Brandon Lodge members Sharon Hammersla, District Vice President; Mary Lou Scribner, PER; and Robin Rutzke, Veterans Chair, hosted their third drive-thru drop-off March 20 from 8 a.m. to noon to make it easy for lodge members to be involved and contribute to their community. Members were asked to drop off food donations and/or gift cards to local restaurants and/or grocery stores. All donated food was contributed to the local food bank sponsored by Nativity Church and all gift cards were donated during a presentation to the Captain of Brandon’s fire department, Fire Station 18. Thirty-five members and five non-Elks stopped by to make their contributions. Even out-of-town Elks (Steve Lischalk of Hopkins Lodge #2221 and Roger Bjornberg of Burlington Lodge #916) staying at the lodge’s RV park walked over to make their contributions. The drive collected 433 pounds of food that Hammersla later dropped off at the Nativity Food Bank warehouse. Scribner said she was proud of the generosity of Brandon members; 30 gift cards with a total value of $600 were donated. Rutzke shared, “There is more to this than just collecting food and gift cards for our community. It is also a much-needed opportunity for Elk members to just get out and visit as many of our members are still self-quarantined and limiting their outside exposure. With a drive-by, they can stay in their cars, we unload, and we can stand outside and just chat.” Hammersla stated that she visited with members she’s never seen before because they are members who were installed right before the pandemic hit. These newer members said they were happy to be able to do something positive for the community. Pictured are Rutzke, Lischalk, Bjornberg and Hammersla. Pictured with a vehicle full of donations and displaying gift cards are Scribner, Hammersla, and Mary Lou Schreck, Lodge Secretary.
With a total of $7,000 from its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant and matching funds from the Florida State Elks Association, Brandon Lodge made monetary donations to four schools and two food banks. The lodge has partnered with these six organizations supporting their needs with funds from the Beacon Grant for the past several years. This year, because of the pandemic, rather than purchasing specific items on their behalf, the schools, food banks and lodge agreed that the organizations and the community would be best served by providing monetary funds so the schools and food banks could purchase and distribute what is needed by their organizations to help their students and community during the pandemic. On Feb. 15, representatives from Yates Elementary School, Burnett Middle School, Mango Elementary School and Willis Peters Exceptional Center School were invited to the lodge to receive a $1,000 check. Representatives from Echo Food Pantry and Nativity Food Pantry were also invited to receive a $1,500 check. Members were present to share in the support of these organizations and to show them appreciation for what they do for the community. Pictured are Mark Vargo, Exalted Ruler; Lisa Varnum, Yates principal; Vaniece Johnson, Yates social worker; Valerie Newton, Burnett principal; Sabriba Ruiz, Mango principal; Lisa Hendricks, Willis Peters Exceptional Center principal; Sabrina Thompson, Echo Food Pantry representative; Judi and Phil Bodinet, Nativity Food Pantry representatives; and Sharon Hammersla, PER, Southwest Central District Vice President.
Members of Brandon Elks Lodge #2383 continue to come up with little ways to let first responders know that they are appreciated. Mary Lou Scribner, PER baked a cake and dropped it off Jan. 28 at the local fire department around the corner from the lodge with a note from the Brandon Elks that said, “Thank you – We care.” The firefighter who graciously accepted the gift was truly appreciative and surprised. It was such a big reaction from such a little gesture that Scribner asked the Brandon Ladies of Elks and lodge members if they would be interested in volunteering to bake something or picking up a sweet treat from a grocery store and dropping it off at their local fire station to let them know that the Elks care. The ladies and members are signing up for specific months or just randomly stopping by their local fire stations. For Valentine’s Day, Robin Rutzke, Veterans Chair, bought cupcakes and delivered them to Hillsborough Fire Station 18.
Sebring Elks Lodge #1529 held a car show which not only helped the lodge raise funds to help them through the pandemic but it also garnered new member applications. The show was held Jan. 23 with 45 cars participating. Jacquie Rehner, PDD from East Polk Elks Lodge won second place with her '68 Camaro. Five attendees completed applications and several more took applications home to complete. There was food and music, beautiful weather and fantastic fellowship. The event was created and chaired by Stacy Hill and Christy Spiegel with at least 20 Elk volunteers. Pictured are Lauren Spiegel, Jayce Graham as Elroy, and Carlie Stockenberg, all daughters of members, and Jacquie Rehner with her winning car.
Deputy Ben Jones and K-9 Gentry were honored Dec. 21 at the Highlands County Sheriff's Office with the first responder-law enforcement award by Sebring Lodge. They were honored for their record of good work, particularly their role in the seizure of 554 grams of heroin, 450 grams of cocaine, 99.6 grams of fentanyl and more than 1,000 illegal prescription pills during a traffic stop. The total seizure was worth $120,000 on the street. Pictured are Judy Hanson, PER; Wainetta Holmes, Exalted Ruler; Deputy Jones and Gentry; Sheriff Paul Blackman; and K-9 Unit Sgt. Scott Williams. His mother, sister and two brothers attended as well.
Arcadia Elks Lodge #1524 used its $3,500 Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to purchase food for those in need this holiday season. A drive-thru food drive was held Dec. 19 at the lodge, and for those who had no transportation, groceries were delivered to their homes. Jackie Hughes, PER, trustee, said, “It was a beautiful day and so rewarding! Numerous Elks helped with the shopping, bagging food and distributing everything. What a terrific turnout.”
Brandon Lodge held its annual event chaired by Marionette Sexton, Loyal Knight, in which members adopt children of families to shop for items on their wish list as well as for clothing, shoes and toys. Any money donated by members is used to purchase these additional gifts. This year, 12 families with a total of 25 children in need of a merry Christmas were adopted by members. This event is a tradition for the lodge that members look forward to each year as a way to be involved with the families in their community. The lodge also makes sure a complete Christmas dinner is provided to each family. On Dec. 16 to the backdrop of Christmas music played by a volunteer DJ, members wrapped the gifts. Once everything was wrapped and the dinners were put together for delivery, some of the families stopped by to pick up their packages and to interact with the members. The other families’ packages were delivered to them by Sexton and other members. “It truly was a joyful event watching members wrapping the gifts, talking about their own Christmas festivities and memories. You can feel the joy of making sure a child’s Christmas wishes come true. It just feels like Christmas!” says Mary Lou Scribner, PER, lodge member and District Reporter. Sexton’s grandchildren attended the event to wrap gifts and help wherever needed. “What a great way to teach our youth, our future Elks, to be involved and volunteer in their community and to help bring happiness to anyone in need,” Scribner adds. Pictured are member Linda Craft with her grandchildren.