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It's not your grandpa's Elks club

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Mary Anne Paradise, former Exalted Ruler of the Milwaukie Elks Lodge, stands next to the swimming pool that she hopes to see open for members in June.For Mary Anne Paradise, past Exalter Ruler of the Milwaukie Elks Lodge, her yearlong reign was all about reaching out to the community. And as she passed her title along to Kurt Selvig on March 30, she feels that she reached her goals of community involvement and facility refurbishment.

In mid-April a new partnership with the Clackamas YMCA will bring classes for children and adults to the lodge, and in June a milestone will take place when the pool behind the main building will re-open after being closed for 12 years.

Although the YMCA classes and many other activities are open to the public, this year the pool will only be open to members and area swim team practices. Paradise hopes the pool will be open to the entire community in 2014. She also is proud to show off the interior of the Elks Lodge, which members have painted and redecorated.

Community partners

Jennifer Lawrence, program director for the Clackamas YMCA, contacted the Elks Lodge about holding classes at the facility, and “we decided to try it, because there are times when nobody is using certain parts of the building,” Paradise said.

Because the Clackamas YMCA does not have a facility of its own, “we are always looking for places to do our programs. I live in the community, and I thought the community would benefit from these programs — it is a perfect fit,” Lawrence said.

The YMCA is dedicated to presenting programs for youth development and healthy living, so the classes that will be offered at the Elks Lodge dovetail with those goals, Lawrence said.

Classes for children ages 4 and up will include Lego Engineering, Dr. Seuss’s World, Zumbatomic and Mini-Ballerinas, while classes for older children will include Ultimate Sports and Zumba. Adults also are welcome to take the Zumba class.

Lawrence is hoping to expand the class offerings in the future, and added, “I would love to see community input on what they would like to see.”

Public responds

Paradise said the Elks Lodge leadership is grateful for the support the community showed a year ago when it looked like the county was going to purchase the lodge, tear it down and build affordable housing on the site.

“People contacted us, supported us and joined us, so the county decided it would not be a very popular decision to tear down the building,” Paradise said, noting that the Elks Lodge has occupied its current spot on Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard since 1957.

Milwaukie Elks members want to reach out to the community “to say thank you for supporting us,” Paradise said, adding, “And we want to introduce young families into the lodge.”

The Saturday before Easter saw the grounds of the Elks Lodge swarming with children hunting eggs and watching bunnies hop through obstacle courses, while at the same time the second annual Red Cross Blood Drive took place.

There are plenty of other activities at the lodge that are open to the public, Paradise said, including the eight-lane bowling alley, open the first and third Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. A jazz event is open to the public on the third Sunday of the month from October through May, and the lodge hosts a haunted house in October.

Milwaukie High School’s winter formal was held at the Elks Club, and the site was easily able to accommodate the 250 students who attended. Paradise said she would love to hear from more school representatives.

Fundraiser and raffle

A vintage fashion show and dessert is scheduled for April 21, and is open to the public, Paradise said

“We wanted something different,” said event Chairman Janet Blaschke, noting that the event is a fundraiser for both the swimming pool refurbishment and for the Elks National Foundation, the charitable arm of the organization.

The fashion show will feature vintage wear from AlexSandra’s Vintage Emporium in Portland, and Blaschke promises the event will be fun and eye-catching.

“I have attended quite a few of these events. AlexSandra normally hosts them at Tony Starlight’s in the Hollywood District. It is something that people of all ages enjoy, from young girls to senior ladies, and their husbands love to accompany them because they dress up and look so glamorous,” Blaschke said.

When the models take a break to change clothes, Elvis, in the form of Rayvis, an Elvis impersonator, will entertain the audience.

Another ongoing fundraiser is the raffle of a gold-mining pan, like the one used by the miners in the Discovery Channel’s show “Gold Rush.”

Blaschke’s son Mitch is a cast member, and when a reunion show was recently filmed in Portland, Blaschke was able to get all of the cast to sign the pan. Raffle tickets are being soldng for $5 apiece, or five for $20, and a drawing will be held in May.

Blaschke said she knows she could get more money for the souvenir by auctioning it off, but it is important to her that everyone has an equal chance at acquiring the pan.

She added, “Whoever wins it can do anything they want with it, but I wanted it to be an equal playing field.”

Fast facts

Milwaukie Elks Lodge 2032, 13121 S.E. McLoughlin Blvd., in Milwaukie.

Call the main office at 503-654-9588 to book a spot in the facility or to purchase raffle tickets for the gold-mining pan. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

To register online for the YMCA classes, visit ymcacw.org or call Jennifer Lawrence at 503-654-7950.

To book tickets for the vintage fashion show and dessert, held on Sunday, April 21, from 1 to 3 p.m., call the lodge at 503-654-9588; tickets are $15.



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