An overflow crowd of over 200 guests filled the Presque Isle Elks Lodge for the eighth annual Elks Family Christmas Dinner on Dec. 25, 2012.
In the end, the huge gathering had been served a Christmas dinner of roast turkey with stuffing and gravy, ham with applesauce, together with a tossed salad, the Northeastland Hotel’s tomato bisque soup, dinner rolls from the Governor’s, mashed potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots and an assortment of desserts, featuring pies from the Governor’s and Star City IGA.
While the number of persons attending the Elks Christmas Dinner has increased annually, the most remarkable increase, according to LaFrance, was in the number of volunteers who gave up a large part of their Christmas Day to help in providing Christmas dinner and entertainment to people who would otherwise have been alone on Christmas.
“The huge outpouring of community support for this annual project demonstrates clearly that Christmas is not about the gifts, but is about the giving,” LaFrance said.
Even community members who are not Elks members arrived at the Elks Lodge on Christmas morning to ask if there was anything they could do to help. Parents came with children who pitched in to help serve the Christmas dinner. Area businesses donated generously whenever asked and many gave without ever being asked.
“Collectively, the members of Elks Lodge 1954, together with many individuals from outside the lodge and numerous area businesses made Christmas a joyous occasion for a lot of people who would otherwise have been alone on Christmas,” LaFrance said.
As with every previous Elks Family Christmas Dinner, individuals needing a ride to the lodge were transported in a stretch limousine provided by Luxury Limos of Caribou. Once at the lodge, guests were entertained by area musicians, including Wendell Hudson, Peter Parker, Leland Clark, James “Sheldon” Wright, Allen “Dusty” Baker and Jeremiah Donovan. Fireman Fred Parsons livened up the event with his own singing and enlisting of the guests to join in singing some traditional Christmas songs.
Rev. Tim Stohlberg, pastor of the Presque Isle United Congregational Church, interrupted his volunteer work serving food at the dinner to deliver an inspiring benediction, reminding all those in attendance of the reasons we celebrate on Christmas Day. Rev. Stohlberg thereupon resumed his work serving soup, meals, and other desserts, along with his wife, Marcia, and son, Trey, to the dinner guests filling the lodge room.
Patti Crooks, manager of the Aroostook Centre Mall, with the assistance of her husband, Fireman Fred, took photographs of the Elks guests, which were given to guests as remembrances of the occasion. Santa Claus, with the assistance of Mrs. Claus, gave Christmas ornaments denoting the event to the guests.
“By picking people up in a stretch limousine to be transported to the Elks Lodge and in serving a five-course meal, as opposed to preparing a buffet, and in attempting to give individual attention to each guest in as many ways as possible, the Elks attempt to convey to each of our guests at the Christmas dinner that they are important and are loved, which is also the message of Christmas,” LaFrance said.
As the Presque Isle Elks begin planning for its 2013 Elks Family Christmas Dinner, they are already exploring ways to further increase the seating capacity at the lodge to meet the ever-increasing attendance at this annual event.