Charitable and Patriotic Service
The primary object of the Order is the practice of Charity in its broadest significance, not merely that of alms giving. Its service in this wide field necessarily involves a great diversity of activities, which naturally are influenced by local conditions. It therefore early adopted the policy of permitting the Subordinate Lodges to select for themselves the benevolent endeavors in which they severally desired to engage, rather than to require them to participate solely in national projects undertaken by the Order as whole.
However, throughout its history, the Order has endeavored to maintain itself in readiness, as a national body, to extend its aid to cases of major catastrophe and misfortune. Through its official agencies in all parts of the country, it has been able to render such assistance with promptness, effectiveness and lack of red tape, which have tremendously enhanced the practical helpfulness of its adopted measures.
For many years the aggregate expenditures of the Subordinate Lodges for charitable purposes have run into the millions of dollars each year, covering humanitarian services of infinite variety. Among the most usual of such activities may be mentioned the following; food to the hungry; shelter for the homeless; clothing and fuel for the needy; milk for the under-nourished babies; medical attention to the sick; baskets to the poor at Christmas and Thanksgiving; outings for underprivileged; entertainment for shut-ins; education for young people; artificial limbs for the maimed; hospital beds; free clinics; night schools. And the list might be indefinitely extended.
All of the State Elks Associations have undertaken important and extensive charitable works within their own jurisdictions, determined by the particular members. They include but are not limited to, rehabilitation of crippled children, scholarships to worthy students, maintenance of orphans, boys' camps, training of the blind, eyeglasses for needy boys and girls, cerebral palsy clinics, cancer clinics, and other state wide projects of similar character and of equal worthiness, which are being carried on as continuing activities. No history of social service in the United States would be complete without an inspiring chapter devoted to the achievements of the Order of the Elks in this field. In the field of patriotic service, the Order of the Elks has likewise proved itself an agency of singular force and effectiveness.
Organized at a time when the bitterness and rancor of the Civil War had left their wounds on every heart on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, the Order patiently taught its members through the years, drawn as they were from all sections of the country, that bitterness ought to be sweetened; that rancor ought to be assuaged; those wounds ought to be healed.
Through the widening influence of its members, thus bound together by the ties of brotherhood, and thus fraternally schooled, the restoration of national accord was assuredly hastened, and a patriotic service of superlative importance was thus performed. Never an altar is erected in all its jurisdiction, but that the first emblem to benevolently be placed beside it is the American Flag. No person is permitted to stand in front of that flag and altar and assume the obligation of membership unless he or she is an American citizen. And at the close of every lodge session, he or she is required to renew his or her pledge of allegiance to that flag and all for which it stands.