As the lodge president of the Deptford Elks #2708, Dot Morrison is always looking for veterans and families in need, and, more often than not, she gets emotional recounting the days she meets such people.
Like the veteran she had reached out to who had lost each of his legs.
“When I contacted him, he had no legs, and was depressed,” Morrison said, with her eyes beginning to water up. “I left his little apartment, and you had to go down steps to get into it and up steps to get out of it. And down steps on the outside. And I’m thinking, ‘How does this man get around here with a wheelchair? Is he trapped in here all the time?’ He broke my heart.”
But it also warms her heart to know she’s a part of an organization that attempts to help out all year long, but especially during the holidays. Morrison’s Elks Lodge is in the process of collecting turkeys for the holiday season with the first deliveries right around the corner.
The lodge asks for people to bring turkeys to the lodge on Highland Avenue between Nov. 13 and Nov. 17 for veterans and families in need for Thanksgiving.
“We encourage our membership, because we are a benevolent organization, we encourage our members to be the ones that donate,” Morrison said. “But on Facebook I had a friend of mine who I had taught with, and she said, ‘Dot, I have a turkey for you!’ And I’m not going to turn it down. We encourage our members to provide, but we’re not going to turn it down.”
If you’d like to mark your calendar for next month, the Elks will be taking their Christmas turkey donations from Dec. 17-21.
Spike Abrams, a member of the Elks Lodge, worked for 27 years in the Deptford Township Police Department. So he knows a thing or two about helping people.
Still, it’s this time of the year that particularly makes him feel good about the life he’s chosen.
“I took a turkey to a lady’s house in Woodbury and she asked, ‘Can I get a hug?’ And it made my whole day,” Abrams said. “It’s the best thing.”
The true spirit of the holiday season fits right into the motto of the Elks organization, which was founded in 1868. Elks Care Elks Share. They also make a point to keep veterans in their thoughts and services when they are reaching out to find people to help.
Deptford Elks #2708 attempts to locate 30 families through veteran organizations, local armed forces facilities, community outreach organizations (schools, churches, etc.) to fulfill their holiday charitable efforts. Along with the turkeys, they donate gift cards to help those in need have a proper holiday dinner.
“With the membership donations and the generosity of our members, we could probably do about 30,” Morrison said. “We get a $1,500 grant (from Elks National Foundation) and $500 of that goes to the Devereux Foundation, which takes care of kids without families.”
And since one holiday (Thanksgiving) leads to another (Christmas), they take advantage of November to prepare for December, seeing what else such families might need (jotting down sizes for clothes, shoes, coats) to make sure children are taken care of by Santa Claus and company.
“We had a family last year with 14 grandchildren,” Morrison said of one veteran’s family. “The grandmother had a surgery and couldn’t afford to get the grandchildren anything. So he was a veteran. I said, ‘How about if we buy something for the grandchildren?’ And we filled their living room with presents. And the two of them were crying. It’s just the most rewarding thing.”