The gymnasium at New Holland Core Knowledge Academy roared with the sound of excited young voices.
The source of excitement: new dictionaries.
Members of the Gainesville Elks Lodge, a fraternal organization, are visiting numerous elementary schools in the area this week to distribute new dictionaries and drug awareness materials to fifth-graders.
“This is one of our projects we do every year,” said Calvin Sneed, “exalted ruler” or head of the local Elks. “We go to the schools and give out dictionaries, and we have a few other projects we do, too.”
The Elks will donate more than 2,000 dictionaries this week to fifth-graders, plus nearly 7,000 coloring books to first-graders.
Tucked into each dictionary is fifth-grade-friendly drug awareness information in the form of a packet and a bookmark. Larry Ginsberg with the Elks said the donations are leading up to Red Ribbon Week at the end of November, when the Elks will also donate thousands of ribbons to promote drug-free youth practices.
Ginsberg said membership in the Elks has “drastically declined” in recent years, and he hopes more people will hear about the work they do in the community.
“Our scholarship program is the second-largest in the United States for giving out scholarships,” Sneed said. “No. 1 is the U.S. government. We’re very proud of that.”
The Elks are also currently in the middle of a drive to provide free clothing and supplies to the homeless, poor and veterans of Hall County. For more information, go to www.elks.org/lodges/contactus.cfm?lodge=1126.
But the opportunity to connect with children in person and share the work of the Elks is one of the best things they do, Ginsberg said.
“You can just see their excitement,” Sneed said. “It’s neat.”