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Keyport-Matawan Elks hold annual party to thank veterans

Keyport-Matawan Elks hold annual party to thank veterans

Donning U.S. Army hair bows on each of her braids, Olivia Gualtieri, 7, made her way around a crowded room of military veterans.

The veterans who were the guests at the Keyport-Matawan Elks Lodge in Keyport on Dec. 15 were invited to an annual holiday party in their honor.

Each year, veterans are invited to the lodge and given Christmas presents, a warm meal and clothing.

The holiday tradition represents a small token of gratitude Monmouth County’s Bayshore community has for the brave men and women who selflessly serve the country.

Olivia, who said her uncle is on active duty, greeted each veteran with a smile and her endearing heart.

She asked her new friends what branch of the military they served in, saying she, herself, wants to give back and “serve the veterans.”

Olivia explained that one day she wants to become an Antler, which is a Junior Elks program for young people between the ages of 12 and 21 who desire to get involved with the Elks in service-related projects.

The annual Christmas party for veterans is one of the many charitable events that the lodge serves as the host to throughout the year. The Antlers help facilitate programs such as the holiday party.

Victoria DiGiovanni, 18, who is in the Antler program, said community events such as the holiday party teach participants that “you could be happy with just giving back to the community, rather than receiving things.”

Don Scheiner of Matawan, who has been an Elks member for one year, said the veterans appreciate the party and added that they “don’t come here with the attitude of ‘What do you have for me?’ Their attitude is ‘Wow, thank you.’ “