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For more than 100 years, Idaho Springs-based Elks Lodge 607 has been a cornerstone of the community. The Elks have a regular outpouring of service work, including annual charities, fund-raisers, …
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For more than 100 years, Idaho Springs-based Elks Lodge 607 has been a cornerstone of the community.
The Elks have a regular outpouring of service work, including annual charities, fund-raisers, student scholarships, and youth, veterans and senior citizen assistance programs — the list goes on and on.
The organization hosts dozens of activities and fund-raisers benefiting the local communities.
However, time takes it toll on even the sturdiest foundations, and membership numbers have steadily dropped in recent years.
The Elks are a faith-based charitable organization that started in 1868. In the early days, the organization took root in mining towns like Idaho Springs to help those who were down on their luck.
According to Cheryl Wohlers, the Elks recently elected exalted ruler — the title for the organization’s president — just 15 years ago the lodge boasted a membership of nearly 1,000. Today that number has steadily dipped to a little more than 400.
And while even 400 looks like a sizable number of members, Wohlers said many no longer live in the area or are unable to volunteer in the activities the Elks host in any given month.
“Our membership is aging, which is part of the problem,” Wohlers said. “We do offer lifetime (membership) dues for those who have been involved for a long time, and that’s also kind of taking away from our cash flow because it’s just a reduced rate.”
Wohlers added that because many of the lodge’s members have also moved out of the area, that leaves just a few local members volunteering their time.
“It’s something where it is very difficult for people right now in this economy to find the time and the extra cash to become a member and be involved,” Wohlers said.
Wohlers, an Elks member for the past 10 years, said that in difficult economic times like these, she’s seen many more people taking on second jobs.
“It is definitely more difficult to get the involvement and the cash inflow during times like this,” Wohlers said.
Despite the poor economy, the Elks are still committed to what they see as their obligations to the community and are hoping to once again bolster their ranks.
“I have met so many wonderful people through (the Elks), and I can honestly say that I feel like it is an extension of family,” Wohlers said. “If somebody is in need, you’ve got people there who will help support, not ask why or how much.”
Wohlers said she believes joining the Elks Lodge is a good way to give back to the community.
“It is an excellent way for people to be involved and help out their neighbors,” Wohlers said. “It’s not like you’re giving a charity money and you don’t know where it is going — you can actually follow it and see what’s going on and feel like you’re really making a difference. And we do.”
Wohlers said she is trying this year to increase the number of programs that the Elks sponsor locally.
“I’ve increased the budget for our youth activities, and I want to see us getting more involved with our local schools and helping out the kids,” Wohlers said.
She added that there’s no cap for the number of members the lodge can have.
“There’s really no maximum capacity, but we are certainly hurting, so the more the merrier,” Wohlers said.
Loren “Biff” Eckles has been a member of the organization for the past 32 years. Over the years, Eckles has been the lodge’s exalted ruler three times.
For Eckles, the Elks have always been an important part of the local community.
He remembers attending Boy Scout meetings at the lodge when he was a kid.
He said joining the lodge was originally about camaraderie, but over the years it grew into something more.
“As you get into it — what we tell our new members is, ‘You get out of it what you put into it,’ “ Eckles said.
For information about Elks Lodge 607, call 303-567-9996.
Contact Ian Neligh at email@example.com, and check www.clearcreekcourant.com for updates and breaking news.
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