Fast food: Elks Club opens self-serve pantry

Mike Jack looks over the drive-up food pantry that has been installed outside the Elks Lodge, 820 S. State St. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — As many are preparing to cook a big turkey and all the trimmings on Thanksgiving Day, others will be struggling to scrape together enough for a decent meal.

Food scarcity is an ongoing issue in Hancock County, but there’s a new place where people can go when supplies are running low — a self-serve, 24-hour-access food pantry in the parking lot of the Greenfield Elks Lodge, 820 S. State St. in Greenfield.

Lodge members stock the four-foot-wide pantry with an assortment of canned goods, boxed meals and other nonperishable foods that are free for the taking.

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Those in need are invited to stop by and take whatever they need, seven days a week. Those who are able can drop off non-perishable food items to help the Elks restock the shelves.

“Basically you take what you need and leave what you can,” said Mike Jack, the lodge trustee in charge of the project.

Kline Cabinetmakers in Maxwell donated the cabinets, which Jack fastened together to create the pantry.

It’s just the latest effort the Greenfield Elks made this year.

As the pandemic gripped the nation in March, the lodge organized drive-through food giveaways in the lodge parking lot every Saturday from late March through mid-May. About 100 people were served each week, Jack said.

Members then turned their efforts to the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen in Greenfield.

The lodge was able to obtain two grants totaling $5,500 from the Elks National Foundation, which has been used to supply various kinds of meat to the soup kitchen.

“I am so very grateful to them for the donation,” said the soup kitchen’s director, Jill Ebbert. “When it’s all done, they will have donated over 2,000 pounds of meat to us. This is such a blessing!”

How much the Elks deliver each week depends on the soup kitchen’s available freezer space. “Last week we took probably 100 pounds of ground beef, ground pork, sausages and boneless pork chops,” Jack said.

For the meat donations, they turned to lodge member Brad Gruell, also known as Brad the Butcher, who runs a business by the same name in Greenfield.

Gruell said helping out the community is nothing new for the Elks, but the demand has certainly been higher this year, giving them and other service organizations more opportunity to pitch in.

“The Elks have been supporting the community in various ways for years, but they’ve been doing it silently. They back the veterans, give away quite a big scholarship every year, and usually take items down to a food pantry in Carthage once a month,” he said.

Jack said the lodge, which has 142 members, is happy to serve the community. “It’s what we do,” he said.