On Sept. 3, Bradenton Lodge made a $500 donation to Operation Outdoor Freedom in Arcadia, Florida. The funds were raised through various Lodge Veterans Committee events this lodge year. Operation Outdoor Freedom is supported by the Florida Agriculture Commission and administered by the Florida Forest Service. The organization provides recreational and rehabilitative opportunities for wounded veterans on state forest, agricultural and private lands throughout the state at no cost. Pictured are Mike Porter, director and manager of the Arcadia property, and Bill Rauh, Lodge Veterans Committee Chair.
The members of the Tampa Elks Lodge Veterans Committee chaired by Patty Jankiewicz were frustrated that they could no longer visit the VA or have any veterans from VA centers come enjoy dinner at the Lodge. Jankiewicz contacted the recreation director at the James A. Haley Domiciliary, Ryan Nitzsche, and asked about sending a meal to them instead. Nitzsche was instantly on board, as the COVID restrictions made life in “the dom” pretty bleak and the veterans had not been able to feel the support they usually receive from the community. The committee hired Courtney’s Custom Catering, owned by member Courtney Weil, PER, to cater the meal. Each of the 15 veterans were asked to select the meat, sides, desserts, and drink choices they wished to order. On Aug. 20, Weil delivered the food to the parking lot which was as close as she was allowed to get. But she did not just drop off 15 meals — she delivered 15 servings of everything! There were 15 servings of baby back ribs, beef brisket, pulled chicken, bacon green beans, fried okra, baked macaroni and cheese, baked beans, cornbread, peach cobbler, blackberry cobbler, and bread pudding along with plenty of lemonade and iced tea! Nitzsche said the veterans had quite a party and the leftovers were enjoyed all weekend. The bill the committee received for all that food was only $375, $25 per person. Pictured is some of the food that was delivered — brisket, baked macaroni and cheese, and peach and blueberry cobblers.
On Aug. 21, Bradenton Elks Lodge #1511 donated $500 to Manatee Operation Troop Support (MOTS) which serves military members and their families in Florida’s Manatee and Sarasota counties before, during and after deployment. The donation was from various Veterans Committee funraising events. MOTS receives hundreds of requests each month for items such as food proteins, sweets, fans, clothing, electronics or anything that is not available to service members locally and around the world. They also supply items such as gift cards and vouchers. MOTS is funded completely by donations and volunteers, and they also conduct drawings and similar fundraising events. MOTS was organized in 2008 and certified and recognized in 2009. Pictured are Bill Rauh, Lodge Veterans Chair, and Linda Craig, director of Manatee Operation Troop Support.
On Aug. 25, St. Petersburg Lodge member Penny Rase delivered an additional 100 washable and reusable non-medical face masks made of 100% double-sided cotton to C. W. Bill Young VA Medical Center located in Bay Pines, Florida. The masks were made for the veterans in need who pass through the Elks office located on the grounds of the VAMC. Rase has made and delivered 300 masks to Bay Pines veterans facing needs. Each mask takes approximately 30 minutes to make. Pictured are Rase; Nathan Witt, Chief of Voluntary Services at Bay Pines; and Johnny Miller, Grand Lodge VAVS Representative to Bay Pines and lodge member.
On Aug. 12, Manasota Elks Lodge #2734 presented much-needed housewares (sheets, towels, dishes, pots and pans, and microwaves) to Manatee Veterans Village in Bradenton, Florida. This was made possible using their Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant. The Manatee Veterans Village program provides clinical treatment, transitional housing and case management services to homeless veterans. It helps the residents transition to independent living and allows a maximum of two years to achieve the transition. The lodge has supported this cause for three years in various capacities. Pictured with three veterans are lodge members Diane Davis; Doris Waddell, PDD; Jan “Spike” Klocke; Jim Klocke, Veterans Chair; Greg Louch and Chris Louch.
Markie Sandusky, an active-duty member of the U.S. Coast Guard, gets a hug from Stormy the Dolphin at Theater of the Sea in the Florida Keys Aug. 8. Florida Keys Elks Lodge #1872 sponsored E-4 Sandusky with their Vets on the Water program.
On Aug. 11, St. Petersburg Lodge donated 34 twin-size and 48 full-size top-rated, high-quality mattress covers to be distributed to veterans living in homes that are part of Heaven on Earth for Veterans (HOEV) run by co-founder Carol Barkalow, Lodge Esquire. HOEV provides high-quality, low-cost living space for veterans in need. The mattress covers will help keep the mattresses at the HOEV homes looking like new for years and will help protect the mattresses from issues such as bed bugs and bacteria. Dan Masi, Leading Knight, worked with Chris Renfrow, founder of Charity Works, who helped attain the total lower price of $2,612.16 from vendors for the mattress covers. Pictured are Doc Cook, Exalted Ruler, along with Masi, Renfrow and Barkalow picking up the mattress covers at the lodge.
On July 29, representatives from Fort Myers Elks Lodge #1288 presented two of its Elks National Foundation grants (the Promise Grant of $2,500 and the Spotlight Grant of $2,000) to Donald Payton, president of Hearts and Homes for Veterans. The purpose of Hearts and Homes for Veterans is to support homeless veterans without the necessities of everyday life. This money will be used to purchase food and domestic items for the veterans and their families. This past year, the organization helped 109 veterans transition into homes by providing them with basic items such as bedding, furniture, appliances, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products. Pictured are David Lake, PSP; Payton; and Roger Spencer, Exalted Ruler.
Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Elks Lodge #2855 awarded $2,000 from its Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant to Turning Points in Bradenton, Florida. This organization assists veterans from all branches as they transition into civilian life, providing food, clothing, housing, childcare and transportation. Lodge Veterans Committee Chair, Tom Sweeney, presented the check to Edwin Robinson, program director, July 30.
The first week of July was very busy for St. Petersburg Elks Lodge member Penny Rase. She made and donated an additional 180 face masks for veterans at Bay Pines VAMC. Her friends from The American Legion Riders Post 273 helped her make the masks so she could keep up with the demand. The American Legion Riders formed to promote the aims and purposes of The American Legion as a family-oriented motorcycling activity for members of The American Legion. The Riders promote and support programs of The American Legion and they support local charities of their community. Pictured July 8 is Rase showing the masks sewn for veterans at Bay Pines VAMC; the masks were delivered the same day.
On July 7, Johnny Miller, Grand Lodge VAVS Representative for Bay Pines, delivered 51 oral/axillary thermometers to Bay Pines VAMC in Florida. The cost of the thermometers was $230, and the money was provided by the Elks Grand Lodge to assist veterans during the COVID-19 crisis. The thermometers were donated to the radiation oncology clinic at Bay Pines. The clinic provides outpatient treatments for prostate, breast, head/neck, and lung cancers and tumors. The thermometers will be issued to cancer outpatients to give them the opportunity to check their own temperature before driving to Bay Pines for their treatment. If the outpatient has a fever, they can call their oncologist immediately and they will determine if the patient should go to an emergency room or to the doctor’s office. It took countless hours of phone calls and internet research for Miller to obtain the thermometers at discounted prices. The thermometers are easy to use and have large displays for easy-to-read temperature measurements within 20 seconds. Pictured are Cathy Cruise, RN manager of the radiation oncology clinic, and Miller.
On July 7, Inverness Elks Lodge #2522 donated its $2,500 Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant to the Citrus County Veterans Coalition. The funds will be used to support the veterans’ food bank in Hernando, Florida. Pictured (left and center) at the Veterans Coalition Food Bank accepting the check are Bob Bendle, Treasurer, and Richard Floyd, Chair. Richard Grosnick, Exalted Ruler, presents the donation. Citrus County has one of the highest percentages of veterans living in Florida. The Citrus County Veterans Coalition is a nonprofit volunteer group of veterans that aids veterans in need of help along with their families. They recently moved into their new food bank location.