CENTREVILLE — The Kent Island Elks, Lodge 2576, in Stevensville, recently placed a third “Elks Giving Closet” in a Queen Anne’s County Public School at Centreville Middle School. The Giving Closet is a collection of items a number of children may need, such as school supplies, a winter coat. hats, mittens, toiletries, and even shoes that their parents can’t afford to purchase at various times, with unexpected unemployment, or other family emergencies.

Those children in need are often identified confidentially by their teacher. From there the child’s name is referred to the school guidance counselor.

The need for the original Giving Closet was identified at Stevensville Middle School in 2018. A student was seen wearing a pair of shoes that had duct tape wrapped around it holding the soles of the shoes on. Other students were coming to school during winter months without a coat or jacket, some wearing no more than a tee-shirt for a top.

Though these particular students were not great in numbers, they were identified as having immediate needs. An Elk member who works at the school notified the lodge membership that the school could use an Elks Closet, and arrangements were made.

The Kent Island Elks have a generous history of donating to the Elks National Foundation (ENF), which was set up to support needs communities may need. A local lodge can qualify for a grant from the ENF if the lodge has met the qualifying standards by its individual membership. Lodge 2576 has been ranked number one in the state in such donations for many years, and has qualified repeatedly for the grants. This particular grant. known as a “Beacon Grant” of $3,500 was received by the lodge to purchase the large metal cabinet and supplies to go in it. The Elks have also always supported children’s needs and activities to help build strong character, and build self-esteem.

Current Elks Southeast District Deputy, and KI Elks Lodge Past Exalted Ruler Angela Meyer said, “The Elks Closet is a partnership between the schools and Elks. It’s to provide support to those who are economically disadvantaged. Helping the children in this way minimizes student harassment and peer bullying. It adds understanding to the phase,’it takes a village to raise a child’, helping meet the needs of our students socially, emotionally and academically.”

In 2020, a second Elks Giving Closet was established at Sudlersville Middle School. Principal Rob Watkins said, “We’ve had a ‘Giving Closet’ of our own here at Sudlersville M.S. for about 6-years, prior to the Elks getting involved with us, and making the closet even stronger. Prior to the Elks, individuals, churches and other groups made donations of items they felt students needed help with.” Indeed, the closet at Sudlersville M.S. is beyond a metal cabinet the Elks can provide for the items. It’s a complete closet or small storage room within the school, located not far from the front office.

The only middle school in the county that doesn’t yet have an Elks Giving Closet is Matapeake Middle School. If it is determined that there are students there who need such assistance, look for another closet to be established next year. Lodge 2576 has already qualified to receive another ENF grant for such a project for 2022.

The Elks national slogan is “Elks Care, Elks Share!” Every Elks lodge across the nation strives to meet that challenge of meeting its community’s needs. For more information about the Elks, or if you have an interest in supporting efforts to make your community a better place for everyone, call your local Elks lodge, and ask how you might become an Elk. The KI Elks lodge phone number is 410-643-2221. Ask to speak with Exalted Ruler Rick Frere.

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