Four local nonprofit agencies were presented with contributions from the Salina Elks Lodge.
Recipients sharing in $3,000 from the Elks National Foundation in Chicago — Gratitude Grants of $750 each — were the Salina Emergency Aid Food Bank, 255 S. Chicago; Ashby House, 204 S. Eighth; Saint Francis Ministries, 110 W. Otis; and Salina Shares, 155 S. Fifth.
The local Elks Lodge has given more than $1 million to the community since it was chartered in 1901, said Gary Hindman, the local exalted ruler, or lodge president. Lodges across the country donate to the Elks National Foundation.
“When we got the grant, we elected to distribute that to four different services,” he said. “It’s our way of giving back.”
The food bank provides food to those in need. Ashby House is a full-time homeless shelter for families and individual women. It’s mission, according to the website, is “to restore hope to individuals and families facing homelessness or housing instability by breaking the cycle of poverty and addiction.”
Saint Francis Ministries provides faith-based child and family services with a number of programs that “help survivors of child sex trafficking, adults with disabilities, people wanting to break addictive behaviors, and families trying to stay together,” according to saintfrancisministries.org.
Salina Shares provides “acts of kindness” with volunteers and basic needs in the community.
“They give out household items, clothes, laundry soap and so forth, and quarters to operate machines at laundromats, which I thought was very unique,” Hindman said.
Salina Lodge 718 currently has 65 members. When he joined in 1957, it boasted nearly 6,000 members.
“Most merchants in those days really encouraged their employees to belong to a fraternal organization, soothes could interact. That’s what really encouraged the membership. It was that way for many years,” said Hindman, 84, a retired Salina Police officer for 28 years, after eight years as a Salina firefighter. He also logged four years as a Saline County Commissioner.
The local Elks Lodge also sponsored up to eight baseball teams.
As times changed, the Salina Elks Lodge transitioned from a social club to a civic organization, Hindman said, and membership dropped.
“Our lodge was on North Seventh Street, a three-story building,” he said. “Our board of trustees decided they needed a golf course.”
The lodge building was sold and an 18-hole golf course was purchased near North Marymount Road in 1958, and was renamed Elks Country Club.
“You had to be an Elk to belong and play golf,” Hindman said. “Eventually we got upside down in trying to manage it financially, and finally had to sell the property.”
The course today is dubbed Great Life, and the Elks Lodge began changing addresses, first in back of the Bennett Auto store off Broadway Boulevard. Owner Ralph Bennett, a life member of the Elks, donated use of the space.
“All we had to do was pay utilities.The whole purpose was maintaining our charter,” Hindman said. “When Ralph sold his business in 2020 we were advised by the new owners that we would need to begin paying rent. We moved out a couple years ago, and were homeless.”
After a short stint at The Temple on South Santa Fe Avenue, the Elks Lodge found another permanent home on East North Street.
Annual membership dues of $84.25 support the state and national associations, plus local philanthropic activities. For information on how to join, visit elks.org.
The Elks also award local scholarships to the sons, daughters and grandchildren of members, and there are national scholarships as well. Mary Ann Tanking is the Salina scholarship chairperson.
“We support the veterans clubs and KETC (Kansas Elks Training Center for the handicapped) in Wichita,” Hindman said. “It’s a great organization.”
Since joining the Elks at age 21, Hindman has served as state president, been named Elk of the Year, spoke twice at the national convention in Chicago, and served on the KETC board.
Next up for Salina Elks Lodge No. 718 is the Elks National Hoop Shoot, Jan. 7, 2023, at Trinity United Methodist Church, 901 E. Neal. The basketball free throw contest is free to kids from 8 through 13, with boys and girls divisions.
“It doesn’t cost anything to participate, and we pay expenses to kids who need a ride.” said Gary Hindman, Elks Lodge president.
Local winners will move on to the Northeast District level Jan. 16 in Atchison. From there, top free throw shooters will compete at the state level Feb. 4 , and move on to regionals March 18 in Colorado Springs. Nationals are April 22 in Chicago.