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Sunday, June 16, 2019

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Working hard to bring joy to community kids

By Sharon Space-Bamberger - reporter/photographer

By: Sharon Space-Bamberger | Democrat
Gabriella Lisachi & her brothers Gavin and Gianni got a surprise visit from Liberty Elks Santa (Ernie Feasel). Also shown are (far right) Exalted Ruler Joseph Davis and PDDGER Tania De Frank.
The Liberty Elks Lodge recently hosted their annual Christmas party for community children under 11. Thanks to private donations and a $2,500 “Promise” grant from the Elks National Foundation (ENF), the party was the biggest ever. Over 250 underprivileged kids and their parents learned the true meaning of “Elks Share and Elks Care.”
The Elks volunteers, their friends and families and community members labored for weeks to ensure the event was a success. Decorating the Lodge, shopping for and wrapping gifts, purchasing child friendly refreshments and deciding what ugly Christmas sweater or hat to wear for the party was well planned. On party day, hundreds of chairs were lined up facing the thrones of Mr.
and Mrs. Santa. Lights and cameras and printers were expertly manned by Liberty HS teacher Kath Johansen and Photo II students Archalyn Lagattuta, Bella Matco, Julisa Rosa and Lucia Gonzalez, all of whom are officers of the National Art Honor Society.
Guests of all ages were treated to the food kids love: hot dogs, French fries, chicken nuggets, almost Oreos, and juicy drinks. When the sound of sleigh bells indicated Santa's arrival a hush fell over the crowd. Mr. and Mrs. Claus (who resemble Elks Ernie Feasel and Maureen Crecitelli) held kids on their laps and encouraged them to smile for the cameras.
Each child received an age appropriate gift and parents received a framed photo of their child or family group.
Throughout the day, smiling Elks worked like staff at the best of catering halls. Exalted Ruler (ER) Joseph Davis was spotted carrying garbage to the dumpster. Tania DeFrank, Past District Deputy and Grand Exalted Ruler (PDDGER) wore many hats: baby calmer, gift distributor, trouble shooter, etc. Kitchen staff kept the deep fryers going and replenished industrial size pans of fried foods when the serving staff yelled for “more.” Kindness and firmness dealt with inappropriate actions from adults and children.
When the last child had received his gift and photo op with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, it was announced that Santa was leaving. His work was not over. Santa, ER Joe Davis and PDDGER Tania De Frank made a special visit to the home of Gabriella Lisacchi, age 8, who suffers from Sma2 -- a terminal illness. Gabbie, and her two brothers Gavin and Gianni were so delighted when their mother told them Santa was coming that they made him cookies. Gabbie who is transported by a gurney and breathes with the aid of a ventilator was able to thank Santa for his visit.
Thanks to the hard work of a legion of volunteers, the Liberty Elks kept their promise of sharing and caring for hundreds of needy community children.





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