On Sept. 29, a food distribution event was held at Miami Elks Lodge #948. Cornerstone Miami, a group that rents space from the lodge for Sunday services, was the main sponsor of the event. Members of the church as well as several volunteers from the lodge distributed food from Feeding South Florida of Pembroke Park, Florida, to nearly 600 families. The Miami-Dade Police Department provided assistance with traffic flow. Lodge members assisting members of Cornerstone Miami were Jennene Ricard, Dave Lopez, Barry Wake, Linda Perricone, Ignacio "Iggy" Pena, and Jeff Muehlfeld, Exalted Ruler.
Master Deputy Carmen Acevedo of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office had the opportunity to be a part of this story from both the giving and receiving end. Deputy Acevedo is a school resource officer for Waterford Elementary School in Orlando, Florida. She has also been a member of Orlando Elks Lodge for four years and volunteers when she can; she recently became her lodge’s Public Relations chair as well. Her pride in her fellow lodge members as well as her gratitude on behalf of her school prompted her to share the following story.
Each week, members Denise Johns, Kim Casey and Maria Morales set up bingo and collect food for the Waterford Elementary food pantry, toiletry stock, school supplies, shoes and bicycle helmets for families in need. Recently, the school provided food to a family from another school that lost everything when their house caught on fire. “Thanks to the donations the Elks bingo family gives, it filled our pantry to help others in need. The Orlando Elks 1079 really cares about its children and our community. They will be working closely with our school to make the holidays great. Unfortunately, there are even teachers who are struggling because they are the only person working at home. We are also not only giving to the children but even the teachers this year. I just wanted to take a moment to thank three wonderful women from Orlando Elks Lodge #1079…for their act of kindness,” reports Acevedo.
As a school resource officer (SRO), Acevedo explains that she assists “the school administration in maintaining a safe and secure environment. I also help resolve problems affecting the children and work closely with the youth/staff. When working, I value each one of these students because they are special in every way. I truly want to protect them, make them smile and guide them to become great Americans,” she notes.
On Sept. 15, Acevedo picked up five boxes of food and supplies from the lodge and delivered them to the school. On Sept. 23, Casey and Johns delivered additional food in a tightly packed SUV. Once all the food was separated by Waterford staff members Aixa Santiago and Maria Bassmaji, they arranged the pantry and continuously monitor expiration dates. Danielle Arbelaez-Willis, principal, works to keep this pantry open to help families in need while other schools have had to close their pantries.
This sworn law enforcement officer says that these three ladies are truly her heroes. That says a lot about the good work the Elks do in their communities when Elks are an officer’s heroes.
Pictured Sept. 23 are Stephanie Panas, Waterford Elementary counselor, and Orlando Elks Denise Johns, Kim Casey and Deputy Carmen Acevedo.
Orlando Elks Kim Casey and Denise Johns deliver items for Waterford Elementary’s pantry Sept. 23.
Food delivered Sept. 23 by Orlando Elks’ bingo donations
Waterford Elementary's pantry
On Sept. 23, West Citrus Lodge volunteers met for the monthly session of packaging weekend food for children. Using Florida State Elks Association matching funds from the Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant, the lodge presented the Blessings organization in Lecanto, Florida, with a check for $1,000. Blessings is a group that supplies children from all of Citrus County with food to eat on the weekends. Lodge members and Blessings personnel at the check presentation are Sandy Hendron; Jeanne Brier; Gail Bockario, assistant vice chair of Blessings; Christina Reed, executive director of blessings; Donna Hayes; Ed James; Kris Estus; Brian Estus; and Cheryl Brett.
Mandarin-St. Johns Lodge supported the Jacksonville, Florida, YMCA STEM program by donating $2,500 from its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant. STEM is a program that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math in engaging hands-on activities that foster problem-solving skills with students. Approximately 20 students generally participate in the activities; however, attendance has been limited at the YMCA due to the pandemic. The donation was made earlier in the year, but lodge members were able to visit the YMCA in late July and participate in the program with the students. Pictured are Christie Easton, Lodge Secretary, with YMCA program teacher Kamaria with students learning about sundials and YMCA program teacher Sophia with students gathering items to study under microscopes.
Delray Beach Lodge donated the other half of its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant, $1,750, to the Delray Reads program. Delray Reads Day will be held Oct. 29 and will be hosted virtually. The lodge donation along with other sponsors’ donations will be used to purchase 1,600 books at $4 each that will be delivered to elementary schools so that every child in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade will receive a book to call their own. This year’s book is “Evelyn Del Ray is Moving Away.” During the day of the event, teachers will read the book to their classroom and feature local celebrity readers on social media. They will also share with the community how important a community-wide effort in children’s learning is during this pandemic. The City of Delray’s Delray Reads Day is more important than ever this year to help raise awareness of the importance of reading at an early age. This year the city will join the nation in a Leaning Loss Recovery Challenge as a call to action to acknowledge and confront the very real threat presented by the COVID-19 slide, similar to the summer slide where children lose comprehension during summer breaks. Unless something is done to stop this, the learning loss brought on by the pandemic will dramatically affect children from families that are economically challenged and become one of the lasting legacies of the pandemic. Pictured outside Delray Beach Lodge Sept. 16 for the donation presentation are Kay Johnson, Delray Reads board member; Rich Pollack, Delray Reads board member; Janet Meeks, City of Delray Beach Education Foundation; Carol Eaton, Delray Beach Lodge treasurer; and Cecil Broderick, Exalted Ruler.
Sebring Lodge donated their $2,000 Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant July 12 to the Heartland Food Bank in Sebring, Florida. The grant is awarded to lodges for members "to shine a light on issues facing all communities such as hunger.” A donation of 226 pounds of food was also given from Elks members and participants from the lodge's charity bingo. The food drive is an ongoing project as this is the second drop-off so far this summer. Pictured are Wainetta Holmes, Exalted Ruler, presenting the donation to Mary Van Hooreweghe, office manager of the Heartland Food Bank. Van Hooreweghe also unloads the food donations from the vehicle.