Hundreds help relaunch 1914 Elfers schoolhouse
ELFERS - Six generations of Elfers School students and their descendants helped reopen the historic building Friday during a grand reopening event. After nearly eight years, the CARES Elfers Center once again is making memories after extensive stabilization and renovations that preserved much of the character of the structure that first opened in 1914. For 52 years, students attended classes in the landmark building at 4136 Barker Drive before it evolved into a senior center and now a community center, CARES President and CEO Bill Aycrigg said. Two descendants of the late, famed local educator Mittye P. Locke played a central role in the ceremonies. Andrew Rutherford, a second-grade student, is Locke’s great-grandson. Kindergartener Hope Iverson is a Locke great-great-granddaughter.The youngsters and U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, presented a flag that Gulf High School NJROTC members raised over the center. The Mittye P. Locke Elementary School Chorus performed “The Heart of America.” Hundreds of people witnessed the event. A who’s who list of city, county, state and national leaders from Pasco County attended the festivities. Bilirakis and his father, former U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis, cited the volunteer spirit that helps keep the center open. County Administrator John Gallagher thanked his staff and Pasco school district leaders who helped arrange some $2 million for the structural repairs and renovations. Changes include the addition of the Avery Branch Library, an arm of the New Port Richey Public Library. The architects and engineers, however, took great pains to preserve as much of the character of the 1914 building as possible, such as the T-shaped staircase, wooden floors and the second-floor auditorium. The West Pasco Chamber of Commerce, led by President Henry “Chip” Wichmanowski, arranged a ribbon cutting. Thea Johnson, chair of the CARES board, had the honor of slicing the ribbon with a golden pair of scissors.