Veterans Affairs News
There are three Veteran Admisitration Facilities within our district: Bay Pines Veteran’s Hospital, Baldemero Lopez Nursing Home and the James A. Haley Veteran Administration Medical Center (VAMC). The Tampa Lodge has been assigned to service the James A. Haley VAMC, and holds several regularly scheduled activities each month.
In addition to the above, for years, Tampa Elks Lodge participated in the Annual James A Haley Stand Down for Homeless Veterans. Held in the fall, the VA rounds up the homeless Veterans and brings them to a central location where they can receive an abundance of support, a hot meal, supplies and clothing. Tampa Elks is one of 50+ vendors that participate. Each year, 200 to 300 Veterans come through the door looking for relief. This year, we received some really great news. The VA decided to skip the Stand Down, as the homeless population had significantly decreased. They will assess the need next year and make a decision as to need.
Tampa Elks also offers additional recreation activities to the transitioning Veterans at the Domiciliary. These Veterans are included in Lodge activities, such as Holiday parties, events or festivals, and the Gasparilla Boat Invasion, as funds permit.
Tampa Elks Lodge participates in the Elk’s Welcome Home Program, which is designed to help a veteran moving into a home from the street, with needed furnishings and supplies. When we are contacted by a Veteran that has just been rehoused, we assess their needs and send out a notice to our members looking for donations of gently used supplies. When that has been accomplished, we take them shopping for the last items on their list.
The Elks sponsor a Veteran’s Arts & Crafts show in April. Handcrafted items are submitted by the Vets for competition. The top 15-20 items are then taken to the Florida State Elks Convention in May to compete with other Veterans from around the State. Some of these paintings and sculptures are amazing!
The Elks also help sponsor the Re-Creation Show at the James A. Haley Hospital. This is a top-quality Vegas-Review type of performance by young adults who donate two years of their lives to entertain Veterans around the country. The Elks provide lodging, meal tickets and, funds permitting, tickets to Busch Gardens for these entertainers. Tampa Lodge members are invited to attend the show and invite non-hospitalized Veterans to join them at an area restaurant prior to the show.
In conjunction with the Florida State Elks Association, Tampa Elks have been able to send Veterans on commemorative trips to Washington DC and Pearl Harbor. This year we are looking at a Veteran’s trip to Normandy!
There are also two nonprofit organizations that work with homeless Vets that Tampa Elks has remained involved with. The Athena House is a joint venture between the VA and Tampa Crossroads. It is a 16-bed facility that houses homeless female Veterans. Tampa Elks have been providing supplies, furniture, social opportunities and adventures for these ladies since its inception. We have invested over $40,000 in maintaining that relationship.
The second charity is Liberty Manor for Veterans. This is a private charity run almost exclusively on donations. Tampa Elks invite the Veterans to join us for meals or special occasions such as the Re-Creation show. We have applied for grants on their behalf, and once even did a very successful toilet paper drive!
Last year Tampa Elks, courtesy of the Gratitude Grant, sponsored an all-day Deep-Sea fishing trip for 20 Veterans, chosen by the Black Dagger Military Hunt Club and the MacDill Special Operations coalition. After the fishing trip, Tampa Elks joined them to “eat their catch” at the dockside restaurant. This year’s Gratitude Grant recipient has not yet been decided.
The Tampa Elks Veteran’s Committee is expected to raise enough funds each year to cover their expenses, which, as you can see, are considerable. They traditionally host a large 4th of July Celebration or Veteran’s Day Celebration each year with food, music and fun for all. They also try to have at least one other fundraiser each year. Donations are always accepted and appreciated. New members to the Veterans committee are always welcome. Check your Tampa Elks Calendar and come to the Veteran’s Committee Meeting. It is usually the third Tuesday of the month at 6:30pm. We would love to have you participate!