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Florida Elks News Editor:
Rachael King
Entire contents copyright 2023 by the
Florida State Elks Association Inc.
P.O. Box 49
Umatilla, FL 32784-0049

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948 ptsd

Miami Lodge coordinated with Irvin Flores, administrator at the VA PTSD Centers, and used Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant funds to donate gift cards to the centers. Pictured Nov. 14 are lodge members Jennene Ricard; Sharon Weiss; and Bill Bang, Exalted Ruler.


The Palms

On Dec. 14, Sebring Elks Lodge #1529 invited veterans from local nursing homes The Palms and St. Camillus Post-Acute and Rehabilitation Center and veteran members to the lodge for a Christmas luncheon. The kitchen staff provided a traditional meal with turkey and side dishes as well as dessert. Patrick Sullivan dressed as Santa talked to veterans and gave out gifts, and Brenda Richards and Gwen Clark were the hostesses. Buddy Richards provided the music, designating all the military branches. Including family, friends, veterans and their caregivers, there were 21 guests in attendance. 

Pictured with Santa are guests from The Palms.


708 vets

On Nov. 19, Tampa Lodge hosted Pastor Tom (back left, standing) and veterans from New Beginnings, a housing and rehab facility in Tampa, Florida, for veterans experiencing homelessness. Funds from the Lodge Veterans Committee paid for the meals. Pictured with the veterans are Debbie Brennon (front left), committee secretary; José Remon (back center, standing), committee chair; and Evelyn Hemingway, committee member.


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On Nov. 22, Gainesville Lodge hosted several veterans and their social workers for an appreciation luncheon. The veterans received Welcome Home kits, which are intended to serve veterans who are exiting homelessness and entering permanent housing. The kits included linens and bedding items, dishes, pots, pans, towels, toiletries, cleaning supplies, laundry baskets and detergent, mops, brooms, dustpans, and a wide variety of other items. Seven veterans were chosen by their social workers to participate in the program and provided the lodge with specific wish lists to meet their immediate needs. Requests ranged from dishes and silverware, shower curtains, and washcloths to chairs, couches and beds. The lodge worked with local furniture company Walker Furniture, who donated several pieces of furniture for the veterans, and additional items were donated by lodge members. The lodge also utilized the Elks National Veterans Service Commission Welcome Home Kits program. All items were delivered to the veterans at their new homes by Elks volunteers. The veterans were extremely grateful, but the Elks were more grateful for their service. The event was featured on a local news channel.

Pictured are a social worker whose name was unavailable, veteran Peter Jones, veteran Lisette Orelleno Rolon, social workers Susanne Fischer-Martinez and Sue Lassin, veteran Dean Herman, and Elks Lynne Meyers and Linda Califf. Also pictured is a selection of items for the veterans.


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On Nov. 28, Sanford Elks Lodge #1241 hosted a Spaghetti for Soldiers fundraiser to benefit the Army of Hope, the Florida Elks project that assists active-duty military members and veterans and their families. The event was open to the public and had a great turnout. In total, the lodge raised $1,321.

Pictured are lodge members enjoying the homemade spaghetti.


708 poppy pic

For the last several years, Tampa Elks Lodge member Shelagh Gombarcik, PER has partnered with Pat Pastore, the Poppy Chair from American Legion Auxiliary Unit 139. The auxiliary provides perfume baskets to use in the fundraising. Anyone who donated to the Poppy Fund received their poppy as well as a raffle ticket for the perfume baskets. The drawing took place Veterans Day; Tracy Horrell, PER and House Committee member Kim Benzing won the baskets. This year, Gombarcik raised $735 for the American Legion Poppy Fund. By Legion rules, this fund is only for veterans, active-duty military members and their families.

Pictured are Jacquie LoCicero, Tampa Ladies of the Elks President; Shelagh Gombarcik, PER; Pat Pastore, Poppy Chair; and Dee Wilson, American Legion Unit 139 President. 


2855 home

The Veterans Committee of Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Lodge hosted a dinner and cabaret show Oct. 22 to raise funds for Homes for Troops. The event raised $5,400 and will help build a home for a wounded veteran.

Pictured is Deb Kehoe, event organizer, holding a picture of Chad Rozanski, one of the past veteran recipients of a home.


2855 don

On Nov. 25, Tom Sweeney, Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Lodge Veterans Committee Chair, presented a $2,000 from the Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant to Andy Guyre, Director of Veteran Services at Turning Points. The money will be used for basic needs of the 20 veterans living in the facility.


Members of the Sebastian Lodge Veterans Services Committee provided their monthly dinner and birthday cake for residents at the Veterans' Transitional Facility Oct. 15. They also invited four veterans to the dinner who had recently transitioned into a place of their own who had received welcome home kits from them. Christmas wish lists were discussed with these veterans for the lodge’s giving tree.



New Port Richey Elks Lodge #2284 provided a meal for 18 veterans at no charge to them on Veterans Day and in honor of the Elks Veterans Remembrance Month. In addition, each veteran received a star from a retired U.S. flag thanking them for their service and a copy of the Veteran’s Creed.

Pictured are Navy veterans Larry Culbertson and Lisa Doak with Marge Smith, Loyal Knight and Elks VAVS Representative.


1795 stand

Fort Walton Elks Lodge #1795 utilized the Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant of $1,000 Nov. 2 to provide underwear clothing to female and male veterans at the 2022 Okaloosa County Veteran Stand Down in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. This was the first Stand Down in two years due to the COVID crisis. The community came out in strong support of veterans experiencing homelessness in the community. Veterans in need could get anything from medical and dental screenings to clothing and cold weather gear at these events. Okaloosa County Judge Angela Mason and public defenders were also in attendance to help resolve minor legal issues. Numerous representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies were present to provide housing and benefits assistance to veterans. The Fort Walton Lodge leadership demonstrates that Elks get involved and Elks do what is needed.

Pictured are Michael “Taz” WrightReynolds, PER, Exalted Ruler; Mark Wynn, Inner Guard; Kevin Clemons, PDD, Northwest District Leader; Blake Humphries, member; Paul Eubanks, PER, board chair; and Tom McLaughlin, Leading Knight.


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Sebastian Elks Lodge #2714 donated $500 Oct. 5 to the Sons of the American Legion (SAL) toward a monument they are having made and will be erecting in the veterans’ area of Riverview Park in Sebastian, Florida. The monument will honor POWs and MIAs. Gary Saracene, a member of the Elks and American Legion, and Dan Talbott, Leading Knight, presented the check to SAL members Bob Kahl and Susan Hill at their October SAL meeting.