Christmas came early for veterans and active military members hospitalized at C.W. Bill Young VAMC. On Dec. 19, several St. Petersburg Lodge members delivered hundreds of Christmas ornaments donated by various lodges and organizations to all those hospitalized. Also on hand were Santa Claus and Majik the Elf (Charlie and Kim Cox, volunteers from the community). The ornaments gifted were secondary; the real gift was the gift of spending time with each veteran hospitalized at the VA. Pictured are Exalted Ruler, Dawn Elaine Lieber; Liz Ramsburg; Santa Claus (Charlie Cox); Johnny Miller, VAVS Deputy Representative; and Majik the Elf (Kim Cox).
Sebring Elks Lodge #1529 hosted a Christmas luncheon Dec. 18 at the lodge for 33 veterans and their caregivers. The guests came from Fairway Pines, Sunny Hills and the Palms. Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus (non-members Robert and Nancy Yearicks who attend this event each year) presented them with gifts.
On Dec. 17, Johnny Miller, St. Petersburg Lodge member and Grand Lodge VAVS Deputy Representative, and Joel Bressler, spouse of member Carol Bressler, donated their time and voices to entertain the veterans and members of the community at Bay Pines VAMC while the Combined Federal Campaign collected unwrapped toys for the Marines’ Toys for Tots. Miller DJ’d and Bressler sang, including two songs he wrote in tribute to veterans.
Joel Bressler, spouse of a St. Petersburg Lodge member, and Johnny Miller, VAVS representative, perform at Bay Pines VAMC Dec. 17.
On Nov. 2, Jupiter Elks Lodge members and guests along with local scouts welcomed and hosted a bus-full of veterans from a local VA for an annual Thanksgiving luncheon. Members cooked a traditional dinner that was served by the scouts. After lunch, veterans enjoyed two rounds of Elk races and each went home with a goody bag and a homemade quilt made by Hibiscus Quilt Guild of South Florida to keep them warm.
Punta Gorda Lodge sent a group of veterans including eight members of the lodge to Washington, D.C., Nov. 8-10 as part of the Parade of Heroes. The lodge raised $6,825 to help defray expenses.
Punta Gorda Lodge hosts monthly luncheons at the lodge for 12 residents of the Douglas T. Jacobson Veterans Home. They also serve meals to 25 veterans at Veterans Village, a transitional housing program for veterans in Punta Gorda who are homeless.
On Dec. 5, the Punta Gorda Lodge Past Exalted Rulers Association held their annual Christmas party. A monetary collection took place with a total of $260 collected and donated to the Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans Home’s Recreation Fund.
On Dec. 12, Winter Park Elks Lodge members went to the Greenwood Cemetery and joined many others in placing wreaths on the graves of fallen military. Wreaths Across America is an event coordinated with 1,300 cemeteries in the country. Orlando politicians, Eagles and Moose members, Boy Scouts, VFW, local TV and news organizations, and others attended to honor the fallen. A flyover from the nearby airport also took place. Each service had a representative that hung a wreath in memory of their comrades.
On Nov. 13, East Polk Elks Lodge #2882 used their Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant to provide a year’s worth of personal and household items to 10 veterans who were previously homeless but now have been set up with an apartment or home. The Elks purchased and packaged toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, bar soap, hand soap, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, toilet paper, paper towels, tissues and dish soap.
Jack Collins, PDD and Dee Spivey, PER are pictured Nov. 13 with items purchased by East Polk Lodge to give to veterans who have transitioned into their own homes.
With over 100 in attendance, Leading Knight, Kevin Cruce, welcomed guests to Perry Lodge’s Veterans Day luncheon Nov. 10. Event chairman, Ed Harvey, opened the program and recognized all veterans present. The JROTC presented the colors and the Patriot Guard posted flags outside along the driveway. Memorabilia from local veterans was also on display.
On Nov. 16, Lake City Lodge member Wezzie Huelscamp again hosted her annual veterans’ lunch at the Lake City Fairgrounds from 12-2 p.m. She secures donated food, gets it prepared and makes sure it is served, and it’s all free for veterans. She is a beautician and cuts hair for any veteran without charge at this event.
Largo Lodge received the Elks National Foundation Impact Grant to enhance the lives of the residents at Liberty Manor located in Largo, Fla. The lodge provided picnics and installed two air conditioning units, solar film on all the windows, and a patio. They purchased a new grill and hold monthly picnics as well as special events for Veterans Day and Christmas. David Lindsay, a member of Brandon Lodge and spouse of Liberty Manor’s CEO Connie Lindsay, installed the air conditioners along with his associates. Florida Wrapz Inc. from Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., donated the labor to install the solar film throughout the facility. Largo members and other community volunteers installed the patio. Their Christmas party was held Dec. 14 and a gift bag full of sheets, pillows, personal hygiene items, cookies, socks and much more was given to the residents who were so surprised and appreciative of the gifts. Additional renovations included a new flag pole in the front yard after it had been hit by a car and knocked down. It was installed by Ed Cabana, Janet Kingsley and Ron Johnston and included a light at the top. Pavers were installed by Cabana, PER Sonja Lopez, PDD Jeanne Reinhart, and three community service workers – Paul, Cody and Andre. The pavers provided an extension to the patio. They also purchased two rocking chairs to complete the patio area. Lodge members take turns cooking a meal once a week. With several grants being used at Liberty Manor, lodge members have developed friendships with the residents. One resident even said, “You can visit us without always bringing gifts.” Connie Lindsay says the residents never ask for anything but are appreciative of what the lodge does.
On Dec. 14, members of Aripeka Elks Lodge #2520 laid 1,060 wreaths on the graves of veterans at Grace Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Hudson, Fla. Members collected donations for the wreaths and held a spaghetti dinner fundraiser and blind auction to purchase the wreaths. The Wreaths Across America program provided one wreath for every two wreaths that were purchased. There were 300 members, community members and students from Hudson High School ROTC who gathered for a formal ceremony recognizing these soldiers.
On Nov. 9, the N.U.B.S. (Never Underestimate Brave Students) of Oneco Elementary School along with Manasota Elks and N.U.B.S. community service co-advisors, Marie Mueller and Dawn Rigsbee, went to Bay Pines VA Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Fla., to deliver lap blankets to the veterans. The blankets are made by the N.U.B.S. members with military fleece fabric purchased from the lodge’s Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant. They had a pizza party and the N.U.B.S. members helped the 48 veterans with their lunches, played games, sang and enjoyed talking with the veterans. They received thank you letters from the Bay Pines staff who said how much the veterans enjoyed the N.U.B.S. visit and their lap blankets.
Pictured with the N.U.B.S. members are Dawn Rigsbee, co-advisor, and Manasota Lodge members Stephanie Lund; Pam McDowell, Exalted Ruler; Diane Davis, Jim Kollath; Ken Davis, PDD; and Marie Mueller, member and co-advisor. Not pictured is Jim Klocke.