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  • Read a statement from your Exalted Ruler, Chris Porche.
  • Read messages from our Veterans Committee, House Committee, and Board of Directors.
  • Get an update on all of our upcoming meals & events
  • Take a peek at all of our new members from the last 2 months.
  • And don’t forget that you can connect with us on Facebook

Committee Update Feb 2020

Happy New Year from the Veterans Committee. At the December 11th spaghetti dinner, we were able to present to Kathryn and the James A Haley Foster Veterans a donation of a $1,100.00 in gift cards. Each patient in the program received a $50.00 gift card. Penny Deig made a Christmas Elf cardholder for each gift card. Each patient also received a personal care package of toiletries, socks, candy, and puzzles donated and put together by Dan Wait and the Sandpiper Community. All of the patients in the program were truly surprised and appreciative of the gifts

The Sandpiper Community put together 97 care packages. We will be donating the extras directly to the hospital for their homeless veteran programs.

We were also able to donate to the Lakeland Veterans Center. We provided $500.00 in gift cards and addi­tional gifts totaling $117.00, all going to veterans who were struggling for the holidays. Elks helping local veterans in need is truly rewarding.

The James A Haley Foster Care Veteran Program is looking for volunteers to visit with the shut in veterans in their program. Volunteers would determine how often they would visit. All volunteers must participate in the hospital’s approval process. Please contact Char, if you are interested in volunteering.

We would like to thank all of you for your help and support.

Char and Kristen

From the Corner #4

A View From the Corner -#4

A big hello again from the corner!  Just when you all thought I had given up and gone away, here I am again, spouting off from the corner of the bar.

I was bouncing ideas for this article around my head (and believe me, its easy to toss around things in such a big empty space), wondering what to write about.  One suggestion was that I talk about our 11 O’clock Toast.  Another was to let folks know about the Elks Riders.  That set my mind working, and I realized what I actually wanted to talk about was both of those things, but not specifically about either of those things.  Instead, thinking about both of those things, it struck me that both of those things together reminded me how large and binding our organization is.  Bear with me, I will get there in the end.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be able to be part of a pretty epic motorcycle trip across our great country.  Myself, Chuck, Mark and two friends who are not Elks, got on our bikes and rode from Lakeland up to Chicago where the famous Route 66 begins.  We rode from the very start of Rt. 66 all the way to its end in Santa Monica, California.  We spent many nights in questionable hotels, drank more than our fair share of beer and made more than a few friends along the way.  One of the very best things we did on our trip, at least in my mind, was to stop at Elk Lodges along the way.  Almost without exception we were met with warm and heartfelt greetings and were afforded the very best of hospitality.  On a few occasions we were present at the hour of 11 PM and were able to join in with other Elks in their home Lodges as they offered up the 11 o’clock toast.  During that trip and a few others, I have been fortunate enough to share that experience in places as distant as Southern California and Maine.  The people were different, the Lodges themselves were vastly different, but the words, and more importantly, the feeling behind those words were the same.  It struck me then as it strikes me each time I hear our Toast, that Elks all over the country are, at that same time, reciting the exact same toast, the same stern command to all Elks that we remember those who are no longer with us.  We, as Elks, are part of an Order larger than just our Lakeland Lodge.  Larger than the district and larger than the state of Florida.  This Order stretches from coast to coast with thousands of like minded men and women, all working towards the same goals, striving to make their part of the country just a little better.

Now, I know that my life is vastly different from the majority of you all out there reading this.  I retired early and have the luxury of a pension and an abundance of free time.  Those things afford me the ability to jump on my motorcycle and go as I please across this great country.  Not everyone can do that.  What we all can do, however, is make an effort to get out there and visit a few local lodges.  It is no surprise that not many members have been able to visit Lodges in far flung states, but it IS surprising to hear that so few or our Members have ventured just down the road to visit the Plant City Lodge, or head out to any of the other Lodges in our District.

Our Lodge does have a way to reconcile that though.  We have an active chapter of the Elks Riders.  This is a group of Members who get together once a month to take a ride to different destinations across the area.  We have visited outlet stores, diners, dive bars and even a winery.  We are also making an effort to include visiting local Lodges in our upcoming rides.  When we have a ride scheduled, the itinerary is posted on the bulletin board, showing stops and destinations.  Riding a motorcycle is NOT required, nor is joining the Elks Riders (though it would be great if you did join, the more the merrier).  The only thing that is required is the desire to socialize with your fellow Elks, see a few sights and have a good time.  As a founding member, I invite and encourage you all to join us as we visit Lodges and hopefully you will be able to experience the warm feeling of belonging that I felt when I heard our 11 o’clock Toast so far from home.

See?  In the end I managed to bring those two suggestions together!

Halloween Decoration Donations needed

Carmen and Bob are looking for additional Halloween decorations for this years party.
They are asking if anyone has Halloween decorations, that they are no longer using, if they would be willing to donate them to the Halloween Party decorations collection.

Let the HC Chair, Sher Thrush, know if you have something to donate.

From the Corner #3

The view from the corner. #3

In 2001 I was assigned to the 020 Precinct on the upper west side of Manhattan.  I was part of the Anti-Crime Unit, working plain clothes in the precinct and was going to be eligible for transfer to an investigative unit in a few months to start working towards a promotion to Detective.  One night in June of that year, during a foot pursuit I blew out 2 discs in my lower back.  Spinal surgery followed, then rehab and physical therapy.  Then the Towers fell.  We all went back to work, and after a few months my back let go once again.  Another more invasive spinal surgery, therapy and then rehab again, this time to get the use of my leg back so I could at least walk.  After this surgery, the department retired me on a full disability pension.  All it took was one misstep during a foot pursuit and any dreams I had once had about becoming a Detective for the NYPD went up in smoke.  In one moment my job, my career, a large part of how I saw myself had vanished.

Retiring so young is supposed to be a good thing, but in reality it is incredibly difficult.  All the time you spent working are now empty hours to be somehow filled and I filled those hours with bad options.  Before I retired work kept me out of the house for days on end.  Now retired, I was underfoot all the time.  Years of bad decisions and worse choices alienated the few friends I had outside the NYPD, eventually distancing me from my family, and ultimately destroyed my marriage.

I wound up here in Lakeland, got myself a little apartment and tried to put things back on track, but had an incredibly hard time doing it.  This was the very first time in my life I had lived alone, had no idea how to go about meeting people and fell into the cycle of feeling sorrier and sorrier for myself.  Looking back, those months were without a doubt some of the darkest times I have ever lived through.  Self pity, then self doubt, then finally self loathing.  It was when I was pretty much at my lowest that I stumbled across the Elks Lodge and basically invited myself in.

That was the change.

I was let in, allowed to play darts, and met a few people.  I was invited back, and met more people.  A couple, the Dassingers, took pity on me and showed me ropes of the Lodge, introducing me to key Members, all of whom I count as some of my best friends to this day.  I was sponsored and joined within a month.  Brian and Julie Dassinger kept extending their friendship towards me.  Hearing that I was planning on spending that Thanksgiving alone, they insisted, VERY forcefully, that I join them for dinner.  Again at Christmas they gave me a place to go and feel welcomed.  From that moment on, I have always known I have a home in the Lodge.

As I have gone through the years here in Lakeland, I have stumbled a few times, as we all do, and made mistakes.  There were a few dark times, though none as dark as when I first got to Florida, but it was my friends at the Lodge who were always there.  Even friends whom I had distanced myself from were there with open arms when I returned.  At one point, I asked one of them why they took me back in so readily after I had wandered away for so long.  “Because we are family, and that’s what family does.”

That is my story; how I found my way into the Elk family.  How I was taken in and even though I stumbled and made mistakes, was taken back in with open arms and love.  Some of you reading this have similar stories, some even darker and more bleak than mine.  Others will stumble some time in the future and hopefully find that what I said here is the truth.  Hopefully the majority of you will never have to go through those dark times to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

So why, dear readers, am I dragging you along on my little journey of self realization?  The reason is simple.  It is because we are family and sometimes we need to be reminded of that.  This person doesn’t like that one?  This group won an election instead of that group?  Dinner was late?  Drink was made too slow?  All things that seem important in the moment, but in the long view, all petty BS.  We are a group of individuals who all that took the oath to join the Lodge and CHOSE to be family to one another.  Family may break each others shoes from time to time, may dislike one another, but when things are dark; when you need one another, family is always there for you.

Using myself as an example, were it not for the Dassingers going out of their way to be kind and inviting to me, I may not be an Elk at all.  I may not have stayed in Florida and I certainly would not be the person I am today.  Every person I was introduced to at the Lodge went our of their way to be nice, but it was that initial meeting of THAT couple that made me comfortable in the Lodge.  Be that person to someone.  When you see that new face sitting at the bar looking around and praying that someone will strike up a conversation with them, BE that person who says hello.  Be that persons stepping stone into the wider Lodge.  I can personally attest that the little attention I was given made a HUGE difference in how I felt at the Lodge, and in my life as a whole.

If someone kind of drops off your personal radar and comes back, be that friend who welcomes them back with open arms and no expectations.  Again, from personal experience I can tell you how hard it is to walk up to friends you have forsaken and ask to be let back in, and that there are few feeling better than being welcomed back.

Way back in the day, when I was putting on my uniform, the plan for the shift was to leave work with the same number of holes in my body as there were when I started.  We all have to learn to not sweat the small stuff.  See the difference between what we THINK is a big deal at the moment and what really IS a big deal.  We might not all like one another every minute of every day, but we all love one another.  We have to.  We’re family.

Bartender, a Rock for me, with lime of course, and this time buy a round for the bar.  It may not be 11 o’clock, but let’s all raise a drink to our absent member. Chuid eile i síocháin Rick, chuid eile i síocháin.

2019 Scholarship Awards Banquet -Success


Approximately 80 people were present for the awarding of 12 scholarships totaling $13,750 at the 2019 Scholarship Banquet held on March 18 at our Lodge.

Serving as emcee for the evening, Scholarship Chair Dave Norwine announced each student receiving an award and shared with the audience a recap of that student’s accomplishments including their community service, their school and community involvements, leadership positions held, and honors and awards received.

Receiving $1,000 Lakeland Lodge Legacy Scholarships were Adele Barski, a senior at Johnson Ferry Christian Academy in Marietta, Georgia, who is the granddaughter of Lodge member Ed Barski; and Lauren Musselman, a senior at George W. Jenkins Senior High School and the granddaughter of Lodge member Janet Bentley.

Receiving $1,000 Lakeland Lodge Scholarships were Hannah Womersley from All Saints Academy in Winter Haven, Abby Branham from Lakeland Christian School, Demetrius Rasmussen from Mulberry Senior High School, and Gabrielle Snyder from International Baccalaureate at Bartow Senior High School.

Receiving $1,250 Lakeland Lodge Scholarships were Jasper Montgomery from International Baccalaureate at Bartow Senior High School, Parrish Westmoreland from Bartow Senior High School, Anthony Amato from Winter Haven Senior High School, Jacquelin Flores from Mulberry Senior High School, and Olivia Potthast from Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School in Winter Haven.

Elizabeth Gonzalez, a senior at International Baccalaureate at Bartow Senior High School received a $1,500 Scholarship from our Lodge.

At the close of the Awards Ceremony, Norwine announced that five of our 2019 recipients – Gonzalez, Potthast, Flores, Amato, and Rasmussen – made it through district judging to the state, but, unfortunately, were not selected to receive national awards.

Featured speaker for the evening was Nicole Welch, a Lakeland Mental Health professional who has dedicated her life to teaching and showing others how to use their Godgiven instincts and emotions combined with her field tested strategies to connect quickly, influence at a higher level and achieve more in any interpersonal encounter. Nicole spoke to the students and all in attendance about the importance of Mission & Motivation in life. She encouraged everyone to seek a mission and let it be your guiding light. She also advised the students that as they go off to further their educations they will need to learn how to “parent” themselves. This is where motivation becomes important in the development of selfdiscipline in order to “do what needs to be done.”

Exalted Ruler Vicki Baker welcomed the students being honored and their families to Lodge 1291 and reviewed for them the scope of the Lodge’s other charitable activities (Veterans programs, Boys & Girls Club programs, and sponsorship of the Brotherhood Ride). Vicki also presented each of recipients their certificates and awards.

In closing the evening’s program, Norwine acknowledged the school administrators and counselors present and thanked the students’ parents for all their support, encouragement and sacrifice that enabled our scholarship recipients to have distinguished and service oriented high school experiences.

2019 Recipients

Back Row L-R : Dave Norwine, Scholarship Chair; Demetrius J. Rasmussen. Mulberry Senior High School; Parrish A. Westmoreland, Bartow Senior High School; Abby G. Branham, Lakeland Christian School; Gabrielle L. Snyder, International Baccalaureate Bartow High School; Anthony M. Amato, Winter Haven Senior High School;

Front Row L-R: Hanna D. Womersley, All Saints Academy, Winter Haven; Jacquelin Flores, Mulberry Senior High School; Lauren A. Musselman, George W. Jenkins Senior High School; Olivia M. Potthast, Chain of Lakes Collegiate Senior High School; Elizabeth Gonzalez, International Baccalaureate Bartow High School; Jasper L. Montgomery, International Baccalaureate Bartow High School; Vicki Baker, ER.

(Unable to attend: Adelle R. Barski, Johnson Ferry Christian Academy, Marietta, GA.)


Veterans Committee Update April 2019

Veterans Committee
As our Fiscal Elk Year comes to an end, we want to give you updates on our recent donations. We made a donation to the James A. Haley VA Hospital, specifically targeted to the homeless veterans that they serve. The immediate need was for athletic shoes, rain jackets, toothpaste, toothbrushes, bar soap and baby wipes. We donated approximately $850.00, of these items, which included 39 pairs of shoes, 13 rain jackets, 27 packs of baby wipes, 93 bars of soap, 68 toothbrushes, 64 boxes of toothpaste, 33 packs of antibacterial wipes, and 20 pairs of socks. We were also able to donate an additional 32 personal care kits from member Dan Wait’s Sandpiper community. The kits were also tailored toward the homeless veterans and included toiletries, socks, hats, and puzzle books. A special thank you to Steve Masterton, PER and John “Mac” McArthur for delivering the donations to the hospital.

We were once again able to donate to the Lakeland Veterans Center. We donated $400.00 of beverages which included: 10 cans of coffee, 40 creamers, 1 box of 2000 sugar packets, 2 boxes of Splenda, 8 cases of water and 15 cases of soda. The facility does not have a provision for this in their budget. This donation will be used by local veterans during group and individual counseling sessions and takes the burden off of the veteran to provide it.

Flight to Honor Mission #5 is scheduled for April 30th from Lakeland Linder Airport. As previously reported we have helped two of the James A. Haley Medical Foster Veterans with attending this trip. We would like to show our community that with Elks, veterans are our priority, and therefore, we would like to get a group of Elk members to go to the airport to show support at “Send Off” and “Return”. If you would be willing to do this, please let us know. We will post further details as it gets closer to the flight.

In order to continue on with our ability to support veterans in need, please join us for our next fundraising event, which will be Friday May 17th, to honor Armed Forces Day. It will be a steak dinner by the McCoy Team with karaoke by Garry and Bob and we will have raffles. Mark your calendar to come out and pay tribute to all military branches. See our flier for further details.

We would like to thank everyone who has helped make this another great year. It is because of you, the members, that we are able to make these things possible. Your support and assistance is truly appreciated.

Char and Kristen