It’s almost uncanny how quickly a group of volunteers converges on the Kennewick Elks Lodge, and—in a flurry of paper and strings—wraps a collection of gifts intended for unexpecting recipients. But, every year—like clockwork—it happens.
“It goes pretty fast,” said WRPS Contractor Assurance Manager Mike Peloquin. “Get that many people in a room and it’s a flurry of activity and ugly Christmas sweaters.”
Each year, the Tri-Cities Elks Lodge #2755 adopts local families in need and provides a little holiday cheer in the form of gifts, food and other items. WRPS contributes a modest amount to the effort to help offset costs. Additionally, a local private company, AEM Consulting, joins the Elks about a week before Christmas to wrap and label each gift. The annual event has become known as the “Snack and Wrap.”
“The donations of corporate sponsors like WRPS and AEM magnify the ability of volunteers to perform the tasks necessary to improve our community and our ability to help one another,” Peloquin said. “This program has brought together several organizations from across the Tri-City area, which would not have been possible without their sponsorship.”
“Who can resist wrapping gifts for children and their families?” said Dennis Washenfelder, AEM Senior Chemical Engineer Task for WRPS.
It’s a true community effort. The Elks receive toys from the annual toy drive, sponsored by Eagle 106.5 FM and Ranch and Home. In return, the Elks help assemble bikes and toys, and help sort and stage the gifts for distribution to other community organizations.
In any given year, up to a dozen families benefit from the gifts of food, kitchen supplies, health care products, laundry soap, towels, toothpaste, toothbrushes, linens and bedding. Children receive clothes, coats, hats, socks, art kits and toys.
“This annual event is just one of the many community outreach programs supported by the Elks,” said Kirk Peterson, WRPS Performance Assurance. “Watching my 11-year-old daughter’s energy in helping others and seeing the resulting smiles on the families’ faces as we delivered the baskets was priceless.”
“My daughter and I attend the Snack and Wrap at the Elks every year,” said Jeanne Bernards, AEM Principal Engineer on System Planning and Modeling Support Task for WRPS. “It’s a great way to give to the community, and we really enjoy spending the time with my colleagues and their families. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for my daughter to experience how giving in a small way can make a difference for local children and families in need.”
WRPS employees serving as Elks’ members or officers include WRPS One System ESH&Q Manager Jack Donnelly, Chairman of the Board, Peloquin, Peterson and Jerry Heaney, WRPS One System Quality Assurance.
“This is my favorite event of the year,” Donnelly said. “Delivering the baskets of gifts, food and essential needs personally—and seeing how it makes a difference—is a treasure. Working with so many people to make this happen is powerful, and it is a primary reason I am an Elk member. I appreciate WRPS and AEM for supporting this cause.”
The Elks Lodge is a fraternal order and social club founded in 1868. It is one of the leading fraternal orders in the U.S., claiming nearly one million members.
“My wife and I take great pleasure raising money throughout the year to support the Elks’ family Christmas basket event,” Heaney said. “The looks on the faces of those receiving the gifts and care packages is precious.”