For the 2020 Walgreens-Elks Community Gift Drive, Tampa Elks Lodge #708 collected toys from 15 stores Dec. 15. Laura Jones, Jeremy Elkins, Christien Elkins, PER Shelagh Gombarcik, Paul Deland, Wendy Hall, Tommy Moore and Rita Smith all participated in the pickups. By the end of the day, Youth Activities Chairs, Patty and Mike Volpe, had counted 924 toys. This was in addition to the dozens of toys Tampa Elks had donated. The Youth Activities Committee was overjoyed because they had many families that had asked for help. The Volpes developed a COVID-safe plan. On Dec. 19-20, the toys were displayed in the lodge room from noon until 8 p.m. Four families per hour were preregistered to come Christmas shop for their kids. They were not permitted to bring the children with them, but instead were each allowed to pick out three gifts plus a stocking stuffer for each of the children they had registered. Then, they were able to wrap the gifts right there with supplies donated by Elks and then load them into their car in an opaque bag. When done, the lodge had provided a good Christmas for 68 families with a combined 253 children. They did this with minimal staffing: the Volpes, Richelle Nickell, PER Shelagh Gombarcik, Candi Suhrheinrich, Evan Watts (Legacy Scholarship winner), two high school volunteers from the lodge-sponsored Club Chivalry, and non-Elk helpers Heidi and Paul and Theresa Bravo. There were still a couple hundred toys left Sunday night. Rita Smith and Bonnie Atwood gathered 80 toys to take to the Christmas tent run by Metropolitan Ministries, one of Tampa’s largest charities for families with children.
PER Shelagh Gombarcik unloading gifts
Happy mother selecting gifts
Two ladies wrapping gifts
Patty Volpe handling paperwork