On Feb. 15, Kissimmee Elks Lodge #1873 used its $2,500 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to support a cancer resource room at HCA Florida Osceola Hospital in Kissimmee. The service is run strictly on donations and provides wigs, bras and other supplies to cancer patients.
Jeannie Platt, Lodge Secretary (center), presents the check to volunteer staff members.
On Feb. 7, Orlando Lodge held an award ceremony for the 2022-2023 Drug Awareness poster contest for participants at Waterford Elementary School. This year's theme was One Pill Can Kill. Master Deputy Carmen Rivera of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office is the Drug Awareness Lodge Chair and coordinated the contest for students in grades three through five. She also educated them about the dangers of substance abuse and was assisted by art teacher Donna Lindsay. The lodge provided refreshments after the presentation. The top 10 winners were given a trophy and a cash prize. The first place winner received $100, the second place winner received $75 and the third place winner received $50. Seven honorable mentions received $10. The rest of the participants received a medal. The top three winners really thought about their message and artwork. First place winner, Isabella Mata, displayed how drugs can be a negative impact in her life and if she lived without drugs, she can have a brighter future in music, sports, awards, graduation and even a happy home. Rivera asked second place winner, Charlotte Overstreet, what inspired her design and she said she had a family friend who died of an overdose. She used beautiful colors for the large pills on her drawing, and ironically, pills in society are taking many shapes and colors to look pretty or alluring. Unfortunately, it may look pretty but pills can be deadly if not used properly or if purchased from the streets. Third place winner, Marianadrea Sangronis, moved here from Venezuela a few months ago and doesn’t speak much English but she understood the contest rules and wanted to depict a young girl making the right decision, despite peer pressure or bad influence. She said that being cool means being drug-free. The participants’ artwork was displayed at the school so the other children can read, see and learn the message through art.
Pictured in the first row are Isabella Mata, Charlotte Overstreet and Marianadrea Sangronis. In the second row are Danielle Arblaez-Willis, principal; Victor Barrios, trustee; Master Deputy Carmen Rivera; Tony Schiappa, Central District Vice President; Jossie Haven, Lecturing Knight; Donna Lindsay, art teacher; and Jody Richards, trustee.
Also pictured are the top three posters.
On Jan. 5, Barbara Conklin, Community Activities Chair of Zephyrhills Elks Lodge #2731, organized the monthly Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the lodge. Michael Nauman, the lodge cook, made breakfast, which was served by Elks volunteers. The lodge spent $425.57 from its general account. These types of events help to publicize what they do for the community. Jay Klamer, Exalted Ruler, welcomed and thanked the chamber members for attending and spoke about Elks charities, including the Florida Elks Youth Camp, Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services, the lodge’s Feed the Kids program and local services to veterans.
Pictured is Jay Klamer, Exalted Ruler, addressing the chamber breakfast guests. Looking on is Jasmine Wilkins, chamber director.
On Feb. 4, Orlando Elks Lodge #1079 presented a $500 donation to Salome Piedrahita for family financial assistance. Piedrahita, who was born in Colombia, South America, is a 22-year-old nursing student at the University of Central Florida. She also works full-time and is the guardian of her 11-year-old twin siblings, Maria and Nicolas Delarosa, who are diabetic. Maria and Nicholas were born in New York like their father, Jose Delarosa. These three siblings have lost both of their parents. Their mother passed away in 2015 and their father (Piedrahita’s stepfather) passed away in April 2021. An aunt from New York wanted to take the children, but Piedrahita refused. With the help of her school advisors, she obtained full custody of her siblings. She admits it has been difficult raising the children without her parents, but she is working hard to provide a happy home.
In November 2020, lodge member Carmen Rivera invited the family to the lodge to pick up a fully cooked Thanksgiving dinner. In October 2021, Maria won third place in the lodge Drug Awareness poster contest. Rivera said that when Maria received the monetary award, she said she was going to buy groceries with the money. “It almost broke my heart and I told her to keep the money to buy something nice for herself. I spoke to Salome and told her to have the children take home groceries after school from the food bank at Waterford Elementary School. The Orlando Elks bingo volunteers and players donate food and school supplies that go directly to several schools in our community, including Waterford Elementary,” said Rivera.
In the summer of 2022, the lodge sponsored Nicholas and Maria to summer camp at the Florida Elks Youth Camp. Salome said that "it was a great opportunity for the children to be outdoors, meet new friends and get out of their small apartment." She hopes that the children will be able to attend this summer, and if so, the lodge will sponsor them again.
Rivera added that “all in all, Salome doesn't have a family here in Orlando but she has us. Orlando Elks Lodge #1079 is proud and honored to help this young family by applying our principles of charity, brotherly love and fidelity….it really does take a village to raise a child.”
Pictured are Nicholas Delarosa; Salome Piedrahita; Donna Hoffman, Exalted Ruler; Maria Delarosa; and Carmen Rivera, lodge trustee.
On Jan. 20, Zephyrhills Lodge granted a $1,000 scholarship to Zephyrhills High School student Katelyn English-Merle to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF), where she will earn college credits through George Mason University. Katelyn will be attending the Boston campus, where she will experience the college lifestyle, learn from doctors, have interactive curriculum by advisors and visit an accredited medical school. She and other students will also test their medical knowledge during clinical skill rotations and explore professional opportunities among high school students. Her tuition for the program is $3,995. She was awarded $500 through NYLF along with the lodge scholarship. Her parents will cover her travel expenses to Boston.
Pictured are Jay Klamer, Exalted Ruler, and Katelyn English-Merle.
Kissimmee Elks Lodge #1873 hosted a foster family event for 200 children Dec. 10. Working with Embrace Families of Osceola County, the lodge used the Elks National Foundation Beacon and Spotlight grants for a fun day. While parents chose gifts for the children, at no cost to them, their children were occupied with crafts, games, food, Santa and bounce houses. This was the seventh year for this event.
Pictured is the main room filled with gifts from donations around the county.
On December 14, Zephyrhills Lodge hosted its annual Christmas party for adult residents of Angel Heart, who are mentally disabled. The residents received stuffed animals from Santa Claus, which are donated by Ken Fabiani, PER. The lodge donated $500 for the stockings and lunch, which consisted of hamburgers, fries, punch and ice cream. The cookies were donated by lodge members. Member and musician Barry Oliver donated his time and music for dancing and singing. Dottie Sollmann chaired the event.
Pictured are guests at the party.
On Dec. 1, Brooksville Elks Lodge members shopped for their annual Hernando County Foster Children's Christmas party with funds from the Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant. There were 108 children from foster care and their parents in attendance. Children received gifts and parents were given gift cards to purchase food.
Shopping for gifts are Robert Hinton; Carr Hussey, Exalted Ruler; Nora Hughson; Doranda Hinton; Jane Hussey; Cindy Griffiths; Peter Berna and Sherry Mackeil.
On Oct. 17, Aripeka Elks Lodge #2520 presented two $500 checks to local organizations. One was to the Three Lakes RV Park, which works with Angela's House, a group home for adults who are severely disabled. The money will be used for supplies for everyday living fun. The other check was to the Kiddy Up Ranch, a nonprofit animal-facilitated program designed to address the emotional, social and cognitive goals of children. Pictured presenting the checks to organization representatives is Thomas Carlow, Exalted Ruler, right.
On Nov. 12, Zephyrhills Elks Lodge members hosted their Hoop Shoot at the Zephyrhills YMCA. Each contestant gets five practice shots. Then they throw 10 shots and then 15 shots. The contestant with the most baskets advances to the District Hoop Shoot for a chance at state and nationals. Channing Garcia, 8, from Zephyrhills RIP City travel team placed first in the 8-9-year-old category, scoring nine baskets. He plays offensive and defensive positions. For the first time in lodge history, there was a tense tiebreaker in the 12-13-year-old category. Jaymen Keeling and Joshua Oates competed to break their tie of nine baskets each. Jaymen Keeling, 12, from Dade City, plays on the Centennial Middle School Basketball Team as a power forward. Joshua Oates, 13, from Ridge Manor, plays center position for the RIP City travel team. Jaymen Keeling took first place, scoring three baskets in the tiebreaker with Joshua coming in second place. The kids and their families were invited to the lodge afterward for hot dogs, pizza, soda and cupcakes. The trophies were awarded and each participant received frisbees. Lodge volunteers included Bill Moorehouse, Hoop Shoot Lodge Chair; Ed DeBerri, referee; Aaden Moorehouse, ball retriever; Alice Perry, head scorekeeper; Barbara Conklin and Susan Slater, scorekeepers; and the ladies in the kitchen. Channing Garcia and Jaymen Keeling will compete in the District Hoop Shoot in Kissimmee Jan. 7.
Pictured are Joshua Oates, Jaymen Keeling and Channing Garcia.
As Zephyrhills Lodge Veterans Services Committee Chair, Ken Fabiani, PER receives food donations in addition to furnishings. Some of these he gives to the veterans, but he also shares some with a local ministry called Healing Hearts Café in Zephyrhills, Florida. The cafe feeds those who are food insecure, including those who are homeless, seniors, construction workers, workers who earn minimum wage and others. The facility is climate-controlled to avoid the heat or cold outside. There is a TV room with futons and recliners for a safe place to catch up on some sleep, and the TV broadcasts Christian programming. Any of the food that Fabiani donates or that the facility receives is served for the meals or is used in blessing boxes around Zephyrhills to help feed anyone who needs it.
Pictured are Ken Fabiani, PER and Donna Nelson, co-director of Healing Hearts Café.
On May 25 the packing crew from West Citrus Elks Lodge #2693 arrived at Citrus County Blessings in Lecanto, Florida, to pack 178 bags of weekend food for children. The crew also brought a donation for $2,000 from the lodge’s Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant. The donation was accepted by Christina Reed, executive director, and Rachelle Garret-Butler, program coordinator. The lodge has two groups of volunteers to pack food. The food is sent home with the children on Friday to be sure that they have enough to eat over the weekend.
Pictured are Beth Tarnowski, Shirley Gamache, Donna Hayes, Rick Jeroski, Bev Kelly and Jill Jerowki.