Representives from the Hot Springs Elks Lodge No. 1751 accepted numerous awards at the recent Spring Workshop in Huron, most notably the South Dakota Elks Lodge of the Year award. Pictured with State President Donald Mayes (center) are Hot Springs Elks member, from far left: Karen Phelan, Marylin Seramur, John Phelan, (Mayes), Brian Thies and Dorothy Seramur. Based on the memory of Hot Springs’ longtime members, this is the first time that Hot Springs has been presented the state’s top honor.
Hot Springs Elks Lodge #1751 wins top honor in the state of South Dakota, for possibly the first time ever
By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – The primary mission of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the U.S.A. is to persistently instill the principles of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity, and to demonstrate that “Elks Care and Elks Share.”
This past year in South Dakota, no other Elks Lodge from across the state demonstrated that more than Hot Springs’ own Lodge No. 1751, when they were named the South Dakota Elks Lodge of the Year at the recent Spring Workshop held in Huron.
Possibly one of the best ways to describe why the local lodge earned this honor would be to formulate a list of everything they do for their community.
But when one sits down and visits with a Hot Springs Elks Lodge member to learn about those things, it’s an almost easier task to make a list of programs that the Hot Springs Elks Lodge is ‘not’ involved in, than it is to make a listing of those that they ‘are.’
From coordinating an annual youth Americanism essay contest and hosting an annual awards banquet; to contributing to the Hot Springs Public Library, Ministerial Food Bank, Boys & Girls Club, Post Prom, Scholarships, and Pioneer Museum; to hosting events like the Kids Tent at the Arts & Crafts Festival to the Flag Day Ceremony, Hoop Shoot and Soccer Shootout; and programs for veterans at both the State Home and the Hot Springs VA, and much, much more – the Hot Springs Elks do many things for many people.
One of the unique programs for which the Hot Springs Elks are known for across the state is their Steak Nights, which they hold at the State Veterans Home the last Thursday of the month during the spring, summer and fall.
This program, which began several years ago, is funded through a $2,500 grant from the Elks National Foundation – one of many that the local lodge applies for and receives each year from the charter organization. With the funds, the Hot Springs Elks purchase steaks from Sonny’s Super Foods, along with side dishes that are prepared by Woolly’s Western Grill, and serve a feast to residents at the State Home.
A few years ago, as a way to reach more veterans and to help bridge the generations of those being served in the community of Hot Springs, the Elks began inviting veterans at the Hot Springs VA to attend as well.
The addition of the Hot Springs VA veterans – many from the Vietnam or more recent Desert Storm and Afghanistan era – interacting with the older veterans from the State Home has had a very beneficial result for all.
The most recent Steak Night, on Thursday night June 27, saw 96 meals get served, with about half of those for residents of the State Home and the other half patients at the Hot Springs VA.
Clarence Jerke, age 88, and Richard Bloom, age 58, were two of the veterans who were served that night.
Bloom, who traveled to the State Home in a van with a number of the Hot Springs VA vets, entered into the Home’s auditorium and immediately recognized Jerke, a resident of the State Home, and came over to say ‘hi’. The two U.S. Army Vets had met the previous month during the May Steak Night and made an instant bond, Bloom said.
Through a conversation during their first meeting in May, Bloom learned that Jerke was a Korean War veteran like his dad, and that both Jerke and his dad were born in the same year.
Bloom said he enjoyed attending the Steak Nights put on by the Elks because it allowed him a chance to give back to the veterans that came before him and get to know them better by listening to their stories. He said he hopes someday to be able to come to the State Home more regularly as a volunteer.
Jerke likewise said he enjoyed the Steak Nights and looked forward to them each month as way to have a good meal and socialize with people who have gone “down the same road” as him.
According to Hot Springs Elks Lodge Treasurer John Phelan, stories and comments like those of Jerke’s and Bloom’s is quite common. The following day after the Steak Night last week, John and his wife Karen Phelan – who both volunteer almost daily at either the State Home or Hot Springs VA – described a number of positive examples over the years of things they have witnessed at Steak Nights where the event has helped bring veterans together by providing a fun night of interaction. Last week’s Steak Night also featured a few games of BINGO afterwards as well.
In addition to the Elks Lodge of the Year Award won by Hot Springs, the local lodge also received recognition as one of only three lodges in the state with a gain in membership and first in the state with $48.15 per capita donations to the Elks National Foundation, which also placed Hot Springs 25th in the nation out of 1,900 lodges. South Dakota as a whole placed 14th in the nation in per capita donations to the Elks National Foundation.
The Phelans said the local contributions to the Elks National Foundation is returned to the community many times over, which is how they are able to do so much for Hot Springs.
The Hot Springs Elks Lodge hosts only one local fundraiser each year, which is a golf tournament held at Southern Hills Golf Course in September. Most of the rest of the funding they invest back into the community comes from membership dues and grants received from the National Foundation, the Phelans said.
Its a common trend seen across the nation with most fraternal organizations – enrollments are declining.
The same holds true for the Hot Springs Elks Lodge as a whole, especially when comparing to the robust memberships from decades past, which at one time were over 700 strong in the late 1960s. But despite this trend of declining numbers, the local Lodge is still better off than many groups, as they’ve been able to hold pretty steady with new members keeping up with the loss of some aging members.
Phelan, a 40-year Elks member (not all years in Hot Springs), said they have 128 local members and credits their focus on youth and veterans as being the key to maintaining a high level of interest with area residents. He added that the Hot Springs Elks Lodge is one of the most active of the 10 lodges in the state.
According to another longtime Hot Springs Elks Lodge member, and former State President of the South Dakota BPOE, Brian Thies, the Hot Springs lodge was founded in 1949. He said a few years after, the lodge purchased a building in downtown Hot Springs which they turned into their club and is where they held meetings and ran a restaurant and lounge with a dance floor.
It was located in what is now the Boys & Girls Club of Hot Springs, next door to Vision Source. A fire damaged much of the building in 1989, Thies said, but it was rebuilt and moved back into in 1991. About 10 years later, they sold the building which allowed the nearby eye clinic to expand.
Today, Woolly’s Western Grill, located along the Hwy. 18 truck bypass, is considered the Hot Springs Elks Lodge’s “club” and is where they host their regular meetings at 12 noon on the second and fourth Wedneday of each month. A few months out of the year, however, they only meet once per month, including July, August and December.
Officers for the Hot Springs Elks Lodge include: Dusty Bellew (Exalted Ruler), Marilyn Seramur (Lending Knight), Dorothy Seramur (Loyal Knight), Cathy Mosset (Lecturing Knight), Steve Becker (Esquire), Karen Phelan (Chaplain), Gerald Collogan (Innerguard), Brian Thies (Secretary) and John Phelan (Treasurer).