CLEARFIELD – For the second time in their approximate 100-year history, the Clearfield Elks have elected a woman to lead their organization.
On April 10, Kimberly Kaschalk was installed as the new exalted ruler of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) Lodge 540 for 2018-19.
As exalted ruler, she is the lodge’s highest member. She is only the second woman to ever govern the lodge; Bev Lawhead was the first 12 years ago.
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, often known simply as “The Elks,” offers more to local communities than a lodge for gatherings.
The organization invests in charities that help children learn while growing up healthy and drug-free; meets the needs of veterans; and improves lives while showing “Elks Care and Elks Share.”
Around three years ago, Kaschalk and her husband were invited to join the Elks. Together they completed the application and initiation processes.
Shortly after her initiation, she was approached about serving as secretary. She declined the opportunity in order to learn more about the organization first.
“I wanted to try to find my niche,” she explained, noting that, “… There’s so much more to the Elks than functions to gather at with other members.”
Late spring that year, a lecturing knight was needed to oversee the Flag Day ritual. The Elks have always prided themselves in their patriotism, and so Kaschalk agreed.
As her first year of service came to a close, she was approached about remaining an officer. She took the chair of loyal knight, the third in command, who plans a special Mother’s Day event.
She saw her involvement growing and began to consider serving as exalted ruler when she realized how little was known about the Elks’ commitment to their communities.
She said this inspired her “crusade” to raise awareness of the Elks and she committed to being exalted ruler after receiving encouraging words from past exalted rulers, including Lawhead.
Like the chief executive officer of a company, the exalted ruler leads local meetings, attends district, state and national conferences and keeps the lodge’s committees up and running.
While the Clearfield lodge has a lot of dedicated people “behind the scenes,” Kaschalk has challenged others to do more than hold their membership cards and to find their niche like she did.
She has invited members to attend monthly meetings and to learn about the Elks’ various committees and programs. She said members are free to choose their areas and level of involvement.
One opportunity, she pointed out, is the High Country Arts & Craft Fair that the Elks hold each year. She said members can volunteer and all funds raised benefit various local charities.
Kaschalk hopes to spark more local interest in the organization in order to grow new membership and involvement, especially on the part of women and young adults.
She also wants to rejuvenate some of the Elks’ old youth and Drug & Alcohol programs.
She said for most part, she plans to stick to the Elks’ rituals but does feel those could be modernized some. She’s invited members to give input on how to better the organization.
“I saw an opportunity to make a change,” Kaschalk said of becoming exalted ruler. “… Whether my term is one year or 10, I want people to say I tried to make things better.”
About the Elks:
Founded 150 years ago on Feb. 16, 1868, the Elks organization was originally a New York City social club under the name the “Jolly Corks.”
Its founders were comprised of 15 actors, entertainers and others associated with theater. Later, its membership expanded to other professions.
Today it is one of the leading fraternal benefit orders in the United States, boasting nearly 1 million members and 2,000 lodges.
The Elks is a generous charitable foundation that each year gives millions in scholarships, an inspiration to youth, a friend to veterans and more.