On Feb. 3, Zephyrhills Lodge hosted the monthly breakfast meeting for the Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce. Because their meetings are usually held at a local restaurant, most attendees were inquisitive about having breakfast at the lodge, but through the meeting, they were very impressed by the Zephyrhills Elks and how they help the community. Barbara Conklin, Leading Knight, donated the breakfast with over 50 people in attendance and arranged speakers from the lodge to present their charities. The speakers were Donna Moyer, trustee for the Feed the Kids program; Judy Osgood, Elks National Foundation Fundraising Chair; Beth Impson, Lodge Harry-Anna Trust Fund Chair; and Paul Nutting, Exalted Ruler. Each gave a speech about their charities and what the Elks do for them and the community. Zephyrhills Elks Lodge has been a chamber member for many years.
Pictured are breakfast attendees.
On Jan. 11, Zephyrhills Elks Lodge #2731 delivered fleece sweatshirts in various colors and sizes to four elementary schools in Zephyrhills — Chester, Woodland, Centennial and West. Chester and Woodland are Title I schools, which have underserved students. The sweatshirts were purchased using $2,012.87 of the lodge’s Elks National Foundation (ENF) Gratitude Grant.
Pictured at Centennial Elementary are Alice Tolson, ENF Fundraising Committee member; Noemi Torres, parent advocate; and Judy Osgood, Lodge ENF Fundraising Committee chair and lodge grants coordinator.
On Feb. 6, Kissimmee Elks Lodge #1873 donated its $2,000 Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant to First United Methodist Church of St. Cloud, Florida. The church sponsors "Bags of Love" two days a week, where those experiencing homelessness receive a bag of nonperishable items and a hot meal. Counseling and clothing are also available. On Sunday, the church rotates with four other churches to offer a hot meal through Elmer's Kitchen Ministry. The church also provided cold-weather housing and food during a recent string of cooler weather. Some of the monies are also being used to purchase a commercial refrigerator.
On Dec. 14, members of Aripeka Elks Lodge #2520 hosted a Christmas party for more than 200 children in foster care under the guidance of the Guardian ad Litem program in New Port Richey, Florida. These children have been removed from their families for a variety of reasons and placed in a foster home with a family to care for them. The lodge’s main hall was decorated for the event. Lodge members and members of the Guardian ad Litem program donated toys for all the children, and all 35 bicycles were purchased by the lodge. Lodge members also provided every child and sponsor with food and drinks during the party. Santa Claus even made an appearance to greet the children which was a great hit!
Pictured are all the toys donated by Aripeka Lodge members for children in foster care.
Zephyrhills Elks participate in many local activities as an opportunity to show the community what they do. One of these was the downtown Halloween parade Oct. 30 called Halloween Howl. Community organizations create floats and this year’s theme was Christmas in Candyland. Members donate candy for Elks to toss to the kids in the crowd.
Pictured in the float are Ceil Muldroon as the Lollipop Queen, Dorothy Sollmann as Princess Lollipop's cousin and David Moyer, PER as Elroy the Elk/King Candy. He walked around talking to the kids about drug prevention.
On Oct. 29, Zephyrhills Elks Lodge #2731 member Barbara Conklin, Leading Knight and Membership Chair, and her committee members organized a trunk-or-treat event held in the lodge parking lot. Several cars were decorated and there were more than 100 kids in costume. Members donated the candy to pass out to the kids and talked with the parents about what the Elks do for the kids and the community. The also passed out applications and literature. Pictured by a decorated vehicle is member Cindy Pinto.
On Dec. 15, Zephyrhills Lodge hosted a party for community members with special needs. Some attended from Angel Home, a group home where they reside. Lodge member Dorothy Sollmann had a budget of $500 partially raised from lodge members and bingo players. Attendees are greeted with Christmas music from DJ Marc Reed from Tunes 4 You Entertainment, who donates his time gleefully. The partygoers are served hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, ice cream and punch. They can also feast on the many donated cookies. After lunch, Santa makes a visit, talks to them, and gives them stockings with all sorts of goodies and a stuffed animal, donated by Ken Fabiani, PER, lodge Veterans chair. Many enjoy the dancing on the dance floor the best. Pictured are Santa (Jay Klamer, PER), Alona Gibner and Dorothy Sollmann.
On Dec. 14, Zephyrhills Elks Lodge #2731 donated 16 $300 Walmart gift cards to the students at Zephyrhills High School who are homeless. The money was raised at lodge events. Pictured at the school are Judy Williams, school IA/parent involvement coordinator; Jay Klamer, PER; Shirley Crawford, Inner Guard and lodge gift program coordinator; and Dr. Christina Stanley, principal.
On Oct. 23, Orlando Elks Lodge #1079 hosted the annual Drug Awareness poster contest ceremony and luncheon, co-chaired by Carmen Rivera, Lodge Drug Awareness Chair, and Jossie Havens. Winners, parents, school administration, Commissioner Patty Sheehan and lodge board members were present at the ceremony. The lodge received many great poster entries, of which four were selected as winners and 10 were given additional trophies for honorable mention. Rivera says, “the winners gave unique images that captivate a positive message with this year’s theme, The Best Me is Drug-Free.” The first-place winner, Victoria Stirban, shared the message, “Don’t let drugs close the door to your future” and illustrated how drugs can lead to a broken foundation that will only cause you to fail and fall in the abyss. She also showed how wonderful her life would be drug-free, stepping on solid rock foundations with colors of happiness and walls of brick that no one can ever knock her down.” The second-place winner, Isiris Santiago, showed how great life is in the comfort of her home — safe, clean and healthy. When a person becomes a drug user, they lose everything such as their home, health, jobs, their family and friends, and ultimately their self-worth. There was a tie for third place. Rosaly Breve wrote, “Don’t Drug Yourself Down.” She emphasized that she has big plans to be strong, smart, healthy and drug-free. Maria Delarosa described how drugs can destroy a family. Her message was, “Don’t Give Drugs, Give Hugs,” and she illustrated a family with parents and two children. She also showed how “drugs rip apart families” and has wings, signifying death to everyone. She even wrote, “Drugs are harmful and can kill you” and “Drugs take away loved ones that we care about.” This is the reality of today’s society, especially this year when there was an increase of drug overdose and death due to drugs. Even Sheriff John Mina of the Orange County Sheriff Office said, “I see how every day, drugs destroy families' futures.” Orlando Lodge is proud to sponsor this contest because it gives them the opportunity to spread a positive message to children. Art teacher Donna Lindsey of Waterford Elementary took extra time to show the students a video regarding medication and where to dispose of them after their use. She also showed each class a video from the Elks Drug Awareness video contest winners. The message was very effective and these young children who participated know that drugs are dangerous and detrimental to their growth, brain and body.
Pictured are Commissioner Patty Sheehan, Robert Dewitz, Victoria Stirban, Carmen Rivera, Isiris Sanchez, Paula Boutwell, Rosaly Breva, Danielle Arbelaez-Willis, Maria Delarosa, Donna Lindsey, Donna Hoffman (Exalted Ruler), Jody Richards and Victor Berrios. The photographer was also a member, Stephanie Panes.
Ken Fabiani, PER, Zephyrhills Lodge Veterans Chair, made a personal donation of 380 face masks for the students at Woodland Elementary School, a Title 1 school. Judy Osgood, Elks National Foundation Fundraising Lodge Chair, delivered them to the school Sept. 7, where school social worker Lisa Selleto accepted them.
On April 22, Judy Osgood, Zephyrhills Lodge Chair of the Elks National Foundation Fundraising Committee, began collecting shoes and monetary donations for students at Woodland Elementary School. A large box and container were decorated with cutouts of shoes and placed in the lodge's lobby until August. On Aug. 18, Osgood presented Lisa Selleto, social worker, with approximately 95 pairs of shoes from the collection and the $360 in donations. Woodland Elementary is a Title 1 school with many students from low-income families. Selleto was recently introduced to the lodge’s fundraising efforts and was very impressed by the donations collected.
On June 17, Frank Ruszala, Chair of the Aripeka Lodge Board of Directors, and Bob Russell, Exalted Ruler, present a check for $1,000 to Jessica Quintero, team supervisor, and Gabby Flores, outreach manager of the Healthy Start Coalition of Pasco County, Florida. The organization provides total support for infant children whose families cannot financially support new children. In addition, Ruszala presented the coalition with handmade blankets and shawls that were made and donated by lodge members.