The Dallas Examiner
Brotherhood and service are the hallmarks of the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World said George Coleman, Extreme Leading Knight of the Daniels Cross Elks Lodge #1578, located at 2444 Zang Blvd.
“We began in North Carolina 116 years ago,” he explained as he described the history of the African American fraternal organization.
“We are throughout the United States, Caribbean and Africa, and the Virgin Islands and Panama.”
Coleman also noted the Elks numbered approximately 450,000 members worldwide with a little over 3,000 female members called Daughters of Elks.
The website provides a glimpse into the larger history and purpose of the group.
“Fraternal organizations proved popular among African Americans for the same reasons that they proved popular among other Americans: providing financial, spiritual and emotional aid, they were invaluable to the communities they served. African American fraternities, however, had the added purpose of improving self-esteem,” it stated.
Another Elks chapter, Trinity Lodge #480, is located on Martin Luther King Boulevard. The Elks have been a consistent force within Southern Dallas for 40 years, Coleman asserted. The goals of the lodge remain in line with the national chapters.
“They all have the same objective and that is to service members, service the various communities in which they operate, and to assist people who need assistance,” he said.
Locally, those principals have translated to providing greater educational and occupational opportunities for neighborhood youth through a variety of initiatives and partnerships, he stated.
“Our lodge has sponsored the annual Easter egg hunt that is put on by the Moorland Family YMCA there on Ledbetter,” he said, adding that the event involves around 500 children every year. “They give the Moorland YMCA $1,000 a year for their program scholarship that they administer.”
Coleman also spoke about the efforts of the Elks in supporting the Christmas Angel Tree for both the West Dallas Community Center and the Boys & Girls Club of Dallas.
“We also do a thing called the Beauty and Talent Pageant,” he related.
The contest to select Miss Elkdom is held locally with winners continuing on to the state, regional and national competitions. It is primarily for young ladies who are high school juniors and seniors.
“Boys can do it but we don’t really encourage boys [since] it’s a beauty and talent pageant,” he said, laughing.
The Elks Oratorical Contest is also open to all high school juniors and seniors and features the same system of tiered competition as the pageant. Every year the national office will send out five current event topics and each contestant will choose one to study and speak upon.
“From discrimination to gun violence, to – you name it, just about,” Coleman said. “One of those types of topics, that child has to do research and prepare a seven to 10 minute max speech that’s given orally without notes.”
He described both scholarship contests as “a great way to involve young people.”
“Believe it or not, Martin Luther King was an Elks Oratorical contestant winner when he was a kid,” he stated.
Coleman also pointed out that the lodge members appointed a new leader in December. Dwaine Hall was elected to the position of exalted ruler.
Hall declared his vision for the organization “… we grow our enrollment of new members, increase community involvement and become more loyal to our families and the community.
“The first step in that direction is making the lodge available to the community; we are now open weekdays at 6 p.m. for friends to gather to socialize after work, community usage of the lodge for their meeting, and family events.”
Coleman felt confident that the lodge was in good hands under the new leadership.
“I’ve personally known Dwaine for over 40 years,” he said. “He came in [to the lodge] and immediately went to work. That’s about the key right there – are you willing to work?”
Coleman vowed that he was confident the work of the Elks would continue under Hall’s direction.