Elks cover city to distribute Thanksgiving meals

Miriam Bazylewicz/News Tribune photo: Dan Orf picks up green bean cans to fill Thanksgiving meal boxes Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, at the Elks Lodge in Jefferson City.

Banana boxes lined a wall early Saturday morning in the basement of the Jefferson City Elks Lodge.

The boxes waited for some 50-plus volunteers to stuff them with all the products necessary for families to enjoy Thanksgiving feasts.

Saturday marked the 10th consecutive year the lodge has provided dinners for the needy in Jefferson City, according to Eileen Scrivner, past exulted ruler and a trustee of the lodge.

Elks members buy all the products at Schulte's Fresh Foods. This year, instead of pre-packaged rolls, Schulte's provided bags of freshly baked rolls, Scrivner said.

"I'm impressed," she said, adding the grocer is very generous with the time of its staff members.

The banana boxes had accumulated this year at the grocery store, too.

At the given hour Saturday, Elks volunteers filled the boxes with cans of green beans (along with fried onions and cream of mushroom soup to make fixings for a casserole), cranberry sauce, canned yams (and sugar and marshmallows for topping), pies, whipped topping, rolls, stuffing and butter. Families received a bag of potatoes, a frozen turkey and even a pan in which to roast the turkeys.

The Elks host the event each year to give families time to thaw the turkeys before the holiday.

"The only thing we don't give them is gravy," Scrivner said, "and I'm going to have to add that to the list eventually."

Donna Kennison-Otto organized the routes volunteers would use to deliver dinners to families. Most routes included only three packages, because most vehicles don't have room for more than that. However, some larger SUV drivers delivered up to four packages.

With her area in the lodge basement laid out like a war room, Kennison-Otto could point out the target families on a large map of Jefferson City that was divided into four quadrants.

"We have their names, addresses and phone numbers," she said. "We can call them and let them know we're on the way there."

She said it's not unusual for some parents to have to work on Saturdays. In those cases, volunteers must deliver the meals to their jobs.

She pointed out most of the recipients are in the food desert in the center of the city.

"Very few of them are in the area that we're in now," she said, meaning south Jefferson City. "There are a bunch out in Westview Heights."

Rod Ponder said he participates in the distribution because he wants to help people who aren't as fortunate as others.

"It's doing a good deed," Ponder said.

He added that, like other Elks, he helped with a veterans dinner last weekend.

"I'm a veteran," he said. "And I know veterans who are hurting a whole lot worse than me. It's to show the appreciation we have for veterans and people who are not as fortunate."

  photo  Miriam Bazylewicz/News Tribune photo: Julia Johnson helps Mandy Foreman and Sherry Cook put whipped cream in the Thanksgiving boxes Saturday morning at the Elks Lodge.
  photo  Joe Gamm/News Tribune photo: Volunteers line up to fill boxes with meal items during the Elks Lodge's Thanksgiving dinner delivery. Each year, Elks adopt families from the Samaritan Center and provide them with Thanksgiving dinners.
  photo  Joe Gamm/News Tribune photo: June Wilkerson picks out cans of sweet potatoes Saturday for a box to be delivered to a family during the Elks Lodge Thanksgiving dinner delivery.
  photo  Miriam Bazylewicz/ News Tribune photo: From left, June Wilkerson and Justin Dunn grab sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce to fill up Thanksgiving meal boxes Saturday at the Elks Lodge.
  photo  Miriam Bazylewicz/ News Tribune photo: Volunteers fill up Thanksgiving meal boxes Saturday at the Elks Lodge.
  photo  Miriam Bazylewicz/ News Tribune photo: Barb Hughes carries a box with everything for a Thanksgiving meal on Saturday morning at the Elks Lodge.