Quad-City deer hunters and meat markets stepped up this year, even more so than previous years, for military veterans in medical facilities throughout the United States.
They donated a record 986 hides to the Davenport Elks Lodge 298, which processed the skins for the nationwide Veterans Leather Program.
"They did a really good job this year," said volunteer Jim Koens, referring to those who contributed to the effort. "We've never had 986."
Koens, a longtime member of the fraternal organization, and his friend, Jerry King, have trimmed and salted thousands of deer hides since taking over the annual project here in the early-to-mid 2000s. Koens and King, both avid hunters, prepared 841 hides during the 2015-16 season, their previous record, which they had hoped to match this year. The duo gathered 804 hides the following year, more than any of the other 26 participating Elks lodges in Iowa, which provided 2,967 hides altogether. That total ranked second among the 17 contributing states; Missouri donated the most.
The volunteers collected hides this season from Schnoor's Smokehouse near Walcott, Iowa, and Johnnie's Meat Market in Davenport. Hunters, too, dropped off hides at the lodge, 4400 W. Central Park Ave., Davenport. The partners then preserved the goods for storage and future shipment to a tannery in Tennessee. The hides will be transformed into leather products, including kits for making wallets, belts and moccasins, as well as finished wheelchair gloves.
Veterans will receive the complimentary kits to assemble and potentially sell. The professionally crafted gloves will be distributed to disabled veterans in wheelchairs at adaptive sports clinics and other events.
The Elks, officially called the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, launched the Veterans Leather Program in 1948 at the organization's annual Grand Lodge Convention in California. During the 2016-17 hunting season, the program garnered 17,763 deer hides, creating 25,346 kits, the Elks National Veterans Service Commission reported.