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.