JACKSON – More than 200 people came out to the Jackson Elks Lodge 2744 for the 5th Annual Jim Hall Memorial Benefit for Homeless Veterans.
Despite the rainy weather, the event proved successful and featured a variety of motorcycles and a picnic that included food, beverages, live music by the local band The Mangos and plenty of fun.
Event Chairman George Struble, who is a trustee of the lodge, the current president of the lodge’s motorcycle club and heads the State Elks Lodge veterans committee, said that despite the weather the event featured an outpouring of support from fellow lodges who presented donations and also provided food for the picnic.
The event was named after Jackson Elks member Jim (Huntz) Hall who died two years ago. “He was a friend and wanted to put together something with our motorcycle club members to raise money for homeless veterans.” Sadly, Hall died of complications from his diabetes.
“We’re like the Post Office. This event goes on rain, snow or shine,” Struble said. “We raised $5,000 our first year and later $7,000 and last year we came in with about $25,000. We do what we can,” A full total of this year’s event was unavailable at press time.
The event would have normally included a ceremony at the Brigadier Gen. William C. Doyle Military Cemetery in North Hanover Township, Burlington County but the day’s weather forced that portion of it to be cancelled.
Members of Elks Motorcycle Club at the Jackson Elks, located on East Veterans Highway, and the Jamesburg Elks Lodge, in Jamesburg, had been scheduled to take a scenic ride at 10 a.m.
While Struble said the Jackson Elks Lodge may be smaller than others, most of its members are part of its motorcycle club and it also includes a large number of female members.
Struble said that Elks Lodges across the country host special veterans support events around this time of year. “We have 115 lodges in New Jersey and we try to get everyone involved. We are hoping to get one big event like we do for the annual Miracle Run which is being held at the end of July and this year is being held in Pompton Lake.”
The Miracle Run supports the Lodges’ joint fundraiser of sending handicapped children to Camp Moore. “That is our biggest fundraiser of the year and we do it all together. This event would not be possible without the help of our area Elks Lodges” Struble said. Lodges from Toms River, Brick, Point Pleasant, Old Bridge, Manasquan, Howell and others attended the day’s event.
Struble added that he appreciated the support of the community including Mayor Michael Reina, the council and its agencies. “Every year the town sets up a hook and ladder truck with a large American flag that the motorcyclists drive under when they return to the lodge. It really is quite a sight.”
Susan “Cuz” Dawson, the treasurer for the Jackson Lodge, and Joanne Baldwin, who is a past exalted ruler, trustee and current Special Needs Chairperson, were admiring the large flag hanging from the fire truck of the Whitesville Fire Department. The 30 x 50-foot flag was on loan to Jackson firefighters from the Cassville Fire Company.
Baldwin noted that the event serves to aid homeless veterans, including homeless female veterans, through aiding a township-based organization called Guiding Light. Lodge members also assemble special kits for veterans that include towels and other items for their wellbeing. These kits are provided to the shelters that house homeless veterans.
“Guiding Light has a new building for the women veterans. We also make welcome home packages for returning veterans,” Baldwin said.
Dawson said she has only been a member of the Jackson Elks Lodge for a year but has been an Elk for 17 years and has enjoyed the projects this lodge is involved with.
Joe McIlvaine traveled a distance for the event. While he is a Jackson Elks member, he currently lives in the Poconos. “This is an important event. It is at least three hours away. This is my fourth Homeless Veterans Run. I try not to miss any of these types of events. I own a big black and brown Harley Davidson. It looks like a buffalo,” he said with a laugh.
The Brick Elks Lodge 2151 was well represented at the event and posed for photos in front of the giant flag early on in the event. The lodge’s motorcycle club president, Chris Russo, said his lodge “held a kick off party for this event in March. We have 30 of our members here today.”
Philip Martin, the vice president of the Brick Motorcycle Club said that $7,500 was raised and that the lodge raises $23,000 on average a year for special causes.
Past State Elks President Richard Bard praised Hall for his devotion to supporting veteran causes and for creating the day’s event five years ago. “We are here today to preserve Jimmy Hall’s legacy.”