At Ocala Lodge’s monthly first responders appreciation dinner, Exalted Ruler, Mike Miller, and Loyal Knight, Captain Mike Rolls, presented Belleview officers Stephan Michaelides and Casey Polidori with awards. These officers responded to a call and were fired upon. They immediately took up tactical positions to engage the shooter. The shooter took his own life as the officers approached him. It is said that courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to act in the face of it.
Officers Stephan Michaelides, with his wife, Lupe, and Casey Polidori, with his fiancé, Amy, receive awards from Ocala Lodge for their courage under fire.
Ocala Lodge used their Elks National Foundation Promise Grant to host a Christmas party for 25 children who are not living with their families. These children live at a group home called the Arnett House. Each child received a stocking, several gifts, had a delicious dinner, and enjoyed Christmas music and karaoke with a DJ. Pictured at the party are Santa and Mrs. Claus (PER George Cooke and his wife, Agnes). The reindeer and elf are the lodge Esquire’s children, Amelia and Byron.
Eustis Lodge used a $2,500 Elks National Foundation Promise Grant and a $2,500 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to provide more than 1,200 books (all stamped with “Donated by Eustis Elks Lodge”) to three elementary schools. This was the 11th year the lodge gave a dictionary to each of the third-graders at Treadway Elementary and the seventh year they gave a thesaurus to all their fourth-graders. Three years ago, they included Eustis Heights Elementary and at the same time added a novel for all fifth-graders which was written by a local author. A group of about 30 students from each school were chosen to meet the author and discuss her process for writing the book. The lodge also sponsored a writing contest to encourage more writing. For the past three summers, the lodge has used grant money to buy books for leisure reading for all summer-school students to encourage them to share the joy of reading with their parents and siblings. In the fall, they added students from Triangle Elementary to their book-giving program.
On Nov. 16, Eustis Lodge volunteers smoked, wrapped and prepared 181 turkeys for delivery to nine schools for families in need.
Students from Lecanto Middle School placed in the Inverness Lodge-sponsored drug awareness essay contest. Pictured are Lodge Drug Awareness Chairman, Jim Manos; Principal of Lecanto Middle School, Inge Frederick; first-place winner, Cassidy Struble; third-place winner, Ava Rueck; and SRD Deputy, Joseph Gentile. Not pictured is second-place winner, Christian Halle.
Eustis Elks Lodge #1578 distributed drug awareness materials to about 1,500 students at Treadway and Triangle elementary schools as part of their Red Ribbon Week program. Elks Norm Hull and his wife, Bobbie, participated in the Treadway Halloween Trunk or Treat activities handing out additional drug awareness materials in drug awareness plastic bags including coloring books and candy. Each child received a sticker to wear as well.
The Citrus Youth Educational Symphonic Orchestra (CYESO) is a program dedicated to teaching classical and symphonic music to children ages 5 to 19 in Citrus County and surrounding communities. Its focus is learning music for the development of intellect and character in children.
Inverness Elks Lodge’s Community Activities committee has chosen CYESO as its major project. The program has pledged to raise $4,000 by April 2019, and the lodge is very proud to have presented $1,500 toward that goal as of Nov. 2. Herb Yates, Community Activities chairman, is also the lodge disc jockey and donates his tips to the project. All CYESO donors receive a lapel button created by the lodge.
Inverness Lodge Community Activities chairman, Herb Yates, right, presents $500 to Executive Director of CYESO, Marty Hoffman, at the lodge.
Ocala Elks Lodge Exalted Ruler, Mike Miller; Esquire, CJ Duplechin; and PER Brian Seybert served a meal to community members who are homeless at the September meal at Interfaith. Interfaith is a local organization that helps low-income and homeless people. The lodge serves a meal there every other month, and in the months in between, they provide bags of toiletries for them to pass out.
Ocala Lodge’s PER Brian Seybert and Exalted Ruler, Mike Miller, are pictured with CJ Duplechin’s children, Byron and Amelia, as they serve a meal to community members who are homeless at Interfaith’s September meal.
PER Vivian Thomas, Charlie Thomas, PER Ron Goluba, Fran Hendricks and Jim Esposito shopped for hours purchasing back-to-school supplies. The supplies were delivered to Casselberry, East Brook, Winter Springs and English Estates Elementary schools. Funding for the supplies was possible through a $2,000 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant.
Winter Park Lodge held a fundraiser for Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services. Jane Russo, FECTS physical therapist, and Diane Norton, FECTS occupational therapist, are two of the 28 therapists who provide in-home therapy to over 500 Florida children each week. Russo shared her wonderfully moving success story of a young child she has been working with. This truly reminded everyone in attendance of the importance for all Florida Elks to continue to financially support the Harry-Anna Trust Fund.
Pictured are PER Vivian Thomas, fundraiser chairman; therapist Diane Norton; Ellie Dier, Branden’s mother; therapist Jane Russo; PDD Colleen Gallant, Therapy Services Director; Steve Dier, Branden’s father; and Branden Dier, a recipient of FECTS therapy.
Winter Park Lodge’s dictionary chairman, PER Ron Goluba; member Sue Jovi and volunteers distributed over 2,700 dictionaries to third-graders at 21 elementary schools in Seminole and Orange counties. Lodge Elks and Does turned out to help put bookmarks and drug-free red ribbons in each dictionary. The Dictionary Project was founded in 1995 and the Elks joined this movement in 2004. The Elks nationwide have donated more than 1.2 million dictionaries to third-grade students. The lodge has received hundreds of handmade cards from the children and are posted on the hallway bulletin board.
Ocala Elks Lodge #286 hosted a Marion County Sheriff’s appreciation night. Sheriff Billy Woods and Exalted Ruler, Mike Miller, honored two deputies for outstanding community service. Off-duty K-9 Deputy Jeremie Nix was flagged down by the mother of an unresponsive three-month-old baby. He performed several lifesaving measures and then rushed him to the hospital, and the baby, Kingston, made a full recovery. Corp. Jim Long responded to and took control of the school shooting at Forest High after a student brought a sawed-off shotgun in a guitar case. Thankfully, there was only one student injured.
Recently, Deputy Ryan Owens was involved in a serious accident after a truck crossed the center line and hit his patrol car head on. After several surgeries, he faces many months of rehab before he can return to duty. Ocala Exalted Ruler, Mike Miller, encouraged members to donate money to help Deputy Owens, and in one night, the lodge raised $2,500.