Almon community resident Larry Capes was elected president of the Georgia Elks Association in June at the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks annual state convention at Jekyll Island.
Capes said he joined the Covington Elks Lodge 1806 15 years ago because it was something he and his wife, Adrian, could enjoy together. His wife is a member of the Elks Auxiliary.
He said he had joined other civic groups, but never felt as drawn to one as he did with the Elks. Not only were the meetings a friendly environment in which to socialize, but also the mission of the organization appealed to him.
"We believe in charity, brotherly love, justice and fidelity," Capes said.The foci of the club — scholarships, drug awareness and veteran recognition — are also near to Capes’ heart.
"On a national level Elks give more scholarships than any other organization other than the United States government," Capes said of the $3.65 billion in scholarships the Elks distributed last year.
The Elks Hoop Shoot is also a big deal. Every year students who participate learn the value of healthy competition in one of four age divisions. School winners advance to county, district, state, regional and then national competition.
"The cool thing about being a national winner is you go into the Basketball Hall of Fame," Capes said of the plaque placed in the center at Springfield, Mass. Some national winners have gone on to be college stand-outs and NBA players.
Capes said every Newton elementary and middle school except for three participated in last year’s competition.
Elks also annually give dictionaries to every county third grader. In the spring they handed 1,667 third grade students their very own dictionary.
"You’d be surprised at the comments they make when you give it to them," Capes said, "like, ‘this is really mine?’"
Capes chuckles when he tells the story of one little boy frantically thumbing through his dictionary after receiving it. When his teacher asked him what he was looking up, the boy replied, "Burger King."
Every year Elks bring their drug awareness puppet show and educational trailer to schools and community events that will draw children. This year they will perform the puppet show at seven local elementary schools and in October members will pass out 20,000 red ribbons to students in the school system. Elks also sponsor a drug awareness poster and essay contest that win students cash prizes.
Capes said members often visit veterans in nursing homes and bring them goodie bags and small flags to decorate their rooms.
"As long as there is a veteran alive," Capes said, "we’ll be there to support him."
A local club endeavor is supporting the Elks Aidmore Children’s Center in Conyers. The center provides assistance for abused girls between the ages of 12 and 14. On Sept. 11, members will hold a golf tournament at Bear Creek Golf Course to benefit the center.
And last but not least, the Elks host bingo on Monday and Thursday nights.
Capes said the Covington lodge has about 215 members and 53 in the auxiliary — a large group for a Georgia Club. Anyone interested in joining the Covington Elks may call Capes at (770) 787-9499.