OTTUMWA — Word that there wasn't an after-prom party sponsor led local Elks to leap into action.
Annually, different supporters fund a gathering that allows teens to enjoy prom night without the dangers that result from a drunk high school senior driving a bunch of partying friends around town.
"We are working to provide an alcohol-free event," said Don Louis, veteran's representative for the Elks Lodge in Ottumwa. "Our mission with youth is to fight drug and alcohol abuse."
Elks thought they would need at least $2,000 to get the event rolling in the right direction.
"The major money for the project wasn't there," Louis said.
In a somewhat ironic way, the lodge was able to be generous because local lodge members themselves were generous.
"The way it works is we contribute money every year, each member does," explained Louis. "If we contribute enough [in total], it makes our lodge eligible for national grant money."
Louis filled out a grant request this year because members felt the after-prom event was important. The National Elks organization provided a cash grant. Now, Ottumwa Elks are getting some help from the Teen Substance Abuse Task Force, and the local chapter of another group, Friends of Rachel.
Though the Elks do have an anti-drug trailer with material on avoiding addictive substances, the idea of the May 3 event isn't to give direct lessons or lectures on abstaining from harmful substances. Louis said it's about providing an alternative to young people who might be tempted to engage in dangerous behaviors. To draw Ottumwa youth, Louis said, plans simply calls for a fun, safe night.
"Our theme is going to be the undead, which is popular today ... a zombie theme. There will be [fake tattoos], a photo booth, some games, a lot of food and drink. And we're going to have bowling, obviously."