Pilot story and photos
by Lynn Davis
The spirit of the season was in full swing Monday morning, Dec. 22, at Brookings Elks Lodge, as a team of volunteers assembled holiday food and gift boxes for needy families.
The Elks, joined by three scout troops, members of the Marine Corps League, Harbor and Brookings fire departments, a few Realtors, and a handful of other volunteers packaged and delivered more than 260 boxes to recipients.
In addition to a turkey, families were supplied with all of the fixings for a traditional holiday feast. Boxes were filled up until they were overflowing with items such as stuffing mix, celery, onions, potatoes and other vegetables, cranberry sauce, bread, margarine, noodles, juice, dessert and more.
Gifts for the children (courtesy of the Marine Corps League's Toys for Tots program) were wrapped and placed with the food. A pair or two of socks, donated by Brookings Presbyterian Church, added a final touch to the offering.
This was the first time Toys for Tots gifts were distributed together with the Elks' food boxes. Organizers said it went well, and was a way to reach children in need. They plan to combine the two programs again next year.
"It's just something that makes us feel good," explained Joan Randall, event coordinator. "Counting the children in the families we delivered to, we figured the boxes supported around 1,100 people."
Randall said that recipients often find it difficult to ask for help, but understand the importance of food and gifts in making the holiday better for their children so they make the call.
"When you have a young mother of three crying because you threw in an extra gift, and saying, God bless you, without you my kids would have nothing,' it makes everything worthwhile," Randall said.
"In a community our size, there are many people in need," she said. "Those who can help, should help."
Randall pointed out that requests for relief food and gift boxes have been continuing to rise each year. She estimates this year's program costs for just the food boxes to be between $6,000 and $7,000. The Elks pick up the tab, which is left over after donations have been accounted for.
Randall said she would like to see more of the community get involved next year, not only with financial donations, but volunteering time, gift items, canned food drives, etc. "We can pool our resources," she said.
The Elks were thrilled this year with the efforts of the children of Creative Learning Center Preschool and Day Care. The group of tykes traveled around their neighborhoods, gathering more than 500 canned goods, making up a good portion of the food boxes.
Gloria Osborne, last year's food box coordinator, wished to give thanks to another important contributor the Salvation Army.
"They donated a portion of the red can' drops,' and we used that money to help purchase the turkeys," she said.
Other donations were received by Ray's Food Place, Shop Smart, Price 'n' Pride, Chetco Federal Credit Union, Washington Mutual Bank, Umpqua Bank, Klamath First Federal, Lucky 7 Casino, Driftwood Estates, and S&K Dollar Store. In addition, people from the community supported the effort put forth by the Elks, by donating time, food and/or toys to the project.
According to Randall, the Elks' holiday food basket program has been going on for at least 25 years. It is one of 20-25 different charitable programs benefiting children, which are supported each year by the Elks.
Elks Leading Knight Butch Herron said that the lodge gives everything they have to these causes. Of the $500,000 on the books this year, Herron said, "every nickel went out to help children in the community, except for what it took to keep the doors open."
Three scouting groups sponsored by the Elks Venture Scout Crew 32, Boy Scout Troop 251 and Cub Scout Pack 124 were there early that Monday morning to offer help with packaging, loading, and delivering the boxes. The scouts also participated in food drives and other activities to prepare for the event.
"It was a chance to help the community," remarked 15 year-old Venture Scout Quincy Coons. "It's really nice to get involved. It feels special to help other people."