Throughout my high school career I have spent a great many of my weekends and summers volunteering for the Payson Elks Lodge.
I have been a volunteer waitress for them many times and helped to organize and run special holiday and fund-raising events. Whether it was face painting at the Fourth of July barbecue, helping to move heavier furniture or boxes, baking desserts to be purchased for weekly donations, collecting and organizing clothes for the annual fashion show, or just helping clean out a closet or the kitchen, it seemed as though I was always there trying to help out.
I chose the Elks Lodge because they donate so much of the proceeds from these events to local projects around Payson. They are also very involved with Payson youth, offering scholarships to graduates every year, as well as taking underprivileged kids shopping for new clothes and school necessities.
People my age never understood how I could find so much enjoyment spending so much of my free time at the Elks Lodge with all of the elderly people. In all honesty that is part of the charm. These elderly citizens of Payson work so hard to help with their community. They donate an incredible amount of time organizing, advertising and working functions in order to raise money for the many charities that they support.
The Elks members have also taught me a great deal about culture, history, politics, friendship, generosity, and the world around us.
For example, every Friday night dinner, Larry, one of the regulars for the weekly fish fry, would invite me to sit with him and he would always have a new story to tell me about his first love or his memories of “the war.” There were so many little historical things Larry taught me that you don’t get to read about in your classrooms history books.
Another experience: Eddie Armer, a retired sheriff’s officer, shows up and buys his wife Doris dinner and takes her out on the dance floor and they dance the night away. One night at a big dinner I was waiting tables and Eddie had came up and asked me to dance. That night he taught me how to Texas Two Step and talked to me about how important it is for a young lady to know how to dance. That was an experience I will never forget.
Another gentleman, Jack, who was probably around 85, was the center of it all. He spent what seemed like every hour of his life at the Lodge. He was there first and left last. Jack willingly gave all this time to the Lodge because it becomes like your own family there. About six months ago Jack broke the news that he was moving to Florida for a change in scenery. We were heartbroken. On his last Friday the whole Lodge gathered together, signed cards, made speeches and donated money to help get him started in his new life. We all cried and laughed remembering all the joy he had brought to the Lodge. Jack taught me what generosity can give back to you and what true friendship looks like.
All birthdays, surgeries, funerals and anniversaries are kept track of and announced so when you are a part of the Lodge you always have your “family’s” support and comfort there for you.
There was always so much to learn from these people that I feel most high school students wouldn’t give their time to listen to: real life lessons that teach you to work hard and appreciate what you have; to give your time to the people who need it and help out whenever you can.
The Elks work for some great causes and by volunteering there you’re not only helping the causes that they work for, you are giving the elderly members a friend, lending an ear to what they have to say and teach you. You are also helping to round yourself out into a better, more understanding citizen of your community.