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Florida Elks News Editor:
Rachael King
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Florida State Elks Association Inc.
P.O. Box 49
Umatilla, FL 32784-0049

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                     1529 tammy 1529 hh

On Sept. 22, members of Sebring Lodge delivered 15 boxes of canned goods and other nonperishable food items to the Hands for Homeless program in Avon Park, Florida. The lodge has been partnering with this program for over a year. The program helps alleviate food insecurities within the community. The bulk of items collected were donated by the lodge's Monday night charity bingo players. 

Pictured with Diane Morse, Loyal Knight, is Tammy Figuereo, the Hands for Homeless communication coordinator, who estimated that the donation would be enough to meet the needs of 86 clients in the food assistance program. 

Also pictured loading the food for delivery are Buddy Richards, Inner Guard, and Jonathan Spiegel, Exalted Ruler.


              2383 drivethru 2383 nativ

The quarterly Brandon Lodge drive-thru food collection was held Aug. 27. Robin Rutzke; Sharon Hammersla, PDD; Linda Craft; Sandie Pelkey (lodge member and Craft’s daughter); and Mary Lou Scribner, PER arrived at 8 a.m. to accept donations. Twenty-two Elks members and seven non-members dropped off bags and boxes of food donations. One member gave a cash donation of $204.11 which Hammersla used to shop for additional food. In total, the lodge donated 507 pounds of food valued at more than $1,000. Lodge member Charlene Hart volunteers at the food bank and was happy to accept this donation that Hammersla delivered. Nativity Food Bank was thrilled to receive it, as their shelves were getting dangerously low on supplies. At the drive-thru, a member also dropped off a trunk full of National Geographic and other magazines which Rutzke will donate to the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital.

Pictured at the drive-thru are Sharon Hammersla, PDD; Linda Craft; Sandie Pelkey; and Mary Lou Scribner, PER. Charlene Hart accepts the donations at Nativity Food Bank from Sharon Hammersla, PDD.


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On Aug. 5, Sebring Elks Lodge #1529 presented a $6,000 check to Hands for Homeless Inc., a nonprofit organization in Avon Park, Florida, whose goal is to serve healthy meals to families in need in Highlands County. In May, they served 4,735 meals, and the need keeps growing. The lodge procured both the Spotlight and Beacon grants from the Elks National Foundation to help Hands for Homeless  purchase a much-needed used truck, as their current truck has been repaired with duct tape. 

Pictured at the check presentation are Ronna Mason, PER; Jonathan Spiegel, Exalted Ruler; Jane Breylinger, executive director; Jacob Lyons, chef; Diane Morse, Loyal Knight; Ed Rivere, truck driver; Tamara Figueroa, communications coordinator; and Paul Bermudez, volunteer.


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Brandon Elks Lodge #2383 made a $1,000 donation June 2 to the Tunnels to Towers Foundation, which was founded by Frank Siller, whose brother, Stephen, was a firefighter killed when the twin towers collapsed 9/11.  Since 9/11, Tunnels to Towers Foundation has supported Gold Star families (the immediate family members of fallen service members), families of fallen first responders, veterans and first responders who have suffered injuries in the line of duty. The lodge funded $500 and it was matched by a lodge member. The donation was earmarked for the "Let Us Do Good" village in Land O' Lakes, Florida. Tunnels to Towers has forecasted 100 homes to be built on the donated land in Land O' Lakes for injured veterans, first responders and the families of the fallen in this first-of-a-kind neighborhood.

Pictured is Frank Siller, president/chair/CEO of Tunnels to Towers Foundation, accepting the donation.


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Brandon Elks Lodge #2383 held its quarterly drive-thru food collection June 25. Brandon Ladies of Elks member Linda Craft filled in for Sharon Hammersla, PDD and teamed with Robin Rutzke, lodge officer and Brandon Ladies of Elks member, to collect 238 pounds of food, valued at approximately $404. The food was donated by 23 Elks and three non-Elks. These quarterly drive-thru collections were started by Rutzke and Hammersla during the pandemic in 2020 as a safe and easy way for members to continue to support their community, and the collections continue today because of member support. The food is donated to the Nativity Food Bank, which distributes it to those in need as well as to other food banks. Brandon Ladies of Elks member Julie Ebert also volunteers at food band was at the warehouse to accept the donations.

Pictured are Linda Craft, Robin Rutzke and Julie Ebert.


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For the 10th year and using its $2,000 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant, Sebring Lodge was a sponsor for the Highlands Lakeside Theatre Children's Summer Camp. There were 68 children ages eight through 18 at this four-week session. The goals of the camp are to "teach and appreciate the arts, grow in personal confidence, develop effective communication skills, become problem solvers, and to collaborate well with others." A play is performed as the last part of the program. This year's play was titled “Zanadu Jr.,” and members Judy Hanson, Becca Carpenter, and Jim and Ronna Mason represented the lodge at the show. 

Pictured presenting the check with the group behind them are Jonathan Spiegel, Exalted Ruler; Tracy Schuknecht, theatre director; and Judy Hanson, PER, Secretary.


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On June 15, Sebring Lodge donated $200 to the Sebring JROTC and thanked them for their assistance with the Florida Elks state golf tournament dinner. The Air Force JROTC program teaches citizenship and life skills and air and space fundamentals; promotes community service; and instills responsibility, character, and self-discipline through character education.

Dennis Green, retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant accepts the check from Jim Mason, PDD.