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Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014

Tourist information centers need more volunteers

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PLANT CITY – Reg Scott has a lot of reasons to volunteer at the Tourist Information Center.

Mostly, he appreciates the diversity.

“I like the people. We have visitors from all over the world,” Scott said.

The Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce, which operates the information center off Interstate 4 and a similar one downtown, says there aren’t enough volunteers like Scott.

The chamber currently is seeking more workers, who are unpaid.

Chamber President Marion Smith said no special skills are required except a love for working with people. Volunteers don’t have to be longtime Plant City residents.

“We can use a few extra hands welcoming visitors,” Smith said. “This is the first impression many of them get of Plant City.”

The Tourist Information Center at 1702 N. Park Road, near Interstate 4, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Union Station Depot Welcome Center, 102 N. Palmer St., is open the same hours but fewer days.

Among other duties, volunteers answer questions, and hand out maps and brochures. They generally work either 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Scott said the most frequent question is if there are alligators in Plant City. Other common questions include directions to the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds, places to camp and hike and the nearest beach.

Visitors have included tourists from Brazil, Finland and Italy.

“They all have one thing in common, they’ve all heard about Florida and they want to be a part of it. They want to see natural Florida,” Scott said.

In his three to four years as a volunteer, Scott has only been stumped once.

A couple of attractive women once came in wanting directions to the nearest nudist resort, and Scott didn’t have a clue. He learned where one was located after they had left.

Other than that, Scott, who retired from the Army, has always been the answer man to tourists.

Chamber tourist information specialist Jane Gonzalez heads up the volunteer effort.

For information or to volunteer, call the chamber of commerce at (813) 754-3707.

Twitter: @dnicholsonTrib

dnicholson@tampatrib.com

(813) 394-5103

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