Dover Elks cook a weekly meal for the homeless to honor former member

When the Dover Elks Lodge #1903 makes lunch for the homeless each week, there’s no skimping on dessert, coordinator Joanne Zajac said.

“[Many] times of the year, that’s their one meal. So you want to make them special,” she said.

Once a week, the Elks deliver food for about 50 people to the Hopes and Dreams Peer Support and Resource Center at 621 W. Division St.

The Dover Elks Lodge is one of several organizations and agencies in the community that coordinate to provide at least one meal each weekday for the homeless. On nights when the temperature dips below 32 degrees, Code Purple provides an additional warm meal in temporary homeless shelters throughout Kent County.

The Elks have been providing meals since 2016 when they first received a grant from the Elks National Foundation to start a food pantry.

The vision to serve the homeless community came from beloved member Doris Solomon. She led a group of volunteers to apply for the grant, but she died shortly before she could see her vision fulfilled.

Ever since, the volunteers have been working to honor Solomon.

“We had to really think about what would Doris want. This all happened because of her,” Zajac said.

Beyond making a hearty lunch once a week, the Elks connect with community organizations, like Code Purple, to fill other needs among the homeless population, such as steel-toed boots or a bike.

Each year, the Dover Elks have received their maximum grant request, and they will hear about funding for 2020 around the end of November.

One reason their requests have been approved is their a large base of volunteers, Dover Elks exalted ruler Steve White said. About twenty Elks and spouses help cook the meal each week.

“If I can’t be here, I know I can get somebody to step up for me,” Zajac said, who teams up with her co-coordinator Andrea Maucher to buy the food.

She said the Elks hope to take their service further in the future by partnering with Code Purple and creating education programs for the homeless.

As they take the food pantry idea into new directions, the Dover Elks reflect on what the original leader and friend, Doris Solomon, would think.

“I think she would be happy with what we’ve done,” Zajac said.

“She definitely would be,” White said. “We miss her tremendously.”

Anyone interested in helping the Elks can call 302-736-1903 any day after 3 p.m. or Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays after 11:30 a.m.