By Andrea Shiell, County Times
HOLLYWOOD, Md. (Aug. 21, 2008)—John J. Winters calls himself the president of our local Elks Lodge, but really, within the organization, he is an Exalted Ruler, with all the honors and distinctions befitting the head of one of the countys best-known community organizations.
Still, for an exalted ruler, Winters remains humble. Winters is the 50th president at the Elks Lodge in St. Marys County, located off Chancellors Run Road in Lexington Park, and as such he has been busy putting together this years 50th Anniversary Gala, which took place last weekend.
The event included a seafood dinner, comedy shows, karaoke, poker, and auctions, all of which culminated in Saturdays formal reception dinner, where over 300 absent members were honored. Additionally, a nursery next to the banquet hall was dedicated to former president Patrick N. Stanley, who was initiated into the St. Marys County lodge in 1969, and who served as president from 1989-1990.
It was a jam-packed weekend, Winters said laughing.
All this dizzying activity is nothing new for the lodge. Nationally, lodges across the United States have been among the first to establish field hospitals, starting in World War I and every subsequent conflict in which the United States has been involved.
Our main thing is veterans, explained Winters, adding that patriotism and support for the troops have remained a cornerstone of the organizations commitment.
Equally important are the orders programs for youth.
Last year the lodge awarded $4,000 to five local high school students for college tuition, Winters said. Three of these individuals went on to the state and national level obtaining a combined $45,000 in scholarships.
Winters went on to explain that the St. Marys lodge also houses Boy Scout Troop #561, and supports a swim team with over 65 young members throughout the summer.
The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks (BPOE) was started by a group of actors from New York City in 1867, and has since grown to establish over 2,000 lodges across the United States, 30 of which make up the local State Association with lodges in Delaware, the District of Columbia, and Maryland. Nationally, the Order boasts nearly one million members, more than 300 of whom reside in St. Marys County. The St. Marys County lodge has been in operation since 1957.
Winters said the Order will sponsor a Labor Day Weekend pool party Sept. 1, which will be open to the public, and the lodge will continue to offer Texas Hold Em Tournaments twice a month, in addition to more comedy shows in the future.
Were always looking for new members, Winters said, adding that women are also welcome to join. He said he felt it was important to remind people that women have been allowed to join since 1995.
Those interested in joining the lodge are encouraged to pick up and application from their site off of Chancellors Run Road.
Winters explained that his favorite part of being a member was his ability to help the community.
We are proud of the dedication and commitment of the members to the continued growth and prosperity of our Order, Winters said. We are looking forward to years of continued service to our community.