State Sponsor Message
- Written by C. Valentine Bates, PGER
As I write this message, Florida Elks have just returned from a grand celebration of Elkdom's 150th anniversary in historic San Antonio. Our own PGER, Mike Smith, was in charge of the anniversary celebration, and he and his committee really put on a celebratory event all Elks in attendance could enjoy and remember for years. Immediately after the opening ceremonies, the attendees were escorted to a large area of the convention center where we were treated to actor/singer Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band, named for his character in the movie Forrest Gump. There was food galore as well as sufficient libations to ensure all celebrants would stay and celebrate.
One of the highlights of the opening ceremony was to witness our FSEA President, Frank Malatesta, present the state flag of Florida and PSP Larry Henley serve as Grand Esteemed Lecturing Knight throughout the entire Grand Lodge session. PSP and PAAGER, Winston Needham, ended his four-year term on the most coveted and distinguished Board of Grand Trustees. We thank Winston and Larry for their service to Grand Lodge.
Our world-class COO and State Secretary, Carl Seibert, not one to rest on his many laurels, once again showed all of Elkdom in attendance at the Grand Lodge convention how to plan and carry out an exceptional Florida Dinner. In an effort to be more inclusive, we have been touting this traditional Tuesday night dinner-dance at the Grand Lodge convention as the Southeast Coastal States Dinner. We were happy to welcome Elks from Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, the four states Mike and I sponsor, as well as Elks from Puerto Rico and Panama. In addition, we were happy to welcome 11 of the 21 Past Grand Exalted Rulers in attendance at Grand Lodge and Grand Secretary, Bryan Klatt and Sue, who took time from their busy schedules to spend time with the Florida Elks. The annual Florida Grand Lodge Dinner has become a coveted invitation among Past Grands and other Grand Lodge dignitaries, and we are proud and happy so many want to attend.
We got to know our newest national President, Mike Luhr, and his gracious wife, Barbara, from Petersburg, Alaska. He is the only Elk from Alaska to attain our highest office. You will enjoy meeting them in February.
The legislative session was not as contentious as in years past: there were a total of 15 resolutions and 12 passed. The more significant of those resolutions which passed are as follows:
- Allowing incorporated lodges with a Board of Directors to assign the duty to manage the club to the Board of Directors
- To ensure the return of all records and other materials by lodge officers and employees upon completion of their service to the lodge
- To allow a lodge to react to sudden emergencies without prior approval of the Board of Grand Trustees
- To give lodges permission to select local forum members using CLMS
- To protect the assets of the members and the order from frivolous lawsuits
- To charter a virtual lodge for members whose lodge has lost its charter
- To clarify that assets of all lodges are held in constructive trust for the benefit of the order
The three resolutions which failed were: to require the officers of the lodge to perform the initiation ritual during the official visit of the DD; to allow lodges to amend their bylaws to provide for a different rate of dues for married couples residing at the same address; and to allow initiations to be held in a special service where nonmembers can attend as guests.
Once again, I'm proud to report our summer camp is at full capacity. Every Elk in Florida can take pride in and ownership of our exceptional youth camp. You should hear Elks from other states describe our youth camp; they call it a youth resort. All are in awe of what we do here in Florida. When we tell them about our mobile therapy program that employs over 25 therapists servicing over 500 children every week, the Van Duren scholarships, our Hope scholarships, our Ben Brown scholarship, and what we do for our veterans and their families, they are awestruck! All these programs are the direct result of the hard work, dedication and generosity of all of you, and we sincerely thank you!
In closing, I would like to thank all of you for your enthusiastic support of and dedication to the Florida State Elks Association. You make our state association shine in all things!