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Florida Elks News Editor:
Rachael King
Entire contents copyright 2023 by the
Florida State Elks Association Inc.
P.O. Box 49
Umatilla, FL 32784-0049

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2383 pan

On Feb. 18, Robin Rutzke, Veterans Chair, and Sharon Hammersla, PDD were at Brandon Elks Lodge #2383 early in the morning accepting food donations from lodge members. These dedicated Elks have organized the drive-thru food drive since the beginning of the pandemic. At this collection, members donated 235 pounds of food, which Hammersla delivered to the Nativity Food Pantry. Julie Ebert, Past Lady President, volunteers at the pantry and was there for the food delivery. Those at Nativity Food Pantry always look forward to receiving the lodge’s donations, as the members always donate the most-needed items, and they love that the cans aren’t dented! 

Pictured are Julie Ebert and Sharon Hammersla, PDD.


2383 school

Brandon Elks Lodge #2383 used its $8,000 Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to support five local Title I schools. On Feb. 17, representatives of the five schools were guests at the lodge for a steak dinner and received $1,600 for each of their schools to use for children’s needs.

Pictured are Robin Rutzke, Veterans Chair; Nancy Rometo of Yates Elementary; Sharon Hammersla, PDD, lodge grants coordinator; Kelly Touckton of Willis Peters Exceptional School; Gina Becker and Kelly Brocato of Dover Elementary; Heidi Myer and Sara Schwanzl of Lopez Exceptional School; Lauren Leto of Brandon High School; Marionette Garvey; Exalted Ruler; and Mary Lou Scribner, PER.



Arcadia Lodge #1524 collected 110 gifts and gave them to the Arcadia Police Department for Santa to deliver!

Pictured are Brian Burns, PSP with Quinn Jones, lodge member and Arcadia City Marshall.


cJose Velazquez ER Marionette Sexton Garvey 6751 006

Brandon Lodge #2383 collected 1,043 toys from local Walgreen stores. The Brandon PER Association chairs and organizes this event for the lodge. Lodge volunteer members collected the gifts and other members sorted and arranged them for the exciting distribution day. Some toys were used for the Brandon Ladies’ Breakfast with Santa. Other toys were made available for the lodge Christmas party Dec. 18 with nearly 200 children from foster care. On Dec. 19, all the remaining toys were distributed. FECTS therapists Paula Tarver and Yvette Lambert were invited to take toys for their clients. Representatives from Willis Peters for Exceptional Needs School and Caminiti Exceptional Center School filled bags of toys for their students. Staff members from three Title 1 schools chose toys for students from families in need. An ad litem representative was thrilled to gather toys for the various children she represents and helps throughout the year. Lodge Veterans Chair, Robin Rutzke, collected items for ROTC students.

Pictured are Jose Velazquez from Walgreens and Marionette Sexton-Garvey, Exalted Ruler.


2383 grinch

When Brandon Ladies of Elks’ Past Lady President Terri Ciesla met with a woman interested in renting the hall for a Christmas party, she immediately saw a perfect fit for what the Elks do. She got permission from the board to proceed, and on Dec. 18, the lodge partnered with Family Forever Tampa Bay and put on a Christmas party for almost 200 children in foster care along with their families of more than 75 adults. The Brandon Ladies of Elks purchased food, tablecloths and decorations using the more than $1,800 that was raised from a bunco fundraiser, which Ciesla organized and put on in record speed. The ladies brought in cupcakes for dessert. The lodge donated the use of the hall and building. Brandon Elks and Ladies cooked, set up, organized, decorated, cleaned up, and chose and organized toys. Santa (member Mark Fox) and the Grinch (member Donald Harrison) were in attendance. With extra toys that were gathered from the Walgreens-Elks gift drive, Santa was able to let each child pick out a toy to take home. Family Forever Tampa Bay is a non-profit organization that cares for foster children; adopted and kinship children; and children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected. The organization finds forever families to adopt.

Pictured is the Grinch with the toys for children to choose from.


2383 food

Brandon Elks Lodge #2383 used its $2,500 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to support two local organizations that continue to bridge the gap between crisis and stability. Nativity Food Pantry provides food to more than 140 families and to several local food missions. ECHO provides food, clothing, and access to life-stabilizing resources, such as computer training and resume creation assistance. In November, Mary Lou Scribner, PER and Sharon Hammersla, PDD divided the grant funds and purchased the groceries most needed by each organization. They delivered the food to ECHO Nov. 17 and to Nativity Food Pantry Nov. 22. The goal of both organizations is to support the community and alleviate food insecurity. In all, more than 2,000 pounds of food was donated.

Pictured are Sharon Hammersla, PDD and Chris, Nativity Food Bank manager.


2383 santa

The Brandon Ladies of Elks held a Breakfast with Santa event Dec. 17 during their regular monthly Sunday all-you-can-eat breakfast. Members and guests were invited to bring their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and neighbors. Santa spent time with 15 children, who all received a Christmas toy. Breakfast with Santa has become an annual event that the kids and members look forward to.

Annie Fox, Brandon Ladies President, left, took the opportunity to tell Santa her wish list for Christmas! Also visiting Santa is Dianne Ferrar, Brandon Ladies of Elks member.