The Coventry-West Greenwich Elks Club #2285 located at 42 Nooseneck Hill Rd., West Greenwich is trying to keep up with a myriad of societal and cultural changes since its inception in 1963.
The Coventry-West Greenwich Emblem Club #436 –the Elks’ sister organization formed in 1995- also has changed with the times. Once a separate organization for women relatives of Elks Club members, the Emblem Club now accepts men and women to work in synch with the older club.
Elks Clubs promote Americanism, community service, drug awareness, education, literacy and provide college scholarships to sons and daughters of members,” says Gina Kingsborough, new Elks’ Club Public Relations Director.
But officials say it is getting more difficult to maintain their acts of kindness, charity and public service in the community as expressed in the Elks Club motto, Elks Cares, Elks Share.
“We are hoping to increase the membership for the Elks and Emblem Clubs,” said Kingsborough. “We would like to get more young members to be more involved and active.”
“There is always so much hardship in the community,” Besson said. “But we give anyone who wants to be a member of the Elks or Emblem Club a great opportunity to give back to the local community.”
Youth is served locally through programs that include the yearly Elks Hoop Shoot Free Throw Program, the Soccer Shoot, an Americanism essay contest and more. Each year the Elks National Foundation provides more than $365 million in college scholarships to graduating high school seniors.
“School supplies have been provided to and the Emblems Club have also participated in scholarship and literacy programs,” explained Besson, also a current Emblem Club member.
But veterans, seniors and the needy also get lots of attention from the clubs. “We visit the Bristol Veterans Home for men and women regularly,” she noted.
The two clubs also collaborate on the solemn and informative occasion of Flag Day
“The biggest decline has been in raising money for veterans’ causes,” said Besson. “If you are a veteran and want to get involved, we invite you to apply and join us.”
“One thing we are looking at is inviting more motorcycle riders,” says Gail Levesque, former Elks Exalted Ruler. “We already have Elk members ride motorcycles who participate in the statewide Toys for Tot campaign. So this might be a ‘hook’ we need for our local chapter.”
The general public also gets a chance to participate or visit the lodge for various parties and lodge functions on a busy calendar that fills up many weekdays and weekends throughout the year. Money from most of the events goes toward charities.
Club officials are optimistic that membership will increase. For example, the Elks December Open House was a rousing success, attended by 120 people. “We got applications for four new Elks members and picked up two new Emblem members,” Kingsborough said.
Among the most well-known Elks members are Reginald Centracchio, former RI Adjutant General, who runs the Wounded Warriors Program for injured veterans, and Lori Ashness, Chief Master Sergeant in the RI Air National Guard.
“We have lawyers, doctors, veterans and people from all walks of life,” explained Elks Club webmaster Tim Gore.
To become an Elks or Emblem Club member, a person must be sponsored and recommended by at least two current members. Prospective members can be as young as high school seniors. “You must be an upstanding citizen, have belief in God and have no criminal record,” Besson noted.
Males or females can join the Elks or Emblem Club. Dual membership might be difficult, though, considering fewer members are contributing more and time. “It can be a lot of hard work,” acknowledges Besson. “But it is very rewarding and fun.”
For more information, contact Kingsborough at 397-3700 or 644-7366.