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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708 boys

On Feb. 1, Max Chowning was one of seven high school juniors to receive their delegate package for Boys State, the American Legion program for high school juniors entering their senior year. In June, the Legion buses them to Tallahassee to stay at the Florida State University campus and participate in a weeklong intensive citizenship training, in which they are each elected to a roll in government for a mythical state. They go to the state capitol and debate legislation they create. They cover all three branches — executive (governor), legislative (House and Senate) and judicial (a supreme court). Elk member Frank Smith is the Boys State Chair for American Legion Post 5. Tampa Lodge sponsored Chowning, paying for his $400 room and board. He has participated in many Elks service Projects, as some of his family members are lodge members.

Pictured at the American Legion Post 5 are Frank Smith; Rita Smith, PER; Max Chowning; and Wendy Hall, Exalted Ruler.


708 se guide dogs check

On Jan. 30, Tampa Lodge donated $500 to Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto Beach. Tampa Elks have been involved with this charity since at least 2012, when Tracy Horrell, PER, Leading Knight, then the Exalted Ruler, wrote a $2,000 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant for their Paws for Patriots program. Guide dogs are now trained on campus and then provided to people who are blind or disabled or who are in law enforcement. Since the lodge’s involvement, the campus has grown from a one-building office with outdoor kennels to a state-of-the-art facility, with separate buildings for breeding, administration, guest quarters for those who are disabled who come to train with their guide dog, puppies under 3 months old, guide dogs in training, and a canine infirmary with full-time staff. Tampa Elks have been recognized in more than one location as the facility has grown. Horrell has volunteered as a puppy trainer for several dogs, taking them into her home when they are 3 months old and socializing them until they are a year old and ready for more specific training.

Pictured are Laura Senkow, Southeastern Guide Dogs volunteer; Tracy Horrell, PER, Leading Knight; Wendy Hall, Exalted Ruler; and Rita Smith, PER. Also pictured is Noah, a goodwill ambassador.


708 gar

On Jan. 20, Tampa Elks Lodge #708 donated $500 from the Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to the SOGarden for the community garden, known as the Garden of Eatin’, which in addition to the members’ individually owned gardens, has about a dozen community beds planted in the hopes of donating fresh produce to local food pantries. 

Pictured are gardeners Elise Valdez and Sandi Thompson with Kim VanWalker, Lecturing Knight, and Shelagh Gombarcik, PER.


708 row

Tampa Elks Lodge #708 donated $500 from its Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant Jan. 22 to the Academy of the Holy Names rowing team, a 501(c)(3) charity that must raise funds to exist. They practice at Julian Lane Riverfront Park and share the park boathouse on Hillsborough River with other local longboat rowing teams. This team does community service at the lodge during children’s parties and at Open Arms, serving those who are homeless. 

Pictured with rowing team members are Wendy Hall, Exalted Ruler, and Paul DeLand, PER, board chair.


708 santa

Tampa Lodge hosted more than 100 children and their families Dec. 16 at the Youth Committee’s annual children’s Christmas party. As guests found their seats, they found coloring pages and games at their seats while they waited patiently for Santa (Paul DeLand, PER) and his Pirate friend (Stephen Willis). Once Santa arrived, the children took turns sharing their Christmas wishes with him. They were most excited to get a picture with Santa, thanks to Kim VanWalker. While they waited to see Santa, they participated in crafts and games, including decorating cookies, which were donated by Sandy and Carl Jacobs; decorating ornaments, making reindeer food, and doing a snowball toss. During this time, the parents shopped for toys in the Antler room, including gifts from the Walgreens-Elks gift drive, toys donated by members, and gifts purchased using funds donated by members, including a generous anonymous donor, Paula Rouselle, Jack Johnson, Sam Washington and Sharon Dobson. Afterward, everyone enjoyed a spaghetti dinner, cooked by Dee Cisneros, PER; Shelagh Gombarcik; and April Holtzman. At the end of the event, children received Christmas goody bags. The event was put on by Jackie Jacobs, Youth Activities Chair, and 49 volunteers.

Pictured are Soccer and Hoop Shoot winners Elijah, Selina and Aubrianna Saffor with Santa.


708 sam

On Nov. 13 and Dec. 11, Tampa Lodge held Club Chivalry meetings at Robinson High School. This year’s members are students in ninth and 11th grade and selected by Ms. Morman, assistant principal of administration. Because of the two-year gap, November’s meeting included team building. At the December meeting, pizza was served while lodge member Senior Master Sargeant Sam Washington, retired, spoke about his career in the Ari Force. He had been headed for a professional basketball career but was worried about being drafted into the Army. After hearing about the benefits of a 20-year career, he signed up for the Air Force. By the time he retired, he had three daughters and had a home in south Tampa. Following his retirement, he served another career as a police officer, mainly working at the airport. The students were attentive and asked some good questions. Washington is a 2023 participant in the Florida State Elks Association’s Historical Programs Parade of Heroes.

Pictured is Sam Washington speaking to the students.