PRINCETON — The Princeton Elks Lodge started doing Christmas baskets for the poor in Bureau County 50 years ago. The first year, the ladies redressed dolls. and the men fixed trucks and other “gently used toys.” The lodge filled 12 baskets and took a toy to each family. The lodge members donated a dozen bushel baskets and enough money to fill the baskets with all the food needed for a Christmas dinner.
Through the years, the project has grown to 120 baskets filled with food for the entire day of Christmas. According to Princeton Elks Exalted Ruler Penny Best, “We now get a truck full of toys from both car dealerships. They hold a ‘fill the truck’ event for one month before the delivery date. All the toys arrive at the Elks lodge by 9 a.m. on the Thursday before the Christmas basket delivery date. It takes many hands to separate them into age groups and many more hands to pack the bags full of toys for each family.”
The next day, Friday, Mair Oil representatives pick up the food, and when all the tables are set up, Elks lodge members start arriving to fill the boxes.
Early Saturday morning, Elks members meet at the lodge for a hot breakfast and then fill their trucks and vans with food and toys. All is delivered, and the drivers meet back at the lodge to share their stories.
This year’s baskets will be delivered before noon on Dec. 22.
Best said, “The need is so very great this year that we will fill baskets for the families with children first. We will not be able to serve all who signed up. If we haven’t arrived at your home by noon, we are so sorry, but we will not be able to serve you this year.”