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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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2383 food drive

During this time of being shut in and closed down due to the pandemic, Brandon Elks Lodge’s Veterans Chair, Robin Rutzke, and Southwest Central District Vice President, Sharon Hammersla, spearheaded an event to support local veterans as well as the Nativity Church Food Pantry in Brandon, Florida. This pantry supports three nearby locations. Rutzke contacted Kim Peatee, recreation therapist at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, to inquire about their needs and Peatee asked if the members could help with donations of magazines. Lodge members were craving more ways to be involved again in community service, and Hammersla felt a food drive would also fit that need. Rutzke believed the lodge could do both. The word was spread via email chains and Facebook. On Aug. 1, the drive-thru drop-off event took place, and Rutzke and Hammersla volunteered from 8 a.m. to noon. During this time, lodge members dropped by with food donations for the food drive and magazines for the veterans. Social distancing was enforced; members didn’t even have to leave their cars. Rutzke and Hammersla gathered the donations right from the vehicle trunks or from the back of their SUVs. Because of all the positive feedback from the members, Rutzke hopes to turn this into a quarterly event. This event had 29 donors—21 Elks and eight non-Elks. The lodge collected over 1,200 pounds of food which Hammersla delivered that following Monday to the Nativity Food Bank’s warehouse. Rutzke had a vehicle full of more than 300 pounds of recycled magazines, one of the few selected items that James A. Haley Veterans Hospital could accept during the pandemic. As requested by the hospital, she isolated the magazines for two weeks before delivering. In addition, a $2,000 donation was received from an anonymous member and will be used for veterans or the food bank. Pictured are Rutzke, seated, and Hammersla during the food and magazine drive.