The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks are starting a new order in Fort Mill. The closest Elks Lodge is in Rock Hill and more than two dozen men and women met recently at the American Legion to show their support and get started on forming the new order.
"The purpose of our first meeting is to see how many members are interested in forming an Elks club," said Tom Oddi, a member of the Elks for more than 25 years.
There were approximately 35 members in attendance at the meeting. The Elks must have at least 100 members to form a new order.
"We are looking for people interested in being more involved with their community." Oddi said.
Elks members are involved in charity work throughout the year and support local initiatives such as the D.A.R.E program in local schools, angel trees at Christmastime, food drives and helping residents in need - particularly the elderly and infirm - pay their home heating bills.
Mickey Brackett has been an Elk since 1963 and is currently a member at the Rock Hill order.
"South Carolina has 12 elk lodges and over 7,400 members," Brackett explained. "We would love to see a new lodge in Fort Mill. It is not only beneficial to our charities, but also to our members. We have many social parties and gatherings throughout the year that bring everyone together. We do a lot of good and have a lot of fun."
Brackett also said that once someone is initiated into the Elks, they are always an Elk. More than half of the people in attendance at the recent meeting were already members. Arthur Szymanski has been a member for 31 years and just moved to Fort Mill from New Jersey. "Everything differs from lodge to lodge, but their primary focus is the same - helping people. That's why I'm an Elk," Szymanski said. "We help children and disabled vets and it's all for a good cause."
Michael Pierce is a 13-year Elk and also one of the people heading up the drive to form a Fort Mill-based lodge.
"I'm excited to get this started in Fort Mill," he said. "We have a goal that we need to strive for, but we're confident in our current members in raising awareness about getting this new order off the ground. These meetings are open to anyone who wants to be an Elk, or those who are already a member. The sooner we get to 100 members, the sooner we can get things going in Fort Mill."
Want to be a member?
For more information about joining the Elks, call Michael