NAUGATUCK — Mike Kirk joined the Naugatuck Elks Lodge at the urging of his former brother-in-law 26 years ago.
“I thought it would be something nice to do. I could get involved in something and help out in the community wherever I could,” Kirk said.
Kirk said he quickly made friends that kept him coming back.
“It is a nice place to go down to and just talk to people, enjoy new friends, and help out in whatever way you can,” Kirk said.
Kirk’s been volunteering his time and energy with the Elks ever since.
For his efforts, Kirk has been named the 2019 Elk of the Year at the lodge. He will be honored during a celebration on March 9 at the Naugatuck Elks Lodge, 758 Rubber Ave. For tickets and information, call the lodge at 203-729-7967.
Kirk said he felt it was an “extreme honor” to be named Elk of the Year.
“You feel that you are appreciated for all the time and effort that you put in to the organization and the community,” Kirk said.
One of the efforts that Kirk is being recognized for is his work with the Old Tymers Picnic. Kirk took over planning and organizing the picnic, which celebrates the members who have been with the organization for 30 years or more, seven years ago.
“Mike coordinates everything. The entertainment, the invites, and he organizes the food and donations,” Naugatuck Elks Exalted Ruler Holly Yenkelun said.
Kirk said one of his favorite memories with the Elks was when they would cook hamburgers and hot dogs for Special Olympics athletes and coaches when Special Olympics used to have a game at Naugatuck High School.
“It was a rewarding experience because some of the athletes would actually come into the kitchen and thank us for giving them lunch. That meant a lot, not only to me but the other guys too,” Kirk said.
Volunteering for the veterans fishing trip, where members of the lodge take veterans out on Lake Quassapaug to go fishing, also stands out for Kirk.
“Then we bring them back to the lodge and we have a picnic lunch for them in our pavilion. We also clean the fish for them so they can just take them back with them and cook them however they want,” Kirk said.
Kirk, who works as a welder and fabricator, said he also enjoys helping around the lodge with other contractors, electricians and carpenters who are members.
“We all put our areas of expertise together, and this way we don’t have to hire outside contractors and cost the lodge a lot of money,” Kirk said.
Yenkelun said Kirk is the type of person who helps keeps the lodge running and able to give to the community.
“We need people that selflessly volunteer their time and talents. We need more people like Mike,” Yenkelun said.