Members of the Ballard Elks Lodge No. 827 enjoy the fellowship, support and community reminiscent of the fictitious community of Mayberry within the hustle and bustle oft impersonal interactions found in our modern cities. Members shoveling snow of their elder members’ walks, members delivering meals to members recovering from medical procedures, raising relief funds for fellow members who’ve lost everything to a fire. Membership in the Ballard Elks means you know the server at breakfast as a fellow member, it means you know the people sitting at the next table, it means you know more people on the block you live on than you ever did before joining. Membership in the Ballard Elks Lodge means being part of a community that looks out for each other and stops to say hello. A membership that crosses generational lines and provides that feeling of community often lost in today’s modern society.
We are a water lifestyle community with many living on house boats and various watercraft around the Puget Sound. Recently a fellow member lost everything when their boat they live aboard caught fire and sank in a storm. Left with only the clothes on their back our membership stepped up and opened their wallets raising over $2,000 in just one day.
Recently, a member’s father went through heart surgery. A group of our members went out of their way to prepare meals for the family and deliver them to their door so they can spend time helping and worrying about their loved one knowing they have good meals and that feeling of their community supporting them and getting them through their hour of need.
Members will sit down at a local hop shop, strike up conversation, mention the Elks lodge and the other person either makes a connection to the lodge with a friend that is a member or makes a connection with the lodge because their kid plays little league baseball or their kid is involved in the lodges girl scout or boy scout troop.
Personally I can tell you a few items that happen and have happened to me:
1. Going out to breakfast in Ballard, well anywhere, you’ll find kind servers and wait staff for sure, but once you’re a member of the lodge and learn that the business owner, server or wait staff is a member you now know them by name, have a connection and get that Cheers-like “NORM” when you walk in their door for service. Seriously, it’s like walking into your grandma’s kitchen for lunch once your membership connection happens.
2. I’m sitting in the social quarters at the lodge, talking with a member about where I live and from behind me another member asks “Where did you say you lived? I live 3 houses down from you!” I had lived in this house for 4 years and never met this neighbor. Because of my membership in the Ballard Elks Lodge I knew another neighbor – we are now vast friends.
3. I’m out front mowing the grass between the sidewalk and the street and a truck pulls up and stops, the driver gets out and says “are you Ben Braden, your the loyal knight down at the lodge right?” I now know another neighbor that I never otherwise would have met.
4. I attend our lodge’s veterans dinner and sit at a table with some older members, members in their 90’s. I learn one of these members flew for the Army air corps in New Guinea and the other drove a tank onto the beach of Iwo Jima. Now I’m 46 years old and probably never would have crossed paths with these amazing gentlemen that live so near me if it wasn’t for my membership in the Elks Lodge. I then go on to learn that the tank driver lives around the block from me, I remember his house and comment to him how great it looks, how well he keeps his house. He looks at me and says “You know why it looks good?” “No” I say. “It’s because I bought the good shingles. I went to the mill and asked for the good shingles. I knew the manager there you know.” To which I reply “Wow, good work, where is this mill?” He reply’s “Son, the mill was in downtown Ballard, but its been closed for years. I bought the shingles before the I went off to war.” Wow. Ballard was once the Cedar Shingle capital of the world, but that was generations ago.
5. It snowed this winter. Yes, I know, we don’t know snow in Seattle (and thank goodness). But now that I know an elderly neighbor I finish my walk and walk around the block with my shovel to clear off their walk and drive.
Membership in the Ballard Elks Lodge No. 827 has given me that feeling of community that is so missing in today’s modern, congested and often cyber world. That “Hey, How are you” connection to the community that grounds a person and gives meaning to their every day life.