Thank You, Florida Elks!
When I gave my acceptance speech at the 2021 state convention, I asked for a trifecta — a statewide membership gain, to meet our Harry-Anna Trust Fund (HATF) per capita goal of $12.50 per member and to meet our Elks National Foundation per capita goal of $4.80 and exceed it! Florida Elks, you hit all three. We have a statewide membership gain of 2,523 for a 4.9% gain. We raised $786,577 for HATF for a per capita of $15.34. We raised $444,334 for Elks National Foundation, for a state per capita of $8.67. Thank you all for your great teamwork to get this done. Florida Elkdom is shining!
Serving as your State President and first gentleman was an honor and a privilege for us, one we will not soon forget. As I write my final article to you as your State President, Joey and I are so thankful and blessed to have had this opportunity to travel all around Florida as well as our sister states of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, visiting with everyone and helping Florida Elkdom to grow!
After the holiday season, we wrapped up our final four visits to the North District, with Vice President Stephen “Snuffy” Smith and Amy at Live Oak and Lake City lodges. They held an impressive cornhole tournament and membership drive Saturday where they raised funds for the Harry-Anna Trust Fund and brought in six new members! We then headed to the North Central District, where Vice President Kevin Burgess planned a delightful dinner celebration at his Apopka Lodge with music and dancing. We were sad that his wife, Stephanie, was unable to attend due to a current hospitalization, as she was dearly missed.
For the February quarterly, Joey and I had the honor to host our national president, T. Keith Mills, and first lady, Amy, to our camp for their official visit. I think everyone who heard his message will agree that it was very inspiring. May his motto, “Meeting the Challenge,” help us to continue our good works!
After the quarterly, we were off to the Northeast District, where Vice President Scott Wilson brought us to visit his lodge, the mother lodge, Jacksonville #221. On Saturday, they held a military baby shower for expectant mothers. This was a wonderful way to support their community!
Of course, finally came our homecoming weekend! What a fabulous weekend it was to end our official visits. Vice President Paul Diaz and Donna planned a wonderful weekend of fun and activities. On Saturday, we toured a local school that the Vero Beach Elks support with food and supplies, and then we visited a housing project for veterans. It was very heartwarming to meet one of the veterans staying there. He said the Elks saved his life. Joey and I were honored with the many special guests who attended Saturday night for the celebration dinner!
In between our visits, we also attended the state and south regional Soccer Shoots, both held at the Florida Elks Youth Camp, along with the state Hoop Shoot at the camp. We then went to Valdosta, Georgia, for the south regional Hoop Shoot. Florida is sending three kids to Chicago, Illinois, for the finals at the end of April! Speaking of April, we will wrap up our year with attending the state golf tournament and the Unmasking Autism gala. Then we head to the state convention to celebrate all of you and your hard work this year!
This has been an incredible journey, one I could not do alone. I want to pause and thank your first gentleman, my fabulous husband, Joey, for all his love and support through our Elk journey! I think you will agree that he rocked at being the first, first gentleman of Florida!
There are so many people to thank for their support to Joey and me this past year and beyond — my sponsor into Elkdom 22 years ago, my loving and supportive mom, Betty Tewksbury, PDD. Thank you, Mom! To my in-laws, Gus and Arlene Simonelli, thank you for your love and support!
I would also like to thank the Past State Presidents Advisory Committee for bestowing on me the opportunity to serve as your State President. I would like to also thank PNP Mike and Sandra Smith along with PNP Bob Grafton for all their help and advice this past year.
To our Chief Operating Officer, Carl Seibert, thank you and your fabulous staff for what you do to keep the wheels of Florida Elkdom spinning! We are very lucky in Florida to have you! Thank you for all you do!
I want to thank our hospitality team members headed by Nancy Miller, PDD; our fundraising chair, Marge Spera, PDD; all those who contributed to her fundraising efforts for our travels; AJ Hurd for managing the funds; and the lodges of the Southeast Central District for your support!
Thanks also go to our travel team: Mark Thompson, VPAL, and Barbara; Dayna Miller, PER, endorsed Northeast District Vice President, for serving as the State Chair of the Harry-Anna Trust Fund; Joe Cooper, PDD, State Chaplain, and Allie; Nancy Miller, PDD, State Tiler, and Paul; and Milton Muller, PDD, State Sergeant at Arms, and Barbara.
Finally, thank you, Florida Elks, for your hospitality and generosity as Joey and I visited your districts and lodges. We had a wonderful time and made so many new friends. Like PSP Rudy Masi Sr. always says, we are like one big Elks family! Thank you, Rudy and Dolly, for all your help and mentoring me to be the best I could be as the State President.
You all showed my motto this year — “Teamwork Makes Elkdom Shine.”
Again, thank you, Florida Elks! Keep the momentum going!
May God bless the USA, our great order and each one of you!
Susan "Suzi" Simonelli
State President, 2021-2022
Florida State Elks Association
“Teamwork Makes Elkdom Shine”