RAYMOND W. MALLES
Special to The Banner
The Southern Pines community in Bonita Springs took a small step in our country’s efforts to honor its military veterans. Tuesday evening residents gathered at their clubhouse to dedicate a flagpole and monument in honor of its veterans who honorably served their country.
Resident, former mayor Jay Arend served as the master of ceremonies. He introduced a special guest speaker from the local American Legion Post, Steven Schlacta. After offering several pertinent remarks, the American flag was hoisted by an honor guard from his post. During the ceremony, several patriotic songs were sung by Kenneth and Brenda Dosier from Odd, W. Va.
Southern Pines residents are very involved in supporting service personnel currently serving our country.
They have collected hundreds of Beanie Babies that were shipped to Iraq service personnel. The military used them to gain intelligence by distributing them to local children. This effort encouraged children to disclose the locations of armed insurgents poised to harm our soldiers. The stuffed toys were easily carried in pockets and knapsacks. Residents also gathered small inexpensive toy cars and trucks which served to accomplish the same safeguards.
Their clubhouse has a large box, prominently placed, where residents routinely drop off toiletries, etc. that are sent periodically to our troops as care packages. All of this great work was only made possible by the dedicated efforts of Homer Helter, who graciously gives of his time and money to get contributions shipped where they do the most good. So far this year, the community has presented a $750 check to Homer to help him with shipping costs. These funds were raised from ongoing Saturday morning pancake breakfasts. Homer has a retail store located at 5510 Shirley Street (Homer Helter’s WWII Military Relics Store) in Naples. For those wishing to see the military past gloriously displayed, here’s the place to visit. Displays are from the Civil War through the present.
Jean Byrnes, a Southern Pines resident, introduced Homer and presented a few statistics in support of his dedication. In the year 2008 alone, a total of 3,150 pounds of care packages were delivered to our troops overseas in addition to $2,000 in phone cards. Also, $2,500 in gifts (received at the Randy Kington dinner) were donated to the Wounded Warrior Program. Much of the hard work packing care packages is accomplished by volunteers at the Faith Lutheran Church, 4150 Goodlette Road, North Naples. The next important event in this effort will be the Join Hands Day to be held on Saturday, April 4 between 8 and 10:30 a.m. at the church. All volunteers are welcomed. They can be reached at 434-5811.
The ceremony concluded with a prayer offered by resident Charlee Norhacker. Guests and residents congregated in the social room to enjoy coffee and strawberry shortcake.