The Wetaskiwin Elks Lodge celebrated its 90th Anniversary with two events: an early afternoon BBQ with free hot dogs and pop for the public, and an evening supper with a program for Elks and guests. The free lunch was intended to show the community that the Elks Lodge is still here and is still serving. During its 90 years, the Elks Lodge has funded or helped support 25 local groups and projects, some on an on-going basis, as well as serving the community directly. One of its most recent donations was $25,000.00 toward the Manluck Centre, Wetaskiwin's new regional aquatics and fitness facility.
The excellent supper was followed by a varied, informative and enjoyable program. Gordon Walker, a “Past Exalted Ruler” (past president), gave a brief history of Wetaskiwin Elks Lodge #91.
Jim McLeod, “Grand Exalted Ruler” (national president), as guest speaker challenged the membership to find ways to grow and develop, as a Lodge and as an Order of both Elks and the Royal Purple, that will continue to benefit members,families and communities for another 100 years. He emphasized “It is in your hands.” Special recognition was given to two of the oldest members, Alvin Klause and Bill Holt. A cheque for $1,000.00 was presented to the national charity, the Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children. Humour concluded the evening, brought by Chris McKerracher with his unique comedy routine, followed by Bill Turner with “Pee Little Thrigs.”
Klause told about joining 55 years ago in order to play with the Elks' Ambassadors band. During the five years that the band was under the direction of a pianist and arranger with six years of navy band experience, it played for the annual RCMP Ball at Penhold, for a University of Calgary Convocation Dance, many dances at the Elks Hall, and for events sponsored by other clubs such as the Kiwanis, Kinsmen and Shriners. It was a musician's delight—working hard with long practices to get the sound just right.
The Elks Lodge had 107 members, virtually a list of who's who in the community, when it received its charter on June 26, 1924. That same year it built a hall that could accommodate up to about 350 people. For quite some time it served the community as the main hall in Wetaskiwin. When membership numbers dropped, the building was divided with the front part rented to the Alberta Treasury Branch. In 1979, the hall was sold to the Toronto Dominion Bank. In 1980, the Elks contributed $105,000.00 toward construction of the Seniors Centre which includes designated space for their meetings and use. The following year, the original hall burned down, and the space it once occupied is now the empty lot beside the Credit Union. John Schwonik, currently the secretary for the Elks Lodge, joined the Elks 45 years ago, in 1969, so that the Bavarian Band could use the Elks Hall.
The Elks Lodge, and its feminine counterpart, the Order of the Royal Purple, concentrate on raising funds in the community for the community, with an emphasis on children in need. Some of the local projects to which they have contributed are the Wetaskiwin Health Foundation, the Good Shepherd Lutheran Home, Water Tower Restoration, the Horizons Centre, and the Wetaskiwin Handivan Society. They provide ongoing support toward Leaders of Tomorrow, Wetaskiwin Special Olympics, Wetaskiwin Music Festival and others, as well as helping out in individual situations with things such as FM systems and computers for hearing impaired children, wheelchairs, wheelchair lifts, and hearing aids for children. Their own national registered charity, the Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children, concentrates much of its work in the area of hearing impairment and related speech and communication problems in children, contributing to ongoing clinical programs across the country. In Alberta, the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research in Edmonton was founded in 1986 with their endorsement and ongoing support. In 1992, the Wetaskiwin Elks Lodge was given the national award for the Highest Contribution to the Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children, $39,650.00.
The Wetaskiwin Elks Lodge # 91 is to be congratulated for its 90 years of service to the community, and is certainly a group to consider when looking for a place to work with others in making a difference.