The SWFL Military Museum struggles to keep its doors open

Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
Southwest Florida Military Museum and Library (Credit: WINK News)

The SWFL Military Museum and Library in Cape Coral is struggling to keep its door open, as are many attractions and businesses during the pandemic.

“All the donations that we normally would have to come in were shut off over a two month period,” Ralph A. Santillo, Owner and CEO of the museum, said.

They recently split with their partner who put the building up for sale. “Part of the agreement we had with the partnership is that they were paying the mortgage,” said Santillo. “They determined that they couldn’t pay anymore so now they want to just put the building up for sale and the alternative was that either we buy it or we’re out of here.

The SWFL military museum is a staple in Cape coral and so much work has gone into curating the exhibits. Volunteers have collected all the flags, uniforms and articles they could find. “We have 50,000 items here on display. We’re the largest military museum in SWFL,” Santillo said.

And the museum’s owner doesn’t want to have to disband the collection he and others have built. “we would have to split up this collection which we’ve collected over the past 12 years,” he said. “We would have to split it up with individual smaller and see if that could take these and that’s our last alternative.”

This is because there’s one other building in the area large enough to house the collection Santillo has amassed. And he can’t come up with the $3 million it would cost to keep the building.

Not only is the SWFL Military Museum a museum and library but they also provide services to around 700 veterans in SWFL. “We have the local DAV chapter here, we have the American legion chapter here and the AMVETS chapter here – in this building,” Santillo emphasized.

So far the museum hasn’t gotten any help or support from the City of Cape Coral, the county, or the state. But Santillo hopes that the words ‘keep us free’ that sit on the board outside the museum continue to ring true.

If you would like to donate to the SWFL Military Museum click here.

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