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Brandon Community Center strives for renewed visibility

by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
Thunderbolt editor
photo by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman

Visitors looking for a big sign could be mislead by the nondescript Credit Union building. Located at 710 Oakfield Dr., the Brandon Community Center is easy to miss if you donít know what to look for.

photo by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman

Gayle Cook, (left) manager, assists Mandy and Ian Koratsky in the resource center with some internet research. There is also a fax machine, copier and plenty of reference material available.

photo by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman

George Thomason, a community center volunteer, issues a base decal for a visitor. There is usually no wait for his services.

Like the proverbial pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, MacDill's Brandon Community Center has a wealth of services available for those lucky enough to find it. But thanks to new management and a renewed sense of purpose, the staff there hopes to put this little known office on the map.

"Most people from MacDill who live in the Brandon area don't even know we're here," said Gayle Cook, who was recently hired to manage the center full time. She said the high concentration of military families in the Brandon area is the target audience for the services the center offers.

"We offer every service the Family Support Center offers on base, without the drive," she said. "I really think we can be a great benefit to the people who work the night shift too."

Located inside the Credit Union building at 710 Oakfield Dr., the center is easy to overlook. Those diligent enough to actually walk inside and find the office will be rewarded with smiling faces and helping hands.

One service which has drawn in people so far is the ease of getting a vehicle decal. George Thomason, one of 12 volunteers who staff the center, is in five days a week issuing stickers for cars. And like most retirees, he's got enough time on his hands to spin a yarn or two with anyone willing to listen.

Video teleconferencing with a deployed family member is another great reason for families to visit the center. Mrs. Cook said the equipment hasn't been used in more than a year and she is excited about getting the program back under way.

Those interested in a session should know that, due to regulations, the deployed member must initiate the meeting. For more details, call the center at 655-9281.

"I'll be happy to be here at six in the evening because I know there are time issues that need to be worked out," said Mrs. Cook.

Education and job seeking skills are offered on an appointment basis, as is casualty assistance and tax assistance. To go along with filing the necessary paperwork, there is a resource center with computers (with internet access), a fax machine, copier and plenty of reference material.

There is even a play group scheduled for Friday mornings, which is open to all military ID card holders and their pre-school age children. It's a great opportunity to let the little ones play while mom or dad visits with other military families.

To get a full listing of services available, go online to www.macdill.af.mil/famres.html.

Eventually Mrs. Cook would like to offer even more services but the number of visitors needs to rise from the current monthly total of roughly 400.

"We want to offer everything the Mission Support Squadron offers like legal services and American Red Cross classes, but it's a 'catch 22' because we need more people before we can have more services," explained Mrs. Cook. "It's just going to take some time."

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