On Tuesday, Sept. 18, St. Petersburg Lodge donated the use of its hall to Bay Pines VA Healthcare System to hold their Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center (PRRC) graduation program. Two veterans graduated from the program while 54 guests watched in the audience. There were 46 veterans and a staff member present from Bay Pines VAHS for this special occasion along with seven Elks who attended this event to witness the achievements of these two graduates. PPRC assists veterans who have significant functional impairment such as PTSD and other persistent mental illnesses with developing the skills needed to be successful in living, working, learning or socializing in the community once they are out of the military. Their recovery will be an ongoing journey.
Punta Gorda Elks Lodge held a country and western dance Sunday, Sept. 17, to raise funds to support the Parade of Heroes. Each year for Veterans Day weekend, the lodge sends veterans to Washington, D.C. This year, plans are to send five former service members, including two World War II veterans, for three days. The dance raised $3,712.57.
Each year, West Citrus Elks Lodge #2693 hosts a breakfast for the Arron A. Weaver Chapter 776 Military Order of the Purple Heart. This year, the lodge was proclaimed a Purple Heart lodge. Designation as a Purple Heart entity is reserved for organizations that have exhibited noteworthy patriotic support of our nation's armed forces, its veterans and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Presenting the Purple Heart lodge proclamation and plaque to West Citrus Lodge are Cmdr. Richard Allen (left) and Sergeant at Arms, Rick Allen (right). Accepting the proclamation and plaque are Jean Buck-Newhouse and Joann Hepner, co-chairmen of the Veterans Committee; and Brian Estus, Exalted Ruler.
New member Lisa Celentano arranged the dirty dozen canoe race held at Sebring Lodge’s water’s edge Saturday, Sept. 1. The lodge made money on parking and pulled pork sandwiches. Setup was in full swing by 7:30 a.m. with the first of three races starting at 10 a.m. Lodge members volunteered with parking, cooking, working in the dining room, setup and cleanup, and the ROTC from Sebring High School helped with setup and parking. Vendors attended the event as well, and there was a tent that displayed Elks information. Music was provided by a DJ and the national anthem was sung as PER George Quel presented the flag. Approximately 90 canoeists, both new and experienced, participated. Proceeds were given to Folds of Honor, an organization that provides educational scholarships to the children and spouses of fallen and disabled servicemembers while serving our nation.
Kissimmee Lodge sent volunteers to the National Veterans Wheelchair Games Tuesday, July 31. Pictured are members Cyn Zellner, Bob Barry and Fran Barry who were at the games at the Orange County Convention Center. Cyn Zellner and Fran Barry also volunteered at Gatorland Saturday, Aug. 4. Member Billy DeLuca volunteered Aug. 4 at the Convention Center. According to wheelchairgames.org, the games are sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America. “The games serve veterans with spinal cord injury, Multiple Sclerosis, amputations and other central neurological impairments with the goal to increase their independence, healthy activity, and quality of life through wheelchair sports and recreation. Veterans are being exposed to wheelchair sports at their home VAMC or PVA Chapters as part of their rehabilitation to improve function, independence and getting them active in their home communities in sport and fitness.” Some events included basketball, softball, swimming, cycling and power lifting.
Vero Beach Elks Lodge #1774 held their annual Father’s Day car show! Along with good food and great cars, over $1,100 was raised for Vero Beach veterans.
On July 30, 15 veterans from the VA hospital in Miami visited Florida Keys Elks Lodge #1872 for lunch and bingo as one of their recreational outings. Volunteers from the Elks provided a tasty lunch and prizes for a few games of bingo. The local Girl Scouts gave gifts of sun catchers, thank-you posters and cards which they had made. The veterans also received t-shirts donated by an Elks member.
On July 20, Tampa Elks Lodge #708 hosted 10 veterans for dinner from the James A. Haley VA Domiciliary, a transitional facility for veterans experiencing homelessness. They enjoyed selecting their made-to-order specialty sandwiches from PER Shelagh Gombarcik and Laura Jones and listening to live music from Limestone Cowboy. The veterans were also treated to a free thrift store where they could fill bags of items they could use when they are rehoused. The lodge’s Veterans Committee, chaired by Patricia Jankiewicz, hosted the event.
On June 28, Bradenton Elks Lodge #1511 used another Elks Nation Foundation Gratitude Grant to take 30 veterans from all branches of the military on a four-hour inshore fishing trip. The grant paid for the eight captains and their boats who have discounted their normal fees by at least 50%. Bradenton Elks Lodge paid for sub sandwiches from Publix and beverages through their own fundraising and awarded cash prizes for the largest trout, snook and redfish caught. This is the lodge’s sixth year taking local veterans fishing with help from the Gratitude Grant.
The Veterans Stand Down was held again this year at the Leon County Fairgrounds in April with Tallahassee Elks Lodge #937 providing food for the event. With the assistance of Elks National Foundation grants, lunch was provided both days. Members Ron Brown, Dorothy Brown, MaryAnna Mohr, Sharon Coleman, Don Dobson, Karla Jones, Chuck Mohr and Wayne Harrell were on hand to serve food to the veterans in need.
Jacksonville Elks Lodge #221 in partnership with Community Hospice and Palliative Care donated $1,500 from a 150th Anniversary Grant to Community Hospice and Palliative Care for their veterans’ flags and pins program. A flag of the veteran’s branch of service is placed outside the patient’s room as a last chance to honor and thank a veteran for their service. The veteran is also pinned with a pin from his or her branch of service in a short presentation.
Pictured are Dale Farrow, Manager of Community Programs; Toula Wootan, Director of Community Programs; Dave Hosch, Jacksonville Exalted Ruler; and Dick Maloney, PER at Jacksonville Lodge’s donation presentation to Community Hospice and Palliative Care.
In May, Ocala Elks Lodge #286 participated in "Flags for Fallen Veterans" at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. Even though there was rain in the forecast, their volunteer numbers doubled to 20 from last year, including two children. Many new members got involved as well. On the following Saturday, 17 volunteers returned to pick up the flags which will be dried and stored until next year.