Florida Elks News Editor:
Rachael King
Entire contents copyright 2023 by the
Florida State Elks Association Inc.
P.O. Box 49
Umatilla, FL 32784-0049

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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.