Rick McDonald, Exalted Ruler of the Mesquite Elks Lodge #2811, named several individuals for their extraordinary service to the community and the Lodge during the annual Pins and Awards Ceremony on Saturday, March 12. Roberta Franco, the former Executive Director of the Mesquite Salvation Army, was named the Elks Citizen-of-the-Year. Susie Reynolds, was named the Elk-of-the-Year. William Oskin, Leading Knight, was named Elk-Officer-of-the-Year. And Mary Nelson and Gilbert Niimi were named Outstanding Elk Members. In addition, many members were awarded with Service Pins for their years as Elks members including Lawrence W. Roe, 55 years; Ken Bianchini, Harry Gates and James Gray, 45 years; and Robert L. Carl, Kenneth A. Clinton, Arthur W. Dorrell, William F. Funk, and Donald L. Paetsch, 40 years.
Exalted Ruler McDonald commended Franco for the many accomplishments she achieved during her tenure as Director of the Mesquite Salvation Army. She expanded the Social Services Program to include more families. She streamlined the application process for clients to obtain food stamps from taking three months to one visit. And, she also added childcare benefits and set up a program for energy assistance. Franco was instrumental in consolidating three separate Salvation Army service locations into the one current location at the Brickyard Plaza and she increased access to the food bank from two to five days.
Franco didn’t just work at the Salvation Army. She developed Anti-Bullying and Anti-Child abuse programs that she presented at the Elementary schools. She also worked with other organizations to coordinate one Easter Egg Hunt instead of three competing events. And, she has been active with the Mesquite Regional Business (MRB), the Chamber of Commerce and the Exchange Club.
Rick McDonald stated that: “Roberta’s philosophy is ‘Not everything is easy, but you have to keep moving forward’ and I am certain that she will do just that.” Her dream is to establish a system where people in need can go to just one place for help.
William Oskin, Officer-of-the-Year recipient, who has been elected to serve as Exalted Ruler for the 2016-17 Elks fraternal year, has devoted countless volunteer hours to the Elks according to McDonald. As one of the purchasers of food and supplies for the Lodge, Oskin makes many trips to Las Vegas and St. George to ensure that the Lodge can operate smoothly. He is present at almost all of the Lodge events and also coordinates fundraising dinners to support the many educational and other community events that the Elks participate in.
Susie Reynolds was named Elk-of-the-Year. Reynolds is a snowbird, living part of the year on her ranch in Colorado and the remainder of the year in Mesquite. “Despite being gone part of the year, she is one of our most active volunteers” said McDonald. She can always be depended upon to support our Lodge and is always helping out in Lodge activities. She has also donate hundreds of pounds of prime beef from her ranch to various Lodge dinners and lunches. McDonald said: “She truly embodies the Elks motto of ‘Elks Care – Elks Share’.”
McDonald stated that Mary Nelson and Gilbert Niimi were selected as Outstanding Elk Members for their many hours devoted to activities at the Lodge. Niimi served as the Kitchen Manager, organized a successful bowling tournament, and served on both the Activities and House Committees. Nelson was a new member this year, but immediately stepped up and made outstanding contributions to the Lodge. She served as co-chair of the House Committee and volunteered to assist wherever needed.
McDonald acknowledged that these were hard choices because there are so many members who are dedicated to serving the community and the Mesquite Elks Lodge. He commended each of the recipients and thanked the entire membership of the Elks Lodge for their ongoing charity and service.