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RANGELY I More than 120 children and 70 families experienced the community’s generosity this Christmas as Rangely Elks Lodge No. 1907 hosted its third annual Children’s Christmas Party and distributed food boxes to dozens of local families.
Rangely Elks Lodge Exalted Ruler Don Reed said that the Dec. 21 children’s party, which featured crafts, Santa Claus, face painting and gifts, succeeded thanks to the giving spirit of Elks members and supporters.
“The town of Rangely supported the Elks in this,” Reed said. “Their generosity was overwhelming. Even on the last day, the gifts for children poured in … That’s my favorite program out of the whole year that we do. To see the kids’ faces was outstanding.”
Approximately $2,500 goes into hosting the children’s party each year, Reed said. Although toy donation boxes at White River Market and Rangely True Value did not garner many donations, and this year’s charity ball brought in less money than expected, several Rangely residents learned of the need and responded. Additional support came from Elks members themselves and local businesses, including a $5,000 donation from Chevron.
By Saturday afternoon, dozens of children had left the party thrilled with the experience.
“We like going because every year, the (Elks) have an ornament craft, and the kids love bringing home the ornaments they made,” said Marisela Preciado, mother of Xavier, 7, and Jasmine, 5. “It’s just really fun.”
Later in the day, Xavier Preciado was called back to the Elks Club to claim a large prize he’d won, a mega-sized Tonka tractor.
He wasn’t alone. The Elks received enough donations to ensure each child at the party and those children whose family received a food box also received a gift.
This year, bags of homemade candy and baked goods also accompanied the approximately $4,400 in food purchased for the boxes.
The personal touch came about as Rangely residents Linda Berry and Norma Hood initially decided to help Eagle Crest residents make candy and cookies for their family care packages. But when the number of participating residents was lower than Berry and Hood expected, they began searching for another outlet for the goodies.
“When we didn’t have as many residents from Eagle Crest as we hoped, at first I was disheartened,” Berry said. “Then I thought, ‘I’ll just ask the Elks if they could use it.’ And that’s how it happened.”
Fifteen Eagle Crest residents and community members helped make approximately 45 pounds of candy and dozens of different kinds of cookies and bars for the boxes. Berry and Hood baked until they couldn’t physically do more.
“We cooked for three days until we were exhausted,” Berry said, laughing. “I’ve donated things before, but I’ve never baked like that … It was our present to the town, that’s all.”
On Dec. 22, a dozen Elks Club members and helpers gathered at 6:30 a.m. as trucks hauled in food for placement into rows of labeled boxes. Reed said the assembly-line nature of the task comes easily to the seasoned group and that the boxes are thoroughly stuffed with good things.
“There’s everything in there for meals throughout the day: biscuits, syrup, eggs, butter, milk, candy for the kids, cookies, plus a full turkey or ham dinner with stuffing, onions, potatoes, veggies, and dessert,” Reed said. “We try to make sure they have good, complete meals.”
In all, Reed estimates, the weekend’s activities cost around $8,000. In his first year as exalted ruler, Reed’s passion for the Elks’ service-centered mission is twofold: to pass on the legacy of giving to younger generations of Elks Club members and to inspire those benefiting from the gifts to help someone else.
“We always hope that they pay it forward, and I think some of them do,” Reed said. “Either way, we’re all about helping this community in any way, shape, manner or form we can. It’s what the Elks is about: a brotherhood of helping those in need.”