Tampa Lodge used its $2,000 Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant on pandemic relief again this year, so they again turned to Stepping Stones, a community center that serves families in real need in one of the most economically depressed areas of Tampa, Florida. Under the lead of member Christina Sanchez, the lodge made a serious impact on 40 students and their families. Each child was given a pair of name-brand shoes and some socks. Since Sanchez is involved with this community center on a regular basis and knows the children, she obtained their shoe sizes and took notes about their preferences. She and her mom, trustee Courtney Weil, PER, went shopping Aug. 1 at Westshore Mall during the tax-free week and got incredible bargains. They returned to the lodge and with the help of a few members who happened to be there, they wrapped and tagged all 40 pairs. Rita Smith, Leading Knight, was tasked with purchasing 40 small toys or gifts with $200 from charity funds. A donation from Jack Johnson brought that part of the project in under budget. On Aug. 4, Weil and her father, Whiz, did the major food shopping to fulfill the third part of the project — two full meals for each family. The food was prepared Aug. 6, the morning of the party, and then everything was loaded into five large vehicles and transported from the lodge to the community center. During the Christmas in August party later that day, a hot lasagna dinner was dished up for each family member. Additionally, each family was given a meatloaf dinner to take home and bake at another time. During the party, the students played a game and won a bag of snacks, they tried on their shoes and socks, they chose their gift from the Santa workshop table, and they picked out toiletries from the large assortment provided. A few older kids even composed a Christmas song. Tampa Elks helping at the party along with Sanchez and Weil were Rita Smith; Shelagh Gombarcik, PER; Patty Volpe, Youth Activities Lodge Chair; Whiz; and Jan Bertoch.
On July 21, St. Petersburg Lodge donated the use of its pool to the Kind Mouse, a nonprofit that assists families and children in Pinellas County with food insecurities and chronic hunger. There were 19 attendees, mostly kids ages six to 16, with a parent chaperone. The lodge waived its fees for nonmembers to use the pool and Tiki hut, and they also donated five pizzas that they purchased from the lodge restaurant at cost. Pictured are some of the Kind Mouse parents and kids enjoying pizza and sunshine poolside.
While packing school supplies, members of New Port Richey Elks Lodge #2284 had an idea. Instead of handing out food, hygiene products, insect repellant and drug awareness materials in plastic store bags to those experiencing homelessness, they decided that it would be more helpful to provide somewhere to keep their belongings as well. It has been well received by the recipients and the officers of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office who distribute the backpacks. The lodge plans to make this a continuing project. Pictured July 9 are Barbara Rodgers, Exalted Ruler; Margaret Smith; Walter Weishaar Jr.; Rebecca Soto; Mikki Scamoffa and Pauline Moreno packing the supplies. Pictured at delivery are Bryan Fischer, Rebecca Soto, Barbara Rodgers and Anthony Graham.
On Aug. 4, Holiday Isles Lodge provided approximately $1,000 worth of school supplies in backpacks for students in grades K through 12 to Santa’s Angels. This organization helps students from low-income families in Pinellas County, including students at the Boolean School who are disadvantaged. Funding was provided by the lodge charitable account. Lodge volunteers separated backpacks by age and loaded corresponding school supplies.
Pictured are Wally Henderson, Santa's Angels representative and lodge member, and Rhonda Smith, PER.
For the last four years, Holiday Isles Elks Lodge #1912 has conducted an annual day of cardboard boat races. Sailors make waterproof cardboard boats, which they then get in to race. Twenty-two volunteer Elks and five non-Elks helped by selling tickets, T-shirts, and food and beverages; registering participants; helping them safely enter their cardboard boats; acting as emcees; and operating two motorboats in the water for safety patrol and sometimes pulling out disintegrated boats and their sailors. On July 3, 10 sailors participated in the race and most of them managed to make it back to the dock. The event netted $3,243.21 and approximately half of this was donated to the Harry-Anna Trust Fund, which supports Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services and the Florida Elks Youth Camp. The remainder went to lodge expenses and the building fund to help with the damage from a storm.
Pictured is lodge member and cardboard boat race participant Richard DeBlasio.
Fourteen-year-old twins Tyler and Tanner attended their final Florida Elks Youth Camp summer camp session this summer; this year they attended a 14-day session. They have attended several previous years’ summer camp sessions as well. St. Petersburg Elks Lodge #1224 and member Johnny Miller each sponsored a week’s attendance for each boy ($360 per week for both boys). The Ladies of Elks Auxiliary also donated $200 to assist with buying new clothing for summer camp. Tanner and Tyler were excited to attend the summer camp 2020 season for their last time at age 13, but that summer camp had to be canceled due to the pandemic, so they were allowed to attend this year at age 14. Pictured are Tyler and Tanner.
On June 17, St. Petersburg Lodge was given seven sets of bedding from the REST initiative of P.E.S.T. Relief International (Professionals Empowering, Sustaining and Transforming), a 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2013 by Andrea Hancock. The bedding was donated to Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services to be distributed by the therapists to patients who need it most. The value of the bedding was $735. Each set included new pillowcases and sheets, a luxury baby blanket, and mattress encasements to provide a safe and sanitary place to sleep. The REST initiative entails providing clean bedding and pest control to shelters and orphanages. In 2004, Hancock started Mattress Safe Inc., a company that manufactures mattress covers. Pictured are Toni Goodrich, PDD, Lodge Secretary, and Hancock.
New Port Richey Elks Lodge #2284 celebrated Flag Day June 14 with a flag presentation, followed by a light lunch. Pictured are Barbara Rodgers, Exalted Ruler; Becky Soto, Secretary; Margaret Smith, Loyal Knight; Gloria Tyler, treasurer; and Lainey Krachtus, trustee.
St. Petersburg Lodge covered the $180 cost for 12 year-old Samuel Ramirez to attend the first week of summer camp at the Florida Elks Youth Camp. It was his second year of being sponsored by the lodge and was very excited to be attending again. He really enjoyed his time there and is already looking forward to going back next year. On June 20, Elks VAVS representative and lodge member, Johnny Miller, and his wife, Lucelly, drove Samuel, who happens to be Johnny’s nephew, to the camp. The Millers often transport campers, usually if they are their neighbors’ children, if the family doesn't have a car or if the parents are working. Lucelly Miller, Samuel Ramirez and VAVS Representative and lodge member Johnny Miller who drove Samuel Ramirez to FEYC.
St. Petersburg Lodge donated the use of its lodge June 12 for an Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony and celebration afterward for Jonathan and Sean Kirley, 19-year-old twin brothers. They are members of Troop 413 in Clearwater, Florida, who have been serving the youth of the greater Countryside area. They achieved their Eagle status under previous Scoutmaster David Hamilton Sr. The scouts began their scouting journey together, moving forward through the ranks and supported and encouraged each other. Each earned at least 21 merit badges or more and successfully completed a community, church or synagogue-related service project to earn his Eagle merit badges required for the Eagle Scout rank. They also demonstrated scout spirit and leadership within their troop. Jon built four collaboration tables for Leila G. Davis Elementary School, and Sean relocated and rebuilt Ms. Wooly’s memorial at Leila G. Davis Elementary School. The Eagle Scout obligations were presented by Jared Kirley (their brother, Eagle Scout 2018) and Jonathan Basye (Eagle Scout 2014). In attendance were the troop’s scouts and their families, members of the local district and council, public officials, troop alumni, and adults who have had an impact on brothers’ lives. A reception followed the ceremony. Pictured are Jared, Sean and Jonathan Kirley and Scoutmaster Hamilton.
Andrew Finn is an International Baccalaureate (IB) student at Robinson High School. According to the school’s website, https://robinsonhighib.com/learn-about-ib/, “Robinson High’s Magnet IB uses the IB Diploma Programme to develop students who have excellent breadth and depth of knowledge—students who flourish physically, intellectually, emotionally and ethically. The IB Diploma Programme curriculum is a rigorous, pre-university course for the highly motivated student. It offers a comprehensive and integrated academic program and provides the student an opportunity to earn college credits while in high school.” Finn has been to the Florida Elks Youth Camp three times as a camper, and this year he was hired to work as a counselor-in-training. Prior to his employment, he started a project for the camp of collecting toiletry items that were especially important to him when the camp provided him with what he had forgotten to bring. He called his campaign the “Happy Camper Hero.” It was a very personal mission, and when he had not reached his goal after soliciting his friends and family to contribute through a designated Amazon account, he reached out to the Tampa Lodge Secretary, Rick Schneider, to see if his wish list could be distributed to the Tampa Elks Lodge members. Schneider decided that it would be more expeditious to just give him the cash to shop for the items locally. He made the motion at a lodge meeting to donate $250 from charity funds towards this mission. The motion passed, and Andrew received the check from Schneider (left) and Paul DeLand, Exalted Ruler, May 16. To the members’ surprise June 8, Schneider received another email from Andrew, this time asking how to give them a refund since he had met his goal and had money left over. He was instructed to donate it to the camp. This is the kind of character that spending time at the Florida Elks Youth Camp instills in children.
Diane Mercer, blood bank chair of St. Petersburg Lodge, arranged for OneBlood to park their Big Red Bus® at the lodge May 31 during the Memorial Day pool party. Fourteen units were collected from lodge members.