So, you want to become an Elk? Get in line.
The Traverse City Elks Lodge – the fastest-growing and second-largest Elks lodge in the state – is signing up about a dozen new members each month.
Since April 1, BPO Elks Lodge 323, housed on Bay Street, has initiated 100 new members. Eighteen new members joined in October alone.
“It’s been pretty phenomenal,” says trustee Walt Muellenhagen.
And, the Ticker discovered, many fall into the age bracket that’s comfortable with things like Facebook and iPhone apps.
Here’s a breakdown: Of the lodge’s 1,226 members, 175 are under age 50, and 185 are 50 to 60 years old.
“We don’t attract a lot of 21 year olds, but we have parents who might bring in a son or daughter,” says Ric Kies, serving his third stint as exalted ruler, the highest-ranking officer. “What’s neat is we have more father-son combos now, so the father might be in his 50s and the son in his 30s.”
The dominate age group is still 60 to 70, but nowadays you’re more apt to see officers in their 50s, Kies says.
“When I was an officer originally, no one on the board was under 60.”
Membership rates at fraternal groups across the nation peaked in the 1970s and then fell off when liquor laws tightened up, Kies noted. The TC lodge had 1,500 members back in the ’70s, but membership dropped to 950 in 2000.
Since Elks aren’t allowed to solicit members, they rely on participating members to recruit others.
“If you have a happy membership, they bring in their friends,” Kies says.
One such recruiter is Keely Eagle Trombly, 38, of Traverse City. She originally joined because the lodge was within walking distance of her house.
“I'm a sucker for a good fish fry, and theirs is absolutely the best!”
It wasn’t long before she became PR chair of the lodge’s community-based activities.
“What I didn't expect was connecting with people simply because we are members,” she says. “I also had no idea how large of a charitable organization the Elks is on both the local and national level. I’m proud to be an Elk and proud to share the lodge with friends who generally become members because of their experience.”
Kevin Bavers, 33, executive director for the Northwest Michigan Chapter of the American Red Cross, joined the Elks two years ago to become involved in a community group and was soon chairing the blood drive committee.
“It’s a great group of people, and they’re very passionate about helping community,” he says. “Every lodge meeting we talk about what school we’re helping, what kind of activity is being sponsored. So, it’s very interesting.”
The Traverse City Elks Lodge gives $20,000 back to the community each year, including four $1,000 scholarships.
“I particularly like the fact that we strive to be of service to veterans and the kids,” Muellenhagen says. “The scholarship programs and the anti-drug programs we have are just fabulous, and the programs we provide for veterans are amazing.”
Like to join? Learn more at http://www.elkstc.com/