Trying to save an institution

Sep. 13, 2013 @ 01:38 PM

The members of Elks Lodge #568 are struggling to keep the civic organization alive. It has been in existence in Durham for well over a century, doing good works and providing fun and fellowship for its members.

But like so many other organizations of its nature and era, the group has found it difficult to engage younger generations. Member Jimmy Pulley said his own kids call it the “old folks’ club.”
And the members acknowledge the uphill battle they face in luring new and younger members. There are many more distractions these days, and different ways of engaging in the community than what the Elks Lodge has offered. And mention of the Elks Lodge evokes images of bygone eras with getting dressed up for dinners and dances, along with secret handshakes and brotherhoods.
But there’s also something to be said for finding a place where you can find friends and fellowship with people from different walks of life, while also doing things like sending care packages to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The Elks Lodge is working to bring its functions and its image into a more modern age. The Elks began admitting women in the 1990s. The membership is considering changing leadership titles, including making the grand exalted ruler just the president. (We’re actually rooting for keeping the original title in place, in this case.)
But the evolution of the Elks Lodge can’t take place without more people joining. The Durham Club, which had 600 to 700 members in its heyday, has dwindled to fewer than 70.
We hope the club will not have to close its doors, and will be able to continue to support causes in the community and beyond. So if you are curious about what the Elks do, and whether you might have fun hanging out at the club (which, by the way, got its start in New York, essentially, as a club at which people could imbibe), we would encourage you to attend Elks Lodge #568’s open house and dance Saturday night. The open house starts at 5:30 and the dance gets underway at 7. Who knows? You might end up, like Pulley, becoming a longtime member. “It was a fun time out and I made a lot of good friends,” he told Herald-Sun reporter Dawn Vaughan when he was describing years’ past with dances and kids’ sports events. We hope all who attend tonight’s events will get to share in Pulley’s experience and will help sustain the lodge for years to come.