Thanks to the Elks National Foundation Promise Grant worth $2,500 plus lodge members donating $775 in new Christmas toys, St. Petersburg Lodge continued its tradition of serving their neighbors in need at Christmastime. With the grant and deep discounts from Walgreens, lodge volunteers went Christmas shopping for educational toys, electronic cars, soft and cuddly toys, diapers, clothing, and much more for newborns to 10-year-olds. Children ages 4-10 also received drug awareness activity books and their parents received drug awareness materials. The party was held Dec. 7 and included “elk” reindeer games, sugar cookie decorating, a balloon artist and various designs of colorful Christmas tattoos. Along with children and grandchildren of lodge members, the lodge also invited several organizations in Pinellas County that the lodge has adopted in the last few years. Attending the party were kids from the Children’s Village, MYcroSchool Pinellas, Sallie House and Westgate Elementary. Lunch was served not only to the 120 kids in attendance but also to the 130 parents and grandparents. Santa and Mrs. Claus spent time with each child and gave them specially selected toys. Receiving a gift during the holidays is a profound reminder to the children that others care for them no matter their circumstances. For the day, everyone was one large family celebrating the joys of the season.
Children’s Village is a Salvation Army program that helps families in crisis or extreme hardship situations who are having difficulties taking care of their children and also provides long-term and alternative care for children who are no longer able to live with their parents. MYcroSchool Pinellas is a tuition-free public charter high school for students ages 16-21 in St. Petersburg, Fla., who are at risk of dropping out. Attending were teenage and young adult students from the school with their toddlers. Sallie House is a safe haven for children from infants to 17 years of age who have been removed from their home because of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Westgate Elementary School in St. Petersburg serves 613 students and of those, 318 receive free lunch because of their family’s situation.