BY MELANIE WADE –
The Mena Elks Lodge and the local Marine Corps League Detachment served hundreds of children and their families on Saturday, December 16, at their annual toy and food basket give-away, but a small mix-up at the local post office almost caused a major issue that would’ve kept hundreds of families from receiving their Christmas cheer. But, after some very diligent work by a few dedicated volunteers, the day was saved and Christmas morning will be a bit brighter for some due to their efforts.
The Elks and Marines partnered up a few years ago to bring the Elks’ food basket program together with the Marine’s Toys for Tots program. The result has been a success. Elks’ Exhaulted Ruler Brian Thompson said, “We have partnered with them [the Marines] for the last 5 years and they have made this ten times easier. They are a blessing to our lodge and community. George O’Daniel and Nathan Roth, of the Marine Corps League Detachment both work really hard on the program.”
On Saturday, the two groups prepared to serve 465 children with Christmas gifts and 205 families with food baskets for the holidays. “We gave out around 23,000 toys and received $6,000 of that in donations from the community. We have been doing this 50 plus years and we would have never been able to do it without the people of Polk County helping us… their donations, their time, their support, helps us to take care of the children of this county and we deeply appreciate all of it,” Thompson said. He also praised the work of the Elks and the Marines. Fundraising begins in June of each year and around 800 hours are allotted to take on the large task. “Things wouldn’t work without the members help. The volunteer hours they give, we couldn’t do what we do here without them.”
There were many who arrived at the allotted time to pick up their items; however, due to a mix-up at the local post office, many families did not receive their invitation. The Elks and Marines did not learn of the mix-up until Friday, the day before the event, and found themselves scrambling and trying to reach those families to pick up their items. “Without the help of KENA, there would have been around 100 kids that would not have received their gifts because their parents said they thought they weren’t approved,” Thompson explained. When the parents began hearing the announcements on the local radio station, some called to make sure while others just showed up. Thompson said on Monday that some families showed up on Sunday and Monday and as of press time, just three families had not shown up. He added that if you filled out the application for Toys for Tots but did not receive your approval post card in the mail, call the Elks Lodge at 479-394-3740.