On Jan. 16, Zephyrhills Lodge gifted home furnishings to a 30th veteran, John Jackson, as he moved into his own home. They included a microwave, television, antenna, dining table with four chairs, dresser, lamps, coffee maker, pots, pans, dishes, cups, glasses, flatware, bath towels, kitchen towels, shower rod, shower curtain, sofa bed and recliner. Pictured are Mike Kelley, Tampa Crossroads veterans’ case worker; Jackson; PER Ken Fabiani, Lodge Veterans Chairman; and Tom Pete and Shirley and Richard LeClair, members.
On Jan. 8, Plant City Elks Lodge #1727 presented Adam Marasco a check for $1,500 from the Florida Elks Army of Hope program. This will help him attend a summer program that will prepare him for a career in medicine. His father is 1st Sgt. Patrick Marasco who served 23 years and did three tours in the Middle East. His mother, Deann Marasco, was a family readiness coordinator for 15 years. Pictured with Adam is Judy Wise, District Veterans Services Chairman.
On Jan. 11, Zephyrhills Elks Lodge #2731 furnished the home of Glenn Ranger, one of the many veterans moving out on their own to start a new life. He received a microwave, television, antenna, dining table, four chairs, dresser, lamps, coffee maker, coffee, pots, pans, dishes, cups, glasses, silverware, bath towels, kitchen towels, shower rod, shower curtain, linens, pillows, blankets, sofa and recliner. Pictured are Mike Hanley whose home was previously furnished by the lodge; Steve Czerneski, member; Ranger; and Ken Fabiani, PER, lodge Veterans chairman. Not pictured is Tom Pete, member.
On Jan. 3, a group of Brandon Elks, Past Exalted Rulers, Ladies of Elks and visiting Elks spent the morning with veterans of the spinal cord unit of the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital. The visit showed them that they are never forgotten. Bags of gifts were given to each veteran, and cookies and treats were left at each nurse’s station to let them know how much their service to the veterans is appreciated. The event was planned by Lodge Veterans Chairman, Robin Rutzke, right, who is retired from the Air Force, and Vice President of the Brandon Ladies of Elks, Millie Marrero, left. With them is Orion N. Geib, spinal cord injury unit administrator.
Tammy Riley, member; Sharon Hammersla, PER; Robin Rutzke, Veterans chairman; Millie Marrero, Ladies Vice President; Charlene Hart, Ladies member; Grace Weigand, Ladies member; Julie Ebert, Ladies member; Mary Lou Scribner, PER; and Richard Clark of Seattle Lodge #92
St. Petersburg Lodge donated $5,000 to Historic Programs to take veterans who have never been able to visit the national memorials in Washington, D.C., constructed to honor the service and sacrifice of their brothers and sisters in arms. Various parades and ceremonies were held during their visit which took place Nov. 7-10. Forty Elks veterans (two WWII, two Korea, 36 Vietnam) and 13 caregivers attended these events from the following districts – C, SSE, NW, SW, SSW, SEC, WC, EC, SE and NC – and lodges – Aripeka, Crestview, Kissimmee, Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota, Largo, Naples, Ocala, Punta Gorda, West Palm Beach, St. Petersburg, Stuart-Jensen, Tampa and Zephyrhills. The Elks provided a veteran speaker for each war. VPAL Rudy Masi Sr. spoke on behalf of the Florida State Elks Association. The donation paid all the expenses of three veterans including accommodations, air fare, memorial visits and meals.
As Plant City Lodge Veterans Chairman, Judy Wise is in touch with the 1st Sergeant and Commander of the Armory. The family services volunteer called to ask if the Elks would be able to serve a catered Christmas lunch to the National Guard at the Plant City Armory. Wise always uses these opportunities to also let them know about the Army of Hope. On Dec. 7, Wise along with her husband and Americanism chairman, Ed Wise, and new members Michael and Eva Butler served the meal.
Lake Okeechobee Elks Lodge #2871 used their Elks National Foundation Impact Grant for their fifth veterans’ stand down given out before Christmas to local veterans in need.
On Dec. 24, Zephyrhills Lodge furnished the home of Orlando Houston, the 27th veteran moving into independent living and starting a new life. On Dec. 28, Zephyrhills Lodge furnished the home of Delroy and Jeanene and their 2-year-old son, Jamie. Members Tom Pete and Ken Fabiani, PER, delivered the items including a microwave, television, dining table, four chairs, dresser, lamps, coffee table, end tables, coffee maker, coffee, pots, pans, dishes, cups, glasses, silverware, bath towels, kitchen towels, shower rod, shower curtain, linens, pillow and blankets.
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.