Social time for a good cause...and a pot roast, too

Fourth year of Elks meat raffle underway


   Elks member Pete Gill shows a walk-in fridge full of meat delivered fresh for the day's meat raffle at the Elk's Club in Eastham. Photo by Teresa Martin.

by Teresa Martin

The crowd at the Eastham Elks Lodge welcomed the return of the meat raffle with open arms. "I'm so glad it's started again!" said one the day's early entrants, as he purchased his strand of tickets and greeted old friends.

As it starts its fourth year, the meat raffle has become a sort of local institution -- part fund raiser, part social Saturday. From October through Derby Day in May, the raffle draws both Elks and the general public to the hall where they share food, big TV sports, Keno -- and a chance to fill their freezer with meat.

Meat? Did you Say Meat?

"Meat Raffle. Public Welcome," announces the yellow stand-up sign hugging Route 6 in Eastham, at McKoy Rd. And indeed, through the far left entrance to the Elks Lodge, lies both raffle tickets and meat. 

Elks member Kathy Vanesselstun of Harwich waves a handful of meat raffle tickets, each color representing a raffle round. Photo by Teresa Martin.Every Saturday morning the giant walk-in fridge at the Lodge fills up with boxes of savory products from the Dennis Public Market. Roasts, chops, locally made sausages and chicken pot pies, and clam pies, meatloaf mix, ground beef, ham...

Member Peter Gill shows off the boxes, each of containing contents for one of the day's seven raffles, and explains that a lucky winner will claim each one by the afternoon's end.

For a Cause

It all started as one more way for the Elks to fund their charitable activities. While 550-plus member local lodge #2572, which covers Harwich to Provincetown, may be best known for its Friday Fish Fry, it also participates in a range of community giving.

For example, it gives every third grader in every school from Harwich to Provincetown a dictionary, supports multiple scholarship funds, runs substance abuse awareness programs, buys and delivers holiday baskets of food and gifts at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and runs the local level Hoops Shoot for girls and boys 8-13. For much of the outreach it actively collaborates with other local organizations, including Lower Cape Outreach Council and the school districts.

Transplanted Idea

Elks member and meat raffle coordinator Kathy Gill, of Eastham, kicks off the first day of the fourth annual meat raffle, while Kathy Vanesselstun (left) holds up a ticket.  The raffle runs every Saturday afternoon through Kentucky Derby Day in May. Photo by Teresa Martin.A member who had lived in Quincy brought the meat raffle tradition to the Cape. It was an immediate success, filling a winter void for social interaction on the Lower Cape while at the same time supporting needs in the local community.

Meat raffle coordinator Kathy Gill, of Eastham, says that last year the event routinely drew somewhere between 50 to 70 people from across the region. The group arriving for the Season Four kick-off reflected a range of ages and many shared their delight at the start of the season.

"It was so welcoming," said Kathy Vanesselstun of Harwich, who was herself greeting people as they entered. Vanesselsun found the club when she was looking for a way to be involved in community charitable activities beyond parent groups - and both meat raffle and the Elks provided the perfect venue.

Red, White, and Blue

The basic structure of the afternoon revolves around the raffle. For $14, meat seekers can buy a blue five-ticket strand for five chances in each of the day's meat draws. Or, they can play white or red tickets selectively for specific raffles, piling up, say, 20 entries for the roast box.

Tickets go into the tub and at various times throughout the afternoon a lucky winner gets drawn. Winners don't need to be present to win.

Ever been driving down Route 6 in Eastham and saw the Elks sign for the meat raffle and said, "what the heck is a meat raffle?" Us too. So we visited the first raffle of the 2012-13 winter season. Photo by Teresa Martin.Proceeds fund the various charitable activities of the club throughout the year.

Much More than Meat

Between draws, people enjoy soup and hot dogs and sandwiches (gratis), and perhaps a drink from the bar (cash). Groups gather to watch sports or settle into tables for a chat over coffee. The large windows overlooking the woods let the autumn sun stream into the room, creating a pleasant break from the chilly afternoon.

People come for the meat, and they come to support a good cause ... but the real draw doesn't lie only in the bountiful boxes in the fridge. The sense of community that permeates the room creates a good place to be on wintery afternoon when the Lower Cape pauses and takes a deep breath to recharge from the summer season.

If you go: The meat raffle is every Saturday afternoon 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Elks Lodge on McKoy Road, off Route 6 in Eastham. The raffle is open to the general public, as well as Elks members. The Elks Hoops Shoot is on December 16 at Nauset Regional High School in North Eastham.

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