On Feb. 3, Tampa Lodge’s Veterans Committee hosted eight veterans from New Beginnings of Tampa, a temporary housing and rehab center that reserves 30 beds for veterans. They were invited for a 1970s-themed dinner and party with live music. Veterans Committee member Evelyn Hemingway led them in a conga. The gentlemen stayed on the dance floor and had a great time. José Rémon, Veterans Chair, also presented a donation of $500 to New Beginnings.
Pictured are the veterans and Veterans Committee members.
On Jan. 20, Bonita Springs-Estero Elks Lodge #2753 hosted its fourth annual charity car show to benefit the Army of Hope. The lodge provided free coffee and doughnuts, sold T-shirts, and held a chance auction and two 50/50 drawings. The flag-raising ceremony was hosted by the Estero Fire Dept. Guns-N-Hoses and Pipes-N-Drums marching band (pictured). There were 32 lodge members who worked the event. Funds raised included $5,542.50 for the Army of Hope as well as $1,000 for Veterans Services and $2,521 for the lodge.
Jacksonville Lodge assisted its first female veteran with a Welcome Home Kit Jan. 19 to help her in her new home. She had graduated from the Northeast Florida Women Veterans program in 2023 and had moved into an apartment but then experienced a fire in October, which destroyed the building she had been living in. She was not home at the time but she lost everything and once again had to move into the women veterans shelter. For her new home, lodge members delivered the household items she requested, as well as a living room chair with ottoman, recliner, bed, TV stand, nightstands and lamps. She was also the first recipient of patriotic quilts, which were donated by a local group called Comfort n' Quilter. They donate quilts to charitable organizations.
Pictured are Donnie Rowand, House Committee Chair, with John Pipkins, trustee, and Karen Tracy, Veterans Services Chair. Also pictured are the veteran’s bedroom and living room after she organized those rooms.
On Jan. 30, five members of Bonita Springs-Estero Elks Lodge #2753 went to Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans’ Nursing Home to entertain the veterans. They held karaoke, told jokes and visited with them. They also brought them blankets, pajamas, socks, personal hygiene items, 200 toothbrushes, 1,000 disposable razors and three cases of crossword books, valued at $1,000, all donated by lodge members.
Pictured are members Debra Boucher, Dennis Walker, Phyllis Steelsmith and Phil Boucher.
Sebring Elks Lodge Veterans Chair, Brenda Walton, was contacted by Highlands County Veterans Association, requesting the help of the Florida Elks Army of Hope for an honorably discharged veteran in need of assistance. Fred Dubowsky has a wife who is disabled and a son who is also disabled and receiving Supplemental Security Income. The family’s 2012 van, which they have had for 10 years and which they had converted to enable his son to travel, became undrivable and needed more than $3,000 of repairs. on Jan. 27, the Army of Hope provided the funds needed for the family to have the van repaired at a local shop.
Pictured are Fred Dubowsky and Brenda Walton in front of his van.
On the evening of Jan. 18, Johnny Miller, VAVS representative, held a bowling event at Seminole Lanes in Seminole with 14 veterans from the C.W. Bill Young VAMC at Bay Pines. They really enjoyed bowling and pizza. Miller used $320 from his ENVSC funds.
Using the Elks National Foundation Spotlight and Beacon grants, Jacksonville Elks Lodge #221 held its fifth annual military baby shower Jan. 20. There were 81 guests in attendance, including 26 mothers. There were also 17 event volunteers. Blue Star Families of Jacksonville helped find the mothers to attend, most of which were active-duty military members. Rae Montgomery, Florida Elks Children's Therapy Services physical therapist, distributed copies of “Advance My Baby,” a book written by FECTS occupational therapists Jeanne Martin and Paula Tarver, and shared what she does with FECTS. Also attending the event were representatives from the local USO in Jacksonville. They held several raffles and gave out donated knitted baby hats. Lunch and desserts were donated by the volunteers. Guests played baby shower games and received prizes, also donated by our members, which included two diaper cakes. Mothers could choose crocheted baby blankets made and donated by two members and two burp cloths and two baby bibs, which were also made and donated by a member. They also received diapers and wipes, which members donated during the diaper drive. The mothers were so thankful and expressed their gratitude with lots of hugs. The lodge also plans to stay in touch with some of the mothers and hold a crochet class.
Pictured are attendees playing games and Rae Montgomery with FECTS books. Pictured with donated diapers are members Carmel Reed; Frances Fowler; Pam Haley, candidate; Rebecca Rue; Cheryl Kehl, Lecturing Knight; and Mark Thompson.
Tampa Elks Lodge #708 hosted six veterans from the VA domiciliary, along with their driver, Jan. 19, for the steak dinner. They enjoyed the food and attention very much. It was a small but fun group and they were very thankful.
On Nov. 11, Puta Gorda Elks Lodge #2606 participated in the annual Charlotte County Veterans Day Parade. Participants included Bill Croy, Elk of the Year; Marie Sellitto, Elkette of the Year; and Elroy the Elk (Dawn McIntyre). Riding on the float with the Elkettes were members who represent the different branches of military service. The lodge then held a ceremony afterward for their veterans.
On Nov. 11, Jupiter Elks Lodge #2469 hosted a luncheon honoring local veterans. Pictured are the member volunteers.
On Dec. 16, Pensacola Beach Lodge donated 165 gifts for the Forgotten Warriors program, which has a team of people who make monthly visits to veterans in local assisted living facilities. Lodge members wrapped all the gifts, which included a T-shirt and pin with their associated service, personal toiletries and slippers. Veteran spouses and widows received an American flag pin, anti-slip socks, hand lotion and lip balm.
Pictured are Jim Rodriguez, PER; Corinna Owens; AJ Peters; Ken “KB” Branch, PER, Leading Knight and State Membership Vice Chair; Wayne Levchik, Exalted Ruler; Shelli Branch; Michelle Pool; Carey Seigle, Forgotten Warriors founder and chair; Lisa Levchik, Secretary; and Will Berry, trustee.
Orange Park Elks Lodge member Angela Myles volunteered to participate in the Ortega Elementary Career Day Nov. 21. She was a yeoman in the U.S. Navy for more than 20 years and retired as an E-7/YNC. She spoke to approximately 25 students in first through fifth grades. When they found out that she used to be in the Navy, they shared with her who served in their families, which included the Army, Marines and Navy. They discussed Iraq, what it looked like overseas, what the Purple Heart medal stood for and what it looked like. She brought several visual aids with her, which included rope, so they could tie a knot, and she brought examples of what knots the ships use. She showed them a statue of a female sailor and a lighthouse and explained the significance of a lighthouse. The students thoroughly enjoyed her presentation and had plenty of questions. Afterward, all 377 students at the school received a Drug Awareness red ribbon from the lodge.
Pictured is Angela Myles during her presentation to the students.