Bingo brings people together at the Craig Elks Lodge | CraigDailyPress.com

Bingo brings people together at the Craig Elks Lodge

CRAIG — A sandwich board sign goes out each week to remind passersby of the bingo games to be had at the building that boasts a big mural of an elk on the outside and hearts of gold within.

The building is home — the local lodge — to the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the United States of America, a nationwide "charitable and patriotic" organization celebrating 150 years of service.

"To Elks, laughter is better than tears, and a kind word more powerful than a frown," according the New Member Guidebook. "The dream of a better world becomes reality when shaped by enough willing hearts and hands."

The local Elks Lodge is known for weekly bingo, giving about $2,000 each year to fund high school scholarships, $4,000 to support area food pantries and running a hoop shoot during basketball season, and volunteering in the community to support its motto: "Elks Care; Elks Share."

Nationally, the organization gives more than $60 million in scholarships, second only to the federal government as a source of funds, for said former exalted ruler of the club Frank Sadvar.

He and his wife, Doris, along with their family — including his daughter, current Exalted Ruler Michelle Gonzales — have kept the club going for the past 10 years on behalf of a little more than 60 "mostly old" members, Sadvar said, adding that more than 50 have enjoyed their 75th birthday.

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Age and attitude keep many from actively participating. In the 1970s, the local club boasted 900 members and was a fraternal order. When the lodge began accepting "dues," some members chose to stay home.

"We could get $16,000 for the community if they participated," Sadvar said.

He believes the drop in membership affecting all service clubs reflects a change in society.

"People don't feel the need to give their time to veterans, youth, and the community," he said.

The local lodge was incorporated in 1938 and purchased a one-story building at the corner of Yampa Avenue and Breeze Street in the 40s. A second story was added in 1958.

Sadvar said he still remembers the crane used to lift parts of the building into a place that boasts a full kitchen and, at times, has served as a pool hall, boxing ring, and ballroom. Space is still available for celebrations and celebrations of life.

New memberships and new partnerships are bringing people together for bingo and the club.

For the first time in about nine years, the club has a "full batch of officers," Sadvar said.

In April, the lodge formed a partnership with the American Legion Post 62.

"Both organizations are veteran and community oriented," wrote Legion commander Ed Wilkinson in an April letter to the editor.

Each week, the building is open for bingo. Doors open with food and soda available in the downstairs kitchen, which is sometimes run by Kim Jones, an Elks member who works in food services.

"I come to play bingo, and Doris was zooming around. I decided I wanted to help," she said. That prompted her to join the lodge and take over kitchen duties.

The Elks New Member Guidebook ends by stating: "We have become, in effect, the bedrock upon which all that is good in our nation is built … and will continue. Other segments of our population may weaken or falter in the years to come; we cannot and will not."

Looking around at the regular bingo players, Sadvar said, "I'm really looking forward to new blood in this place. I'm going to do whatever it takes to make this place run."

Membership costs about $69 per year. To learn more and obtain an application, drop by the lodge on Fridays, call 970-824-3557, email craigelks@craig1577.net, or visit elks.org/lodges/contactus.cfm?lodgenumber=1577.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Where to find them

Elks USA local lodge

Location: 43 W. Victory Way
Hours of operation: Meetings are the fourth Tuesday of each month, except July, Nov, and Dec when meetings are held on the second Tuesday.
Telephone: 970-824-3557 (Lodge), 970-824-3557 (Office)
E-mail: craigelks@craig1577.net
Website: elks.org/lodges/ContactUs.cfm?LodgeNumber=1577