It is a great honor to be the Florida State Elks Association State President. Joyce and I are so excited that we get to represent our state organization. We are going to meet many wonderful Elks and hear what their lodges are doing and the programs they are supporting. Thank you for this opportunity.
The state convention was an unbelievable experience. My sister and her husband came from Ohio. Our two sons and daughter from Plant City, Fla., and Lakeland, Fla., and our other daughter and her husband with our two granddaughters from Fort Myers, Fla., came to be with us for the weekend. They were there Saturday to hear my acceptance speech and to enjoy the awards ceremony. The setup that afternoon was fantastic and I appreciate Carl Seibert and his team for all the wonderful arrangements.
Membership is still one of our greatest concerns. We just came off a positive growth year of nearly 500 members, which is fantastic. Kudos go to our Membership Chairman, Rod O’Connor. We need to keep working hard to bring in new members. Our lodges will lose some, so we need to keep working on our elevator speeches, host membership drives, and seek opportunities in our communities to let people know who we are and learn about our charitable works. Let’s bring back those members who haven’t been around in a while and show them why you are “Proud to be an Elk.”
We have attended two visitations so far this year. One week after the state convention, we attended our first visitation at the Southwest District. We were met by District Vice President, Steve Carruthers, and his fiancé, Christine, and many wonderful district volunteers. The hospitality room was decorated to the hilt. They had our pictures and 12” versions of our Harry-Anna Trust Fund pin with the kids on a teeter-totter displayed on the walls. They had personalized M&Ms© with a variety of sayings printed on them such as “It’s for the Kids” and “Proud to be an Elk.” The most amazing decoration was a handmade wooden teeter-totter made by Cub Dickerson. Bradenton Lodge #1511 hosted dinner Friday. They served a great pork roast and fish dinner. Exalted Ruler, Mike Eymann, and his wife, Sheri, had the band play the Purdue fight song for me and “Unchained Melody” honoring our VPAL, Rudy Masi, and Dolly’s 29th wedding anniversary. On Saturday morning, member Kemper Slidell drove our party to the Ringling Museum. It was our first visit to the museum – what a place! Exalted Ruler, Pam McDowell, hosted us for a fantastic lunch at Manasota Lodge #2734 featuring homemade beef noodle soup and Waldorf salad. Saturday evening was hosted by Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Lodge #2855 and Exalted Ruler, John Piper. The reception and dinner were great and I met and introduced the Bradenton Lodge #1511 ritual team state champions who went on to compete at the Grand Lodge convention in St. Louis and placed third in the east.
Our next visitation was to the South District where District Vice President, Milton Muller, hosted a great weekend. After a grand reception at the hotel and enjoying a wonderful hospitality room filled with lots of district Elks, we spent Friday evening at South Miami/Coral Gables Lodge #1676. Exalted Ruler, Reggie Hernandez; his wife, Becky; and lots of volunteers hosted us for a western-themed barbecue dinner with phenomenal meats with homemade sauces and delicious desserts. On Saturday morning, we were driven by Fred Jaca, PDD to the Viscaya Museum & Gardens overlooking beautiful Biscayne Bay. Next we traveled to Havana Harry’s for some great Cuban food. We had at least 20 Elks eating and there were at least 15 different meals on the table. The dishes were delicious with huge portions. We could have fed 10 more! The Saturday dinner was hosted by Miami Lodge #948 and Exalted Ruler, Frank Reynolds. A jazz musician kept us entertained while we ate and were served an Elks state presidential carrot cake. It was a great evening in a beautiful lodge!
This year I am continuing the State President’s grant program. The FSEA is allowing me to award $2,000 to each district at their visitation. A first, second and third place will be awarded based on a point system lodges will obtain by meeting certain goals. I also ask them to report their community accomplishments which can give them more points and be used as tiebreakers. At both district visitations, the lodges were awarded grants to spend on community projects.
The Harry-Anna Trust Fund started with a bang at the gala for autism in St. Petersburg, Fla. Development Director, Dan Masi, hosted a large crowd for a fantastic evening. We raised more than $40,000 for the Harry-Anna Trust Fund at this event. Our Harry-Anna State Chairman, Mark Daniels, collected close to $100,000 at our state convention in Orlando, Fla. Elks, keep up the good work!
I congratulate St. Petersburg Lodge #1224 for receiving the All-American Lodge award. Florida proud!
We have a great event coming at the end of summer – Elks Day at the Rays – Sept. 8. JJ D’Angelo, our five-year-old new FECTS CHAMP of the Year, will be at this event and get to say, “Play Ball!” Get a bus or load up your cars and let’s have fun. Support this event!
Thank you, Elks, for all you do to make our association so great. You make us “Proud to be an Elk!”
Florida State Elks Association