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Published: Monday, December 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 30, 2003 at 11:07 p.m.

COMMUNITY: Free forum to focus on seniors, caregivers, law

  • Seniors, caregivers and grandparents raising their grandchildren may be interested in a free forum set for Friday in Lake City.

  • Catching a flight home
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    Catching a flight home

    University of Florida alumna Kelly Guntrum walks in from the west end entrance of Gainesville Regional Airport on Sunday afternoon. Guntrum flew from Connecticut to catch up with old friends and watch UF's football game against Florida State University on Saturday. "Great game, bad ending," she said.

    LEE FERINDEN/Special to The Sun

    Entitled "Seniors, Caregivers and the Law," the forum will offer information on living wills, guardianships, special powers of attorney, Social Security and Supplementary Security income for people with disabilities, and more. It is presented by Three Rivers Legal Services and the Mid-Florida Agency on Aging.

    It will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Richardson Senior Recreation Center, 21 Coach Anders St., in Lake City.

    Free respite care and baby-sitting reimbursement is available for caregivers who preregister and qualify by Tuesday. To register, call (800) 372-0936.

    - Diane Chun

    STATE: Toll-free manatee line leads callers to sex chat

  • Concerned citizens calling a publicized toll-free number to report injured and dead manatees or boating violations have instead been given offers to chat with ``fantasy girls'' in exchange for a credit card number.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission number changed years ago, but the old 800 number is still posted on Web sites, boater education signs, and park brochures around the state, leading to confusion for callers.

    Starting last month, callers trying to report an injured manatee using the 800 number were referred to another 800 number, which turned out to be a sex-talk line called Intimate Encounters.

    Being hooked up to a sex line ``only adds to the levels of frustration felt by our field staff and FWC dispatchers, it's making us look really bad to the public,'' Elsa Haubold, in charge of the marine institute's manatee program, wrote in an e-mail to agency officials.

    The agency kept the 800 number for four years after the demise of the Florida Marine Patrol, noted Maj. Kent Thompson of the wildlife agency's law enforcement division. Until July, callers to the line got a recording referring them to the new number. Then, the company that owns the 800 listings apparently sold it to Intimate Encounters, he said.

    Now, Thompson said they're going to try to get the old number back again.

    In the meantime, Save the Manatee Club members are replacing its old signs with new ones showing the new number, 888-404-FWCC.

    This is not the first time Intimate Encounters has turned a hot line into a party line. It has taken over old toll-free numbers from the conservative journal Policy Review, the World Wildlife Fund, Alltel's wireless customer service and rape crisis lines in Maine and Arizona. Directory Assistance did not have a phone number for the company.

    - The Associated Press

    STATE: Police: Man killed father who criticized his weight

  • CLEARWATER - Police say a man fatally shot his 76-year-old father who criticized him because of his weight.

    Kurt Gerard Walczak - who is 5-foot-8 and 400 pounds - had been arguing with his father when he went to his bedroom, got a handgun, and shot Gerard T. Walczak dead, according to a jail affidavit.

    Walczak, 41, was on the front porch when patrol officers arrived Friday. He was being held without bail at the Pinellas County jail on a charge of first-degree murder.

    Walczak had been living with his parents, Gerard T. and Rita Walczak, for at least 20 years, and he does not have a job, jail records show.

    For several years, ``He received verbal abuse from the victim regarding his obesity,'' the affidavit states.

    Walczak was appointed a public defender Saturday, after which he entered a plea of not guilty, according to computerized court records.

    The public defender's office did not return a phone call Sunday.

    - The Associated Press

    STATE: Soldier, injured in Iraq, returns home for leave

  • SARASOTA - A soldier who was injured during a deadly bus attack in Iraq nearly three weeks ago is back home with his family in Sarasota, celebrating a belated Thanksgiving.

    Staff Sgt. Ryan Ragan, 26, arrived home Saturday. His family planned to have Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday, the first full day of his 45-day leave.

    Ragan was aboard a bus in Samarra, Iraq, on Nov. 13 when it was rocked by an explosion, killing two soldiers and injuring several others. Ragan was struck in the leg by a large piece of shrapnel, yet kept the blood-stained hunk of metal as a souvenir after doctors surgically removed it.

    ``We're just real thankful that he's here,'' said Ragan's mother, Allie Hueter.

    ``He's alive,'' she said. ``That's the most important thing.''

    At least 14 soldiers from Florida have been killed since the war in Iraq began.

    Ragan, who had been in Iraq since July 28, was stationed in Kirkuk and helped coordinate transportation equipment and personnel for redeployment, he said. He will be sent to Italy after his leave ends, then possibly sent back to Iraq.

    He said he would go if called upon, but would rather not return to Iraq.

    ``It'll be hard to be as supportive this time,'' Hueter said.

    - The Associated Press

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