By Eric Heinz
What started as something of a social gathering turned into a successful recruitment tactic for the San Clemente Elks Lodge, Chapter No. 2068.
In the past three months, the Elks Lodge members said they have had 90 new members—most between the ages of 35 and 45.
Members Jeff Ragland and Brett Lawrence as well as chapter president-elect Wally Emory, whose term begins in April, said the Elks lodges have been declining in membership nationally, but the district officials are using the San Clemente story to work with membership coordinators to grow the chapters with younger members.
The members who spoke to San Clemente Times said their children go to school together, and as Emory spoke to them about the Elks Lodge they became more and more interested. Other existing members were using the same techniques to get more people to join in their neighborhoods.
“About a year ago, Wally invited myself and another gentleman to come down and check it out. We did and we absolutely loved it,” Ragland said. “Wally’s class (of new members) had the biggest ever with 19. And we wanted to bring more than Wally’s group of guys.”
As the three men live in the same part of San Clemente, they began to draw more members from their area. They said as long as they were going out for fun, they might as well make it a network to give back to the community.
“We all had such a good time. We came with one person, and then that person came with another and so forth,” Lawrence said. “It pretty quickly swelled to 69 people.”
Emory said 69 have been initiated in the last three months, but 25 more people are on a waiting list for the next initiation. The club is inclusive to men and women.
When they’re at the club, Ragland said, “Every dollar we would have spent somewhere else goes to the Elks, which is a nonprofit organization, and that money goes to scholarships and all kinds of other programs. We only keep enough money to keep the place open.”
Some of the charitable work the Elks put together are local scholarships for high school students through an essay contest as well as donating to emergency medical and firefighting funds. An annual $10,000 grant is given from the Elks to Family Assistance Ministries in monthly an installments as well as funding for the Gang Reduction Interception Program at Las Palmas Elementary. They also host an Adopt the Marines dinner during the holidays for Camp Pendleton Marines, which hosts about 150 marines, Emory said.
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, or Elks for short, is a national organization with chapters located throughout the United States.
The San Clemente chapter was founded in 1958. Members can visit other chapters by displaying their membership card.
Although they have full-time jobs and families to look after, Lawrence said if enough members join then the responsibilities are spread out.
“I think even a relatively minimal participation level has an impact,” Lawrence said. “Even when we come two or three months a night, all the dollars go to the various different nonprofit lodge initiatives.”
In order to join the Elks Lodge, a person must be invited by a current member and vouched for by two others. Then an initiation process can begin. The minimum age is 21, and members must be U.S. citizens.
For more information, visit www.elks.org and visit the San Clemente Elks Lodge #2068 on Facebook.
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