AMBER TWP. — Veterans and their families flocked to 4743 W. U.S. 10 Sunday for a hog roast and membership drive hosted by the new AMVETS Post No. 28.
Sunday’s event was a way for the recently formed post to greet the community and welcome new prospective members, less than one year after the last AMVETS post — the William R. Charette Post No. 82 — closed due to a lack of membership.
Commander Nathaniel Mohr told the Daily News that the new post has “pretty grand plans” for the area, with the hope of constructing a veterans resort in the coming years. The sanctuary will be erected at the very site where people gathered on Sunday to enjoy food, music and company.
The plans include utilizing a building on the adjacent property — donated to AMVETS by the VanBoxel family, which owns AJ’s, La Fiesta Chips and more — as well as 10 acres of commercial real estate in a wooded area behind the Yada Yada Resale and La Fiesta complex.
Mohr said the VanBoxel family has been supportive of the dream to create a safe haven for veterans in the area, and the plan is to honor that generosity in the name of the complex.
“They got behind my dream and vision for creating what will be the Camp VanBoxel American Veterans Sanctuary,” Mohr said. “We’re going to create a 15-site R.V. resort and spa with three cabins and a 9-hole disc golf course.”
The spot is also set to feature a nature preserve and a proper post hall, all enclosed within a privacy wall.
Mohr said there will be a therapeutic element to the site, too.
“The fact that it’s going to have a privacy wall and be self-contained really gives our local veterans a place where they can go, feel safe and find camaraderie,” he said. “We’re trying to spark the fire for our local veteran community.”
The plan for development and construction will unfold during the course of the next four years, with the hope that it will be completed by 2024.
In the first year, the post will be raising funds to move the donated building — currently located behind Label Shopper — onto post’s adjacent property. The second year will be devoted to raising funds to construct the privacy wall. The third year will be for laying out the site plans, and in the fourth year, the post is planning to initiate construction.
“Four years of raising funds and writing grants is plenty of time to knock out the big stuff,” Mohr said. “We’d like to be fully operational as a veteran sanctuary by 2024.”
Mohr said nothing has been done with the property yet that would require a special land use permit, but when the time comes, he anticipates support based on the reception the project has received so far.
“We’re in close communication with Amber Township, and they’re super excited,” Mohr said.
Additionally, the AMVETS post has already begin working with other local entities to accomplish its goals, including FloraCraft.
“FloraCraft has already approved our first grant proposal … for $2,000 to buy uniforms for our charter membership, the original 10 members,” Mohr said.
Though the completion of the sanctuary is still a few years away, Mohr stated, in the interim, AMVETS Post No. 28 will be holding meetings and more fundraising and membership-driven events.
During Sunday’s gathering, there was music, food, a sign-up tent, and speeches from Mohr, Sawyer Hendrickson of Miss Sawyer’s Kids With a Cause, and Chad Derouin, a post member who is also currently running for the position of Mason County Prosecutor.
Hendrickson, whose nonprofit organization works throughout the year to aid veterans and active service-members, welcomed attendees and thanked people for supporting the new post.
“AMVETS… represents the interests of more then 20 million veterans who honorably served in the U.S. military, including the reserves and the National Guard,” Hendrickson said. “With more than 250,000 members nationwide, (AMVETS) is veterans serving veterans.”
Hendrickson addressed mental health, suicide prevention, employment training and other services offered by AMVETS, and thanked Mohr and the rest of the post for being active in bringing the group back to the area.
“I wish you the best of luck,” she said.
Sunday’s hog roast was a success, drawing dozens of veterans and supporters throughout the day.
“We just want to let people know that we are, in fact, accepting members,” Mohr said, adding that prospective members can find information about membership and meetings at the Ludington AMVETS Facebook page.