Meet the new 2021-2022 BPOE Elks Grand Exalted Ruler - T. Keith Mills!

Who Are the Elks? We are....

  • A membership order with nearly a million members and a 150+ year history. Explore the Elks history HERE.
  • A network of more than 2,000 lodges in communities all over the country.
  • A generous charitable foundation that each year gives millions in scholarships, an inspiration to youth, a friend to veterans and more. Read about Elks giving and the Elks National Foundation (ENF) HERE.

Elks Care, Elks Share - Are YOU an Elk?

Elks Lodges bring so much more to their communities than just a building, golf course or pool. They are places where neighbors come together, families share meals, and children grow up.

Elks invest in their communities through PROGRAMS that help children grow up healthy and drug-free, meet the needs of today’s veterans, and improve the quality of life.

To learn more about our national order, history, projects, charitable giving, and why others have joined us, CLICK HERE!

Our Mission

To inculcate the principles of Charity, Justice, Human Love and Fidelity; to recognize a belief in a God; to promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its Members; to quicken the spirit of American patriotism; to cultivate good fellowship; to perpetuate itself as a fraternal organization and to provide for its government. The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) of the United States of America serves the people and communities through benevolent programs, demonstrating that Elks Care and Elks Share.


The Elks organization was founded in New York City on February 16, 1868 under the name "Jolly Corks" by 15 actors, entertainers and others associated with the theater. In ensuing years, membership expanded to other professions. The initial origins of the group began in England in 1010 A.D.


This Order was founded "To promote and practice the four cardinal virtues of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity; to promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its members; to quicken the spirit of American Patriotism and cultivate good fellowship."


The Order is a non-political, non-sectarian and strictly American fraternity. Proposal for membership in the Order is only by invitation of a member in good standing. To be accepted as a member, one must be an American citizen, believe in God, be of good moral character and be at least 21 years old. Invite a friend to join. 

 Click here to submit an online application to a friend or relative.  In the top left corner, complete red box.

What We Do

Elks invest in their communities through programs that help children grow up healthy and drug-free, meet the needs of today’s veterans, and improve the quality of life for their members and the community. How could this powerful force have come into being? And where does all this charitable giving come from? From the generous hearts of Elks members whose eagerness to share, whose prudent long-term planning, and whose willingness to serve for free and with enthusiasm infuses the Order with an exuberant and enduring expression of the true volunteer spirit.

Since inception the Elks National Foundation (ENF) has contributed more than $500 million towards Elks charitable projects nationwide. The ENF also helps provide for benevolent, educational and patriotic community-minded programs in such fields as benefiting physically handicapped children, sponsoring Elks National Foundation scholarships, scouting, athletic teams, veterans' works, a national "Hoop Shoot" free-throw contest involving more than 3 million children, physical and occupational therapy programs and patriotic programs. The youth of our country have always been important to the Order. It is for this reason the Elks Drug Awareness Education Program was launched to warn primary grade students and their parents of the dangers in drug use. Additionally, every lodge observes June 14th as Flag Day, a tradition which the Elks began in 1907 and was later adopted by the Congress as an official observance. The Elks have created quiet network of good deeds that has profoundly changed millions of lives for the better, yet there is little public awareness of the impact of their vital work. Why is this so? Quite simply, the Elks have rarely sought recognition; nor have they gone to the general public with fund-raising efforts nor received monies from any level of government. Indeed, the flow of money and goods moves in the opposite direction: the Elks donated to the government the first veterans hospital; they contribute regularly to schools and police and fire departments; and they assist the young and the needy throughout this great nation.

Of note is the fact that the elected leadership of the BPO Elks-from the Exalted Rulers of the local Lodges to the national president, known as the Grand Exalted Ruler, as well as other decision makers at various levels-serve without salaries.

The Elks organization is governed through democratic representation, with overall statutes set by voting at national conventions. The BPO Elks national headquarters is in Chicago. The Chicago campus is also the site of the Elks National Veterans Memorial building, and it is the home of the Elks National Foundation, the Order’s charitable trust; the Elks National Veterans Service Commission.

LEARN MORE ABOUT CHEA (California Hawaii Elks Association)


It All Began With the Jolly Corks

An Englishman by the name of Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian arrived in New York in 1867 after a successful theatrical career in London. He wanted to imitate an English fraternity named after the (African) Buffalo, but others wanted an American animal, hence the Elk was selected for its peaceful and protective nature. 

While in England, Mr. Vivian, had heard the novelist Charles Dickens speak on benevolence. Inspired by Charles Dickens, Charles Vivian included the word “Benevolent” into our title; the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

It All Began With the Jolly Corks. Starting as a group of actors and entertainers bent on having fun AND avoiding a New York Excise tax in 1867 (Sundays were the ‘dry’ day), this convivial group called themselves the Jolly Corks (for a clever trick with corks they performed on the uninitiated to win rounds of drinks). That same year as membership grew, some members saw the vision to become more helpful in the community. Alas, two feuding factions split the group over different philosophies. Fortunately, the latter faction moved forward with their new ideals and in February of 1868, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was chartered–and with a great new spirit and direction, began to help Veterans, Scouting, Scholarships and more–wherever Charity, Justice and Brotherly Love were needed!

More History on the Elks

150 years told by the Jolly Corks