A week after Hurricane Dorian hit, Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Elks Lodge #2855 teamed up with Agape Pilots, a group of volunteer pilots who ferry supplies to various islands in the Caribbean, to take supplies to the Bahamas. This effort was spearheaded by member Sarah Davis, and the response garnered such supplies as brooms, mops, buckets and paper goods.
On Sept. 18, Craig Abbott, PER of Manasota Elks Lodge #2734 presented Marie Mueller, N.U.B.S. community service co-advisor of Oneco Elementary School, the Elks distinguished citizenship award for her outstanding leadership and dedication to N.U.B.S. (Never Underestimate Brave Students), a community service group of students who volunteer their time to help their school, community and country. The lodge has been supporting the program since the 2014-2015 school year. Years ago, lodge member Pat Gallagher went to Marie Mueller with his vision and she and the students jumped right on the idea. As they were too young to join the Antlers junior Elks program, they put on their thinking caps and started their research. They soon learned that antlers start from a pair of nubs on a buck’s head. This was it – the group had a name and their amazing journey began. Their mission statement is, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Manasota Lodge supports N.U.B.S. throughout the school year. They donated vests for each member to wear during their activities, they donated to rebuild their vegetable garden, they promote the Red Ribbon poster contest, they collect and donate box tops for their playground equipment, they sponsor breakfast with Santa, they read at the school on Literacy Day, and they donated 528 pencils to their school supplies.
Craig Abbott, PER of Manasota Lodge presents Marie Mueller with a distinguished citizenship award Sept. 18. Also pictured is Pam McDowell, Exalted Ruler.
On Aug. 1st, members of Venice-Nokomis Elks Lodge #1854 prepared 50 backpacks filled with school supplies for children in need from local schools and the community center. The supplies were donated by members and using a portion of their Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant.
Pictured are Sandy Nick, Cathy Grippi, Barbara Jasper, Laura Wood, Sherie Gillum, Mario Grippi, Pat Mazzola, Sue Bucanis, Janet Sasso, Steve Schaefer, Shirley Yawn, Debra Ciccone, Sharon Paganelli, Lori LaBoe, Audrey Riggs, Tony Varone, Suzette Curry.
Doreen Budetti took the group photo.
Palmetto Elks Lodge #2449 has been providing community service to children in the local (soon to be statewide) Dive into Reading program. The program is designed to help children in Title I schools from first through third grade raise their reading skills. Sadly, 51% of Manatee County, Fla., children in the third grade cannot read at the third-grade level. These statistics are similar throughout the south Florida Title I school system.
The Anna Maria Oyster Bar piloted this program after they heard the statistics above from school employees and realized that from birth to third grade, we learn to read, and from third grade on, we read to learn. Children who cannot read at grade level after third grade usually do not make it through high school.
In its third year, Dive into Reading has proven to be successful at raising the reading levels of children who participate. The local school system brings children to the restaurant for breakfast with a mentor. The mentors assist the children by reading with and to them from grade level books and having the children read back from the same book. The program runs for one month in June. Children are tested by the school system at the end of the school year and then again at the beginning of the next school year. After attending the program, the results show positive improvement, or at least no loss of reading skills throughout the summer months. Statistically, these children would normally lose up to three months of reading skills during summer break.
Palmetto Elks involvement started at the mentor level. In the second year, the lodge donated over 200 backpacks with school supplies to the attending children. This year, over 400 children attended. The program is growing and other local restaurants are now participating. The Sarasota County school system has also joined the program. Palmetto Lodge has committed to providing an adequate number of backpacks for the program. The lodge is working with other lodges in the district to expand participation.
South Hillsborough Lodge sponsored Samiyah Singleton, a fourth-grade student at Ruskin Elementary School who won the category for girls ages 8-9 in the Florida state Hoop Shoot. Singleton competed at the regional level held in Georgia March 16 and finished in third place.
Pictured with Samiyah Singleton, regional Hoop Shoot third-place winner, are Rebecca Salgado, principal; Izabella Maxwell, coach and teacher; and Roy Gardner, lodge Hoop Shoot chairman.
On March 9, South Hillsborough Elks Lodge #2672 used their Elks National Foundation Promise Grant to host a prom for students with special needs at the lodge. The students were from Earl L. Lennard High School in Ruskin, Fla. Pizza, wings, cupcakes and soft drinks were served. Over 30 students danced all evening to a DJ with the principal, teachers, family and Elks all joining in the fun.
The Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Lodge Community Affairs Committee read “Let’s B Safe” books to 173 first-graders in both Gene Witt and Freedom elementary schools in February. In March, they presented a program to fourth-graders at both schools called Kids on the Block, a puppet show about bullying and stereotypes.
Using an Elks National Foundation Promise Grant, Venice-Nokomis Elks Lodge #1854 donated $2,000 in food, after-school snacks and a weekend backpack program to a local community civic center for 75 homeless children.
The lodge also donated three bicycles and helmets to a local family whose children needed rides to school.
Jim Lamb, PDD from the Southwest District was the Toys for Tots Coordinator for Florida’s Sarasota County. Participating this year were members from Sarasota South Elks Lodge #2495 and Venice-Nokomis Elks Lodge #1854. Together their members donated 9,965 volunteer hours to make sure that 19,965 children had a Merry Christmas. A total of 105,528 toys, 8,941 books and 45,569 stocking stuffers were given out as in-kind donations equaling $2,167,190.10.
On Feb. 3, Sarasota South Elks Lodge #2495 hosted a buffet luncheon for the winners of the Americanism essay contest. This year’s theme was “What Makes you Proud to be an American.” Ray Peetz, Lodge Americanism Chairman, introduced the winners of the 2019 contest, all of whom were from Pine View School in Sarasota, Fla. – first-place winner, Sidney Brann; second-place winner, Oleg Frankowski; and third-place winner, Emily Fung. He shared with them “What it means to be an Elk” from the Elks creed and thanked the winners for their participation. He also shared audio of Red Skelton’s famous definition of each word of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Pictured at Sarasota South Lodge’s awards luncheon for Americanism essay contest winners are Richard Bouchard, Exalted Ruler; Emily Fung, third-place winner; Fran Squires, teacher; Sidney Brann, first-place winner; Ray Peetz, Lodge Americanism Chairman, and Sue Fair, assistant principal.
South Hillsborough Lodge held their annual Hoop Shoot Nov. 29 at Ruskin Christian School. Roy Gardner, chairman (pictured with trophy winners), reported that 325 students participated with 47 participants the night of the event.
South Hillsborough Elks Lodge #2672 held their annual Christmas Angel Tree program for children in foster care. Through the lodge members’ generosity, especially the Partners of the Elks, 100 children had a wonderful Christmas. Amanda Kirton, chairman, said that 15 of the bicycles were sent to northern Florida where the hurricane destroyed everything.