On Oct. 26, St. Petersburg Elks Lodge #1224 held their annual USA show and veterans appreciation dinner honoring the dedicated men and women of service of all our United States Armed Forces who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and beyond. The show was a full-scale patriotic event paying tribute to our military. Fred Wall, an Elk from Largo Lodge #2159, was the oldest veteran present. He is 94 years old and served both the Atlantic and the Pacific Theatre during World War II as a Seaman 1st Class in the Navy and had the honor of cutting the cake representing all military branches. Representing the youngest veteran was Amy Evans, U.S. Air Force, who is 50 years old. Proceeds from this event will benefit C.W. Bill Young VAMC. Present at this year’s event were eight veterans who participated in the National Golden Age Games held in Anchorage, Alaska, June 5-10. Proceeds from 2018’s USA show sponsored these veterans’ attendance at the games.
The Veterans Committee from Zephyrhills Lodge donated coffee (special blend, mixed blends, and decaffeinated) to James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Fla. Janet Lopez from Volunteer Services received the coffee from Ken Fabiani, PER. The coffee will be going to the Spinal Cord Department and Rehab Department on the third floor at Building #38 for veterans in rehab or spinal cord recovery. There are three refreshment rooms the veterans can use any time of the day, but the hospital does not supply the coffee. The donation was worth $1,200.
A call went out to the community surrounding the Sarasota National Cemetery for people to attend the funeral of a 90-year-old World War II veteran with no family or friends to attend. The Southwest District heard that call and responded. Representatives from all lodges in the district joined the community with over 2,500 in attendance for the funeral for Edward Pearson Oct. 1.
Among the Elks of the Southwest District attending a veteran’s funeral who had no family or friends to attend are Sherrie and David Gillum of Venice-Nokomis Lodge #1854.
The West Citrus Lodge Veterans Committee held their 2019 dinner dance fundraiser Sept. 28. It was a great success with over $3,000 raised to assist veterans in the local assisted living facilities throughout the year. The event consisted of music, dancing and a silent auction.
Lake City Elks Lodge #893 and veterans volunteer, Capt. Mike Lydick, continue to support the Lake City VA hospital patients and the residents of the Lake City VA Domiciliary, aka The Jenkins Veterans Home. At the hospital, Elks wheelchair gloves are provided as available. Coffee and doughnuts are purchased for the main waiting area. Personal care items, puzzles and playing cards are donated. This summer, the lodge funded four of the summer youth volunteers in the hospital’s program. For homeless veterans, in concert with the VA HUD/VASH, the lodge has been able to avail itself of Welcome Home Kits to help veterans set up a home as one is available. Included in the kits are linens, dishes, flatware, pots and pans, coffee maker, toaster, microwave, and small kitchen items. The lodge has assisted six veterans in this program.
On Sept. 9, Sarasota South Lodge held their quarterly veterans lunch. Forty veterans from surrounding nursing and assisted living homes were present. The keynote speaker was Deb Kehoe from Homes for our Troops, an organization that builds homes for returning veterans with special needs. Their motto is, “Building Homes – Building Lives.” Pictured are Kehoe and Exalted Ruler, Richard Bouchard.
On Sept. 8, Sarasota South Elks Lodge #2495 hosted an afternoon of music with a luncheon buffet for Korean War veterans and their families. Sixty members showed up to give tribute to the veterans. Exalted Ruler, Richard Bouchard, shared stories from his father, John Joseph Boucard, CDR USNR, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. Pictured are Patrick Blackburn, SGT USA; Cliff Bloodsworth, Naval Air USN; Gerald Albritton, SP4 USA; Floyd Stough, SP4 USA; and Paul Kirkham, PO3 USN.
On Sept. 13, Viera Elks Lodge #2817 hosted a monthly birthday blast featuring member/guitarist Brian Donnelley, a representative of the national organization Guitars for Vets. This organization aids veterans with PTSD by offering them 10-12 weeks of guitar lessons at no cost. At the end of the training, the organization presents the veteran with a new guitar. Amazingly, the wood and strings of an acoustic guitar and the healing power of music help soldiers cope. Donations to this organization go primarily for the purchase of these guitars. It costs $200 to send one veteran through the program and provide them a guitar. On this particular night, the lodge raised over $400 for this worthwhile project.
On Aug. 21, Manasota Elks Lodge #2734 presented three KitchenAid© mixers purchased with our funds from their Elks National Foundation Beacon Grants to Vets 2 Success founder, Bryan Jacobs. Vets 2 Success offers a solution for returning veterans to learn a new skill that will give them purpose in their lives and the ability to support themselves and their families. The lodge has been supporting this program for three years with the Elks National Foundation Community Investments Program.
Manasota Lodge member Jan “Spike” Klocke; Pam McDowell, Exalted Ruler; and Jim Klocke, Veterans Committee Chairman, present three mixers to Bryan Jacobs, Vets 2 Success founder, Aug. 21.
On Sept. 13, a work crew of Elks from Titusville Elks Lodge #2113 gathered at a veterans’ housing unit and completed the painting of one entire apartment for a well-deserving veteran. The lodge also provided an Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant of $2,000 to Habitat for Humanity for the purchase of additional supplies for painting the veterans’ housing unit.
Mike Anderson, Titusville Lodge Exalted Ruler, left, and Judith Mendiola, Veterans Chairman, present a check for $2,000 to Mary Kelly, lodge member and Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity.
On July 14th, Green Cove Springs Elks Lodge #1892 held its second annual Christmas in July party. Proceeds from the event will support the lodge's Wreaths Across America campaign which places wreaths at veterans’ graves. Attendees enjoyed a traditional Christmas dinner and fun games and heard a moving, informative presentation by guest speaker, Dan Duffy, VFW State Judge Advocate. Thanks to the efforts of event coordinator, Jean Maddox, and the many helpful volunteers, the event raised over $3,500.
Pictured at the Green Cove Springs Lodge’s Christmas in July fundraiser for Wreaths Across America July 14 are Paul Orvosh, PDD; Kathie Thompson, PER; Bill Thompson, member and VFW District 14 Commander; Pauline Duffy; and Dan Duffy, VFW State Judge Advocate.
Using their Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant, Stuart-Jensen Lodge and Steve Elliott, Veterans Chairman, organized a multi-day fishing trip for local veterans Aug. 6, 7 and 15 in Stuart, Fla. Veterans were treated to a day of fishing and lunch on the water. They were all invited to a dinner at the lodge Aug. 17 where they were honored by the lodge membership.