El Paso Community Library Hosts Open House

Mar 22nd, 2017 | By | Category: Top Story

The Grand Opening of the El Paso Library was held Saturday, March 18. The opening was the culmination of 6 years of dedicated work by the El Paso community members. The structure was built in 1894 as a bank by Claude B. and Leona Smith of El Paso. Their decedents, John and Melba Loke, Larry Smith and Rebecca Kersh were on hand for the celebration. They have recently given two tracks of land to the El Paso Parks and Playground Association, the non-profit group currently owning the building. Almost exactly 100 years ago the El Paso bank was robbed by a band of local men. After a chase by law enforcement and their dogs, the money was recovered, but not the paperwork, allowing some locals to get by without paying their debts. Several families in the area are direct descendants and some are distant relatives of those robbers. Willie Dean, W.D., Quattlebaum of Floyd, had inherited the actual pistol used in the robbery. He presented the gun to the Library with the understanding it would remain on display along with information about the robbery. The building was owned by Blanche and Kenneth Harston for years, serving as a general store, a community room, even a volunteer library. They completed application to place the structure on the National Historic Registry, which allowed the non-profit to apply for funding from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism for some of the first restoration of the building. Their children, Elaine Boles and Nelle Hogue were present to see the results of their parent’s efforts. The building was donated in 2009 to the El Paso Parks and Playground Association by Steve and Elaine Corum, with the understanding it would one day become a community library. An engraved plaque made of boards used as original trusses was given to the Corums. The citation reads, “This building was given in memory of Willie Mae Corum to further her passion for reading and the love of books instilled in her children” All four of her children were present and recognized: Steve and Elaine Corum and Myrna and Wayne Richardson, all of El Paso as well as Zoie Ohmes of Texas and Gail and Richard Smith of Michigan. Other outside sources of funds included Arkansas Department of Rural Services and General Improvement funds from Senator John Paul Capps and Eddie Joe Williams’ districts as well as Representatives Jeremy Gillam and Joe Farrer’s districts. The community’s funding was received from the Planning and Development Districts through a competitive process. One of the largest contributions came from the White County Quorum Court. Justice Cameron Cooper spoke on behalf of the County Judge and Quorum Court. Dana Stewart, Executive Director of the White County Community Foundation spoke on behalf of the foundations’ donation of funding for a wheel chair ramp, completing the restoration. Through Chili Suppers and Dessert Auctions each year, the community contributed over $25,000 in addition to providing most all labor at no cost. The members of the El Paso Parks and Playground Association were recognized: Dwight Patrom, chair; Roy Dale Breckenridge, secretary-treasurer, James Patrom, Stacey Taylor, Wendy Drennan, Tom Riley, Jr. and Arlena Riley. The families of deceased board members, Andy Anderson, J.C. Shannon and Tom Riley, Sr. were introduced. Others recognized included Mandy Breckenridge, who provided architect’s renderings; Kyle Breckenridge, engineering services; Wayne Richardson, septic layout; Derwin Anderson for appraisal, Tom Anderson for developing the Library Contract, Debbie Moore and the Lonoke County Regional Library for shelving and furniture; Wade Haynie and Sonny Neally for earth moving for septic system, soil relocation and French drain installation. Darla Eno spoke on behalf of Board President Clay Goff and members of the White County Regional Library Board who accepted the branch library into their system. They provide books, periodicals, public use computers, free WiFi and access to materials in all branch libraries. Carolyn Ashcraft, State Librarian,spoke on behalf of all libraries in Arkansas, congratulating the community for their work on the restoration of the building and encouraging patrons to use the facilities. Janet Blansett is the El Paso Librarian; hours the library is open to the public are Tuesdays 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Wednesdays 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays 12:00 noon – 5:00 p.m. and Saturdays 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Tom and Judy Riley were recognized for their support of the project and involving the community.