It’s Gonna Happen,” Lorie Shaull

September 29, 2020; Fort Meyers News-Press

It’s a tough time for organizations that are dependent upon physical sites, and especially for nonprofits like museums that had to shutter during the pandemic. But it isn’t only those problems that are forcing the Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library in Cape Coral, Florida, to close up forever at the end of the day today. It’s a dispute with the museum’s former business partner and landlord who wants $5000 in monthly rent (with an increase to $8000/month next year) or $1.8 million to sell the building to them outright.

Neither is in the cards, though the organization took a stab at reaching the larger figure through a GoFundMe campaign—which raised only $6,500.

“It’s just the end of the road,” said founder and CEO Ralph Santillo. “That’s it…we realized that, after 11 years, if we haven’t started to reach that, that’s not gonna happen.”

But the mission is still alive in the hearts of the board of directors, who are considering a combination of ways to keep the exhibits in public view—on a museum bus, for instance, or by lending them to other facilities.

“That would keep the museum in business, so to speak,” Santillo said, adding that it would be impossibly expensive to put all 32,000 square feet of exhibits in storage.

Putting the exhibits on the road will save on rent. “That way, we won’t have to worry about a big building,” he said. “The expense of a building, unless you have a money benefactor, there’s just not enough income coming in.”

“We’ve got 60 days to get out of here,” Santillo said. “We gotta get rid of stuff. We gotta pack up…and we need to raise money to finish paying the bills here before we leave.”

“We’ve got so much on our plate right now. We just need to take this next two months, clear out of here, get our head together and figure out what we want to do.”—Ruth McCambridge