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Gifts bestowed on schools, students

At a recent Citrus County School Board meeting, members accepted major community donations to three schools.

One was the offer of an outdoor classroom and some playground equipment by Progress Energy Florida. Not only is the company donating the building supplies, they are sending the labor to Rock Crusher Elementary School to build the pavilion. They plan to be at the school April 10 and 11 to do building, Progess Energy nuclear maintenance project manager Don Seijas said.

Rock Crusher was chosen for the community service project because of a child who had attended the school years earlier. Evan Wojtasinski, who attended Crystal River Middle School and Crystal River High School after Rock Crusher, was killed in an automobile accident nearly a year ago.

Evan's mother, Gerry Wojtasinski, explained that at about the time of what would have been his 17th birthday, a parent of a child who had grown up with Evan began to think of a way to remember the popular boy. Pam Anderson and her friend Liz Price, another parent of one of Evan's buddies, started what they called "The Evan Project."

They wanted to raise funds to do something in Evan's memory. Progress Energy heard about the project and was interested in the community service opportunity. Evan's father, Henry Wojtasinski, is a nuclear maintenance planner at the plant.

The gift is worth $8,000 to $10,000, and for principal Nancy Simon it is a bittersweet blessing. "We're honored they remembered us to memorialize Evan, because we remember Evan as a very happy, wonderful child."

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Another donation mentioned at the school board meeting was that of John and Claudia Isselhardt of C&J Photos Inc. They were fazing out the slide processing division of their photograph finishing business and were going to sell their slide processing equipment, said Lecanto High School photography teacher Jack Calbeck, when they offered it to Lecanto High School.

"It's an incredible self-contained E-6 processing machine," Calbeck said. They were also given a slide mounter, a film drying cabinet, assorted chemicals, about 20,000 slide mounts and slide boxes.

This is a boon to the Lecanto Academy of the Arts. Students in portfolio class have to have slides of their works and having the machine, Calbeck said, will cut back on the cost by about a third. "It's really a generous gift," he said.

Calbeck said he and the students are learning how to operate the machine as they go. The first batch didn't turn out very well, but, he said, "We learned an awful lot doing that one."

Calbeck is offering the student processing to the public. The photography department will charge the going rate and the customer assumes his or her own risk.

Another offer made to the LHS photography department has not yet passed by the school board, but Calbeck said that Reba Moreland, widow of St. Petersburg Times photographer Bob Moreland, has given the school "essentially his whole darkroom."

The items include two enlargers, film processing tanks, timers, enlarger lenses, "all kinds of stuff that we can use," Calbeck said. "Bob and I had been good friends for years," he said. "Bob wanted to do that."

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A third major donation will benefit a single student participating in a school program. Emily Hooker, a senior at Citrus High School, will use $1,300 donated by Charles Strange to fund her trip to Hawaii this summer with the CHS chorus. The singers are going to Pearl Harbor for a musical tribute to veterans.

Emily is a soprano and recently received a superior rating at the district festival for her vocal solo. She is the chorus president.

Chorus director John Edel also mentioned a $1,000 donation from Margaret Hunt, the grandmother of last year's chorus choreographer, Jen Sauers, a 2002 graduate.

Many VFW posts around the state have also been contributing toward the cost of sending students to Pearl Harbor in June.