Back in action: Deptford Elks Motorcycle Committee to host Charity Ride & BBQ Sept. 12

Deptford Elks Motorcycle Committee members – vice president Paul Rand, member Pete Rand and president Andy Pagano – are pictured earlier this year. The committee started in January and will be hosting a Charity Ride & BBQ on Saturday, Sept. 12, which will be the first major event at the lodge since the COVID-19 pandemic started. (Special to The Sun)

The Deptford Elks are ready to ride.

The lodge’s Motorcycle Committee will host a day-long Charity Ride & BBQ on Saturday, Sept. 12. Starting at 11 a.m., participants will travel to the Millville and Deerfield Elks lodges before returning to their home base at 5 p.m. for an all-you-can-eat barbecue. 

The past year has been a long road for the new committee, and not in the literal sense the motorcycle enthusiasts would certainly prefer. Since the Deptford Elks Lodge 2708 closed its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic nearly six months ago, members have had few face-to-face interactions. Fundraising largely came to a halt. And for the brand new Motorcycle Committee established in January, it certainly hurt its growth.

“We really haven’t done too much,” committee President Andy Pagano said. “It’s been rough.”

There have been a few rides with other Elks lodges, a Memorial Day ride to support veterans, and another in July for a veteran who turned 100 years old.

“We team up with a lot of other motorcycle clubs. We all support each other,” he added.

Prior to the pandemic, the committee held monthly breakfasts.

“It was a huge success,” Pagano said. “It was great. We were making profits. We were starting to get a bank account going so we could do fundraising and support our other committees in the lodge.”

The pandemic put a halt to fundraising, but that hasn’t stopped the committee from doing what it can. Last week, it donated face masks and hand sanitizer to the Deptford Township Police Department.

The Deptford Elks have a long history of supporting police officers. The group also makes donations to the township baseball league, local Boy Scouts and a number of other organizations. They offer scholarships to local students, too. Their rule of thumb is if someone reaches out and needs help, they’ll do what they can.

One of the organization’s long-standing outreach efforts is support for Elks Camp Moore, a summer getaway for children with special needs supported by state lodges. The Deptford Elks pay the bill to send local children, and it doesn’t cost their families a dime. This year, of course, the camp couldn’t be held.

“It was heartbreaking for a lot of the kids,” Pagano said.

Now, the Deptford Elks will set their sights on next summer’s camp and, in the meantime, get fundraising rolling again. The lodge’s doors reopened on Friday at 25-percent capacity and masks required when attendees were not seated. Saturday’s Charity Ride & BBQ will be the first major event for the lodge since spring.

“Deptford Elks never had a motorcycle committee. It’s exciting to have a big event at the lodge to really promote it,” Pagano noted, adding attendees have been asked to practice social distancing as best they can and to bring a mask in case they need to go into the lodge.

The barbecue at the Deptford Lodge will be $20 per person and the local band Sanctuary will perform. 

The barbecue will include chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers and all the typical fixings and sides and a cash bar. Anyone is welcome to join the barbecue, motorcycle rider or not. In fact, anyone is welcome to join the charity ride, too. Pagano said those in cars can follow along to help support the other lodges. At each stop, members will stay for a visit.

“If 50 motorcycle guys ride down there for an hour, hour-and-a-half, and they have a $400 to $500 bar day, that’s big for an Elks Lodge,” Pagano explained. “It will help them keep their lights on for a day.”

Registration for Saturday’s ride starts at 11 a.m. at the Deptford Elks Lodge, 733 Highland Ave., Deptford. The barbecue will start at 5 p.m. and the $20 tickets can be purchased at the event.

“This helps our lodge, too, to start up again so we can get caught up on our bills and keep our donations going,” Pagano said. “There are so many organizations we give money to.”

Anyone is welcome to join the Deptford Elks Motorcycle Committee, which currently has eight official members. (The lodge itself counts members around 1,000, all with different levels of participation.) To join, a person must simply be a member of the Deptford Elks Lodge in good standing and ride a motorcycle.

The Deptford Elks Motorcycle Committee is grateful to sponsors The Mount Royal Inn and Pirate Services. Sponsors are always welcome, and anyone interested can contact Pagano at apagano1071@yahoo.com. Learn more about the Deptford Elks by visiting www.facebook.com/deptford.elks.