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Feed the Children aides 250-300 families

Families collect food at distribution point.The Oklahoma City-based nonprofit Feed the Children sent a semi-trailer full of food, toiletries and household cleaning supplies to Macclenny on March 15 for distribution to families in need.

Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition in Jacksonville orchestrated the delivery and distribution of donated goods here and at similar events in St. Johns and Duval counties the same day.

Local nonprofit groups, which supplied some 30 volunteers for the event, were asked to register families in advance to receive food. The only requirement was that recipients have children in the home.

An estimated 250-300 families picked up donations beginning at 3:30 pm in the National Children’s Study parking lot on S. 6th St. in the Crossroads Shopping Center.

“The event was a great success yesterday when every bit of food, cleaning and hygiene items were distributed to Baker families,” said Kerry Dunlavey, director of the Baker County Health Department, by e-mail last week. “We were blessed to have the event here this year for the first time.”

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River cleanup set for Saturday, lunch at new location

Beer can on the beach at Steel Bridge Road boat ramp.The St. Mary’s River cleanup will take place the morning of March 17 at the Steel Bridge Road boat ramp as usual, but the celebration and lunch following the cleanup has been moved from its former location at White Oak Plantation.

Baker County cleanup leader Greg Sheppard said the after-cleanup festivities will be at Trader’s Hill Campground near Folkston this year because the Yulee plantation is no longer sponsoring the event.

“Financially, they can’t do it,” he said.

The four-hour cleanup will start at 8 am at 27 sites along the St. Mary’s River in Florida and Georgia, including the Steel Bridge Road site commonly called the boy scout camp. It’s one of the few public access points to the river in Baker County.

The annual cleanup is organized and sponsored by the St. Mary’s River Water Management Committee and its member counties. The committee consists of representatives from Baker and Nassau counties in Florida and Charlton and Camden counties in Georgia.

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BCHS senior drops half his weight, joins Marines

Kyle McCarty jogs after school March 4.Kyle McCarty’s Christmas list two years ago was very short. It contained only one, very expensive gift. And when his mother saw it hanging on the fridge, she began to cry.

The overweight teenager asked for gastric bypass surgery, the same procedure his parents received some years earlier.

“She was like, ‘I know you really want this and we’ll do the best we can,” Mr. McCarty, now 18 years old and enlisted in the Marines Corps, recalled March 5 during an after-school workout session.

That moment began a long process in which, little by little, Mr. McCarty shed nearly half his body weight — some 165 pounds.

At age 16, the Baker County High School student tipped the scales at 340 pounds. He did little outside of school except play video games. It was painful to walk around campus. He was teased by classmates. He needed special chairs because he couldn’t fit into standard seats.

Now, all of that is in the past.

After asking his parents for the gastric bypass, also known as the stomach stapling surgery, they took him to see the same doctor who oversaw their surgeries when they each weighed more than 300 pounds.

The physician prescribed a diet of no more than 1000 calories a day and regular exercise.

“My parents literally, physically pushed me to do exercise,” Mr. McCarty said. “All I used to do, day and night, was play video games. I wouldn’t go outside for days at a time.”

The Macclenny teen soon dropped 15 pounds.

“After that first week, it just kept getting easier and easier,” he said.

Mr. McCarty went to see his doctor again. He’d lost 50 pounds at that point and the doctor refused to move ahead with the surgery. “He said you’re too young, we can’t give this to you,” Mr. McCarty recalled.

More time passed and the youth kept feeling better and better, physically and emotionally. Last September, he walked into a military recruiting office and enlisted in the Marines.

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‘Sunny’ debut for farmers market

Spring-like weather, complete with high March winds, ushered in this year's edition of the Baker County Farmers Market in north Macclenny.The Baker County Farmers Market kicked off its 2012 season under sunny skies and brisk winds at Macclenny City Park on March 3, offering something for just about everybody, including fresh vegetables, flowering and fruit-bearing plants, handmade jewelry and homemade baked goods.

For entertainment during the five-hour event from 8 am until 1 pm, there was music by the Bluegrass Breeze and clogging demonstrations by a local 4-H group.

If the first Saturday was any indication the weekly market should be a big hit this year, said Darryl Register, co-chair of the event and director of the Baker County Chamber of Commerce.

“I was very satisfied and happy,” Mr. Register said. “We’d love to have more vendors. But we had seven, and during the fall run we never had more than four.”

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