Sheridan's Elks Lodge 2nd in the Nation to contribute more hides to the National Elks Veterans Leather Program

*From left to right, Sheridan Elks Lodge 520 members and Hides for Vets volunteers Roger Lobach, Gary Hillman, Garth Turner, John Smith, Bill Dahlin and Paul Rott stand near the donated hides they treat before sending to the International Elks Veterans Leather Program. Volunteers not pictured are Jared Kukal, Howard Fedden, Lonny Gibson, Cary Sampson, Wade Nieuwsma and Larry Mitchell. h/t photo Pitchengine Communities* (Sheridan, Wyo.) — On a cold day during hunting season, if you follow the signs at the Sheridan VA Hospital, you will find a small shed behind a fence. Behind that fence, you will find piles of hides — elk, deer, moose, sometimes bear and more exotic animals — treated with salt, waiting to be shipped to the National Elks Veterans Leather Program. It is through the volunteer efforts of the Sheridan Elks Lodge 520 and hunters' hide donations that the Sheridan location contributes more hides to the nationwide program than almost any other lodge, according to Bill Dahlin of the Sheridan Elks. *Volunteers salt hides Thursday. h/t photo Pitchengine Communities* "The Elks are a totally benevolent volunteer program," Dahlin said. "And one of the number one things we do as Elks is help veterans," member John Smith said. "That is what we are about — patriotism." The Elks National Veterans Service Commission is the major source of hides and tanned leather used for recreational and occupational therapy throughout the Veterans Administration health care system, according to The Elks Leather Program was initiated in 1948, when the Elks of California launched a hide-gathering program in their state during hunting season. The raw hides were collected at central points, salted and shipped to a Los Angeles tannery for processing. Finished leather, in brilliant colors, was made available to Veterans Medical facilities throughout the state. Today, collections happen across the nation, and the leather goes to many veterans via the Veterans Administration. *Hides piled for collection. h/t photo Pitchengine Communities* The Sheridan Elks Lodge 520 collects nearly 2,500 hides a year, and are second in the nation — the top collector in Wyoming, Dahlin said. Elks member Roger Lobach, a 29-year Air Force veteran, said his father started the Sheridan program around 10 years ago. There are collection bins in Ranchester, at Albertsons and at the VA. The collection happens from Sept. 2-Dec. 15 each year. "This recycles a natural resource that would otherwise be wasted," Elks member Garth Turner said. Because the effort is volunteer and benevolent, volunteers and donations are welcome. The Elks use tannery salt for the process before shipping off the hides, so donations of salt are needed. Other charities that the Sheridan Elks Lodge 520 participate in include the Hoop Shoot for Kids, Veterans Services and the Elks Youth Rodeo, which is the largest one in the U.S. and happens in Sheridan. The Elks also promote Americanism, drug awareness, youth activities and the youth soccer shoot. "We are a great charitable organization — if people feel like they have time and desire to benefit their fellow man, the Sheridan Elks is the place to belong," Dahlin said. For more information on the Elks, or to donate time, hides or salt, contact Dahlin at *h/t photo Pitchengine Communities* #shortgo