On April 9, Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Elks Lodge #2855 held a Paws for Patriots benefit, which included dinner, guest speakers, prize baskets and a band. Guest speaker Sean Brown, who brought his guide dog, Nick, shared the experience of veterans returning from active duty. All proceeds and donations were given to Southeastern Guide Dogs to help pay for raising and educating dogs to become facility therapy dogs who are given to veterans to help with PTSD symptoms.
Pictured are Tom Sweeney, Lodge Veterans Committee Chair; Frank Iannello, Exalted Ruler; and Sean Brown, guest speaker, and Nick, his service dog.
On Jan. 30, performance group Re-Creation USA put on a show at Zephyrhills Lodge to raise money for their touring expenses. Barbara Conklin, Leading Knight, provided a pre-show meal for the group. The young performers give up their time to go on the road and perform at fraternal organizations to raise money for their expenses to perform for veterans in VA hospitals at no cost to them. The veterans are so happy to be entertained and Elks love the shows. Ticket costs raised $1,000 for Re-Creation. The pandemic has been a real challenge for them since they could not visit the VA hospitals. Therefore, they performed virtually through Zoom and raised funds online.
Pictured are Bailley Caldwell, performer; Dave Kelsey, lodge member and veteran; and Hailey Fafel, performer.
On Jan. 31, Bradenton Elks Lodge #1511 used its $2,000 Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant to provide backpacks, clothing, personal hygiene items, temporary living, and bus passes for transportation assistance to and from the Bradenton VA annex to the Manatee County Turning Points Yellow Ribbon Program in support of veterans who are struggling. The lodge also purchased a tablet to streamline the application process to refer applicants to the proper counselor.
Pictured are Bob Erwin, PDD, Exalted Ruler; Ursula Fane, Turning Points case manager; Karen Cramer, Turning Points executive director; and Bill Rauh, Lodge Veterans Chair.
Commissioner Maria Marino, second from left, joined residents and Homes For Our Troops officials Jan. 8 to kick off the construction of a specially adapted custom home for retired Army Staff Sergeant Michael Montange, right, at a ceremony hosted by Jupiter Elks Lodge #2469 in Jupiter Farms, Florida. The mission of Homes For Our Troops is to build and donate specially adapted custom homes nationwide for severely injured post-9/11 veterans to enable them to rebuild their lives. Names were unavailable for the other two pictured.
For several months, members of Jupiter Elks Lodge #2469 have been delivering care packages to veterans in need in Palm Beach County, Florida, using the Elks National Veterans Service Commission $10,000 Focus Grant.
Pictured March 17 are Dave Vertullo, PER, with veteran Wilfred Burgos Negron.
Ron Goluba, PER, Elks Representative to Orlando VA Medical Center, and lodge member Sue Jovi are pictured Jan. 24 and Feb. 1 helping to fill the wish lists for the veterans in need living at the Lake Nona and Lake Baldwin veterans’ facilities. They went on three shopping trips and selected more than $2,700 worth of specific sizes of new shirts, pants, shorts, shoes, belts, socks, personally requested items and hygiene items for the veterans. The lodge provided the funds for these items.
On Feb. 21, Hollywood West Elks Lodge member and Hollywood City Commissioner, Kevin Biederman, and Hollywood Mayor, Josh Levy, attended the lodge’s ceremony honoring Merchant Marine Seaman Forrest Reed King, Hollywood’s first known resident killed in action in World War II 80 years ago when his ship was hit by torpedoes 125 miles off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland. Sal Grilli, PER, a member of the Lodge Veterans Committee, began the ceremony with a moment of silence at 1341 hours (1:41pm) to memorialize MMS King’s death estimated to have occurred at 1342 hours (1:42pm) Feb. 21, 1942. Grilli gave an account of the life and military service of MMS King.
West St. Lucie Elks Lodge #2823 used its $2,500 Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant along with other donations to purchase 10 tents with mattresses and pillows, 10 jackets, 10 backpacks, 10 blankets and 10 lanterns as well as 259 pairs of socks, toiletries and nonperishable snacks for St. Lucie County Veteran Services. This department helps veterans and their families who are experiencing homelessness. They also assist veterans with obtaining living quarters.
Lodge members pictured Jan. 17 are Linda Geraghty, Linda Kohler, Elizabeth Quinn, Danny Bogan, Vanessa Murtaugh, Pat Ware, Joyce Nicastro and Rose Taynor.
On March 14, several members of Fort Myers Ladies of Elks toured the Hearts and Homes for Veterans facility. Hearts and Homes is a Florida nonprofit corporation created to support veterans and their families who are experiencing homelessness who find themselves without the necessities of everyday life. After the informative tour, Connie Leventhal, Fort Myers Ladies of Elks President, presented David Santini, Director of Hearts and Homes, a check for $350 from the Ladies. The donation came from heart cutouts the Ladies members sold at the lodge throughout February.
Lodge members from the Southeast District participated in National Salute Week at the West Palm Beach VAMC Feb. 17-18. During this event, Elks passed out snacks, poured coffee and distributed information about Florida Elks Charities to the veterans who very much enjoyed themselves.
Pictured in the front row are Ed Morey Jr., District Vice President, and members Bobby Josefsberg and LeRoy Bagley II. Behind them are Sean Maguire, PSP and Frank Sellers, VAVS Representative.
Also pictured are Cindy Eldred, PER, State Veterans Chair, and Michelle Harper, PER.
On Feb. 20, Rotonda Elks Lodge #2710 took part in the annual South Southwest District Army of Hope Picnic hosted at Englewood Elks Lodge. The event had participation from the district lodges between Naples and Englewood. The Army of Hope supports Florida families of active deployed military in need. Lee Hale from Rotonda Lodge introduced the Rotonda West American Legion Post 113 Color Guard for the opening ceremonies. At midday, the event total had reached $19,000. Rotonda Elks cooked and served the donated hamburgers and hot dogs and other lodges served their donated food and desserts as well, with 100% of sales donated to the Army of Hope.
Pictured is the Rotonda West American Legion Color Guard with Rotonda Lodge members Jackie Palumbo; Cathy Redman; Roger Redman, PER; Kathy Dardis; Patricia Lagasse; Ed Lagasse; Tess Barstow; Manfred Friedrich; Kim Friedrich; Chris Dardis; and Annette Dardis. Not pictured because they were setting up are Jean Humphreys, Exalted Ruler; Bob Humpreys, PER; Sherry Toth, Lodge Secretary; Ed Toth, Leading Knight; and members John Blachette, Betty Blachette and Dave Ginther.
Geoff Hopkins, Supervisor of Recreation Therapy & Creative Arts Therapy at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida, provided the Lakeland Elks Lodge Veterans Committee with a dream/wish list of items they wanted to assist them with their therapy and treatment of patients. On Feb. 18, lodge members delivered all the items on their wish list, which filled a trailer and totaled just over $11,100. Hopkins and his staff were speechless. The donations included various craft kits (stained glass, sewing, etc.), wooden 3D puzzles, an engraving machine, a Cricut machine, paint by number pictures, supplies to go with all the crafts, vinyl, paint, wooden squares, paintbrushes, trays, tools, jigsaw puzzles, board games, card games, an iPad rolling floor stand cart, five gooseneck floor stands for iPads, baseballs, mitts, tennis rackets and balls, basketballs, laser tag games, and disc golf. One of the staff members shared, “We are truly dumbfounded that you all gave us (therapists) so many things we can do with, and for, our veterans. We will undoubtedly have wonderful treatment interventions in the future because of your work and generosity.” The lodge purchased these items using funds raised at their November record-breaking fundraising event, which raised just over $22,000 for veterans’ causes.
Pictured in the back left are members Chuck Wolfe, Rob Swann, and Steve Masterton, PER who made the delivery. Geoff Hopkins is pictured in the front right along with some of his staff members.