SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — In the past, the St. Patrick’s Day cookout at the South Orange Elks Lodge No. 1154 was a wonderful event at which members would prepare meals for the community’s front-line responders and sell dinners to members. Due to diminishing sponsors, competition with other local restaurants and businesses, food waste, and of course COVID-19, the event looked a little different this year. The Elks hope eventually to get back to selling dinners, raising funds for the lodge and treating the first responders for a celebratory meal. But this year, the Elks got back to the basics: helping the community.
Through the help of the Parenting Center and Cougar Cares, the Elks sourced meals for 80 food-insecure individuals in the school district. The families had been asked discreetly through the Parenting Center and Cougar Cares about dietary restrictions, religious observances and the desire to participate. Members from these same volunteer groups were also the ones to deliver the meals the Elks prepared, as they do every other week with food pantry supplies, to the families.
On Wednesday, March 16, beginning in the morning, the Elks started cooking the corned beef under head chef and lodge chaplain Alishia Taiping. Then, from 5 p.m. on, in one-hour shifts, the Elks invited more volunteers to come help chop, cook, portion and package the meals into 20 deliverable, family-sized meals for four. Members also made handwritten notes to include with the meals.
Those who could not volunteer their time that evening, but still wanted to help, gave funds towards the cost of supplies, as well as donated the vegetables and helped get them to the lodge before the cookout. Those who wanted to serve from home made loaves of Irish soda bread and delivered those for packaging at the lodge.
Photos Courtesy of Dan Pieraccini