TORRINGTON – The Torrington Elks Lodge recently donated $7,000 to local food pantry, WYO Help. Elks President, Eric Sharp said the money derived from a grant available through the Elks National Foundation (ENF). While the Elks typically provides service-oriented projects for community involvement, with the pandemic came a move away from that for the time being so they were able to provide monetarily.
“It used to be before the virus, before the pandemic and everything that was you know, a lot more service oriented, like they wanted us to do projects…get the community involved. To reach out to seniors, reach out to veterans, reach out to underprivileged youth and stuff,” Sharp said. “Well, it just hasn’t been possible with the pandemic, especially with a lot of my memberships [being] older, a lot of the places that we kind of seek to help were kind of shuttered or really slowed down significantly during that. So, then they opened it up where we could use funds that were given to us by National Foundation for things like WYO Help, food pantries for stuff that was immediately out there helping families during the pandemic.”
“I’m hoping that we’re going to get back into more of the service-oriented type things instead of just doing a donation,” he said. “I mean I’d love being able to do a donation, but I like being able to get our membership involved.”
The list of service activities the Elks participates within the community is abundant, including the donation of backpacks filled with supplies for school children each fall before school starts.
“We do that every year. And that’s just through grants…that’s just straight us as a local Lodge, we do that” Sharp said. “We have a committee that’s involved with that. And so they basically, they go to the schools, they get the lists for every class…Last year we did almost 90 backpacks, and that’s filled with a year’s full of supplies backpack itself.”
The Elks also recently helped provide Christmas for a family affected with a hardship around the holidays.
Sharp said they received word that the family wouldn’t be able to provide for their children for Christmas and they wanted to bring some much-needed holiday cheer to them. After contacting the Wyoming State Elks Association, they were told to get the family whatever was needed.
“We reached out to them, and they were like, you get this family whatever they need. And so the family thought that we were just gonna take them out and buy some presents for Christmas and we’re like, no, let’s get it [all], he said. “We got the whole family clothes…mom, dad too…all the brothers and sisters. And then of course we took them shopping to do their own presents for each other.”
Another donation was recently made to the Torrington High School Thespian Troupe to help them attend and perform at the International Thespian Competition in Bloomington, Indiana.
“They were a great group of kids and they came to our meeting,” Sharp said. “It’s just a really unique opportunity for those kids and we were happy we could help.”
Sharp mentioned that they would like to help even more, but not a lot of people reach out when they need help.
“I know there’s folks that need help, but I know asking is hard,” he said. “And I just want people to know that if you know a family in need or if there is something the Elks can be involved in, we will dive head-first into it. Between our state association, our national association and just our local folks, we can come up with the money for anything.”
The Elks is also involved in multiple community events including Torrington’s Trunk-Or-Treat on Halloween, the Elks Hoop Shoot, Community Night Out.
One of the main local fundraisers is the Elks Annual Golf Tournament. The money raised helps with their backpack drive and this past year, they were able to put together more backpacks than in previous years. Sharp said they also reached out to all the local swimming pools to set up a free swim day. It was also found that the pools needed to replace old life jackets, and because of the abundance of money raised last year, the Elks purchased all new life jackets for the Torrington, Lingle and Guernsey pools.
According to the Elks’ national website, “Elks Lodges bring so much more to their communities than just a building, golf course or pool. They are places where neighbors come together, families share meals, and children grow up. Elks invest in their communities through programs that help children grow up healthy and drug-free, meet the needs of today’s veterans, and improve the quality of life.”
This month is the start of a new fiscal year for the Torrington Elks Lodge. Sharp said they are initiating new members.
“One of the things that I like about initiating new members and then getting them through orientation, is that they might have an idea that we’ve never even thought of,” Sharp said. “What I really want is people to reach out to us and say, hey...have you guys thought about being involved with this, and we’ll jump right into it.”
Sharp mentioned that the Elks organization is for everyone. “We are the largest service organization in the United States of America. We are the second most charitable organization in the States of America, second only to the federal government,” He said. “We give out more scholarships second only to the federal government. The Elks is tremendously involved with everything…the elderly, veterans, children, I mean that covers a pretty wide swath right there, but that’s our wheelhouse. We want to be able to do anything we can.”
The Elks is involved in so many ways and for service-minded individuals, is a great organization to be involved in. Having just held an initiation for new members, the Torrington Elks Lodge is always looking for people wanting to be involved.
Sharp said anyone interested in becoming an Elks member can stop by the lodge located at 120 E 20th Ave. or find more information at elks.org.