Local Elks president talks about group's mission, charity work

While the Elks Lodge can most often be thought of as a resource center for seniors and a group that raises money for veteran organizations, the Encinitas lodge's president recently explained the group actually does so much more.

Lori Clark, a former software engineer who was an Elks member for six years before becoming president, has been focused on growing membership, increasing involvement in charity work and raising awareness for the lodge at 1393 Windsor Road in Cardiff.

She sat down for a recent interview to further explain the Elks' mission and how it helps the local community, as well as a host of charities.

What kind of charity work is the Elks Lodge in Encinitas involved in?

With the Elks, we have a few different charities that we try and benefit. We have our Elks charities and support children in need. The funding the lodges raise go toward paying vision therapists, occupational therapists and physical therapists who go into homes of children who are in need and may not otherwise get those services nearby where they live. There are also the vision programs, which are brought to communities to look for specific eye diseases.

Why are these causes important to you?

I have children. Seeing children suffer in any way just tugs at my heartstrings. It was attractive to me that the Elks had these children's charities because most people associate the Elks with veterans' charities.

The Elks group also holds charity bingo every Wednesday. What role does this play in your fundraising efforts?

Bingo is one of the primary ways that we raise funds to give out in our community to local projects, worthy projects and worthy charities. [In 2017], we donated to a veterans' charity called Us4Warriors. Half was from our bingo charity and half was from a grant that we received from the Elks National Organization, which has a foundation. We're looking to fund other local charities in our community. We have a Parkinson's group that meets twice weekly, and we're now considering funding for that to pay for their exercise instructor that comes in and equipment they need for the year. Real local things like that which benefit local citizens are the things we're looking to do.

How much has the Elks raised?

For our Elks National Foundation, we're asked to raised a certain per capita per member. We've exceeded that [in 2017.] We're probably in the neighborhood of close to $5,000 [in 2017] and our children's charity varies from year to year, but the California Hawaii Elks region overall raises more than $1 million that goes to fund that charity. Locally, the last two years, we've been the top of our district in fundraising for that charity. The last two years have been over $15,000 each year. Bingo on its own raises in the tens of thousands each year. That doesn't include the cash and donations that we collect for our veterans' charities. ... With all that, that's probably $40,000 a year.

What plans do you have for 2018 for the Elks?

We'll have a fundraiser for [our children's charities] on March 3 that will be probably the biggest fundraiser we do for that charity. We're also going into our planning time of year because the Elks year management-wise changes April 1. In February, we're going to be planning our events for the year, including all our fundraising events and will also be getting together our grants, charities and community service groups together to discuss all the ideas for the coming year. ... We want to get more involved in the community and let them know what we do and what we can do.

If people want to help further the Elks’ mission, such as donating money, what should they do?

Our national website is www.Elks.org, and there's a membership section they can click on. Elks.org is really where they can learn all about the great things that Elks do, or they can also call our lodge at 760-753-2243 and just say they're interested. Anybody is welcome as my guest to come in and check us out.

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