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Local breweries, musicians band together to benefit OOA

November 6, 2018
By MEGHAN BRADBURY (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The community has the opportunity to support active military through the Matanzas Craft Beer Fest on the Bay, which will feature local breweries, live music and food.

Matanzas on the Bay General Manager Tony Coppolino said the event just kind of evolved. They have been working with Operation Open Arms for five years and have held a few different events, each very successful.

"About five years ago we were interested in doing something with the community," Coppolino explained. "We previously met Captain John Giddy-up Bunch. He started Open Arms. It's a charity with no salaries, everything raised is used for the military."

In creating that relationship with Bunch, Matanzas on the Bay found a way to support and help the military.

In Southwest Florida, there are quite a few craft breweries so, in an effort to raise money for a local charity, they also wanted to support local breweries from Estero, Fort Myers and Naples, Coppolino said.

"They were more than happy to be involved," he said.

Those breweries include Bone Hook Brewing Company, Fort Myers Brewing Company, Momentum Brewhouse, Palm City Brewing and Point Ybel Brewing Company.

Matanzas Craft Beer Fest on the Bay will be held from noon. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, on the outside deck at Matanzas on the Bay, 416 Crescent St. Tickets are $50 and includes beer, food and live entertainment.

"We want to make it affordable for people and have more people come. The more the better," Coppolino said.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at the restaurant, online at www.MatanzasontheBay.com, or the day of the event.

In addition to craft beer and food, local musicians will also perform during the event.

Soulixer, who will perform a blend of indie rock and soul, will take the stage from noon to 2 p.m., and Sheena Brook, local singer-songwriter and The Voice contestant, will perform from 2 to 4 p.m.

"Sheena Brook knocked it out of the park last year," he said.

A raffle, with all the proceeds going towards Operation Open Arms, will also be among the activities.

Coppolino encourages the community to come out and enjoy the event.

"I encourage everyone to come and join us for the Craft Beer Fest and show their support for Operation Open Arms. It makes a difference for many different people's lives in the military. It will be a lot of fun," he said.

Bunch said his organization was the first public charity to establish PTSD care for U.S. Troops, so they did not have to think about the unthinkable.

"I have been doing this for 14 years. When I founded the charity in 2005 I thought the war would be over in two years, that it would be a two-year gig," he said. "It all got started with me providing a free fishing trip for a U.S. solider back from Iraq for a two-week leave. I had a free Saturday, so I agreed to take him fishing and I didn't charge him."

Since 2005, Operation Open Arms has provided 3,918 U.S. troops with a week of R&R, worth about $3,500 a trip. In addition, the charity has provided 103 free weddings, valued between $18,000 to $22,000 a piece. Thirty-nine Operation Open Arms alumni have also been helped in countless ways.

More than $16.3 million in value has been contributed to active military through Operation Open Arms.

"We touch all the bases as far as what we do for them," Bunch said of active military. "We will look for reasons to find ways to help you, if we can't find any, we will look some more. We will figure out a way."

He said it means the world to the organization that Coppolino and Matanzas support Operation Open Arms.

"We have a number of people that have stood out in their extraordinary contributions to Operation Open Arms. Both Tony and Glen were both voted on by the board of directors for their contributions," Bunch said.

Due to their contribution, their charity has been "almost saved" because they do not solicit for donations.

"In return, veterans hear about Operation Open Arms and out of appreciation they go to Matanzas and have dinners. It's like a circle. Matanzas helps us and we help them. We try to have some type of dynamic that is a mutual benefit to both of us," Bunch said.

The big picture, by bringing active military to Southwest Florida for a free vacation, is they are receiving a good impression of our region.

"A lot of alumni have bought their pensions and started their business (here.) They come buy houses, put kids in school and pay taxes and we get outstanding members of the community. It's contributing to recruiting some very high quality people to be neighbors and people of high integrity in the Lee County population," Bunch said.

 
 

 

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