Zephyrhills Elks Lodge Grows Summer Lunch Program
Written by Diane Ellison & Bobbie Schwob
Three years ago, Zephyrhills Elks Lodge’s Exalted Ruler at the time, Donna Moyer, and her husband, David (current ER), took on a passion for feeding the community’s less fortunate children. Many may have been forced to do without meals after school recessed for their summer vacation.
Initially, the lodge was involved in the program sponsored by Pasco County serving cold meals. However, it did not include the adults who transported them to the lodge (either their parents or guardians). It was obvious how unsatisfied the children were with the cold meals nor did the lodge want to turn away the adults.
The lodge then started their lunch program, serving nutritious, hot, homecooked meals from scratch including fruits, vegetables, milk, an entrée and dessert. At this point they invited the parents or guardians to join them for lunch, no registrations and no questions asked. In week three of their third year, they had surpassed the total children fed the entire year before. It’s sad to see that the need has increased from year to year, but they are very satisfied to be reaching out to so many.
This year the lodge provided over 3,500 meals over the summer; the program ran Monday through Friday from June 5 through August 11. In addition to feeding the families, the lodge added some activities. The entertainment director from Westbrooke Manor Assisted Living & Memory Support volunteered on Mondays to come in with crafts for the children. On occasion, ice cream sundaes and snow cones were provided. On Wednesdays they held a reading circle; they received many donations of new and mildly used books from Elks and children’s learning centers. Children were allowed to take a book with them. The program has encouraged literacy and reading interaction within the family. Many of the students did not have books at home. On Thursdays and Fridays, the lodge had visitors come in to read to the children, color with them, or answer questions for them or their family. Some visitors included Interim Police Chief, Derek Brewer; Capt. Reginald Roberts Sr. and Ofﬁcer David Wainright. The firemen came in for a visit with a fire truck and allowed the children to climb on board, ask questions and toot the air horn.
This year’s program came to a close with a luau for the kids and their families with food, dancing and entertainment. Each child was given a backpack filled with school supplies. Joining the party were members of Zephyrhills Police Department, Zephyrhills Fire Rescue, Westbrooke Manor Assisted Living & Memory Support, and East Pasco Meals on Wheels. Susan H. Longman of Midlife Crisis Entertainers of Brooksville provided music.
The lodge hopes to grow the program each year. None of this would have been possible without the overwhelming support from the Elks and local volunteers giving their time and donations and the partnerships that helped with the food donations.