I want to wish all Florida Elks and their families a Happy New Year! As we begin 2024, let us all make sure to take a moment and reflect on the blessings in our lives. Each year, the Florida State Elks always continue to do more to help our communities, veterans and children to help make their lives better. State President Joe Cooper’s motto is Florida Elks Shine Bright, and that is what we do! This next year is full of exciting events by our lodges and the Florida State Elks Association and new volunteers are always welcomed and needed!
One thing we all know is that Florida Elks are great at giving back! All lodges in the Florida State Elks Association have organizations and diverse ways to accomplish this. This year is the seventh year for the Walgreens-Elks Community Gift Drive. We have grown and had boxes in 218 stores. This is a successful promotional event in conjunction with our partnership with Walgreens to help children and families in our communities during the holidays. The following districts have participating lodges: Central, West Central, Southwest Central, Southwest and South Southwest. Each year as this program continues to grow, we can help more families and make the holidays brighter and easier for them. This could not happen without the dedication of those who we have nicknamed Florida State Elks elves, volunteers who help with pickup and distribution of the gifts. In this issue is also a spread that details how this program has grown and pictures to show Walgreens team members and Elks in action picking up and making this gift drive a success!
The Florida State Elks premier statewide fundraiser, the Unmasking Autism Gala – “We’re on the Move,” will be April 27, 2024! This year it will again be at the Hilton Bayfront in beautiful downtown St. Petersburg. This black-tie event is the best in Florida Elkdom and is a fun, informative, networking event complete with a cocktail reception, dinner, dancing, guest speakers, and a live and silent auction with impressive items that you will want to bid on! Also, back by popular demand is Highwayman Artist Al Black, who will paint an original picture and donate it for the live auction. Last year’s painting went for $10,000! All net proceeds will go to one of our major projects, Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services, to help expand and enhance their services and program to help children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). By attending this event, you are not only supporting FECTS but also helping children with ASD strive to reach their full potentional through our services.
This year we are asking lodges to help even if you cannot attend the Unmasking Autism Gala by participating in the All Aboard Campaign! All lodges should have received their first 20 wooden trains and may request more. For a suggested donation of $5, members can receive a train to put their name on or they can just donate to hang in their lodge to show their support. Members, help your lodge have a train car (minimum of $100 in donations) on the virtual train. The Unmasking Autism Gala Express will arrive and be traveling across the screen at the Unmasking Autism Gala and will show that your lodge is a proud supporter of helping children with ASD. This virtual train will also be shown at the Florida Elks state convention in May, and your lodge will be recognized in the Florida Elks Magazine. First, second and third place will be awarded for lodges that receive the most in donations for the All Aboard Campaign and they will also be the first and much larger train cars on the train. So, Florida Elks, “All Aboard” and let’s all ride that train to show that “We’re on the Move” and there is no stopping us from helping children with ASD receive the treatment they need. Let us help them and their families deal with the challenges that they face daily. The deadline for this campaign is April 5, 2024.
As we move into 2024, please mark your calendars for these state events. We love to see you all but understand that schedules can sometimes conflict with family events, work and other activities that you may be involved in.
FEBRUARY QUARTERLY — Feb. 8-10, 2024 — Florida Elks Youth Camp in Umatilla, Florida — Learn more about our major projects. After the final session, plan to attend the State Barbecue Cook-off at Eustis Elks Lodge #1578, located at 2540 Dora Ave. in Tavares.
OFFICER TRAINING SEMINAR — March 15-17, 2024 — Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, Florida — This is one of the best training seminars in the country! All lodge officers should attend to learn what their roles will entail and how to manage and resolve different situations that might arise in their lodge.
STATE GOLF TOURNAMENT — April 6-7, 2024 — Sebring, Florida — Bring your foursome and have a fun, relaxing weekend! Meet other Elks from around the state and make new friendships while raising funds for the Florida Elks major projects.
UNMASKING AUTISM GALA — “WE’RE ON THE MOVE” — April 27, 2024 — Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront in St. Petersburg, Florida — All aboard! Help your lodge ride that train!