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.