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Arleen Spenceley, Times Staff Writer

Arleen Spenceley

Arleen Spenceley is an editorial assistant and staff writer for the Pasco Times edition of the Tampa Bay Times. Before she joined the staff in July 2007, she wrote as a Times correspondent in Hernando and Pasco counties for three and a half years. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor's degree in journalism in December 2007 and continued to work for the Times until Dec. 2012, when she resigned — albeit reluctantly — to finish her master's degree. She graduated with her M.A. in rehabilitation and mental health counseling in May 2013 and happily returned to the Times staff in November.

Phone: (727) 869-6235


  1. Curiosity led to Dade City couple's love affair with alpacas


    DADE CITY — Eight years ago, Debbie Pettis read a newspaper article about an alpaca farm.

    "I had never heard of the animal," Pettis said.

    Alpacas, she learned, are of the camelid family — cousins to llamas. And they're strange looking, thought Pettis, who works part time for a global consulting firm. But she took an interest. So she called the farm she read about and scheduled a tour....

    They know their names, says Debbie Pettis of her “boys” and “girls.”
  2. Wesley Chapel family harvests, sells raw honey


    WESLEY CHAPEL — Monica Obando is an apitherapist and a beekeeper. So she respects what other people fear: bees.

    She and her husband, Juan Obando; her sister, Jenny Castro, and her mother, Maria Leguizamon own enough bees to have started a business: Santa Monica Florida, which harvests and sells raw honey.

    The venture began in 2011, when Monica Obando, 42, suffered from arthritis. Her husband had heard about apitherapy, the use of what bees produce, such as venom, to help alleviate pain caused by various illnesses. So they took a class in it....

    Maria Leguizamon, Monica Obando and Jenny Castro co-own Santa Monica Florida with Obando’s husband, Juan Obando. The business harvests and sells raw honey.
  3. Shop for 'shabby chic' furniture in New Port Richey


    NEW PORT RICHEY — When others see an old piece of furniture, Jenny Barker, who owns a downtown shop called Vintage Chickabees, sees an opportunity.

    "I upcycle it," she said — she uses chalk-based paint and wax to refurbish wooden tables and chairs and dressers that otherwise might be discarded.

    The art projects started when Barker, 38, a widow and mother of four, was a gymnastics instructor. She wanted to earn additional income. So she attended workshops where she learned techniques for restoring old furniture — she had a lot of it, she said....

    Jenny Barker, 38, upcycles furniture and sells it at her shop, Vintage Chickabees.
  4. 105-year-old Hudson woman: 'Don't be afraid of growing old.'

    Human Interest


    In her apartment at Atria Park of Baypoint Village, Clarice Emley stretched her legs so her feet would reach her organ's pedalboard.

    She is a musician who has played the organ since 1985. She is also a widow, an aunt, and a retired high school teacher.

    And "I have done something finally that not many people can do," she said — hit 105 years of age.

    Emley, whose 105th birthday is Sunday, was born in 1911 to an English dad and an Irish mom in Glade Valley, N.C., at the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains....

    Emley participates in exercise class at Atria Park of Baypoint Village, an assisted living facility in Hudson. Emley’s 105th birthday is Sunday.
  5. Land O'Lakes Winery celebrates first anniversary


    LAND O'LAKES — When Sue Hardy and some of her friends decided to make their own wine, she learned something new about the craft.

    "It's a science," Hardy said. "It's an art."

    And, she added, "it's fun."

    That's what led Hardy, 57, and her business partner, Corey Kempton, 37, to open Land O'Lakes Winery, which now has been in business for a year.

    The operation has three parts, Hardy said. There's the wine bar for patrons who wish to sip wine or craft beer, sans the work it takes to make it....

    Sue Hardy and Corey Kempton own the Land O’Lakes Winery.
  6. New unit allows Medical Center of Trinity to offer higher level of care to newborns



    In a dimly lit, quiet room at Medical Center of Trinity, Ashleigh Johnson held her day-old daughter, Emma.

    The baby's birth, in a birthing suite in the hospital's obstetrics unit, had been normal. The baby, healthy.

    "Then there was a change," said Johnson, 28.

    Emma, who already had begun to bond with her parents, started to have a hard time breathing.

    But the hospital's staff was prepared to handle it because of a recent addition: a $7 million Level II neonatal intensive care unit....

    Ashleigh and Chuck Johnson, both 28, sit with their day-old daughter, Emma, in the neonatal intensive care unit recently. The new facility allows mothers and babies to stay together.
  7. Two teens saving for college with Two Hunks carwash business



    Tyler White smiled as he dunked a carwash mitt into a bucket of soap and water.

    Beside the bucket, White had arranged his arsenal: shampoo, conditioner and wax for cars, chrome polish and tire shine, cleaners for glass, plastic, carpet, leather and vinyl.

    White, who owns a mobile carwash business service called Two Hunks and a Hose, is meticulous. He is determined. He is also a sophomore at Land O'Lakes High School....

    Tyler White, left, owns Two Hunks, and Josh Columbo works as a contractor. Both are Land O’Lakes High sophomores.
  8. Leaning Tower of Pizza, a New Port Richey landmark, turns 40


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Carl Serpe Sr. had been a cop for the New York Police Department for a decade when he had to do something he didn't want to do — retire.

    A back injury was to blame. But Serpe still needed an income. So, he opened a restaurant, which has turned out to be a much more successful endeavor.

    This year, Leaning Tower of Pizza is celebrating its 40th year.

    It's a family-owned and operated Italian restaurant — and also "a legacy," its owner says....

    Carl Serpe Sr. and Carl Serpe Jr. are the co-owners. “I started working (at the restaurant) when I was like 12,” says Carl Jr.
  9. Dade City business aims to protect smartphones from water


    DADE CITY — The Ray family knows well how smartphones fare when wet.

    "The five kids and my wife have all at one point dropped their phones in water," said Shannon Ray, who owns a company called Advanced Telecom Systems with his wife, Teasi Ray.

    "Typically, once water or whatever liquid hits it, (a smartphone is) completely ruined," Shannon Ray said.

    Each time it has happened, the Rays have tried tricks intended to save a wet cellphone, such as putting it in rice....

    Shannon Ray says he uses a special liquid to coat smartphones and prevent damage from water.
  10. Pasco couple's business helps remote owners monitor homes


    HUDSON — Last year, Mike and Brenda Martyniak noticed a problem in their neighborhood.

    "Squatters lived across the street from our house," said Brenda Martyniak, 56.

    At first, nobody knew that the squatters had moved in to what had been a vacant house, she said. Then nobody could prove that the people in it shouldn't be there.

    So she wondered if businesses exist that help protect remote owners of vacant homes from problems not limited to squatters. She and her husband ended up starting one: POV Home Watch....

    Mike Martyniak, 64, co-owns POV Home Watch, which monitors homes for owners who live far away or are away on vacation.
  11. Appraiser helps clients identify valuables and get top dollar for them


    ODESSA — While Dale Smrekar collected art and antiques, he observed a startling trend: Buyers took advantage of sellers.

    "Somebody would pay $75 for a $10,000 painting," said Smrekar, 66.

    Smrekar thinks people who sell an item "deserve to get as much as possible, whether they've inherited it or bought it themselves."

    So 13 years ago, he started a business designed to make that happen: Downsizing Advisory Service....

    Dale Smrekar, 66, who owns Downsizing Advisory Service, is a personal property appraiser and an estate liquidator.
  12. Patrons can 'feel good,' sip tea at downtown New Port Richey tea room


    NEW PORT RICHEY — The White Heron Tea Room and Gifts seats only 12.

    It is tiny, admits owner Kelly Hackman. But that doesn't affect the goal Hackman has had for the "quaint, Florida-style gift shop and tea room" since she opened it last month.

    "I want you to feel good when you leave," she said.

    Hackman, 37, worked for the last two years as the executive director of Chasco Fiesta. She also has worked for the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce, as a marketing director for Greater New Port Richey Main Street and as a youth pastor at her church....

    Kelly Hackman, 37, owns the White Heron Tea and Gifts in New Port Richey.
  13. Events scheduled to honor Martin Luther King Jr.


    Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and several events in Pasco County will commemorate the slain civil rights leader.

    A Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Boys and Girls Club of Lacoochee, 38724 Mudcat Grant Blvd. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Proceeds will fund scholarships.

    A parade will start at 9 a.m. Monday and travel through Lachoochee from Cummers Road and U.S. 301 to the Boys and Girls Club, where a commemorative program will start at 11 a.m. Those attending are asked to bring lawn chairs. Refreshments will be served....

    Marchers observe the Pledge of Allegiance during the raising of the colors at Chester McKay VFW Post during the African American Club of Pasco’s and the city of New Port Richey’s Happy Birthday, Martin! event in 2013 to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [Douglas R. Clifford, Times]
  14. Arc Nature Coast needs funds for Neff Lake campus construction



    Mark Barry crossed the hall between classrooms during a tour of a building that once was a farmhouse.

    But since 1992, it has been the enrichment center at the Arc Nature Coast's Neff Lake campus, which was a chicken farm in the 1950s. The house is also a money pit, says Barry, who has been the Arc's director for 23 years.

    The nonprofit organization is a chapter of the Arc of the United States, which provides services for adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities....

    The Arc Nature Coast currently has a campaign going to raise the money it needs to develop and renovate its Neff Lake campus, which will include additional on-site group homes like this new six-resident facility completed in July, plus the demolition of the original farm house, which will be replaced with a modern facility.
  15. Pasco CARES president/CEO Bill Aycrigg retires after 28 years

    Human Interest

    HUDSON — Twenty-eight years ago, Bill Aycrigg got a job at CARES, a nonprofit organization that provides services and promotes independence for aging adults in Pasco County.

    He started the gig with a goal to make an impact in Pasco.

    "I wanted to lead and design services and programs that helped the local community," he said.

    And, for nearly three decades, he did. It ended last week when Aycrigg retired as the organization's president and CEO....

    Bill Aycrigg worked at the nonprofit for nearly three decades.