■ By Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
The Elks, officially known as BPOE — which they interpret as Best People On Earth — certainly earn that title from Jim Linenberger, executive director of Community Pantry in Hemet.
“The Elks Lodge has been helping us for at least as long as I’ve been here,” said Lineberger, adding, “and that’s for at least five years and counting.”
The Community Pantry owns a warehouse not far from their location at Stanford and San Jacinto streets, which Lineberger says is filled with food racks.
“The Elks Lodge provided us with half of those racks and the local Rotary Club supplied the other half.”
The Hemet Elks Lodge 1740 has always been generous in its donations to Community Pantry.
“They previously provided us with two new box freezers, have upgraded our security system, added more cameras, a sign system and better recording ability. They have been a blessing to us.” said Lineberger. The Elks also upgraded the food center’s computer system with a new server.
That’s the kind of thing they do routinely. At Christmas, some board members approached Lineberger and asked what he’d like for Christmas.
“I said that what I’d really like to save up for was a new walk-in cooler, because we would like to be able to provide more perishable produce to the folks we service,” said Lineberger. “We have had to turn down donations of fresh vegetables because we have no way to keep them fresh until distributed to needy families in the valley.”
The Lodge board and their members got together and approved a $10,000 grant so Lineberger could get his Christmas wish. Thanks to their generosity the Community Pantry now sports a brand new 8-foot by 12-foot state-of-the-art walk-in cooler.
“We used to have smaller refrigerators, and I had to turn away a lot of produce because we wouldn’t keep it,” Jim says. “There’s another Pantry in Murrieta that sometimes donates 50 crates of milk to our cause. I had to refuse most of it because we couldn’t keep it before distribution. Maybe now that they know we have this provision to store it, perhaps there will be even more milk coming our way.”
This column will write more about Community Pantry and its importance to our area. We have a generous population in our beloved valley. Government agencies, private organizations and public entities keep it alive and healthy. But for now, we join Lineberger and his charges in giving the Best People On Earth a hearty thank you for their generosity and caring for those who need a helping hand.