Elks Lift Spirits of Kids and Families
By Derek Randles, PER
Photography by Mike Klinger
Mission Viejo Elks took over Orange County Rescue Mission’s Village of Hope on Halloween. Our Lodge was invited to participate in a holiday celebration at the OC Rescue Mission. Having served the Mission in the past, we had a fan base of residents overly eager for another day of fun in the sun. This year the theme was a Fall Halloween Party, and we supplied costume items including hats, masks, fairy wings, and full costumes to the 100 children whom are residents of the mission. Along with the costumes, the group of thirty-five Elk volunteers set up table and yard games where the 250 residents did their best to win candy and prizes. Of course, we made certain that everyone walked away a winner. Ray Mallen and Julie Thomas dressed as Superman & Superwoman entertained a group of the kids while others were completely consumed by the “Puppy Pen” with a dozen or so adorable dogs. The rest of the group played for hours in a blow up obstacle course, one item the kids pleaded with us to leave behind. The Laguna Woods Clowns also entertained with their fancy balloons and face painting. There was also a spinning wheel with a prize for every spin and arts & crafts booths. We brought six large boxes of new clothing items in children and adult sizes which were displayed on long tables and there for the taking. Event co-chair Stephanie Bongartz brought along her sister, Amber Toliver, and grandson Jake Matthew, giving them the jobs of manning the cotton candy and snow cone machines which were extremely busy all day. All thirty-five Elk volunteers were kept busy throughout the party.
While everyone had fun outside, Past Exalted Ruler Pat Martino and his kitchen crew cooked in the Mission’s kitchen and prepared two service lines for the hungry residents. One newer resident and kitchen helper Francis said he has never seen a group work so closely and efficiently in the kitchen and it was a pleasure to work with the Elks. Kitchen manager Sun kept up the pace to assure all 250 residents were fed the hot dogs and hamburgers, salads and dessert on time. The entire meal was donated through a grant from our Lodge charitable committee which raises money to help those in need through the Elks weekly Bingo game. Additional funds to pay for this event were raised through an Elks National Foundation (ENF) grant called the Promise Grant. This grant is only available for the first 500 Elks Lodges in the nation with qualifying programs and can only be used for children’s programs. Once the hot dogs and hamburgers were consumed, the kids went back at it with the games, obstacle course, and puppies until they just could not stand up any longer.
Stephanie Bongartz co-hosted this event with Lodge ENF Chairman, Derek Randles PER, and both have been very active with not only the Village of Hope but the sister property the House of Hope in Orange. Co-chair Bongartz thanked the Elk volunteers who were: Julie Thomas, Dave & Cheryl Tucker, Bob & Linda Hauxhurst, Andy & Mary Ann Costello, Mike & Judy Klinger, Paulette Rosen (Pom Pom), Dennis & Laura Lumley, Kathy Andrews, Vera Pavelec, Charles Hart, Les & Maggie Stepik, Amber Toliver, Jeri Getson (Clown), Carol Wilek, Barbara Goldberg, Anna Wong ( Raggedy Ann clown) B. Dover (Bubbles the clown), Jacob Matthew, John Fleri, Kevin Hughes, Ray Mallen, Sue Vranich, Donna Pettipas, Pat & Barbara Martino, Sandie McClure, Gail Patti, and Louie Hernandez. Co-chair Derek said of the event, “I can’t believe these people,” referring to his fellow Elks. “They marched right in here and in no time had everything set up like a team of professional carnival roustabouts, and when it was over they cleared everything out twice as fast. From beginning to end the resident adults and children had a fantastic time. I’m really proud of everyone.” Derek added. “We also want to thank the residents and staff at the OC Rescue Mission for once again allowing us to spend an afternoon in the park with them. This is a wonderful organization.” Rescue Mission Events manager Kayleigh Roenicke praised the Elks saying, “Thank you again for an AMAZING Halloween party. Our residents had such a nice time…you guys do such an excellent job!”