MANATEE COUNTY — As the lodge ambassador for the Lakewood Ranch Elks, Tara resident Rick Thorson finally feels at home.
He flicks on the lights of Lodge #2855’s new stomping ground.
Square tables covered in white tablecloths create a cozy atmosphere for socializing in front of a bar area. Farther back, several American flags stand proudly, marking a place for members to hold meetings.
This facility, located on Lena Road just about a mile north of State Road 70, is the newest lodge in the area and the first permanent home of the Lakewood Ranch Elks.
“Four months ago, this was hay storage — to the ceiling,” Thorson said. “A lot of volunteer work has gone into it.”
The service organization celebrated its official grand opening of the facility with other area Elks members on Aug. 21 and 28, although the building actually opened to Ranch members weeks before.
Lakewood Ranch Elks already are enjoying a full list of activities, including karaoke, dancing and watching football games. Sales from the bar, raffles and other activities all generate revenue for charity, Thorson said.
“Everything we do is for charity,” Thorson said. “The focus is charity, but it’s charity done by a group of friends.”
The private fraternal organization emphasizes helping local military veterans and at-risk youth.
The group is heavily involved in caring for local veterans through various programs, including visiting veterans in nursing homes. During the summer, the lodge also paid for 17 children to attend summer camp.
“We are planning on getting involved with the local schools and with various programs,” said Thorson, noting they’d like to implement the national organization’s “Hoop Shoot” free-throw co-educational sports program.
They also plan to hold patriotic essay contests and begin a local scholarship program.
Lodge #2855 met at D’Aritino’s Pasta & Pizza before the restaurant closed last summer and most recently at the Sarasota Polo Club, where it met through August. While the Elks appreciated the use of the facility, the organization’s leaders realized they needed more space to grow.
The new building already is proving its worth. On Sept. 10, the lodge installed 10 new members to its ranks.
“It about having a good time and enjoying yourself and benefiting other people at the same time,” Thorson said.
For more information on membership, call 727-2855.
Contact Pam McTeer at email@example.com.
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