Elks open hearts at Christmas
Lodge delivers food, gifts to families in need
IT’S MAGIC—Oliver Edgeworth, 3, of Camarillo, helps magician Robert Jones with a trick during the Thousand Oaks Elks Children’s Christmas party Dec. 7. SUSAN WEININGER/Acorn NewspapersMembers of the Thousand Oaks Elks Lodge are making a list and checking it twice for the local service group’s annual Christmas Basket Program for those in need.
On Dec. 16, the Elks Lodge No. 2477 will begin assembling food boxes for more than 50 Conejo Valley families and 25 senior citizens in need.
The boxes, which contain about a week’s worth of food, will include a turkey, fresh fruits and vegetables, soup and other provisions, said Dan Martyn, chair of the Christmas Basket Program. The Elks will deliver the baskets Sat., Dec. 21.
“We deliver not just food but gifts for the children as well,” Martyn said. “It’s something we’ve done for about 40 years and we always keep it local. We’re trying to help the people of the Conejo Valley.”
Every year the service group partners with other local organizations— such as Manna Conejo Valley food bank, Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services and Many Mansions—to develop a list of the community’s families that are most in need of assistance.
In past years the lodge would also host a luncheon at T.O.-based nonprofit Senior Concerns, which provides assistance to the elderly community, especially those who are frail or have special needs.
“This time, we’re going to do something a little more substantial,” Martyn said. “We’ve been talking with the people at Senior Concerns, and it seems to be a trend—everybody is saying that what they’re needing most this year is food.”
Lynn Rodriguez, president of the Elks Ladies, said the lodge serves between 60 and 90 families annually.
“Basically these are the families that, if it weren’t for the Elks, they really wouldn’t have much of a holiday,” she said. “It’s our biggest way of giving back to the community.”
According to Martyn, more than 200 local children, adults and seniors will benefit from the Elks’ Christmas Basket Program this year.
“We live in a fairly affluent area, but sometimes we don’t realize how close poverty can be,” he said. “There’s a lot of hardship out there. People are struggling.”
Filling the baskets
The Elks purchase most of the goods for the food baskets from the commissary at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme.
“It works out really well,” Rodriguez said. “We have a couple of retired servicemen (in our lodge), so we are able to purchase large pallets of food from the base.”
The funds used to buy the food come from the group’s annual Charity Ball in October as well as the Elks’ Christmas tree lot, which is now open at Carlson’s Building Materials at 1432 E. Thousand Oaks Boulevard.
Rodriguez said the Elks Ladies are responsible for collecting the toys that are delivered with the baskets. Traditionally, the toys are brought in during the women’s Christmas party, which was held on Tuesday.
“The ladies bring unwrapped presents to the party, and for every toy they bring, they get entered into a raffle for a nice prize,” she said. “The ladies always come through with lots of great toys.”