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.
Winter Garden Elks Lodge members served 120 veterans from the Orlando VA nursing home a Christmas barbecue lunch and delivered a new blanket to each of them. Members also held karaoke for the veterans.
On Dec. 1, West Palm Beach Elks Lodge #1352 used an Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant to host a Christmas dinner for veterans and their families at no cost to them. Hosted by Mary Sassone and Tim Hadsell, this event was attended by 90 veterans and family members. Pictured are veterans who are blind from the VA Hospital of Palm Beach.
Jupiter Lodge donated $1,000 to Wreaths Across America to honor fallen heroes. On Dec. 15, lodge members and the lodge charters, Boy Scout Troop 109 and Cub Scout Pack 157, assisted in placing the wreaths on veterans’ graves in Lake Worth, Fla., at the South Florida National Cemetery. Pictured are Chris Grudinsky Sr., Eric Brotemarkle, Jessica Halsey, and Nick Delose. Bottom row: Sam Brotemarkle, Gabriel Delose, Jacob Halsey, Taylor Greer, Chris Grudinsky Jr., Lucas Malak and Aidan Delose.
Jupiter Elks Lodge #2469 hosted several veterans including some disabled veterans who were bused in from the local VA for an annual Thanksgiving dinner, and the event would not have been possible without the support of the local scouts. Veterans received a handmade quilt from a local quilt group. In addition, the lodge participated in the first Lake Park veterans parade.
Tallahassee Elks Lodge #937 held a Veterans Day program with guest speaker, Skye Musson, a Coast Guard veteran, followed by a meal. Chuck Mohr coordinated an effort to provide gently used coats to local veterans in need which were distributed in December before Christmas.
The annual veterans banquet at Perry Elks Lodge #1851 Nov. 4 was well attended. Food was provided without charge to veterans and a brief program was included. The lodge also conducts an annual veterans program at Veterans Park downtown as part of the Taylor County veterans program.