty and asking for payment over the phone. 

Please know that the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office will never call you asking for payment over the phone.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Quitting Smokeless Tabacco

During this year’s “Through With Chew Week”, February 18-24, Tobacco Free Florida and The Hendry County Tobacco Prevention Program are encouraging smokeless tobacco users to set a quit date and create a personalized quit plan using Tobacco Free Florida’s free Quit Your Way tools and services. “Through with Chew Week” raises awareness about the dangers of smokeless tobacco use (chew, dip and snuffs) and the many effective resources available to quit.

“Smokeless tobacco creates significant health hazards to its users and is not a safe alternative to smoking” stated Andrea May, Director of Community Health Promotions for the Florida Department of Health in Hendry and Glades Counties.

Smokeless tobacco is NOT harmless and can lead to nicotine addiction.[i] Smokeless tobacco causes cancer of the mouth, throat and pancreas, as well as increased risk of death from heart disease or stroke.[ii],[iii] In fact, smokeless tobacco users have an 80 percent higher risk of oral cancer and a 60 percent higher risk of esophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer compared to non-users.[iv]

To raise awareness about the dangers of smokeless tobacco use, The Hendry County Tobacco Free Partnership and The Hendry County Tobacco Prevention Program will be participating in the Swamp Cabbage Parade in LaBelle (Hendry County). The parade takes place Saturday, February 23, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) will be walking in recognition of the dangers of smokeless tobacco use.  The students will be creating and holding signs explaining the risks of smokeless tobacco as well as the benefits of quitting.

While smokeless tobacco use among Florida youth (11-17) has decreased throughout the years, many rural communities have significantly higher prevalence rates. The current youth smokeless tobacco rates in some of Florida’s rural areas are two to four times higher than the state average.[v]

According to the 2018 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey, in Hendry County, the percentage of youth who currently use smokeless tobacco is 3.7%, whereas the State is 1.7%.  The percentage of youth who have ever tried smokeless tobacco is 6.8% in Hendry and 4.4% in the State. The percentage of youth who have used smokeless tobacco on school property is 1.6% in Hendry and 0.7% for the State.

Tobacco Free Florida offers free tools and services for Floridians looking to quit any form of tobacco, including smokeless tobacco. Those looking to quit can call 1-877-U-CAN-NOW (1-877-822-6669) or visit

Ben Feldman At Kiwanis

On Tuesday, Feb 5th, the Kiwanis Club of LaBelle welcomed Dr. Ben Feldman, Psychotherapist (talk therapist); a person who treats mental disorders by psychological rather than medical means. He spoke to LaBelle Kiwanis about drugs (cause) versus non-drugs (cure).

 Dr. Feldman noted that one out of five take anti-depressants which are legal drugs for anger, anxiety, depression, and also noted that Bipolar is another name for manic depression.

Pictured is Dr Feldman with LaBelle Kiwanis President Carole Schroeder.

Photo by Helen Mead

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Molasses Truck Overturns On US27

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Troopers are on scene of a traffic crash involving two semi-trucks on US 27 north of West Yaun Road in Glades County.

During the course of the crash, one semi, transporting several thousands of pounds of molasses, overturned. Subsequently a large quantity of the molasses and fuel from the semi spilled onto the roadway.

Currently northbound US 27 is closed, traffic is being diverted onto SR 80. Emergency crews are on scene attempting to expedite the cleanup process. There were no injuries involved in the incident.

UPDATE: All lanes were reported open at 6:10 p.m. by the FHP.

Military Blocking GPS - Affecting 2000 Airports

The Federal Aviation Administration has notified pilots and other users of GPS that GPS-based services including Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), the Ground Based Augmentation System, and the Wide Area Augmentation System could be lost in a radius extending several hundred miles from a Carrier Strike Group located off the coast of Georgia during February 6 to 10th. GPS testing is scheduled which may result in unreliable or unavailable GPS signals caused by.the offshore military operation center.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has pressed the FAA to address flight-safety concerns raised by the large-scale national security exercises in which GPS signals are degraded to test defense systems and preparedness.

The AOPA said today, "The FAA posted a flight advisory that gives the schedule of the tests that could degrade GPS from the Caribbean and Florida north to Pennsylvania, and as far west as eastern Louisiana, while a strike force is conducting a training operation off the Georgia coast. Notices to airmen have been issued for airspace in eight of the FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Centers."

AOPA "estimates that more than 2,000 airports—home bases to more than 28,600 aircraft—are located within the area’s lowest airspace contour."

Curtis Clay Offers Criminal Justice Class At LHS

LABELLE, FL.-- Deputy Curtis Clay has found his way back to Hendry County Sheriff’s Office and has been asked to teach Introduction to Criminal Justice at LaBelle High School.

“I am so excited about this opportunity to be able to provide students in Western Hendry County the
same instruction students at Clewiston High School have been receiving”, said Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden.  “This is just the first step, but we are looking forward to working with the Hendry County School District in moving forward with a Criminal Justice Program at LaBelle High School”.

This class affords students that are interested in Criminal Justice, the opportunity to learn more about
it.  The Criminal Justice field doesn’t just highlight Law Enforcement and Correction but it also includes legal careers.  There is an on-going demand for criminal justice professionals in all levels - in all areas of the criminal justice spectrum; this includes Probation Officers, Attorneys, Legal Assistants, Drone Pilots, 911 telecommunications operators, and Security Guards.

For students who think they may be interested in a career in Criminal Justice, the Sheriff’s Office also
offers the Explorer Post that youth can become involved in; the concentration is centered more in Law Enforcement and/or Correction, but what they learn applies to other areas of Criminal Justice as well.

The Introduction to Criminal Justice Class began at the start of the second semester, and there are
currently 17 students enrolled in this Pilot Program.

If the School District implements this Criminal Justice Program and the student completes all four years they will be eligible to take the Florida Telecommunications Exam, Legal Assistant Exam or the Drone Pilot Exam.

Clay is a LHS graduate and a Hendry/Glades resident for 40 years.  He is currently a Dual Certified Officer that means he currently holds active certifications in both law enforcement and corrections.  After enlisting in the U.S. Navy and receiving an Honorable Discharge, he returned to Hendry County.

He brings back to this agency, 24 years experience in various areas of law enforcement.  He has been
assigned to Road Patrol, School Resource, Patrol Sergeant and Detective.  He has also served in
Supervisory roles as K-9 Sergeant, Road Patrol Sergeant, and Criminal Investigation Supervisor and is now back with us as a School Resource Officer at LHS and unit trainer.

He has obtained over 4,000 hours of Advance Law Enforcement Training.  He is also a certified trainer in firearms, defensive tactics and other disciplines.  In 2018, he completed training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), in Brunswick, Georgia, as an Instructor in Active Shooter Single Person Response.  He is currently training SROs and School Guardians in School Safety and Active Shooter.

He has been an Adjunct Instructor for the Florida Attorney General’s Office for the past 10 years.

He currently holds a Career Technical Education Teaching Certification through the Hendry County
School Board.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Flamingo Program At Audubon February 11

Experience “Pink Birds: Flamingos and Spoonbills" by writer/photographer Cherie Pittillo at the Hendry-Glades Audubon Society program, February 11, 2019  at 7 PM, 1085 Platt Boulevard, LaBelle,

Whether flying in a microlight over Africa, hanging out of a helicopter to photograph nature in the US, or dodging a charging rhinoceros, perhaps Cherie Pittillo owes her destiny as the first baby born at the hospital in Bat Cave, North Carolina. 

She is an author and award-winning photographer with both bachelor's and master's degrees in biology
with emphasis on zoology. Her publications vary from BBC books, Incredible Journeys, to the African and US editions of Reader's Digest. As a columnist, she continues to write in English "Backyard Birding in Merida, Yucatan and Beyond" in three online Mexican newspapers of The Yucatan Times.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

'Little Toot' River Trip At Swamp Cabbage Festival

LABELLE, FL. -- LaBelle Heritage Museum offers a “Little Toot Special” at 8 o’clock a.m. on both Saturday, February 23, and Sunday, February 24, as part of its 5th Annual Caloosahatchee Excursions at the 53rd Annual Swamp Cabbage Festival. 
The focus of these cruises will be the real life tugboat “Little Toot” -- inspiration of the Walt Disney cartoon – that now calls LaBelle “home.”
The Saturday cruise should return to the LaBelle Wharf at Barron Park in time for everyone to walk down to Bridge Street to see the Swamp Cabbage Festival Parade. This $50 special for a family of 5 covers a minimum of 1 adult and up to 4 children aged 15 and under. 
The best way to order tickets in advance is through the link at the bottom of call (863)674-0034 or (239)910-1538 for assistance if it’s needed.
LaBelle Heritage Museum ofrece un "Little Toot Special" a las 8 de la mañana tanto el sábado, 23 de febrero, y el domingo, 24 de febrero, como parte de su quinto anual de excursiones Caloosahatchee en el 53 º Swamp Cabbage Festival. El foco de estos cruceros será el remolcador de la vida real "Little Toot"--la inspiración de la caricatura de Walt Disney-que ahora llama LaBelle "casa!" El crucero del sábado debe regresar al muelle de LaBelle en Barron Park a tiempo para que todos caminen hasta Bridge Street para ver el desfile del Festival. Este $50 especial para una familia de 5 cubre un mínimo de 1 adulto y hasta 4 niños de 15 años o menos. La mejor manera de pedir billetes por adelantado es a través del enlace de Por favor llame al (863) 674-0034 o (239) 910-1538 para obtener ayuda si es necesario.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Democratic Party Meets February 16

The Hendry County Democratic Party will hold its quarterly meeting in LaBelle at Beef O'Brady's, 21 South Lee Street, on Saturday, February 16, at 1 o'clock.  The meeting is open to the public, and all Hendry County Democrats are welcome to attend and participate in discussion; however, only those who have filed notarized documents with the Hendry County Elections Office and statutory members may vote on matters coming up at the meeting.  All those attending may order food and drink off Beef O'Brady's menu.

Items to be discussed include recruiting interested men and women to become precinct committee members also called "precinct captains" wherever there are vacancies in Hendry County's ten election precincts, voter registration -- the Hendry County Democratic Party is registered with the Florida Department of State's Elections Division as a 3rd Party Voter Registration Organization for Hendry County along with Collier, Glades, Lee, and Palm Beach Counties and can hold voter registration drives wherever and whenever deemed necessary -- signing up for Vote By Mail, and most important of all Getting Out The Vote.

Chairman Joe Thomas said an important item to be discussed is a Hendry County Democratic Fundraising Gala in 2019 and whether to partner with any of our neighboring counties. The last one held was in Clewiston; so, tradition would have the next one held in LaBelle.  Mark you calendar now to attend this meeting on May 16 and also get the chance to meet the newly elected officers of the Democratic Women's Club of Hendry County who should be attending after holding their first official meeting following organization earlier in the day.  For information about becoming a Precinct Captain, contact or call (863)234-8890.

Obituaries - Agnes Cauley, Max Van D'Huynslager

Agnes Cauley, age 83, of Clewiston, FL passed away surrounded by love and prayers, accompanied by family on January 28, 2019.
She was born Oct. 3, 1935 in Uvalda, GA, to the late Jessie and Ella (Horne) Chambers. With her late husband Everett Cauley, together they began a family through love of each other and faith found at the Church of God. Through her selfless devotion and love shared to everyone she met, Sister Cauley influenced and cared for those she met.
Sister Cauley is survived by sons: John A. Cauley, Cad Cauley and Charles Cauley, daughters: Virginia Cornett, Helen Whitehurst and Carol E. Berry, brother: Mack Chambers, sister Ruby Watson, 28 grandchildren, 58 great grandchildren, 10 great-great grandchildren and 7 great-great-great grandchildren continue the warmth and love of Sister Cauley.
She was preceded in death by brothers: Johnny Hugh Chambers, Barney Chambers, William Chambers and RH Chambers and sisters: Aunt Lillie Mae and Aunt Sister.
Funeral services were held on Thursday, January 31, 2019 at 6:30 pm preceded by visitation one hour before at the Church of God of Clewiston, with Rev. Josh Caraway officiating. The funeral service in Georgia will be held on Saturday, February 2, 2019 at 3:00 pm preceded by visitation one hour before at Sammons Funeral Home. Interment will be in Chambers Family Cemetery, Uvalda, GA.
Arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - Clewiston.
Sgt. Max Gordon Van D'Huynslager, age 42, of Moore Haven, passed away January 26, 2019 in Lorida.
He was born Mar. 8, 1976 in Phoenix, AZ, to Adhemar Maniel and Gail Diane (Johnson) VanDhuynslager. Mr. Van D'Huynslager married Marci Martinez. Max worked as Highlands County Sheriff Deputy, he was promoted to sergeant on January 31, 2018. He previously worked with the Lee County Sheriff's Office, the Cape Coral Police Department and the Clewiston Police Department.
Max is survived by his loving wife Marci, adorable daughter Maci, sister; Nancy Van D'Huynslager Upthegrove and husband Edward, brother; Mark Van D'Huynslager, many extended family members.
Celebration of Sgt. Max's life will be held Saturday, February 2, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. in Maple Grove Baptist Church in Lakeport.
Arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - LaBelle.

Brian Haas Scholarship Fund Grows To $102,393


LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Sheriff’s Office hosted their 8th Annual Brian Haas Memorial Golf Tournament on January 19, 2019.  Sheriff Whidden was proud to present the parents of Brian, Bob and Norie Haas a check in the amount of $23,342.68.

To keep Brian’s memory alive, Bob and Norie created the Brian Haas Criminal Justice Scholarship Charitable Trust in May 2004 to provide scholarships to Hendry County Sheriff’s Office Employees, Explorers and Volunteers who wish to further their education in the field of Criminal Justice.

As of December 21, 2018, the total Scholarship Award is $102,393.14.  These funds have been used to put young men and women thru the Law Enforcement Academy, travel, college tuition, Explorer Competition and Advanced Training, to name a few.

“This year is our highest so far”, said Sheriff Steve Whidden.  “I want to thank everyone who volunteered to help make this successful”, he continued.  “Bob and Norie, we will continue to work hard to keep Brian's memory alive and to make the Scholarship a success”.