The Oakhurst Elks Lodge provided new clothing for 170 Mountain Area children this year and invited all the children and their families to its annual Christmas Party Saturday, complete with pizza, entertainment, a stuffed animal courtesy of the Mountain Bear Fan Club and the chance to tell Santa what they would like for Christmas.
Chairperson for the event, Charlene Klinger, said it was one of the largest parties the lodge has held over the past 20-plus years.
Lodge Exalted Ruler Glenn Smith said the Christmas Party is a big undertaking, but worth all the time and effort.
“It’s pretty special to see all these children having fun, meeting other children, talking with Santa and receiving their gifts,” Smith said.
After lunch, each child received their present from Santa, selected for them based on gender and age.
Yeni and Sergio Munoz of Oakhurst have seven children, and this year marked the third year the family has been invited to the party.
“We are very thankful to the Elks Lodge helping with presents for my children and a fun party,” Yeni said.
Daughter Jaira said she loves coming to the party because it makes her happy to receive some new clothes ... and she likes pizza.
“I feel blessed to be here today,” the 9-year-old said with a big smile.
Haven Flores has two daughters, Analiese, 3, and Lillyanna, 5, who attends Raymond-Knowls Elementary School.
“I want to thank the Elks Lodge for inviting my children to this Christmas party,” Flores said. “My two girls are having a great time and are excited to see Santa.”
Teachers and staff at Wasuma, Raymond-Knowls, Rivergold, Coarsegold and Oakhurst elementary schools, along with Oak Creek Intermediate School, provided names of families to receive invitations to the party.
Seven lodge members went to Burlington’s in Fresno to purchase the coats, pants and shirts at a discounted rate.
“Burlington’s was great to us,” Klinger said. “They opened the store exclusively for us at 6 a.m. and provided us with four personal shoppers to assist us.”
During the party, entertainment was provided by Amanda Hutcheson, performing a couple dance numbers with hula hoops, and teaching the children how to spin the hoops around their waist.
Funds for the clothing comes from the lodges’ annual crab feed, lodge members and Oakhurst businesses.
“Businesses in town are very generous in helping us provide some of the less fortunate children in our area with new clothing and a Christmas party,” Klinger said. “Lodge members like to volunteer to help with the party because it is so heartwarming to see the excitement and big smiles on all the kid’s faces when they see Santa and get their gifts.”
Jamal and Heather Mansell, owners of the new Papa Murphy’s Take N Bake Pizza, donated 25 large pizzas for lunch, and the children also received a chocolate or strawberry sundae for dessert.
The Elks will celebrate its 150th Anniversary during 2018, with a couple special events planned by the Oakhurst Lodge to commemorate the milestone. The Oakhurst lodge is 30 years old.
“We are always looking for new members, so we invite anyone interested in having some fun and making a difference in the community to join us,” Smith said.
Details: Elk’s Lodge No. 2724, 42484 Highway 41, (559) 683-2717, firstname.lastname@example.org.