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l GER Michael Smith and his wife, Sandra, visited the Elks National Home in Bedford, VIRGINIA, to partici- pate in the ceremonial lighting of the home’s Christmas lights. The home’s Christmas light display draws more than 100,000 visitors each year. Visitors attending the ceremony were treated to Christmas carols performed by the Elks National Home choir, after which the GER had the honor of flipping the switch to turn on the lights. Among the other distinguished guests at the lighting was Tennessee Elks Association President Donald Jones, who is pictured here with the first couple.

Thanks to All Elks—A First Report

MESSAGE TO ALL ELKS was published in the last several issues of The Elks Magazine. It asked for ideas from Elks about how our 143-year-old Order can be changed and im- proved to better meet the challenges of the next 143 years. Membership is lagging, and who would know better than individual members the possible reasons for this—what is working or not working, especially at the lodge level. The response has been overwhelming. You had many excellent suggestions about how to improve our Order.

Of the hundreds of responses received, the great ma- jority were positive and upbeat. You said that the Order is a little behind the times, but that what the Order does is well worth preserving. However, as one member noted, “We cannot change and stay the same.” Hard choices must be made, including choices about our Ritual; the numbers of committees and programs needed at the lodge level; the numbers, terms, and titles of lodge officers; the feasibility of continuing auxiliaries; the need to ease delays in becoming a member; and much, much more. Everything was put on the table, and you re- sponded with sincere, thoughtful suggestions about how to improve our already great Order. The information you provided is invaluable, and we all can look forward with great anticipation to what it will help us accomplish in the future.

It should be noted that some suggested changes are already a part of the statutes that are available to all lodges. For instance, the laws of the Order allow a lodge to have a degree team (Sec. 12.130). In addition, a lodge can institute a reduced initiation fee for membership applicants under the age of 26 (Sec. 14.290). However, the Elks National Foundation cannot legally give or loan money to lodges! Many of you had hiring and policy suggestions for your own lodges, but the Grand Lodge can have little


impact on these issues. Others suggested opening the lodge bar to the public, which is illegal under the liquor laws of most states. An amazing number of you sug- gested not allowing smoking on lodge premises, but policies regarding smoking are set by local and state laws. Please discuss these matters with other members of your lodge, always keeping in mind what is fore- most—the improvement and perpetuation of Elkdom. Fully 75 percent of the responses, whether from young or old, mentioned that Ritual presents problems. Many initiates do not understand the archaic words used in the Ritual and are disconcerted during the ceremony. Lodge officers, who must memorize the Ritual, often find this difficult to do, and this requirement deters officer recruitment. Ritual team members incur travel costs associated with competitions, and the expenses some- times may be too much for the individual or the lodge. The responses concerning Ritual are surprising to some, but there it is.

Every letter and e-mail message you sent has been read, cataloged, sliced and diced, and considered care- fully. Serious consideration is being given to everything you proposed. The intent is not to gore sacred cows, but to preserve the Order, to make it attractive to those persons who share its service-oriented ideals, and to ensure it continues to be the best coed fraternal service organization in the nation. Due to publication deadlines for content submission to The Elks Magazine, recom- mendations based on your input cannot be published at this time; however, the Future of Elkdom Committee will continue to report to you as this monumental effort unfolds and will provide more information to you prior to the Grand Lodge Convention in Phoenix this year.

Thank you, The Future of Elkdom Committee 7

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