On Feb. 13, South Miami/Coral Gables Elks Lodge #1676 held its annual charity ball. Because the lodge was chartered July 18, 1945, they celebrated 75 years with the 16-piece Rich Vanderburg Big Band, who volunteered their services. The event raised $4,700 which will be used toward the lodge’s Harry-Anna Trust Fund and Elks National Foundation per capitas.
On March 20, South Miami/Coral Gables Elks Lodge #1676 teamed with One More Child & Reality Church to distribute food to 125 South Dade families in need. Reality Church brought 20 student volunteers from Georgia Southern University to the lodge to help pack. The students were in Miami for a mission trip with Reality Church, which is part of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). The students and lodge members packed each box with 24 pounds of canned goods, consisting of a variety of vegetables, pasta, sauce, tuna, mayo, pancake mix, syrup, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, rice and fruit snacks. The food and boxes that were used for packing the food were purchased with an Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant.
On Feb. 28, members of Cornerstone Church of Miami along with members of Miami Elks Lodge #948, the JROTC program at G. Holmes Braddock High School and the One More Child organization gathered at the lodge to pack 350 bags of food for the local community suffering from food insecurity. The food was purchased using $1,000 from the lodge charity fund and $1,500 from the church. New lodge member John Martinez supervises this JROTC program and brought several of the cadets (in yellow shirts) to help.
Pictured in the front row are Yvonne Makenna; Patricia Jaromilla; Kathleen Blackwood, lodge member; Michael Naya, lodge member; Doris Meyers, lodge member; Ignacio Pena, lodge member; Amparo Pena, Carmen Layne Powers, lodge member; and Panos Kourtesis, regional director of south Florida for One More Child. Pictured in the middle row and in the middle of the back row are members and family of the JROTC. Pictured in the back row on the left is Jeffrey Muehlfeld, PDD, Exalted Ruler, and on the right is John Martinez. Not pictured is Maria Dewitt who volunteered with the packing but took this photo.
Florida Keys Elks Lodge #1872 used its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to hold a breakfast with Santa Dec. 5 with more than 100 children and family members in attendance. Families enjoyed breakfast, tableside activities and a singalong. Mr. and Mrs. Claus made their appearance and provided social distancing while family photos were taken in the Christmas sleigh. All children received personalized gifts and goody bags to take home. The afternoon highlight was a performance by local magician, Michael Trixx, who entertained everyone with his extravagant show. Many members were involved in putting this community event together for a day of fun. Pictured are Brenda Cockrell, Exalted Ruler; Nikki Johnson, member; and Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Also shown are gifts purchased for the children and one of the children dressed up to see Santa Claus.
On Aug. 13, South Miami/Coral Gables Elks Lodge #1676 used its $2,000 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant in cooperation with Miami Dade Police Department Neighbor Resource Unit, Officer Tookes and the office of Commissioner Dennis Moss to distribute food to families at the following locations: Hope Deliverance Church (50 families), Sunset Point Public Housing (50 families), Arthur Mays Villas Public Housing (50 families), Gould's Senior Citizens Center (30 families), West Jessamine Elderly Center (10 families), West Evergreen Elderly Center (10 families), and Circle Plaza East & West Public Housing Complex (10 families).
On Sept. 10, Florida Keys Elks Lodge #1872 donated its $2,000 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to the Coral Shores High School Needy Assistance Fund. Due to the pandemic, students and teachers did not return to the classrooms until Sept. 21. These funds will be used to provide students and teachers with a significant amount of necessary supplies for resuming classroom education. In addition, this donation will provide students in need with eyeglasses appointments and eyeglasses, school clothes, and other pertinent supplies needed to succeed in the classroom. Pictured are Brenda Cockrell, lodge grant coordinator and Exalted Ruler; Kristy Munafo, assistant vice principal; Janet Ciccarelli, Lodge Secretary; and Ana Alvaro, assistant vice principal.
Working with Wheelchairs 4 Kids of Tarpon Springs, Florida, Miami Elks Lodge #948 donated $1,278so that 9-year-old Franklin could have an adaptive therapy tricycle. His mother wrote a letter to the organization asking for assistance, and the organization reached out to the lodge since they have a longstanding relationship; the lodge has sponsored more than 30 children in need of adaptive equipment. In the letter, Franklin’s mother explains that he “was born with a congenital heart defect (CHO) known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). He has had six open heart surgeries and 12 cardiac catheterizations to this date and a pacemaker implanted since 2012. In addition to his heart condition and as a consequence of lack of oxygen during multiple interventions, Franklin suffered brain damage and was diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy….He presents a global developmental delay which prevents him from performing regular activities other children his age would. He takes daily medications and requires full assistance for ambulation, bathroom, feeding, etc. and specialized care for monitoring his condition. He receives therapy services (physical, occupational, speech and behavioral) at home several times a week. In the past, Franklin was able to use a standard kids’ tricycle to exercise his legs. Now, he outgrew the kids’ size and the next stage tricycles don't provide the additional safety that Franklin requires. I actually purchased the smallest adult tricycle I could afford and made some modifications but it is not safe for him….Unfortunately, insurance companies won't cover this device.”
According to Nina Shaw, Programs Team Leader for Wheelchairs 4 Kids, “Franklin is an average boy who is above average. He enjoys activities similar to other kids. His routine is to watch “Paw Patrol” after lunch and “Peppa Pig” before bedtime. The last thing Franklin does before falling asleep is reading a “Peppa Pig” book. The young boy listens to a variety of music that puts him into a relaxed mood. He likes getting fresh air and going to the park to watch people play baseball and basketball. Franklin is a sports fan, especially of soccer. He attends many games to support his cousin who plays the popular sport. Franklin is a huge fan of the former Real Madrid player, Cristiano Ronaldo. Franklin, however, is not defined by his interests. He is a good kid with an endless smile and a positive attitude.” Shaw also notes that the tricycle will be used “to improve his leg flexibility, strength and balance. The trike will also be another outlet for him to play outside.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the organization is not doing presentations, so the tricycle was sent directly to his home from the manufacturer July 13 and he was riding it every day!
Florida Keys Elks Lodge #1872 awarded $12,000 ($2,400 each) in scholarships to Coral Shores seniors Jennifer Setchell, Windley Hagood, Luke Gutierrez, Olivia Bentacourt and Vaclav Cernosek. All recipients have been active volunteers at the lodge serving at Soccer Shoot dinners, the fish tournament and the Friday fish fry. They are also active in the community while maintaining good grades. They visited the lodge May 28 to introduce themselves.
At the regular lodge meeting June 17, Miami Lodge members approved a donation of $1,000 to Feeding South Florida. Feeding South Florida is south Florida’s leading domestic nonprofit hunger-relief organization serving 25% of the state’s food-insecure population. The organization serves Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties. Their outreach extends to children, older adults, veterans, single parents, the working poor and other needy members of the community. Their mission statement is as follows: “Feeding South Florida’s mission is to end hunger in south Florida by providing immediate access to nutritious food, leading hunger and poverty advocacy efforts, and transforming lives through innovative programming and education.
On Feb. 29, Key West Elks Lodge #551 brought residents of the Key West Convalescent Center together for music, food and beverages to celebrate Leap Year. Lodge Esquire, Fredy Varela, prepared the Cuban mixed sandwiches. They had a great time including their staff. The residents enjoyed the familiar sounds of music from the 1950s and 1960s. The lodge also provided a teddy bear to each of the 75 attendees. Pictured are Natalie Castaldo, Lodge Secretary; Burnette Hardin, volunteer; Elizabeth Ignoffo, Inner Guard; Mary Wheeler, Exalted Ruler; Bob Reber, volunteer; and Helen Garcia, South District Deputy.
Miami Elks Lodge #948 adopted six families in need in the Miami area this holiday season and treated them to a Christmas party at the lodge Dec. 14 as part of a Neighbors Helping Neighbors campaign. Along with the lodge’s $1,500 set aside for this event, additional funds were received from South Dade Lighting, a showroom in Miami. On Dec. 2, they donated $2,600 to the lodge after a member informed them of all the charitable things the Elks do for children and veterans. Many times, lodge members give donations of money or food if the lodge doesn’t have enough money, but that wasn’t necessary this year thanks to this gift. The business collected money from customers by giving them a discount and they let them know that this extra discount would be given to the Elks. The lodge gave the children in each family presents and the families received Publix gift cards. Frankie’s Pizza owned by lodge members donated pizzas at half price for the party. Members made brownies and bought Christmas cookies. The invited families were suggested by Dade County social workers who deemed them the most needy. In the past, the lodge had a Christmas party for members’ children, but they made the decision to host this party for these families instead who otherwise would not have had a Christmas.
Pictured are Maria Mila, general manager of South Dade Lighting; Nancy Carr, chairman of Miami Lodge’s board; Frank Reynolds, Exalted Ruler; and Don Elliott, president of South Dade Lighting, as the business presents Miami Lodge with $2,600 to use for their six adopted families this holiday season.
On Dec. 14, Florida Keys Lodge had their children’s Christmas party. The Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant makes this possible every year. Each year the event gets better with decorating cookies, playing games, crafting, a magic show, pictures with Santa and lunch. There were approximately 80 kids as well as the parents attending. Coral Shores High School students volunteered their time as did lodge members.
Magician Michael Trixx is pictured with Julia Baizs during the lodge’s children’s Christmas party Dec. 14.