Tampa Elks Lodge member Christina Sanchez committed to preparing and giving out 200 hygiene bags a month during the pandemic. During April, May and June, 632 bags were dispersed along with food to those in need in the community – veterans, struggling families and those who are homeless. The bags included hand sanitizer, face masks, toilet paper and other essential items. They were packed at Tampa Lodge and were handed out at Open Arms Ministry Hyde Park Tampa and First Presbyterian Church in downtown Tampa. Rita Smith and Christina Sanchez are pictured packing bags and Christina and Capriana Sanchez are pictured handing out bags.
Tampa Elks Lodge #708 voted to give its $2,000 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to Hope on the Horizon, a charity based in Tampa, Florida. The President, Lisa Chesser, says they deliver groceries to 28 families every week and make sure those who are homeless and living in the camps in the woods eat every day. She can and does accept, store and transport furniture for those who are transitioning from homelessness. Hope on the Horizon also provides clothing, showers and laundry bimonthly for those who are homeless who attend the free dinner at the Gandy Civic Center each Thursday. They also provide school uniforms and school supplies to families who need them. They even donated a refrigerator and stove to a family without them. If there is a desperate need in south Tampa, they find a way to fill that need. Regarding the grant, Chesser commented, “We get a few cash donations here and there, but I’m used to having to pay for most things out of my paycheck! To me, it’s like hitting the lottery.” In addition to the grant, the lodge donated 40 Blessing Bags from Christina Sanchez’s project to be distributed to those assisted by Hope on the Horizon. Chesser, middle, receives the donation April 30 at the Gandy Civic Center presented by Paul Deland, Loyal Knight, and Shelagh Gombarcik, PER, trustee and Public Relations Chair.
St. Petersburg Lodge member Penny Rase has also shared her sewing skills by making more than 600 face masks since the pandemic started in an attempt to lessen the impacts of the shortage of masks. It takes her at least 30 minutes to make the double-sided 100% cotton mask with comfortable elastic banding to go around the ears. The fabric masks can be used by non-medical personnel such as patients and the general public. They can also be used to cover medical-grade face masks to keep them clean. She sells the masks for $10 each and uses half the monies to buy all the materials and she donates the other half to Pet Pal Rescue in St. Petersburg. As of June 30, Rase has donated $800 and 12 masks to Pet Pal Rescue whose mission is to rescue dogs and cats from shelters who may otherwise be euthanized due to time limitations, illness, injuries, or lack of socialization and training. The organization is dedicated to educating the public about the pet overpopulation crisis, the importance of spaying and neutering, and responsible pet ownership. She is also making 100 masks with patriotic colors and designs to donate to veterans at C.W. Bill Young VAMC at Bay Pines. “When I started making the masks, it was such a great feeling. I just love volunteering, and by doing this I feel like I’m giving back to our community and our veterans,” says Rase.
As of June 19, St. Petersburg Lodge member and Americanism Chair, Katherine "Kat" Chaplin, has made and given away 900-plus face masks for free to friends and fellow Elks. The masks are located in a bin in the lodge lobby and are also available for pickup at her residence. Recipients come from some of the lodge’s 1,500 members who also have spouses, kids and family. Chaplin lives in a mobile home park and gives them out there and has left word at their clubhouse. The lodge also posts the information on Facebook to contact the lodge or Chaplin for a mask and it is also posted in the lodge bulletin. Each mask takes 15 minutes to make; that’s more than 225 hours of Chaplin’s time. She donated all the material and labor to contribute to the St. Petersburg, Florida, community during these trying times. The masks are made of 100% cotton and are to be worn to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Pictured April 17 are Delaney Hall, Kat Chaplin and Geneva Hall, Delaney’s mother and a lodge member. Not only did they receive free masks from Chaplin but they were also picking up masks for volunteers who were working on Wednesdays for the Pinellas County school system making sure kids from low-income familes had meals during the weekends.
On April 14, St. Petersburg Lodge donated $2,000 to The Kind Mouse which will cover the cost of 330 mouse nibble sacks for kids who do not have food sources outside of their school lunch program. The sacks include milk, juice boxes, cereal, tuna snack packs, pasta and meat snack packs, fruit cups, and much more. The lodge used their $2,000 Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to applied for by PER Dawn Lieber, lodge grant writer, to make this donation.
The Kind Mouse Productions Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in St. Petersburg, Florida, that assists families and children in Pinellas County with food insecurities and chronic hunger. According to their website, thekindmouse.org, “more than 7,000 children in Pinellas County live with chronic hunger and more than 36,000 live every day with food insecurities.” With schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, food demand at the Kind Mouse is at its peak. Before the pandemic, children in their program received one bag each weekend of the year with an additional three to five bags for Thanksgiving, spring break and the Christmas vacation. Now, these children and additional children need fed seven days a week.
Pictured are Dan Masi, Leading Knight and the Florida State Elks Association Development Director, and Gina Wilkins, Founder and CEO of The Kind Mouse.
On April 3, St. Petersburg Elks Lodge #1224 donated Easter basket supplies to Sallie House and Children's Village which are part of the Salvation Army. Items included candy, yo-yos, trucks, balls, bubbles, earbuds, cellphone holders and more. The items were delivered so baskets could be put together for the 36 children and teenagers housed at these facilities. Pictured are Michael “Doc” Cook, Exalted Ruler; Nicole Brown from Sallie House; and Kirk Martin, Inner Guard.
On March 11, the St. Petersburg Ladies of Elks Auxiliary made a $1,000 donation to the Southeastern Guide Dogs walkathon and the lodge added an additional $250. The walkathon is the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year and is relied upon to bring in more than $1 million annually to fund their mission. The organization does not accept government funding and depends on private donations and grants to provide its life-changing guide and service dogs to the people who need them at no charge. Pictured are Jan Giallourakis, St. Petersburg Ladies of Elks Auxiliary Vice President, and Tracy Horrell, PER, a member of Tampa Elks Lodge who is representing Southeastern Guide Dogs. She raises puppies and Sandy, pictured with Horrell, is under her charge right now being trained. She teaches puppies the basics including house manners and basic obedience, and they then go on for further training.
On Feb. 28, St. Petersburg Lodge donated $1,500 to Northwest Youth Baseball (NWYB) in St. Petersburg, Florida, to sponsor youth baseball teams. NWYB does not receive any funding from the city and relies strictly on donations they receive from their sponsors. The donations allow NWYB to operate their park, make necessary purchases such as new equipment and uniforms, and finance other park expenses including field maintenance and field lights. In addition, because of sponsors’ generosity, NWYB can maintain affordable registration costs.
On March 7-8, St. Petersburg Lodge sponsored member Chris Boland in Bike MS: The Citrus Tour 2020 with a donation of $1,000. Bike MS is the fundraising cycling series of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and raises more money than any other cycling event for any other cause. Their mission is to end MS. Routes included 23, 50, 75 and 100 miles.
On Feb. 29, St. Petersburg Lodge donated $700 to the Dixie Hollins baseball team to thank the team members for assisting during a lodge event. The money will be used for baseball equipment and help with travel expenses. Pictured are head coach, Ralph Rogers; assistant coach, Dave Neverline; and team members.
New Port Richey Lodge Exalted Ruler, Dave Marcinkowski, throws the first pitch at a West Pasco Little League game Feb. 22, 2020. The lodge sponsors the West Pasco Mets Juniors.
On Feb. 1, St. Petersburg Elks Lodge #1224 recognized 14 first responders at their annual law and order awards event. Three additional responders who could not be present were recognized Feb. 29. In attendance at the first event were 151 officers with their families and 71 Elks and guests. The lodge provided a free dinner to the first responders and their families. The awards recognize the outstanding contributions of top law enforcement, firefighting, and emergency medical personnel. Honorees are nominated by their peers and represent departments throughout Pinellas County. “We remain indebted to the men and women first responders who work every day to keep the people of our community safe,” stated Toni Goodrich, PDD, Lodge Secretary. After the ceremony, the lodge presented Pinellas Park High School JRROTC a check for $1,000 in support of the school’s four-year high school magnet program with emphasis on law education to Cassandra C. Bogatz, program director for the Criminal Justice Academy. The JRROTC served the dinner to all 222 in attendance. After the check presentation, the St. Petersburg Police K-9 unit presented a demonstration by Officer Dixon & Officer Herring with K-9s Johnny and Blaze. Officers selected to become K-9 handlers must complete a 16-week school with their K-9 partners. K-9 activities include building, article and tracking searches. Demonstrations included obedience exercises, mock drug searches, simulated criminal apprehension and an agility test. Pictured are Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sgt. Rich Trump who presented awards to Deputy Bryan Beeler, Deputy Colin Roper, Deputy Jayson Young and Deputy Rita Bison (not pictured).