Holiday Isles Elks Lodge #1912 has reopened to the Monday and Wednesday Card Club players, and each of those days they make donations to the Harry-Anna Trust Fund by collecting $8 per table. Since opening back up in March, donations have totaled $246. As more players return, donations will increase.
On March 29th, St. Petersburg Lodge held a drug awareness discussion with Boy Scout Troop 209, which included Al Literski, Loyal Knight, and Jan Giallourakis, lodge member and Ladies of Elks Auxiliary President. Having a conversation about drug abuse with children and teenagers can seem scary at first, but as long as everyone involved is nonjudgmental, honest and supportive, the conversation can be productive and beneficial. Each scout also received a drug awareness program bag, which included a red ribbon, several drug awareness pamphlets and two drug awareness themed coloring books. Pictured are Giallourakis and Literski with the scouts.
Also on March 29, Tampa Lodge used $629.26 of their earned charity funds to provide a 65’’ TV and portable stand to Grady Elementary School. It will be utilized by office staff for Zoom meetings and other events. The portability of the stand, which was assembled by Elks, makes this a versatile gift that can also be used in a classroom or assembly. Pictured are Nicole Dreby, teacher; Mike Campbell, principal; Alexander Dreby; and Bonnie Atwood, member; Jim Dreby, member; and Chris Miles, Exalted Ruler.
On March 16, St. Petersburg Lodge donated the use of it pool to the Police Athletic League (PAL), which provides mentoring, meals, academics and sports to at-risk youth. The lodge waived its pool fees for non-members/large groups and donated a case of cold water to PAL. With the support of donors such as the lodge and volunteers, PAL strives to build connections and change young people’s lives. PAL serves youth between 5 and 18 years of age. A total of 35 youth enjoyed using the lodge pool.
On March 29, Tampa Lodge donated $300 to the Police Benevolent Association on behalf of the family of Tampa’s fallen Master Police Officer Jesse Madsen. Tampa Lodge also posted condolences on their large sign on the busy Gandy Boulevard. Officer Madsen was killed in the line of duty while trying to stop a driver going the wrong way on Interstate 275 in Tampa, Florida. “He served in the Marine Corps. He served overseas. He’s a decorated combat veteran. He also served in the Florida National Guard. He served with three police units, until he settled here at the Tampa Police Department. So service was nothing new to him,” said Danny Alvarez with the Police Benevolent Association. He is survived by his spouse and three children. Officer Madsen’s badge, number 507, will be retired and his name will be etched into the Tampa Police Fallen Officers Memorial.
St. Petersburg Lodge volunteers led by Todd Dourm, Penny Rase, Debbie Rase and Karen Purser raised $3,568 to donate to the family of fallen Pinellas County Deputy Michael Magli. Deputy Magli lost his life in the line of duty Feb. 17 after being struck by a fleeing driver. He is survived by his wife, Stephanie, and two young daughters. He was born in Ozone Park, New York, and came to the Tampa Bay area in 1994. Initially hired as a part-time criminal justice specialist, Deputy Magli transferred to a deputy recruit position and was assigned to the Patrol Operations Bureau in 2014. He served eight years with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. The donation was presented to the Magli family March 16 at a fundraiser held by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department at the Belleair Pelican Golf Club.
On Feb. 24, Tampa Lodge partnered with private charter school Bridgeprep K-12 to hold a family literacy night. Florida State Elks Association-matched funds of their Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant were used for this project. Author David Green was hired to bring his children’s comic books and read them to the students. The event took part in two phases. At 3 p.m., all the middle school students were issued books and then they spread out on the lawn to read along with the author. They also received posters, bookmarks and autographs. At 4 p.m., the elementary school families were invited to attend for a similar safe outdoor event. Twenty-eight families attended with the students. The students in the after-school program also attended and received a book and participated in the reading. They also received a poster and bookmark from the author as well as a Drug Awareness bookmark. Green gave autographs as requested. The Elks even had cardboard picture books for the toddlers who came with their families. The Elks’ participation included the purchase of all the books and supplies, the refreshments and the volunteers to make it all come together. Shelagh Gombarcik, PER; Laura Jones, treasurer; Bonnie Atwood; Patty Volpe; Richelle Nickle; Mike Volpe; and Christien Elkins gave up their afternoon to help these children develop a love of reading. Elk Christine Harris is the principal at Bridgeprep, and she along with Suzanne Mizzi, assistant principal, made sure everything went smoothly. Pictured are Shelagh Gombarcik, PER; David Green, author; and Laura Jones, treasurer. David Green signs an autograph for a middle school student. Green hands out his books to the after-school students. Mike Volpe, Patty Volpe, Christien Elkins and Richelle Nickle are on the refreshment team. Students are gathered for the reading.
St. Petersburg Elks Lodge #1224 had a dozen singing Valentine llama stuffed animals that they held back from the holiday Walgreens toy drive that they donated to the Salvation Army that were distributed to young children in their foster care homes Feb. 14 along with an assortment of Valentine sweets.
For the 2020 Walgreens-Elks Community Gift Drive, Tampa Elks Lodge #708 collected toys from 15 stores Dec. 15. Laura Jones, Jeremy Elkins, Christien Elkins, PER Shelagh Gombarcik, Paul Deland, Wendy Hall, Tommy Moore and Rita Smith all participated in the pickups. By the end of the day, Youth Activities Chairs, Patty and Mike Volpe, had counted 924 toys. This was in addition to the dozens of toys Tampa Elks had donated. The Youth Activities Committee was overjoyed because they had many families that had asked for help. The Volpes developed a COVID-safe plan. On Dec. 19-20, the toys were displayed in the lodge room from noon until 8 p.m. Four families per hour were preregistered to come Christmas shop for their kids. They were not permitted to bring the children with them, but instead were each allowed to pick out three gifts plus a stocking stuffer for each of the children they had registered. Then, they were able to wrap the gifts right there with supplies donated by Elks and then load them into their car in an opaque bag. When done, the lodge had provided a good Christmas for 68 families with a combined 253 children. They did this with minimal staffing: the Volpes, Richelle Nickell, PER Shelagh Gombarcik, Candi Suhrheinrich, Evan Watts (Legacy Scholarship winner), two high school volunteers from the lodge-sponsored Club Chivalry, and non-Elk helpers Heidi and Paul and Theresa Bravo. There were still a couple hundred toys left Sunday night. Rita Smith and Bonnie Atwood gathered 80 toys to take to the Christmas tent run by Metropolitan Ministries, one of Tampa’s largest charities for families with children.
PER Shelagh Gombarcik unloading gifts
Happy mother selecting gifts
Two ladies wrapping gifts
Patty Volpe handling paperwork
On Jan. 23, Seminole Elks Lodge #2519 donated its Elks National Foundation Spotlight and Beacon grants along with the Florida State Elks’ matching Beacon Grant for a total of $9,000 to Santa's Angels charity in Indian Rocks, Florida. Wally Hawthorne is the founder of this organization that helps families at Christmas as well as throughout the year by providing food boxes, household supplies, and clothing and baby supplies. Hawthorne is a member of Holiday Isles Elks Lodge and was so grateful for this donation. Pictured with him is Kara Suddards, Exalted Ruler.
Rhonda Smith, PER of Holiday Isles Lodge learned from Santa's Angels of Indian Rocks, Florida, that children 8 years old and younger experiencing homelessness were living with their parents in cars and other temporary locations due to the pandemic and needed toys and clothing for Christmas. These young ages were the main focus for the gift choices. The lodge gathered 469 toys along with baby clothes, diapers, wipes, blankets and backpacks valued at $4,690 and $2,745 in cash for a total value of $7,435 by Nov. 28. When Santa's Angels came to the lodge with their truck to pick up the donations, the amount of the donations was too large for the truck and they sent three SUVs Nov. 29 to pick up the rest. Pictured are Rhonda Smith, PER, project chair; Wally Hawthorne, Santa’s Angels vice president; and Mike Brown, Santa’s Angels president.
For more than six years, Tampa Lodge has partnered with Open Arms Ministry and used its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to provide an early Sunday morning Thanksgiving dinner to community members experiencing homelessness. This year provided several challenges to accomplishing this, but the determination of Tampa Elks to help those in need powered them through to find a solution. First, the meals this year had to be picked up instead of sharing the meals together. Second, neither kitchen at the lodge or ministry was available to use the weekend before Thanksgiving. After a Zoom meeting between lodge members and their Open Arms partners, it was decided that instead of cooking, the Elks would provide each recipient a gift card to Publix which has a deli. Members purchased 85 Thanksgiving greeting cards and on Nov. 12, they wrote messages of support in each one. Third, the lodge had to close for two weeks due to COVID-19 cases which caused the delivery of the gift cards to fall through. The gift cards were eventually located and retrieved from the FedEx office just in time for them to be inserted in the greeting cards and distributed Nov. 29. “Our warm-hearted mother-daughter team, Courtney Weil, PER and Cristina Sanchez, were at the Open Arms Ministry by 7 a.m. on Sunday morning,” says Rita Smith, project manager. They handed each attendee a card as they signed in. Despite multiple obstacles, Tampa Elks persisted to make sure that those who needed a meal could still get one.
Pictured are Christina Sanchez and Courtney Weil, PER handing out the cards.
Betty Orcutt, Ladies of Elks President, and Sue Moore are pictured with personalized cards.