Gulfport Elks Lodge 978 celebrated 100 years in July 2005 and a month later the site of countless dances, meetings, bingo games and lobster boils was gone.|
"The Gulfport Elks are down, but they are by no means out," said Dean Fadden, lodge secretary.
Last week, a For Sale sign went up on the Hurricane Katrina-bashed land at 1800 East Beach Blvd. But that's not the final chapter for the Elks. The 300 members have rented a building at 1210 Klein Road in Gulfport, and there was enough space to invite American Legion Post 119, which was also destroyed, to join them.
"A lot of our members are in both organizations so it made sense," said Fadden.
Socializing and community involvement for the Elks moves forward. The fraternal organization formed originally to help the military and veterans - and it still does that - but it now has scholarships and other programs for today's youth through such things as the "Hoop Shoot" contest and patriotic essays. The national Elks are known for starting Flag Day.
At the new Gulfport site, the popular lobster boils, which usually lure 700 from the community, will continue, as will the bingo games. The Gulfport Veterans Administration complex is gone, so now the Elks are paying visits to the veterans at the Biloxi complex, continuing to bring them games to play, picnics and such.
Fadden said Lodge 978 is looking for three to five acres to buy on which to build a new lodge, with enough space to add a basketball and tennis court and more things for young people to do.
- KAT BERGERON