On Feb. 21, Winter Garden Elks Lodge #2165 used its Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant to hold a baby shower for 15 families with low incomes. Each family received a case of diapers, a case of wipes, four books, onesies and various other baby items. The Healthy West Orange program in Winter Garden, Florida, selected the families. Pictured are member Carolyn Robbins; spouses Cherie Doyne and Gloria Wallick; and members Pam DePriest, Staci Bradshaw, Ellen Snyder, and Patty Ward.
Inverness Lodge donated $1,000 of its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to Citrus Youth Educational Symphonic Orchestra. Herb Yates, Lodge Community Activities Chair, presents a check Dec. 26 to Marty Hoffman, executive director.
Daystar Life Center of Citrus County in Crystal River, Florida, received a $1,000 donation, also from Inverness Lodge’s Florida State Elks matching funds of the Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant. Daystar is a charitable organization that provides a food pantry, a thrift store and a social services office. Richard Grosnick, Exalted Ruler, presents the check to Anthony Kopka, Daystar executive director, Dec. 22.
Inverness Elks Lodge Exalted Ruler, Richard Grosnick, presents a $1,000 check to Citrus United Basket Dec. 22 using some of the lodge’s Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant matching Florida State Elks funds. Kelly Selplh, executive director, accepts the check.
Inverness Elks Lodge #2522 continues to support the efforts of its sponsored Boy Scout Troop, #302. For his Eagle Scout project, Joseph Cabrera retrofitted an old, discarded mailbox into a depository for retired American flags. Many lodge members as well as the general public inquire about the flag disposal process, so this initiative was most helpful. Lodge member Brad Kline and associate member Bob Aldunati donated the mailbox, and all materials utilized were provided by the lodge. Pictured Dec. 27 with the completed project are Steve Epple, scout leader; Cabrera; and Mike Orndorff, PER, Youth Activities Chair.
Winter Garden Elks Lodge #2165 used part of its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to purchase jeans, shirts, socks, jackets, tents, sleeping bags and flashlights for Matthews Hope, a homeless ministry in West Orange County. Pictured Dec. 16 are lodge members Sharlene Dewitz, Ellen Snyder and Pam DePriest.
South Lake Elks knew they could not do their regular outreach events this year and felt it was best to get many agencies together to create a large collaborative effort. Christmas Across South Lake was created by South Lake Elks to help make Christmas a little brighter this holiday season for children in the South Lake community. Elk volunteers distributed 146 toy collection boxes and several Angel Tree tags to numerous businesses all over the area. Local businesses encouraged their customers to drop off toys in their collection boxes and offered their customers free or discounted items for their donation. Also, approximately 48 nonprofits, civic clubs, service groups, schools and police departments participated by either making donations or gathering toys.
An online application was set up for those wanting to sign up to receive something. The link was shared with churches, schools, civic organizations, police and fire departments, the mayor's office and other nonprofit organizations. Everyone who applied received something.
Collections for new toys, gifts and food began Nov. 9, and the last toy was distributed Dec. 24. A warehouse was donated for use by a member of the community and each family was called and given a date of pickup which was a drive-thru setup. Volunteers wearing masks loaded toys and foods in their vehicles.
The lodge spent its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant which was matched by the Florida State Elks Association for a total of $7,000 entirely on food for the families. Members shopped groceries which were greatly discounted for the Elks by Winn-Dixie. The lodge used its $2,000 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to purchase bicycles since that was a major request. The lodge donated an additional $2,000 and the rest came from donations from the community.
The impact this endeavor made was tremendous — 2,510 children and 725 families in the Clermont, Minneola, Montverde, Groveland and Mascotte area received a boost this holiday season. A total of 610 food baskets were distributed as well.
At the District Deputy visitation at South Lake Elks Lodge #1848 Nov. 15, lodge member Mendy Bacon (right) presented a check for $12,462.98 for the Florida Elks’ major projects to Colleen Gallant, PDD, Director of Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services. Denise Kalman-Smith, PER, Exalted Ruler, looks on. The donation was raised through the lodge’s Boating for Kids annual fundraiser, the floating poker run, which Bacon organizes. It was held in July.
For the past seven years, Winter Park Elks Lodge #1830 has hosted a white elephant gift exchange. This year, Stephanie Yohman, chair, continued the tradition Nov. 29 with masks and social distancing. Each year, attendees are asked to bring donations to supplement three local elementary school food pantries and items for cats and dogs in rescue shelters in central Florida. This year due to the pandemic and state mandated guidelines, turnout was lower than usual at 25 members, but approximately 75 pounds of food for Happy Trails Animal Rescue and 50 pounds of food for Cats Can Feline Rescue were still collected along with monetary donations. Both rescues were happy to receive the donations as they both said, "Every little bit helps." There were also a few donations for school food pantries that the lodge supports.
Inverness Elks Lodge #2522 was proud to sponsor the 2020-2021 Elks Drug Awareness Education essay and poster contests. Pictured Nov. 11 are Andrew Moore, SRO Deputy; Daniel Harsh, third-place essay contest winner; Mikayla Lucena, first-place essay contest winner; Felicity Mohammadbhoy, second-place essay contest winner; Jim Manos, Drug Awareness Education Lodge Chair; and Dianna Goolsby, Lecanto Middle School assistant principal. Goolsby is holding a framed certificate that was presented to the school. The theme this year was “No Excuses.”
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.