We live in the time of “Bowling Alone,” a book that told us in 2000 that civic engagement has been in decline in this country for decades. It seems that people today are less likely than previous generations to vote, attend a public meeting, serve on a local committee, join a union, volunteer for the Red Cross, or otherwise participate in the civic life of their communities.
If that’s true, then Wallingford Elks Lodge #1365 somehow missed the trend. In 1919, 133 men formed the Wallingford lodge. Today, the lodge (which is part of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, a fraternal order and community service organization founded nationally in 1868) has 1,223 members, including about 400 women. About 125 members gathered recently to take a commemorative photograph for the lodge’s 100th birthday.
And if civic engagement is in decline, don’t blame the Elks.
“We keep this operation running and keep it growing, but the most important thing we do is give back to the community,” said Lodge #1365 Exalted Ruler Ray Lilley, a member for 17 years. Lodge members log thousands of volunteer hours, he said.
The 31 Elks lodges statewide — including #35 in Meriden and #1669 in Southington — give to community groups that support police, firefighters, first responders, drug awareness, veterans, and children, including the Connecticut Children's Medical Center and the Special Olympics.
All we can say is: Well done! Happy 100th birthday to Wallingford Elks Lodge #1365. Best wishes for another century!