Kelowna Elks plan to keep giving despite diminished community presence | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna News

Kelowna Elks plan to keep giving despite diminished community presence

Maria Sommer is the bartender at the Elks Hall on Kent Road in Kelowna.

KELOWNA - A shortage of parking was the final blow that drove the Kelowna Elks Lodge from its hall on Springfield Road that was home to a multitude of community events for more than 50 years.

The Elks Hall was a Kelowna landmark that hosted weddings, ski swaps, flea markets, bingos and more.

According to past president Al Blaquiere, it was the loss of bingo revenues in the 1990s that started the decline in revenues and membership. That’s when the provincial government changed gambling rules and stand-alone bingo halls were created.

The Elks realized changes had to be made.

“The building was about 45 years old and everything started needing replacement — a new roof, new equipment — and the bingo revenues were pulled away,” Blaquiere said.

Al Blaquiere is a past president of the Kelowna Elks Lodge 52.
Al Blaquiere is a past president of the Kelowna Elks Lodge 52.

It was felt, at the time, that the best option was to sell the hall, reap the profits from the land value and have the developer of the Invue condo tower provide the Elks space on its second floor with about the same square footage as their old hall. That happened in 2005 but it was a miscalculation.

“There was a lack of parking and a lack of support from the residents, many of whom were absentee owners,” Blaquiere said.

The Elks only had 11 parking spots on site, which was totally inadequate for wedding receptions and other large events that booked their hall. Revenues were not meeting expenses.

Under Blaquiere's presidency from 2015 to 2017, the decision was made to sell that space to a sleep apnea clinic and lease half their previous space, around 2,000 square feet, on Kent Road. While the Elks are making the new space available for rent, it doesn’t have kitchen facilities, so is mainly home to the service club's twice weekly meat draws.

Membership has fallen to about 90 members from a peak of 250, but it’s still viable, with five new members slated to be inaugurated next week. The ideal new member is 45 to 55 years old, his or her children have left home so they have time to enjoy a social afternoon with friends away from the noisy bar scene.

The Elks’ main fundraising efforts are through Thursday and Saturday afternoon meat draws where members and guests can buy $2 tickets for a chance to win a variety of meat packages while enjoying a drink and socializing with friends.

The Kelowna Elks Lodge 52 got its charter in 1936.

“In the USA, the Elks began with a group of actors and entertainers led by Charles A. Vivian, an Englishman,” states the Elks of Canada website. “They chose the name Elk because of the animal’s stately qualities. The framework of the organization was developed at a meeting in New York on February 16,1868 and spread rapidly, becoming one of the most respected and successful organizations in the United States of America.”

Elks of Canada started in Vancouver in 1912 and is not affiliated with the American organization.

The most visible remaining symbol of the Elks in Kelowna is Elks Stadium, home of the Kelowna Falcons baseball team.

Even with only a few public fundraising events (they do put on some hot dog sales at ball games), the Kelowna Elks still manage to donate about $13,000 a year to a number of local organizations.

Their key focus is on helping children with hearing impairments but they do respond to appeals from a host of organizations, such as food banks and women’s shelters. While many of their donations are relatively small, they did donate larger amounts to organizations like the Red Cross to help in the aftermath of the Fort McMurray forest fire.

Where does Blaquiere see the Elks in another 10 years?

“In order to maintain or sustain our purpose, we need to attract the younger member and inform them that what we are doing is great, even with the little that we do, and how we provide for the community at large,” he said.

There is a strong core of nine executive board members and the meat draws “run like a well-oiled machine,” so Blaquiere sees the Elks being around for quite some time to come.

Find out more at the Kelowna Elks Lodge website here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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