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Florida Elks News Editor:
Rachael King
Entire contents copyright 2023 by the
Florida State Elks Association Inc.
P.O. Box 49
Umatilla, FL 32784-0049

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Viera Elks Lodge #2817 participated in the 25th annual Stand Down to Stand Up for Veterans, which took place Jan. 21 at the Cocoa Armory. The event is primarily organized by the Veterans Memorial Center, but it is supported by local charitable organizations and service providers, such as doctors and dentists. The number of at-risk veterans is usually matched or exceeded by the number of volunteers. The lodge’s effort was led by member and veteran Bruce Campbell. Members donated gift cards, nonperishable food items, underwear and household goods, which Campbell delivered to the event in the name of the lodge.

Viera Lodge also formed a new alliance with Homes for the Homeless, an organization that assists residents of Brevard County who are homeless or who have low incomes. They help individuals, children and families. They also provide housing for the elderly and people who are disabled or have mental illness who would otherwise have nowhere to go, and they rehabilitate neighborhood slums into attractive, affordable homes. These services help to eliminate housing instability and self-medication or drug and alcohol addictions, which will reduce hospitalization, associated criminal activity and incarceration, saving Brevard County thousands of tax dollars. The lodge has made several donations to program residents from the Elks National Foundation Focus Grant, including $500 Feb. 1 for auto repairs, $168 Feb. 22 for rental assistance, and $128 Feb. 22 for auto insurance assistance. On Feb. 8 the lodge also donated $300 to the organization. Additionally, the lodge donated $128 to assist Cocoa Elks Lodge pay for tuition for a local veteran.


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South Miami/Coral Gables Elks Lodge members Fred Jaca Jr., PDD, District Veterans Services Chair, and Rick Del Vecchio, lodge grant writer, met via Zoom with four Miami VA representatives Dec. 22 and were informed of a need for various items to assist the veterans at their facility. The lodge applied for and received the Elks National Foundation Beacon and Spotlight grants to purchase the items. On Feb. 26, lodge members and guests gathered to fill and pack 175 gift packs for distribution to the veterans in the Miami area who are homeless. There were 100 bags for females that included toiletries from Bath and Body Works, protein bars, dried fruit packs, laundry detergent, and a $15 food gift card. There were 75 bags for males that included an Elks canvas backpack filled with bottles of water, laundry detergent, protein bars, dried fruit packs and a $15 food gift card. On March 1, lodge members Frank Sullivan, Mike Poller, and Rick Del Vecchio delivered the packages to staff members at the VA Healthcare facility in Miami. The VA staff members then delivered the packages to each of the veterans. The total value of the items was more than $6,000, as Bath and Body Works donated approximately $600 in toiletries, enabling the lodge to help an additional 25 female veterans.

Pictured are lodge members packing the items. Also pictured are Mernie Williams of the VA Healthcare and members Rick Del Vecchio, Frank Sullivan, and Mike Poller.


In its ongoing support of veterans, Deep Creek Elks Lodge #2763 members Peggie Sue Dygert, who is also a member of the Charlotte County Veterans Council; Kay Neilley, PDD; and Cheryl Usowicz recently used funds from the $3,000 Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant to shop for needed items requested by residents at the Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Port Charlotte, Florida.


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On March 5, Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Lodge hosted the Southwest District Army of Hope fundraiser. Each of the seven lodges contributed food for a night of dinner and dancing. Together they raised $4,666.

Pictured are members Chuck and Phyllis Stolteben, who donated their music for entertainment for the evening.



On March 3, Cape Coral Elks Lodge #2596 presented 12 much-needed wheelchairs to the Lee County Healthcare Center in Cape Coral, Florida. The lodge raised $1,200 to purchase the chairs.

Pictured are Mike Byrne, Esquire; member Patricia Kampf; Bonnie Marshall, Exalted Ruler; John Nugent, Loyal Knight; Chuck Ellis, lodge member; Mike Murphy, Leading Knight; Janet Murphy, chaplain; and member Ted David, seated in front. Taking pictures were members Beverly Nugent and Richard Kampf, PER.


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On Feb. 17, Fort Pierce Lodge Veterans Co-chairs, Rod Dally, PER and Bev Dally, delivered a cart filled with snacks, candy and hygiene items to the Ardie R. Copas Veterans Nursing Home in an effort to bring the patients out of their rooms to participate in various activities to win funny money to purchase these items. Lodge members donated the funds for the items.

Pictured are Sherika Ayer, nursing home activities chair, and Rod and Bev Dally, Lodge Veterans Co-chairs.


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The Zephyrhills Lodge Veterans Committee furnished four more homes for veterans who recently moved in to their new homes. On March 7, Army veteran Rueben Philloura moved in to his Zephyrhills home, close to family and friends.On March 11, Thomas Weatherspoon’s Tampa home was furnished, including with new bedroom furniture donated by American Furniture Warehouse. On March 13, Army veteran Courtney Pendeton moved in to his south Tampa home and Claude Hall, an Air Force veteran, moved in to his Tampa home. Both residences were furnished by the lodge using Elks Welcome Home Kits.

Picture 1: Volunteer Nick Stritzinger, veteran Thomas Weatherspoon and member Don Falaas

Picture 2: Member Larry Decena, veteran Courtney Pendeton and member Don Falass

Picture 3: Veteran Claude Hall


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On Feb. 26, more than a dozen members of Sebastian Elks Lodge #2714 were at Riverview Park in Sebastian, Florida, for the unveiling of the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action monument. The lodge donated $500 to the Sebastian Squad 189 of Sons of the American Legion for the monument. The brass stars on the monument are made from the grommets of American flags retrieved after they were retired, therefore showing that the flag never dies. Since World War II, more than 82,000 Americans are still unaccounted for from wars and conflicts.

Pictured is the monument.


Punta Gorda Elks Lodge #2606 participated in the South Southwest District Army of Hope picnic held Feb. 19 at Bonita Springs-Estero Elks Lodge #2753, where a total of $23,659.39 was raised to provide assistance to the families of deceased, disabled and deployed members of the military. The lodge was represented by Tom Shoecraft, Exalted Ruler; Diana Beamenderfer, Esquire; Walter LaCombe, PER; Eric Rolston, PER; and Daleen Hendrickson, PER. The lodge made a $5,000 donation, donated six items for the silent auction, and provided and served 100 sausage with peppers and onions meals. 



On Dec. 19, Punta Gorda Lodge #2606 presented a check for $1,000 to the Douglas Jacobson State Veterans Home recreation fund, which provides veterans with items not provided by the home, such as socks, toiletries and pajamas. Major Douglas Jacobson was a congressional Medal of Honor recipient for his heroic actions at Iwo Jima.

Pictured are Ambrose Yelovich, PER, Chaplain; Karen Fanstill, assistant director of activities; veteran Richard Sqzio; and Bob Hahn, PER, Elks National Foundation Fundraising Chair.


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On Feb. 1, St. Augustine Elks Lodge #829 donated $2,000 from its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant along with $2,000 of its matching funds from the Florida State Elks Association to Hope4Veterans, an organization that provides support to woman veterans in ways that impact their daily lives with the goal to prevent isolation, suicide and homelessness.

Pictured are A. Joseph Smith Sr., Exalted Ruler; Lynn Geiser, president/CEO of Hope4Veterans; and Elizabeth Bastedo, lodge grant coordinator.


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On Feb. 23, Navy veteran Tonya Dinkins and her sister moved in to their new home in Brandon, Florida, with support from the Zephyrhills Lodge Veterans Committee. She is the 228th veteran to have their home furnished by the Elks.

Pictured are member Don Falaas, veteran Tonya Dinkins and volunteer Howard Lundsford.