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Community to welcome back redone Elfers center

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Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 05:00 PM
ELFERS -

Once again, memories will be made at the CARES Elfers Center with a grand reopening Friday after the historic building had been closed nearly eight years.

As part of finishing touches before the ceremony, Mike Facemire of ProSigns replaced the 1914 Elfers School sign on the front of the landmark building at 4136 Barker Drive.

“We wanted to save the original signs, but they were too badly damaged,” Brenda Martyniak, public relations coordinator for the nonprofit Community Aging and Retirement Services, explained.

Sponsors donated $100 per number and letter to have a new sign made that closely resembles the original lettering.

The historic structure had begun as a school in 1914 for more than half a century before it evolved into a senior center for several decades. The crumbling building closed in May 2005 as unsafe until it could be stabilized and renovated.

Like an old friend, local leaders will welcome back the community center. Tours and other events will take place from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Friday, with the main ceremony scheduled for 11:30 a.m.

The reopening event also could serve as the prelude to the building's centennial year in 2014.

Last month, the center's director, Evie Parks, and her staff began moving back into the building. The word “senior” has been dropped from the name to reflect its broader mission now.

Visitors taking the tour Friday can view the new annex, which connects to the main building.

Also new is the Avery Branch of the New Port Richey Public Library, where 15 Gulf High School students made quick work of stocking hundreds of books on the shelves in April. Stephanie Jones from the New Port Richey library staff is guiding the branch operation. Jessica Samuelson is the lead volunteer for the new branch.

Elsewhere, the computer lab volunteers will usher people through the well-equipped room, including WiFi connectivity for much of the building.

The CARES travel department will continue to set up field trips for some 1,000 members.

Historical photos from the building's schoolhouse era will hang on the cafeteria walls, Parks emphasized. With a laugh, she pointed to one old photo where she believes she was standing in the background as an elementary school girl.

A café will offer soups, sandwiches and salads, with catering for meetings held at the center. Coffee will be available in the mornings.

The spacious auditorium on the second floor can hold up to 100 people, perfect for groups such as Rotary clubs to hold special events or regular meetings, CARES officials think.

The upstairs stage remains, where many students had graduated, including Parks herself.

Pasco County officials found the funding for the $2 million in upgrades as well as the restoration work, Bill Aycrigg, executive director of CARES, has said.

The Friday schedule starts with self-guided tours at 10 a.m. Volunteers also will explain the myriad activities to guests. WJBQ personalities will provide interviews, Elfers trivia, giveaways and prizes.

Artisan displays will feature examples of hand quilters, stained glass artists, painters, wood carving craftsmen and more.

People who complete a mini-scavenger hunt will be eligible for prize drawings.

At 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., performers will recreate 15-minute comedy shows from the Golden Age of Radio, including bits from the Acme School Bell Caper and the Bickersons.

To start the ceremony at 11:30 a.m., Thea Johnson, president of the CARES board, will welcome spectators. Aycrigg will lead a cornerstone observance.

Pasco County Administrator John Gallagher will speak, followed by an invocation by the Rev. Bryan Goebert, pastor at Sun Coast Baptist Church.

Gulf High School NJROTC will lead a flag ceremony and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Two descendants of some of the first Elfers School students will assist in raising the flag.

West Pasco Chamber of Commerce ambassadors will lead the ribbon cutting to conclude the program.

Light refreshments will be served after the ceremony. Papa Murphy's has provided pizzas to serve visitors.

For information, call the CARES Elfers Center at (727) 847-1290 or email Parks at eparks@caresfl.org.

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