To help give children the tools they need to succeed, St. Petersburg Lodge members donated school supplies including backpacks, pens and pencils, notebooks, crayons, handwriting paper, watercolors, colored pencils, glue sticks, scissors, highlighters, supply boxes, dividers, tissues, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes. On Sept. 16, the supplies were distributed to three neighboring schools — Azalea Elementary School, Westgate Elementary School and Pinellas Park Middle School. Each school received over $250 worth of supplies for teachers and students. Pictured in the first photo are Yaritza Ramos, Azalea Elementary’s office liaison; Jan Giallourakis, lodge member; and Brian Denson, head of plant operations for Azalea Elementary. Pictured in the second photo are Susan Baker, Westgate Elementary’s community liaison, and Kirk Martin, Inner Guard. Doc Cook, Exalted Ruler and Pinellas Park Middle School science teacher, is pictured in his classroom.
During July and August, Holiday Isles Elks Lodge #1912 started the wishing well food drive for local charities and local veterans’ administration programs. Sandra Gann, Joan May and Larry Schear are the Elks volunteers who handle collection and delivery of the items. As of Aug. 17, over 100 pounds of food have been delivered to the St. Petersburg Free Clinic in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, which provides food, shelter and health care to the community. In addition, approximately $1,000 worth of food, calibrated for backpacks, has been provided to the Ready for Life program in Largo, Florida. This program helps children who have aged out of foster care. Also, $850 worth of food and $650 of clothing was provided to the Bay Pines Veterans Administration in St. Petersburg for their Veterans’ Donation Center for families and for the veterans’ outreach efforts. Pictured are the wishing wells that are placed outside the lodge on Tuesdays and Saturdays for drop-off of nonperishable food.
Tampa Elks Lodge #708 has adopted 1.1 miles of Himes Avenue from Gandy Boulevard to Bay Avenue as part of the Mayor’s Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful program. This participation was initiated by Melissa Bertoch, lodge chaplain. Their first cleanup was held Aug. 15; nine members each collect an average of 1.5 bags of trash. Firefighters at the station on this route and neighbors were thankful for the cleanup. Bertoch is pictured with Rita Smith and Theresa Seibert, PDD.
St. Petersburg Lodge member Kat Chaplain made 64 cloth face masks that were distributed to Pinellas Park Middle School (PPMS) teachers Sept. 4. Michael “Doc” Cook, Exalted Ruler, one of the recipients of the masks, delivered the rest of them to PPMS teachers on Chaplain’s behalf. Cook teaches seventh grade science at PPMS and he has five classes that are taught simultaneously, which means that he is teaching students that are present in his classroom as well as teaching students who have chosen to do online learning. He also has one class that's only face to face in a classroom. Masks are now a necessary tool in teachers’ daily routines and represent the most recent efforts by the lodge to support the school district and its teachers as the new school year begins. Cook is pictured wearing his new mask Sept. 4 at PPMS.
On Sept. 5, St. Petersburg Lodge member Penny Rase delivered 50 hand-sewn face masks to help protect Music Sweet Music’s (MSM Inc.) board-certified music therapists and their clients from COVID-19. The face masks are made from a new tight-weave cotton fabric and are double sided; they have an elastic cord for comfort around the ears. The masks range in sizes, for children 3 years old to adults and are stored in an unscented, new plastic bag. The therapists are currently seeing their clients via ZOOM, one on one in the client’s home or at their MSM music therapy studio in South Pasadena, Florida. For in-person interactions, MSM follows state, local and facility safety guidelines such as temperature checks, symptom checks and screenings, use of face masks, social distancing, etc. The therapists’ ultimate goal is to support skill development in areas such as communication, academic learning, daily living skills, motor functioning, social skills, behavior and mental health. Pictured are May Graci, lodge member and liaison to MSM, and Rase.
On Sept. 2, Tampa Lodge delivered school supplies valued at approximately $400 to West Shore Elementary School in Port Tampa, Florida. Due to the pandemic, lodge members were unable to hold a back-to-school party this year, so the Youth Activities Chair, Patty Volpe, asked members to donate school supplies for local students instead. West Shore Elementary was chosen based on their high percentage of students who receive Title 1 funding in the form of free lunches. The school was also chosen because a survey of other south Tampa fraternal organizations indicated that the school was not on any of their lists. Visitors are not allowed inside any school at the present time; there is not even a volunteer screening page on the school board’s website. Linda Drawdy, principal, was very appreciative and she took time out her busy day to come outside to thank the members who delivered the supplies. Because foot traffic at the lodge is low due to the pandemic and the donations were down considerably from previous years, Volpe set up an Amazon wish list that will allow anyone to purchase supplies online and choose to have them delivered directly to the school under the lodge’s name. The need is pretty high at this school that has so many students from families with low incomes and there is not any nearby shopping for families without transportation. Pictured with the supplies are Volpe; Shannon Wheatley, Lecturing Knight; and Marilyn Rivera, school custodian.
Using social media, Mary Win Wilson Proudfoot asked the community to help her teach her art classes at Robinson High School in Tampa, Florida. The county has a new hybrid virtual or classroom teaching platform and she felt a big-screen television would facilitate her teaching. Tampa Elks Lodge member Shelagh Gombarcik, PER saw the social media post and presented the project to the board of directors and the membership who agreed to use the lodge’s charity fund to make the purchase which totaled $400. Gombarcik delivered the television and a wall mount to the school Aug. 27. Pictured are Gombarcik and Proudfoot.
While many people have had to stay home to avoid exposure to the coronavirus, police officers, firefighters and paramedics are on the frontlines of this pandemic putting their own health at risk to serve the community. On Aug. 7, St. Petersburg Lodge provided 30 pizzas to additional police and fire departments. The extra-large pepperoni and meat pizzas were made by the lodge’s chef, John Bauer. Three teams delivered 16 pizzas to St. Petersburg Police Department (SPPD), 12 pizzas to St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue Station (SPFR) and 2 pizzas to St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Station No. 9. The value of the donation was $315. Pictured at SPPD are Al Literski, Lecturing Knight; Sharon Literski, Loyal Knight; Officer Gabriella Burger; Officer Rick McKee; H. Tom Shriver, PDD; Cathy Shriver, PER; Officer Michael Schade; and Officer April Grasso. Pictured at SPFR are Joanne Matos, PER, West Central District Vice President; Eric Matos, lodge member; Lt. Steve Lawrence; and Mimi Reich, lodge member. Pictured at Station No. 9 are LT Adras; Kirk Martin, Inner Guard; Probie Wright; David Walker; Hope Jagodzinski; and Justin Woodard.
On July 23, St. Petersburg Lodge members donated and delivered 24 pizzas to first responders. When you’re in the middle of a crisis, sometimes the easiest things are forgotten, including a meal while you’re working. "Our goal with this donation was to take care of the people who take such great care and protect us. We wanted them to know that they are appreciated and honored at this critical time. It was a privilege to be able to offer some form of comfort to those who have been working literally nonstop,” said Doc Cook, Exalted Ruler. Cook and Kirk Martin, Inner Guard, made four deliveries — six pizzas to Lealman Fire and Police, eight pizzas to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Communication Center, six pizzas to Pinellas Park Fire & Police and four pizzas to Kenneth City Fire & Police. With a generous discount, the lodge spent $260 for the meals which gave the first responders a chance to sit down, eat something warm and get a nice break. Cook received immediate feedback when he dropped the meals off at these organizations and he could tell that there were big smiles beneath the face masks. The first responders know that they are supported by the community. Pictured at Lealman Fire Department and Rescue are Michael Harris, Tim Bennett, Doc Cook, Kirk Martin, Bill Vasquez and Chris Cobos. Pictured at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Communication Center are Tessa Jones, Doc Cook, Stephen O-Boyle, Kristen Dudash and Inner Guard Kirk Martin. The names of those pictured with Kirk Martin and Doc Cook at Pinellas Park Fire and Police Department were not available.
On July 24, St. Petersburg Lodge donated $1,000 to be a hole-in-one sponsor for the 11th annual golf classic for St. Anthony’s Hospital of St. Petersburg, Florida. The tournament is scheduled Oct. 23 at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Golf Resort in Tampa, Florida. The funds raised will benefit the Susan Sheppard McGillicuddy Breast Center which offers exceptional care for women’s health needs.
On July 22, St. Petersburg Lodge donated $270 to Southeastern Guide Dogs (SGD), a nonprofit with a national reach whose Florida location is in Palmetto. SGD is committed to providing highly trained, elite guide or service dogs of the highest pedigree for people who are visually impaired, veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and children with disabilities. SGD provides the premier dogs and lifetime services at no cost to the recipients.
On July 28, St. Petersburg Lodge donated $2,000 from its Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant to The Kind Mouse Productions Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in St. Petersburg, Florida, that assists children in Pinellas County with food insecurities and chronic hunger. The Kind Mouse has been committed to feeding children on weekends through their mouse nibbles program. Now, with the pandemic, they have boosted their services to feeding kids and sometimes their families on a weekly basis. By providing mouse nibbles bags for kids, parents know their children are fed and can have one less stressor during this difficult time. This is the lodge’s second donation to The Kind Mouse because the lodge has an ongoing commitment to making it as easy as possible for local program operators to get food to children impacted by the pandemic. It remains critical that children continue to receive safe, healthy and nutritious food while staying home safe. Pictured are Dawn Elaine Lieber, PER, grant writer; Gina Wilkins, president and founder of The Kind Mouse; Dan Masi, Leading Knight and liaison to The Kind Mouse; and Doc Cook, Exalted Ruler.