Dick Ledebuhr and Craig Mueller have been active in the Elks Club for a long time. In fact, they’ve both taken on the role of Exalted Ruler of the Winona-area club. Even after their terms were up, the two men stayed active in a regional group of Past Exalted Rulers, or PERs, to continue the Elks’ mission. The PERs meet monthly to make sure the Elks are known in their communities for their charitable works.
Four years ago, Ledebuhr and Mueller got the idea to donate stuffed animals—elk, of course—to Winona Health. The toys were used in the Emergency Department, Urgent Care, Pediatrics and in other areas throughout the hospital to bring comfort and cheer to patients.
The Elks wanted their gifts to benefit a wider range of people, not just children. One of the causes that the organization focuses on is helping Alzheimer’s patients, and it has been shown that small objects—like the little stuffed elk—can bring comfort to the elderly and people who suffer from dementia. Ledebuhr and Mueller knew that they had found their next project: Provide the animals for the senior living residences at Winona Health. They will be used to comfort residents and even as prizes at their regular bingo games.
Jen Schultz, Therapeutic Recreation supervisor at Lake Winona Manor, said it can be surprising how much such a simple item can mean to a resident. “They love having things like this,” Schultz said. “They’ll display them in their rooms and tell others about them. We’re very grateful to the Elks Club for giving so generously.”