Food Drive Numbers Low; Free COVID-19 Tests; Details on Stolen ATV; Rhody Weekend Kick-Off; Election Day

Food Drive Numbers Low

The Letter Carriers Food Drive on Saturday netted about 2500 pounds of food.  A much lower amount than in previous years.  According to Patrick Lewis with the USPS here in Florence it was less than they had hoped for.  He says there are still some last minute drop-offs that they are expecting, which might drive the total a little higher.  The food will go to serve the greater Siuslaw region and will help the more than 600 families that the area serves, but more is needed.  People can still drop off donations to the Florence Food Share if they missed the food drive.

Free COVID-19 Tests

With COVID-19 cases up more than 60% around the country the federal government is once again issuing free at home test for the virus.  The third round of free tests was announced yesterday.  Households can receive 8 more at home tests by visiting  Tests will be distributed by the US Postal Service.  Since masking mandates have ended and people have gone back to doing activities like dining and concerts the virus has begun to surge.  In Oregon the OHA reported just under 3000 cases yesterday (2969) and Lane County reported 239 cases.  The Florence area has not been updated in almost two weeks, but reports of positive COVID-19 cases are being reported.

Details on Stolen ATV

We have learned more about the stolen Sheriff’s Department ATV that was recovered yesterday.  In an update the LCSO gave more specific details on the recovery of the vehicle.  The Sheriff’s office received a call from a citizen indicating that they had observed two males attempting to use a Can-Am side-by-side ATV to get a suspicious truck unstuck from the sand near the Chapman sand road south of Florence.  The caller texted a picture of the side-by-side to LCSO dispatch at which time it was believed that it was the stolen side-by-side from earlier in the weekend.  Law enforcement personnel converged on the area and located the involved truck and one of the involved males, 29 year old Jessy Anthony Robles.  The truck was confirmed to be stolen and this male was taken into custody.  Around this time, another citizen called to report that they had seen someone driving the stolen ATV in the area. The US Coast Guard Sector North Bend, with a helicopter in the area, spotted the stolen ATV in a brushy area nearby.  It was abandoned by this time.  Law enforcement attempted a K9 track from the ATV but were unable to locate the second suspect. The second suspect is believed to be 48 year old Denver Vollie Bell.  Bell is described as a white male adult with brown hair and green eyes.  He stands approximately 5’06” and weighs approximately 150lbs.

Rhody Weekend Kick-Off

The kickoff event for the 115th Rhododendron Festival is set for this week.  Members of all three Rhododendron Festival Royalty Courts have been rehearsing for the annual coronation program set for Thursday night at the Florence Events Center.  So far, say producers, they’ve made a positive impression.

“They are an incredible court this year.   Ugh!  We are in love, they are so, so neat.” 

Wendy Krause is one of this year’s producers.  The courts are made up of five young men and five young women, all area high school seniors, plus five elementary age girls.   Many of them have been active with the Children’s Repertory Workshop of Oregon, the Florence based youth theater group.  But she says, they are all talented.

“So we’ve got dancers, we’ve got singers, we’ve got piano players.  We’ve got some fun demonstrations, we’ve got a monologue.  It’s a great great show.” 

Krause said masters of ceremonies for the show are Melanie Heard of CROW and KEZI 9 newsman Matt Templeman.   The coronation event begins at 6:30 Thursday evening.  There are still some reserved seat tickets available at the FEC Box Office or online at

Election Day

Today is Election Day.  Voters that have not turned in their ballots to the drop off box at the justice center by 8 pm will not have their votes counted.