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100,000 Meal Served!
Serving the 100,000 meal at the Community Dinner

100,000 Free Meals Served In 6 ½ Years Of Summit County Elks Lodge 2561 Dinners

The excitement of October 13 may have eluded four-year-old Zachary Dioguardia when he received the 100,000th free meal served by Elks Lodge members in Silverthorne, CO, but most in attendance were aware of the occasion’s significance and greeted it with whistles, hoots and rounds of applause. In a partnership Elks Lodge 2561 provides the kitchen, dining room and food preparation licensing while fund raising, and financial accounting is provided by Rotary. The joint support has been instrumental in securing ongoing food support for Summit County residents and seasonal resort employees. A number of members of Lodge 2561, including dinner founder Deb Hage, are also members of Rotary.

Lining up outside 10/6/15 The meal is more then a soup supper for the poor. What everyone receives when the doors open at 5 pm on Tuesday is food and a whole lot more! A sense of community permeates the Elks Lodge. The smells from the kitchen radiate out into the street. The warmth of the old log dining room is inviting. Every guest is greeted. Second and third helpings are encouraged. Fresh fruit, salad, meat, vegetables, beverages and dessert are part of every menu. For many this is the one time a week they get fresh produce. The free dinners, offered every Tuesday since March 2009, are provided to all who come. The focus is to assist Summit County’s homeless, unemployed, and underemployed populations, and anyone else who is financially struggling or suffering from food insecurity. Many participants walk to the Elks Lodge from low income apartments in the neighborhood. Most people come because they are hungry. Others come because they are too tired to cook for their family while working two or more jobs. Still others come because they are lonely.

Children like Zachary and his Mom, Caroline, make up about 15% of those served over the years. The dinners have also become a gathering place for many Summit seniors, who find it difficult to prepare their own nutritious, balanced meals.
In the summer months there are 250 and 300 diners each week. In the winter the numbers grow to 400 - 500.
Numerous organizations and businesses contribute either free or low cost food. Food Bank of the Rockies is a primary source of food, however, other stores are notable for their generosity. Cash donations come in from foundations, churches, individuals and town governments. Along with Elks and Rotarians, citizens in other volunteer groups rotate the serving and cleanup duties each week. They come from banks, stores, churches, businesses, youth groups and the local hospital. 20 - 25 volunteers are required each week.

The good will generated by the joint effort is attracting members to both organizations. Both groups are growing, vibrant organizations, visibly offering services to Summit County in a way that potential members find appealing.

Submitted by Deborah Hage, Elks Lodge 2561
deborah@deborahhage.com

Butch is enjoying himself while serving.

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