On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 65 veterans at Venice Gardens, an assisted living facility in Venice, Florida, received a visit from Mary Vinsh, Exalted Ruler of Venice-Nokomis Elks Lodge #1854. Vinsh read a patriotic poem she wrote titled “I Wear the Red” and signed the song “God Bless the USA” in American Sign Language at the end of the event. Pictured with Vinsh is veteran Irving Lyons who was turning 100 years old the following week.
Lakeland Elks Lodge #1291 used its Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant to help patients at the James A. Haley VA Hospital and veterans who are experiencing homelessness who are assisted through a hospital program. The lodge donated numerous toiletries, hygiene products and blankets as well as 46 T-shirts, 75 undershirts, 31 pairs of shoes, 37 pairs of pants, 171 pairs of underwear and 174 pairs of socks. They also provided the homeless veteran program with 50 weatherproof draw-string backpacks that were filled with a blanket, rain poncho, cleansing cloths, toothpaste, toothbrush and toothbrush holder, soap, deodorant, and socks. Members also sent signed cards and notes to the hospital for delivery to the inpatient veterans to show that Elks care and are always thinking of them. Everything was delivered to a hospital representative Oct. 16 by members Steve Masterton, PER (left) and John McArthur (right). Also pictured are members who packed the backpacks — Alice Murray; Char Fisher, Veterans Committee Chair; Vickie Crosby, member spouse; Christy Frady; and Sandy Fuschetti.
On Oct. 16, a home health care nurse called a St. Petersburg Lodge member about a Vietnam veteran whose power was disconnected Oct. 10 for nonpayment. After a few phone calls that same day, Doc Cook, Exalted Ruler, went to veteran Chester Hill’s home and presented him with a $180 check from the lodge so that his electricity could be turned back on that same day. Pictured are Cook and Hill.
On Oct. 15, St. Petersburg Lodge used $1,500 from its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to help C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center. They purchased 75 $10 debit cards to be distributed to veterans to purchase items they may need from the onsite canteen/PX. Another $750 was used to purchase grocery gift cards to Walmart for the purchase of food pantry items. The VAMC uses these donated gifts for veterans staying at their various facilities in Bay Pines, Florida. Accepting the donation of cards at the lodge is Nathan Witt, Chief of VA Voluntary Service at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, and Johnny Miller, VAVS representative and lodge member.
On Oct. 6, P.E.S.T. Relief International donated 16 backpacks with hygiene kits to St. Petersburg Elks Lodge #1224. The lodge in turn donated them to C.W. Bill Young Veterans Hospital to issue to veterans who are homeless. P.E.S.T. Relief International is comprised of professionals in the pest management industry that have come together to bring comfort and relief to the veterans experiencing homelessness through safe shelter, nutrition, education, and physical and emotional health. The backpacks not only contained all the essentials for good hygiene such as soap, deodorant, shaving cream and razors, toothpaste and toothbrush, and socks, they also contained nutritional health bars and a face mask. The total value of the 16 backpacks was $800. Pictured are April Dennis Currie, VA volunteer, and Frank Jones, Assistant Chief of Voluntary Services.
Winter Park Elks Lodge #1830 planned to use the Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to support a bicycle repair program for homeless veterans. However, the pandemic reduced the opportunity to get used bicycles needing repair, so instead, the Elks National Foundation staff was quite willing to approve a donation for the Fisher House in Lake Nona. The $3,500 was donated Sept. 7 for gift cards to be used by the Fisher House manager, Teresa Turner, and her assistant, Cynthia Phillips-Lewis, to buy food and other items at Publix or Target stores needed at the Fisher House. The Fisher House is a place where families of military members and veterans can stay while their family member is treated at the Orlando VA Medical Center. Fisher House is located on site. As usual, thank you letters were sent to the lodge.
On Sept. 12, Winter Park Lodge used its Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant to provide for veterans who are homeless and receive care at the Baldwin Park and Lake Nona VAMCs. The lodge used the $2,000 to buy gift cards so the veterans could obtain necessities which Adaline Sowell, director, and Fred Holmes, volunteer, purchased at Walmart and Target.
West Palm Beach Elks Lodge #1352 donated its $5,000 Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to the garden project that members and volunteers have grown at the lodge for years to feed community veterans who are homeless and hungry. Approximately 15 to 20 members volunteer with the garden as well as Boy Scout Troop 199 and a lot of volunteers from schools that the lodge helps. Veterans know about the garden through word of mouth since the project has been in existence for years. They receive the produce by delivery; Arturo Wittman does most of the deliveries. Pictured Sept. 22 are Arturo Wittman, member; Linda Wittman, volunteer and Arturo’s sister; and Tim Hadsell, member and garden leader. He used this grant for this garden and two others.
Plant City Elks Lodge members Judy Wise, Lodge and District Veterans Chair, and JD Martin, one of the lodge’s newest members, made it possible for Liberty Manor to get a new driveway in late August. The mission of Liberty Manor for Veterans Inc. is to promote the developmental and social needs of disabled and honorably discharged veterans who have fallen victim to homelessness providing transitional supported housing and establishing objectives designed to attribute to self-sufficiency. For years, the veterans living at Liberty Manor have struggled with a broken terrain for a driveway, and many veterans who are disabled have fallen. Connie Lindsay, founder of Liberty Manor, contacted Wise, and Wise shared the issue with the lodge members at a meeting. Martin is a supervisor with a contractor and volunteered to garner a donation from Old Castle Pavers, a brick and paver company in Tampa, Florida. Old Castle Pavers delivered the pavers and the job was completed by David Lindsay, Connie Lindsay’s husband, and some of the residents. Castle Coastal was so impressed with Liberty Manor that they are on board with future projects. Pictured are George Marquis of Old Castle Pavers and David Lindsay, VP of Liberty Manor for Veterans.
Port Orange Elks Lodge #2723 celebrates monthly birthdays at Emory L. Bennett Memorial Veterans Nursing Home in Daytona Beach, Florida. Veterans look forward to and enjoy cake, ice cream and soda every month. Pictured Sept. 25 are Dan Theodore, PER; Jerry Peterson, PER, VAMC representative; Frank Kuczkowski, PER; and Calvin Tanck, therapy aide supervisor of the facility.
Using $800 from the lodge’s veterans fund which was donated by a member, the West Citrus Elks Lodge #2693 Veterans Committee provided flags with standards for each of the eight assisted living facilities which they support in Citrus County, Florida. Pictured Sept. 9 are Becky Jones, Mike Vaughn, Frank Hayes, Joanne Hepner, Edna Piermann, Donna Hayes, Dave Kaczanowski, Orlan Hayes, Bill Shay, Jim Ducey, Dick Harper, Jill Jeroski, Ron Powell, Dan Nichols, Rick Jeroski.
Merritt Island Lodge received the Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant and used $1,200 of its $2,000 to stock a food pantry at the Volunteers of America (VOA) in Cocoa, Florida, that provides for veterans. Kermit Forbes, PER stocked the pantry Aug. 5 and Aug. 28. The lodge plans to continue with this endeavor. Pictured are John Walsh, VOA; Forbes; and a summer college intern at VOA whose name was not available.
On Sept. 19, Oakland Park Elks Lodge #2407 used its $2,500 Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant to help local veterans through the Vietnam Veterans of America, an organization that supports veterans with a focus on homelessness. The lodge supported the survival bags project by providing more than 30 bags and supplies. These bags are distributed to male and female veterans who are experiencing homelessness. The bags consisted of a string backpack, two water bottles, a Mylar survival blanket, deodorant, sunscreen, toothpaste, a toothbrush, a mini bar of soap, mini shampoo, mini conditioner, mini body wash, a package of pocket-sized Kleenex, socks, BAND-AIDS, a VA crisis line emergency card, granola bars, trail mix bars, Welch’s Fruit Snacks, and a package of cheddar cheese crackers. A hairbrush and feminine hygiene products were also included for women.