By Katie Drake
Corks: Charity, Justice, Love and Fidelity
These four guiding principles have served as the cornerstones of one Little Falls organization for the past 137 years. Charity giving being one of the most important, continues to support many people and organizations in our City today.
It all began in New York City in 1867 when a group of actors led by a man named Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian decided to form a club (mostly because they wanted to dodge the Blue Laws to be able to enjoy a drink or two on Sundays.)
The group named themselves the Jolly Corks after a drinking game they played where a group of people would each bounce their cork off the bar and try to catch it as fast as possible. (Old school flip cup, perhaps?) Naturally, the last person to catch their cork had to buy the next round of drinks.
When one of their members died just before Christmas in 1867, leaving his wife and children destitute, the Jolly Corks decided that in addition to good fellowship, they needed a more enduring organization to serve those in need. Its charitable purpose came from that beginning.
In 1868 the Jolly Corks became established as the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks with Vivian as the leader. Its social activities and benefit performances made them popular, and membership grew rapidly. Soon there were requests for Elks Lodges in cities across the country.
When the Grand Lodge Charter was issued, forming a national organization, the founders then received the first local charter as NY Lodge No. 1 in 1871. It’s a cool thing to be a part of, and I’m proud to be a member.
Forks: The local impact here in Little Falls
Current #42 Exalted Ruler (the official title of Lodge President) Tom Overman leads with the principle, “Charity is the cornerstone for all we do.”
Recently, Leading Knight (Lodge VP) Mark Regan took the lead on writing three successful grant proposals, which were awarded to Little Falls Elks Lodge #42 from a grant by the Elks National Foundation in support of two other local organizations. It was Mark’s friend Dr. Sean Gallagher who grew up in Little Falls and is a Past Exalted Ruler of the Falmouth, Massachusetts Lodge #2380, that urged him to apply for the grant.
The Elks gave $4,000 to the Little Falls Food Pantry (hence the fork) through the Youth and Family Center. When you donate $1.00 to the food pantry, that gives them $4.00 of buying power. The donation equates to $16,000 the Food Pantry will use to support children, families, and Veterans experiencing challenges with food insecurity right here in Little Falls.
Across town, another $4,000 from the Elks was given to the Little Falls Public Library Literacy Program. This helps our library continue to further its impactful programming and resources provided to individuals, families, and children of Little Falls to promote literacy, learning, and knowledge.
The monies Little Falls Elks were awarded were made possible by the Elks National Foundation. $2,000 from the Gratitude Grant and $2,000 from the Spotlight Grant were allocated to the LF Public Library. The entire $4,000 given to the LF Food Pantry was made possible by the Beacon Grant.
In addition to the two grants mentioned above, our Elks supports many other organizations in our community and provides scholarships to local students, donations of support to youth activities like the Hoop Shoot, and support of patriotic activities like Flag Day and Veteran’s Day.
These are just a few examples of how much the Little Falls Elks Lodge does in the spirit of charity. The Elks have been guilty of what I like to call the “modesty branding challenge.” What I mean by that is that the Elks, like so many organizations, do so much here in Little Falls, and they tend to do it so quietly, which is a nice thing. The other side of organizational modesty is that incorrect common perceptions can form, such as the Elks is ‘just a social club.’
In fact, their goal is to be an inclusive community venue, and you’ve probably been there for something. The Elk’s beautiful and historic Victorian building hosts baby showers, weddings, parties, celebrations of life, American Red Cross Blood Drives, Scout meetings, Rotary meetings, fundraisers, school music performances, comedy acts, drag shows, local musicians, and so much more.
The Little Falls Elks lodge, like many nonprofits in town, is far from perfect and has had its share of struggles to stay afloat. While a staggering number of similar organizations have come and gone in Little Falls in the past 137 years, Lodge #42 continues to be resilient today. This can be attributed to the dedication and commitment of volunteerism from our impactful local leaders who serve as Exalted Ruler, lodge officers, trustees, and all manner of member volunteers over the years.
One of my favorite quotes from the member initiation ritual is, “The faults of our members, we write upon the sands.”
Mark Regan, the upcoming Exalted Ruler, said, “None of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes. When charity is forefront, it’s something we can all get behind to further develop comradery, pride, and community.”
The trustees and lodge leaders continue to hold the lodge in trust for those who come after them and are committed to a long-term vision that can see the lodge supporting our community for another 137 years. Their vision includes community, collaboration, and continuing the tradition of charity. Overman says, “The biggest focus of our charitable activity is to provide and maintain a venue for all manner of community gatherings.”
Loneliness and isolation continue to be a problem in our nation, exacerbated by the pandemic. Joining a group or organization can give you a sense of belonging, comradery, and the joy of being a part of something bigger than yourself. Anyone can and is encouraged to join our local Elks Lodge by filling out an application. Or simply come enjoy the lodge as a community resource.
From Corks to Forks, the Elks Lodge #42 continues to impact Little Falls.
Much of the historical information in this article was obtained from www.Elks.org.
Katie Drake moved to Little Falls in 2003 and fell in love with this city. She says she isn’t a writer but a storyteller.
The opportunity to highlight the great people of Little Falls and share her perspectives and some humor from time to time piqued her interest, and here we are.
Just ask her, and she’ll tell you that after growing up in Millers Mills, a population of 25+ (according to the sign), Little Falls was just the right size. Katie is the oldest of two brothers and five sisters.
In 2020 Katie and her best friend Chris began their greatest adventure with the birth of their sweet and sassy son Nolan who makes them laugh every day.
Katie loves to snowmobile, golf, hike, and travel in her free time.
If you have feedback on one of her articles or an idea for a story, please feel free to reach out to Katie at KatherineDrakeLF@gmail.com. She would love to hear from you.
If this article leaves you wanting more, or you are just bored, feel free to check out other articles she has contributed by visiting Katie Drake Archives – My Little Falls.
Katie – I don’t know if you outdid yourself with this article, but if you didn’t, you came pretty darned close!