Florida Keys Elks Lodge #1872 hosted 19 VA hospital veterans from Miami for lunch and several games of bingo July 8. The lodge volunteers for the day were Tom Quilter, Linda Sullivan, Pat Ferguson, Angela Sayre, Tracy Fraum, and Lee and Ruth Huenniger (not all are pictured).
Viera Elks Lodge #2817 partners with the VOA/SSVF (Volunteers of America/Supportive Services for Veterans Families) transitional housing program. They team the lodge with the veterans who are in need and who qualify for assistance. When the veteran is ready for permanent housing, the lodge provides the furniture needed to turn the new housing into a home using funds from the Focus Grant. The Focus Grant is funded by the Elks National Veterans Service Commission (ENVSC) and this year was for $10,000. It is specifically designed to address veterans’ homelessness. Since April 1, the lodge has provided 11 veterans with furnishings to complete their transition into permanent housing. In addition, they have provided emergency assistance to eight veterans. This support has included a week’s hotel rental for a veteran who lost his home in a fire, purchasing bicycles for two veterans so they could get to work, purchasing tools for a veteran so he could secure a job and paying for fumigation costs for a single mother with three children. These efforts were all made possible by the Focus Grant. They have also shopped for seven veterans for the Welcome Home Kit program which is also funded through the ENVSC and enables a lodge to take a veteran shopping for necessary household needs who is moving into permanent housing. The maximum per veteran is $300, and the lodge is reimbursed by the ENVSC.
Veteran Greg Kellogg shops for tools using an ENVSC grant provided to Viera Lodge so he can maintain his new apartment.
Elks National Veterans Service Commission (ENVSC) Representative Ron Goluba poses with Walmart employees Daisy, Dorothy and Joemary. They helped Goluba gather items needed by the veterans at Lake Baldwin VA Center and Lake Nona VA Center. A total of $3,000 was given to the ENVSC by Winter Park Elks Lodge #1830 for the purchase of items requested by each center. So many items were requested that it took two days, June 26-27, to shop for both VA centers.
In May, Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Elks Lodge #2855 and its Veterans Committee raised $10,000 for Southeastern Guide Dogs with a fundraiser dance. The fundraiser dollars were matched by the Heroes Council of Southeastern Guide Dogs, bringing the total donation to $20,000. The Heroes Council provides their trained dogs to veterans at no charge. This includes guide dogs, service dogs, facility therapy dogs, emotional support dogs and gold star family dogs. The check presentation was made at the Southeastern Guide Dogs facility in Palmetto, Fla., May 14.
Pictured at the Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Lodge donation presentation to Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto, Fla., May 14 are (back row) members Frank Iannello, Dennis Dobbratz and Tom Sweeney. In the front row are Sean Brown of the Heroes Council of Southeastern Guide Dogs and guide dog, Pella; members Sue Iannello, Ken Latham, Charlotte Madar, Mary Bilkie, and Chuck Stolteben; and Chad Bouton of the Heroes Council of Southeastern Guide Dogs and his guide dog, Andros.
The Crestview Kiwanis Club hosted a Memorial Day ceremony May 27 at Live Oak Cemetery in Crestview, Fla. Crestview Elks Lodge Lecturing Knight, Shirley Johnson, and Exalted Ruler, Steven Piner, laid a wreath along with other community and veterans organizations.
On June 26, Deep Creek Elks Lodge #2763 used part of an Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to take several veterans from the Douglas Jacobson Veterans’ Nursing Home to a Minor League baseball game between the Charlotte Stone Crabs and the Fort Myers Miracle. Lunch was provided along with cold drinks on a hot day. Lodge members PDD Kay Neilley, Karen Rohm, Carol Aitchison, PER Tom McClain, Ken Bacon, Joe Szych and Michael Balunas attended and assisted the veterans with lunch and spent time with them. Local high school student Michael Balunas, who had been a member of the Young Marines, also attended. He spent his time retrieving foul balls which he presented to the veterans. Arrangements were made by Joe Szych, Lodge Veterans Services Chairman.
Zephyrhills Lodge donated household furnishings for Keith Dixon, the sixth veteran the lodge has helped after leaving the domiciliary to start a new life. Members Steve Czerneski, Richard Le Clair and PER Ken Fabiani picked up and delivered a bedroom dresser, sofa, two living room chairs, an office desk, three lamps, coffeemaker, toaster, panini maker, dishes, pots and pans, and other home comforts. The lodge also provided kitchen towels, dishcloths, bath towels, hand towels and washcloths. The best part of the day was when Dixon and his girlfriend saw the 43-inch flat screen television; they had smiles on their faces for ear to ear. A final surprise from the lodge was their donation of a 15-inch laptop so Dixon could continue his studies at home. Tears just filled his eyes with gratitude.
Zephyrhills Lodge members Steve Czerneski and PER Ken Fabiani, Veterans Chairman, deliver household furnishings provided by the lodge to Keith Dixon (center), a veteran moving into his new home after a stay at a domiciliary.
Tallahassee Elks Lodge #937 was an advertiser for and attended the fundraising concert for Honor Flight which flies veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials dedicated to their service. Country singer Billy Dean joined with renowned pianist Marvin Goldstein to entertain folks at the City of Tallahassee's outdoor amphitheater in Cascades Park. While park admission was free, donations were solicited, raising nearly $10,000 to help fund the Honor Flight trip from Tallahassee, Fla., to Washington, D.C., in May.
Tallahassee Lodge again this year participated in the North Florida Veterans Stand Down. Thanks to two Elks National Foundation grants, breakfast and lunch were provided May 17-18 at the local fairgrounds to all veterans in attendance. Lodge members were on hand to serve food, hand out T-shirts and thank veterans for their military service.
Tallahassee Lodge was invited by Lincoln High School Junior Naval Reserve to award a certificate and medal for Americanism to Cadet Petty Officer First Class Ethan Lustria for his achievements in its Naval Reserve program.
Perry Elks Lodge #1851 had the honor of hosting the Combat Marine Warriors for its closing banquet March 9. The local Patriot Guard escorted warriors and guests from Tallahassee for their week of outdoor adventures supported by several charitable organizations, local businesses and several folks who are also members of the lodge. The Patriot Guard also lined the driveway entrance to the lodge with American flags.
Lake City Elks Lodge #893 maintains its support of the Lake City VA domiciliary, continuing to help with golf days on Tuesdays and bowling on the weekends. The lodge veterans’ representative also interacts with the VA hospital in town, visiting patients during their stay.
The Veterans Committee of Punta Gorda Elks Lodge #2606 hosts monthly luncheons at the lodge for residents of Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans Home and serves chicken dinners to veterans residing at Veterans Village, a transitional housing program for homeless veterans in southwest Florida.
Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans Home residents arrive at Punta Gorda Lodge for lunch.
In June, Lake Okeechobee Elks Lodge #2871 hosted the second of four veterans’ Stand Downs. There were 37 veterans who received nonperishables, backpacks with hygiene products, vouchers for perishables, new clothing and laundry services if needed.