For more than 20 years, the Iowa Elks Association has been giving back to veterans by creating gloves and other items from donated deer hides.
The association reports that they collect between 2,500 and 4,500 hides a year from local Elk clubs. From there, the Iowa Elk Association crafts the skins into different items, including gloves for wheelchair-bound veterans.
“We make wheelchair gloves which we give at no charge to wheelchair-bound veterans,” said Dennis Walker, state chairman of the Veterans Leather Program. “They have a reinforced palm, but the fingers are cut off, so they still have dexterity to do what they want to do while getting around in their wheelchairs.”
This is not the only place making use out of the animal. The program has sister companies in eleven other states. In addition, the company provides jobs to veterans by having them tan and style the leather goods that are made in American factories.
Process of Creating the Gloves for Veterans
Ron Garder, the coordinator of the Veterans Leather Program for the Cedar Rapids Elks Lodge, gets his hand dirty in the process as well. When a hide gets dropped off, the 79-year-old man trims off the fat and salts the skin to preserve them. After they are salted, they are loaded into a truck to be transported to the tannery.
“So far, I’ve done 70-some hides,” Gardner said. “We collect them from all over Eastern Iowa.”
However, Gardner removes the deer’s tail and sells them for 25 cents to a man who makes fishing flies out of them.
Number of Hunters that Donate Deer Hides
The number of hides depends on how well the hunting season went for Iowa residents. It also depends on how many people are informed of the program the association has. According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, hunters in the Hawkeye State killed nearly 95,000 deer last year. That number is down from 108,000 in 2018-2019.
One year the association said they got over 6,000 hides.
“There are so many hides that when they skin them, they just throw them away,” Walker said. “We have a use of those hides for the veterans.”
Walks also said that one hide could produce nearly four pairs of gloves. The excess skin is used to make moccasin kits and crafting leather, which is also free for veterans.
[H/T The Gazette]