Donna Warner celebrated Christmas last Thursday evening in a big way. So did Lori Eaton and the entire membership of the Tri-City Elks Lodge No. 14, which is located on West Shore Road in Warwick.
“This is our Christmas,” said Warner, who is the two-term Exalted Ruler of the Tri-City Elks Lodge, as she stood at a table that was filled and piled high with neatly wrapped gifts. “I feel great ... Lori feels great ... we are all thankful that we’ll make a Merry Christmas for three adults and seven children.”
Soon thereafter, Melissa Sheehan hugged and thanked Warner, Eaton and Dick Warner – Donna’s husband who is also an Elks official – for their overwhelming generosity.
“We didn’t have anything,” Sheehan exclaimed, her voice cracking with emotion and a smile on her face as wide as a little child who had just seen Santa Claus. “My husband has been out of work ... I’m on Social Security because I have a bipolar disorder. I also suffer from severe depression. My sister [Nancy] and her children live with us...”
In all, there are 10 Sheehan family members living in one apartment in Pawtucket.
It was indeed obvious Sheehan needed help, otherwise, there would be no Christmas for her four children: Devin, 8; Trinity, 7; Abigail, 5; and Timothy, 4.
The same held true for her sister Nancy’s three children, Aiden, 8; Jocelyn, 4; and Anthony, 2.
So Sheehan wrote a letter to Santa Claus, asking for his help.
The letter traveled from the North Pole to the South Kingstown Elks Lodge No. 1899 because the Sheehans once made their home in South County.
At that point, Bill DeCesare, SK’s Exalted Ruler, called Warner because his Lodge had helped the family last year and since the Sheehans moved to Pawtucket, they would now fall under the jurisdiction, of sorts, for the Tri-City Elks Lodge No. 14 for any and all requests for help.
That’s because the Warwick-based Elks Lodge is a combination and one-time merger of the former Providence, Pawtucket and Warwick Elks lodges.
Meanwhile, the Tri-City Elks Lodge recently received a grant from the ENF (Elks National Foundation) that the non-profit group could use in any way officials saw a need, especially in the area of giving something back to the community.
“It worked out perfectly,” Warner said of the grant. “Perfect timing, you’d say.”
Thus, Warner set out and, as she said last Thursday evening amid handling her usual day-to-day business at Lodge No. 14, “and did a whole lot of [Christmas] shopping” that she said was followed by a “whole lot of gift wrapping.”
During her shopping spree, Warner – through the ENF grant – purchased sneakers and two outfits each for the seven children. She also bought each child two pairs of pajamas, two DVDs and “lots of toys.”
There were yet more items not considered “presents or gifts,” as Warner and Eaton put it the other evening.
“We also wanted Melissa’s family to have a special Christmas dinner,” said Warner, who wiped a few tears of joy from her eyes. “We’re giving the family everything they’ll need to have a delicious ham dinner ... they now have all the trimmings!”
After Warner, her husband and Eaton helped load gift bag after gift bag into the Sheehan’s vehicle, she stopped for a moment and said: “Now, we will have a great Christmas. This gives us a great feeling that Melissa and her children will have a Merry, Merry Christmas.”
While it’s not quite a sequel to the award-winning and ageless holiday movie “Miracle on 34th Street,” it’s proof that Santa Claus comes in many ways. It’s also living proof that Scrooge doesn’t exist at the Tri-City Elks Lodge No. 14, which last week upheld an ageless adage: “It’s better to give than receive!”