New Elks group ‘From the Heart’ to help city residents most in need

New Elks group ‘From the Heart’ to help city residents most in need

Members of a new Woonsocket Elks Lodge of Elks #850 subcommittee focused on helping the cityÕs most in need are, from left, Chairman Leo Shiel, Irene Jacques and Leading Knight Arthur Jacques,
Comedy event Saturday will support local organizations

WOONSOCKET – The Woonsocket Lodge of Elks #850 has formed a new committee with a long-term focus on helping city residents most in need, and they’ve put together their first fundraising event this weekend, a comedy show with proceeds to help fill specific wishes of local organizations.

“From the Heart of The Woonsocket Elks #850” is a new volunteer group that has begun collaboration with a number of city agencies to provide help where it’s needed most. The group received a grant last month from the Elks National Foundation to seed the project, and will continue to raise funds independently in hopes of growing the charitable endeavor.

“It’s to augment the Impact Grant we received from Grand Lodge,” explained lodge Chairman Leo Shiel.

The committee’s first event, Funny for Funds, will be held at the Social Street lodge on Saturday, Nov. 21. The evening of comedy be headlined by comedian “Rockin” Joe Hebert, will include appetizers and a cash bar, and will raise money to fund the new collaboration with local nonprofits.

Far from just a one-time contribution, the committee is working to establish long-term partnerships with the groups. From the Heart’s community partners will include Thundermist Health Center, Bryan’s Food Pantry at Saint Charles Borromeo, and Woonsocket Headstart. The Elks formed a committee in April including about a dozen member from the 850 person Woonsocket club, and have spent the past six months looking at where their support was needed.

In September, they applied for the Impact Grant, funding from the larger national organization offered on a competitive basis to lodges working to make a significant and meaningful difference in their community through a charitable project.

“Because of the poverty in the city of Woonsocket and the need for help, we undertook the obligation to get this grant,” said Shiel.

Leading Knight Arthur Jacques points out that the need is there: data released by Rhode Island Kids Count recently showed that children in Woonsocket are the most likely of any in the state to have at least one parent incarcerated.

“We were moving forward whether we got this money or not,” said committee member Irene Jacques.

The project is one of many taking place at the active lodge. One of the largest Elks groups in the area, the Woonsocket organization provides support for other local lodges, and is host to countless events throughout the year.

“You could spend a whole year just working with events here,” said Arthur.

Shiel also serves as ENF chairman of the East District and is the past district deputy grand exalted ruler. Recently, the club received an ENF award in recognition of their efforts.

“We went into this blindly and we’re just trying to do the best we can,” Shiel said of the latest project.

So far, it seems, they’ve done well. Last month, the Elks received word that the #850 would be one of three lodges in Rhode Island to receive a share of the national funding. Only 63 lodges across the country will receive the money this year, grants totaling up to $10,000 that must be used to help the community. The Woonsocket Lodge received $7,500.

“It’s very competitive,” Shiel said. “We must have done a good job.”

The Grand Lodge has specific criteria for how that money can be spent. Rather than donate the cash directly, the Elks group plans to meet specific needs, such as supplying gifts or event expenses for Thundermist’s Community Baby Showers, or paying for books that Headstart gives to parents that are filled with important phone numbers.

“There are a few programs they have that we’re really excited about,” explained Irene.

To win the grant funding, the group also had to demonstrate that they would be able to continue the charitable project.

“You have to show that you can raise funds yourself,” said Shiel. “We’re looking down the road further to how we’re going to continue this.”

That fundraising effort will begin this weekend with the comedy show. Doors at the lodge will open at 6 p.m. with performances starting at 7 p.m. Tickets for the event are $20 and can be purchased by contacting Colleen Rondeau at 401-580-0179.

The committee will spend the next month looking over wish lists from the three partner organizations, which the group plans to narrow down before support officially begins in January.

Over time, they say, they hope to expand the project.

“It’s going to mushroom,” said Irene. “We’re still in our infant stages.”

Next efforts may include an outdoor fundraising event over the summer, and the pursuit of potential corporate sponsors.

Shiel is hopeful their work will have an impact.

“I think what we can do is make life easier and more comfortable for some of the people that we’re dealing with.”