More than $9M raised by local Elks since 1925

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BRATTLEBORO — Since its start in 1925, the local Elks lodge has contributed $9,148,550 to charitable causes.

"Charitable giving is identified as financial dollar for dollar giving of monetary amounts in support of charitable need as approved by the Lodge members," Henry Farnum, exalted ruler of Brattleboro Lodge #1499 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, said during a press conference last week.

The figure does not take into account volunteer hours of Elks members or the cost of maintaining the lodge and paying taxes. On average, the group has raised about more than $95,000 each year for charitable causes.

Farnum said the local lodge now has 824 members and Vermont has 7,600 Elks members in 12 lodges. He described the new Vermont Elks Association President Henry Diemer as "a successful, cooperative leader" and business owner.

Diemer, past exalted ruler of the Brattleboro lodge where he has been a member for more than 30 years, owns Best Muffler on Canal Street. He said he joined the Elks after receiving help from the group when he approached members about getting funds together for bus rides for the hockey team he coached. That dedication to the youth is one of the main reasons he cites for staying involved so long, as is the group's work with war veterans.

"This year, my theme — more or less — is a drive for membership," Diemer said. "Because nationally, as well as in Vermont, we have lost membership but we are rebounding very well now."

Gene Whitney, chairman of the local Elks scholarship committee and past exalted ruler to the Brattleboro lodge, said 16 seniors in the four high schools in the area will get a total of $12,000 in scholarship money this year. The funds are raised through tag sales, benefit dinners and member contributions. The Elks National Foundation also chips in some money.

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"We try to dish it out so everyone at least gets something," said Whitney.

This year, his group received 33 applications. Other Elks scholarships are available as well.

The Vermont Elks Association-run Silver Towers Camp in Ripton is another recipient of fundraising dollars. Diemer said the summer camp for disabled people of all ages is located in national forestland and counselors come from all over the world.

About 500 campers participate each year.

"They're fabulous," Diemer said. "They just enjoy the heck out of it when they come up there."

Recently at the camp, he said, a swimming pool was constructed and a foundation was replaced.

Farnum said the Elks' national organization was founded in New York City 151 years ago and the Brattleboro group's charter was issued in 1925 with 75 Putney Road becoming its home four years later.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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