On Oct. 4, Tampa Elks Lodge #708 made a $500 donation to Wreaths Across America at the only privately owned American Legion cemetery in the country — the American Legion Veterans Cemetery, which is located next to The American Legion U.S.S. Tampa Post 5. There are more than 800 graves in the cemetery, with veterans buried between 1899 and 1995. On Dec. 18 starting at 11 a.m., Post 5 will join every national cemetery in the country in placing a wreath on each soldier’s grave, at an expense of over $11,000 just at this cemetery. The public is invited to attend a brief ceremony and take part in placing a wreath on a grave. Pictured from the American Legion Cemetery Corporation are Barbara Furst, treasurer, and Alyse Duffy, 1st Vice President, receiving the check from Paula Rousselle, Loyal Knight, and Laura Jones, treasurer.
Using a portion of its $10,000 Elks National Foundation Focus Grant, West Palm Beach Elks Lodge members joined three veterans shopping for the necessities they needed for their new apartments. Pictured in September is member Marry Sasson with Jennifer, one of the veterans. Several members made personal donations in September as well. Two veterans, Mia and Steve, were in need of televisions. Member Eric Boisse donated one to Mia, and members Aimee Cook and Brian Fearon Jr. donated one to Steve. The lodge is sometimes connected with veterans in need from Stand Down House, a veterans shelter.
On Sept. 23, Fort Myers Elks Lodge #1288 presented a check for $2,000 from its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to Hearts and Homes for Veterans Inc., a Florida nonprofit corporation created to support veterans and their families who are homeless who find themselves without the necessities of everyday life. Pictured are David Lake, PSP; Roger Spencer, Exalted Ruler; David Santini, director of Hearts and Homes; and Bob Weinberg, board chair.
Palmetto Elks Lodge #2449 donated its $2,500 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant Aug. 3 to Manatee Veterans Services. The grant will benefit local veterans and will be used to help veterans experiencing homelessness with food and other needed services. Pictured are Ed Benedict, grant coordinator; Sandy Mooney, Exalted Ruler; and Don Courtney of Manatee Veterans Services.
Viera Elks Lodge #2817 continued its support of local veterans this quarter by providing furniture to five veterans transitioning to permanent housing. A total of $750 was used from the lodge’s Elks National Foundation Focus Grant. The program is VOA/SSVF (Volunteers of America/Supportive Services for Veterans Families) Transitional Housing Program. The lodge also provided financial assistance to veterans. On July 27, the lodge paid $373.99 in property taxes for a veteran. On Aug. 17, the lodge gave $283.33 in rental assistance for another veteran. On Aug. 20, the lodge provided $400 in rental assistance to a third veteran.
On Sept. 24, South Hillsborough Elks Lodge #2672 donated a check for $2,000 to the Tampa VA Domiciliary as well as $3,500 worth of supplies necessary to set up housekeeping for veterans leaving the domiciliary for their new apartments. This was made possible with funds from the lodge’s Elks National Foundation Spotlight and Beacon grants. Pictured are Dr. Mark Ruiz, director of the domiciliary; Ned Letts, project manager; Joyce Dominick-Schaefer, PER, grant coordinator; Chuck Stieb, PER, trustee; and Ryan Netzsche, recreation therapist.
On Aug. 14, Oakland Park Elks Lodge #2407 hosted State President Suzi Simonelli and first gentleman Joey for breakfast. After breakfast, they along with lodge members and other district lodge members and VPAL Mark Thompson and his wife, Barbara, stuffed 50 backpacks to be used as survival kits for veterans experiencing homelessness. Included in the bags were water, snacks, toiletries, sunscreen and thermal blankets. The lodge partnered with the United Way/Mission United and funded it through the lodge’s $2,500 Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant. Scouts from Troop No. 497 assisted with the breakfast, set up the room for the activity and organized the completed backpacks.
Pictured with the bags are Chris Cannon, United Way; Douglas Satran, Exalted Ruler; Suzi Simonelli, State President; and Kristian White, United Way.
In the group picture in front are scout troop members Declan Thomas, Logan Benari, David Pena and Joshua Wenig. Behind them with Cannon, Satran, White, the Simonellis and United Way members are Matthew White, Lecturing Knight; Michelle Pignotti, Leading Knight; Nancy Cufino, chaplain; Loyal Knight Mindy Hardial, and member Doug Smith.
On Aug. 12, the Hollywood West Elks Lodge’s Veterans Committee purchased and delivered 20 radios to the Sandy Nininger South Florida Veterans’ Nursing Home. The committee continues to provide monthly birthday cakes and ice cream to celebrate residents’ birthdays. They also recently held a quarter auction for veterans, raising $880, which was designated for the Honor Flight, Army of Hope, Wounded Warriors and the Sandy Nininger South Florida Veterans’ Nursing Home. Pictured are George Caffrey, Veterans Committee chair; Jill Rutenberg, nursing home activity director; and Sal Grilli, lodge member. Grilli is also shown presiding at the quarter auction.
On Aug. 10, West Citrus Lodge donated its $3,500 Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to Bridge 4 Veterans, an organization helping local veterans who are homeless with housing and many other needs while assisting them in the transition to a permanent home. Pictured are Joanne Hepner, Veterans Committee lodge chair; Greg Pelletier of Bridge 4 Veterans; Frank Hayes, Veterans Committee lodge member; and Kris Estus, Exalted Ruler.
On Sept. 1, Jacksonville Elks Lodge #221 partnered with local organizations Operation Barnabus and Mercy Automotive Charitable Foundation to help purchase a vehicle for Dee, a Navy veteran, and her family; she has been going through difficult times dealing with PTSD. The lodge used $500 from its Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant. Dee, the mother of three children, ages 17, 12 and 10, was introduced to Operation Barnabus several months ago through local veterans she had met. She has received help and support from volunteers at Operation Barnabus who have helped her overcome her struggles with PTSD. This support, along with the strength and power of faith, has empowered her to move forward with her life in a positive way. In Dee’s words, time and time again, “God is good!” Operation Barnabas is a faith-based nonprofit organization assisting military veterans and first responders who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As stated on their website, their “purpose is to provide hope, encouragement and mentorship to at-risk Clay County veterans and first responders through outreach and resources in a swift and timely manner. By providing sanctuary, meeting physical needs, and linking resources, we endeavor to ignite a positive transformation in those striving to find purpose and meaning.” Mercy Auto provides high-quality affordable vehicles that have been inspected and are reliable to anyone working on more self-sustainability.
Pictured are Karla, owner of Mercy Automotive Charitable Foundation; Dee, Navy veteran; Pastor John Green, operations officer of Operation Barnabus; Robin Pipkins, Elks National Foundation Grants lodge chair; and Deborah Reedy, PER, Lodge Secretary.
On Aug. 21, Pensacola Beach Elks Lodge #497 donated $2,000 from its Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant and $1,000 from the lodge charity account to AHERO (America’s Heroes Enjoying Recreation Outdoors), an organization dedicated to the prevention of suicide of retired military personnel. Pictured are Dan Smith, Exalted Ruler, and Sandra Milburn, lodge grant coordinator, presenting the check to David Glassman, AHERO program director.
On Aug. 7, the West Citrus Elks Lodge #2693 Veterans Committee honored patriots of the Aaron A. Weaver Chapter 776 Military Order of Purple Heart by hosting the annual Purple Heart breakfast. This is the 12th year the Elks have honored fallen heroes and wounded warriors. This event commemorated the 239th anniversary of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Pictured are Joanne Hepner, Veterans Chair, and Curt Ebitz of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.