On March 2, Winter Garden Elks Lodge #2165 held a fundraiser at the lodge for Orlando, Fla., police officer Kevin Valencia. He was shot in the line of duty June 18, 2018, while responding to a domestic violence call in which the suspect killed four children and then himself. Valencia had been at Good Shephard Hospital in Atlanta for treatment for his head injuries but was recently brought back home to Orlando to an undisclosed facility so he could be closer to his family. His recovery does not have a very promising future. He has a wife and two young children. The lodge fundraiser included barbecue dinners, raffles, and private donations and raised $21,000 for his family to help with the ongoing costs that they will have for a very long time.
Inverness Elks Lodge #2522 held their award presentation March 1 for Ava Rueck, winner of the state Drug Awareness essay contest. Ava is a sixth-grader at Lecanto Middle School. She and her family were invited to the lodge for dinner and the award presentation of a Kindle Fire, a framed certificate and a $50 check.
Pictured at the presentation at Inverness Lodge March 1 for the state Drug Awareness essay contest winner are George Sevast Jr., North Central District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler; Jim Manos, Inverness Lodge Drug Awareness Chairman; Ava Rueck, essay winner; and Bill McAvay, Exalted Ruler.
On Feb. 11, Eustis Elks Lodge #1578 donated $2,883 for Lake Hills School of Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., to purchase a pacer gait trainer which assists in training children who are wheelchair-bound to use their legs with the possible outcome of walking. Pictured at the check presentation are Patsy Despain, Exalted Ruler; Robin Meyers, principal; Brandy Brown, school PTA; Dee and Bo Borwegen, lodge members; and a Lake Hills student.
Inverness Elks Lodge #2522 presented their annual $1,000 donation to Citrus United Basket Inc. (C.U.B.). Pictured are Mike Orndorf, Loyal Knight; Juanita Emerick, lodge trustee; Kelly Selph, Citrus United Basket Executive Director; and Richard Grosnick, Leading Knight. C.U.B. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization created in 1978 to assist Citrus County families facing temporary hardship.
Winter Park Elks Lodge members provided Christmas gifts to 82 children who are in need or homeless. PER Vivian Thomas worked closely with Casselberry Elementary School principal, Mallory Holliday, who provided lodge members with the names, ages and sizes of the school's children in need along with their siblings. Members and volunteers shopped, wrapped, bagged and delivered the gifts to the school prior to the school's holiday break.
Delivering Christmas gifts to children in need at Casselberry Elementary are Ed Eldridge; Bill Cashion; Roberta Mills; PER Ron Goluba; Sue Jovi; assistant principal, Mary Walters-Clark; principal, Mallory Holliday; and Cam Mills.
Four-year trustee, Juanita Emrich, and PER Mike Orndorff represented Inverness Lodge in the decoration of a Christmas tree as part of the adopt-a-tree initiative under the direction of the Citrus County Parks and Recreation.
Inverness Lodge held its 2018-2019 Hoop Shoot contest Dec. 15 at the Inverness Middle School gym. There were 25 contestants representing Hernando, Central Ridge, Floral City, Pleasant Grove and Forest Ridge elementary schools and Inverness Middle School. Winners were Noah Meyer, boys ages 8-9; Rohan Patel, boys ages 10-11; Mark Covino, boys ages 12-13; Kasidee Florio, girls ages 8-9; Bryleigh Florio, girls ages 10-11; and Jenna Anderson, girls ages 12-13. Winners advance to the district competition in Tavares.
On Dec. 16, Inverness and West Citrus lodges hosted a holiday party for the children and foster families of the Citrus County Foster Parent Association. This is the fourth year that these lodges have completed the event. West Citrus Lodge provided the venue and the dinner; Inverness Lodge used the Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to purchase gifts for the children. Inverness Lodge also provided the entertainment. Herbie Yates served as DJ, Mike Souci debuted as Santa and Jan Belland was Mrs. Claus. Tonya DeRose worked her magic with professional face-painting. Elk volunteers from both lodges worked diligently to make sure the families and children had a great holiday event.
On Dec. 15, Eustis Lodge held a Christmas party for Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services patients and others. Children made crafts and had fun on wooden horses. Bill Hall read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” Santa Claus and his elf came to hand out gifts, and characters from the Star Wars movies took pictures with the guests.
At Ocala Lodge’s monthly first responders appreciation dinner, Exalted Ruler, Mike Miller, and Loyal Knight, Captain Mike Rolls, presented Belleview officers Stephan Michaelides and Casey Polidori with awards. These officers responded to a call and were fired upon. They immediately took up tactical positions to engage the shooter. The shooter took his own life as the officers approached him. It is said that courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to act in the face of it.
Officers Stephan Michaelides, with his wife, Lupe, and Casey Polidori, with his fiancé, Amy, receive awards from Ocala Lodge for their courage under fire.
Ocala Lodge used their Elks National Foundation Promise Grant to host a Christmas party for 25 children who are not living with their families. These children live at a group home called the Arnett House. Each child received a stocking, several gifts, had a delicious dinner, and enjoyed Christmas music and karaoke with a DJ. Pictured at the party are Santa and Mrs. Claus (PER George Cooke and his wife, Agnes). The reindeer and elf are the lodge Esquire’s children, Amelia and Byron.
Eustis Lodge used a $2,500 Elks National Foundation Promise Grant and a $2,500 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to provide more than 1,200 books (all stamped with “Donated by Eustis Elks Lodge”) to three elementary schools. This was the 11th year the lodge gave a dictionary to each of the third-graders at Treadway Elementary and the seventh year they gave a thesaurus to all their fourth-graders. Three years ago, they included Eustis Heights Elementary and at the same time added a novel for all fifth-graders which was written by a local author. A group of about 30 students from each school were chosen to meet the author and discuss her process for writing the book. The lodge also sponsored a writing contest to encourage more writing. For the past three summers, the lodge has used grant money to buy books for leisure reading for all summer-school students to encourage them to share the joy of reading with their parents and siblings. In the fall, they added students from Triangle Elementary to their book-giving program.