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Serious about service: Elks work to support community

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | January 5, 2022 1:03 AM

MOSES LAKE — Bill West said the Elks service organization and its members are focused on service to community.

“The name of this organization is the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks,” West said. “That’s a big part of our organization, is benevolence.”

West is the current president (called the exalted ruler) of the Columbia Basin Elks Lodge 1930.

The lodge building, 814 N. Stratford Road, is a frequent venue for community events; Elks members have sponsored some charitable and community projects, and worked with other service organizations.

“We do everything we can do to live up to the ‘benevolent’ part of our name,” West said. “We’re very supportive of the different charities around town.”

The Elks host a community Thanksgiving dinner, working with the Columbia Basin Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center.

The Elks are supporters of the annual senior picnic, and host Cocoa for K9s, a fundraiser for local law enforcement K-9 units. In the past, Elks members have sponsored a giveaway of back-to-school supplies for kids who need them.

“We are very supportive of different veterans groups here in town. A lot of our members are veterans,” he said. “Anything we can do for the homeless, we do. We’re very supportive of the different charities around town.”

Like other local lodges, the Columbia Basin Elks have support from its national organization, as well.

“The Elks national organization is very generous with grants,” West said. “If we have a project and we want to fund it, a lot of times we’ll put in for a grant. And $2,500 is a real common amount of money that you put in for that they just give you.”

Bryan Blann, one of the current Elks officers, said the Elks have supported local youth organizations, like the Scouts BSA (Boy Scouts of America). Elks members also support a local family at Christmas.

“There’s just a whole host of things that we do,” Blann said.

“We support all of the other service clubs in town as best we can,” West said. “And really, any need the community has.”

“I think working with other organizations is a plus,” Blann said.

The large meeting room at the Columbia Basin Elks Lodge makes it a natural venue for events like the community Thanksgiving dinner, at least in non-pandemic times. Normally, dinner is cooked and served by students in the culinary classes at the Columbia Basin Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center, and the students still cooked dinner in 2020 and 2021.

“The past two years because of the pandemic, we haven’t had people come and eat,” West said. “But they come by and pick up meals.”

Elks members were among the volunteers who helped package and distribute Thanksgiving dinners.

Cocoa for K9s went on as scheduled, with the meeting room filled with the dogs and their handlers, as well as kids and families who came to meet the dogs. A few years ago, Elks partnered with other local organizations to help the Grant County Sheriff’s Office raise money to purchase a new K-9, West said.

The Washington Elks Therapy Program for Children Inc. is supported by lodges statewide and provides in-home therapy care for children with developmental delays or physical disabilities, at low or no cost to the families.

“I like being able to give back to the community,” Blann said.

“That’s the whole focus of everything we do, is our community. Be involved in your community,” West said. “We apply for grants and whatnot, and every nickel of it goes to something to do with the community.”

Currently, the lodge has about 250 members, West said.

“At one time, we were a lot bigger,” he said.

Like other service organizations, the Elks is seeing fewer young people joining up.

“We’re in the middle of a membership crisis,” he said. “Our members are aging.”

The national Elks organization is working on initiatives to increase membership. The primary effort is a program called Plus One. The goal is to have a net gain of at least one new member each year, West said.

“We are really, really striving for new members,” he said, adding it’s held a couple of membership drives in the last few months.

“We are headed in the right direction,” West said.

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Grant County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Luis Jimenez (left) introduces K-9 Zedd to Byrnleigh-Rose Wixom during the Cocoa for K9s event at the Columbia Basin Elks Lodge Dec. 4.

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Elks member Jennifer Killian (left) and volunteer Vicky Rutherford package meals for the drive-thru community Thanksgiving dinner Nov. 17.

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File photo

Elks member Jennifer Killian delivers a meal for the community Thanksgiving dinner Nov. 17.

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