For our theme next year, I have selected a theme of making a difference and building awareness. We know that our purpose as Elks is to make a difference in the lives of those we serve. It’s easy for us to recite the various charitable projects our lodge takes on each year:
- Our Elks National Foundation Grant Projects
- Providing items to student at the Oregon School for the Deaf
- Providing Christmas Presents for the kids of Veterans and National Guard Members in need.
- Providing backpacks of school supplies to students in need.
- Serving our Veterans in the Lebanon Veterans Home
- Our Annual Veterans Day Lunch
- Our annual Veterans and Thanksgiving meals
- Our Annual Christmas Food Boxes.
- And the scholarship’s we provide to local students.
But the story of our service isn’t told in lists of projects or numbers of volunteer hours. It’s the hero in uniform crying with joy because they no longer have to worry about how to give their child a Merry Christmas. It’s the person without a home, thankful for a hot meal at Thanksgiving. It’s the tangible, positive difference our endeavors make in the lives of those we serve as Elks. That is the worth of all the long hours and hard work that we contribute. It is the reason the brotherhood of Elks and the Salem Elks Lodge exist.
And it’s that story we must tell the community in order to build awareness of the Elks. In a time of 24-hour bad news cycles, it is easy to focus on the negative and ignore the powerful acts of charity quietly carried out every day in every community. This gives us a perfect opening to tell our story and remind our neighbors that the Elks are still here, still making a difference for those in distress and still making this community a better place to live. By building awareness of the Elks, our charitable works, and our mission, we can begin to attract people back to our order and once again see growth in our membership after years of decline. We can also foster hope in the good that is being done locally and the power of a group of individuals, committed to making a difference.
I am confident that we will achieve great things together in the coming year. I hope you all with join with us in the work we have ahead. Thank you all again.
C. Blake Whitson