Pam Croy has been doing pet sharing with her dogs for more than 20 years. She has been sharing at the Gainesville VA hospital’s community living center, their psych ward and at one of their halfway houses for the past 10 years. Pet sharing has many benefits, especially for veterans suffering from PTSD. The following is written by Croy and occurred at the psych ward with her Great Pyrenees dog, Baloo.
The sign on the door stated "group room – welcome." I opened the door to darkness, no lighting at all. Then a small figure moved over in the corner of the room. She stood up and came our way, 110 lbs. soaking wet, a cap of soft gray-black curls. She moved with the grace of a cat. She walked to within 10 feet of us, stopped, went back and sat down, then she got up again, and came all the way up to Baloo. She gave him a small pet, then walked away. We told her goodbye and left, walking on down the hallway. We noticed that we were being followed by this same woman. A tiny voice asked, "May I tell Baloo goodbye?"
She walked up, the obedience exercise of catching the dog's eye and repeating, “ME! ME! ME!” as you tap your nose, was her first action. Then she reached over and ran her hands along the dog's body, a dog handler or a dog judge perhaps at one time. Then she hesitated, stepped back and stood there for a moment. She then kneeled, threw both arms around the dog and held on. Baloo froze in place as he had been taught. She did this three times. Then she started to walk off, turned back, and threw her arms around the dog one last time. The lady then got up and walked back to her room, never looking back.
What emotions did she transmit to my dog? What was she thinking? Did Baloo give her a sense of peace? Baloo was exhausted when we left and slept all the way home!
On Feb. 15, Englewood Elks Lodge #2378 hosted a luncheon for veterans from four community nursing facilities and all area veterans. A total of 81 veterans and helpers were present. The veterans thoroughly enjoyed the outing which was organized by Paul Colicci, Veterans chairman.
Brandon Elks Lodge #2383 adopted Liberty Manor as their official adopt-a-vet program four years ago under the guidance of PER George R. Scribner, trustee. Liberty Manor is a nonprofit organization founded by Connie Lindsay to fill the much-needed void in housing and caring for homeless veterans.
Through the years, the housed homeless veterans of Liberty Manor have been honored guests of Brandon Lodge’s monthly Wednesday veterans’ dinners as well as picnics and other special events. In addition, the lodge also assists homeless veterans with monetary donations. At the lodge dinner Jan. 23, Liberty Manor was handed a $1,000 donation to assist them in caring for the veterans. This donation was made possible by the Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant.
Presenting Brandon Lodge’s Freedom Grant at the Jan. 23 Brandon Lodge veterans dinner to Connie Lindsay, founder and CEO of Liberty Manor, and her husband, David, are George Scribner, 2017-2018 District Vice President and State Veterans Chairman, and Bob Booker, Lodge Veterans Chairman.
In conjunction with the Dolphin Research Center (DRC), Marathon Elks Lodge #2139 prepared and fed over 50 veterans and staff from the Wounded Warriors project and DRC. The DRC provided their grounds for the day's events where the veterans participated in teambuilding exercises as well as fun with the dolphins. The lodge used its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to purchase the supplies and food for the luncheons they host about six times a year.
Pictured are Wounded Warriors veterans and staff, DRC staff and Marathon Elks after the day’s events at the Dolphin Research Center.
Zephyrhills Elks Lodge #2731 donated a 65’’ television for the residents’ activity room at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital domiciliary. Coffee was provided as well. These gifts were purchased using funds from lodge 50/50 raffles and generous members. Pictured at the presentation are Roy Leonard, RN, nurse manager; Judy Osgood, Elks National Foundation chairman; Alexandria Novognodsky, clinical coordinator; and Ken Fabiani, Exalted Ruler.
New Port Richey Elks Lodge #2284 participated in the Wreaths Across America program Dec. 15. In coordination with American Legion Post #79, lodge officers participated in a program honoring all branches of the military, and members placed Christmas wreaths on the graves of over 600 veterans at Pine Hill and Meadowlawn cemeteries.
On Dec. 23, St. Petersburg Lodge volunteers shared Christmas joy with Heaven on Earth for Veterans (HOEV), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in March 2013 which provides quality living, low-cost, safe living spaces for veterans in need. One of the founders is Esquire, retired Army Colonel Carol Barkalow. Volunteers put together 27 veterans’ essentials kits for HOEV residents. Donations were collected from family, friends and lodge members to average $15 per veteran. Essentials collected were shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shaving cream, razors, deodorant and snacks. Publix donated reusable shopping bags. HOEV board member Ian O’Connell picked up the kits from the lodge and was thrilled to also pick up Christmas food boxes for HOEV’s eight veteran homes. The $20 Publix gift cards which were included in the Christmas food baskets were immediately used for meat purchases so the veterans would receive their complete Christmas dinner.
Arcadia Elks Lodge #1524 partnered with Operation Outdoor Freedom (OOF), a program under the Forestry Department, to provide a special dinner at their recent hunt at the Peace River site. This opportunity was funded by an Elks National Foundation grant. OOF provides recreational opportunities to wounded veterans. Areas of Florida state forests dedicated to this effort are fully equipped to accommodate the needs of wounded veterans, providing a unique opportunity for recreation and rehabilitation. This is the second time the lodge has partnered with OOF; last year, the grant provided not only a great evening and meal but a beautiful table and chairs for their gathering place. Arcadia Lodge is also planning another event for 2019.
Pictured at the Arcadia Lodge and Operation Outdoor Freedom event are Mike Porter of OOF, Mary Kay Burns, Ken Katter of OOF, PSP Brian Burns, Nancy Higginbotham and Rodney Morgan.
On Nov. 13, Tom Sweeney, Chairman of the Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Lodge Veterans Committee, presented a check for $5,000 to Homes for our Troops for the build project of Army Specialist Michael Monthervil. The funds were raised at a Hawaiian luau held at the lodge. Over 200 people attended and heard from Monthervil how greatly their support is appreciated. His home will be built in Wimauma and will be specially adapted to meet his specific needs. He was injured in Afghanistan and lost the use of his legs and dexterity of his hands. He has limited movement where he is living now and is looking forward to regaining some of the independence he had before his injury.
Deb Kehoe, Homes for our Troops core ambassador, accepts a donation of $5,000 from Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Lodge presented by Veterans Chairman, Tom Sweeney, and Kathi Skelton.
On Dec. 16, a group of elves and helpers from Brandon Elks Lodge #2383 arrived at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital spinal cord injury unit bearing gifts. The Brandon Ladies of Elks and lodge members put together 100 gift bags with mugs, socks, candy, gift cards, pens, pads, Rubik’s cubes and ballcaps. They also took the time to visit with the veterans.
Winter Park Lodge donated $4,000 to the Elks National Veterans Service Committee (ENVSC). Just in time for Christmas, ENVSC representative, PER Ron Goluba, purchased and delivered items requested by the Lake Baldwin and Lake Nona veterans living centers, hospitals and domiciliaries. Items included all new clothing, sweat suits, hooded jackets, socks, under garments, tennis shoes, flannel shirts, t-shirts, canned vegetables, microwavable meals, cereals, cake and pancake mixes, juice packs, a large variety of hygiene items, adult coloring books, markers, and personal journals.
Winter Park Elks and Does supported Wreaths Across America in the Orlando-owned Greenwood Cemetery with Mayor, Buddy Dyer; Commissioner, Patty Sheehan; an Orlando Fire Department color guard; military service representatives; and Channel 9 News as they placed wreaths and read the veterans’ names. Pictured are lodge members John and Lisa Rankin carrying wreaths.