For well over a decade, dedicated members and community volunteers throughout Cedar County have been busy throughout the annual deer harvest in an unseen, yet incredibly useful way.
Volunteers participating in the Elks Veteran Leather Program spend potions of their deer season collecting, trimming, salting and packing deer hides which are made into wheelchair and therapy gloves for handicapped veterans.
The U.S. Government does not budget for wheelchair gloves and the Elks have maintained a national effort to supply every veteran needing a set of gloves for wheelchair use, therapy and a host of other activities where hand protection may be necessary.
“The Elks have been doing this since 1948,” local volunteer and Lake Stockton Elks 2858 member Ray Wimsatt said. “We've had a number of guys help throughout the years. This started as a small effort in California, other states picked it up through the years and it has grown to a point where we have done over 500 hides in the last three seasons here.”
Wimsatt and his son, Patrick, also an active service member, spend afternoons trimming and working deer hides with fellow volunteers such as Stockton resident, Terry Cumins.
“It's about giving my time to the veterans,” Cumins said. “Just doing something to help them is why I am here. It's about giving back and that matters to me.”
Wimsatt noted Stockton native Don Hunt also has been part of their group’s effort in years past; however, recent health issues have unfortunately sidelined the fellow volunteer’s participation.
Patrick Wimsatt added local taxidermist Colton Sharp of Jerico Springs also contributes hides and excess cuttings from various mounts his business produces throughout the annual deer season.
“He saves us anything of useful size,” said Patrick. “He knows what we can use and makes sure next to nothing goes to waste. His help makes a big difference in our end-of-season hide total.”
Last whitetail season saw the Stockton group’s efforts yield 172 hides and the group looks to outdo itself with the start of the 2019-20 deer season.
Deer hides of any size and condition can be dropped off at Westside Marine in Stockton on Mo. 39 South or at the Lakes Stockton Elks 2858 Lodge located at 803 Arnold Wallen Way.
Anyone seeking additional information or wishing to contribute may contact Ray Wimsatt at 276-6204 or the local Elks lodge at 276-1388.