Bristol County Elks gets all the Thanksgiving fixings to East Bay needy

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Like many Thanksgiving meals, there always seems to be one dish that keeps guests waiting and, with all the side dishes, something is usually forgotten until the last minute.

On the Saturday morning, more than 50 members of the Bristol County Elks Lodge #1860 stood around waiting for cases of canned peaches to arrive. When they finally did, Elks placed the cans and other groceries inside hundreds of bags filled with food that will be donated to East Bay residents in need.

Inside the lodge on Constitution Avenue, Elks and volunteers bagged up potatoes, squash, vegetables, fruits, cake mix and, of course, stuffing. A gift card was also included so the recipients could buy a turkey.

Under the leadership of the Elks’ exalted ruler, Bill Hill, the annual Thanksgiving food drive grew from 10 baskets five years ago to 460 baskets this year.

“We give out food 365 days a year,” Mr. Hill said of the organization.

The Elks operate an ongoing food bank, East Bay Cares, to help feed families in need. For Thanksgiving, however, additional fund-raising efforts are made through a turkey roll, silent auction and a raffle that takes place at the Merrill Lounge in East Providence. The proceeds from all go to buy food for the drive.

This year, the Elks raised nearly $7,000 to buy food, in addition to other money raised.

“It’s a very worthwhile effort,” Mr. Hill said. “We try to help families in the East Bay.”

Officials distributed the food-filled bags, as well as gift certificates for turkeys, to people at St. Mary’s of the Bay in Warren, the East Bay Food Pantry, Barrinton’s Tap-In, the Women’s Resource Center, as well as schools in the Bristol Warren regional district.

Mr. Hill said he finds personal satisfaction with the club’s ability to help make sure that families have enough to eat over the holidays.

Besides organizing the larger parts of the holiday food drive, Mr. Hill is careful not to let any of the smaller details slip by.

“We almost forgot to get the stuffing,” said Teresa Capuano, one of the food drive organizers. “It’s a good thing Bill remembered.”

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