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.
On Feb. 22, Jupiter Elks Lodge #2469 hosted the Southeast District annual Army of Hope picnic where the district comes together and raises funds for active duty military personnel and their families. This year’s event surpassed its fundraising goals.
Due to the cancellation of baseball’s spring training, the Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Lodge’s Veterans Committee was unable to take 32 veterans to a game March 22. The committee was going to use the Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant for this activity. The Elks National Foundation gave them an extension of one month but also encouraged them to make a donation to a worthy veteran’ cause. Upon getting the grant money back, they made a $2,000 donation to Southeastern Guide Dogs.
An Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant of $2,180 was used Feb. 8 to supply services to 18 veterans who are homeless in Indian River County. The lodge and the Vietnam Veterans of Indian River County hosted a Stand Down to aid veterans who are homeless and in need. The lodge donated tents, bedding, underwear, socks, clothing and personal hygiene products. More than 10 members helped with the distribution.
Also in February, Vero Beach Lodge donated $2,000 to American Gold Star Mothers Inc. and $1,000 to the Army of Hope.
On Jan. 23, Hollywood West Elks Lodge #2365 hosted Re-Creation as the dinner entertainment at the lodge. The event raised $1,000 for the Army of Hope, a Florida Elks program designed to support military families. In addition, a basket raffle brought in $1,000 for the Elks National Foundation which was presented to Grand Exalted Ruler, Robert Duitsman, by Jim Blanchard, Exalted Ruler, Feb. 6 at the Florida Elks quarterly meeting at the Florida Elks Youth Camp.
The Veterans Committee of Boca Raton Elks Lodge #2166 continues its monthly trips to Island Dolphin Care in Key Largo, Florida, with veterans. These visits offer dolphin therapy to veterans suffering from various afflictions, including PTSD. The visits are funded by the Elks National Foundation Beacon and Freedom grants and the Harry-Anna Trust Fund matching Beacon Grant. Pictured is a young Florida Atlantic University/Palm Beach State College veteran interacting with a dolphin.
On March 5, Manasota Elks Lodge #2734 presented to Vets 2 Success founder, Bryan Jacobs, five Mercer Culinary Millennia eight-piece knife roll sets and five Mercer Culinary Mercer rules purchased with the Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant. These culinary products are for the next Vets 2 Success veteran culinary training. Vets 2 Success offers a solution for returning veterans to learn a new skill that will give them purpose in their lives and the ability to support themselves and their families. Manasota Lodge has been supporting Vets 2 Success for three years with the Elks National Foundation Community Investments Program. Pictured are Ken Davis; Diane Davis; Jan “Spike” Klocke; Jim Klocke, Manasota Veterans chairman; Bryan Jacobs, Vets 2 Success founder; Ginny Kollath and Jim Kollath.
Cornelius Gray Jr. with Ken Fabiani, PER Ken Fabiani, PER with Frank Camibge
Ken Fabiani, PER with Barbara Limbert and Dee Mauro Dee Mauro with Willie BJ Spann and Ken Fabiani, PER
Zephyrhills Lodge furnished four more veterans' homes between Feb. 27 and March 6.