Merritt’s chapter of the Elks of Canada has been raising funds and supporting local causes for over 63 years, however the service organization requires some support in recovering from November’s flooding and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the Elks of Canada chapter 441 have been operating in the Nicola Valley since June 1959, providing support to other community non-profits such as the Merritt Centennials and cadets, as well as covering healthcare and educational costs for youth.

“COVID shut us right down. We couldn’t rent the hall, we couldn’t have bingo, so we had nothing,” said Herb Allan, secretary for the Elks. “To finish us off, the floods came. It’s been an uphill battle since the start of the pandemic.”

Continued operating costs continued as the Elks’ sources of income diminished, leaving them struggling to keep up. Fire evacuations and the pandemic hindered the Elks’ ability to rent out the campsite they own at Harmon Lake, with COVID-19 also cancelling Elks hall bingo, a staple in the community for many years.

Despite this fact, the Elks continued to give back, hosting the Nicola Valley Food Bank’s donation centre after a wildfire destroyed the nearby community of Lytton, displacing over 1000 residents.

“We were working with the food bank for the fire evacuees this summer. It was a place for evacuees to come and get what they needed,” said Angele Grenier, the Elks’ Treasurer, adding that the organization continued to support multiple local initiatives despite struggling with the basic cost of utilities.

Multiple donations from community stakeholders, such as Tolko and Conayt Friendship Society, have allowed the Elks to keep the lights on. In November, the organization’s hall on Coldwater Avenue was devastated by flooding. Water quickly filled the basement, causing an estimated $50,000 damage as it destroyed the building’s two furnaces, hot water tank, leaving mud and silt everywhere. The services of a vacuum truck were needed to begin the cleanup process, also paid for by community members with raised funds.

With the space left by these furnaces not set to be filled until June, the road to recovery will be a long one for the Elks. Exalted Ruler for the organization, Norbert Grenier, says members have felt the strain to pitch in as well.

“We had our members pay for the pellets for the stove, and everybody pitched in to lend a hand. We had to dish out the cost out of our own pockets, as with a lot of this stuff.”

The flooding caused an increase in costs for the Elks, with many volunteers and community members putting in hours of intense labour to clear mud and debris. Fundraising is ongoing, with proceeds going towards the Elks recovery efforts, and right back into the community.

Looking forward, the Elks are excited for the long-awaited return of their weekly bingo, an event put on hold by pandemic restrictions. Despite the adversity they have faced, the Merritt Elks remain resilient and are already planning their next fundraising efforts.

“Now things are looking up. We’ve got our bingo license and we can start bingo on May 4,” added Herb Allan. “Come to bingo. We need people to come, otherwise it won’t last.”

These helpers need help, but that won’t slow them down. Merrittonians can also look forward to a community raffle and bursaries for high school students, with proceeds going to future initiatives in Merritt and funding the Elk’s flood recovery.

For more information, or to support the Merritt Elks of Canada, contact Angele Grenier at 250-280-0920, or [email protected].