By Mike Long
Three Elks Lodges from Orange County California took first place at the State level in their respective divisions for the prestigious and highly competitive award of “All American Lodge”. The winning lodges are from the cities of Santa Ana, Mission Viejo, and Orange. These winners are recognized for outstanding achievement in performance to their communities. These lodges will now advance to a National level competition with all 2000 Elks lodges in the country. The National winners will be announced in July.
The “All American Lodge” is the most prestigious annual award that an Elks lodge may receive. It is based on an objective scoring system that includes a lodge’s participation in a large number of community outreach programs. Many of these programs are mandated by the Elks National Statutes. Other outreach programs are specially constructed by each lodge to aide local people in distress. It takes a well-run and financially stable organization with a strong and dedicated membership to be recognized among the “best of the best” or an “All American Lodge”.
Scott Stephens, President of the Elks Orange Coast District received applications in March from four of the eight Elks Lodges in his district. Mr. Stephens reviewed the content and accuracy of each application then forwarded them onto Elks State Chairman for judging. Mr. Stephens had the high honor of conveying the news that three of his OCD Lodges received the highest scores for their division, the largest three divisions in the Elks. The 168 Elks Lodges in California and Hawaii State Association are composed of six divisions with each division based on lodge membership count.
Santa Ana Lodge #794 took first place in Division 4 (from 701 to 1100 lodge members). The Santa Ana Lodge opened a beautiful new facility at 1751 S Lyon St in Santa Ana with gorgeous facilities for membership, dining, and rentals. Led by Past Lodge President Dan Breece, the Santa Ana Lodge has increased membership, member volunteerism and is focused on even more community outreach events. Current Lodge President Lisa Darmousseh promises to build on their recent success and increase their positive impact on the city of Santa Ana and surrounding communities.
Mission Viejo-Saddleback Valley Lodge #2444 won first place in Division 5 (from 1101 to 1500 lodge members). The Mission Viejo-Saddleback Valley Lodge at 25092 Marguerite Pkwy in Mission Viejo celebrates its 50th anniversary since its Lodge Charter was granted in Sept 1970. Led by Past Lodge President Jamie Camunas, lodge membership increased and members’ median age got younger, all while still retaining traditional Elks values and strong volunteer participation. Mission Viejo Elks has teamed with other local charitable organizations and has made a significant impact in the Saddleback Valley community. Current Lodge President Greg Morgan and his officer corps kicked off this year with a $2000 contribution to the Second Harvest Foodbank and a $2000 contribution to the Laguna Hills Veterans Clinic. During this coronavirus lodge shutdown period, President Morgan is spearheading a lodge maintenance and remodeling program and is conducting a live internet video channel on lodge meeting night.
Orange Lodge #1475 once again took first place in Division 6 (more than 1500 lodge members). The Orange Lodge at 211 E Chapman Ave may have a small lodge frontage in downtown Orange but they have a large and proud membership. Led by Past Lodge President, Kealoha Arelliano, membership is growing, family-friendly, and dedicated to serving others. Orange Elks are well known to fellow Elks as perennial All American Lodge winners, thanks in part due to All American Lodge Chairman Bill Neessen. Orange Elks are extremely effective at running a wide range of charitable events to help improve lives in the city of Orange and surrounding communities. Current Lodge President Danny Salas is a warm and engaging leader that will inspire his membership to continue their good works and build an even stronger community.
All Elks Lodges are chartered by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE), whose National headquarters is in Chicago, Illinois. The BPOE is a charitable organization with a 152-year history of giving. “Elks Care Elks Share”.