By PETE FONTAINE Santa Claus is coming to Warwick! Jolly Ol' Saint Nick, in fact, will make a special two-fold stop this Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Tri-City Elks at 1915 West Shore Road to say thank you and congratulate Lodge 14's
Santa Claus is coming to Warwick!
Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick, in fact, will make a special two-fold stop this Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Tri-City Elks at 1915 West Shore Road to say thank you and congratulate Lodge 14’s membership – and many friends – for their extraordinary success during the annual Toy and Food Drive that will again benefit needy families in-and-around Warwick.
“We’re excited and looking forward to welcoming Santa Claus this weekend,” offered Lodge 14 Exalted Ruler Deborah Mangina. “There’s always a little bit of a kid in all of us at this time of year, but because of COVID-19 restrictions, his visit will certainly lift everyone’s spirits.”
All are welcome to swing by the Elks Lodge wave to Santa and his elves and drop off their letters to Santa.
Mangina as well as Mark Eaton, who serves as president of the Rhode Island Association of Elks, explained that “Santa’s visit will meet the necessary guidelines for social distancing” and will be a drive-by event replete with a special Santa Station and custom-made box for children to put their “Christmas wishes” – a.k.a. Letters to Santa -- into with the help of Chairperson Lori Amoroso’s Elks Elves.
“As we all know, our lodge hasn’t been able to do many of the wonderful things such as the Children’s Christmas Party,” Eaton said as he unveiled what will be Santa’s red-tent headquarters and letter box. “However, this project that can make a different in some kids’ lives. Seeing the kids visit Santa is always special; even though it will only be a drive-by event, the kids can still see Santa and drop off their toy list.”
As yet another example of Lodge 14’s Credo “Elks Care, Elks Share”, Amoroso, who volunteered to chair the drive-by Santa event, announced that Laura Gagnon, Brian Carpenter, Tricia Moore, Ann Marie Clancy, Cheryl Rebello, Donna Beauregard, Carol DeLory and Tania Stankevich will be dressed in special Christmas garb and are excited about accepting the children’s letters to Santa.
Santa’s Village, as Eaton called the decorative red-canopy tent where Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick will be stationed, will be set up on Tri-City’s front lawn of Lodge 14 and Elks members will direct cars in-and-out of the Elks’ property.
As noted, Santa Claus will visit Lodge 14 this weekend to wish children a Merry Christmas, collect their toy and gift requests as well as congratulate its membership for what Eaton and other people are calling “perhaps the biggest and best toy and food drive we’ve ever held especially under last weekend’s adverse weather conditions of a driving rain and snow storm.”
Saturday, for example, the harder it rained, the traffic seemed to increase at Lodge 14 and volunteers like Mark Melino and Dave DeNoncoeur were dressed in foul weather gear and greeted vehicles driven by people Eaton called “some of the most generous and caring people that have come here in years.”
Eaton and his wife Lori, who founded the toy and food drive tradition from their home back in 2004, wanted it known: “We want to thank the many citizens for their generous support and outpouring of love that will help families and those people who are less fortunate enjoy a Merry Christmas. Without their support, some folks wouldn’t have a Christmas.”
Eaton heaped praise upon Beth Marsh, Lodge 14’s Chaplin, as well as Dawn Kidd and his wife Lori for organizing the toy and food collection that replaced Tri-City’s annual Kids’ Christmas Party which was cancelled because of COVID-19.
“We were all amazed and very much appreciative of the super support people gave us during back-to-back weekends of our food and toy drive,” Marsh said with enthusiasm ringing in her voice. “Just look around this room, this is a display of love from people who will make Christmas special for those in need.”
Marsh was speaking about the spacious 250-seat downstairs dining room that featured the perimeter lined with 8-foot long banquet tables that were overflowing with non-perishable food items and toys for girls and boys ranging from children’s bicycles to dolls to sports items, games and much, much more.
“This is all because a wonderful couple and friends who rode motorcycles started the Toy and Food drive from their neighbor’s home,” Marsh said of the group that founded the event. “Unfortunately, as time went on it grew too big to handle from their home and that’s when they turned it over to the Tri-City Elks.”
As Marsh further explained, the Toy and Food Drive – a.k.a. Lodge 14’s Rite of December -- consisted of a delicious meal, music, dancing and members donating a multitude of children’s toys and gifts.
“Unfortunately, because of COVD-19 we could not hold this event in 2020,” Marsh went on. “We decided to do something for our community and the idea of a Drive-by Toy and Food Drive surfaced. We did not know how it would turnout, but I’m happy and we are all thrilled there was an overwhelming response from the community. Thank you to all our Elks members who helped to make it possible; people in our community never fail to be supportive of those in need.