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Florida Elks News Editor:
Rachael King
 
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Florida State Elks Association Inc.
P.O. Box 49
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Melbourne Elks Lodge #1744 donated $4,500 from its Elks National Foundation Gratitude and Spotlight grants to the Melbourne Police Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization, to help purchase 100 food vouchers for precooked Christmas turkey dinners to families affected by the pandemic. Each dinner fed up to 10 people for a total meal count of 1,000 meals. The dinners consisted of a 12-15 lb. turkey, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce and a marshmallow delight dessert. Pictured at the donation presentation are Officer Chris Livingston, motorcycle patrolman; Commander Charles Carafono, police operations; Nadine Smith, past president of the Melbourne Police Foundation; Joyce Madden, Exalted Ruler; and Thomas Wojnar, Lodge Esquire and Lodge Grant Writer.

 

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The Port St. Lucie Elks Lodge Motorcycle Riders Committee members put together more than 1,500 bags of candy that were handed out by six members to children for Halloween at the Port Saint Lucie Civic Center during the pandemic. The CDC restricted children from going door to door. Pictured are Larry Kristiansen, road captain and event organizer; Denise Kristiansen; Joanne Mirenda; Tom Mirenda; Jim Devery, sergeant-at-arms; and Nelly Devery. The children really loved the bunny and everyone had a great time.

 

Viera Elks Lodge #2817 donated 35 Christmas gifts to the Brevard County Triad’s Senior Santa project. All of the gifts were donated by lodge members. The Senior Santa project was designed to provide the elderly in nursing homes and hospice settings with a personal gift around the holidays. It targets those residents who have little or no support in the area and would not otherwise receive a special gift. Brevard County Triad is a countywide partnership spearheaded by the sheriff’s office, local police and the state attorney office that focuses on senior issues in Brevard County.

Viera Lodge also donated $ 500 using its general charity fund to Brevard Family Partnership, an organization that focuses on child abuse prevention, foster care and support, adoption, independent living, and community outreach services to the children and families of Brevard County. The donation was to provide Christmas gifts for children in foster homes.

Viera Lodge also donated a Christmas tree to the Wuesthoff Hospice and Palliative Care Center for their residents’ room.

 

Viera Elks Lodge #2817 provided $150 to 11 veterans transitioning to permanent housing to use for furniture and household items. The program is VOA/SSVF (Volunteers of America/Supportive Services for Veterans/Families) Transitional Housing Program. The funds were provided by the lodge’s Focus Grant. The shopping trips are conducted at Down the Road Thrift, a local veteran-owned thrift shop. The lodge provided $1,037.58 to veterans in need for rental and utility assistance. Additionally, the lodge provided five $50 gift cards using the lodge general charity fund to veterans for Thanksgiving dinners for them and their families.

 

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Vero Beach Lodge held its annual Christmas program for Wabasso School, a special-education school serving students ages 5-22 which offers four program models: intensive, integrated, behavioral and transition programs. Staff members provide instruction within a safe and positive learning environment that positively impacts students to develop their academic and independent living skills to meet post-secondary goals and successful community integration. The Elks provide gifts, cupcakes and juice, and Santa Claus distributes gifts to all the students. 

 

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Vero Beach Lodge held its annual Toys for Tots drive. The lodge is noted for its donations of bicycles; this year they donated 16 bikes and helmets along with many other gifts.

 

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Vero Beach Elks Lodge #1774 completed its annual dictionary project with Paul Diaz, PER, project manager, and Ray Ketchum delivering 1,000 dictionaries to 12 Indian River County, Florida, schools. Because of the pandemic, the dictionaries were dropped off at the schools and the schools dispersed the dictionaries. Pictured are Diaz and Ketchum with one of the schools’ representatives.

 

A $1,000 check was presented by Richard Miller, Vero Beach Exalted Ruler, to Rey Navarro, Director of Village Operations for the Hibiscus Children’s Center, a facility that has saved and rescued the lives of children and teens who have been abused, since 1985.

 

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Melbourne Elks Lodge #1744 used its $3,500 Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant combined with the $3,500 matching Florida State Elks Association grant and some additional funds ($7,054.05 in total) to provide 280 families from four area schools with groceries for the Thanksgiving holiday. Groceries were delivered to the schools by two Elks per school. Families arrived later in the day and stayed in their cars. Personnel at the school loaded the bags of groceries into the trunks to keep contact to a minimum. The lodge purchased turkeys that were 60% off and all other groceries were on sale as buy one-get one free. Groceries included a 13-15 pound turkey, five pounds of potatoes, two cans of green beans, a can of cream of mushroom soup, a can of French-fried onion rings, cranberry sauce, dressing, gravy, and bag of cookie mix. Pictured Nov. 19 during packing are an unidentifiable non-Elk helper; B.J. Black, PER; Sam Casella, PER; and Dolores Casella, PSP-FLOE. Elks not pictured are Cathy Underwood, PER; Tom Wojnar, Esquire; and Gerald Leman, grant coordinator.

 

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Fort Pierce Elks Lodge member Lenny Smallacombe, PDD, backpack program chair and lodge Elks National Foundation grants writer and coordinator, met several times with St. Lucie Public Schools officials to set up their largest Operation Christmas Backpack event yet — helping fill the needs of more than 1,050 children at 11 schools who are homeless. St. Lucie Public Schools dropped off 11 pallets to the lodge Dec. 11. Over the next two days, the backpack team sorted, boxed and loaded 11 pallets. On Dec. 14, two St. Lucie Public Schools trucks picked up all the pallets which held the backpacks, school clothes, kids’ hygiene kits, hand sanitizers, toys, Christmas gifts and snacks. This is their seventh year of the backpack program.

 

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Port St. Lucie Elks Lodge #2658 donated $5,500 from its Elks National Foundation grants ($3,500 from the Beacon Grant and $2,000 from the Spotlight Grant) to Grace Packs Inc. of Port St. Lucie, Florida. “The mission and joy of Grace Packs Inc. is to provide weekly weekend food for students who lack an ample food supply, relieving the burden many of these children endure by being hungry. Currently, Feeding America statistics reveal that currently the projected child food insecurity rate for St. Lucie County is 28% (Research is based on Map the Meal Gap 2020 and is supported by Conagra Brands Foundation and Nielsen),” says Laura Klosterman, director of Grace Packs Inc. She adds that this donation will help to provide weekend meals to at least 1,100 children. The organization is currently serving packs to 32 schools in St. Lucie County. Pictured Nov. 13 at the pantry are Klosterman; Dawn Tortoriello, Exalted Ruler; April Barth, Grace Packs lodge coordinator; and Rick Barth, PER.

 

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Vero Beach Elks Lodge #1774 and the Vietnam Veterans of Indian River County held the 10th annual car show on the lodge grounds Aug. 22 with 113 classic, antique, muscle and special-interest cars. All cars were spaced out due to the pandemic with masks required. The lodge raised $4,000 from registrations, a raffle, a 50/50, donations and sponsor contributions. Eleven trophies were awarded. Monies raised went to the lodge’s veterans fund and for veterans assistance programs and housing which are utilized throughout the year.