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Giving back to vets

Petaluma Elk member helps lead efforts to provide support, friendship to North Bay veterans

By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

As an Army veteran, Doug Frampton understands what it feels like when someone recognizes those who have served in the armed forces.

So with his 26 years in the military, he brings a unique vision to his role as the Petaluma Elks Lodge veterans’ events coordinator.

Doug Frampton at the Elks Lodge in Petaluma on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012.
(BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

The lodge has organized several events this year to benefit local veterans, active service members and their families. And Frampton, 65, with 18 years of service with the Elks, is at the center of the action.

On Veterans Appreciation Night last month, the lodge hosted 175 veterans from the Veterans Home of Yountville. After dinner, the veterans were presented with goodie bags full of treats — and two pairs of a specially requested luxury item: wool socks.

“It’s really important to let these guys know there are a bunch of people out here who really do care,” said Frampton, a longtime Petaluma resident.

Other volunteers made lap covers for every vet who uses a wheelchair.

“Sometimes for some of these guys, we’re all they have,” Frampton said. “They look forward to coming to Petaluma every year because of our dinner.”

The private fraternal organization, with almost 1,300 local members, hosts dozens of fundraisers every year to benefit veterans groups, student scholarships, disabled children, youth sports teams and more.

After the federal government, the Elks are the second-largest contributor to educational scholarships nationwide. Each year, the local lodge honors schoolkids who won essay contests on themes that include patriotism and community involvement.

Frampton, after retiring in the mid-1990s, began looking for something productive to do with his extra time. He found the Elks and fit right in.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” he said. “They are some of the best people I know.”

A few years ago, he said, the Yountville wheelchair drill team came to the lodge for dinner. They all loved the American-flag shirts Frampton and others wear for special occasions.

“So we bought 14 shirts for them,” he said. “This year, as I was walking by the entries for the Veterans Day parade, some of them saw me in my shirt and said, ‘Hey, we know you!’

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “You don’t do it for individual recognition.”

Also this year, the local lodge received a $2,000 grant from the Grand Lodge. With most of it, Frampton’s committee bought a new refrigerator and installed a water line for it at the North Bay Veterans House, a halfway house for veterans in Petaluma.

With the remaining $500, the Elks vets committee partnered with Moms of Military Service Members for its program, Comforts from Home. Almost 80 volunteers, about half Elks, spent an evening at the lodge — which doubled as a packaging distribution center — to pack boxes of donated goods to send to active military personnel overseas.

One event Frampton is particularly proud of is a benefit for service dogs, which came out of a Give to the Troops fundraising drive.

“Everyone thinks of the troops,” he said, “but nobody does anything for the scout dogs, the guard dogs, who are also serving.”

Petaluma’s RiverTown Feed sold him 50 high-tech deshedding FURminator brushes at cost, which the Elks sent to Afghanistan for military service dogs.

“We felt really good about that because as far as we know we were the only ones doing anything for the dogs,” he said.

An unfinished project is the Elks’ Medal of Valor program. The lodge created plaques to present to the families of local service members killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But they have only been able to present four of the 11 because they haven’t been able to reach the next of kin. He asks that anyone with information contact the Elks Lodge in Petaluma at 763-0901 or www.elks901.org.

(You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.)