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Florida Elks News Editor:
Rachael King
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Florida State Elks Association Inc.
P.O. Box 49
Umatilla, FL 32784-0049

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On Nov. 11, Miami Elks Lodge #948 and South Miami/Coral Gables Elks Lodge #1676 hosted a Veterans Day community picnic to raise funds for area veterans and the Florida State Elks Association Army of Hope. More than 100 guests attended. Volunteers from both lodges planned, prepared, recruited entertainers, and cooked and served hamburgers and hot dogs, macaroni salad, cole slaw, chips, and soft drinks. Other members collected donations, made presentations and provided demonstrations. A  missing-man table was on display. Boy Scout Troop 362 acted as honor guard. Attendees were entertained with tai chi and yoga lessons, line dancing lessons, a fencing demonstration, magic shows and continuous music. They also learned how to apply a tourniquet and basic CPR courtesy of Florida International University under the direction of Dr. Jefry Biehler. The Coast Guard Auxiliary was also on hand as well as Century 21 representative Mariela Pritikin who talked about their veterans’ and first responders’ mortgage incentive program. There was also a soccer crossbar challenge and a frisbee toss contest courtesy of Bird Road Subaru. The South Florida Jewelry Guild provided demonstrations on various jewelry-making techniques. The event raised more than $2,000 for veterans programs.


1892 Reeger

On Dec. 11, Green Cove Springs Lodge held a Christmas luncheon for veterans. The luncheon began with a short program which included a special presentation on how K9s for Warriors matches service dogs with veterans who need one. Then the K9s for Warriors volunteer coordinator, Elizabeth Reeger, was presented with a check for $2,000 which was made possible by an Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant. The presentation was followed by a roasted turkey lunch with sides and homemade desserts. Member Jean Maddox coordinated the meal and started cooking turkeys at 3:45 a.m. Her 15 volunteers served 91 people including 64 veterans. Member Dorothy Wood coordinated the dozens of homemade desserts for the event.

K9s for Warriors volunteer coordinator, Elizabeth Reeger, receives $2,000 Green Cove Springs Lodge presented by Veterans Representative, PER Richard Kunze, and grant coordinator, PER Gene Rittenhouse.


1892 wreaths

Green Cove Springs Elks Lodge #1892 raised $6,000 throughout the year which came from fundraisers including their Christmas-in-July dock party. The lodge’s PER charity bingo donated $1,000, making the lodge the largest donor in Florida.

Wreaths Across America representatives A.J. and Mike Smith accept a $7,000 donation from Green Cove Springs Lodge presented by Exalted Ruler, Lucie Barnette; Amien Joseph, PER; and Rick Kunze, PER, VAVS representative.


2159 AOH

The West Central District Army of Hope fundraiser which included a Chinese auction and games was held at Largo Lodge Oct. 21. The Army of Hope’s mission is to provide assistance to the families of deceased, disabled and deployed members of the military. Volunteers and scouts turned out in droves and eight district lodges participated. Among the attendees were Frank Palladini, PSP; Carl Seibert, COO/State Secretary; Theresa Matthews, DDGER; Anthony Fratello, DVP; and Ron Locke, Army of Hope State Chairman.


2159 liberty

Largo Elks Lodge #2159 received the Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant to paint the interior of Liberty Manor, a home for veterans in Largo, Fla. Members of the lodge Veterans Committee took the lead on this project that took four 10-hour days, Oct. 29 through Nov. 1, to complete. The second part of the grant will be used to construct/purchase and set up a yard storage shed in the back yard to protect their bikes, etc.

David Lindsay, PDD Jeanne Reinhart, Bob Beach, Ed Cabana, JeMarcus Sapp and Connie Lindsay were part of the paint team.


On Oct. 20, Gainesville Elks Lodge #990 partnered with the Gainesville Garden Club and the Gold Star Mothers of Gainesville to provide a Gold Star memorial marker at the entrance of the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center. The Gold Star memorial marker came from the custom of families of servicemen hanging a banner called a service flag in the window of their homes. The service flag had a star for each family member in the United Stated Armed Forces. Living servicemen were represented by a blue star and those who had lost their lives were represented by a gold star. The marker was placed for the Gainesville-area service men and women who paid such a price. Gainesville Lodge helped support the marker placement by donating $500.


wreath Carol 12 15 002

On Dec. 15, the rain fell at Bay Pines National Cemetery in St. Petersburg, Fla., as hundreds of volunteers took part in the annual holiday wreath-laying tribute to those who served and died in America’s wars known as Wreaths Across America. Volunteers filtered quietly through the cemetery to place a handcrafted balsam wreath with a red velvet bow atop the tombstones of veterans. St. Petersburg Lodge Esquire, retired Army Colonel Carol Barkalow, participated in the day’s ceremonies and had the honor of laying the ceremonial wreath for the Army.


During fall 2018, Ocala Elks Exalted Ruler, Mike Miller, and Veterans chairman, Pam Kinard,  set a goal to buy 100 wreaths for Wreaths Across America. On Dec. 15, lodge members more than doubled their goal and placed over 200 wreaths at the national cemetery in Bushnell, Fla.


286 xmas vets

Ocala Elks Lodge #286 hosted a Christmas party for veterans receiving services from the local agency, Vets Helping Vets. Each veteran received presents and a traditional Christmas dinner. Lodge members made desserts for them to take home and enjoy. One lucky veteran won the large stocking full of Christmas cheer.


2650 Thanksgiving1

Every year since 1994, Merritt Island Elks Lodge #2650 has invited the residents of the Melbourne Veterans Transition Facility to the lodge to participate in their traditional Thanksgiving feast. Paul Whitmore is the director of the facility which is a temporary shelter for homeless veterans and their immediate families. The facility provides for the immediate needs of homeless veterans while they search for work and save enough money to acquire permanent housing. This year, 23 guests from the center joined the lodge for dinner. Members John and Marcie Lesko have been instrumental in planning and working this event since the beginning, and they are helped by numerous outstanding volunteers. The Ladies of the Elks put together 18 men’s and six ladies’ bags with the remainder of the supplies donated to the facility for future residents, and they also provided angel tree presents for the five children at the facility. The lodge donated $300-worth of gift cards to augment the needs of the veterans.


1848 vet village

South Lake Elks Lodge #1848 hosted a successful charity golf tournament at the nearby Green Valley Country Club with approximately 80 golfers participating. Following the tournament, a banquet, awards ceremony, auctions and raffles were enjoyed. Half of the proceeds, $2651.38, were donated to the Habitat for Humanity Veterans Village. An additional donation of $2,651.38 was presented to the Harry-Anna Trust Fund.

Pictured at the South Lake Lodge donation presentation to Habitat for Humanity Veterans Village are tournament chairman, Greg Speer; Ann Carter; Danielle Stroud; and Exalted Ruler, Russell Smith.


2522 vets

On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, Inverness Elks Lodge #2522 served 275 meals at their free breakfast for veterans. This was the last day of a three-day open house at the lodge during the Dragon Boat Festival.