It’s been six months since most of our snowbirds flew up North to their summer homes, but judging by the growing traffic on State Road 674 many of them are back. And while I’m not one to fully embrace having to double my time navigating through town, I’m happy to see our friends and neighbors return. Lots has happened in and around Sun City Center since April, so to welcome our winter residents home, I’m providing a monthly recap to catch everyone up. Our year ‘round residents may benefit, too, since some of this stuff may have been long forgotten.
Perhaps the biggest news is Amazon’s recent announcement that it will open a 1-million-square-foot fulfillment center on the other side of Interstate 75 in Ruskin, and another in Lakeland. More than 1,000 jobs will be created between the two locations, and site work has begun.
Within Sun City Center, the Community Association is moving ahead with its Master Plan. Construction drawings for the Information Center and library addition have been finalized, and a conceptual design for the new, multi-purpose building is completed. The building will house Samaritan Services, plus the Mac Club, Photography Club and a dance studio to be used by 15 to 16 dance clubs. CA members approved the $664,000 portion the CA will spend; Samaritan Services will pay for its space and be granted a no-cost, long-term lease in exchange. Initial bids are due from contractors in late November or early December.
Kings Point is also making progress on its 2020 Plan. The South Club bar expansion is under way, and construction has begun on the 2020 Building, which will provide multi-purpose space for both clubs and residents, as well as modern spa, salon and fitness facilities.
Now on to that recap.
Here were some of the stories we covered as snowbirds began flocking northward in April:
• The Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its Spring Business Expo at Community Hall, drawing 70 vendors and more than 2,000 visitors.
• SCC resident Bruny Hudson published her first book, “The Richest Dog in Town.”
• The Pelican Players presented “The Bench Mark” at Borini Theatre in King’s Point.
• The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office hosted Operation Medicine Cabinet at Community Hall. Residents safely discarded more than 409 pounds of prescription meds by turning them in.
• The King’s Point Model Railroad Club received a $3,652 grant from the COA to upgrade its 23-year-old, direct current layout to a digital command control operating system.
• The Hope Fund of Bethune Park raised $1,200 and recruits three new volunteers at its annual Breakfast and Bingo fundraiser at Community Hall.
• American Legion Post 146, the Sun City Center Leathernecks, Military Order of the World Wars, and the Patriots Club sponsored a fundraiser for Marine Sgt. Michael Nicholson, a Tampa native who lost both legs and half of his left arm in an IED explosion while on foot patrol in Kajaki, Afghanistan, in 2011. Proceeds go to the Tunnels to Towers Foundation to help build the Purple Heart recipient a Smart Home.
• Ninety-two golfers registered for the SCC Area Chamber hosts its annual golf tourney at Cypress Creek Golf Club.
• Freedom Plaza hosted a Cinco de Mayo celebration that included a seven-property chili cook-off hosted by its parent company, Brookdale Senior Living. Freedom Village Senior Living in Bradenton wins.
• Dr. Khushi Dhaliwal, 34, opened a new family practice called Tampa Bay Family Physicians in the Kings Crossing Shopping Center, around the corner from Publix.
• Freedom Plaza welcomed Kevin Knopf as its new executive director.
• Brookdale Senior Living spent more than $5 million on renovations to Freedom Plaza. The makeover includes a multitude of internal, external and infrastructure upgrades, new marketing offices and new landscaping.
• The Sun City Center Security Patrol hosted a free golf cart inspection and registration event. More than 700 carts were inspected.
• Debbie Vijil of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office became Sun City Center’s new community resource officer.
• Beth Israel, the Jewish Congregation of Sun City Center, appointed Rabbi Carla Freedman as its new spiritual leader.
• SCC resident Don Lyon celebrated his 107th birthday at a party at United Community Church.
• The Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center awarded a $20,000 grant to the Lord’s Lighthouse Ministry for its ongoing Hunger Relief program.
• Local author Fran Orenstein published her ninth book, “Murder in Duplicate,” a light, mystery romance novel.
• More than 100 volunteers served about 1,500 people at the SCC Community Association’s annual July 4 Pancake Breakfast. Minto Communities and Brandon Honda donated $20,000 for the Independence Day evening fireworks display.
• Andy Oosthuizen created, wrote and directed the play, “The Nest and the Bird Cage,” which the Pelican Players perform.
• The Military Family Support Trust presented a $20,000 check to Southeastern Guide Dogs Inc. for expansion of its facility in Palmetto.
• After almost 10 years in the community, the Three Legged Poodle pet boutique closed.
• The Rev. Warren Langer, pastor of SCC United Methodist Church, celebrated his 10th anniversary with the congregation.
• Robin Roberts filed papers to make Critter Mama Rescue a Florida nonprofit group to find permanent homes for stray animals in the South Shore area, including Sun City Center.
• Jennifer McCafferty hosted Christmas in July at the SCC chamber to give Sun City Center residents a preview of Jen’s MarketPlace, a new monthly outdoor market where folks can shop, eat and be entertained. Part of the proceeds go to charity.
• Lifestyles After 50 hosted its annual Senior Fun Fest. More than 1,500 turn out.
• HCC SouthShore in Ruskin offered seniors ages 60 and older who have lived in the state for the past 12 months tuition-free, no-credit courses.
• Hillsborough County gave the Tampa Metropolitan YMCA the go-ahead to build the South Shore YMCA at Vance Vogel Park, off Big Bend Road in Gibsonton.
• The Angel Attic reopened after Calvary Lutheran Church constructs a new 4,000-square-foot facility for the thrift store. The project enables the church to feed more than 350 families in need through its Community Cupboard mission, which Angel Attic supports.
• The Home Depot Foundation awarded a $20,000 grant to My Warrior’s Place for continued renovations. The Ruskin retreat provides respite and support for veterans and active duty members of the military suffering the loss of a brother in arms.
• Grace Terry started Grief Cafť at two Sun City Center locations – Sun Towers and SCC United Methodist Church – to give folks suffering loss the opportunity to share their feelings in informal, relaxed setting. The support groups are free.
• Dr. Kortney Hightower, 37, opened a new dermatology practice in the Commonwealth Medical Plaza, 955 Del Webb Blvd. E.
• The Pelican Players of Kings Point and the Performing Arts Company of Sun City Center announced they will work in concert to provide the finest in community theater to all of South Shore.
• The Firehouse Cultural Center renovations ended, allowing the nonprofit organization to provide a comprehensive array of programming and introduce the Firehouse Pub, an intimate venue for adults seeking top-quality, live entertainment.
• A Tampa General Medical Group Family Care Center opened at 1647 Sun City Center Plaza across from the Sun City Center post office.
And as some winter residents trickled in during October, we covered these stories:
• Hillsborough County auctioned off Sun City Center Plaza, the private road leading into the Sun City Center shopping center and post office, for $15, 393.29 in back taxes. A private investor purchases the road.
• The Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Fall Business Expo. Several thousand residents visited almost 100 businesses exhibiting at Community Hall.
• Valencia Lakes hosted its annual Arts and Crafts Festival for an estimated 2,000 visitors.
• Sun Towers, the chamber and South Bay Hospital teamed up for the Pink Ribbons of Hope campaign to raise breast cancer awareness and for research. The effort nets about $1,400 for the American Cancer Society.
• Congressman Tom Rooney, R – Dist. 17, visited Sun City Center to talk gun safety at a special firearm safety event hosted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
• Sun Towers hosted its annual Caregiver Symposium to provide information, support and resources to folks caring for loved ones with memory loss. The event draws 300.
• Thirty-seven teams of almost 400 people turned out for the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The event raised $39,500 for research.
• Fifteen World War II veterans, including five from Freedom Plaza, made the free trip of a lifetime to see the World War II Memorial in the nation’s capital, thanks to Honor Flight of West Central Florida.
Those are the highlights, people. You’re all caught up.