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Florida Elks News Editor:
Rachael King
Entire contents copyright 2022 by the
Florida State Elks Association Inc.
P.O. Box 49
Umatilla, FL 32784-0049

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On March 5, State President Suzi Simonelli along with Paul Diaz, District Vice President, and a large delegation of Elks from around the state visited the “Elks Love Kids of Character” store at Vero Beach Elementary. Lodge volunteers, the principal, the guidance counselor and a few students participated in the program. Vero Beach Elks Lodge #1774 uses its Elks National Foundation Impact Grant to stock the store with supplies.  The purpose of the program is to encourage positive behavior among the students. Based on feedback from volunteers, teachers, parents and school staff, this program has been a great success.

For the first years, students earned tokens for positive behavior, such as kindness to others, helping teachers and staff, good grades, and good attendance, and they could turn those tokens in to shop in the school store for items such as school supplies, toiletries, toys and food. Many of the students at Vero Beach Elementary come from disadvantaged homes, so this opportunity is a great incentive for many of them. Since the pandemic, this program has changed significantly. The students now fill out order forms based on digital points received and store volunteers fill those orders on a weekly basis. The program has also been used in encouraging students to follow health guidelines, wearing masks and social distancing during the pandemic. This program operates every week of the year, excluding holidays and the summer.

The lodge has also purchased uniforms for students who are homeless or disadvantaged and volunteers have assembled toiletry bags for students who are homeless. They also put together treat bags for the school Halloween trunk-or-treat event and treat bags for graduating fifth graders after their first year living with the pandemic. Currently there are 10 program volunteers made up mostly of Elks and they have all been involved with the program for at least three years. Elk volunteers are Karen Guidry, program manager; Laura McFayden; Linda Colontrelle; Deb Stuller; Gail Boatwright; Bonnie Swanson and Don Guidry.


Viera Elks Lodge #2817 continued its support of local veterans by providing furniture to three veterans in January at a total of $450 and mattresses and bedding to six veterans in March at a total of $1,800. All donations were for veterans transitioning to permanent housing through the VOA/SSVF (Volunteers of America/Supportive Services for Veterans Families) Transitional Housing Program. The funds were provided by the lodge’s Elks National Foundation Focus Grant. In addition, the grant provided $215 to assist one veteran with an electric bill, $230 to assist two veterans with car repairs and $250 to assist one veteran with a rental deposit.


Viera Lodge held its 17th annual golf classic March 13, chaired again by member Karen Renzi. There were 79 participants, 33 hole sponsors and 17 boosters. Approximately $6,400 was raised for the lodge and its charities.


New Viera Lodge member Heidi Vargas hosted Salsa Night Feb. 5 with a Mexican buffet and salsa dance lessons. The event raised funds for a new charity for the lodge — the local chapter of Life Recaptured — an organization that supports those impacted by human trafficking. The donation amount was $700.


On Jan. 21, Viera Elks Lodge #2817 partnered with a popular local band, St. John’s Wood, for a charity gala to support one of the lodge’s favorite charities — Genesis House — a facility which provides transitional shelter for women and their children who are experiencing homelessness, long-term housing for student mothers and their children, and shelter for pregnant women and their children who are homeless. The band donated its time and tips for the charity; in all, the lodge raised $2,000 for Genesis House.


On March 7, West St. Lucie Elks Lodge #2823 donated the remainder of its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant, $2,233.62, to Grace Pack Food Bank to help children in St. Lucie County, Florida, who are food insecure. This pantry provides weekly bags of food to children in need.


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Sebastian Lodge held its 18th annual car and bike show Feb. 20 to benefit the Florida Elks Youth Camp and Florida Elks Children's Therapy Services. The event draws 200 cars annually and hundreds of spectators. This year the event involved community participation by the Sebastian Police Department COPE Unit and the Indian River County Sheriff's Department with the breast cancer awareness car and teen driver challenge. Elroy the Elk made an appearance and the Florida State Elks drug awareness trailer was on hand promoting the Drug Awareness program. The event raised $2,619.26.


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On Jan. 22, the EL-DOEs, which is the ladies auxiliary of Sebastian Elks Lodge #2714, hosted a sale of new and nearly new ladies’ apparel and accessories to raise funds for a scholarship for a local high school senior. The event raised nearly $600.

Pictured are auxiliary members Pam Saracene, also a lodge member; Gail Holt; Diane Lemire, also a lodge member; Mary Fox; Betty Hayes; Debbie Lawrence; and Mary Ducharme, Ladies President. The photo was taken by Pauline Talbott, Ladies Vice President, also a lodge member.



Melbourne Elks Lodge #1744 used its $2,500 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant and partnered with the Melbourne Police to distribute food vouchers for a precooked Christmas dinner meal to 100 food-insecure families. The meals are capable of providing food for 10 people.

Pictured Dec. 10 are Dolores Casella, Exalted Ruler; Officer Shaun Hill; Lieutenant John Grinwis; Nadine Smith, Melbourne Police Foundation vice president; and Tom Wojnar, Esquire and lodge grant coordinator. The vouchers were distributed Dec. 21.


On Oct. 20 during a low country boil dinner at Viera Elks Lodge #2817, Jerry Harrington, Exalted Ruler, presented a check for $2,000 to Kristen Sydney of Genesis House from the lodge’s Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant. Genesis House is a facility that provides transitional shelter for homeless women and their children, long-term housing for student mothers and their children, and shelter for homeless pregnant women and their children.

In December, Viera Lodge members donated 48 gifts to the Brevard County Triad’s Senior Santa Project. This project’s goal is to provide holiday gifts to elderly patients in nursing homes and hospice settings, mainly to those residents who do not have much local support and would probably not receive anything for the holidays. Brevard County Triad is a countywide partnership led by the sheriff’s office, local police and the state attorney’s office, which focuses on senior issues in Brevard County.


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On Oct. 23, Sebastian Elks Lodge #2714 was a silver sponsor of the Sebastian Police Department COPE (Community Oriented Policing Endeavor) Unit’s inaugural Unity Cup Golf Tournament with a $1000 donation. The mission of the COPE Unit is to create partnerships between the community and the Sebastian Police Department, to develop and employ proactive crime prevention strategies, and to promote the department’s resources to the community. The COPE Unit hosts events throughout the city where members meet with citizens, distribute crime prevention materials and build relationships to create a lasting environment of cooperation between the police and the citizens of Sebastian. Pauline Talbott, Southeast Central District and Lodge Drug Awareness Chair, and Mary Ducharme, president of the EL-DOEs, the lodge’s ladies organization, had a display at the 12th hole kicking off Red Ribbon Week promoting the Elks Drug Awareness program. They also shared information on the many projects supported by the Elks such as Florida Elks Youth Camp, Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services, Army of Hope, and college scholarships as well as local community charities such as Little Birthday Angels, Sebastian Elementary Backpack Buddies, and the Ecumenical Food Pantry of Sebastian. Several lodge members participated in the tournament, too.

Pictured are Pauline Talbott and Mary Ducharme and multiple banners.


Viera Elks Lodge #2817 continued its support of Genesis House, a facility that provides transitional shelter for women and their children experiencing homelessness, long-term housing for student mothers and their children, and shelter for pregnant women and their children who are homeless. Member Gail Miller shopped for back-to-school outfits for 18 children Sept. 9 and presented them to the families at Genesis House.