What a celebration! The Tampa national convention was over the top thanks to so many of you who volunteered. I have not heard one bad comment on the event, thanks to you, except perhaps the Storm/Hurricane Elsa, and I’m pretty sure even the Florida State Elks Association could not control that challenge. It was so motivating to see our members reuniting and enjoying our beautiful state. Our theme was “Sunshine in Paradise,” and it exceeded our expectations. We hosted just under 7,000 members and guests. That is a lot of hosting! We installed our new Grand Exalted Ruler, T. Keith Mills from Idaho, and his officers. I extend a special thanks to our local service committee. We have had meetings monthly for the past year putting this together. Chair, Tom Ludwick, PSP, and his wife, Joyce; Carl Gerace, PSP, and his wife, Cathy; Dan Tabor, PSP, and his wife, Rachel; and Joe Cooper, PDD, and his wife, Allie, never missed a beat! You cannot imagine the hours they volunteered to make this a great convention. This project took approximately 300 volunteers. We also had Fourth of July fireworks and a Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup championship game. Bob Grafton, Sandra and I offer our sincere thanks!
Last year offered all of us a lot of challenges and this year is the time to respond by showing our resilience. Throughout our order’s history, we responded with a vengeance to the challenges at hand. I am challenging the newly installed District Deputies and District Vice Presidents to honor your obligation. It is my hope that the immediate past officers will assist in our growth. We must make a difference this year. We cannot take the Florida State Elks Association to the next level without your dedication.
We have already started to right the ship in membership. We must stay focused on bringing new members in and retaining our existing members. Rick Gathen, Grand Lodge Membership and Marketing Chair, has us off to a very impressive beginning of this lodge year. As our State President’s motto states, “Teamwork Makes Elkdom Shine.” We need to be a team and put the Florida State Elks Association at the lead of our order. A proven tool to aid in your membership, not only today but throughout the future, is to sign up for the electronic billing system. It is making huge strides in lodge profitability and efficiency.
And as if things are not already progressing nicely, we also have kids at camp! Nick Miller, Florida Elks Youth Camp Director, and his staff are at full throttle. It is so exciting to see our camp back to being the best camp anywhere. We can follow this up with Colleen Gallant, Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services Director, having the therapists back in homes providing our services. And what an association we have! Carl Seibert, COO/State Secretary of the Florida State Elks Association, and his staff are keeping things running smoothly and efficiently.
Heads up! Next year’s national convention is in Atlanta, Georgia, and the reserved seating is by your membership growth over the prior year. Let’s make plans for the Florida members attending to sit in the front rows!
God bless you, all. Bob Grafton and Sandra and I wish you all the best.
Michael F. Smith, PNP
Florida State Elks Association