Pratt Elks Lodge 1451 presented stars from U.S. flags and a certificate of appreciation to veterans at Fort Dodge Soldiers Home plus made a $500 as well.

Veterans at the Fort Dodge Soldiers Home will got some special recognition in honor of their service when Kenny Gates, Pratt Elks Lodge 1451 chair of Veterans Committee for the soldiers home, presented the veterans with stars from United States flags, a certificate of appreciation and a $500 check for the home on Nov. 10.

The stars are carefully removed from flags that have fulfilled their purpose and are ready for retirement. The stars, 200 of them, are placed in a clear sleeve with a description of the star and why it's being donated. The certificate of appreciation is placed in a frame and both are presented to the veterans, Gates said.

The Pratt Elks Lodge makes a variety of donations during the year including recent donations to the Hope Center and to the Pratt County Food Bank. They also support veterans organizations like the Bob Dole Veteran's Hospital in Wichita and the Fort Dodge Soldiers home, said Sandy Foster, Elks Lodge 1451 secretary.

The Pratt Elks and Wichita Elks have merged. Elk member Steve Beer from Wichita handles the contact with the Bob Dole Veterans Hospital. The Lodge collects socks and toiletries for those veterans.

"We are proud of what this lodge does for veterans," Foster said.

The Fort Dodge donations will help support activities such as outings, quilting bees, going out to eat and other events, said Brenda Riffey, Pratt Elks 1451 treasurer.

Funding for the donations comes from a Gratitude Grant from the Elks National Foundation. The grant allows Elks to give back to the community. The donation to Fort Dodge is separate from funding Fort Dodge receives from the state.

Elks Lodges have to meet or surpass fund raising amounts to be eligible for Gratitude Grants and the Pratt Elks are consistently eligible, Foster said.

Besides grant money, the Elks Foundation also provides scholarship money. The Elks council and president determine who gets the grant money.

The Elks also have a project going at Liberty Middle School. The sixth, seventh and eighth graders take part in "Americanism Essays" with a subject this year of why veterans should be recognized. Essays are due Dec. 1 and will be judged at both the state and national level.

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