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Eagles make donation to 'Holiday for Heroes'

December 5, 2018
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

For most of us, seeing family around the holidays involves a drive to a neighboring city, or a flight across the states.

For military personnel overseas, they are not afforded the luxury of hopping on a plane and getting to visit loved ones, or even enjoy their favorite family meal.

"Holiday 4 Heroes," a grassroots effort started by small business owner Jonette Kessack, ships care packages to men and women of the military where they may not have access to essential needs. Kessack operates the service out of her store, Sip and Send, which performs services a post office would, while providing a selection of unique gifts and wine.

Article Photos

By CJ HADDAD
cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com

Fraternal Order of Eagles Cape Coral Auxiliary President Donna Morris, left, and F.O.E. Cape Coral Aerie President Ronni Mason, right, present a check to Holiday 4 Heroes Founder, Jonette Kessack Tuesday afternoon.

"It's an amazing feeling to know we've made a difference in so many people's morale. It's not what they're getting in the box, it's the fact that somebody cared enough to put a box together for them," said Kessack.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie #3957 of Cape Coral made a generous donation of $1,250 to the effort Tuesday afternoon, which will help send many care packages to soldiers who do not have access to some basic essentials in remote locations.

The Eagles decided that this organization was an important one to them, as its nearly 2,000 members chose to contribute for a second straight year.

"We are people for people, we do a lot of charity work," said Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie President, Ronni Mason. "We like to take care of as much of the community as we can here. Veterans are away from their families, so it makes it a little easier for them getting a care package or whatever they need sent over. It's tough being away from your family during the holiday, and I think it's important they feel there's somebody with them."

The initiative started over a decade ago, when a military mother came into Kessack's store, her hands full of supplies to ship to her husband overseas who was serving in Iraq.

Kessack jokingly thought, "Wow he must be picky to have all of these personal items sent over."

What she didn't know was that the government does not supply the basics to soldiers in certain war zones or combat areas.

This struck a chord with Kessack.

The first year, they shipped 36 boxes to military in remote areas.

Now, they ship 1,500 a year - and not just around the holidays, but every month.

Each package costs $17.40 to ship in postage alone, never mind the materials inside.

"It's just the little things that mean the most to them," she said. "One solider couldn't stop combing his hair because he hadn't had a brush in so long. Another - a special ops solider - basically danced down the tarmac when he opened his because it had a full-sized Snickers in it."

The organization looks for local veterans, and helps serve their whole base.

"They kind of get to play Santa," Kessack quipped.

They are currently serving 11 different local soldiers, and their entire base, around the world.

Each box gets body wash, deodorant, lotion, high-protein foods such a peanut butter or beef jerky, hand warmers or sunscreen and more, including a little slice of home, whatever that may mean to each individual.

"We try to put something that means home to them in every package," Kessack said. "All of our boxes have personal things in them. They all have a letter from a child. Cape Coral Special Populations, they have a group that does nothing but cards for us, so one of their cards goes in all of our boxes. So we've really been able to bring a lot of different places in the community together to do these boxes and it's very gratifying."

She loves the work that she does to help support local military families, but hopes one day that her services won't be needed.

"Well, I'd like to see us not have to do the program at all because nobody's in remote bases where they're not getting anything. That's my ultimate wish," said Kessack. "Other than that, we'll just keep going on like we do. It's the community support that's so vital. All of our money is donated, we're 100 percent volunteer driven. There's nobody in our organization that makes a penny."

To donate to Holiday 4 Heroes, visit www.holiday4heroes.com to make a cash donation or to view a supply list.

Gifts may also be dropped off at Sip and Send, located at 2135 Santa Barbara Blvd., in Cape Coral.

The F.O.E. Cape Coral Chapter is always looking for new members. Learn more about the group by visiting www.capefoe.com.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj

 
 

 

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