Elks Herd Folks In For Anniversary Bash

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
About 75 members and guests of the Benton County Elks Lodge 2783 gathered on Saturday, March 9, to celebrate its 25th year in the county. Lodge President, Dennis Schoen, made opening remarks before the noontime dinner, and gave a special welcome to charter member Lew Baough, and to Sherman Stroup who has been an Elk for nearly 52 years. Board members got together to ceremoniously cut the red and white anniversary cake, and afterwards, the Lodge Boys Band entertained the crowd. 
Several members agreed to talk about their years with the Elks. One guitar-playing member of the Band, Bobby Wyatt, said that he had played in the Lodge Boys Band since it started 15 years ago. Brenda Michael said that she has been a member four years, and that her husband (deceased) had belonged to the Elks before that. 
“We first came out here to dance and enjoy the people and activities,” said Michael. “After joining the Elks, I realized that they do a lot for the community. I spend a lot of my time helping Adults with Disabilities during the four or five outings we provide for them a year. I also help at Christmas when we give families gifts and food baskets. I come out to the Lodge once or twice a week for dancing and shuffleboard.”
Ruth Wallace signed up to be an Elk member during the anniversary party, after coming to the Lodge once a week to dance. Her mother, 101 year-old Dorothy Hinds, joined the Elks six years ago, and Wallace’s “significant other,” Sam Anderson, is an Elk from Clinton.
“The people at the Benton County Lodge are really nice,” said Wallace.
Dennis Schoen is in his second term as President of Lodge 2783. His personal goal for this year is to increase membership. 
“We have 170 members, which is a small lodge, but we do a lot and are friendly,” said Schoen. “If we grow and prosper, we can do more for the community.”
Schoen summarized some of the projects that the Lodge sponsors each year. 
“We did a summer picnic, winter bowl and spring dance with Adults with Disabilities in 2018,” said Schoen. “We sponsored Hoop Shoot for scholarships, gave dictionaries to third graders in the county, took some TVs and video equipment to the Veteran’s Home in Warrensburg to the Memory Care Unit, and also had an Octoberfest for them that they really enjoyed. We had the Dental Van last spring, for those in need, and made monthly visits to the Lincoln Nursing Home and gave gifts. Last year we gave them some special chairs that are soft and moisture wicking. We will give them some more this year.”
Schoen also reported that the Elks participate in Christmas for Kids, giving gifts to kids and enough food to adults to have a “full-blown” dinner. The Elks helped in the Smart Start Program, giving backpacks, and next year they will give paper products.  They made up gift boxes for deployed servicemen containing things such as toothpaste, decks of cards and dice games. And, they have bullet-proof vests on order for the Warsaw Police Department that should come in very soon. 
“The National Elks have a drug program,” said Schoen. “The older drug programs such as ‘Just Say No!’ aren’t around anymore. But, ours is active. We work with the DEA which has given us a grant, and we have a drug trailer that we take to youth activities where we hand out pamphlets.  We took it out locally at Halloween, and have given out coloring books to children. And, we have included anti-drug pamphlets in backpacks that we give out (Smart Start.) We take the trailer to Jubilee Days and Heritage Days too.”
If the Elks have any free time after serving the community, they can find friends to socialize with at their lodge that is open seven days a week. There is a bar, and dancing every Thursday from 1 to 4 PM.