WWA opens new headquarters

A vision imagined more than six years ago became a reality earlier this week when the founders of the Wounded Warrior Anglers of America signed lease papers for their new world headquarters and training facility on Pine Island Road in Cape Coral.

“To see it come to fruition is more than amazing. We will continue helping veterans and changing lives, one warrior at a time,” vice president and co-founder Judy Souders said.

The 1,600-square-foot facility, which currently has no interior walls, will include a reception area, two offices with ample privacy, a storage room, a custom rod and reel display area, a rod building workshop outfitted with Renzetti equipment and approximately 500 square feet designated to a multi-purpose room.

“This is going to be something totally different from anything else,” president and co-founder David Souders said. “This is a training facility, training people to occupy their time. To get their minds off of certain things and be able to do things. If they become members, it will give them a place that is constructive. It’s a safe place for them.”

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Wounded Warrior Anglers of America President and Co-Founder David Souders, Vice President and Co-Founder Judy Souders and Board Member Keith Campbell stand in the doorway of the new Wounded Warrior Anglers of America Headquarters and Training Facility.

The organization is in the process of getting a contractor in place to pull the permits needed to complete the space. Many business members of the community have already stepped forward to donate their skills, time and material to duplicate the Souders’ vision.

Jeff Asbury is donating all the building materials for the project from Coastal Building Material, and Chuck Chatter with 180 Painting offered to do the painting for the facility.

“This place would not have been possible without the help of people like Seafarers International, Miceli’s, Beavertail and Nautic Star. Those are our key strategic partners,” David said.

Board member Keith Campbell said when they have the permits in place and get everyone on the same schedule, the build-out should take three days at the most.

“This is the first I have ever seen,” he said of the facility. “It is not VA supported. It’s not government funded. It’s self-sufficient. Now the sky is the limit on how big it can get, how wide we can grow.”

Many of the veterans affiliated with the organization have already offered a helping hand throughout the construction process.

There are many items the organization is in need of once the organization settles into the new facility, such items as nice, welcoming, matching furniture for the two offices; four computers; printers; a phone system; a point of sale system; chairs; stools; two drying stations for the rod building; and a display counter.

One of the two office spaces will be used by certified veteran services officers. David said they are going to start with having two VSOs, one of which is Campbell.

Campbell said he wants to become certified, so he can help veterans at a higher level.

“I get a lot of road blocks doing it on my own,” he said of offering a helping hand. “I feel with being a certified VSO, it will open up some avenues to meet other people and make a lot of the roads easier.”

There is a national certification a person has to take through the Department of Veteran Affairs to become a VSO. After purchasing the books to become certified, people can go through the process as quickly or slowly as they chose, as long as they complete the testing within a year’s time.

David said once the individual passes the certification test, Wounded Warrior Anglers has to apply as a nonprofit organization with the certified veteran service officers at Veterans Affairs to become a patient advocate and VSO.

“Anybody can help a veteran, but being a certified veteran services officer means you have access to the VA system and access to the VA computers. It makes it easier and better for the veteran,” he said.

The multi-purpose room will be utilized for the national board meetings, rod building workshops, the raffle boat when activities are not going on and a gathering space for educational programs and entertainment.

The facility will also have space for custom rods and reels, the production line, Mission 23 and the Wounded Warrior Anglers shirts.

David expressed a great deal of excitement regarding the endless possibilities the new facility will have for its members with one of its programs – rod building. He said they will eventually have a window of time blocked out for the members to stop by the facility and work on their custom rods.

“As long as they are buying their equipment, blanks and material from us, which will actually help fund the organization, and they are a member, they are going to be able to come in and have access to use it,” David said.

In the future, he hopes to block out time for eight days every two weeks. The other four days will be used to work with two new warriors teaching them how to build their own rod, followed by a fishing trip using their custom rod.

“That’s long term,” David said. “That is my ultimate goal to train two warriors every two weeks.”

An open house will be held in the near future, which Judy said the public and their partners are more than welcome to attend.

“Anybody that’s in the community that wants to reach out to us and talk to us, we more than welcome their calls,” she said. “We are wanting our veterans to come in and be community oriented because veterans and their families are some of the strongest fibers of our nation.”

Once the interior walls are up and furniture is brought in for the offices, the facility will open with regular business hours.

The headquarters is located at 1490 Pine Island Road, Unit 5D. For information, call (239) 257-3410.

Article written by Meghan McCoy, Wounded Warrior Anglers media director.

‘It’s a great way to give back’

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The Laishley Park Municipal Marina Community Room in Punta Gorda was transformed with rows of tables, as warriors were given the opportunity to learn a new skill – rod building.

Dan Watson
Dan Watson

“I think it’s fantastic,” Dan Watson, a member of Mosquito Creek Rod Crafters, said of the workshop. “The people putting it on are special people. I’m honored to be a part of it.”

Wounded Warrior Anglers (WWA) held a rod building workshop Sept. 17, through Sept. 20 in partnership with American Tackle Company International. The two full days of rod building concluded with a half-day on the water fishing using the newly constructed rods.

“There is nothing more exciting than catching a fish on the rod you built,” Don Morse, with American Tackle, said.

Don Morse
Don Morse

The nonprofit organization, Wounded Warrior Anglers, offered the first rod building workshop for its warriors earlier this year in Oviedo, Florida. Since it was a huge success, the four-day workshop has been added to the many programs the organization offers for its warriors.

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Morse said the company wants to promote rod building in any way they can. When the opportunity to work with Wounded Warrior Anglers presented itself, he said there was no better group of people to share the craft with.

“I feel a strong connection with these guys,” Morse said of the warriors he has worked with.

Although Mike Kosiba has been fixing rods since the 1960s, he found a passion in 1999 when he began creating custom fishing rods. The seasoned rod builder spent time with 10 Wounded Warrior Anglers sharing secrets of his craft.

Kosiba was joined by four other instructors, all members of the group Mosquito Creek Rod Crafters.

Mike Kosiba
Mike Kosiba

The process of creating a custom rod takes on many steps, all of which stem from selecting a blank depending on the type of fishing one wants to do. The next step, Kosiba said is deciding the dimensions of the rod to best fit an individual’s body type, followed by choosing the rod’s handle.

Guides were then placed on the rod depending where the blank flexes to ensure its efficiency. The guides are then wrapped with thread before an epoxy finish is placed on top.

The craft of rod building, Morse said is both artistic and useful.

“You are crafting something from scratch that is useWWA-Tourney-and-Rods-289-copy-2able,” he said. “Twenty years ago I started building rods. The sky is the limit on things you can use.”

The warriors were carefully walked through the process step-by-step, so they could create a rod they were proud of, a rod they could put to the test out on the water.

“It’s something they can do,” Kosiba said, adding that the warriors can pursue it as much or little as possible.

Tony DelleDonne
Tony DelleDonne

This is the second workshop for Wounded Warrior Anglers’ Tony DelleDonne. “I did a dragon scale on this one.” The style used dry wall tape, and metallic thread.

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The workshop was very relaxing for DelleDonne as he continued to perfect his new skill.

“You have to concentrate,” he said. “You get away for a while, while working at it.”

The 21 year Navy veteran, who retired in 2006, joined WWA a year ago after meeting founders David and Judy Souders, at the Fort Myers Boat Show.

“I like it. It’s very good,” DelleDonne said about joining WWA. “It’s veteran focused (and you) hook up with other vets and you fish and you’re good.”

The workshop was also eye opening for the instructors.

The workshops helped Jr Alvey slow down and think about what kind of impact teaching a new skill has for the warriors.

“It’s a great way to give back,” he said.

Jr Alvey
Jr Alvey

Alvey, who was also a part of the first rod building workshop, said he hopes to spend more time with the warriors in order to get to know them better.

“The guys are invited anytime to visit and get one-on-one (instruction). We are just a phone call away,” he said.

The passion for many of the instructors formed many years ago.

Alvey fell in love with rod building eight years ago. Over those years he has found his signature look – incorporating cork into the rod design.

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“I cut them up and make different sizes,” he said before gluing them back together. “It helps keep my mind busy.”

For Kosiba, rod building continues because it’s all about “building the perfect rod,” which has yet been accomplished. A perfect rod, he said would consist of every joint fitting perfectly with flawless, straight guides.

Watson said he became involved with the group Mosquito Creek Rod Crafters 15 years ago. He said the group gathers once a month in the Orlando area.

“I like the people. It’s a great bunch of people,” Watson said of Mosquito Creek Rod Crafters.

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Wounded Warrior Anglers is a nonprofit organization that helps rehabilitate the mind, body and soul of all service members who have been injured, wounded, or disabled in the line of duty no matter what their era of service. The organization also has a mission to actively support the wounded warrior’s caregiver and their immediate family.

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All photographs are courtesy of Dorene Lowe Photography – a Southwest Florida photographer out of Punta Gorda, Florida. To view more of her photographs, visit https://www.facebook.com/dorenelowephotography, or to schedule a session, call (941) 467-5015.

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Article written by Meghan McCoy, Wounded Warrior Anglers media director.

WWA Tourney and Rods 330 wm