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Stacy Drake
Nevada City Elks pull back the curtain
Service organization invests heavily in youth, military veterans
Recently, I met with Kevin Fraser, Betty Dalpez and Bill Mueller to ask about the Elks Lodge in Nevada City. I was curious because in all my years of living in Nevada City, attending events of all kinds at the Elks Lodge and knowing people who were Elks, I realized I knew almost nothing about the organization.

“Nobody does,” Exalted Ruler Kevin Fraser said. “Until a year ago, Elks were not encouraged to discuss the Elks organization or the goings on in the lodge with outsiders.”

Though not a secret society, this tight-knit organization kept their community contributions quiet, Fraser said. “Now that has changed, and we are allowed to let the community know what we are doing and that anyone can join our active and fun group.”

The Elks began in 1868 in New York City when a group of thespians decided they wanted their own club. Since they were all English and all drinkers, they decided to call the club the Jolly Corks. Later, it was decided to change the name and the finalists were Buffalo and Elks. In the spirit of the club, the decisive meeting was bathed in alcohol.

The name Elks prevailed when the leading proponent of Buffalo passed out while under the influence. The seven men still standing then voted for Elks.

However, the group decided to change its focus when one of its members died. In the wake of that loss, the members provided financial support for their fellow Elk’s widow and his children, which spurred the transition into the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks (B.P.O.E.) Because group members were traveling actors, Elks Lodge #2 was formed in Chicago, then #3 in San Francisco. Chicago is home to the Elks headquarters, known as the Grand Lodge. New York remains Elks Lodge #1.

Elks Lodge #518 in Nevada City continues to uphold the rich history of the organization. The Nevada City charter was formed in 1899 and the local Elks helped Reno, Grass Valley and Marysville get their charters.

Until 1995, the Elks owned the downtown Nevada City building that Friar Tucks was in before a fire in the late 1990’s. Its new location on State Highway 49 is just outside of Nevada City - with plenty of parking and a 400-plus person capacity.

Today, the Nevada City Elks Lodge is 310 members strong and welcomes both men and women as members. If you are a lady, you could also join the Lady Elks, an auxiliary group that helps with special events and fundraising.

“I’m a Lady Elk, and I love it. I don’t have the time to be a full Elk, so this fits perfectly for me” said Betty Dalpez, who oversees the monthly Betty’s Spaghetti Night dinners. The next dinner will be served beginning at 5 p.m. on Monday, July 17, at the lodge.

Nevada City Elks - like all Elk Lodges - has mandated community service goals handed down by the Grand Lodge. Many address veteran’s and children’s services issues. Nevada City Elks is active in both areas.

Every May, more than 200 California and Hawaii lodges (CHEA) hold a state convention and present money collected throughout the year at the individual lodges that goes directly to the “Purple Pig” children’s program fund. In 2016, the fund provided over 45,000 pre-school eye exams that led to 7,000 children learning they needed additional vision care. The Elks also provide children’s speech, physical and occupational therapy assistance and have 32 therapists employed by them.

The California – Hawaii Elks Association ‘Major Project’ also is efficient with their money as its administrative costs for the Purple Pig program are just 7 percent, compared to a recognized average of 35 percent, according to Fraser. This year the Elks will hold a variety show as a fundraiser for the Purple Pig project.

Helping military veterans is also a top priority for the Nevada City Elks. Recently, they used their own funds to buy sleeping bags and supplies for veterans in need. “Welcome Home Vets” distributed the items. The Elks’ annual Thanksgiving Dinner is a major fundraiser for their work with veterans. They also take meals to the Veterans Administration hospital in Reno. The Elks in general are the number one grantor of scholarships.

Other events and fundraisers held at the lodge include an annual Easter Egg Hunt, Hoop Shoot, Dictionaries for Schools, monthly dinners and live entertainment - all open to the public.

To find out more about the Nevada City Elks, please call the lodge at 530-265-4920 or visit nevadacityelks.com.
Photo by Stacy Drake
Exalted Ruler Kevin Fraser (left), Betty Dalpez Mueller and Bill Mueller stand in front of a display of past Elks Lodge # 518 VIPs.