Reporter's Note: The number of clubs, fraternal and social organizations in the area is astounding, yet few are aware of exactly what each respective group contributes not only to its members, but also to society as a whole. This series strives to make the community aware of these organizations and enlighten residents who might have misconceptions about many of these groups and perhaps encourage membership into these community minded organizations.
According to historical information provided on www.elks.org, the Elks Club, commonly called The Elks, is one of the oldest and widely recognized organizations in the nation. Before its founding by young entertainers who had yet to be discovered and frequently gathered in New York to assist their unemployed peers, the organization was called the Jolly Corks.
The Corks name derived from a game favored by English comic singer and eventual founder Charles A. Vivian. In place of rolling dice, which was against Vivian's beliefs, Vivian suggested dropping and picking up corks to decide who would purchase the refreshments for the group. The Jolly Corks continued to meet informally until February of 1868 at which time Vivian and fellow entertainer George McDonald made a motion for the formal organization of the Jolly Corks as a Lodge with similar governance of benevolent and fraternities. They also established a governing policy and voted on a new, more formal name. The group, with the exception of Vivian, who was an Englishman, desired a very American title and agreed upon the Elks.
The elk was chosen because of its description in a book on natural history which described the elk as, "an animal fleet of foot, timorous of doing wrong, but ever ready in combat and defense of self or of female of the species."
Early in their history members provided support to the Salvation Army and Red Cross. Elk's members have a long history of helping those in need including victims of the Seattle Fire in 1871, the 1889 Johnstown Flood and the Great San Francisco Earthquake in 1906.
Officially called The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, this organization dates back to 1868 when it was officially founded in New York City. To date, the Elks boasts 1.2 million members in 21,000 Lodges across America. This brotherhood is also responsible for providing the first hospitals on the field in France during World War II and the creation of the Veteran's Administration, which was created as the first hospital for veterans in 1918 and presented to the government of the United States the same year.
In 1928, the Elks National Foundation was created as a part of the Elks to help produce money to support endeavors by the Elks at both the state and national levels. Yearly, the Elks contribute millions of dollars to such things as scholarships, research for cerebral palsy, veteran's hospitals, and care for handicapped and mentally retarded children.
The members also help provide scholarships and grants for children and grandchildren of Elk's members.
The organization also believes in investing in America's future through youth programs sponsored by the Elks. Lodges and members sponsor scouting, Little League, Boy's and Girl's Clubs and also has a first class Drug Awareness Program. This educational program strives to educate school aged children about the hazards of drug abuse and teaches prevention and offers alternatives to drug use.
The Elks also sponsor a National Hoop Shoot Free Throw Program, which is funded by the Elks Foundation and is administered by Elk volunteers. This organization reaches all walks of life through their community involvement.
Area Elks' members work with Arkansas Children's Hospital in collecting aluminum tabs for their Ronald McDonald House Charity. Recently, the Elks have gotten a huge amount of support from the Williford Elementary School's sixth grade class who helps with collection of the tabs.
The Elks also sponsored a Fishing Rodeo for area youth at Lake Thunderbird, with proceeds going to the scholarship fund. The Elks also have bingo at their lodge and all proceeds go to charity. During Christmas, Elk's members were able to fill 75 Christmas baskets for area families and provide gifts for 115 children, who without the Elk's would not have had a very nice Christmas.
Highland Elks Lodge 2539 Exalted Ruler Ewert "Lars" Larson, is proud to say the fourth place National Hoop Shoot winner was sponsored by their Lodge. Larson said that the service area covers all of Sharp County, Salem and to Brockwell. He welcomes new members and said there are guidelines for membership but the main requirement is a belief in God and the flag of the United States and what it stands for. Larson says that there are currently 379 members in Lodge 2579.