VINTON–Clark Crawley, the administrator of Vinton Moose Lodge 1121, met with Councilman Doug Adams on November 30 to present the Vinton Needy Family Program a check for $500 from lodge members.
After the presentation, Crawley and Adams began discussing the lack of recognition of both their organizations in the community and how they would like to heighten their visibility.
The Needy Family Program provides Christmas gifts for Vinton children and food for their families over the winter break. School counselors help identify the children who might benefit most from the gifts.
The program would like to expand its reach to include more children. This year they will be providing Christmas gifts and food for 10 families.
The Needy Family Program had its beginnings with the Vinton Police Department many years ago and is still loosely affiliated with public safety departments in Vinton. Adams has held a leadership role for years beginning with his work on the Vinton First Aid Crew. Travis Spigel is now the president of the organization; Sydney Myers serves as treasurer.
Adams says their sole purpose is to give food, clothing, and toys to Vinton’s children during the holiday season. The non-profit raises funds from donations, from working at the First Fridays events in Roanoke City, and from a small donation from the Town of Vinton.
They use those funds to shop each year at the Bonsack Walmart from a list provided by the families involved. Adams says that the family financial situation is vetted each year to verify that the family truly is in need. They use the established national poverty level as a guideline. Their aim is to spend about $125 on each child.
This year’s shopping trip is planned for 8 a.m. on December 7.
The Needy Family Program shoppers bag and label their purchases as they check out at Walmart. They gather at the Fire/EMS building in Vinton on another day for a wrapping party, and then on December 22 a caravan of fire trucks, police, and rescue vehicles will deliver the gifts to the homes of the chosen children.
The boxes of food the Needy Family program provides include cans of green beans, corn, peas, pork and beans, tomato and chicken noodle soup, fruit cocktail, and beef stew, along with a canned ham, 10 pounds of potatoes, a gallon of milk, boxes of cereal, cookies, macaroni and cheese, saltines, loaves of bread, and jars of peanut butter and jelly. Larger families receive two boxes of food.
The organization wraps up their holiday season with a Christmas party for the 100 or so residents of Clearview Manor apartments. They sing carols, serve cookies and punch, and distribute small gifts and a Kroger gift card to each resident.
As for the Moose, the impressive event venue at the lodge and the generosity of its members are two well-kept secrets in Vinton. This lodge is not the stereotypical smoky bar and dance hall of generations past. They are working to broaden their presence in the community—especially their charitable presence.
With its focus on children and the elderly, the fraternal Moose organization, established in 1888, traditionally supports the Mooseheart Child City and School near Chicago and the Moosehaven Retirement Center near Jacksonville, Florida. One million members in 1500 communities throughout the 50 states, England, and Canada, support national and local charities and carry out community service activities. Clark says that Moose International will donate $200 million to charitable causes this year.
According to research he completed with the assistance of Lewis Mitchell, Crawley learned the local Moose Lodge had its beginnings over the Swan Restaurant on Lee Avenue in downtown Vinton in 1960 with over 50 charter members.
In 1965 they acquired some of the land at the present site of the lodge on East Washington Avenue/Route 24 from Martin Bush and began construction that year.
At first the lodge was located upstairs and the Social Quarters downstairs. An addition was built in 1972 which allowed a kitchen and bar to be installed on the upper level. In 1983 construction began on the downstairs dance hall which was completed in time for the Christmas dance that year.
More land was purchased from Martin Bush’s son Joe in the early 90’s which allowed for the building of a picnic pavilion and a ball field. Later renovations added a game room, handicapped accessible restrooms, and a card room.
In 2010 the downstairs dance hall was remodeled with new interior walls, a new ceiling, and upgraded electrical work. Recently the old parquet floor was removed and new tile installed.
The Moose renovated their facility with plans to become a special event venue for all occasions. They have a very spacious banquet hall with a raised stage, and a bar and kitchen area. There is also a new bridal parlor near the main room. There is a large outdoor space which could be used for a wedding ceremony, reception, and photographs.
Crawley emphasizes that the Vinton Moose Lodge with its 300 members is dedicated to community service and hopes to be contacted when needs arise in the Vinton area. The lodge holds fundraising events for local schools and organizations, providing “the building, the food, everything,” according to Crawley, with proceeds going to the non-profit groups.
They will be hosting a pancake breakfast for the William Byrd Softball Booster Club on December 5, a fundraiser open to the general public.
On December 12 they will be holding the second annual Breakfast with Santa for Herman L. Horn Elementary School with all proceeds going to the school’s PTA. Tickets are $5 in advance, or $6 at the door. The breakfast lasts from 8 a.m. until noon. Pictures with Santa are $5. The event is open to the public.
Both the Moose and the Vinton Needy Family Program are eager for new members and for opportunities to serve the Vinton community.