Diane Corson, occupational therapist, with Alicia Hill and Micaela Gonzalez
Adam & Sophie Herke with Chrissy Nathan, occupational therapist
Debbie Wilson; Alice Hurd, lodge treasurer; Joey Simonelli, PER; Marty Hartrick, PER; Suzi Simonelli, VPAL; Chrissy Nathan, FECTS occupational therapist; and Diane Corson, FECTS occupational therapist.
Once again, Santa and all his incredible helpers at Stuart-Jensen Elks Lodge #1870 brought smiles to local Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services patients during the annual Christmas party Dec. 15. Although the drive-thru party was a new change for this year, the holiday spirit was in full force. In addition to the lodge’s Angel Tree in which lodge members adopt a patient to fulfill their wish list, a local vet’s office joined the cause – the Stuart Sound Animal Hospital with Dr. Chris Steers and his wonderful staff – and conducted a toy drive for the therapy patients as well. With everyone’s involvement, there were enough toys collected for every child as well as their siblings to receive gifts. Besides receiving toys from Santa, the Elk elves were busy in the kitchen cooking a take-home dinner of chicken tenders and fries for every child. There were so many smiling faces as the therapists put the gifts in the cars.
On Dec. 12, more than 50 Elks, family and friends of Merritt Island Lodge volunteered their time to help give some holiday cheer to families in need with the Boot Strap event. This year, 74 families received plenty of food to last their holiday season and three people were given $100 gift cards to Aldi to help give them some holiday cheer. Food was purchased from the lodge account and members delivered the groceries to the recipients. “It’s unfortunate that so many families need assistance but it’s nice to know that we have so many Elks with big hearts,” said Marleen Kovalchik, lodge member.
On Dec. 5, Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Lodge #2855 hosted the 2020 Meals on Wheels shoe box drive for the second year in a row. Participants filled 567 shoeboxes with essential items, and gifts were collected at the event. The boxes were distributed to seniors participating in the Meals on Wheels program. For some, this may be the only gift they receive. Also, $1,140 was collected for Meals on Wheels at the event. In addition to the facility's use, the lodge donated over $1,750 in food and beverages for participants to enjoy. The crowd was less than last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but those in attendance enjoyed the spirit of giving and the entertainment generously donated by Chuck and Phyllis of Lynn's Spins. Pictured are Brett Davis, PDD, Lodge Secretary, and Maribeth Phillips, lodge member and CEO of Meals on Wheels Plus in Bradenton, Florida.
On Sept. 16, Tampa Elks Lodge #708 presented its $2,500 Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant to representatives at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital to be used by the maternity care program to help fund a drive-thru baby shower. The event was held Nov. 14 and was organized by the hospital’s Voluntary Services department. Thirty-five guests drove through the parking lot and each received a basket filled with items for the expectant mothers and their babies such as receiving blankets, towels, hats, soap, shampoo, bottles, nipples, pacifiers, bottle brushes, outlet covers, diapers and wipes, onesies, and socks.
According to Diane J. Meleen who is retired from the U.S. Army and who is a VAVS Deputy and a lodge Veterans Committee member, “The maternity care program provides maternity care to female veterans. These female veterans must have served in the military and must be enrolled in the VA Health Care System. Maternity care coverage includes clinic visits, hospitalization for delivery as well as the first seven days of newborn care. After delivery, the veteran (mother) will continue to be covered at the VA, but newborn health care is not covered. The maternity care program has discovered shortcomings in after care support for new mothers after they deliver. These shortcomings range from lack of family support, homelessness, complicated physical and mental health problems, financial duress, and/or lack of employment. Further complicating after care recovery, female veterans can also suffer a complex assortment of mental health issues which spike during pregnancy, lack of a support network, and financial and emotional stress of raising a child as a single parent. The VA program currently serves 150 female veterans which is a 300% increase from 2015. After delivery, the maternity care program connects the new mother with a VA Community Care social worker who helps to support individual concerns.”
Tammy Tenace, RN, MS, APRN, maternity care coordinator at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, was extremely appreciative of Tampa Lodge’s donation. She noted, “The feedback from the veterans was praise and gratitude for the shower gifts. For some, this was their only baby shower due to COVID and families living far away.”
Pictured at the check presentation are Janeth Lopez, Volunteer Services at hospital; Tammy Tenace, maternity care coordinator; Laura Jones, Lodge Secretary; Chris Miles, Exalted Ruler; Diane Meleen, VAVS Deputy and lodge Veterans Committee member; Melissa Sundin, assistant director of the hospital; Kristie Mathews, lodge Veterans Committee member; and Brian Brantley, VAVS Representative.
Pictured at the baby shower are Shayna Rodriguez from Public Affairs; Vivian Oliver, chaplain; Tammy Tenace, maternity care coordinator; Jan Flemons, volunteer; Robin Mariani, Women Veteran Program manager; and Dr. Geethi Abraham (standing behind table) from the Women’s Center who volunteered for the day.
On Nov. 23 in conjunction with One More Child, an organization that provides foster care, Gainesville Elks Lodge #990 distributed full Thanksgiving meals to 18 families providing foster care throughout Alachua County and other nearby Florida counties as well. Some families had up to eight family members. Elks members shopped and packaged the meal with the use of the lodge’s Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant. Pictured are Mary Griffis and Candace McCoy from One More Child, Dina Atalig from Gainesville Lodge, and Jenny Hewitt from One More Child with some of the packages awaiting arrival to families.
New Port Richey Elks Lodge #2284 used its $3,500 Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to provide 20 Thanksgiving meals to those less fortunate than them. Rebecca Soto, Lodge Secretary, delivered food certificates to two schools which were required at the meal pickup at the lodge Nov. 21. School staff members chose the recipients. Pictured are Walter Wieshaar Jr., member; Soto; and Barbara Rodgers, PER, Exalted Ruler.