Carl Norfleet delivered. The 71-year-old Aripeka man didn't let rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night keep him from the swift completion of his self-appointed round: Maintaining a U.S. Postal Service branch to serve residents in this coastal community straddling the Pasco-Hernando county line.
Norfleet ponied up $29,000 to purchase, from a family member, the 750-square-foot office building that had served as the local post office in Aripeka until Sept. 13. That's when the U.S. Postal Service shut down the branch amid a contract squabble with its landlord, Louise Geiger, Norfleet's cousin. It meant an end to the free post office box rentals to the Aripeka residents in Pasco County who did not receive home delivery and forced those same people to make a 14-mile round-trip each day to retrieve their mail at the branch in Hudson.
Norfleet stepped in to acquire the property and he and the Postal Service signed a new lease. The branch is expected to reopen later this month. Norfleet said he bought the building to spare his mostly elderly neighbors from having to travel to Hudson for their mail.
The local post office, one of only three commercial buildings in this community of approximately 300 people, is more than just a mail drop. It provides daily interaction for residents and serves as a de facto community center with its bulletin board providing notification for potluck dinners, lost animals or other important events.
"It feels like we're being made whole again,'' Norfleet told Tampa Bay Times correspondent Robert Napper. Indeed. Norfleet's unselfish investment means Aripeka's identity remains intact.