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A Helping Hand in Troubled Times: The Elks and Disaster Relief

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 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 800,000 men and women in more than 2,000 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 nation.

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.