PRESTON, ID – The year 2020 has been a rough year for many organizations, but it has also brought out the best in people. The Preston Elks Lodge’s annual Father’s Day Demolition Derby which funded their Christmas Basket program was canceled because of the pandemic.
For over 60 years the service club has been helping families at Christmas time. It started with 10 or 15 Christmas baskets and has grown to hundreds. The Christmas program is the kind of thing that blesses the people they are serving, but also the many people involved in spreading holiday cheer.
“The demolition derby was the one thing that supported our Christmas Box program,” said Jackie Andersen, the Esteemed Leading Knight of the Preston Elks Lodge (the second in command).
“We sent out letters to all the businesses in the area to see if they would help. Some of them had been closed for a while due to COVID,” she said. “Despite their hardships, donations came. Some gave money and some gave products.”
Even members of the Lodge dug deep into their pockets to make the program a success this year.
“It was amazing to see the donations come in from struggling businesses and people. The merchants were absolutely wonderful,” Andersen said. “We even received checks from different churches.”
This week they are starting to collect food and other things for the Christmas Baskets. There is room at the Elks Lodge where the commodities are gathered and stored and it is starting to fill up. By the time they are ready to organize the baskets the room will be filled over six feet high of food and there will be little room to stand.
“We have young men and young women groups form the local churches come in and help organize the boxes,” Andersen said. “We also have the Distinguished Young Women and a bunch of other youth groups come over and give us a hand.”
Andersen’s son Trayton, a senior at Preston High School, is also neck deep in the Christmas Basket program. He is using the experience as his Senior Project.
In the past, the Lodge has sent out as many as 807 baskets for families, but the past few years they have been averaging in the high 700’s. This year they are planning to assemble just over 700 baskets which is great considering COVID-19 has taken a toll on many familes’ income.
A basket is a plastic tote filled with food for a Christmas dinner. The Elks not only assemble the baskets , but they also deliver them and that is no small task. Some take more than an hour, one way, to deliver.
“We deliver to homes in Bancroft, Chesterfield and Montpelier and all the way to Richmond,” she said. “And all the cities in between.”
The real work will start Monday, Dec.14, separating the food then on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the baskets will be assembled. On Saturday, Dec. 19 over 100 drivers will deliver all of the baskets to homes where they are needed.