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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During a visit from State President Joe Cooper Sept. 9, Sebastian Elks Lodge #2714 presented a Fresh Start kit to be given to new residents at the Veterans Transition Facility in Melbourne, Florida. These kits are being made using funds from the Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant and members’ donations. Each kit contains the basic necessities upon arrival, including a twin sheet set, blanket or comforter, pillow, personal hygiene items, bath towels and washcloths, all provided in a duffle bag. The facility is a temporary shelter for veterans and their immediate family members experiencing homelessness. There are 10 apartments housing two veterans or one family per apartment. The facility’s purpose is to provide temporary housing while they search for work, and once employed, to save enough money to acquire more permanent housing and transportation. 

Pictured are Mary Ducharme, Ladies Treasurer; Dan Talbott, Exalted Ruler; Mirissa Napolitano, Veterans Transitional Facility director; State President Joe Cooper; and Michael Schodlbauer, PDD, Lodge Veterans Chair.


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On Sept. 26, led by member Kasha Harrell, Viera Elks Lodge #2817 and some of its Antlers youth volunteers partnered with Cocoa Elks Lodge to prepare 150 lunches for the Honor Flight orientation and for the Coalition of Veterans Organization. Honor Flight takes veterans to Washington, D.C., to view their monuments. The coalition is a group of individuals and member organizations whose purpose is to advocate and educate veterans and the public on issues that impact veterans and their families.

Pictured are Kasha Harrell; Antlers Bella Wessel and Janey Vargas; William Orblych, PDD; and Antlers Jake Vargas, Kody Wessel and Evan Enrique. Also pictured are Daniel Mogob, Cocoa Lodge Exalted Ruler; Wendy Carns, District Vice President; and William Orblych, PDD, Viera Lodge Exalted Ruler.



On Aug. 11, Green Cove Springs Elks Lodge #1892 hosted representatives from K9s for Warriors to visit with members and explain how the organization provides support for veterans. They train and provide service dogs for veterans with PTSD and other challenges. The lodge donated $2,500 to them as well, which was funded through the lodge's Past Exalted Rulers bingo and the Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant. 

Pictured are Ed Weston, PER, PER chair; Lynn Elrod, Exalted Ruler; Penny Kunze, lodge member and K9s volunteer; Stephanie Vogt, K9s community relations manager; Rick Kunze, PER, lodge member and K9s volunteer; Carol Thorsen-Hood, K9s puppy raiser, with Nash; and Susan Aews, K9s puppy raiser, with Rocky.


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On Aug. 25, Jupiter Elks Lodge #2469 member Ken Barr delivered a care package to a veteran who recently transitioned from homelessness into an apartment. The package consisted of new sheets, towels, dishes, pots and pans, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, and a new wheelchair. The care package was purchased using funds from the Elks National Veterans Service Commission Focus Grant.

Pictured are the son of Navy veteran Helen Cobb, Navy veteran Helen Cobb, and lodge member Ken Barr. Also pictured are items from the care package.


Using the full amount of the Elks National Veterans Service Commission $10,000 Focus Grant, Miami Elks Lodge #948 purchased baby supplies for 40 women veterans, either currently pregnant or who have had a baby within the past year. On Sept. 7, lodge members took 10 women to a Target store. On Sept. 14, they took another 30 women. Lodge volunteers Sharon Miller Weiss, Jody Impellizzeri, Pauly DeBeche, Maribel and Miguel Rodriguez, Mary Ellen Gomez, and Ashley Rodriguez helped make this happen, along with Andrea Miller of the Miami VA Healthcare System.


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On Sept. 4 in honor of Labor Day, Donald Soderblom, Sanford Lodge Veterans Services Chair, along with his wife, Kathy, and daughters, Amy Hefner and Jody Jensen, donated their time to cook and serve 54 veterans and eight staff members at the Lake Baldwin VA Domiciliary. The facility provided the food — chicken, hamburgers, potato salad, baked beans and watermelon.

Pictured are Donald Soderblom cooking at the grill; veterans patiently waiting; and Kathy Soderblom, Amy Hefner, Jody Jensen, and a VA staff member serving a veteran.


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On Sept. 17, Sanford Lodge again hosted veterans from the Lake Baldwin VA Domiciliary in Orlando, Florida, for their monthly game day. In addition to bingo and full-service meal, this month, the veterans enjoyed a few hours of fishing. Soon-to-be-member Christine Dathe also personally donated shaving kits, complete with shaving cream and razor, to the veterans. Monthly game days are funded using the $3,000 Freedom Grant from the Elks National Veterans Service Commission.

Pictured are two veterans fishing, Christine Dathe passing out shaving kits to veterans, and veterans holding up their winnings, which were coupon booklets they can use in their general store.


On Sept. 21, Sebring Elks Lodge #1529 used funds available to them from the Florida State Elks’ Army of Hope program to help a local veteran. Through the lodge’s association with the Highlands County Veterans Services and the Veterans Council of Highlands County, they helped this veteran by paying part of his past-due electric bill so the electricity wouldn’t be shut off. Along with the $350, the lodge sent a $1,400 check from the charity account to Duke Energy, which they later requested to be reimbursed by the Army of Hope.


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On Sept. 11, Fort Pierce Lodge members donated snacks and puzzle books worth $792 to West Palm Beach Veterans Services.

Pictured are Laurie Torres, volunteer service specialist; Paulette Blockson, RN; and Rodney Dally, PER, Veterans Chair.


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On Sept. 19, Fort Pierce Lodge made its monthly delivery to the Ardie R. Copas State Veterans’ Nursing Home. Rodney Dally, PER, Veterans Chair, is pictured with Sherida Ayers, therapy aid and supervisor. The donations from members were approximately $470 in value and included snacks, games and books.


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On Aug. 18, Fort Pierce Lodge donated and delivered used clothing and shoes valued at approximately $360 to Angels of Hope in Fort Pierce, Florida.

Pictured are David Long, owner, and Rodney Dally, PER, Lodge Veterans Chair.


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On Sept. 2, St. Augustine Lodge members Kevin and Cathy Walsh met Amanda Mills of Five Star Veterans Center at the Epic-Cure warehouse to donate items for ENVSC Welcome Home Kits for two veterans who were transferring to permanent housing. Epic-Cure’s mission is to prevent discarding of items that can be used to fight hunger and poverty. They partner with the Steven Cohen Military Clinic and the Five Star Veterans Center to provide cooking lessons to veterans.