Florida Keys Elks Lodge #1872 presented a Purple Heart reserved parking sign to Jupiter Lodge in memory of Dennis Kroll, a member of Key West Elks Lodge #551 and a veteran who had two Purple Hearts. Ruth and Lee Huenniger who are members of Florida Keys Lodge purchased these signs in his honor and donated one to Jupiter Lodge and one to Florida Keys Lodge. Pictured are Lee Huenniger, Bill Jackson, Jupiter Trustee; Dave Vertullo, Jupiter Exalted Ruler; Ruth Huenniger; Donald Shedlock, Jupiter Trustee; and Steve Brancazio, Jupiter Leading Knight.
The Lake City Elks Lodge Veterans Committee chaired by Captain Michael Lydick has been helping residents of the Lake City VA Medical Center and the Robert H. Jenkins Veterans Domiciliary Home for many years. While the facilities provide the necessities, the lodge provides the additional things that help to elevate daily life. Prior to the pandemic, the lodge would also provide outings to football, baseball and hockey games; rodeos; zoos; and truck shows. With the new restrictions, entertainment must now be provided within the facilities. Using lodge funds of about $2,000 and a $5,000 grant obtained by Lydick from the Suwannee Valley Community Foundation, the lodge provided the VAMC and domiciliary a variety of recreational items and materials requested by residents including several arcade games, an Xbox One S game console with multiple controllers and games, and a 65” TV. Craft rooms in both facilities were provided leather crafting supplies and leather hobby kits and plastic model car, boat and airplane kits. Batteries were provided for residents’ personal devices as well. A wide range of personal hygiene products were also provided. Pictured June 24 at the VA hospital entrance since visitors were not allowed inside are Michael Lydick, Lodge and District Veterans Chair; Michael Carey, Assistant Chief of Voluntary Services at the Lake City VA Medical Center; Karie Yates and Ben Givens, hospital employees in the recreation department; and Daniel Crapps with Suwannee Valley Community Foundation.
West St. Lucie Elks Lodge members and a few non-members went to work during the pandemic and made 150 blankets for the new Ardie R. Copas State Veterans’ Home which is set to open later this year in the Port St. Lucie community of Tradition, Florida. Approximately 12 people participated and everyone purchased their own supplies. Others donated money for supplies as well. Pictured June 27 at the lodge are Vanessa Murtague, Betty Quinn, Wayne from United Vets, Rose Taynor and veteran Danny Bogan.
The lodges of the South Southeast District came together to assist U.S. Navy veteran Kenneth Mueller. Mueller, who served on the destroyer USS Conyngham, uses a wheelchair and had difficulty getting in and out of his home. Boca Raton Lodge member John Allsopp met with him and approached the district for help. The lodges in the district – Boca Raton #2166, Delray Beach #1770, Hollywood West #2365, Oakland Park #2407 and Pompano Beach #1898 – pooled resources to fund and build him a ramp. Boca Raton Lodge members John Allsopp and Tim Hallman built and installed the ramp. Mueller thanks the efforts of the lodge members.
On May 8, Elks Riders from Delray Beach Elks Lodge #1770 raised $500 for charity from their curbside pickup dinner. The group paid for the food and cooked some of it as well. The proceeds will go to a veterans’ organization of their choosing but they are waiting until the lodge reopens to make the decision. Pictured are Janelle Antoine; Patrick Keegan; Crystal Cirminiello; Jeff Cirminiello; Chris Aielo, Loyal Knight; and Roger Cope, Leading Knight.
Brandon Elks Lodge #2383 came through once again for the veterans living at Liberty Manor for Veterans in Tampa, Florida. Because there are 18 veterans who reside here, only those who wake up at 6 a.m. were lucky enough to get some ice for the day, or they would have to put some in a bag labeled with their name and store it. Because lodge members cook often for the veterans, they saw the need for an electric ice maker and purchased one for them using $856.95 of their Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant. The ice machine was delivered and Dave Lindsay, husband of founder Connie Lindsay, installed it. The veterans can now access ice any time of day. Pictured May 18 with the new machine are veterans Art Gardiner and David “Wolf” Peacock. 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.”
Viera Elks Lodge #2817 continued their support of local veterans by providing furniture to six veterans – four in March and two in June – transitioning to permanent housing. The program is VOA/SSVF (Volunteers of America/Supportive Services for Veterans Families) Transitional Housing Program. The $600 was from the lodge’s Elks National Foundation Focus Grant. In addition, the lodge spent $933 from its Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant for crockpots and food for another 25 veterans in the same time period. Additionally, the lodge used funds from its Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to further support local veterans by purchasing a mattress June 4 for $200 and providing rental assistance of $325 June 16.
A group of St. Petersburg Lodge volunteers spent all day May 19 beginning to build a wheelchair ramp at a resident’s home at Heaven on Earth for Veterans (HOEV). Old concrete walkways had to be dug up before they could be framed. Dawn Lieber, PER was instrumental in getting this project organized and gathering volunteers to complete the project Memorial Day weekend. The concrete was poured May 25. This project was funded by the lodge’s Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant. Sharon Literski, Loyal Knight, and Al Literski, Lecturing Knight, worked under the direction of Carol Barkalow, HOEV co-founder and Lodge Esquire, along with the assistance of concrete and block mason, Mark Walsh. A successful home accessibility project requires careful planning to be certain that the ramp meets the occupant's needs, complies with local building requirements and is safe for use in all types of weather. Founded in March 2013, Heaven on Earth for Veterans Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, provides quality living spaces for veterans in need.
St. Petersburg Lodge members Wayne Simpson; Al Literski, Lecturing Knight; Gary Stedham; Sharon Literski, Loyal Knight; and Jan Musgrave begin cleaning and marking the ramp area using stakes and string after clearing the area.
Pictured are St. Petersburg Lodge members Jan Musgrave; Gary Stedham; Sharon Literski, Loyal Knight; Al Literski, Lecturing Knight; and Wayne Simpson.
On April 13, Bradenton Lodge donated the $700 remaining balance of the $2,000 Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant to the veterans’ outreach program of Turning Points, a local charitable organization in Bradenton, Florida, that helps those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The lodge used the first $1,300 in support of a Manatee County veterans’ Stand Down event. Pictured with social distancing are Edwin Robinson, veterans’ caseworker, and Mike Eymann, PER.
Bradenton Elks Lodge #1511 donated a new wheelchair to World War II veteran Joe Hennessy after neighbor Joel Radovich contacted the lodge for assistance. The 96-year-old veteran was a member of the 101st Airborne Division and was wounded at the Battle of the Bulge. He and his wife, June, have been married 71 years. When expressing his gratitude, Hennessy said, "Now I'll be able to take my wife out to dinner." The wheelchair was purchased with funds from two sources – a Southwest District Veterans Grant (the district created a $300 grant for each of its seven lodges from the district veterans’ fund to assist them in their veterans’ efforts) and the lodge’s veterans’ star program which is part of the lodge’s Veterans Committee. Members purchase a paper star for $20 for a drawing in which half the proceeds go to the member whose ticket is drawn and the other half funds the Veterans Committee programs. Pictured Feb. 20 with Hennessy are June Hennessy; Bill Rauh, Lodge Veterans Chair; Jack Cantwell, PER; and Radovich.
St. Petersburg Elks Lodge #1224 used their $2,000 Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant to purchase 500 backpacks plus 25 cases of body lotions for veterans who are homeless. The backpacks were originally intended for the Stand Down, but because of the new coronavirus and stay-at-home order, all special events at the VA hospital have been cancelled. So, instead, they are disbursing the backpacks out of the Elks office at Bay Pines VAMC which remains open with a limited number of volunteers to help veterans needing assistance with hygiene products and other personal items. One of these volunteers is member Johnny Miller, Grand Lodge VA representative, who serves two days a week at the VAMC. Pictured April 7 are Nathan Witt, Bay Pines VAMC Chief of Volunteer Services, and Miller.
On March 7, Jupiter Lodge members Susan Aubrey and Alma Foreman deliver a care package to a veteran in need. The package was made possible through the Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant.