On March 3, the Charlotte County Commissioners proclaimed March as Officer Lou Henyecz Month. Deputy First Class Lou Henyecz of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office is a member of Deep Creek Elks Lodge #2763 and assists in coordinating the lodge’s annual shopping trip to Walmart with the children from Genesis House Homeless Shelter. The lodge uses its Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to provide clothing, shoes, school supplies and backpacks. Officer Lou always enjoys interacting with the children. He works in community policing and serves on the board of The Homeless Coalition.
On March 2, Rotonda Elks Lodge #2710 donated $1,000 to support Project Phoenix in its continuing endeavors to help those in need. Since 2012, Bobbi Sue Burton, founder, and her team of volunteers have provided numerous families with assistance that would not have been available if it wasn't for Project Phoenix. Run strictly by community volunteers, the project in Englewood, Florida, provides many services to the community, but the main objective is to collect and distribute new and gently used household items to assist area families and individuals who are in need for a variety of reasons and to help them make a fresh start and allow them to rebuild their households. If Project Phoenix collects items that cannot be used to assist an individual or family in need, they may put the item for sale in their resale shop and use the proceeds for operating expenses or to purchase items that clients need which are not in stock. Pictured is Jean Humphreys, Exalted Ruler, presenting the check to Bill Werner, Project Phoenix volunteer.
On Jan. 22, Punta Gorda Elks Lodge #2606 held a first responders award banquet for the Punta Gorda Police and Fire departments. Lt. Alex Davenport of the fire department was awarded Firefighter of the Year and Officer Jesse Richards of the police department was awarded Officer of the Year. The lodge was later informed that Officer Richards had been awarded the Enrique Camarena Award by the Florida State Elks Association.
On Feb. 11, the Punta Gorda PER Association held a spaghetti dinner and raised $2,735 through ticket sales for the Harry-Anna Trust Fund which benefits Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services and the Florida Elks Youth Camp. On Feb. 18, Punta Gorda Lodge held the 13th annual bocce tournament and raised $885 for Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services through ticket sales. The annual lobsterfest was held Feb. 19 which raised $7,833 also through ticket sales which will be used for local charities and scholarships. For these events, 50/50 raffles were also held along with lottery boards to raise funds.
On Oct. 3, the Past Exalted Rulers Association of Punta Gorda Elks Lodge #2606 donated $500 to the Punta Gorda Police Department’s Jammers Basketball League. The lodge will have its name on the uniforms and the Elks logo on the police van.
On Oct. 8, the Punta Gorda Lodge Past Exalted Rulers Association held their 30th Octoberfest. Over 300 meals were served to members and guests by 38 volunteers. The proceeds of $2,644 were donated to the Florida Elks Youth Camp and the Harry-Anna Trust Fund.
On Dec. 1, Punta Gorda Lodge hosted its annual Christmas party with proceeds of $1,400 being donated to CARE (Center for Abuse and Rape Emergencies) in Port Charlotte, Fla.
With funds from the Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant, Punta Gorda Lodge donated food to replenish the shelves of the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s pantry. The society delivered Christmas dinner baskets to 150 local families.
On Dec. 14,, members of Punta Gorda Lodge assisted the Punta Gorda Police Department in hosting a Christmas party for foster families at the Punta Gorda Methodist Church. A turkey dinner with all the trimmings was served to the 165 foster parents and children in attendance. Santa Claus brought gifts for all the children as well as family gift bags. Gifts were purchased with funds from the state president’s grant as well as donations received from an anonymous donor.
During the holiday season, Rotonda Elks Lodge #2710 partnered with the Rotonda Quilting Club to provide a sewing opportunity for kids. Twenty-five third, fourth and fifth graders learned to use sewing machines to make their own Christmas pillowcase at Vineland Elementary School in Rotonda West, Fla. Debbie Sommers, Lodge Secretary, describes the project. “I felt a sewing project would benefit children and engage Elks and their friends in a new kind of project. I originally wrote the project last year using our (Elks National Foundation) Promise Grant. We purchased eight new sewing machines and lots of Christmas fabric with the grant funds. To support reading and following directions, I created illustrated pictorial direction sheets so the children could follow each step and be successful. It was a huge success last year at Vineland Elementary. We had fabric left over from last year so I contacted the Vineland Elementary after-school coordinator again and asked if they would be interested in doing the project again. They were excited for an opportunity for the third to fifth graders to learn a life skill. We set up dates and times at the school and I put out a request through the lodge for sewers via Constant Contact and then worked with the gals interested in sewing with the students. Everyone enjoyed the experience and next year we have expanded to include an additional elementary school.”
At the Sept. 11 board of directors meeting at Fort Myers Lodge, Exalted Ruler, Melba McCleave, presented a check for $2,000 to Lehigh Elementary School’s Anji McStravic, teacher, and Jackson Morgan, assistant principal, to purchase resources for their newly added global arts enrichment class. The mission of the course is to broaden the scope of students’ worldviews and to deepen their understanding and appreciation of world history and cultures from around the world.
On July 31, Deep Creek Elks Lodge #2763 used its $2,000 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to take 10 school children and three preschoolers from Genesis House Homeless Shelter shopping for school clothes. The school aged children received backpacks, school supplies and back-to-school clothing and shoes. The preschoolers received clothing, shoes and pull-ups. Lodge members also purchased four bookbags and filled them with school supplies for children who would be entering the shelter in the near future. Lodge members enjoy helping the kids make their choices and seeing the joy on their faces with their new clothes. Assisting the happy shoppers were PDD Truman Bass and his wife, Linda; PDD Kay Neilley; Bill Flecken, PER, Exalted Ruler, and his wife, Kathy; Peggy Sue Dygert, Chaplain; Carol Aitchison, Lecturing Knight; and Cheri Usowicz, member. They were accompanied by Officer Lou Henyecz of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office who works very closely with the shelter.
Fort Myers Elks Lodge #1288 celebrated Christmas in July on the 20th with a $1,530 donation to Florida Elks Children's Therapy Services (FECTS). Throughout June and July, members and guests were encouraged to purchase an ornament to place on a Christmas tree that was set up in the lodge room. FECTS therapist Christina Walker along with her patient, 5-year-old Isaac, and his grandmother, accept the check from Exalted Ruler, Melba McCleave.
On July 7, Englewood Elks Lodge #2378 covered the cost for 90 kids to attend a week of summer camp at the Florida Elks Youth Camp in Umatilla, Fla. At $180 per camper, the lodge paid $16,200. They also provided bus transportation.
On May 14 at the lodge, Greater Pine Island Lodge presented five $2,000 scholarships to high school seniors which can be used for tuition, books, or other acceptable facets of education at either a certification or licensing program or toward a college degree. Each scholarship is paid to the student's I.D. account at their next school. Hannah Holloway of St. James City, Fla., is a graduate from Mariner High School and will be attending Georgia Southwestern State University to pursue a degree in education. Hannah Bryan is a Bokeelia resident and graduate from Mariner High School and will attend the University of Florida to study family, youth and community sciences. Mia Nelson lives in St. James City and is a graduate of Cape Coral High School and will attend Connecticut College to study behavioral neuroscience, psychology, philosophy and a pre-law track. Kaylin Hill of St. James City is a North Fort Myers High School graduate and will attend the University of Central Florida seeking a degree in biomedical sciences. Ruddy Ditch lives in Bokeelia and graduated from North Fort Myers High School and will attend the University of Florida to earn a degree in environmental science.
Ruddy Ditch, Hannah Bryan, Kaylin Hill and Hannah Holloway receive $2,000 scholarships from Greater Pine Island Lodge May 14. Scholarship recipient Mia Nelson is not pictured.
Deep Creek Lodge held their Flag Day ceremony June 14. They were assisted by four members of the American Legion Post 110 who performed the raising of the flag, the 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps” during the outdoor ceremony. The ceremony was then moved inside and PDD Truman Bass and PER Bill Flecken performed the Flag Day ritual. The flags were presented by members of the American Legion. Afterward, a light luncheon was served to lodge members and guests. Approximately 75 people attended.
Deep Creek Elks Lodge #2763 awarded six $1,000 scholarships – three to students at Port Charlotte High School and three to students at Charlotte High School. The scholarships were presented during awards ceremonies at each school.