Before Washington even became a state, Seattle had an Elks lodge. In July 1888, six Elks from San Francisco arrived here on a logging schooner; their one purpose was “to introduce Elkdom to the Washington Territory,” according to a press release. The “Mother Lodge” — Seattle’s first — was set up.
And last Friday evening, July 12, Elks Lodge 92 celebrated its 125-year history with an open house at 301 Queen Anne Ave. N. The lodge was decorated in the Elk color of violet, and the event celebrated the organization’s commitment to Seattle charities and national philanthropy.
“Besides all of the do-good work we do, I like the fact that we have space to throw a party,” said Celeste Miller, Exalted Ruler of the Seattle Elks.
“The Elks are awesome,” said Seattle Elks trustee Jim Howes. “The fraternalism and the charities are a big deal, obviously. I’ve joined a lot of things in my life for perspective and the Elks is that good and true, so I’ve stayed with it.”
Focused on charity
Stemming from humble beginnings, the Elks organization is a longstanding national club and charity organization. In its early years, the Elks were a New York-based theatrical group of actors and musicians that gathered to enjoy their company around the Prohibition period.
There are 2,000 lodges in the country and 39 lodges in Washington.
Membership initiation is an honorable ceremony to take a proud obligation. A lot of the swearing in is in old English but still carries the same cardinal principles the Elks live by today: charity, justice, brotherly love and fidelity. That’s what we’re founded upon, Howes said.
Charity work is a focal point in the Elks’ mission. Events that take place in the lodge are mainly for Elks specific charities and others, which include YMCA, Wounded Warriors, Seattle Veterans Hospital and Seattle Veterans Stand Down for Homeless Vets. Live music, dinner, raffles and auctions all are held to benefit various charities.
Statewide, the Elks’ major project is Elks Therapy Program for Children, which is celebrating its 60th year, Howes said. The original project, started by Seattle and Ballard lodges, funded an influenza and TB ward, which started Seattle Children’s Hospital. The Elks paid for both staffing and the first facility.
Today, the therapy program provides in-home sessions to youths, as well as helping families cope with any trauma a sick child may go through.
“We have been the longest continual donors to Children’s Hospital,” Howes said.
Most grant money that comes from Elks National goes toward veteran or youth services.
Close to their hearts
The Elks hope to recruit more members by hosting events and appealing to a range of age groups. Though membership has declined slightly in recent years, the Elks continue to promote creative gatherings for their fund-raisers.
“I’m hoping to get more awareness out of what we’re doing,” said Elks public relations chair Julie Engel. “A lot of people look at you funny when you say, ‘I’m an Elk….’ We’re hoping to reach out to the community, [have] tables at different events and have membership drives.”
Howes said, “People who come in learn to love the Elks, because they see all the things we do and our proud history of fraternalism and friendship. It’s about having a lodge of members that do a lot of great things, and having a club facility is one of the benefits.”
Fund-raising ideas come from members who have a special cause in their heart. Many members work for nonprofits and bring their passion up for discussion at the lodge. It’s about making sure that we’re giving back to our community, Engel said.
“The Elks are young and vibrant; Seattle and Ballard locations have been getting out into the community. We’re not just a bunch of old guys smoking in a bar,” Howes said.
For more information on the Washington State Elks Association, visit www.waelks.net.