By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – According to the Elks website, “So long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them.” Accomplishing that mission at the Hudson-Concord Elks Lodge 959 is overseen by Jesse Harvey. He was installed as leading knight, the second in command, for the 2017-2018 fraternal year during a ceremony March 17.
A disabled veteran of the Vietnam War, Harvey followed a neighbor’s advice to join the Elks almost five years ago.
“She told me that if I joined the Elks, then I’d volunteer to do this and that,” he relayed. “It has really helped me a lot to get out of depression. I’m 100 percent disabled and was just sitting around the house.”
Harvey soon became an active Elks member. He first served as tiler, whose duties include guarding the lodge entrance during meetings. Next, he became lecturing knight for the 2015-2016 fraternal year, then loyal knight for 2016-2017. His volunteer efforts are focused on military veterans.
“I’ve been there, so I understand veterans,” he said. “I’ve been in the wards of [Veterans Administration] hospitals for post-traumatic stress. I enjoy helping other veterans.”
The Hudson-Concord Elks Lodge is in its third year of donating gently-used clothes and bed linen to the homeless shelter of Veterans Inc. in Worcester. A delivery was made in time for Christmas by Harvey along with state Rep. Kate Hogan, D-Stow; Kim Gutheil, lodge manager; and Bill Hopkins, lodge secretary.
“We took about 30 bags of clothes there,” Harvey said. “Kate talked with them and asked if there’s anything else she could do. We’ve been communicating with them and trying to get more people in Hudson involved.”
The donations also include handmade crocheted and knitted items such as afghans, hats, mittens and scarves. Over two years ago, a group of women from Grace Baptist Church heard about the collection and contacted the Elks, Harvey noted.
“They told us that if we can get them donated yarn, then they’ll have more items for us to bring to the veterans,” he said.
Requests for donated yarn began during the Elks’ weekly bingo games. Now, Harvey brings donated yarn to the women and they create more items for veterans.
Truckloads of clothes and bed linen are periodically delivered to Veterans Inc. Harvey noted that most of the donations are brought to the lodge by the bingo players. Bingo is held Thursdays; doors open at 4 p.m. and games begin at 6:45. Proceeds go to the Elks Scholarship Fund for graduates of Hudson, Marlborough, Assabet Valley Regional Technical and Concord-Carlisle Regional high schools. In 2016, the Elks donated $12,000 for scholarships.
Harvey volunteers at the weekly bingo, preparing refreshments and selling cards.
“We do whatever they need us volunteers to do,” he said. “The scholarships we give every year help families tremendously.”
A few days after the Elks officers’ installation, Harvey volunteered at Hudson AMVEST Post 208. There, he helped prepare and serve dinner for patients who travelled from the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford.
“The Hudson AMVETS have dinners for them twice a year,” Harvey explained. “This summer, the Hudson Elks are planning to have a dinner for them in the pavilion. The veterans deserve it because they served this country.”
While helping veterans, Harvey appreciates how joining the Elks has strengthened his interaction with the community. He’s grateful for the support received when his granddaughter Aryanna Harvey unexpectedly passed away in her sleep April 2, 2016, at age 18. Soon after, each of her Hudson High School classmates wore a purple ribbon in memory of Aryanna at their graduation ceremony.
“I thank everybody for supporting us – the Hudson Elks, AMVETS, Eagles and everybody who came to our service for her,” Harvey shared.
The tradition for an Elks officer is to progress from lecturing knight, to loyal knight to leading knight. Next fraternal year, Harvey will serve as exalted ruler.
“I’m learning more every year and meeting so many nice people,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to volunteer with the Elks.”