Tampa Elks Lodge #708 held a back-to-school party Aug. 3 for area children in need. Two community organizations gave assistance as well — MGM Charity Partners and Happy’s Home Centers. They also helped fund the event along with the lodge charity fund and member donations. Before the party, more than 20 volunteers packed bags with appropriate school supplies for each child based on their grade. Parents and 63 students were in attendance. Upon arrival, each child received a bag of material from the Elks Drug Awareness program and a fruit snack. A spaghetti dinner was then served to all the children, parents and volunteers. During dinner, Woogie Bajgier from MGM Charity Partners explained that the focus of their charity is children and veterans, just like the Elks. Tampa lodge member Roshaun Gendrett, a professional motivational speaker, encouraged the children present to have their best school year by doing just three things: “Do your best,” “Do the right thing,” and “Don’t give up.” A representative from Happy’s Home Centers spoke about the company’s commitment to families of south Tampa. After the speaker presentations, each student obtained their personalized bag of school supplies and went to the MGM table to pick out a box of cereal, a box of Pop Tarts and 10 snack items. At the Happy’s Home Centers table, they picked up a drawstring backpack, T-shirt and more supplies. Lodge Youth Activities chairs, Mike and Patty Volpe, then led the children in playing three physically active games beside their seats. All the children took turns at the prize table, where they could choose additional school supplies, snacks and small toys. By the party’s end, each child left with at least three very full bags of items to make going back to school more successful.
On Aug. 13, Rotonda Elks Lodge #2710 donated $500 from its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to the Blue Butterfly Children in Crisis Center of Englewood, Florida. It is affiliated with Tidewell Hospice, a nonprofit organization that focuses on serving the community at no cost to the recipients. The Blue Butterfly name was chosen because butterflies go through a transformation, as children grieving the loss of a parent, sibling or loved one do. Blue symbolizes sadness, and butterflies symbolize hope and healing. Pictured at the check presentation are Kaityln Kramer of Blue Butterfly; Jean Humphreys, Exalted Ruler; and Sherry Blackwell-Toth, Lodge Secretary.
On Aug. 6, Winter Park Elks Lodge donated $1,000 to Rusty's Bicycle Shop. This shop refurbishes used bicycles and gives this invaluable transportation to veterans and others who are homeless. Pictured at the lodge presentation are Terri Bentley, Lecturing Knight; Pat Fuehrer, PER, trustee; Kim Shingledecker, chair of the board of directors; Bill Belcher, Exalted Ruler; and Richard Wetterstrom, manager of Rusty's Bicycle Shop. The photo was taken by Leading Knight, PER, Ron Goluba.
St. Augustine Elks Lodge #829 designated the month of June for supporting S.A.F.E. Pet Rescue Inc. (Saving Animals from Euthanasia) in St. Augustine, Florida. Members donated $403 worth of items, which were delivered June 30. S.A.F.E. Pet Rescue was founded in September 2008 with the goal of saving adoptable dogs and cats from euthanasia in northeast Florida. Pictured at delivery are Joe Smith, Exalted Ruler; Cathy Walsh, community outreach chair; Kevin Walsh, trustee; and Karen Bromirski, S.A.F.E volunteer.
Cape Coral Elks Lodge #2596 presented $5,500 from its Elks National Foundation Beacon and Spotlight grants to the Cape Coral Caring Center. The grants will pay for the water and electric utility bills of local citizens impacted by COVID-19 who have been threatened with shut-off by the City of Cape Coral. Pictured July 27 at the Cape Coral Caring Center are Jim Fraser, Leading Knight; Janet Murphy, Chaplain; Wendy Wootton, Caring Center operations manager; Julie Ferguson, Caring Center executive director; Ken Kovach, Exalted Ruler; Mike Murphy, Lecturing Knight; and John Nugent, Loyal Knight.
On May 10, Orange Park Elks Lodge #2605 presented a check for $8549.62 to the Trinity Lutheran Church Food Bank, which manages the food distribution for Feeding Northeast Florida. The check included funds from an Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant as well as matching funds from the Florida State Elks Association. The lodge also donated 500 paper bags with its logo to be used when distributing food to those in need. Pictured are Raymond Murphree, PDD; Lisa Green; Lara Mathis, Exalted Ruler; Reverend Robert Kinley; Gwen Parker-Downs; and Tom Culverhouse, food bank operations manager.