Over the years, I have asked a lot from you — the reader of the Chronicle.
And every time you’ve come through.
It started many decades ago when the state of Florida was talking about getting rid of Lucifer the hippo at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife attraction. Bureaucrats were going to remove Lu from the state park because there is a rule that only animals native to the state could be displayed.
Lucifer came to the county so he could star in some early movies made in the area including “Cowboy in Africa” and “Daktari.” He was also seen on the Art Linkletter Show and the Herb Alpert Special.
He was just about the only star we had and no one wanted the state to send him packing.
To block the move, the Chronicle started a campaign to make Lu a citizen of the state of Florida so he could stay at the attraction.
Chronicle readers urging that Lu be made a citizen sent thousands of letters to Gov. Lawton Chiles. Gov. Chiles was no fool, the only way he could escape a swamp of bad publicity was to grant the request. In 1989, he made Lucifer an official citizen of Florida.
He never registered to vote because he could not make it over to the Supervisor of Elections office in Inverness.
Citrus County residents, by their advocacy for something right, made that happen. Today Lucifer is 61-years-old and still going strong as the number one attraction at Homosassa Springs.
Safety warning: Do not stand behind Lucifer after he has had lunch.
• The power of reader advocacy was displayed again when a condominium project was proposed for Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River.
Citizens said “no” to the condominium project and raised more than $10 million to purchase the property. Three Sisters has become one of the most popular national wildlife refuges in the entire country. It only happened because public opinion became so adamant that this natural resource should be preserved.
• It was just this past holiday season when the Chronicle shared a story about Sandra Ingram, a grandmother who suddenly had to take over the parenting responsibilities for her two grandchildren. Her daughter had died from cancer and the kids had nowhere to go. However, Sandra lived in a single room trailer and there was not enough space for the kids. When the community heard that story, the good people of Citrus County came out and made things happen. More than $75,000 in cash and contributions were raised. A new mobile home was placed on Sandra’s property (Jimmy Stoltz at Seafood Cellar in Crystal River was a real Santa Claus in this case). Hundreds of people donated to the cause. Today Sandra and her grandchildren are together.
• More recently, we started a campaign effort to help support the construction of a new county animal shelter. One member of our county commission said publicly that residents liked animals, but they would never make a personal donation to build a new animal shelter.
Last week the Chronicle began a campaign to help raise contributions to build the animal shelter. At first, an anonymous donor walked into the newspaper’s office with a $100,000 check for the effort. Since then, $25,000 has been contributed to a GoFundMe account set up the shelter and another $10,000 has come in via small checks dropped off at the Chronicle’s offices. Commissioner Ruthie Schlabach has taken the lead and convinced a majority of commissioners to go forward with the shelter.
One woman from Beverly Hills went over the top. She is 93-years-old and owns her own home. She made the decision that when she dies, she is going to donate half the proceeds from that sale of her home to the construction of a new animal shelter. Her will has been changed to reflect that decision.
Do not ever underestimate the kindness of the people of this community.
• Finally, the story of Jeremy Schreifels was written by Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy and published on April 19. The front-page article told the story of how Jeremy has been fighting the agony of Tourette’s syndrome.
Tourette’s is a disorder that involves involuntary repetitive movements (tics) and/or vocal outburst, from unusual sounds to offensive cursing.
As Nancy’s article explained, there is now an experimental surgery available for Tourette’s, but because it is experimental, the costs are not covered by insurance.
The bill at Shand’s in Gainesville will be $130,000.
Since that story ran in the paper, Citrus County residents have responded. To date, more than $73,000 has been raised to help offset the cost of the surgery.
Folks like Leon McClellan of Lecanto and April Royal have jumped into leadership positions to help raise the funds. A GoFundMe account is accepting online contributions and all sorts of events have been planned throughout the community.
Citrus County is going to make this surgery happen for Jeremy Schreifels, because that is what we do.
Gerry Mulligan is the publisher of the Chronicle. Email him at email@example.com.