The Preston Elks Lodge is helping hundreds of Eastern Idaho families put food on the table this holiday season.
For more than 60 years, the elks lodge has been putting together Christmas boxes for families in need. What started out as just a handful of boxes - between 10 to 15 - has greatly expanded over the years.
Last year, the Preston Elks Lodge did 760 boxes and expect to do at least 700 again this year.
Each box contains many different food items, like canned foods, macaroni and cheese, packaged milk, and more. The boxes also have hygiene supplies and other household necessities.
The food and monetary donations come from a variety of community groups, businesses and individuals.
This year, Pioneer Elementary K-2 grades had a friendly competition to see which class could collect more food.
In total, the classes brought in more than 4,000 food items.
“We expected to pick up only about two truckloads of food and we ended up with four,” said Jackie Andersen, leading knight for the lodge. “So it was amazing.”
Each year, dozens of volunteers come together to form an assembly line and put the boxes together.
But this year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the lodge had to change a few things.
They are limiting the number of people in the building and keeping volunteers to specific, small groups. All volunteers will wear masks and gloves. Andersen said they had to turn some people away from helping pack the boxes this year because of safety precautions. But she said they are still humbled and grateful by how many community members want to help.
Select volunteers will be putting the boxes together Dec. 15-17.
Boxes then get delivered all throughout the Southeast region to areas like Preston, Lava Hot Springs, Soda Springs and even down to Richmond, Utah.
“I can’t even put words on the emotions I feel,” Andersen said. “To see the look on some of these kids’ faces, when they get that food and they know that they’re going to be able to eat for at least a week – that right there is all that needs to be said for me.”
She added that her son is overseeing this year’s boxes for his senior project and she’s happy to see him be a part of it, too.
Andersen said anyone who would still like to help can go to the Preston Elks Lodge on Saturday, Dec. 19 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., pick up a list of families, and help deliver the boxes.