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Florida State Elks Association Inc.
P.O. Box 49
Umatilla, FL 32784-0049

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Joe Cooper

We have enjoyed a great start to 2024. Allie and I continued to visit several more Florida districts in the first quarter, along with VPAL Russ Smith and Denise and endorsed VPAL, Michael Chandler, and Caroline, as part of the State President’s travel team. In January, we started with a trip to the North District, hosted by Lake City Lodge #893, where we were treated to observing their district Hoop Shoot and attending their awards ceremony back at Lake City Lodge. We also enjoyed a great murder mystery thespian performance Saturday evening by a group of Columbia High School students. Both of these were great examples of our Elks lodges connecting with and supporting their local communities. Our next visit was to the North Central District and was hosted by Winter Garden Lodge #2165. While visiting with the district, we toured one of the local organizations they support, The Russell Home for Atypical Children, an amazing organization. Later Saturday evening, we were treated to the Mount Dora ROTC’s presentation of the honor table. The next weekend, we kicked off a busy February with a visit to the Northeast District, hosted by St. Augustine Lodge #829. We had a great time in St. Augustine, America’s oldest city. We were able to learn about all the great local projects the lodges in the Northeast District are doing and why they are able to claim the title of “Mighty” Northeast District.

In between those visits, we also were able to attend the Florida State Soccer Shoot at our Florida Elks Youth Camp in early January, and then a few weeks later we represented  Florida at the Southeast Regional Soccer Shoot, again hosted at our youth camp in Umatilla. It is always a great time watching our  youth compete and learn valuable lessons through the competitions.

After the visit to the Northeast District, we had the pleasure of hosting our Grand Exalted Ruler, Randy Shook, and his wife, Wanda, at the February quarterly, held at the Florida Elks Youth Camp. We were honored to be their escorts and introduce them to the many outstanding Florida Elks in attendance for the weekend. Randy participated in many of the sessions at the quarterly meeting and saw all the works that Florida Elks are doing to make our communities and lodges stronger. He addressed those in attendance Saturday during our major projects session and shared his message and motto, “We are THE Elks!” I thank all those who were able to make it to the quarterly meeting who helped us show how “Florida Elks Shine Bright.”

Later in February, we returned to the youth camp and attended the Florida State Hoop Shoot finals. We had competitors from all over the state in all the age categories. The contestants did a great job showing their grit. If you have never made it to the Hoop Shoot state finals, I highly recommend making plans to in the future. 

Finally in March, Allie and I completed our last district visit, to our own “Mighty” Southwest District. I will admit it was a little bittersweet for us, for while there is probably no visit better than your homecoming and seeing all your close friends in your district, it’s hard knowing the wonderful times we had visiting each of the Florida districts as State President and first lady are coming to a close. Friday evening, we visited our home lodge, Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota #2855, a visit Allie and I looked forward to all year. On Saturday, we visited Selby Gardens in Sarasota, a beautiful place and where Allie and I were married. We then had a relaxing lunch at Sarasota South Lodge #2495. We completed the visit with a great evening at Venice-Nokomis Lodge #1854, where I delivered my last district message. It was a fantastic homecoming visit and we are gracious to everyone who made it possible.

Our final events of the Elk year were the FSEA golf tournament, held in Sebring in April, along with the Unmasking Autism Gala, in St. Petersburg. These are two great fundraising events that I encourage all our members to consider attending at least once. We always have a good time and feel good knowing that the fun has a purpose that helps others.

Allie and I want to thank the Florida State Elks for allowing us to serve as your State President and first lady for the 2023-2024 year. We have really enjoyed being able to spread the good works of Elkdom. We are blessed to have had a membership gain this year. We exceeded our Harry-Anna Trust Fund goal, and we exceeded the Grand Exalted Ruler’s Elks National Foundation goal, thanks to all our members. Thank you, Florida Elks. I want to extend a warm thank you to all our committees, State Chairs, state officers and our hospitality team for all your hard work, dedication and support this year. We could not have done it without you. I want to give a special thanks to PNPs Mike Smith and Robert Grafton and the Past State Presidents for their confidence and support throughout this year and last. Also, our thanks go to Carl Seibert and his staff for all they did to support us and the FSEA this year. To all our members, thank you for all you do to shine bright every day in your lodges and communities.

We hope we get to see many of our Florida Elks in Orlando at the end of May for the FSEA state convention.

Joseph C. "Joe" Cooper

State President, 2023-2024
Florida State Elks Association