March 21, 2016
Working on small newspapers is a way to increase your knowledge base almost anything ‘under the Sun’.
I have always seen myself as contributing to a better world through activism, the type I learned about while I came of age among those protesting the war in Vietnam and travelling with a backpack and my thumb out along ‘life’s’ highway. I have signed a lot of petitions, lobbied to change a lot of laws and taking part in many peaceful marches. In this way, I have contributed to positive change happening in this world.
There are many others who decide to do could by walking down a different path. These are the people who join service organizations like the Kinsmen, the Masons and the Elks. They raise money and put sweat equity in to building community parks, secretly doing good deeds for ‘the less fortunate’ in their communities and donating to building libraries, community centres and seniors drop-ins.
The following is an article I wrote about one of these service organizations:
The Gravelbourg Gazette — Mossbank News
February 9, 1983
Elks provide service to Mossbank
It is a long way from New York to Mossbank, Saskatchewan and it was a long time ago when the B.P.O. Elks first originated in that city.
It was in 1867 that Charles A. Vivian, an entertainer at many night spots in New York City, decided to form the benevolent order of Elks.
There are two different stories as to why Mr. Vivian decided to form the organization. Some say he became outraged when one of his friends died and could not be buried in a religious ceremony because he was an entertainer by profession.
The story goes that Mr. Vivian raised enough money for a burial plot and persuaded an Episcopalian curate to perform his friend’s funeral service. From this experience, it is said that Mr. Vivian decided to form a group where entertainers and actors could be treated with respect.
But another happier version of how Mr. Vivian started the organization begins with the man’s move to a Mrs. Geisman’s Boarding House. The house became an entertainment spot for actors.
It is said that Mr. Vivian suggested the group become a society and should call themselves the “Jolly Corks”. Then, in 1868, it was decided that the society should become a benevolent order with rules, a ritual and a new name.
A committee formed out of the group decided to take the name of the Elk as the animal has a “docile mannerism, proud character and protective instincts states a B.P.O. Elks brochure. It became the Benevolent and Protective Order (B.P.O) of Elks.
In Canada, the first Elk Lodge was established in Vancouver in 1912, with the help of Charles Edward Redeker who had travelled to Seattle to talk with the Grand Trustee of the Elks and find out more about the organization.
Now, there are over 357 Elks Lodges in Canada as well as 311 Order of the Royal Purple Lodges (consisting of women related to Elk members ) for a total 80,000 membership. The Grand Lodge is presently located in Regina but changes location depending on where the Grand Lodge Secretary lives.
In Mossbank, the Elk’s Lodge was chartered in 1967 which was exactly 100 years after the organization first began. Harvey Ireland was the first member to sign up and Otto Wuschke was the second.
Mr. Ireland said he joined because he was “looking for something for fellowship– fun and fellowship and he has never been disappointed. Other Elk members echo this sentiment.
The Elk’s motto is based on equality, love, kindness, and service to the community. Their most noticeable contribution to the Mossbank community is the Elk’s Hall which they operate. “You wouldn’t have had a hall if it wasn’t for the Elks,” member Mitch Delyea said.
The Elks took over the hall which was close to deterioration and renovated it in the early 1970s. Since then, the hall has been used for ‘numerous’ social events and occasions sponsored by many different community groups.
Mr. Delyea said the larger part of the Elk’s annual budget goes towards maintenance for the hall. Other money is donated to the Elks Purple Cross Fund. “The Purple Cross Fund provides financial assistance to children in Canada up to their nineteenth birthday, where there is a need due to sickness or if the child does not qualify for assistance from any other source,” the B.P.O. Elks brochure states. “The Purple Cross Fund also supports the Deaf Detection and Development Program, which provides facilities to test for hearing impairment and aids those who are hearing handicapped.” This year the Elk’s Hawaii Lottery Draw will contribute to the fund.
But the members stress that the organization is not primarily a service group and when it does contribute to the community, it does not like to “brag” about it. The Elk’s main goal is to promote friendship between its member and in this and other ways helps the community. The Mossbank Elks’ Exalted Ruler is Ron Fortin and it has 70 area members with 35 of those being active. Membership is open to anyone regardless of his race or religion.
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