The Elks Lodge No. 2399, in Lake Havasu City, has collected, sorted, wrapped, and boxed up Christmas goods for 57 local families, an effort that put gifts in the hands of 178 children.
“It’s about helping needy families,” said program organizer and Elks Lodge trustee Ed Wdowiak. “It’s mostly single parents. We have two families with seven children. Two with six, and three or four with five kids.”
Each family receives a food box that includes boxed and canned goods alongside perishable items such as a turkey, bread, milk, orange juice, butter, fresh produce, bacon, cheese and a pie. Gifts for the number of children in each family also are coordinated by age and gender. Children between the ages of 0-17 each receive wrapped gifts.
“I enjoy doing it,” Wdowiak said. “I don’t get as much satisfaction running it from here as I did when I would deliver the baskets. That’s when you get to see their faces light up.”
Beginning the good works Oct. 1, Wdowiak reached out to local schools to provide a list of candidates for the program. By mid-November, he had the list in hand. An interviewing process began and he visited each home.
Wdowiak has been involved with the Elks Lodge’s longtime Christmas for Children and Christmas Baskets program for the past four years. He has been leading the effort for the past three years.
“The first year, we did 51 baskets,” Wdowiak said. “The second year, we did 46. We’re up this year, we have 57 baskets.”
The local Elks Lodge boasts as many as 3,600 members in Havasu, with a nucleus of about 1,500 active members. It is from within this membership that each of the donated food and gift items have been generated. Twenty or 30 volunteers step forward to participate in helping with the Christmas effort. Twenty more turn up for delivery. This year, Saturday is the big day.
“I just like it because we help so many families in the community,” said Kay Wdowiak, Elks Lodge Elkette, and wife of Ed Wdowiak. “We wouldn’t have known how many were in need until we got involved. This is about giving back to the less fortunate, we’ve all been there.”
The Elks Lodge Christmas program volunteers work endless hours to make it happen. For example, the Christmas gift organizer Rosalie Smith worked at least 20 hours collecting and organizing donated items this season. Wednesday, five Elkettes wrapped and bagged gifts for nearly four hours.
Bashas’ grocery store saves and donates boxes each year.
Food donations included cereals, teas, coffee, jams, peanut butter, soups, packaged treats, boxed food items, ramen noodles, pasta, soups, canned vegetables and pasta.
The Elks Lodge No. 2399 is located at 3532 N. McCulloch Blvd., in Havasu. For more information, call the Lodge at 928-453-3557.