For many volunteers with the Elks’ Community Christmas Dinner, it’s easy to get swept up in feelings of joy and goodwill while packing their vehicles with tens of small white boxes.
Each one filled with a Christmas meal, the white boxes serve as reminders of a Christmas Day they’ll appreciate for years to come.
“(Christmas) is not all under the tree, its humanitarianism,” says Tom Florich, Elks Lodge Christmas Community dinner delivery driver. “It just gives me a chance to give back to those less fortunate and they are so appreciative that it just makes you feel really good to do that on a special day for them.”
He said before he and other volunteers head out to bring people a holiday meal, they spend that time putting together the precooked meals and made sure each person receives a requested box containing a full meal with all the fixings.
“They have the table all set up, the food is all prepared so we have volunteers that will go along and pick up trays, we will build a hot one and a cold one so we have boxes of hot and boxes of cold,” Florich said.
After their vehicles are loaded up with deliveries, the volunteers head north, south, east and west bringing people holiday cheer, he said as he looked at fellow delivery driver George McGrail who sat next to him.
“For example, let’s say (McGrail gets) 30 requests, so he rounds up boxes — 30 hot boxes and 30 cold boxes — and then he is on his way,” Florich said. “Then, we would come back and there might be more requests, so (McGrail) might go out to two or three more places because they didn’t call in time.”
Spending the holiday bringing food and cheer throughout the city has become a tradition for McGrail’s family, who spends each year working together, McGrail said.
“I’ve got a bunch of grandkids so the group that I have is like 12-14 people and the little kids take the food up to the door and they actually do pretty well getting donations,” he said. “It was good to get the kids out and to see some of the people that have struggled with life on Christmas morning.”
Delivery driver George Longpre he has met interesting people while out delivering for the lodge, but one of the most heartwarming times happened a few years ago when he met a woman in her 90s who shared her experiences in Laramie, he said.
“Normally, I try to go in, get them all delivered but I stuck around with her for half an hour talking. Unfortunately, I found out she passed away a month later.” Longpre said. “She was a Laramie native, as I am, and she goes back way before I was around, telling me stories, and it was nice.”