Brandon Elks Lodge #2383 used its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant along with the Florida State Elks Association matching funds to support five local Title 1 schools. The lodge has a long history of supporting and interacting with their local schools and used this grant donation as another opportunity to build a stronger community. On March 4, Sharon Hammersla, District Deputy and Brandon Lodge’s grant coordinator, accompanied by Mary Lou Scribner, PER, met with the five school principals and delivered checks for $1,400 each. The schools that received these donations were Willis Peters Exceptional Center in Dover, Lopez Exceptional Center and Seffner Elementary School in Seffner, and Mintz Elementary School and Yates Elementary School in Brandon.
Pictured at Yates Elementary School are Lisa Varnum, principal/administrator; Mary Lou Scribner, PER; Sharon Hammersla, District Deputy and lodge grant coordinator; and Vaniece Johnson, social worker.
On Jan. 6, Sebring Elks Lodge #1529 delivered 15 boxes of canned goods and nonperishable items along with clothing and toys to the Avon Park Hands for Homeless program in Avon Park, Florida. These items were collected during the Monday night Elks charitable bingo program. During the delivery, Wainetta Holmes, Exalted Ruler, and Diane Morse, Loyal Knight, observed the program on a very busy morning. In one area, more than 200 hot meals were being prepared and distributed throughout the community. Many could be seen walking and bicycling to the site. In another area, clients received much-needed clothing and household items from the Treasure Box. In a third area, boxes of perishable food items were being packed for distribution into vehicles that were lined up with trunks open to receive them. This past summer, the program received funds from the lodge to purchase a refrigerator for use in preparing and storing perishable items and meals for distribution. The funds were also used to purchase produce and provide a produce distribution site. The lodge will continue to assist this program and others in battling food insecurities in the area.
Pictured is member Joe Stockenberg with a vehicle packed with donations.
Also pictured are Diane Morse, Loyal Knight, and Wainetta Holmes, Exalted Ruler, on delivery day.
On Dec. 15, Plant City Elks Lodge #1727 hosted a Christmas party for children from Everyday Blessings, a home for children who have been neglected or abused. It is the only home in the county that will accept siblings so the children are not separated. The lodge uses its Elks National Foundation Impact Grant throughout the year to support this home. There were 24 children, 7 caretakers from the home, 10 Elks children and 42 Elks in attendance. The Elks provided a meal and entertainment by a magician. Santa Claus visited the children and gave gifts to them all, which had been purchased by lodge members from the children’s wish lists. Cooper Tharrington, the granddaughter of an Elk, dressed as Elsa from the movie Frozen. The Ladies of Elks provided all the decorations and cooked the meal. Member Bob Norton provided dinner music and Christmas carols.
Pictured are Elsa (Cooper Tharrington) as well as a helper elf (Shelly Carroll, Leading Knight) and Santa Claus (John Guarino, Exalted Ruler) .
On Dec. 18, Brandon Lodge members Delores Westfall, PER (also a Kentucky Colonel) and Dennis Roberts, PER, drove a rented U-Haul truck to Kentucky with numerous bags of toys for the children who were impacted by the devastating recent tornado. As a child, Westfall lived around that part of Kentucky and knows the needs of these families. She said the tornado wiped out the little these families had. The mayor had been asking for toys so the children could still have some form of Christmas. Westfall reached out and made it all happen. She spoke to the county judge who set up the firehouse as the collection point. Five full-time Greenville, Kentucky, firefighters were there waiting for the truck’s arrival. Everyone was beyond grateful. In addition to the much-needed and appreciated toys, Westfall delivered $1,200 in cash donations from Brandon Lodge members.
Pictured are Delores Westfall, PER with the U-Haul full of toys and Greenville, Kentucky, firefighters Tucker Oglesby, Michael Wells, Sabrina Slinker Scott, Jamie Reyolds and Logan Franklin.
On Dec. 12, Brandon Lodge held a Breakfast with Santa for the kids. The Brandon Ladies of Elks provided a complimentary breakfast to 40 children and Santa was there handing out gifts to each of them.
On the same day, members along with grandchildren, children, spouses and friends gathered in the lounge to wrap the presents for their adopted Christmas families. This year, the lodge adopted 14 families that needed a helping hand. The lodge gave Christmas joy to 35 children. Lodge members adopt a child and at their own expense, thru provide the child’s entire Christmas from Santa. The lodge provides the everything for an entire Christmas dinner for each family.
On Dec. 14, Sebring Lodge donated $250 to the Sebring High School JROTC to thank them for their participation in the lodge’s annual golf tournament in November. Festivities started on the first day at each golf course with the Honor Guard presenting the colors. Pictured at the check presentation are Michael Moore; Javia Wade; Jim Mason, PDD; and Isabelle Violette.
Brandon Elks Lodge #2383 has found that a project originally started to give their members the opportunity to participate in a community activity during the time the lodge was closed for the pandemic has proven to be a great success and so it continues as a quarterly event. Quarterly member participation includes Rick Weigand, PER who unlocks the lodge; member Beth Benham who advertises; member Kathy Brogli who creates the flyers; the Brandon Ladies of the Elks and the RV park residents who contribute; and Robin Rutzke, lodge Veterans Chair, and Sharon Hammersla, District Deputy, who work the quarterly lodge outdoor drop-off and greet and thank the donors. In addition, Ethan and Brodie McAlister, students who are neighbors of Rutzke, have been volunteering as well. They unload the donations and organize and put them in a vehicle for Monday deliveries to a local food pantry and to James A. Haley Veterans Hospital. They have worked three drop-offs so far. The community spirit and hard work is greatly appreciated. Member Ken Muzyk continuously supports this quarterly event and donated 20 puzzles for veterans. Member Donald Harrison donated 23 can openers. Rich Clark, a member of Seattle, Washington, Elks Lodge #92, and his friend, Karen McArthur, winter residents of the Brandon RV Park, donated 30 pounds of dog food. This most recent drive Nov. 13 brought in over 800 pounds of nonperishable food in addition to monetary donations of $160 and other items collected for veterans. Pictured are Brodie McAlister, Robin Rutzke, Ethan McAlister, Rich Clark, Karen McArthur, and Sharon Hammersla.