THE BENEVOLENT AND PROTECTIVE ORDER OF ELKS
The BPOE is one of the oldest and largest fraternal organizations in the country. Since its inception in 1868, the Order of Elks has grown to include more than 1 million men and woman in more than 2,100 communities.
The BPOE is committed to the ideals of charity and patriotisim. To that end, Elks have now given away, over the course of the Order’s history, more than $3.6 billion in cash, goods, and services to our nation’s youth, it’s veterans, the disadvantaged and handicapped, and to individuals and groups in support of patriotic and civic programs. Annually the Elks give more than $200 million to these causes. The Elks rank as one of the largest private providers of college scholarships in the nation.
The Elks have created a quiet network of good deeds that has profoundly changed millions of lives for the better, yet there is little public awareness of our vital work. Why is this so? Quite simply, the Elks rarely seek recognition, nor have they gone to the general public with fund-raising efforts, nor have they received monies from any level of government. Actually, the flow of money and goods moves in opposite direction, the Elks donated to the government the first veterans hospital, the contribute regularly to schools and police and fire departments, and they assist the young and needy throughout the nation.
How could this powerful force have come into being? And where does all this charitable giving come from? From the generous hearts of our members whose eagerness to share, whose prudent long term planning, and whose willingness to serve for free and with enthusiasm infuses the Order with an exuberant and enduring expression of the true volunteer spirit.
Of note is the fact that the elected leadership of the Elks, from the Exalted Ruler of the local lodges to the national president, known as the Grand Exalted Ruler, as well as other decision makers at various levels all serving without salaries.
The Elks organization is governed through democratic representation, with overall statutes set by voting at national conventions. The ELKs national headquarters is in Chicago. the Chicago campus is also the site of the Elks National Veterans Memorial building, and is the home of the Elks National Foundation, the Order’s charitable trust, the Elks National Veterans Service Commission, and The Elks Magazine, the official monthly publication that is sent to every member of the Order.
The Elks and Youth
In 1904, the Elks made a commitment to “Lay a solid foundation for the future, building the moral and physical character of American boys and girls, the leaders of tomorrow”. Since then, the Elks have done much to fulfill that self-charged responsibility- and not for fanfare or publicity, but simply because they know it is the right thing to do.
In fact, of everything the Elks do, perhaps nothing is more important than their work with the country’s young people. Like no other fraternal organization, the Elks celebrate the accomplishments of the country’s youths. The efforts on behalf of the young, through youth organization and scholarships, and by sponsoring athletic and artistic endeavors, summer camps and drug awareness programs- sew the seeds of accomplishment and commitment that benefit the whole nation. This work and the generosity of the Elks help today’s young people become tomorrow’s scientists, industrialists, academic, artists, athletes, and much more.
The Elks and Patriotism
Since the earliest days of the Order, patriotism has been among the many hallmarks that make the Elks stand out from other fraternal organizations. With a membership comprised entirely of U.S. citizens, the Elks are committed to the principals of individual freedom, opportunity, and dignity.
Elks have always been moved by the presence of the American flag, which is why, in 1907, Elks adopted a resolution designating June 14th as Flag Day. In 1911 the Grand lodge mandated that all local lodges observe Flag Day with appropriate ceremonies, making the Elks the first national fraternal organization to require the observance of Flag Day. Finally, on August 3rd, 1949, President Harry S. Truman, himself a member of the Elks, permanently designated June 14th as Flag Day by signing an act of congress.
Observing Flag Day is not the only way Elks demonstrate their deep reverence for the banner that symbolically embodies the values of our nation. Many lodges give or sell flags to worthy groups and provide training in proper etiquette. Some lodges even provide flags for newly sworn citizens, while other lodges give flags to their local schools for display in the classroom and provide educational materials to help grade school students learn the Pledge of Allegiance. Every year, Elks across the country sponsor essay contests that encourage elementary and high school students to explore why the flag is important in their lives.
To inculcate the principles of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity; to recognize a belief in God; to promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its Members; to quicken the spirit of American patriotism; to cultivate good fellowship; to perpetuate itself as a fraternal organization, and to provide for its government, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America will serve the people and communities through benevolent programs, demonstrating that Elks Care and Elks Share.