Florida Keys Elks Lodge 1872 set up a booth at the Gigantic Nautical Flea Market Feb. 25 in Islamorada, Florida, to promote their annual ladies dolphin tournament fundraiser. They are raffling tickets for their Florida Keys survival cooler and taking sign-ups for the June tournament. The market is an annual event attended by thousands and is hosted by the local Rotary Club chapter, which works with the lodge to provide student scholarships. All money raised at this event goes towards student scholarships in the Upper Keys.
Pictured are lodge member Steven Weber; NFL Hall of Fame member Jimmy Johnson; and lodge members Chip Worley, Gina Giro, Wilmarie Lopez, and Frank Veltri, Exalted Ruler.
On Dec. 5, Miami Lodge donated $3,000 from its Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to Sylvia Padron and her ballet dance team at Arthur and Polly Mays Conservatory of the Arts in Goulds, Florida.
Pictured are Clara Vust; Sylvia Padron; Sharon Weiss, lodge member; Bill Bang, PER, Exalted Ruler; Arian Gomez, Leading Knight, and members of the ballet dance team.
Florida Keys Lodge utilized its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to hold its annual children’s holiday party Dec. 10. More than 100 children and their families were treated to lunch and a magic show by magician Michael Trixx. Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived with a huge red bag full of gifts and goody bags for each child. It was a wonderful day full of volunteers providing fun for their community.
Pictured are Santa and Mrs. Claus (lodge RV managers Jim and Terri Fowler).
Florida Keys Lodge presented Pastor Kerry Foote of the Burton Memorial Church in Tavernier, Florida, with a $2,000 donation from the Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant to assist with purchasing goods for their food pantry, which is frequently visited by those still affected by the COVID pandemic. Pastor Foote thanked the Lodge and stated that “the holidays are a crucial time to come together as a community and help one another.” Lodge members frequently volunteer at the church to assist with the food pantry and on Wednesdays for the free dinners held at the church.
Pictured are Pastor Kerry Foote and Brenda Cockrell, PER, lodge grant coordinator.
On Nov. 17, Florida Keys Lodge presented a $2,500 check to Coral Shores High School using funds from the Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant. The donation is for the student food pantry program. Like other communities throughout the country, this community continues to be affected by the COVID pandemic and other long-term health issues from having the virus. Some parents work two jobs or receive small unemployment benefits, which often do not cover the rising cost of groceries to feed their families. Some businesses have closed and parents lost their jobs and do not qualify for benefits. The donation will allow school project volunteers to purchase nonperishable food items in bulk for their students in need. The pantry is open to all high school students. Students may come by the pantry before morning classes to get protein breakfast bars, fruit cups or juice. Many students also stop in at lunchtime. Teachers are volunteering their time to assist as needed. The main purpose of the student food pantry is directed at students whose families are facing food insecurity. These students sometimes take care of their younger siblings while their parents are working two jobs and face barriers to grocery shopping. This program allows students to take home a backpack with enough food for weekend meals. Kids sign up to receive a backpack through the administration office and pick it up on Friday afternoons. Students return backpacks on Monday and have the option of signing up for the following week. Currently there are more than 25 children signed up to receive these meals. There are several dozen more students who drop in before class or lunchtime. Volunteers also supply students with easy-to-prepare nutritional recipes and words of encouragement in each bag.
Pictured are Brenda Cockrell, PER, lodge grant coordinator, and Laura Lietaert, Coral Shores High School principal.
Ray Lozano, CEO of Prevention Plus, spoke to nearly 1,800 students in sixth through 12th grades along with parents, adults, teachers, administration members and Florida Keys Elks Lodge members. Lozano brought his knowledge and humor to the stage and educated the audience on the dangers of vaping, marijuana, THC, and addiction and the impact they have on our bodies and minds during this three-day event. Since 1986, Ray Lozano has educated and entertained thousands of students in hundreds of middle schools and high schools from Alaska to Florida as well as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. These presentations were made possible by State Drug Awareness Chair, Denny Tarbell, PDD, Florida Keys Lodge member.
Pictured are Ray Lozano; Denny Tarbell, PDD; Helen Garcia, Key West Lodge Secretary; and Richard Judge, Key West lodge trustee.
Shalotte Mills, school administrator at Mandarin Lakes K-8 Academy in Homestead, Florida, requested assistance from Miami Lodge. The school is located next to a homeless shelter and migrant camp, and the school has many students who cannot afford basic necessities. On Dec. 8, the lodge provided toiletries, uniforms and sneakers using funds from its Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant.
Pictured are Bill Bang, PER Exalted Ruler; Jennene Ricard, lodge member; and Shalotte Mills, school administrator.
While in Homestead, Miami Lodge assisted Candice Myles, community relationship manager for the Chapman Partnership, by donating toiletries, uniforms, sneakers, socks and underwear using the Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant.
Pictured are Sharon Weiss, lodge member; Gilbert Serein of Chapman Partnership; and Bill Bang, PER, Exalted Ruler.
On Nov. 15, Miami Lodge assisted The Village (FREE)DGE in Miami, an organization started by Sherina Jones South, a Florida business owner. She set up community refrigerators outside of local businesses that are accessible 24/7 and filled with fresh foods for those in need. The organization’s motto is "Take What You Need, Leave Something for Others.” The lodge held a Thanksgiving food drive in the lounge with live music and collected food to stock the (FREE)DGEs.
Pictured are Bill Bang, PER, Exalted Ruler; Sharon Weiss, lodge member; and the staff of The Village (FREE)DGE.
On Dec. 15, Key West Elks Lodge #551 presented a $10,000 check to the Autism Society of the Keys using its Elks National Foundation Beacon and Spotlight grants as well as the Florida State Elks Association matching Beacon Grant. All the money stays local to help children with autism.
Pictured are Donald Curry, Exalted Ruler; Sean T. Brandenburg, police chief; Secretary, Helen Garcia; Officer, Matt Haley; Volunteer Coordinator, Hope Haley; Jill Campbell, executive director of the Autism Society, and her son, Craig Campbell; and Dennis Wardlow, Leading Knight.
Key West Elks Lodge #551 held its first golf tournament at Key West Golf Course Aug. 7 and hosted 92 players. The event had 41 sponsors. The committee chairs were Fredy Varela, Lodge Esquire, and Dennis Wardlow, Leading Knight, and 11 other members assisted during the event. Prizes were given to the winners, which included lots of community participation. Hot dogs and refreshments during the event were donated by Centennial Bank and a buffet lunch was provided by El Siboney Restaurant. The tournament raised $12,000, which will be used to give back to the lodge's local charities. Since the event was such a success, the lodge has decided to continue it annually.
Pictured are Fredy Varela and Dennis Wardlow, committee chairs. Also pictured are various golfers.
Florida Keys Elks Lodge #1872 held its eighth annual Ladies Dolphin Tournament June 10-11. More than 90 anglers from around the country participated. This event is the lodge's largest fundraiser of the year, with all proceeds going to various charities, including the Elks National Foundation, the Harry Anna Trust Fund and the Vets on the Water program. Thanks to the year-long promotions and the tremendous support from local sponsors in the Middle Keys, the lodge raised more than $30,000. The grand champions, No Tan Lines, won the top prize of $3,000 with a combined weight total of 65.4 pounds. The second place winners were Angler Eddy’s, who won $1,500 with 42.3 pounds. The third place team, Blue Heaven, won $1,000 with 30.4 pounds. Mia Diaz won $1,000 for the largest dolphin caught, at 25.8 pounds. Callie Diehl, 14-year-old from Lakeland, Florida, caught the largest dolphin by a junior angler, at l6.7 pounds. All winners were also awarded trophies and other prizes. This event takes many volunteers and a lot of hard work throughout the year. The event coordinators were Diane Harbaugh, honorary life member, and Denny Tarbell, PDD, Lodge Advisor.
Pictured are Sandra Nikitich of Islamorada and Christina Veath of Tavernier, grand champions; Mia Diaz of Miami, who caught the largest dolphin; and Callie Diehl with Mate Jesse Hall and Captain Skye Stanley.
On May 31, Miami Elks Lodge #948 donated a trailer-load of school supplies courtesy of Florida Elks Charities to the Belafonte TACOLCY (The Advisory Committee of Liberty City Youth) Center in Miami, Florida. Laz Suarez, Florida State Elks Association Marketing Manager and Miami Lodge member, was given a tour of the facility. According to its website, the TACOLCY center reaches over 5,000 youth and parents annually and is a nonprofit organization in Liberty City (a neighborhood in Miami) offering “a safe haven where children, youth, young adults, families and mentors come together in a variety of activities to strengthen the bonds and skills that produce healthy, educated, confident and compassionate leaders of tomorrow.”
Pictured are a staff member; Laz Suarez; a staff member; and Shownda Pagan, TACOLCY Center CEO.