On March 3, Tampa Elks Lodge-sponsored Club Chivalry made its annual field trip to the Florida Elks Youth Camp. Despite an insurance issue stopping the group from going in the air on the ropes course, there was still a lot of team building done. Rita Smith, Betty Orcutt, PER Dee Cisneros, and Christien Elkins joined school sponsor, Carolyn Hand, in chaperoning the 41 students. Before lunch, the ropes course instructors worked with the entire group; after lunch, they broke them down into three groups. The snacks were plentiful on both legs of the trip. The event accomplished the goals of showing off the camp and of building cooperation among the students in the club. The club’s sponsor even asked for a membership application on the way home.
On Jan. 16, Oakland Park Elks Lodge #2407 held their first of what is hoped to be an annual fundraising event for Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services (FECTS) – Drag it Out. Local drag queens from Lips Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, donated their time and tips for this benefit. Occupational therapist Lynanne Koenig and her husband were invited to represent FECTS. She spoke about how valuable donations are to the services provided to the children and their families. Five dollars from each ticket sold went to FECTS. From the tips and tickets, $650 was raised at this event. Pictured are members Barry Drailfinger and Regina Roszkowski.
February was National Hospitalized Veterans Month and to show their love and gratitude to them, Plant City Elks Lodge members brought more than 300 valentines to the lodge for everyone to sign and add messages of thanks for the hospitalized veterans at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Florida. Judy Wise, Veterans Chairman, and her husband, Ed, Americanism Chairman, delivered the valentines. Students from Advantage Academy in Plant City, Florida, also made 240 cards after Wise informed a teacher there about celebrating hospitalized veterans in February. The program was used in art, English and history classes as a teaching moment for the students about veterans and their sacrifices. The teachers donated the art materials.
On Dec. 18, Brandon Lodge’s Bags of Brotherly Love served over 500 meals to the those who are homeless at both Trinity Café locations in Tampa, Fla. Trinity Café and Bags of Brotherly Love share the same mission – to bring dignity back into the lives of those less fortunate. This was all made possible through the Elks National Foundation Impact Grant that the Bags of Brotherly Love received in 2019. With all they do for those who are homeless, there were enough funds to purchase the food for both locations and feed everyone a hot meal which consisted of shepherd’s pie made by award-winning chef Dan, salad, broccoli, rolls, tea, and cake. They also handed out shoes and donated knit beanies and handmade scarves to those in need.
Rotonda Elks Lodge #2710 used their Elks National Foundation Promise Grant this year to focus on children’s literacy. The project provided books for toddlers up to third graders when they came to the local Humane Society on pet adoption days and pet therapy dogs were in attendance. The lodge aimed to impact the area’s families in need by providing books in the homes. Research shows a direct correlation between low-income homes and fewer books in the homes. They partnered with the local Humane Society to provide a space to hand them out Oct. 19 hoping to reach a new population of families. However, the foot traffic was slow, so they requested permission from the Grand Lodge grant office to expand the location to include Myakka Elementary School, a Title l school, which means the school has a large population of low-income families. They gave out the books Dec. 20 during their Santa visit. They went to the preschool through third grade classrooms. There are 383 children who received new books. PreK through second grade students each received three books and the third graders were given a chapter book. All the books were about pets, pet care and rescue animal stories. The books included cardboard books, picture books and books for leveled readers to support graduated reading levels. The lodge members were excited to do this because the school counselor shared that some of these children would have received very little for Christmas.
These children picked out books from the book drive sponsored by Rotonda Lodge held at the Humane Society and share them with their grandmother while visiting her house. The boy said, "I picked this book for you, sis!" The title of the book was "I'll Love You Forever."
On Oct. 25, Rotonda Lodge used their $2,000 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to pay for the gold graduation package for seniors at Lemon Bay High School who are homeless. The remaining funds will be used to offset the cost of graduation caps and gowns for other seniors in need. The funds will ensure that these seniors can take part in all the senior activities and opportunities. In addition, it will pay for their graduation tassel, Lemon Bay High School medallion, senior class photo, class T-shirt, yearbook, senior class video and all other senior sponsored events. The lodge recently learned that the Charlotte County School District has a population of over 400 teenagers who are homeless. Most of these students are considered "sofa surfing" which means that they don't have consistent places to sleep or reside. They bounce from the homes of friends and other acquaintances and sleep on sofas without the benefit of a bedroom or family home. The lodge members hope this project will decrease the isolation and hopelessness for seniors who have few resources and that it will encourage other seniors who are homeless to set attainable goals throughout the school year knowing they will have the opportunity to walk across the stage at graduation. This is the second year in a row that the school has covered these costs for these very deserving students.
Liz Marsicovetere, Lemon Bay High School social worker, and Bob Bedford, principal, accept a check for $2,000 from Rotonda Lodge presented by Sheri Toth, lodge trustee, and Geri DelTorto, member and bar manager.