A Tradition of Giving: The BPO Elks
The youth-oriented, charitable, and community service programs of the Benevolent
and Protective Order of Elks are all-encompassing. Here is a partial list of our
charitable work.Youth Programs
--Elks "Hoop Shoot" - Scholarships - Boy Scouts and
Girl Scouts - Campfire GirlsAthletic Programs
--Little League - Football - Basketball - Bowling –
Boxing - Wrestling - Golf - Swimming - Special Olympics -Summer Camps - SoccerMedical Assistance for Children
--Hospital - Blood Bank - Eye Glasses -
Hearing Aids - Prosthetic Devices - Physical Therapy Scholarships-
Wheelchairs - Support GroupsPatriotic Programs
--Flag Day - Memorial Day – Constitutional
--Picnics - Outings - Athletic Events - Special
Equipment – In-hospital ActivitiesCommunity Service Programs
--Donation of Lodge Facilities - Food
Baskets - Senior Citizen Programs - Citizen of the Year Recognition –
Law Enforcement Officer Recognition - Teacher and Student
RecognitionDrug Awareness Programs
--Aimed at educating children in the
primary grades of grammar school about the dangers of drugs.
Materials also available in high schools as well as doctors' offices,
hospitals, clinics, and similar institutions and offices open to the
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America 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 women in
more than 2,100 communities.
The BPO Elks is committed to the ideals of charity and patriotism. To that end, Elks
have now disbursed, over the course of the Order's history, more than $3.6 billion in
cash, goods, and services to the nation's youth, its veterans, the disadvantaged and
handicapped, and to individuals and groups in support of patriotic and civic
programs. Annually the BPO Elks give more than $200 Million in this fashion, and
the Order ranks as one of the largest private providers of college scholarships in the
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 the impact of
their vital work. Why is this so? Quite simply, the Elks have rarely sought
recognition; nor have they gone to the general public with fund-raising efforts nor
received monies from any level of government. Indeed, the flow of money and
goods moves in the opposite direction: the Elks donated to the government the first
veterans hospital; they contribute regularly to schools and police and fire
departments; and they assist the young and the needy throughout this great nation.
How could this powerful force have come into being? And where does all this
charitable giving come from? From the generous hearts of Elks 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 BPO Elks--from the Exalted
Rulers of the local Lodges to the national president, known as the Grand Exalted
Ruler, as well as other decision makers at various levels--serve without salaries.
The Elks organization is governed through democratic representation, with overall
statutes set by voting at national conventions. The BPO Elks national headquarters is
in Chicago. The Chicago campus is also the site of the Elks National Veterans
Memorial building, and it 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.
A Helping Hand in Troubled Times: The Elks and Disaster Relief
In 1871, a fire devastated the city of Chicago, and the Benevolent and Protective
Order of Elks quickly organized and staged a benefit to provide financial assistance
to those residents most affected by the disaster. Since then, the Order has
responded to every major catastrophe (natural or man-made) and played a leading
role in providing relief and comfort.
In 1889, the Elks, offered financial assistance to families who suffered as a result of
flooding in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and fires in Seattle, Washington. In 1892, the
BPO Elks began working with the American Red Cross when it and the Order
provided monies for those suffering from famine in Russia. To this day, the Elks
have maintained a partnership with the American Red Cross and developed similar
partnerships with other relief agencies.
Following the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, the Order was the first
organization to respond to the call for help. Within 12 hours, the Elks' relief efforts
were in full swing. In Oakland, California, the Elks equipped hospitals, established
temporary shelters for nearly 2,000 displaced persons, and arranged for provisions to
be transported to the area. From across the country, financial donations from Elks
came in answer to the pleas of the earthquake victims.
Through the years, the Elks have been responsible for aiding men, women, and
children whose lives have been affected by extraordinary circumstances. No matter
the cause of the disaster--torrential rains that led to heavy flooding, explosions in
mines, earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, epidemics, or tidal waves--the Elks
have been among the first organizations to lend a helping hand in troubled times.
Today, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks continues its commitment to
participate in disaster relief. Most recently, the Order raised more than $1 million to
help the families victimized by the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11th and
more than $230,000 following the Oklahoma City bombing. Additionally, the Elks
have given tens of thousands more dollars to provide assistance to the people affected
by the Red River flooding; tornadoes in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Ohio; hurricanes
Dennis, Floyd and Charley.
In times of crisis, it has long been a pattern for the Order of Elks to ease the pain
of others by providing necessary relief
The Elks and Youth
Celebrating Our Youth
In the 1904s, 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 Benevolent
and Protective Order of Elks celebrates the accomplishments of the country's youth.
The efforts of the Elks on behalf of the young--through y outh organizations 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 first week in May each year, the Order holds its Elks National Youth Week,
recognizing young people for their involvement with the achievements in the
community. Traditionally the Elks present awards and plaques to outstanding
youngsters during this week, in addition to hosting teams--similar to those that are
held all year--that provide young people with ever greater chances to play an active
role in their communities.
By their sponsorship of youth fairs, career nights, student government days, athletic
and educational programs, clubs, and more, the Elks truly make a difference in the
lives of many young people. It is this caring commitment that makes the BPO Elks
the fraternal organization most actively engaged tin promoting strong and healthy
futures for young people.
In many communities, Elks Lodges help support Boys and Girls Clubs; 4-H
programs; youth athletics, including Little League, football, and soccer teams; debate
and speech programs; fine arts programs and contests, and other local youth
organizations. Elks lodges also sponsor scout troops, offering our lodges as meeting
places. We are proud to work with thousands of youth groups and organizations,
ensuring that no child is ignored or forgotten.
One of the Order's most impressive youth programs is the Elks "Hoop Shoot"
National Free Throw Contest. With more than 3 million annual participants
between the ages of 8 and 13, the odds of making it to the championship round of the
Elks "Hoop Shoot" are less than 40,000 to 1. The odds of capturing one of the six
national titles that are up for grabs each year are less than 500,000 to one!
At an Elks "Hoop Shoot" Free Throw Contest, boys and girls in one of three
age-groups, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13, attempt to sink 25 free throws--10 in the first round, and
15 in the second, with ties being resolved by 5-shot shoot-offs. The competition is
fierce but fun, and that's one reason the Elks "Hoop Shoot" has grown, since 1946,
from a local youth activity at the Corvallis, Oregon, Elks Lodge to the largest
coeducational sports program in the country.
The Elks "Soccer Shoot" Contest is the most recent addition to the Order's highly
successful coeducational youth sports programs. The competition, which is open to
boys and girls under the age of 14, is designed to promote athletic ability and
sportsmanship, foster developing talents and skills at soccer; and provide a fun
competition in a safe environment. Each competition consists of two contests: the
5-goal contest for youngsters under the age of 10, and the grid-goal contest for 11- to
14-year-olds. The object of both competitions is to accurately kick a soccer ball
through successively smaller goals. The smaller the goal, the more points scored. This
program, which became nationwide in 1999, is already drawing more than 200,000
Special Youth Programs
Nationally and locally, the Elks have worked diligently to better the lives of
handicapped youngsters. The Order has a long history of supporting Special Olympics
events, donating special equipment and supplies to the families of disabled children,
sponsoring the treatment and research of many illnesses that affect children, and
arranging for medical personnel to provide free in-home therapy services.
The BPO Elks, both at the local level and through its national Elks Drug Awareness
Education Program, has done stellar work informing the nation's youth and their
parents about the dangers associated with using illegal substances, tobacco products,
and alcohol. Since 1983, the Elks have distributed more than 250 million pieces of
educational literature to students, educators, and parents. In addition to their
educational efforts, the Elks work with other organizations and agencies to provide
youth with healthy and safe alternatives to drugs and alcohol. Local Lodges sponsor
drug- and alcohol-free post-prom and graduation parties and dances, as well as a host
of other activities. The Elks also provide financial support to law enforcement
agencies for their efforts to curb the growth of drug use and to encourage children
and young adults to make healthier decisions.
Scholarships and Grants
With monies from local Lodges and from the national organization, the Elks
typically donate approximately $8 million in scholarships each year. On the local
and national levels, Elks award scholarships and grants to Boy Scouts and Girl
Scouts; to exemplary high school seniors through the Elks "Most Valuable Student"
scholarship program; to the children of Elks through the Elks Legacy Awards and
Emergency Education Fund Grants; and to many other worthy recipients. The Elks
rank as one of the largest providers of college scholarships in the United States.
The Presidents' Summit for America's Future--America's Promise
In the spring of 1997, the BPOE publicly announced its goals for laying a solid
foundation for the leaders of tomorrow, making several pledges to America's Promise:
The Alliance for Youth. One of those pledges was to commit $31.9 million per year in
support of Scouting, athletic programs, and other youth organizations and programs
by the year 2000. The Order not only reached that goal but, in every year since 2000,
has actually surpassed it, due in large part to the efforts of local Lodges. Another
pledge made by the Order to America's Promise was to commit $12.1 million per year
in aid and treatment for children with disabilities as well as in drug education and
prevention programs by 2000--and this goal was exceeded long before 2000. The
BPOE also pledged to commit $6.5 million per year in scholarship/grants by the year
2000--another goal that the Order has surpassed.
Remembering Our Nation's Veterans
Since 1917, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks has demonstrated its
compassion for the veterans of our armed forces through a number of programs and
activities. The Elks realize that in every state, city, town, and village in our nation
there is a hospital, nursing home, or other Veterans Administration (VA) medical
facility that houses veterans deserving the utmost respect. And that is why the Order
made a pledge that "So long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective
Order of Elks will never forget them."
While visiting VA medical facilities, many Elks choose to entertain veterans by
hosting coffee and ward socials, magic shows, musical concerts, games, bingo, or an
afternoon or evening of movies. Often, Elks members demonstrate their compassion
and gratitude for veterans in the simplest of ways--by walking with a blind veteran
who sacrificed his sight in defense of the nation or listening to the stories that a
veteran has to tell. The Order not only entertains veterans but also provides much
needed supplies and equipment to the hospitals and a wide range of smaller amenities
to the veterans. Some items that are perennial favorites for the Elks to give these
brave men and women are greeting cards for holidays, birthdays, and all other special
occasions; envelopes, stationery, and first-class postage; lap robes, slippers, and
toiletry items; books, recent issues of pictorial magazines, and crossword puzzles;
occupational and manual-art supplies, including hides from the Elks Veterans Leather
Program; board games and jigsaw puzzles; fishing and golf supplies; small appliances
like radios, hot-air popcorn poppers, and televisions; and homemade cookies and
Local lodges that aren't close to a VA medical facility make sure that they remember
veterans residing in nursing homes throughout their community. These veterans,
like the ones residing in VA facilities, are often "adopted" by the Elks and invited on
fishing trips, sight-seeing tours, golf outings, ball games, or to the Lodge for lunch or
dinner. Veterans often are honored guests at a lodge's holiday celebrations or other
The Order's history of caring for veterans is something of which every Elk is proud,
and that pride shows permanently in the Elks National Veterans Memorial, an
awe-inspiring monument on Chicago's lakefront. Dedicated in 1926 to the memory
of those who had fought in World War I, the memorial was rededicated in honor of
the men who served in World War II. Rededications followed in 1976 for the
patriots of the Korean and Vietnam wars, and in 1994 for the men and women who
have served in all of our nation's conflicts since.
The Elks and Patriotism: Inspiring National and Civic Pride
Since the earliest days of the Order, patriotism has been among the many hallmarks
that make the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks stand out from other
fraternal organizations. With a membership composed entirely of US. citizens, the
BPO Elks is committed to promoting the principles of individual freedom,
opportunity, and dignity.
The Stars and Stripes
Elks have always been moved in the presence of the flag of the United States of
America, which is why, in 1907, Elks members adopted a resolution designating June
14 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 3, 1949,
President Harry S. Truman, himself a member of the Order, permanently designated
June 14 as Flag Day by signing an act of Congress.
But observing Flag Day isn't the only way that the Order demonstrates its deep
reverence for the banner that symbolically embodies the values of the nation. Many
lodges give or sell flags to worthy groups and provide training in proper flag
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.
Each 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.
At their 1983 national convention, the Elks passed a resolution endorsing the
Liberty Centennial Campaign's work to restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
and pledging its full support to the campaign. For its part, the Order vowed to raise
one million dollars in three years. Elks from across the country enthusiastically
responded to the Order's pledge, and by 1986 the Order had exceeded its original
goal, contributing more than $1.38 million to restore this treasured symbol of the
nation's promise of freedom and opportunity.
The National World War II Memorial
In 1999, the members of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks gladly approved
a resolution pledging an amount equal to one dollar per member to the National
World War II Memorial. The memorial, which has been built on the National Mall in
Washington, D.C. will preserve the memory of the more than 16 million people who
served in World War II, the more than 400,000 who died, and the millions more who
made other sacrifices to support those in combat overseas. The Elks exceeded their
pledge, generating more than $1.22 million for this monument of tribute.
In nearly 2,200 communities, local Elks lodges work valiantly to promote civic
pride. Local lodges regularly hold functions to recognize and celebrate the
achievements of local emergency services personnel, teachers, leading citizens,
educators, students, and government officials. Elks also demonstrate the pride that
they feel toward their communities by volunteering and making financial
contributions to local charitable organizations.
In Defense of the Nation
In times of war and international conflict, the Benevolent and Protective Order of
Elks has made considerable contributions to the nation's armed forces. The Order
considers its work done to aid in the defense of the nation as one of its proudest and
most lasting achievements.
World War I
Elks patriotism and generosity helped the nation to victory in World War I.
In 1917, the Grand Lodge allocated $2 million to finance efforts to assist U.S.
soldiers. The Order organized and equipped the first two base hospitals in France.
And to accommodate the maimed and wounded, the Elks built a 700-bed
Reconstruction Hospital and gave it to the War Department in 1918. This was
the first of what were to become the Veterans Administration medical facilities.
That same year, the Order built a 72-room Community House to take care of the
families visiting the 40,000 soldiers stationed at Camp Sherman, Ohio.
During the war, the Salvation Army was severely handicapped in its great efforts
to aid servicemen by lack a of funds. To make sure that this work continued, the
Elks undertook campaigns to raise funds for the Salvation Army, and on many
occasions the Elks assumed the entire coast of these undertakings. In addition,
at Christmastime in 1918, the Order gave the Salvation Army $60,000 to
continue its programs.
Following the war's end, the Elks made 40,000 rehabilitation, vocational, and
educational loans to disabled veterans who were ineligible for government help or
who were waiting approval of their applications. This service was so effective that
the government followed the Elks' example and established a revolving fund that
was the precursor of the GI Bill.
More than 70,000 Elks served in the armed forces during World War 1. More than
1,000 made the supreme sacrifice.
World War II
Throughout World War II, the Elks contributed to the war effort by
providing for members of the armed forces both at home and abroad. By
the time hostilities ceased, the Grand Lodge had spent more than $1.5 million,
while local lodges spent hundreds of thousands of dollars more to provide
assistance to our men in uniform.
During World War II, Elks lodges spearheaded local recruitment efforts, directly
helping to enlist more than 142,000 men into the armed forces as well as thousands
of construction specialists who dramatically aided the war effort. Additionally,
more than 400 lodges conducted refresher courses that qualified thousands of young
men for training as army flying cadets.
The Order also realized the need to boost the morale of servicemen stationed far
from home. Across the country, the Elks sponsored 155 Elks fraternal centers, where
GIs were invited to relax, socialize, and enjoy the hospitality of the Elks. More than
one million servicemen visited the center in New York City. For those serving
overseas, the Elks prepared and sent care packages containing candy, personal
grooming supplies, and other comforting items.
Korea and Vietnam
When war broke out in Korea in 1950, the Elks responded by sending gift packs to
those serving their country as they had done in World War II. In 1951, the secretary
of defense appealed to the Order for help in procuring blood for the wounded.
Within a few months, Elks lodges obtained more than half a million pints.
During the Vietnam War, the Elks again answered the call by beginning the Letters
from Home campaign. Elks members from across the country flooded our young
servicemen and women with letters expressing gratitude for the sacrifices they were
making on behalf of the nation. In addition to the letters, the Order provided care
packages to soldiers.
Operation Desert Storm and Beyond
As in previous conflicts, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks stood ready
to aid the men and women of the U.S. armed forces when the Gulf War
commenced. Once again, the Elks mounted a letter writing campaign to thank
these patriots for their dedicated service, and gift packs for soldiers were provided
as they had been in the past.
At the close of the Gulf War, many Elks lodges made arrangements to host
ceremonies honoring the brave soldiers returning from the conflict in the Middle
East, making the Order one of the first organizations to formally welcome these
And now the Elks have stepped forward yet again to help our armed forces.
Today the Army of Hope is charged with assisting the families of those in uniform
with their need's at home.
Through these programs and many others, the Benevolent and Protective Order of
Elks has truly established itself as a leading force