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Florida Elks News Online

Walgreens Elks Community Toy Drop a Success

Tampa 1

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!

DSC 4452

Members of St. Petersburg Lodge #1224 are pictured with Lealman Fire Dept.


Pictured are Dan Masi and Cathy Shiver with St. Petersburg Police Dept.

 Holiday Isles 

Pictured are members of Holiday Isles Lodge #1912.

Tarpon Springs

Pictured are participants from Tarpon Springs Lodge #1719.

Plant City

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 Xmas 9

Brandon – Pictured from Brandon Lodge #2383 are Nickie Wells, PER George Scribner, PER Christine Vogel, Bob Blair, Jim McCreary and Gerry Westfall.

Casey Masi

Casey Masi affixed labels to the boxes at St. Petersburg Lodge.


Elks and Bay Pines VA Give a Merry Christmas to Veteran and Family

Bay VA

The following letter was sent by the Director of Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.

I CARE Values in Action:
Supporting Veterans During the Holidays

Dear Colleagues,

The holidays are a time of year to spend time with your loved ones and give gifts, but for some of our country’s most noble men and women, the holiday season can be difficult. Despite being out of uniform, many veterans are still fighting battles and are completely without support.

This year, a collaboration of inpatient surgical nursing staff, Voluntary Service, the Elks, Transition and Care Management (TCM) staff, and the staff from the Homeless program made sure that this was not the case for a veteran and his family of nine this holiday season.

The inpatient surgical nurses on 3D recently reached out to Voluntary Service to identify a family whom they could adopt for the holidays. Voluntary Service immediately thought of a family and connected the nursing staff with staff from the TCM program. 

The TCM program staff, currently supporting the veteran’s care needs, worked with the family to find out the children’s wishes and coordinate the delivery of holiday gifts.

The veteran and his family were chosen by the staff after learning about their current circumstances. After moving to the area from Alaska for a new job opportunity, the family encountered several unexpected events that left them without the ability to secure housing.

Voluntary Service and the Elks quickly stepped in to provide temporary housing. In addition, the Homeless Program’s outreach team collaborated with Supportive Services for Veteran Families, a community agency, to secure stable permanent housing.

With the help of several VA programs and community partners, the veteran and his family celebrated a holiday they will soon not forget.

The nursing staff provided seven bikes with helmets, six gifts for each child, four family gifts, a $75 Walmart gift card and full holiday meal.

I am also happy to report that the veteran has successfully started his new job and that his children have started attending local public schools.

I want to thank everyone involved. Your thoughtfulness and concern for this veteran and his family’s needs during the holidays illustrate the core values that we strive to exemplify not just during the holidays but daily. Thank you for making the mission of our organization the center of everything you do.


Suzanne M. Klinker

Director, Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

Pictured are staff from the Transition Care Management program, inpatient surgical nursing staff and representatives from the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.


The Bay Pines VAHCS is one of the nation's leading VA healthcare systems, employing more than 4,000 medical professionals and support staff dedicated to providing high-quality care to veterans residing in southwest Florida. The organization operates nine facilities to include the medical center located in Bay Pines and clinics located throughout a 10-county area in southwest Florida.

To learn more about the facilities and services offered by the Bay Pines VAHCS, please visit, "like" us on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter at

Have News You Want to Share?

We want to hear from you! The Florida Elks News Online site is a timely way to tell the world all about the good things happening at your Lodge. You can keep your members up-to-date in between the printed quarterly FEN editions by sending your news articles here. The online FEN version is already one of the most popular pages on the FSEA website so you don't want to miss out on this terrific way to promote your Lodge with members and the general public. As we receive news and pictures from you, we will post them here immediately. You will also want to visit this site frequently so be sure to bookmark it as one of your favorites right now!

As an added bonus for sending articles for publication on the Florida Elks News Online site, we will also post them to the FSEA Facebook page which regularly has over 15,000 unique weekly viewers. You heard right! You will get double the coverage to a wide audience!

There are a couple of ways to submit online articles. For the more adventuresome, you can make a submission by going to the FSEA online submission webpage at This page can also be accessed anytime via the NEWS CENTER menu link at the top of the FSEA website page. For those of you who prefer email, please send articles and pictures to Rachael King at It's just that easy!

Let's hear from you and work together to get your lodge recognized for its outstanding community programs!


Louisiana State Legislature Increases New Orleans Hotel Occupancy Tax

The Legislature of the State of Louisiana has acted to increase the New Orleans Hotel Occupancy Tax from 13% to 14.75% effective April 1, 2014. This will affect our convention room rates and they will go from $128.56 to $130.52 per night.

Convention Attendees With ADA Transportation Needs Urged To Contact Grand Lodge

In order for the Grand Lodge to support the transportation needs of attendees with disabilities you are urged to contact the Grand Lodge if you require special assistance. Special coaches capable of kneeling to accommodate wheel chairs will be placed along the routes for those in need. If you require assistance please contact Tina or Jessica at the Grand Lodge as follows:


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