Holiday Giving: Shop Wisely For A Reputable Charity

November 28, 2014

Millions of Americans have ventured out to big and small retailers in search of the best deal for their holiday gift giving, and experts advise them to have the same diligence when it comes to picking their charity.

According to AARP, older Americans are more likely to receive charitable solicitations than any other group, and not all requests are legitimate, warns Doug Shadel, author of AARP’s “Outsmarting the Scam Artists.”

“There’s a lot of charitable solicitations going on out there that really tug at the heartstrings, whether it’s disabled veterans or anything having to do with disasters, and so you really just got to be careful about that,” he cautions.

Shadel advises seniors and others to be cautious of charities whose names are similar to better-known organizations.

You can also request written information, avoid cash gifts and ask for a receipt.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 25 million Americans are victims of consumer fraud every year.

You can check to see if a charity is registered in Florida by checking with the state’s Division of Consumer Services.

Shadel also says to ask the person requesting the donation more about how the donations are used and how much goes to operating costs versus the actual cause it claims to serve.

“A lot of times, charitable solicitors will try and get you into kind of a heightened emotional state around their charity,” he explains. “The best way to avoid that is at the beginning of every year, come up with your own charitable giving plan.”

Northview Cheerleaders March In Macy’s New York City Parade

November 28, 2014

Two Northview High School varsity cheerleaders, Hanna Gibson and Morgan Ward, marched in Thursday’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Pictured top: Gibson and Ward in their All-American Cheerleader uniforms after the parade. Pictured inset: Enjoying Times Square. Pictured below: The Sesame Street float travels down the Avenue of the America’s during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City Thursday morning. Photos for, click to enlarge.

Ernest Ward, Northview Cheerleaders March In Disney Thanksgiving Parade

November 28, 2014

Seven UCA All-American Cheerleaders from Ernest Ward Middle School and Northview High School marched Thursday in the Thanksgiving Day Parade at Disney World. Pictured above: (L-R) from Northview: Jerni Crabtree, Kayla Galvin and Hannah Nelson; from Ernest Ward: Jayda Crabtree, Gabrielle Kline, Nikoal Creamer and Madison Sherouse. Pictured inset: Kline was chosen to march on the front row. Pictured below: The girls pose with Mickey and Minne Mouse. Photos for, click to enlarge.

Florida’s Adoption Reunion Registry Helps Adoptees, Birth Parents Reunite

November 28, 2014

Recognizing that adoption is a lifelong journey, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) offers Florida’s Adoption Reunion Registry to provide birth relatives and adopted children the opportunity to reunite.

The Registry is the only program in Florida that reunites adult adopted individuals with members of their birth families without either party needing to take court action. The Registry is a voluntary and confidential cross-referenced file of the people who were the principal parties in an adoption. It is available to adult adopted individuals over the age of 18, adoptive parents, birth parents, maternal and paternal grandparents, birth siblings and siblings of the birth parents.

“We are proud to be able to offer this service to individuals who are adopted through the Florida foster care system because we know that many adopted children are naturally and rightfully curious about their birth families,” Interim Secretary Mike Carroll said. “Sometime the process of finding your birth family can be difficult and heartbreaking but it is more often filled with love, surprises and relief that can help bring about a more full and complete family of both adoptive and birth relatives.”

The Registry does not initiate searches for birth families. If two or more people impacted by an adoption in Florida list themselves on the Registry, then the Registry gets them in touch with each other. There is a onetime $35 fee. The fee may be waived if there is a proven financial hardship. There are currently 10,190 individuals listed in the Florida Adoption Reunion Registry –55 percent are adult adopted individuals, 38 percent are birth parents, 7 percent are grandparents, siblings or other relatives.  The Registry averages three to four successful matches each month.

To register for Adoption Reunion Registry services, an applicant must complete the Adoption Reunion Registry Form which may be obtained by calling the Florida Adoption Information Center at 1-800-96-ADOPT or visiting

Photos: Camp Fire Kids Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feast

November 27, 2014

Camp Fire USA Century Youth Learning Center held a Thanksgiving feast this week for children and their parents. The daycare’s children, many dressed as Pilgrims or Native Americans, enjoyed a full Thanksgiving meal following a special Thanksgiving production on stage at the Century Community Center.

For a photo gallery from the event, click here.

Pictured: Children enjoy a Thanksgiving feast at the Camp Fire USA Century Youth Learning Center earlier this week. photos, click to enlarge.

From The Farm To The City: A Thanksgiving Bounty For The Needy (With Gallery)

November 25, 2014

About 200 students from schools in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties worked in fields near Jay Monday to harvest turnips and bag sweet potatoes that will feed hundreds of needy families later this week for Thanksgiving.

The event at the University of Florida’s West Florida Research and Education Center was part of Farm-City Week, bringing the bounty of the farm to the needy of the city.

The FFA students from Northview High School, Tate High School, Jay High School, Central School, King Middle School and Ernest Ward Middle School harvested about 1,200 bundle each of collard and turnip greens and sorted about a ton and half of donated sweet potatoes.

The greens were harvested in assembly line fashion — one student picking the greens, another bundling them with a rubber band and passed student to student to a waiting transport vehicle. Then teams of students worked to wash the greens.

Along the way, the students learned not only about teamwork, but also about the farming process.

The greens and sweet potatoes will be delivered Tuesday with the help of Tate High FFA students to about 600 families that were pre-qualified based upon need through the Waterfront Rescue Mission.

For more photos, click here.

Photos for, click to enlarge.

Tax Free Turkey? Florida TaxWatch Talks Thanksgiving Dinner

November 25, 2014

Floridians have another reason to be thankful this holiday season – Florida is not one of the 14 states in the nation that tax groceries, according to Florida TaxWatch, a statewide, non-profit, non-partisan research institute.

While most food that Florida residents prepare themselves for a Thanksgiving feast is exempt, some of the items on dinner tables may be subject to the state’s sales tax, ranging from six to 7.5 percent.

In Florida, groceries are generally exempt as long as they are not prepared in-store. For example, a raw turkey is tax exempt, but a prepared turkey is taxed. However, there are some nuances. Deli foods prepared off-site are not taxed as long as the grocer leaves them in their original sealed container. Bakery products are only taxed if items are sold for consumption at in-store dining facilities. Deli meats and cheeses are not taxed unless they are arranged and sold in party platters, and fruit and salad platters are exempt unless they are packaged with utensils.

“Understanding Florida’s tax laws can be very difficult for Florida shoppers, so Florida TaxWatch is helping taxpayers understand their tax obligations, and get a better sense of what they are buying this Thanksgiving,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

In nearby Alabama, tax on that Thanksgiving turkey can be as much as nine percent or more.

Ernest Ward Middle Names Students Of The Month

November 24, 2014

Ernest Ward Middle School has named Students of the Month for September and October. They are (pictured L-R) October – Crystal Douglas, 8th grade, and Savannah Spence, 7th grade; September – Liby Pugh. Not pictured is Abenia Diggs, 6th grade, October. Submitted photo for, click to enlarge.

Turkey Time: Extension Service Offers Thawing Tips

November 24, 2014

It’s Thanksgiving week, time for family and friends to gather and give thanks. And time for cooks to ponder the correct way to prepare their turkey.

Today, we are taking a look how to make sure your turkey is properly thawed with tips from Dorthy Lee, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent for the Escambia County Extension Office.

Following four simple food-handling practices—clean, separate, cook, chill—will ensure a delicious and safe meal.

Frozen turkeys should be thawed—at a safe temperature— prior to cooking. There are three safe ways to thaw a turkey — in the refrigerator at 40°F or less; in cold water; and in the microwave.

Frozen Turkeys

Allow 1 pound of turkey per person.
Keep frozen until you’re ready to thaw it.
Turkeys kept frozen in the freezer should be cooked within one year for best quality.

Thawing Your Turkey

In the Refrigerator (40°F or below)

Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen. When thawing in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours thawing time for every 5 pounds of turkey.

4 to 12 pounds = 1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds = 3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds = 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds = 5 to 6 days

In Cold Water

When thawing in cold water, allow 30 minutes per pound and change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze. Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound.

4 to 12 pounds = 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds = 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds = 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds = 10 to 12 hours

In the Microwave

When thawing in the microwave, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and plan to cook the turkey immediately after thawing because some areas of the turkey may become warm and begin to cook during microwave thawing.

For more information, call the Escambia County Extension office, (850) 475-5230.

Former Principal’s Wooden Santas On Display At Molino Library

November 24, 2014

Hand-carved wooden Santas created by a former principal are on display this month at the Molino Branch Library.

Dale Cooey was principal of Molino Elementary School and Molino Park Elementary School from 1997-2007, and was also principal at Barrineau Park Elementary school during the consolidation into Molino Park.  He apprenticed under his uncle was a master wood carver.

Through a one year grant from the Florida Folk Art Association, Cooey and his uncle  began showing their carvings and received several blue ribbons.  The “Santa with the Tree” carving included in the display case won a blue ribbon this year at the Pensacola State Fair. His carvings are made from cypress knees and bass wood.

Pictured: Wooden Santas on display at the Molino Branch Library. Courtesy photo for, click to enlarge.

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