PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — In the summer months, members of the Presque Isle Elks Lodge 1954 would typically be heavily involved in one of their widely attended community events, but current COVID-19 restrictions mean finding other ways to help the community.
The lodge’s annual events such as the “Hooked on Fish, Not Drugs” Youth Fishing Derby, July 4th Community Celebration and the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest street fair have not been able to take place this year. The Elks, however, are nevertheless a public service organization whose motto is “Elks Care, Elks Share,” so members have changed their focus.
Aware of the growing food insecurity in the area related to the pandemic, the group has redirected the funds they might otherwise have spent hosting their traditional community-wide events to making significant donations to Catholic Charities, in order to help restock some of the shelves in the 28 food pantries Catholic Charities supports.
According to lodge officials, the Elks would have devoted a substantial amount of time to the promotion of their events, acquiring the countless items of merchandise consumed or given away during the events, setup and operation, as well as teardown, cleanup and storage of equipment. Members were able to spend that time preparing for, organizing and executing the distribution of hundreds of free food boxes to citizens of this area on June 6, July 9, and July 23, while assisting Catholic Charities, the USDA and Pineland Farms.
In collaborating on the Farmers to Families Food Box Project, Elks members have collectively donated nearly 300 hours distributing approximately 4,000 boxes containing food from Maine farmers to individuals attending the food giveaways in Presque Isle.
“I cannot praise enough the good work of the Presque Isle Elks. A more than sufficient number of members participated in order to perform the necessary tasks in an exemplary fashion,” said Dixie Shaw, director of Hunger Relief Services for Catholic Charities.
“They arrived on time, ready to get to work, were fun to work with, very pleasant in their dealings with the public, and continued to work until the job was completed,” Shaw said. “As volunteers, they are wonderful.”
She added, “I now appreciate that B.P.O.E. really does mean ‘best people on earth.’ I am excited and proud to join this charitable group, as a member, as soon as possible.”