Archived Story

A basket of goodwill this holiday season

Published 11:37pm Friday, December 4, 2009

Denise Garlanger and Paula Stark of the Niles Elks Lodge gear up for the lodge's annual Christmas Baskets food drive. The Elks put together food baskets filled with items for Christmas dinner (and even Christmas breakfast) to give to those members of the community in need. (Daily Star photo/JESSICA SIEFF)
Denise Garlanger and Paula Stark of the Niles Elks Lodge gear up for the lodge's annual Christmas Baskets food drive. The Elks put together food baskets filled with items for Christmas dinner (and even Christmas breakfast) to give to those members of the community in need. (Daily Star photo/JESSICA SIEFF)

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

For years the Niles Elks Lodge has been delivering holiday cheer and a armful of goodwill to area seniors, families and veterans with their Annual Christmas Baskets.

A tradition that has been going on for over 10 years, coordinator Denise Garlanger said this year, members will once again get together to put together the makings of a holiday meal and deliver them to local members of the community in need.

“Members are cleaning out their cabinets,” Garlanger said, and businesses are donating in an effort to make their goal of 100 baskets this year after delivering 83 baskets last year.
Several businesses are helping in the collection for items such as hams, turkeys, desserts, stuffing, bread, vegetables among other items, including New Carbon Co., which donates pancake flour – a little something for an after-holiday dinner breakfast – and the Greater Niles Community Federal Credit Union, which donated hams and turkeys for the baskets.

The baskets are made for those members of the community in need; they don’t need to be Elks members. This year, Garlanger said, the lodge has put together applications available at the Greater Niles Senior Center on Bell Road or the Elks Lodge, located at 1322 Canal St.

The lodge can’t guarantee all applicants will receive a basket, as how many the group will be able to provide will be based on total donations, but those recipients will receive notification along with a Christmas card.

The lodge has been collecting and selling donation tickets in the shape of turkeys for $1 to raise money and welcome any food or monetary donations.

The deadline for applications is Wednesday and baskets will be delivered Saturday, Dec. 19.

Volunteers come together on that Saturday for what is an organized operation of filling baskets with a little bit of everything donated, loading them into cars, grabbing a map that Garlanger prepares for all her drivers and delivering baskets door to door.

“We always have plenty of volunteers every year to deliver,” she said. “Usually we have 20-30 volunteers helping.”

Even with 83 baskets put together last year, the Elks has been growing in baskets made simply by word of mouth alone. This year, Garlanger is preparing for anything, with more and more people in need. She’s hoping supply will match the demand.

Garlanger has been working on the annual Christmas basket drive for the last three years and says she can’t remember a time she’s had to turn anyone away, though she reiterates she can’t guarantee a basket to all, she’s hoping she won’t have to turn anyone away this year.

“That’s what the Elks do,” she said. “We care, we share and we’re here to help. As hard as things are, everyone needs help.” The lodge is more than 450 strong in membership.
Delivering the baskets has been a rewarding experience for all involved, she said.
“We get thank you cards coming back to us,” and recipients are gracious when they get the knock at the door,” Garlanger said.

With enough donations, this year, Garlanger and the Elks Lodge are hoping give a little goodwill, a hundred times over.

The Elks Lodge is looking for donations of the following for their Annual Christmas Baskets:

Hams, turkeys, boxed potatoes, canned fruits and vegetables, cranberries, gravy, butter, pancake syrup, deserts, stuffing, bread, rolls or anything anyone is willing to give.

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