Early in December, Sarasota South Lodge’s Larry Hildebrand, PER and Red Malone delivered over $5,000 worth of socks, underwear and personal hygiene items to the residents at Bay Pines Hospital. Included in that delivery were 15 lap blankets donated by Britannica Knitting Club. They have been donating their lap blankets to the lodge for the veterans for over 10 years. Each lap blanket is unique and handmade by the members. Pictured are Judith Christiansen and Liz Barth, members of the lodge and the Britannica Knitting Club.
On Nov. 9, Sarasota South Elks Lodge #2495 hosted a spaghetti dinner for veterans in honor of Veterans Day. Bruce Shelly volunteered entertainment and those present got to dance to their favorite ‘60s songs. A special challenge coin was given to each of the 24 veterans in attendance. Pictured is Michael Wujcik CWO4, USN (Ret) receiving his challenge coin from James Lamb, PDD, MSGT USAF (Ret).
On Nov. 11, Bradenton Elks Lodge #1511 held a dinner in the lodge dining room for 67 local veterans. The meal was sponsored by the Bradenton Elks Riders using funds from their veterans’ fundraising events.
Clewiston Elks Lodge #1853 held a veterans’ appreciation ceremony and dinner for their veteran members and families with 65 veterans, members and guests in attendance. To open the ceremony, Danielle Soles, Exalted Ruler, introduced local Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts for the presentation of the flag. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the scouts presented the lodge with the folded flag and asked that they fly it over their lodge in honor of their veteran members, both past and present. Lodge member and veteran James McWhorter shared his memories and thoughts on being a veteran and noted that veterans are a special group because they have a tremendous amount of responsibility at a young age. Kayleigh Torres sang, “I Won’t Let Go,” by Rascal Flatts. Everyone was invited to stay afterward for a meal.
Delray Beach Lodge donated $1,200 to Project Holiday/Pack for Troops Nov. 21 and Dec. 14. Volunteers packed boxes to be delivered to troops overseas. Pictured is Delray Beach mayor and lodge member, Shelly Petrolia.
Scout Troop #512 assisted the officers of Pompano Beach Elks Lodge #1898 by presenting the flags of the armed services at the lodge’s Veterans Day Service. Scoutmasters Jeff Early and Scott Slinko of Oakland Park Elks Lodge #2407 were present. Several veterans attended the service as guests and were introduced, stating their rank and period of service.
On Dec. 15, Nancy Maas and Annie Stephenson, social workers with the local VA Honor Center in Gainesville, Florida, visited Gainesville Elks Lodge #990 to retrieve the lodge’s “Welcome Home” housewarming gifts for 20 veterans who are transitioning from homelessness to independent living. With the help from the state’s matching grant of the Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant, the lodge provided pots and pans, dishes, silverware, linens, cleaning supplies, floor lamps, glasses, laundry baskets, trash cans, personal hygiene products and many more items to ease their burdens in the transition to independent living. With the assistance of lodge members, two vans were packed full of items for the veterans. In January, approximately 12-15 more veterans were assisted with the remaining funds of the state-matched grant. Pictured are Nancy Maas and Annie Stephenson from the VA Honor Center. Also pictured with Annie Stephenson from the Honor Center (middle) are lodge members Michael Evans, Becky Spence, Linda Califf, Margie Baumann, Julie Baker and Maryann Davis.
From Dec. 7 through Dec. 14, Englewood Elks Lodge #2378 distributed 222 shoe boxes to veterans in nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Englewood and North Port, Florida. These boxes contained books, toiletries, socks, candy, writing paper and other items the lodge members purchased to fill these boxes. For many veterans, this is the only gift they receive at Christmas.
To honor Veterans’ month in November, Lakeland Elks Lodge #1291 held a dinner and silent auction fundraiser that raised $11,035! Some of these funds were given to James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and the rest were used to purchase clothing and necessities for veterans who are experiencing homelessness.
Using the Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant, Venice-Nokomis Lodge purchased 300 plain khaki T-shirts for the Support Our Troops care package program. This organization located in Tampa, Florida, works to improve the morale and welfare of deployed troops worldwide by requesting, receiving and shipping care packages to the front lines with items specifically requested by the troops. The lodge committee for this project consisted of Laura Wood, Nick Rosato and Tom Campbell. Rosato was a member of the U.S. Army and Campbell was a member of the U.S. Navy for six years and a member of the U.S. Air Force for 27 years. Wood organized the purchasing and researched shipping cost options and Rosato and Campbell dropped off the boxes at Support Our Troops. The organization works with nearby MacDill Air Force Base to transport the packages from the area to the front lines. Including the shipping costs, the lodge used approximately $1,038 of their Gratitude Grant. Pictured in mid-November with the T-shirts are Campbell and Rosato.
A donation of 100 bottles of hand sanitizer and 100 snack kits were given to St. Petersburg Lodge by Charity Works Inc. of Clearwater, Florida, with the request that they be distributed to veterans. Charity Works has been active in numerous philanthropic activities since 1996, including fundraising events that have benefited thousands of disadvantaged and underprivileged children and adults. On Nov. 11, lodge members delivered these items to C.W. Bill Young VAMC. The snack kits contained snack bars, fruits, crackers, microwavable popcorn and more.
Tampa Lodge, using funds donated by lodge members, purchased $390 in gift cards and holiday-themed socks for veterans being discharged in December from James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Florida. The gifts were presented Dec. 3 by Diane Meleen, lodge Veterans Committee member and VAVS Deputy, to Mitra Gobin, Director of Volunteer Services at the hospital.