The Southington Elks Lodge No. 1669 is celebrating 75 years of charity work in the town of Southington. With over 550 members, the organization is known locally for engaging in a variety of fundraisers and community projects. In May, the Southington Elks will celebrate the anniversary at the Aqua Turf Club.
Programs over the years have come to the aid of local youth, veterans, active military, seniors, homeless and others.
The first Elks Club started 150 years ago as “the jolly corks,” according to Elks secretary and past exalted ruler Mike Johnson.
“Back then, lodges were formed in major cities where people would go to perform,” he said. There were even bedrooms in the upper floors of lodges where traveling actors could stay the night before moving onto the next lodge.
Today, there are thousands of Elks Clubs across the nation, and 31 in the state of Connecticut.
“Celebrating 75 years of service is not just a pat on the back,” said drug awareness chair and Elks member Darcie Najarian. “Even our celebration event is a fundraiser that will help us help others.”
The Southington Elks have come to the aid of many over the years. They keep up with a peanut butter and jelly shelf at the Southington Community Services, purchase Christmas gifts for families in need, hold fundraisers for Bread for Life, provide community service opportunities for youth, send care packages to active military members, host drug awareness programs at the schools, donate clothing to the homeless, provide annual scholarships for graduating seniors, host essay contests, local sporting competitions and much more.
“About 95% of what we do is volunteer work for others,” said chair of the board of trustees, Jim Champagne.
In addition, the lodge itself is available to be used for local fundraisers by other organizations. Exalted ruler Cindy Vorhees said the Elks want the community to know the room is available.
“A lot of people don’t understand that we are more than just another bar,” said Vorhees. “We’re a place where you can make life-long friends and serve the community.”
At the 75th anniversary celebration, the Elks will honor some of the longest-standing members of the club. They will also honor the first woman member, the first exalted ruler, and others.
The dinner will be held on May 9 from 7 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $75 per person.
To become a member of the Elks, visit the lodge at 114 Main St. after 4 p.m. any day of the week. Applications are available. Traditionally, new members must be sponsored by a current member. Those who do not have a sponsor can be provided with one. There is also an interview process.
Once a member, Elks can visit any lodge in the country. To learn more about the Elks, visit www.Elks.org.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at News@SouthingtonObserver.com.