LOVE OF ELKS PROPELS SUN CITY LODGE TO VICTORY
For the nineth-time All American Lodge, Sun City, AZ 2559, dedication, hard work, quality chair people, love of the Elks and respect of its members are the keys to winning the BPEO’s highest lodge distinction.
The Lodge strictly follows the dictates and programs of the Grand Lodge and exceeds and excels at each.
While the majority of Elks members join for social reasons, they can become the future workers in the lodge. They just have to be convinced that it is in their best interest to be more involved, find a program they like and enjoy being a part of it.
It would behoove any Lodge interested in competing in the All American Lodge contest "A" to address each of the 40 categories listed in the contest application. (The 2017-18 application is available in the Fraternal Committee downloads page at Elks.org and also on the thumb drive handed out to exalted rulers at the Grand Lodge Session in Reno.)
Sun City Lodge, which serves as adult community, has to reach out to schools in surrounding communities to serve youth.
Beginning with intermediate schools, the lodge puts on Amerianism essay contests and Drug Awareness poster and essay contests, in which certificates and $50 gift cards are given to the winners.
Since 2002, the Lodge has also had an active dictionary program, where each area third-grader is presented personalized dictionary and taught its uses and benefits. The lodge has annually presented an average of 1800 dictionaries to schools. Graduating students often say they still use the dictionary they received in third grade.
The lodge sponsors student of the month programs in three high schools. Twenty-four students are awarded a certificate and a $100 gift card for their scholastic achievement.
Teenager of the year awards also are given to a girl and boy with each receiving a certificate and gift card.
The Sun City Lodge Scholarship Committee annually honors 20 of its graduating seniors with a $1,500 college scholarship. Four recent honorees who were judged "Best of the Best" by the the Arizonia were awarded an additional $1,500 each. That is $30,000 in scholarships alone, plus thousands more for the other youth activities.
The Lodge supports a Boy Scout and Girl Scout troop and one Cub Scout den. These scouts are utilized during patriotic events such as Veterans Day, Flag Day and dinners for veterans. The scouts are allowed to use the lodge for meetings, and fundraisers.
Each Christmas, 50 needy children are taken on a shopping spree, and given a $100 gift card to use as they and their guardians wish except no toys or school supplies. Those items are provided later when the children return to the Lodge for a hot meal and a visit from Santa.
The kids go wild for Santa and many of the children would never see Santa were it not for the Sun City Elks.
A week after the Christmas shopping spree, the Lodge distributes a weeks’ worth of food to 25 needy families, along with wishes for "Happy Holidays."
Each October, Sun City Lodge honors area police, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and emergency medical technicians with a dinner. The departments’ best are recognized, along with their families and superior officers, and awarded a $500 donation to the charity of their choice.
Not to forget their geriatric neighbors. Sun City Lodge has a Meet and Greet Committee, which visits five to six memory care facilities monthly except during the hotter summermonths. Members provide music and sing-alongs, and socialize with the patients.
Two service dogs provide comfort. American flags and more importantly, stuffed animals, are given to the patients, many of whom hug these stuffed animals as if they were real. Many a dry eye becomes very wet when seeing the reaction of residents, demonstrating that a little tender loving care goes a very long way.
But the "crown jewel" of Sun City Lodge is its veterans program, the cornerstone of which is the Honor Flight. Thus far, the lodge has paid to fly 36 lodge members who are World War II veterans to the nation’s capital to see the WWII memorial. The lodge picked up the $900 per veteran cost totaling $32,400.
Finally running out of WWII veterans, the lodge reached out to its Korean War veterans, and as of mid-May, 21 were to have made that trip with many more awaiting their turn.
When all of the lodge Korean War veterans have made the trip – at a total cost of $19,900 – the many lodge Vietnam veterans will be next.
For the less able-bodied veterans, Sun City Veterans Committee members are a familiar face at the Arizona State Veterans Home. They throw monthly bingo parties for 30-40 residents, with magic shows, a 23 – piece orchestra and Italian ice socials.
And for the more ambulatory veterans at the home, the committee takes them to two professional baseball games each year, plus professional hockey and Disney on Ice events.
A highlight for all veterans is "all you can eat" spaghetti and hamburger nights at the lodge. Spaghetti night during Veterans Day week includes a 70-piece choral group that sings patriotic songs. When the group performs the anthems of individual braches of the service, eyes of many of the veterans fill with tears.
The lodge donates dozens of electric scooters to veterans in need each year, unleashing unbounded gratitude from the appreciative veterans.
Sun City Elks not only care for their own veterans, but also those in other lodges.
Tempe, AZ Lodge 2251, for example, had plans to honor its Veteran of the Year, Marine Staff Sgt. Ronnie Jimenez, with a "trac chair" for more mobility. Jimenez had been hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan and lost the use of one leg and badly damaged the other. He had been a marathon runner before his injuries.
The manufacturer fronted the $12,640 chair to Tempe Lodge, which planned to raise funds for the chair, and also got two military organizations to assist. One ultimately backed out, and the other only came up with $500, leaving Tempe Lodge more than $7,000 short.
Sun City Elks joined three other Elks lodges to raise more than $8,500 in fewer than five days to pay off the chair. The $1,200 left over was given to Jimenez and his family. Ronnie was beside himself with gratitude to all who helped him and his family.
Similar stories abound at Sun City Lodge.
Each fiscal year, lodge members, friends and neighbors collect furniture for various veteran facilities supplying enough furniture, appliances, bedding, clothes and hygiene products to equip an entire apartment.
The personal motto of Gary Drumheller, Elks Arizona State Veterans Chairman, is "As long as there is a vet, he will never sleep on the floor or eat on the floor." He is a man of his word.
This past fiscal year, Sun City Lodge donated more than $325,000 in non-perishable goods, its average annual donation.
None of the charitable activities could be accomplished without the dedication of the various lodge committees…and the love and generosity of the Sun City Elks.
Article written by Val Bianchini, Sun City Public Relations Chairman