PLANT CITY — An old strawberry shortcake stand and market on State Road 60, a bit east of Dover Road, has been gutted and renovated for about 300 members of AMVETS Post 44.
Stationed off Paul’s Drive in Brandon for the past 14 years, post members decided they needed a larger, more visible headquarters, said post Cmdr. Mike Graham.
The AMVETS have a long-term lease with the owner of the building and property.
Even as the veterans were renovating the building, people stopped to ask about the group — and five more people joined, Graham said.
“The day we started work out there, people started pulling up,” he said.
AMVETS is different from some other veterans’ groups, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, in that a person only has to have served in the military and been honorably discharged to join, he said.
Wartime service is not required. Also, anyone whose father, mother, sister or brother served may join AMVETS.
A 65-member women’s auxiliary also pitches in with fundraising activities and post events.
“We found that this new location really suits our needs and will allow us to do more for veterans,” Graham said.
“Except for the outside walls, we’ve put in new electrical, plumbing and air-conditioning,” and new partitions are going up inside.
Typically, the post is a gathering spot for members, but other events also take place there.
AMVETS Post 44 recently hosted a party for the Ruskin-based nonprofit group My Warrior’s Place, which serves veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Post members visit the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa each month to play poker with spinal cord injury patients, and the auxiliary is involved in various charity drives.
“We do a lot of fundraising for different groups in the community, including A Kid’s Place,” which is a group home in Brandon for foster children, and Portamento of Hope soup kitchen, which also is in Brandon, said auxiliary President Lee Hutchinson.
“When school starts, we purchase supplies for students and most recently we purchased backpacks to give out to homeless people.”
Hutchinson said she believes the new location will draw more people who can, in turn, help with fundraising and more visibility at events staged at Hillsborough County’s Veterans Memorial Park.
The tentative date for a formal dedication of the new building is Feb. 1.
There are 12 AMVETS posts in the greater Tampa Bay area. To learn more about AMVETS Post 44, call (813) 651-4444 or visit www.amvetspost44brandon.com.