It all began with the Jolly Corks. Starting as a group of actors and entertainers bent on having fun and avoiding a New York excise tax in 1867 (Sundays were the “dry” day), this convivial group called themselves the Jolly Corks (for a clever trick with corks they performed on the uninitiated to win rounds of refreshments). That same year, as membership grew, some members saw the vision to become more helpful in the community.In July of 1868, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) was chartered—and with a great new spirit and direction, began to help veterans, scouting, scholarships and more—wherever charity, justice and brotherly love were needed! This year marks the 150th birthday of the BPOE!
In February 1909, the Eveleth lodge was chartered as the 1,161st lodge in the rapidly growing fraternal order, and has continually since then been focused on and dedicated to community leadership and service. T he moving spirit for the Elks was an Englishman named Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian. Born October 22, 1842, this son of a clergyman was a successful comic singer and dancer in the music halls of London. In November 1867, Vivian arrived in New York City to seek his fortune. O ther actors and entertainers soon gravitated toward his magnetic personality. With everything closed on Sunday because of New York City Blue Laws, a group of theatrical people began meeting for their own amusement under Vivian’s leadership. W hen one of their members died shortly before Christmas in 1867, leaving his wife and children destitute, the Jolly Corks decided that in addition to good fellowship, they needed a more enduring organization to serve those in need. O n February 16, 1868, they established the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and elected Vivian to head it. Its social activities and benefit performances increased the popularity of the new organization. Membership grew rapidly. Elks traveling to other cities spread the word of the Brotherhood of Elks. Soon there were requests for Elks Lodges in cities other than New York. In response to these appeals, the Elks asked the New York state legislature for a charter authorizing the establishment of a Grand Lodge with the power to establish local lodges anywhere in the United States. When the Grand Lodge Charter was issued, the founders then received the first local charter as New York Lodge No. 1 on March 10, 1871. T he legacy of Charles Vivian continues to this day. In addition to aiding members in distress, the Elks raise money for children with disabilities, college scholarships, youth projects and recreational programs for patients in veteran’s hospitals, among many other notable and worthy causes and initiatives. T he Order’s story is long; its work is humble; its history is proud. As long as there are those who need help, the Elks will be there to give aid and comfort. A ll United States citizens over the age of 21 are invited to consider becoming a member of the Order.The Elks and the community
T he Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America is one of the oldest and largest fraternal organizations in the country. Since its inception in 1868, the Order of Elks has grown to include more than 1 million men and women in more than 2,000 communities. T he BPOE is committed to the ideals of charity and patriotism. To that end, Elks have now disbursed, over the course of the Order’s history, more than $5 billion in cash, goods and services to the nation’s youth, its veterans, the disadvantaged and handicapped, and to individuals and groups in support of patriotic and civic programs. Annually the BPO Elks give more than $300 million in this fashion, and the Order ranks as one of the largest private providers of college scholarships in the nation, second only to the United States government. T he Elks have created a quiet network of good deeds that has profoundly changed millions of lives for the better, yet there is little public awareness of the impact of their vital work. Why is this so? Quite simply, the Elks have rarely sought recognition; nor have they gone to the general public with fundraising efforts or received monies from any level of government. Indeed, the flow of money and goods moves in the opposite direction: the Elks donated to the government the first veterans hospital; they contribute regularly to schools and police and fire departments; and they assist the young and the needy throughout this great nation. H ow could this powerful force have come into being? And where does all this charitable giving come from? From the generous hearts of Elks members whose eagerness to share, whose prudent long-term planning, and whose willingness to serve for free and with enthusiasm infuses the Order with an exuberant and enduring expression of the true volunteer spirit.
In 1871, a fire devastated the city of Chicago, and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks quickly organized and staged a benefit to provide financial assistance to those residents most affected by the disaster. Since then, the Order has responded to every major catastrophe (natural or manmade) and played a leading role in providing relief and comfort.
In 1889, the Elks offered financial assistance to families who suffered as a result of flooding in Johnstown, PA, and fires in Seattle, WA . In 1892, the BPO Elks began working with the American Red Cross when it and the Order provided monies for those suffering from famine in Russia. To this day, the Elks have maintained a partnership with the American Red Cross and developed similar partnerships with other relief agencies.
Following the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, the Order was the first organiza- tion to respond to the call for help. Within 12 hours, the Elks’ relief efforts were in full swing. In Oakland, CA, the Elks equipped hospitals, established temporary shelters for nearly 2,000 displaced persons, and arranged for provisions to be transported to the area. From across the country, financial donations from Elks came in answer to the pleas of the earthquake victims.
Through the years, the Elks have been responsible for aiding men, women and children whose lives have been affected by extraordinary circumstances. No matter the cause of the disaster—torrential rains that led to heavy flooding, explosions in mines, earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, epidemics, or tidal waves—the Elks have been among the first organizations to lend a helping hand in troubled times.
Today, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks continues its commitment to participate in disaster relief. The Order raised more than $1 million to help the families victimized by the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11 and more than $230,000 following the Oklahoma City bombing. Additionally, the Elks have given countless dollars to provide assistance to people affected by flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, fire and drought.
In times of crisis, it has long been a pattern for the Order of Elks to ease the pain of others by providing necessary relief in all manners possible.
The Elks and youth
In the 1940s, the Elks made a commitment to “lay a solid foundation for the future; building the moral and physical character of American boys and girls, the leaders of tomorrow.” Since then, the Elks have done much to fulfill that self-charged responsibility—and not for fanfare or publicity, but simply because they know it is the right thing to do.
In fact, of everything the Elks do, perhaps nothing is more important than their work with the country’s young people. Like no other fraternal organization, the BPOE celebrates the accomplishments of the country’s youth. The efforts of the Elks on behalf of the young— through youth organizations and scholarships, and by sponsoring athletic and artistic endeavors, summer camps and drug awareness programs—sow the seeds of accomplishment and commitment that benefit the whole nation. This work and the generosity of the Elks help today’s young people become tomorrow’s scientists, industrialists, academic, artists, athletes, and much more.
By their sponsorship, the Elks truly make a difference in the lives of many young people. It is this caring commitment that makes the BPOE the fraternal organization most actively engaged in promoting strong and healthy futures for young people.
The youth-oriented charitable and community service programs of the BPOE are all-encompassing. Here is a partial list of charitable work the Elks support:
• Youth programs: Elks Hoop Shoot, scholarships, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Campfire
• Athletic programs: Little League, football,
basketball, bowling, boxing, wrestling, golf,
swimming, Special Olympics, summer
• Medical assistance for children: Hospital,
blood bank, eye glasses, hearing aids,
prosthetic devices, physical therapy scholarships, wheelchairs, support groups
• Patriotic programs: Flag Day, Memorial Day,
• Veterans programs: Picnics, outings, athletic
events, special equipment, in-hospital activities • Community service programs: Donation of
lodge facilities, food baskets, senior citizen
programs, citizen of the year recognition,
law enforcement officer recognition, teacher
and student recognition
• Drug awareness programs: Aimed at
educating children in the primary grades
of grammar school about the dangers
of drugs; materials also available in high
schools, doctors’ offices, hospitals, clinics
and similar institutions and offices open to
The BPOE is proud to work with thousands of youth groups and organizations, ensuring that no child is ignored or forgotten.
One of the Order’s most impressive youth programs is the Elks “Hoop Shoot” National Free Throw Contest. With more than 3 million annual participants between the ages of 8 and 13, the odds of making it to the championship round of the Elks “Hoop Shoot” are less than 40,000-to-1. The odds of capturing one of the six national titles that are up for grabs each year are less than 500,000-to-1! The Order is proud that this is the largest coeducational sports program in the country!
Nationally and locally, the Elks have worked diligently to better the lives of handicapped youngsters. The Order has a long history of supporting Special Olympics events, donating special equipment and supplies to the families of disabled children, sponsoring the treatment and research of many illnesses that affect children, and arranging for medical personnel to provide free in-home therapy services.
The BPO Elks, both at the local level and through its national Elks Drug Awareness Education Program, has done stellar work informing the nation’s youth and their parents about the dangers associated with using illegal substances, tobacco products and alcohol. The Elks have distributed more than a billion pieces of educational literature to students, educators, and parents, and work with other organizations and agencies to provide youth with healthy and safe alternatives to drugs and alcohol. In addition to sponsoring drugand alcohol-free post-prom and graduation parties and dances, the Elks also provide financial support to law enforcement agencies for their efforts to curb the growth of drug use and to encourage children and young adults to make healthier decisions.
With monies from local Lodges and from the national organization, the Elks typically donate approximately $8 million in scholarships each year. On the local and national levels, Elks award scholarships and grants to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts; to exemplary high school seniors through the Elks “Most Valuable Student” scholarship program; to the children of Elks through the Elks Legacy Awards and Emergency Education Fund Grants; and to many other worthy recipients. The Elks rank as one of the largest providers of college scholarships in the United States, second only to the federal government.
In the spring of 1997, the BPOE publicly announced its goals for laying a solid foundation for the leaders of tomorrow, making several pledges to (Colin Powell’s) America’s Promise: The Alliance for Youth. These goals included committing over $50 million annually in support of scouting, athletic programs, aid and treatment for children with disabilities, drug education and prevention programs, scholarships and grants, and other youth organizations and programs, all of which has not only been met, but surpassed.
The Elks and our nation’s veterans/patriotism/civic pride
Since 1917, the BPOE has demonstrated its compassion for the veterans of our Armed Forces through a number of programs and activities. And that is why the Order made a pledge that, “So long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them.”
The Order not only entertains veterans, but also provides much needed supplies and equipment to the hospitals, nursing homes, or other Veterans Administration (VA) medical facilities that house veterans, as well as a wide range of smaller amenities to the veterans. Some items that are perennial favorites to give these brave men and women are greeting cards for holidays, birthdays and all other special occasions; envelopes, stationery, and first-class postage; lap robes, slippers and toiletry items; books, recent issues of pictorial magazines and crossword puzzles; occupational and manual-art supplies, including hides from the Elks Veterans Leather Program; board games and jigsaw puzzles; fishing and golf supplies; small appliances like radios, hot-air popcorn poppers and televisions; and homemade cookies and pastries.
Local lodges that aren’t close to a VA medical facility make sure that they remember veterans residing in nursing homes throughout their community.
These veterans, like the ones residing in
VA facilities, are often
“adopted” by the Elks and invited on fishing trips, sight-seeing tours, golf outings, ballgames or to the Lodge for lunch or dinner. Veterans often are honored guests at a lodge’s holiday celebrations or other special events.
The Order’s history of caring for veterans is something of which every Elk is proud and that pride shows permanently in the Elks National Veterans Memorial, an awe-inspiring monument on Chicago’s lakefront. Dedicated in 1926 to the memory of those who had fought in World War I, the memorial was rededicated in honor of the men who served in World War II. Rededications followed in 1976 for the patriots of the Korean and Vietnam wars, and in 1994 for the men and women who have served in all of our nation’s conflicts since.
Since the earliest days of the Order, patriotism has been among the many hallmarks that make the BPOE stand out from other fraternal organizations. With a membership composed entirely of U.S. citizens, the BPO Elks is committed to promoting the principles of individual freedom, opportunity and dignity.
Elks have always been moved in the presence of the flag of the United States of America, which is why, in 1907, Elks members adopted a resolution designating June 14 as Flag Day and held a Flag Day observance. Ultimately, on August 3, 1949, President Harry S. Truman, himself a member of the Order, permanently designated June 14 as Flag Day, a national holiday, by signing an act of Congress.
But observing Flag Day isn’t the only way that the Order demonstrates its deep reverence for the banner that symbolically embodies the values of the nation. Many lodges give or sell flags to worthy groups and provide training in proper flag etiquette. Some lodges even provide flags for newly sworn citizens, while other lodges give flags to their local schools for display in the classroom and provide educational materials to help grade school students learn the Pledge of Allegiance. Each year, Elks across the country sponsor essay contests that encourage elementary and high school students to explore why the flag is important in their lives.
In 1983, the Elks passed a resolution endorsing the Liberty Centennial Campaign’s work to restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, ultimately contributing more than $1.38 million to restore this treasured symbol of the nation’s promise of freedom and opportunity.
In 1999, the Elks gladly approved a resolution pledging an amount equal to one dollar per member to the National World War II Memorial. The memorial, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., preserves the memory of the more than 16 million people who served in World War II, the more than 400,000 who died, and the millions more who made other sacrifices to support those in combat overseas. More than $1.22 million was contributed for this monument of tribute.
In nearly 2,000 communities, local Elks lodges work valiantly to promote civic pride. Local lodges regularly hold functions to recognize and celebrate the achievements of local emergency services personnel, teachers, leading citizens, educators, students and government officials. Elks also demonstrate the pride that they feel toward their communities by volunteering and making financial contributions to local charitable organizations.
In times of war and international conflict, the BPOE has made considerable contributions to the nation’s armed forces. The Order considers its work done to aid in the defense of the nation as one of its proudest and most lasting achievements. E lks’ patriotism and generosity helped the nation to victory in World War I. In 1917, the Grand Lodge allocated $2 million to finance efforts to assist U.S. soldiers. The Order organized and equipped the first two base (field) hospitals in France. And to accommodate the maimed and wounded, the Elks built a 700-bed reconstruction (rehabilitation) hospital and gave it to the War Department in 1918. This was the first of what were to become the Veterans Administration medical facilities. That same year, the Order built a 72-room community house to take care of the families visiting the 40,000 soldiers stationed at Camp Sherman, OH. D uring the war, the Salvation Army was severely handicapped in its great efforts to aid servicemen by a lack of funds. To make sure that this work continued, the Elks undertook campaigns to raise funds for the Salvation Army and, on many occasions, the Elks assumed the entire coast of these undertakings. In addition, at Christmastime in 1918, the Order gave the Salvation Army $60,000 to continue its programs.
Following the war’s end, the Elks made 40,000 rehabilitation, vocational and educational loans to disabled veterans who were ineligible for government help or who were waiting approval of their applications. This service was so effective that the government followed the Elks’ example and established a revolving fund that was the precursor of the GI Bill. M ore than 70,000 Elks served in the Armed Forces during World War I. More than 1,000 made the supreme sacrifice. Throughout World War II, the Elks contributed to the war effort by providing for members of the Armed Forces both at home and abroad. By the time hostilities ceased, the Grand Lodge had spent more than $1.5 million, while local lodges spent hundreds of thousands of dollars more to provide assistance to our men in uniform. D uring World War II, the Elks were the only civilian organization asked to aid in recruitment efforts of construction workers, directly helping to enlist more than 142,000 men into the Armed Forces as well as thousands of construction specialists who dramatically aided the war effort. Additionally, more than 400 lodges conducted refresher courses that qualified thousands of young men for training as army flying cadets. T he Order also realized the need to boost the morale of servicemen stationed far from home. Across the country, the Elks sponsored 155 Elks fraternal centers where GIs were invited to relax, socialize and enjoy the hospitality of the Elks. More than one million servicemen visited the center in New York City. For those serving overseas, the Elks prepared and sent care packages containing candy, personal grooming supplies and other comforting items. T he Elks also contributed more than half a million books to the Merchant Marines so that their personnel would have reading material onboard ship. W hen war broke out in Korea in 1950, the Elks responded by sending gift packs to those serving their country as they had done in World War II. In 1951, the Secretary of Defense appealed to the Order for help in procuring blood for the wounded. Ultimately, the Elks obtained more than half a million pints. During the Vietnam War, the Elks again answered the call by beginning the Letters from Home campaign. Elks members from across the country flooded our young servicemen and women with letters expressing gratitude for the sacrifices they were making on behalf of the nation. In addition to the letters, the Order provided care packages to soldiers. W hen the wounded from Vietnam needed help, the Elks responded by providing the funds for a recreation pavilion at the Navy Hospital on Guam. The wounded at Tripler Medical Center in Hawaii were sweltering in the heat, so when the Elks learned of their plight, two dozen air-conditioning units were provided so these patriots could recuperate in some degree of comfort. A s in previous conflicts, the BPOE stood ready to aid the men and women of the U.S. armed forces when the Gulf War commenced. Once again, the Elks mounted a letter writing campaign to thank these patriots for their dedicated service and gift packs for soldiers were provided, as they had been in the past.
At the close of the
Gulf War, many Elks lodges arranged to host ceremonies honoring the brave soldiers returning from the conflict in the Middle East, making the Order one of the first organizations to formally welcome these veterans home.
And now the Elks have stepped forward yet again to help our armed forces. Today the Army of Hope is charged with assisting the families of those in uniform with their needs at home. T hrough these programs and many others, the BPOE has truly established itself as a leading force in promoting the values that help shape and strengthen the United States.
Eveleth Elks Lodge #1161
T he Eveleth Elks Lodge is proud to participate in all of the national and state programs of the Order and, additionally, offers MANY local activities and initiatives to promote and further the community, youth and veterans. D id you know that it’s Student of the Month program honors and recognizes future leaders from not only the Eveleth-Gilbert schools, but also from Mesabi East, the East Range Academy of Technology and Science in Eveleth and the Cherry School? Every October through May selected seniors and their parents are acknowledged at an awards ceremony and dinner in their honor. T he Eveleth Lodge is active in a number of veterans’ initiatives, including supporting Veterans on the Lake Resort in Ely and the Minnesota Veterans Home in Silver Bay. Local veterans are also treated to pontoon rides during the summer and the Lodge proudly affiliates with the Minnesota Patriot Guard. D id you know that the Eveleth Elks is Minnesota’s only All-American Lodge in Elks Minnesota’s history? This prestigious honor was bestowed upon the Lodge in July of 2010! T he Lodge held a steak-fry fundraiser for the Eveleth Police K-9 Unit in 2017 and was proudly able to donate $1,200 to the program! D id you know that the Minnesota Elks Youth Camp near Nisswa—the Minnesota Elks Association’s major project—provides an expense-free week of enjoyable camping activities to over 700 deserving youth between 9 – 13 years old each summer? Contact me at 218-780-1256 to obtain additional information on this wonderful opportunity! T he annual New Year’s Eve party, which raises money for the Minnesota Elks Youth Camp, raised over $1,000 more in 2017-18 than the inaugural event on 2016-17 and is getting better every year! D id you know that the Summer (Bicycle) Safety Program was recognized as the Single Outstanding Community Activity by the Grand Lodge of the BPOE? This year’s event, which will promote drug awareness and offer free cycling helmets to all youth who attend, will be held on May 19! D id you know that the Eveleth Lodge receives over $7,500 in grants from the Elks National Foundation to further its community service efforts? Among other worthwhile programs, the Lodge helps the food shelf (double their donation in March), foster parents programs–including diapers, gift cards and breakfasts—and other youth and veterans’ programs. T he Lodge has a charitable gaming operation to aid in its ability to provide financial assistance to local charities, area all-night grad parties, team events and the like. Bingo is offered in Eveleth and Gilbert on several nights of the week, with other gaming products also available at various locations. Contact the Lodge at 218-744-9900 on Monday, Tuesday or Friday evenings to obtain more information. The Lodge has donated over $3 million to the local community throughout its history! D id you know that the Lodge and club offer Tuesday burger nights, Friday night meals, curling bonspiels and many other recreational and social activities? As far as curling is concerned, the assistance available is second to none. The coach of the 2018 gold medalwinning U.S. Olympic Men’s Curling team is a member of the Lodge and regularly participates in these events! O ther social and recreational events include, but are not limited to annual golf outings, Minnesota Wild bus trips, Sip and Paints, Ladies Day, annual Corn Feed/Classic Car Show (for youth scholarships), annual summer picnic, youth soccer shoot, Halloween parties for children and adults, New Year’s Eve affair, Tom & Jerry party at Christmastime, youth skating party and more! Contact the club at 218-744-9900 or visit www.facebook.com/ evelethelks1161 for more information! D id you know that the Lodge and club are available for graduations, wedding and baby showers, birthdays, special events, anniversaries and other events? Comfortably accommodating 175 people, you can lease the facilities club even if you’re not a member! Call 218-744-9900 and leave a message!
If there is a need in the community, the Eveleth Elks will likely be inclined to aid and assist, while having a good time in doing so! If this appeals to you in any way, contact the Lodge at 218-744-9900, or stop by when it is open, at 415-1/2 Jones Street in Eveleth! The Lodge looks forward to meeting you!
Tony Jeffries lives in Eveleth, MN. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Eveleth Elks Lodge #1161. The story was, in part, assembled from publicly available information.