By NOREEN HYSLOP
Continuing their mission of "Caring and Sharing," Dexter Elks Lodge No. 2439 is participating in a unique national service project to benefit area veterans.
It's called the Veterans Leather Program, and is the service project of the Elks National Veterans Service Commission. There couldn't be a more appropriate time for area residents to take advantage of the opportunity to be a part of a program that supplies needed items to hospitalized veterans.
The project involves the donation of deer and other animal hides that are tanned, cut, and sewn into specially designed gloves, which are furnished to veterans confined to wheelchairs, thereby protecting their hands during movement.
The leather from donated hides also serves veterans who work on various crafts during their hospital stays. Arts and Crafts shows that are Elk-sponsored often feature wallets, clothing, belts and moccasins made from the hides that are donated.
The Elks have also partnered with an organization called Help Hospitalized Veterans to have leather craft kits manufactured from the donated hides shipped to hospitalized veterans nationwide.
The Elks Leather Program was initiated in 1948 when the Elks of California launched a hide-gathering program during hunting season. The raw hides were collected, salted and shipped to an LA tannery for processing. The finished leather, some in brilliant colors, was made available to Veterans medical facilities throughout the state.
Today, about 20 states participate in the project. Helping to further the effort, the Elks National Veterans Service Commission arranged for funding to pay for tanning and shipping of the hides nationwide.
The local Elks Lodge on Two Mile Road is serving as a drop-off point for all hides. Also participating in the project locally is a Puxico processor, J&G Meat Co. on County Road 420. They will be donating all hides at their plant to the project.
Dexter Elks Jay Wallis and Verl are taking the initial steps in tanning the hides, utilizing salt donated by the local Orscheln Farm Supply. The local Elks will then ship the hides for further processing.
In 2011, Elks donated 3,455 pair of gloves through the service project, 8,000 square feet of leather for crafts, and 31,000 square feet of leather to the Help Hospitalized Veterans organization, for a dollar value of more than $266,000.
For further information or to donate, call Jay Wallis at 573-258-0282.