Inverness Elks Lodge #2522 completed its seventh year of the Backpacks for Success school supplies program. This year, the lodge provided 168 backpacks as well as school supplies for 60 area children in foster care and students in 17 local schools. The lodge works with the Citrus County Foster Parent Association Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization. Funds were again provided by the $2,500 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant. The lodge used some of its charity funds as well. The lodge purchased backpacks in bulk and school supplies from a wholesale source in June once the decision was made to open Citrus County schools. This year, most of the backpacks and supplies were shipped directly to the lodge. Because of the pandemic, instead of having 30 individuals at the lodge to pack everything in one day, the lodge members worked in groups of five from Aug. 10-14. On Aug. 15, the backpacks and supplies for the children in foster care were delivered to a central distribution point five days before school started. On Aug. 18 and Aug. 19, members delivered the backpacks to the guidance department of each school by appointment.
Inverness Lodge held a Flag Day ceremony including flag retirements June 13 with assistance from Boy Scout Troop #302 which is supported by the lodge. Scout leader and Youth Activities Lodge Chair, Steve Epple, right, heads the flag burning.
On May 27, Eustis Lodge again supported Lake Cares Food Pantry with $450 from its Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to help community members affected by the pandemic. Pictured are JoJo Myhr, member; Bill Myhr, trustee; Ruthie Hoffner, pantry director of development; and Patsy Despain, PER. In 2019, Lake Cares Food Pantry in Mount Dora, Florida, served 51,720 people approximately 904,000 pounds of food. They have been doing this since 2009 and the need increases every year. There are five mobile sites for availability. Their clients mostly consist of senior citizens and those who are disabled, but during the pandemic, many younger people with children are also being fed.
1578 leesburg pantry: Also on May 27, Eustis Lodge gave $500 from its Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to the Leesburg Food Pantry to help them serve clients during the pandemic. Don Diamant, Past District Deputy and president of the food pantry notes that there are several volunteers who work more than 400 hours and drive nearly 900 miles per month. Diamant puts in over 100 hours and drives more than 300 miles each month. They serve those in need in Lake County, Florida. Pictured are Bill Myhr, lodge trustee; JoJo Myhr, lodge member; Don Diamant, PDD, pantry president; and Patsy Despain, PER.
On May 28, $500 from Eustis Lodge’s Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant was given to The Carpenter’s House in Leesburg, Florida, to help them during the pandemic. Directors Patrick and Linda take care of up to 17 children from infancy to age 18 who have been orphaned, some from third-world countries. Most are from Nigeria and New Guinea. Normally they return to their homeland where they continue to help and educate others in need. Pictured at the donation presentation are Mike Schwellinger, Lodge Esquire; Patrick and Linda, directors; and Patsy Despain, PER, presenting a check for $500 to help defray expenses due to COVID-19 pandemic. Residents pictured from the bottom to top on the stairs are Lydia, Hanna, Tiana, Juliana, William and Dan. Directors Patrick & Linda are pictured in front of the house.
Eustis Lodge gave an additional donation of $2,000 to The Carpenter’s House June 1 to purchase food for those living at the home. Pictured are Mike Schwellinger, Esquire; Bo Borwegen, Exalted Ruler; Dan, resident; Linda and Pat, directors; and Hannah, resident.
Inverness Elks Lodge #2522 happened to be the sponsoring lodge for both this year’s state winners of the Drug Awareness Education poster and essay contest. Fifth grader Cason Davis won the poster contest and eighth grader Morgan Cyr won the essay contest. This year’s theme was Life Does Not Rewind – Choose Life, Not Drugs. Both winners received a $50 Walmart gift card and a $50 Dominos gift card from the lodge. They each also were given a television from the Florida State Elks Association. James Manos, Lodge Drug Awareness Education Chair, presented these to Morgan May 20 (with her mother, Kelli Hutton) and Cason May 28 (with his parents, Shay and Jimmy Davis) at their respective homes.
On April 1, Eustis Elks Lodge #1578 made a donation of 325 steaks to Lake Cares Food Pantry in Mount Dora, Florida, for distribution to those in need during the coronavirus pandemic. The lodge used $1,054 from their Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to make the purchase. Pictured are Ted Beck, House Committee member; Ron Locke, PDD; Becky Carter, Supervisor of Lake Cares Food Pantry; Dee Borwegen, House Committee member; and Bo Borwegen, Exalted Ruler.
On Feb. 17, the Eustis Elks Lodge’s Americanism Committee recognized the Officers of the Year from police and fire departments of Mount Dora, Eustis, Tavares, Leesburg, Umatilla and Howey-in-the-Hills. Officers were also recognized from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Fire Department and the Florida Highway Patrol. Also honored were the K-9 officers and their K-9s from Eustis, Leesburg and the Lake County Sheriff's Office. Dinner was served to all officers, spouses and the chief of each department. Each department was given a plaque to be placed at their departments. Each officer received a framed certificate of achievement from the lodge. Each chief explained why their officers were chosen for their recognition by their peers. The keynote speaker for this annual event was Michael J. Saxe, retired detective from New York City and a 9/11 first responder. He is also a member of the Ocala Elks Lodge. The Table of Honor was performed by the Mount Dora High School Jr. Air Force ROTC. Lodge member Lt. Chad Williamson of the Eustis Fire Department was chosen as that department's Officer of the Year.
On March 13, Ocala Elks Lodge #286 presented the Elks medal to two first responders – Firefighter R. Grajek of the Williston Fire Department and Police Officer C. Rosa of the Williston Police Department – for their dedication to the community and for going above and beyond the call of duty. Exalted Ruler-elect, Mike Rolls, presents the awards to Firefighter Grajek (left) and Officer Rosa (right).
Once again, Elks and Anna Miller Circle members met at Eustis Elks Lodge #1578 March 16 to pack welcome kits for The Haven of Lake and Sumter Counties. The donation included 340 adult welcome kits (travel-size soap, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash and deodorant) and 100 children's welcome kits (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, lip balm, shampoo, a small toy and other items). Also included were 11 birthday kits (cake mix, frosting and candles) for children who celebrate their birthday at the shelter. Other items included food, children's clothes and toys. The total contribution was valued at $4,545.50. The Haven of Lake and Sumter Counties is a shelter for women, teens and children who have been abused and who find themselves with no place to go during a difficult time. The Haven offers many services to help women and their children on the road to a safer and healthier life and the Eustis Elks and Anna Miller Circle are proud to be in the fight with them. Pictured packing kits are Stanley and Sherry Piskadlo, co-chairs of The Haven project; Joyce Collier, president of the Anna Miller Circle; Bonnie Smith; Judith Polson; Mary Ann Cerney; and Anna Mitchell. Suzanne Cunningham, co-chair of The Haven project, takes the picture.
Winter Garden Elks members partnered with Maxey Elementary School Jan. 10 for a fundraiser for fifth graders to visit Tallahassee, Florida, to see the university and the Capitol. More than $1,300 was raised from the Friday Night Lights fundraiser where the lodge provided, cooked, and sold barbecue pork, hot dogs, chips, buns, and cookies. They also provided baked goods for the raffle. Pictured are Frances Heckman, Elks spouse; Cheri Doyno, Elks spouse; Leslie Yant, Elks daughter; John Biasi, Elk; Gloria Wallick, Elks spouse; Ed Colon, Elk; and Pam DePriest, Elk.
The Ocoee Police Department recognized Winter Garden Lodge Jan. 31 for their outstanding contributions as a community partner. The lodge held a baby shower for 25 mothers with low incomes, providing diapers, wipes and other baby necessities. They also held a fundraiser and raised $10,000 for a young man battling cancer. Another of their fundraisers raised $10,000 for an Ocoee man’s medical bills after a hunting accident. Receiving the award are Wally Hatch; Joe Snyder; Bob Warren, PDD; Frank Severance, PER; Cheri Doyno, and Pam DePriest along with Chief of Police, Charles Brown.
Winter Park Lodge Exalted Ruler, Ron Goluba, and member Sue Jovi were once again invited to play Santa and Mrs. Claus for the children of over 300 families in need at the annual HOPE Christmas in the City event. HOPE Helps Inc. is is a local charity whose mission is to prevent and reduce homelessness in central Florida by helping individuals and families become self-sufficient through housing, outreach, prevention and education.