Elks celebrate Labor Day

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BY LOREEN BERLIN: Garden Grove Elks Lodge No. 1952 of the Orange Coast District celebrated Labor Day by holding its largest fundraiser.

It was the "57th annual Labor Day Family Fun Festival" that began with breakfast, continued to lunch and was followed by a barbecue dinner.

At 4:45 p.m., a 2015 Chevy Sonic car was raffled off to a lucky winner and there were other prizes, as well.

BY LOREEN BERLIN: Garden Grove Elks Lodge No. 1952 of the Orange Coast District celebrated Labor Day by holding its largest fundraiser.

It was the "57th annual Labor Day Family Fun Festival" that began with breakfast, continued to lunch and was followed by a barbecue dinner.

At 4:45 p.m., a 2015 Chevy Sonic car was raffled off to a lucky winner and there were other prizes, as well.

"We start selling tickets for our car at the Strawberry Festival and continue to today," said Lead Knight Karen Lewin. "Our purpose as an Elks Club is for community service We support youth activities which includes new dictionaries in the Garden Grove School District for all third graders."

Lewin said the Elks have major projects, but that in Garden Grove, they focus on schools and also work with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Garden Grove and other agencies that need help.

"Groups usually send us requests for their needs. We give high school scholarships for students," Lewin said.

 "Locally, we give three girls and three boys, scholarships from the Elks Lodge," she added. "Students go on to state and national competitions to compete for 'Most Valuable Student' based on grades, community service and leadership."

Students interested in the scholarships can go online to fill out an application. Elks work through school counselors to get word out to students about scholarships.

Applicants go through a judging process by a panel of judges and Elks National Foundation also gives 500 scholarships nationwide.

"The two top scholarship winners, one boy and one girl, are awarded $20,000 a year for four years of college. Others receive approximately $4,000 each," Lewin said.

Statewide, Elks do major projects aimed at handicapped children who can't get to doctors. Elks help with getting therapists to come to handicapped students at no cost to the families, helping getting student's physical therapy and speech therapy.

"Each year, we select a theme child. This year, we chose twin girls," said Lewin.

On a national level, Elks cover veterans programs.

"We go to the veterans hospital in Long Beach and hold barbecues, steak bakes and Bingo for the veterans," said Exalted Ruler Joe De La Luz. "We provide personal care products for veterans, as they receive medications, but not personal items."

At Christmas time, Elks hold a less-fortunate kids party; they give out two bicycles, serve pizza and Santa brings gifts for kids.

Both Lewin and De La Luz said they like the "hands-on" approach Elks have.

"It's easy to write a check, but we get involved," Lewin said.

De La Luz said Elks are supportive of veterans, as well.

"People tend to forget what Labor Day is all about," said Esquire Joe Justiniano, Jr., the right-hand person to the Exalted Ruler. "Labor Day is about unions and the working men and women, to honor the laborers' who fought for benefits, for the five-day work week and for children's labor laws.

"Most Elks members are blue-collar workers, though we have lawyers and others who are members; we've earned our living the hard way, so today, Labor Day, is our chance to get together and thank the workers."

Labor Day unofficially marks the end of summer, with children returning to school and retailers making it one of the largest sale events, third behind Christmas and Black Friday.