Elks collect toys, food in massive Christmas outpouring
Several years ago at this time, the Tri-City Elks Lodge No. 14 couldn’t afford Christmas cards, let alone gifts.
But Tuesday night, some members inside the Warwick-based lodge turned into elves and packed a wide variety of food into large, spanking new plastic laundry baskets and thus completed what Exalted Ruler Mark Eaton called “our Holiday Cheer Program.”
It was all part of a unique and heart-warming effort that Eaton said the now financially-sound Elks Lodge hopes “will help make Christmas merry for lots of needy families in and around Warwick.”
However, Tuesday night’s gathering that featured Chef John Collins’ specially-grilled hot dogs and hamburgers is only half the story of Tri-City’s Holiday Cheer Program that people like State Rep.-elect Joe Solomon and his father, Warwick City Councilman and Elks member Joe Solomon Sr., said “just may be this lodge’s greatest example of gift giving in at least the last 10 years.”
Few people, if any, would dispute that theory, given what Lodge 14 did during a two-part event that began with Saturday’s Toy Collection Party and wound up Tuesday evening with small teams of Elks preparing special food baskets that will be personally and privately delivered to families in need.
“This entire program is what Elks do,” said Eaton, who in his two years as exalted ruler has grown Lodge 14’s membership considerably. “And what we do best is give back.”
Because Lodge 14 “is doing well financially, the more we can give back to the community,” Eaton emphasized Tuesday night. “If anybody would like to be involved in programs like this, I urge them to become and Elk; Elks care!”
The same holds true for dozens of people and a total of nine musicians from two local bands that turned the party into an act of giving. For starters, the event featured two bands, Whiskey Road and Stumbling Murphy, who donated their time and talents.
“We offered free admission and a free buffet,” Eaton said. “It was our hope that each person would bring at least one new unwrapped toy for either a girl or boy.”
Tuesday evening he stood looking at long table after table topped with about 250 toys and even bicycles. “People were very, very generous, as you can see,” he said.
As for the food basket portion of the Holiday Cheer Program, that was made a smashing success from two groups: the Elks National Foundation and Tri-City Lodge No. 14.
“We received a grant from the [Elks] national foundation,” Eaton said. “It’s all part of our mission; Elks Care, Elks Share. Our lodges are more than just buildings. Elks invest in their communities and undertake a variety of projects that in this case address unmet needs.”
And, because Lodge 14 is now doing well financially given the number of ongoing events and fund-raisers Eaton has initiated in the past 24 months, “We matched every dollar that we received from the national grant to purchase additional food items for these baskets.”
Lodge 14, though, didn’t stop there.
“Each of these [food] baskets will include a Stop & Shop gift card,” Eaton said. “They’ll help people buy a turkey, ham or whatever so families in need can have a complete Christmas dinner.”
To further enhance the special program, Eaton said, “We’re also including health and hygiene products such as toothpaste in our baskets.”
Thus, the toys and food baskets will soon be given to families in need whose names, Eaton said, were obtained through area churches and members who knew of people that need help and especially at this time of year.
Each and every basket and the toys will be delivered with respect to people’s privacy by a group of Lodge 14 members who are, no doubt, going to celebrate Christmas 2014 with happy and huge hearts courtesy of the Holiday Cheer Program. And, perhaps more importantly, knowing they’ve upheld the fraternity’s credo: Elks Care, Elks Share. Are you an Elk?