Walgreens Elks Community Toy Drop a Success
- Written by Dan Masi
The Walgreens Elks Community Toy Drop was started in August 2017 on Florida’s west coast when Walgreens district manager Mark Mason contacted store manager Wesley Shaw about needing a community partner to host a toy drive in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Shaw is a new Elk and knew that with the scale of the project, it needed to be an organization that could be trusted to handle the volume, so he thought of the Elks! Shaw reached out to Christa Lynn Wagner, an employee who is involved in the local community and is also a member of St. Petersburg Elks Lodge #1224. She contacted Toni Goodrich, PDD, Secretary of St. Petersburg Lodge, who then asked Dan Masi, Development Director for the Florida State Elks and member of St. Petersburg Lodge. Masi’s response was that “the Elks will make it happen!”
The meetings then started between Masi, Goodrich and Shaw. It was decided that the West Central District would be the operation headquarters for the project. Theresa Matthews, West Central District Vice President, was contacted and she was immediately on board. Masi then presented the plan to all lodges and the first Walgreens Elks Community Toy Drop was put into motion. Boxes were ordered, labels were made and boxes were dropped off to all 87 Walgreens depot stores in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties (Walgreens Area 10). Walgreens generously donated the signs for the boxes which would have cost the Elks approximately $3,000 to print.
Starting Nov. 1 and continuing through Dec. 15, 2017, the boxes were filled with new unwrapped toys from generous Walgreens shoppers. Local cable news Spectrum Bay News 9 did a story on the event and the Elks’ charitable work. All boxes had to be picked up by Dec. 15, so all the lodges in the West Central District made it happen: St. Petersburg #1224, Holiday Isles #1912, Seminole #2519, Largo #2159, Tarpon Springs #1719, Dunedin/Clearwater #1525 and Tampa #708. Tampa Lodge had the lion’s share of the Walgreens, so Brandon #2383 and Plant City #1727 from the Southwest Central District helped them. Each lodge was given stores within its area but many volunteers had to drive significant distances to reach all the Walgreens in Area 10.
Each lodge was able to distribute toys to underprivileged families and to many local organizations. The Elks collected over $12,760 in toys through the magic of Elkdom! Over 2,000 families were able to fulfill Christmas wishes. Together, we put smiles on many little faces right here in our own backyard! That's what BPOE means to me.
Some of the organizations that received toys were St. Petersburg Police Department (which also received a bike donated by St. Petersburg Lodge Past Exalted Rulers), Seminole Middle School, St. Anthony’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, CASA, The Children’s Home of Tampa, The Springs of Tampa Bay Center for Victims of Domestic Violence, Everyday Blessing Foster Care, Lealman Fire Department, Seminole Fire Department, Children’s Mental Health Care Center, Music Sweet Music, First Start School program, St. Vincent de Paul and Families In Need. One young lady filling up bags at St. Petersburg Lodge for 50 kids who are mentally challenged stopped midway in tears and said to us, “Thank you so much. I had no idea how I was going to fill these gifts for these kids. The Elks are true angels!"
This Community Toy Drop turned out to be a huge success, so the goal now is to grow this project into Hillsborough, Polk and Pinellas counties this year. We could possibly keep expanding year by year. Hats off to everyone who helped make this happen, especially Dan Masi, Toni Goodrich and Wesley Shaw. The overall response from all lodges involved was to continue this program. Another Elks project is complete and we hit this one out of the park!
We are the Florida State Elks – loud, proud and visible!
Members of St. Petersburg Lodge #1224 are pictured with Lealman Fire Dept.
Pictured are Dan Masi and Cathy Shiver with St. Petersburg Police Dept.
Pictured are members of Holiday Isles Lodge #1912.
Pictured are participants from Tarpon Springs Lodge #1719.
Pictured from Plant City Lodge #1727 are PNP Mike Smith, Marty Carroll, Martin Wisgerhof, Dale Rodenmeyer, Pam Bell from Everyday Blessings and Judy Wise.
Brandon – Pictured from Brandon Lodge #2383 are Nickie Wells, PER George Scribner, PER Christine Vogel, Bob Blair, Jim McCreary and Gerry Westfall.
Casey Masi affixed labels to the boxes at St. Petersburg Lodge.