By Josette Keelor
Those unfamiliar with The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks might be surprised to learn the recent activities of an area lodge.
Last Saturday, members of the Front Royal Elks Lodge 2382 read to children at Samuels Public Library, where they presented a $1,000 check for purchasing children's books. On Tuesday, they gave another $1,000 to area schools in Warren and Shenandoah counties to buy safety goggles. Both donations were part of a grant the lodge secured from the Elks National Foundation.
Earlier this month, the lodge donated supplies and games to the Martinsburg VA Medical Center in West Virginia, where it also sponsored a corn hole tournament on Feb. 15. Plans are in the works to help build raised garden beds with the Stephens City Outpatient Clinic this spring.
Sharing and caring is part of the Elks' motto of dedicating their efforts to helping children, seniors and veterans in particular, but Exalted Ruler Dennis Henline of the Front Royal lodge said that mission sometimes gets lost in the Elks' more public reputation of throwing good parties in their lodge at 4088 Guard Hill Road.
"[People] think it's just a place for people to go drinking and have fun with it," he said.
"We reach out to those in need and try to help them," Henline said. "That's what we're really all about."
Nationally, the Elks is second only to the United States government in the amount of donations it gives to schools, Henline said. The Front Royal lodge, one of two in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, leads Virginia's north region in all donations this year.
The north region also includes Winchester, Alexandria, Arlington-Fairfax, Loudoun, Manassas and Woodbridge.
Henline attributes the lodge's successful campaigns to its members, many of whom participate in other community organizations and bring their interests with them when they help with Elks' events.
"That's where it helps us become successful in our community events," he said. "We have people that are very committed."
Deputy. Larry M. Funk of the Warren County Sheriff's Office has been an Elk for about 10 years. He is a drug abuse resistance education officer for the Sheriff's Office, and he is also the lodge's anti-drug abuse prevention officer.
Rich Crawford, chair of the Veterans Services Committee for the Elks lodge, served in the U.S. Navy for 21 years. He said that volunteering with area veterans has opened his eyes to how he and other Elks can be of help to veterans.
"I think that's an area we can do a lot of good in," he said.
Time spent volunteering is what Henline said sets the Elks apart from other civic organizations that raise money for community benefit. In addition to each donation, Elks must also donate their time to every project.
But Henline said it doesn't take much -- only a few members delivering donations and staying to read to area children or playing BINGO. It means a lot to those they help, Crawford said.
Recently volunteering to help wheelchair-bound patients in Martinsburg, Crawford said he was more friend than benefactor to those he encountered.
Being there, he said, "It gave them someone who encouraged them throughout the day."
The Front Royal Elks Lodge 2382 will help sponsor the Virginia Elks Youth Camp again this summer in Millboro, where seven local girls and six boys may attend for free. To submit names of children between the ages of 8 and 13 who would like to go, call the lodge at 635-2330. Some spots are already filled. Information is also available at virginiaelks.org.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org