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Not All Elks Have Antlers

The BPOE or “The Elks,” began in 1867 as the “Jolly Corks,” a group of actors and entertainers bent on having fun while at the same time avoiding a New York Excise Tax on alcohol. The group got their name for the clever, “ sleight of hand” trick performed with corks, which was used on the uninitiated to separate them from their drinking money. As inauspicious as their beginnings may have been, The Elks has grown into an organization of some million members, with nearly 2,000 Lodges. The organization is known to have given billions of dollars for disaster relief, disabled children, charitable causes, and veterans organizations.

Happy veterans and children share a moment and a special “catch” at the latest Elks-Veterans event in Hemet, Calif. (Courtesy of The Elks)

In 1917, with the world at war, then-“Grand Exalted Ruler (the head of all Elkdom), Edward Rightor appointed a committee to study what The Elks could do for the war effort. Past Grand Exalted Ruler, John K. Tenor recommended, “That the Elks give first consideration to the sick and wounded (American soldiers) on the battlefields of France and equip base hospitals for their care: that the Order create a fund for war relief work.” That recommendation was the genesis of the country’s first VA Hospitals.

The Elks are still helping veterans while also aiding many other sectors of society. Current Elks programs include:

  • “The hoop shoot” which helps develop what The Elks calls “gritty kids.” This program is a free-throw program for youth ages 8-13. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of The Elks program’s national Hoop Shoot. On April 30, 2022, 72 national finalists will step up to the line at the Wintrust Arena, a new state-of-the-art, 10,000-seat facility in downtown Chicago. The arena is home to the WNBA’s Chicago Sky and DePaul University’s Blue Demons. The 2022 finalists will step up to the same line as some of basketball’s greatest players.
  • Scholarships: The Elks has awarded almost One-and-a-half million dollars in “Legacy Scholarships” for the year 2021 alone.
  • Community Investments: Through the years, The Elks has awarded millions of dollars in “Beacon Grants,” “Gratitude Grants” and “Spotlight Grants.”
  • Drug Abuse Awareness: Through the “Kids Zone,” The Elks utilize a dedicated army of volunteers who freely give their time and talent and who are committed to eliminating the use and abuse of illegal drugs. As it says in the online “Kids Zone, “… the Elks believe that in order to ensure a bright future for our country, it is essential that our children be raised in a drug-free environment.”
  • Veterans Services: For more than a century, The Elks have pledged “So long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them.” The Elks National Veterans Service Commission takes that pledge one step further by promising services to our nation’s veterans and military members, with a special focus on service to those in need.

Thousands of Elks volunteers generously give their time, energy and resources to serve veterans and military members each day, to ensure that pledge is not an idle one. The Elks provide direct services to veterans nationally at more than 33 facilities each month, helping veterans rehabilitate and thrive through adaptive sports programs and therapy kits. The “Welcome Home” initiative is reaching out to some of the nation’s most vulnerable veterans: those who are experiencing homelessness.

A case in point of the commitment of The Elks to our nation’s veterans is the small but significant fishing trip that took place in the town of Hemet, California on a recent beautiful Saturday morning.

Support shown by the Oceanside Senior Anglers. (Courtesy of The Elks)
Young Tervor Lynds showing of “The catch of the day,” at the Elks-Veterans fishing expedition. (Courtesy of The Elks)

Hemet Elks Veterans Chairman Jim Winget, who devised the event, noted that it was an unqualified success. “The Elks always ban together to help honor our veterans and this event was no exception. The Hemet Elks paid $3900 for the boat itself, while the Yucaipa Lodge paid an additional $400 for food and the Southeast District, of which Hemet and Yucaipa are a part, added an additional $400 for food. More than 60 fish were caught and the veterans and their families had a wonderful time.”

Just some of the happy anglers at a recent Elks event. (Courtesy of The Elks)

Navy Veteran Derrick Davis was very pleased by the turnout. “We were all very appreciative of the gesture by The Elks. There was a lot of fun. The highlight for me was losing a bet to Trevor, an army officer’s son. We bet a lollipop that I would catch more fish than he would. I gladly lost and had to pay up.” Trevor was busy with his reward and couldn’t be reached for comment, but his father, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Lynds said, “The event was a wonderful outing. It was nicely done and definitely appreciated. These MWRs as we call them-Moral and Welfare Recreation, help our soldiers and what we in the army call COMRELs-Community Relations. It was a success all around and especially for my son Trevor who caught the biggest fish and now has family bragging rights. We really want to thank Jim Winget.”

The group plans to give Winget an award for a job well done.

L to R Derrick Davis, Navy; Jim WInget, Elks, Hemet-Calif.; Veterans Chairman and Randall Rivera, veteran and reservist. (Courtesy of The Elks)

Randall Rivera, veteran and reservist with the 358 Civil Affairs Brigade echoed the groups feelings. “Everything worked out so well… everything went so smoothly. The crew on the boat was very supportive. Jim Winget, Veterans Chairman of the Elks could not have been more helpful.  Every one of us in my unit was very grateful to have been a part of it. Anytime you get a chance to honor veterans, service members, that’s a good thing. This was a wonderful opportunity to show our soldiers how much we appreciate them. It gives the soldiers a chance to take themselves out of their every day work environment, relax and have some fun, and that’s very important to us veterans because it’s a career filled with so much pressure. It worked out perfectly because this Saturday was our scheduled “Family day“ for the year, and there couldn’t have been a better family day than this.”

For those who would like to support the Elks and their work, you can contact The Elks at their site, their national number (773) 755-4700 or their Veterans Crisis Line at 800 273-8255.