Getting off to a quick start in the new lodge year, Bonita Springs-Estero Lodge applied for an Elks National Foundation (ENF) Gratitude Grant April 1, the day the ENF opened applications. The Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida received the donation of $2,000 that was approved within hours of the grant application. This was a new offering by the ENF to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The highly successful food bank was able to provide $8 of food for every $1 donated by partnering with local food stores for surpluses.
Our Mother’s Home was the recipient of Bonita Springs-Estero Lodge’s Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant of $2,000. This organization is a shelter located in Estero, Florida, for girls ages 12 to 19 who are pregnant through abuse, rape or trafficking. The lodge held a community shower luncheon Feb. 17 to coincide with a school holiday so the young ladies could attend with lodge members and friends who brought baby supplies and toys. Grant funds were used to purchase larger items, carriers, bedding and other supplies. In addition, a literacy program conducted by the education director from Estero’s public library was included in the event.
In the past fiscal Elks year, New Horizons of Southwest Florida has been the recipient of Elks National Foundation Beacon and Gratitude grants from Bonita Springs-Estero Elks Lodge #2753 totaling $4,500. It is an independent faith-based organization in Lee and Collier counties in Florida dedicated to improving education of children in grades K-12 who are at risk and below the poverty level by providing after-school volunteers who serve as tutors, mentors and aids at local churches. Funds from these two grants have been used to purchase computers, provide internet access at local sites so the kids can complete their homework, and purchase materials for a literacy reading summer camp. Lodge members are among the dedicated volunteers for the program that starts in June with reading camp and continued through mid-March when it went online due to the pandemic. Pictured Nov. 21, 2019, is Mr. Omar helping students at a computer lab.
Englewood Elks Lodge #2378 awarded seven scholarships to high school seniors which were announced May 20 at a virtual awards presentation by the high school. Normally, lodge members attend the senior award night to present the scholarships, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the scholarship committee informed the school of the winners and the school handled the distribution. Carly Brzostek and Austin Scheetz will each receive $3,000 per year for four years. Brzostek will be attending Marymount Manhattan College and majoring in the film industry, and Scheetz will be attending Florida Southern College and majoring in computer and informational sciences. The winner of the Bill Wellbaum Memorial Scholarship in the same amount is Aidan Moore. Moore hopes to attend the University of South Florida and plans to major in civil engineering. Four students were awarded $1,000 vocational scholarships – Etienne Beaugrand will study nursing at Suncoast Technical College, Adam Berry will study to become an emergency medical technician at Charlotte Technical College, Caleb Joyce will pursue automotive studies at Charlotte Technical College, and Abigail Parker will study cosmetology at Charlotte Technical College.
On April 1, the Elks National Foundation made applications available for the Gratitude Grant for 2020-2021. This money was to be used to directly address community needs during the coronavirus pandemic. The lodge knew who to contact as their recipient – Tina Figliuola, Chief Executive Officer for the Homeless Coalition in Charlotte County, Florida. For years, they have run a program that provides a hot meal every evening for anyone who shows up. When they talked to her, the program was feeding 125 people every night. By the time the lodge was able to present her with the $2,000 grant April 8, the numbers had grown so large that they had partnered with Jesus Loves You Ministries to be able to feed all who came. Lodge members Ron Steelman and Patrick McCarthy delivered the check.
On April 29, Naples Elks Lodge #2010 presented their $2,000 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to St. Matthew’s House, a charitable organization in Naples, Florida, that houses those who are homeless, provides food to those in need, and assists those who are addicted and suffering. Pictured are Paul Martella, Exalted Ruler; Van Ellison, St. Matthew’s House CEO; and Robert Cedar, lodge Elks National Foundation Fundraising chair. Earlier that month, Cedar had filed to use the grant for pandemic relief, which was honored.
North Fort Myers Elks Lodge #2742 awarded $1,000 scholarships to two high school students who are family members of lodge members – Guillermo Paquian, grandson of Teresa Peel, who plans to attend Towson University in Maryland, and Brady Keough, grandson of Richard Wood, who plans to attend Michigan State University. Certificates with their names were mailed to their high schools and were to be presented to them at their awards night, but with schools being closed due to the coronavirus, a replacement certificate was mailed to them at their home address. The students were notified in April. The lodge sent a check to each university with an explanation of its intended use.
During the last two weeks in April on four occasions (April 21, 24, 28 and 30), a combination of 13 lodge officers from Cape Coral Elks Lodge #2596 spent $2,300 of their Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant on food and other necessities at several stores including Walmart, Publix, Winn-Dixie and Restaurant Depot. They then delivered the items to the Cape Coral Caring Center, a food pantry, for distribution. They also stayed to assist in handing out the food to those in need. Because of the coronavirus, the lodge members put food in trunks of cars for the recipients so there was no contact that way. The pantry weighed the food that the Elks delivered as a matrix for their inventory; the total was more than 2,800 pounds of food. The main group of shoppers each trip included Rich Kampf, Exalted Ruler; Ken Kovach, board of directors chair; Kathleen Kovach, Treasurer; Ed Broderick, Secretary; Jim Fraser, Leading Knight; and Mary Ellis, PER. Pictured in the first picture April 21 at the pantry are Julie Ferguson, Cape Coral Caring Center Director, and Rich Kampf, Kathleen Kovach, Ken Kovach and Jim Fraser. The second picture is also from April 21 and shows Rich Kampf; Patti Kampf, House Committee member; and Julie Ferguson.
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.