A local community organization made donations to three area school districts on Wednesday with the funds going toward lunch debts owed by each district’s students.
The Mineral Area Community Elks Lodge in Desloge presented the superintendents of the Central, North County and West County School Districts with $700 donations to support the nutrition and wellness of area students.
Lodge Elks National Foundation Chair Anna Kleiner said the donated funds were provided by the Elks National Foundation’s Gratitude Grant Program.
“The Elks National Foundation, through the Grand Lodge, which is the main organization nationwide, offers grants to lodges for a variety of community events and programs,” Kleiner said. “Each year we market this opportunity to donate to the foundation to our members as a voluntary donation.
“Depending on our per capita donation rate, it qualifies us to have some grants leveraged. This past year, like in many other years, we received $2,000 through the Gratitude Grant Program. We added some additional dollars to that this year and decided to support nutrition and wellness programs at the three school districts that we generally serve through this lodge, with the Gratitude Grant.”
The Gratitude Grant Program stipulates that the funds received by a local lodge must be, in turn, used for local charitable activities. In this case, that meant helping to erase the debt owed by some of the area’s struggling families to school districts for lunch costs.
West County Superintendent Stacy Stevens said the donation spoke volumes about the Elks Lodge’s dedication to serving the community, by providing for those who need it the most.
“I know the Elks is a very giving organization and they’re very important in our community,” Stevens said. “For them to think about our kids, and our most vulnerable kids and families who kind of struggle financially, this is going to help.
“Even for the families who qualify for the reduced portion, it’s hard for them to come up with that particular amount of money on a daily basis, so that will go toward helping them out. I know they’re going to be very grateful and we’re very grateful for the Elks community and all the folks associated with this.”
Central Superintendent Desi Mayberry said the idea to apply the funds to students’ lunch accounts was a novel idea, one that seems to have originated with MAC Elks Lodge member Louie Seiberlich.
“We’re just grateful to the Elks Lodge for thinking of us and our students,” Mayberry said. “I think it was a great idea—I was just saying, I don’t know who came up with it, though it sounds like Louie had a lot to do with it, but it’s a tremendous idea that will help benefit a lot of our students. We’ll be applying this to some of their lunch accounts, the ones that need the help the most. We’re just very appreciative of it.”
North County Superintendent Yancy Poorman said the donations are another example of the Elks Lodge’s dedication to supporting the surrounding community in ways that ease the financial burden on local families and school districts.
“I think one of the things that people forget is that our organizations like the Elks, they see them as social organizations, but they’re more civic-minded and more interested in the community and its betterment,” Poorman said. “We’re very appreciative of the fact that whoever came up with the idea, they took it upon themselves to do something for people who aren’t out there asking, but who have a need.
“Groups like this are really appreciated and I think people need to understand they have the community’s best interest at heart.”
The Elks National Foundation annually allocates $8.68 million into its Community Investments Program, which are disbursed to local lodges via grant programs such as the Gratitude Grant Program.