BRATTLEBORO -- Each year, the Elks hold a ceremony in which awards are presented to members for their excellent service.

As the outgoing exalted ruler of the Brattleboro Lodge of Elks, Frank Lopez says he gave out certificates to members who go above and beyond the call of duty.

"These are people you can call on all of the time," he said.

On April 12, the ceremony was held to recognize the past year's achievements and accomplishments of the group. But it was not only about the past year.

Elks Lodges are found in communities throughout the country. According to Elks.org, lodges are "places where neighbors come together, families share meals and children grow up. Elks invest in their communities through programs that help children grow up healthy and drug-free, by undertaking projects that address unmet needs, and by honoring the service and sacrifice of our veterans."

During his presentation, Lopez had given out several certificates that recognized members' continual assistance in the kitchen, beautification and decorating for events.

Claire Lavender was selected as "Elk of the Year." She received a plaque and a pin. Her work includes organizing and running a yard sale every Memorial Day weekend.

"Claire (Lavender) was one of the people in the lodge that stands out amongst the stand outs," said Lopez. "She's always there no matter what's going on or who's doing it. She's always one of the first people to volunteer to help."

Since Lopez became a member, he can recall one other time where a woman had won that particular certificate.

Mike Lavender, Ed Curtiss and Maynard Bush were each given certificates of appreciation from Lopez.

"Ed (Curtiss) has been running bingo for excess of 25 years and the others have been helping him for a long time," said Lopez.

Howard Lane was given a certification from Lopez for his contribution to the beautification outside the Elks building.

"He's the one that keeps our outside looking great. He does the flower beds and bushes," said Lopez.

New to the Brattleboro group but not to the Elks organization, Les Chadwick was recognized for making new signs that were installed in the front and on the side of the building. The latest signs contain flags from all the different branches of the military.

To receive these awards, Lopez told the Reformer a member does not have to do anything specific.

"It's about personalities, willingness to help and cooperation. It's just being yourself that really gets you the award," he said.

Lopez held the position from 2013 to 2014. He will now serve as a trustee for five years and plans to stay heavily involved. The next exalted ruler is Tim Johnson.

"It's a great organization. I would encourage anyone thinking about joining the Elks to find somebody to propose them," said Lopez.

The Past Exalted Rulers Association presented Curtiss with the "Elks Officer of the Year" certificate. The association decides as a unit who should receive this recognition.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.