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Growing group seeks own building

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image Janet Taylor

American Legion Post 389 members know it’s time to get their own place.

By PENNY FLETCHER

RUSKIN — American Legion Post 389 is grateful for being allowed to use the facilities of VFW Post 6287 but members know it’s time to get their own place.

The Legion started its Ruskin post five years ago and has since grown to more than 130 members.

While the VFW is for U.S. military veterans of all branches who have fought on foreign soil, Legion membership is for veterans who are, or were in the service in any branch of the military during a conflict, whether or not they served in combat.

The two groups are closely knit, and in Ruskin, they have operated joint fundraisers during the time they’ve shared the VFW’s facility at 5120 U.S. 41 in Ruskin.

“We have members of all ages,” said Janet Taylor, Commander of Legion Post 389. “There are some active duty returning now, and some from the time during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and both Gulf wars.”

The members range in age between 18 and 90 but age doesn’t create a barrier, Taylor said.

VFW membership at the Ruskin post is around 700 according to VFW Commander Chris Young.

“Both organizations work for local veterans and their families, but we also work for the communities,” Taylor explained. Although they are part of national organizations, both may set their own priorities on a local level.

Since they are sharing the VFW building, they’ve done a lot of joint fundraisers and plan many more during the 2011/2012 season.

The next event will be the Veterans Day Parade Nov. 12 starting at Granny’s restaurant at 11 a.m. and ending at McDonalds on 19th Avenue.

Then there’s a fundraiser for the Ruskin Drive-In theater Nov. 20 from noon to 6 p.m.

“This will be an outdoor event with four or five bands donating their time,” said Gene Wren, the VFW’s bar manager. “We expect there to be two flatbed trailers so that one band can be setting up while another is playing.”

So far they have locked in three local bands, Bert and Sassy, a duo from Riverview; the Warehouse Rockers, a five-piece group from Apollo Beach; and the Top Shelf Blues Band from Ruskin. 

Local restaurants are also signing up to donate time and food, Wren said.

VFW and Legion members have done fundraisers for local military organizations and for other community organizations and causes, he added.

“The first organization ever sponsored by the American Legion was the Boy Scouts of America in 1919,” said Taylor. “We are still very close to the Boy Scouts. Just recently we presented an award to a local Eagle Scout.”

Dec. 3 there will be a spaghetti dinner at the post to raise funds for a Brandon Boy Scout troop, Taylor said. “The VFW also has fish fries and steak dinners. They are so active we stay busy helping with their events.”

Dec. 10 the focus will switch to the Toys for Tots program run by the Marine Corps when toy collection begins at the post. Unwrapped toys may be brought to the post between 1-10 p.m. that day, Wren said.

“Our Ladies’ Auxilliary – from both the VFW and the Legion- will be wrapping and then the toys will be distributed between Dec. 19 and 23rd  but the Marine Corps picks up to deliver.”

Residents and business persons from the surrounding communities are invited to all the publicized events and also asked to bring unwrapped toys for boys and girls from infants to older teens.

While the Legion members have enjoyed their time at the VFW, Taylor says they know it is time they get their own place. Membership is growing, and they hope it will continue to grow.

“We’ll take whatever we can get to start,” Taylor said. “But by law it can’t be within 500 feet of a church or school.”

That is because alcohol is served in the bar, she explained.

Land with a building on it would be ideal, but even a vacant store front in a strip mall would do, as long as cooking facilities would be permitted, she said.

To join the Legion, show up to a meeting the first Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. or email Taylor at jtaylor2771@yahoo.com.

The Sons of the American Legion and Legion Ladies Auxiliary are also founded and functioning at Post 389.

To join the Ladies Auxiliary, a person must be an immediate family member of a qualifying veteran, like a mother, sister, or grandmother. More information is also offered on line at www.legion.org.

Meanwhile, anyone interested in becoming a member of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) may call Post 6287 at 813-645-2935. Information about the VFW is available online at www.vfw.org.

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