We just returned home from our 157th Grand Lodge convention, and what an awesome convention we had. Florida finished third in the nation in membership gain with 2,583 new members added. Great job, PSP Suzi Simonelli; the Membership Committee, led by David McCranie, State Chair; and all the hardworking Florida Elks. Crestview Lodge #2624 won first place for All-American Lodge in Division I (lodges with 150 members or less). Great job, Crestview members and Bud Tipton, Exalted Ruler. The Gainesville Lodge ritual team finished in sixth place in the Eastern Division. Our state 11 o’clock toast and flag charge winner, Phil Watercutter, also gave a great showing, and we are so proud of him and the ritual. On a sad note involving the ritual team, coach Dennis Squires and his companion, Randye Tucker, passed away while attending the convention. Please keep their families in your prayers.
In other news from the convention, Bruce Hidley was installed as our Grand Exalted Ruler and showed he will be a very energetic and enthusiastic leader. His motto is “Promoting Elkdom with Enthusiasm.” Our own Joe Cooper, PDD was installed as Grand Trustee. We are very proud of Joe and Allie and wish them the best. It was also an honor for me to give Joe’s nomination. Also at the convention, this is the first time I can remember that all resolutions presented and voted on passed. The resolutions can be found on the Grand Lodge website.
At the Grand Lodge Public Relations booth in the exhibition hall, our Grand Lodge Public Relations Committee had a photo booth which was very popular; over 2,000 photos were taken with various backgrounds to choose. Many of these were shared on social media sites. Here is the photo of Rachel and me.
My motto this year is “Unity and Dedication Create Success.” I think by working together and being committed to reaching a goal, we can achieve great things. Rachel and I are looking forward, along with Phil and Susan, to visiting all the districts and renewing old friendships and making many new ones. We will continue the Outstanding Lodge Program for each district and the Elk of the District programs.
Our top focuses this year of course are membership and donations to the Harry-Anna Trust Fund and Elks National Foundation (ENF). We need to really improve on our ENF donations as we receive back from Grand Lodge around 30-40% more than we give. We should be in the top 10 nationally with ENF, as Florida is always a leader in our great order.
Sadly, we recently lost two of our Past State Presidents. Ben S. Brown Jr. was President for 1991-1992. He also served as our State Secretary and was our hospital administrator before being instrumental in developing our Children’s Therapy Services. Larry Henley served as State President for 1989-1990. He was the District Leader of the North District for many years. He was also was Grand Esteemed Lecturing Knight and was a member of the Florida Elks Properties Board of Directors. They will both be missed by all.
We were unable to make the first visit to the Central District. However, our Vice President at Large, Phil Gersbach, and Susan were able to attend and had a great time. Please see his remarks about the visit.
Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we travel around our great state promoting all the good works we do for others.
Danny E. Tabor, PSP
State President, 2022-2023
Florida State Elks Association
“Unity and Dedication Create Success”
When you visit other districts, you find out that despite our differences, we are all very similar. We may all do things in our own style, but we can always learn from each other on how to reach our goals! We find that our similarities are much greater than our differences. The goals of each of our lodges are the same. We all strive with pride to support the Harry-Anna Trust Fund, Elks National Foundation, veterans and our most precious commodity, children.
The Central District visit was my first visit for the 2022-2023 Elk year. It was not a typical visit for me because our State President wasn’t able to be there and I had to fill in for him. I must say that I was welcomed and treated in a grand fashion despite only being the Vice President. The district leader, Vic McClellan, PSP, and the Central District Vice President, Tony Schiappa, treated my wife, Susan, and me with great courtesy. We enjoyed a barbecue at Orlando Lodge, getting to meet and speak with the membership. Saturday, we had two opportunities to pick from to explore their district — a trip to the Morse Museum or target practice at a local range. On Saturday evening, we returned to Orlando Lodge for the official dinner and State President’s address. I felt a little embarrassed because most of the attendees had come to hear the President talk, not the VP. I visited each table to let everyone know who I was and break the ice. Going to each table was a golden opportunity to really see and speak to Elk members. Not one person complained of the change in speakers. This showed to me the true value of the Elk mindset. They could not have been kinder and more friendly.
The charitable work in the Central District is outstanding, for which they deserve a tremendous amount of credit for their accomplishments. Awarding the Elk of the District was truly a pleasure but hard to pick due to the great nominees. The award was presented to Carmen Rivera from Orlando Lodge. Her dedication to the lodge is too long to be listed here, but she most certainly deserved this award and I’m just sorry that she couldn’t attend. She is a local County Sheriff’s deputy and was working the evening shift.
The Florida State Elks Association Board of Directors has provided a cash fund to reward the outstanding lodges of each district for their exceptional activities in their individual areas that support the goals of Elkdom. The awards were distributed as follows: Zephyrhills #2731, $1,000; Orlando #1079, $500; and West Citrus #2693, $500.
I thank everyone I met on this visit; you are truly shining examples of what a real Elk represents.
Phil Gersbach, Vice President at Large
Florida State Elks Association