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Florida Elks News Editor:
Rachael King
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Florida State Elks Association Inc.
P.O. Box 49
Umatilla, FL 32784-0049

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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.


2658 Grace Packs

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.


2817 AED

On Aug. 26, Viera Elks Lodge #2817 presented an automated external defibrillator (AED) to Family Promise of Brevard, an organization that collaborates with the community to provide families who are homeless with the support and resources they need to put themselves on a path toward long-term housing. The AED will be used in their resource center and offices. Pictured not wearing their face masks just for the picture are Mark Sexton, director of programs of Family Promise; Jane Higgins, outreach specialist of Family Promise; William Orblych, PDD; Wendy Carns, PER; and Tara Pagliarini, executive director of Family Promise.


Viera Elks Lodge #2817 continued their support of Genesis House, a facility in Melbourne, Florida, which provides transitional shelter for women and their children who are homeless, long-term housing for student mothers and their children, and shelter for pregnant women and their children who are homeless. Funding for Genesis House support is provided by an Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant. On March 21, the lodge provided them with a new document shredder. They also donated $825 for a mother and her child to attend parent-and-child therapy classes at the Florida Institute of Technology. These classes are still ongoing.

On March 23, Viera Lodge provided Family Promise of Brevard County a gift of $1,500 from an Elks National Foundation Promise Grant. Family Promise is an organization that collaborates with the community to provide families who are homeless with the support and resources they need to put themselves on a path toward long-term housing. They also provide emergency shelter, homeless prevention and stabilization services. The assistance was given when they were going to have to suspend their emergency housing program due to lack of funding. 

Viera Lodge donated $1,000 from an Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant March 22 to the Children’s Hunger Project, a community project which provides for children who are at risk and who depend on meals provided at school but who are now homebound. An additional $1,000 donation was made from the same grant May 13 as well.


On Jan. 28, $6,200 was given from the kids’ charities account to the Cal Ripken League for a new T-ball field in Vero Beach, Florida, which will be used to instruct 6-8-year-olds how to play baseball and to teach sportsmanship. Vero Beach Lodge held their annual Valentine’s Ball Feb. 8 and raised $1,564 to support Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services and the Florida Elks Youth Camp. On March 6, a Neil Diamond tribute concert raised $3,000 for the Past Exalted Rulers scholarship program.


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Using $1,000 raised at the annual Super Bowl Party Feb. 2 along with items donated by members, Vero Beach Lodge packed welcome boxes for The Hope for Families Center and The Samaritan Center of Vero Beach. The Hope for Families Center uses education, rules, training and requirements to build the foundation for long-term independence to teach families that are homeless the habits and routines necessary to sustain themselves. The center provides housing as well as a structured program that teaches families how to set expectations. The Samaritan Center provides affordable, supportive, transitional housing and support services to those who are homeless or who are close to homelessness.


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On Jan. 28, Vero Beach Elks Lodge presented 29 stop-the-bleed kits, one for each area school, to the Indian River County School Board’s new superintendent, Dr. David Moore. The $2,247 used for this project came from the kids’ charities account. Shown are Richard Campbell, Esteemed Loyal Knight; Paul Diaz, Exalted Ruler; Dr. Moore; and Richard Miller, Esteemed Leading Knight and Community Activities Chair.


Viera Elks Lodge #2817 is continuing its support of Genesis House, a facility which provides transitional shelter for women who are homeless and their children, long-term housing for student mothers and their children, and shelter for pregnant women who are homeless and their children. Genesis House helps women become independent through education, self-discipline and self-reliance. The lodge supports this organization with their Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant. The lodge provided $200 to fund four children’s week at Camp Hope’s Christmas Camp. This program help families like those living at Genesis House with affordable child care during school breaks. Camp Hope provides at-risk children with a fun, safe and enriching place to spend time during breaks so parents don’t have to choose between their children and their jobs.


1520 xmas backpack

After seven months of planning, Fort Pierce Elks Lodge #1520 undertook the Operation 2019 Christmas backpack program at St. Lucie Public Schools including Lakewood Park Elementary School in Fort Pierce, Fla., where a local news station took video. The lodge used funds from the $10,000 Elks National Foundation Impact Grant, backpack lodge funds, and lodge member donations to buy food, new toys, school clothes, hygiene kits, snacks, Christmas candy, and more for hundreds of children who attend St. Lucie Public Schools and their families who are homeless. More than 30 Elks spent Dec. 8 sorting and packing thousands of items. St. Lucie Public Schools assisted by having two large school trucks pick up the 10 pallets loaded with holiday donations. The delivery was Dec 11. They also presented $100 checks to 10 schools to buy school logo shirts for students who helped other students during the holiday season. The Elks backpack program started by helping a few kids each weekend and six years later they are helping more than 300 kids with food items every weekend. This was their largest Christmas event with more than 1,000 kids helped. The program has 35-40 volunteers and many of them have helped since the program’s beginning, an integral reason for the program's growing success. All grants and donations go toward the program.