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Operation Open Arms standing strong

By Staff | Feb 18, 2012

At the German American Social Club of Cape Coral Bavarian Gartenfest this Sunday, a special donation will be made to Operation Open Arms, a nationally acclaimed military outreach program founded in 2005.

According to officials, it is the only Florida charity of its kind honored by two sitting United States Presidents.

Its “very simple mission statement” is to provide U.S. Service men and women visiting Southwest Florida every conceivable benefit during their two-week combat leave or return from a foreign duty station.

Services provided include weddings, special events and more.

Yet many of their numerous donations were lost in the fire at the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce.

The founder of OOA is Captain John “Giddy-up” Bunch, who is also a professional fishing guide and Pine Island resident.

“It’s not just calling cards,” said Bunch, of the much-appreciated donation from the German American Club. “They were a part of the loss that the Operation Open Arms suffered in the fire. Also burned were gift certificates to fine restaurants, and gift certificates to WalMart, Target and Publix.”

That wasn’t all.

Treasured photos and mementos were lost as well.

“U.S. servicemen and women bring flags, framed certificates of appreciation, and challenge coins in appreciation for what the Chamber of Commerce and OOA has done for them on their combat leave.

“The chamber was a partner with us for over seven years, acting as a clearing house where our troops and their families could present their military ID in order to receive gift certificates of their choice.”

“I believe the arsonist who set the fire not only did so to have the chamber suffer, but also our troops and their families.”

Right now, he said, a fireproof safe would be a great donation, as would gift certificates and cards to replace those lost.

“We’re moving forward,” he said. “If you’ve heard of the saying, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We plan to get a fireproof safe, and if anyone in the community would like to donate that, the organization would be appreciative. We don’t want to suffer a loss like this again.”

To learn more about Operation Open Arms, go to operationopenarms.org .

“The Chamber comes first,” he said of recent announced benefits in their honor. “But Operation Open Arms will always find a way to survive. We always have.”