Pilot stories and photos by Andrea Barkan
Cases of Top Ramen and macaroni and cheese, cans of pumpkin and cranberries, frozen turkeys and more are multiplying and dividing in the Brookings Elks Lodge basement.
The Elks gave out more than 260 food baskets last December, Christmas Party Chair Joan Randall said.
Randall expects to give out between 260 and 300 baskets on Dec. 22.
Individuals and businesses have begun donating food. Preschoolers from Creative Learning Preschool and Day Care marched into the lodge Friday, their tiny arms filled with canned food and cereal boxes they had collected all month.
Randall said the lodge is now open for donations from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
She has started sorting donations, she said.
In addition to food, Randall said they try to put one or two toys for each child in every basket.
Deliveries will start at 6 a.m. Dec. 22.
"We have an assembly line like you just can't believe," Randall said.
She said the baskets are a long-standing Elks tradition. "I just don't ever remember them not doing it," she said.
Randall, who is spending her first year at the operation's helm, said Christmas giving has always been a part of her life.
"I can remember as a tiny little girl going with my mom and dad and doing these Christmas things," she said.
"I just can't stand the thought of a child not having a toy," she said.
Without Elks baskets, many people would go without dinner, Randall said.
"They wouldn't have a toy or the joy of a Christmas dinner."
Though the basket's main purpose is to provide Christmas dinner, "We try to do at least another dinner or two," Randall said.
The Elks will also hold a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for members and their guests from 1 to 5 p.m. Thursday, she said.
The third annual Thanksgiving meal will cost $9 per person.
Last year they served 97 dinners, Randall said.