SNOWMASS VILLAGE - Elks Lodge serves up home-cooked meals for veterans and volunteers
Gerhard Mayritsch has no complaints. At least not during the week of the 26th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.
Mayritsch, along with the troop from the Aspen Elks Lodge No. 224, provide a free lunch option for the more than 400 veterans and volunteers who come to the clinic each winter. For Mayritsch, meeting the veterans and listening to how positive they remain about life despite their injuries has a real impact on him.
"When I go home, I don't have anything to complain about," he said. "Because, what do I have to complain about?"
"Behind you," said a man sliding into an area behind the Top of the Village Condominiums in Snowmass Village on an adaptive sit-down ski apparatus.
A few folks moved out of the way and let the veteran pass.
The man came just in time to get a bratwurst with sauerkraut along with the other veterans and volunteers who were in town for the clinic, after a morning of skiing.
There is so much that goes in to making the week-long event enjoyable for the veterans who attend; some of the simplest aspects, like lunch, aren't overlooked.
John Holsonback, Aspen Elks Lodge chairman of the Veterans Committee, which organizes the lunch to feed the veterans Monday through Thursday during the clinic, said that it's an honor to help out.
"It's just one hell of an effort from everyone involved," Holsonback said.
And, the lodge has done so for the past 12 years.
"We just do it to give back," said Elks Lodge member and long-time Aspen resident Gerhard Mayritsch.
According to Mayritsch, the Elks members plan the menu weeks in advance of the veterans arrival. The menu Thursday included barbecued bratwursts with sauerkraut, salad, mashed potatoes and a smorgasbord of other treats, hand prepared by cooks like Mayritsch.
Having been part of the lunch duty crew for over a decade, Mayritsch said, "We pretty much know what we are doing each year."
Each day this past week, between 130 and 200 people were served a hot, home-cooked meal from the Elks Lodge, Mayritsch said.
"It's a surprise sometimes on how many people will come, but we always are able to feed them all," he said.
All of the food is provided by the local Elks Lodge and is prepared by its members. It's just a way to make the veterans stay more hospitable.
And for volunteers like Mayritsch, who started the Aspen based Wienerstube Restaurant in the late 60s, it's just a lot of fun to cook for the veterans.
"And since I'm a chef, it's natural that I would help out," he said.
Two other Aspen Elks members, George Markatos and Marty Lurie, whom Mayritsch refers to as the "Turkey Gurus", lived up to the name Tuesday and Wednesday, deep frying 10 turkeys and 12 pounds of prime rib.
"For us, it's a pleasure to do it," Mayritsch said. "Because the veterans appreciate what we do for them and we like to give them a good meal while they are here."
For Elks member and U.S. Army veteran, retired Lt. Col. Janis Nark the winter sports clinic is one of the most enjoyable weeks of the year.
"It's amazing what the Elks do each year, who we do it for and it's all from the heart," she said.