Fort Walton Elks Lodge #1795 utilized the Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant of $1,000 Nov. 2 to provide underwear clothing to female and male veterans at the 2022 Okaloosa County Veteran Stand Down in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. This was the first Stand Down in two years due to the COVID crisis. The community came out in strong support of veterans experiencing homelessness in the community. Veterans in need could get anything from medical and dental screenings to clothing and cold weather gear at these events. Okaloosa County Judge Angela Mason and public defenders were also in attendance to help resolve minor legal issues. Numerous representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies were present to provide housing and benefits assistance to veterans. The Fort Walton Lodge leadership demonstrates that Elks get involved and Elks do what is needed.
Pictured are Michael “Taz” WrightReynolds, PER, Exalted Ruler; Mark Wynn, Inner Guard; Kevin Clemons, PDD, Northwest District Leader; Blake Humphries, member; Paul Eubanks, PER, board chair; and Tom McLaughlin, Leading Knight.
Sebastian Elks Lodge #2714 donated $500 Oct. 5 to the Sons of the American Legion (SAL) toward a monument they are having made and will be erecting in the veterans’ area of Riverview Park in Sebastian, Florida. The monument will honor POWs and MIAs. Gary Saracene, a member of the Elks and American Legion, and Dan Talbott, Leading Knight, presented the check to SAL members Bob Kahl and Susan Hill at their October SAL meeting.
On Oct. 11, Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Elks Lodge #2855 served game day food, including sub sandwiches, chicken wings, coleslaw, chips and cookies, to 17 veterans at Veterans Village in Bradenton, Florida, to celebrate the football season. The village houses 20 veterans who are transitioning back into society. Funds were provided from the Elks National Foundation Focus Grant.
Pictured are lodge members Charlotte Madara and Bob Goldin, Army veteran.
The Zephyrhills Elks Lodge’s Veterans Services Committee has furnished 207 veterans’ homes. There have been seven new homes furnished using funds from the Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant and from the Welcome Home kits, totaling $30,100. The veterans are all so appreciative to be able to start a new life on their own.
Members of the Sebastian Lodge Veterans Services Committee provided dinner and birthday cake at the Veterans' Transitional Facility Oct. 15. “Adopted” veterans who had recently transitioned into a place of their own were invited back to the lodge for dinner. Christmas wish lists were discussed for the lodge’s giving tree.
On Aug. 22, Fort Walton Elks Lodge #1795 presented Healing Paws for Warriors the $2,000 Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant. This nonprofit organization’s motto is “Bringing awareness to veteran suicide; reducing the numbers one service dog at a time.” Healing Paws for Warriors provides rescue-to-trained ADA-certified service dogs at no cost to combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and military sexual trauma (MST). A study by the Department of Veterans Affairs found that 22 veterans and active-duty members die by suicide every day. Healing Paws for Warriors trains rescue or shelter dogs for the veterans, potentially saving two lives in the process.
Pictured are Paul Eubanks, PER; Mike Arena of Healing Paws for Warriors and his dog, Chip; member Dusty Austin; Tom Knowles, PER; member Blake Humphries; Jamie Clemons, Lodge Secretary; and Michael “Taz” WrightReynolds, PER, Exalted Ruler.
On July 28, Holley-Navarre Elks Lodge #2787 members Ben Gray, Veterans Committee Chair; TJ Carey, PER, Exalted Ruler; Charlie Mussari; and Skip Dalle Molle bought and assembled five boxes of household goods, including dishware, pots, pans and supplies necessary to initially stock a veteran’s new apartment. These home kits are part of the 2023 Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant awarded to the lodge for Project Welcome Home. This was the first half of the grant used and it cost $1,153 for these kits. Kits were given to the local Veterans Administration facility at Eglin Air Force Base for distribution to qualified veterans who are moving into HUD housing. Due to rising prices and costs, the additional five kits will be assembled and delivered at a later date and any additional costs will be covered from the lodge charity fund. Also presented in each kit is a star cut from a U.S. flag from the retirement box with the phrase, “As long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them.”
Pictured are Ben Gray, Skip Dalle Molle and Charlie Mussari. Also pictured are Ben Gray, Charlie Mussari and Eric VanDerMollen, VA representative, with the kits in the background. Also shown is the star and lodge note.
Paul Colicci Jr., Englewood Elks Lodge #2378 Veterans Committee Chair, and member Joyce Sousa have been busy since the beginning of the year rounding up and delivering donations for veterans. To date, Colicci and Sousa have collected and delivered 73 crocheted blankets, 37 bags of clothing, five boxes of personal items, three boxes of kitchen items, one small appliance and a grill to the Port Charlotte Florida Homeless Coalition to assist individuals and families in need of food and shelter. They have also been collecting shoeboxes for the lodge’s adopt-a-box veterans program. The shoeboxes are all wrapped, mostly by Sousa, and are ready to be “adopted” by lodge members and friends of the Elks and filled with supplies of their choosing for veterans with items such as shampoos, conditioners, razors, soaps, lotions, socks, candies, books, magazines, cards and any small personal items the veterans might enjoy having.
Pictured by a car full of donations are Paul Colicci Jr. and Joyce Sousa. Also pictured are all the shoeboxes wrapped by Sousa.
On Aug. 25 using $600 from its Elks National Foundation Impact Grant, Greater Pine Island Elks Lodge #2781 purchased pool railings so 98-year-old World War II veteran Edward "Ted" Lincoln could access his pool, which he dearly loves. Mike Enke from Lee County Pools installed the railing at no cost to the lodge, and Enke has applied for lodge membership.
Pictured with Lincoln, seated, are Lodge Veterans Committee members Jack Rovaldi, PER, retired Command Sergeant Major; George Smith, PER; and John Cammick, Vietnam veteran.
On Sept. 9, South Hillsborough Lodge donated $3000 plus $3,000 worth of supplies necessary to set up housekeeping for veterans leaving the James A. Haley VA Hospital domiciliary for their new apartments. This donation was made possible by the Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant.
Pictured are Chuck Stieb, PER, trustee; Ryan Nitzsche, recreation therapist; Janet Meyer, lodge trustee; Joyce Dominick-Schaefer, PER, lodge grant coordinator; and Dr. Marc Ruiz, director of the Tampa domiciliary.
On Sept. 9, Brooksville Elks Lodge began hosting monthly dinners to honor veterans in assisted living facilities. The lodge invited six veterans from Brookdale Senior Living to their dinner dance. The veterans were honored and received thanks from the lodge members for their service.
Pictured in the back row are members Scott Mackeil, Michael Hughson and Richard Griffiths. In the front row are James Marise, Army; Maria Fouch, Army; Lester Johnson, Navy; George Hartman, Army; Thomas Tschantre, Navy; and William Bennett, Army.
Viera Elks Lodge #2817 continued its support of local veterans by providing furniture to seven veterans (two in July, one in August and two in September) who are transitioning to permanent housing. The program is VOA/SSVF (Volunteers of America/Supportive Services for Veterans Families) Transitional Housing Program. The lodge used $750 of the lodge’s Elks National Foundation Focus Grant. In addition, $1,750 from the grant was donated to the VOA to assist veterans with rent and/or utility payments. Another $750 from the grant was used to purchase five twin bed mattresses for the veterans’ housing units. The lodge also purchased 15 small microwaves for $1,100 (approximately $73 each) and 30 stick vacuums for $1,100.0 (approximately $36 each) with funds from the Elks National Foundation Spotlight Grant. These were also donated to the veterans’ housing units.