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Rotary Happenings: Rotarians hear from veterans foundation, military museum founder

By Staff | Aug 11, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Ralph Santillo, founder and president of the Invest in America's Veterans Foundation and founder of the Southwest Florida Military Museum and Library, was the guest speaker for the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club's recent meeting.

At the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club’s Zoom meeting on July 31, members were introduced to Ralph Santillo, founder and president of the Invest in America’s Veterans Foundation. In 2010, he founded the non-profit Southwest Florida Military Museum and Library in Cape Coral as part of the foundation.

Its mission is to preserve and display the extensive collection of priceless memorabilia and artifacts donated by veterans and their families to be shared with the public. The largest military museum in the region, it has over 25 major exhibits starting with the Revolutionary War to current conflicts.

It strives to continue to educate the younger generations about the sacrifices made by previous generations of military personnel from all wars and branches of service. The museum invites schools and other organizations to visit for tours, which are accompanied by veterans who explain the history of what is on display.

Santillo is grateful and determined to be of service to all veterans, and he has assisted thousands of veterans and their families in finding careers, furthering their education, locating affordable housing, searching out professional counseling for specific needs, and helping veterans help themselves and their families.

It also offers a Round-Table Connection for veterans to gather together and connect. Veterans are offered a free lunch as they share their experiences with the younger veterans. It provides a safe place of comfort and allows veteran associations a place to help those in need. It all started as “veterans helping veterans,” and grew from people bringing in and sharing all their military “stuff.”

Santillo is the recipient of the 2012 Paul Harris Fellow award from a Cape Coral Rotary club, which is the highest recognition that can be bestowed upon a non-Rotarian.

In light of COVID-19, the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club meets on Fridays at 7:30 a.m. via Zoom. To take part, call 239-472-7257. For more information, visit sanibelrotary.org or www.facebook.com/sancaprotary.