While other lodges have come and gone, boomed and busted, the Raymond Elks lodge has been “solid as a rock” for the past century, one of their former leaders said.
Joe Basil, current lodge secretary and former exalted ruler for the Raymond Elks, said his lodge has never been one of the biggest, but at 675 members, it hasn’t waivered much from its peak of 760 as many other community service organizations have experienced a decline in recent years.
On the cusp of its 100th anniversary celebrations Oct. 12-13, the Raymond lodge has issued only 3,999 memberships. Tacoma, by contrast, has had more than 10,000 members, but now has dipped to less than a fifth of that.
And Raymond Elks are not just steady, but resilient: Two fires have torched the lodge, one in 1949 and another in 1971 that required the Elks to rebuild.
“We lost a lot of history when we had that fire,” Basil said.
But they did rebuild on the same location, finishing work in 1973. They’ll kick off their anniversary celebration with the dedication of a new flag pole, replacing one damaged when a vehicle apparently struck it.
The thick, bound book of original minutes from 1912 is a little charred, but still readable, Basil said, and shows life with the Elks wasn’t much different a century ago. Then as now, their focus was reaching out to the community, particularly children and veterans.
The primary project for Elks in Washington state is the Elks Therapy Program, providing free occupational and physical therapy to children with disabilities or developmental delays.
This year, the Raymond Elks were in the top five fundraisers statewide for the program, and last year hit No. 2.
That’s one of the main changes Basil has seen in his 34 years as an Elk: the Raymond lodge has made a real effort to branch out and expand its efforts in the community, he said.
Starting this year, the Raymond City Council has proclaimed Oct. 12 “Raymond Elks Day” for the next 100 years.
For the anniversary celebrations, the dinner Friday night is already sold out, but a banquet Saturday night at the lodge will feature music from the Dukes of Swing. The Elks will also offer tours of the Northwest Carriage Museum, the Pacific County Courthouse and Coast Seafoods Company. Former exalted leaders will gather on Saturday along with national and state presidents to talk about the organization and its history.
Raymond Elks Lodge 1292 is located at 326 3rd St. For more information, call 942-1292.