Alan Squailia is a past exalted ruler of Reno Elks Lodge 597. He’s been involved with the Elks Lodge for decades; he became exalted ruler in 1976. He recently took 15 minutes to talk to us about the Reno Elks Lodge’s events, service and scholarships, all following the Elks’ four cardinal virtues—charity, justice, brotherly love and fidelity. Learn more at www.renoelks.org.
Can you give me some history of the Elks club here in Reno?
Elks Lodge 597 was formed in Reno on June 30, 1900. The lodge was located on the corner of First and Sierra streets. It remained there until 1957, when it was destroyed in a gas explosion and fire. During the interim, meetings were held at the Mapes casino. The new lodge was built in 1961 at 597 Kumle Lane, with land donated by Reno casino mogul Raymond “Pappy” Smith. In 1961, Reno ended at Plumb Lane, so Kumle Lane was way out there. Some of the old-timer Elks didn’t think that anyone would travel that far; they didn’t want it out there. But here we are today.
The Elks club began as a men’s club. What has changed over the years?
When I started, it was strictly only white American men who were allowed to join—no Blacks, no Asians. It was very strict, and for many, many years, that was the way it was. Over the years, all of that has changed by allowing ethnic groups in, and the biggest change was allowing women to join in 1995. The women bring a touch that has never been a part of a men’s-only organization.
How many women are officers in the Reno lodge?
There are more women officers than male officers here. Of the main group of seven officers, five are women. Laura Henry became the first Reno exalted ruler in April of this year, voted in by the lodge.
The Elks have been viewed as an older persons’ club. Has that changed over the years ?
There are a lot of younger people joining. The majority of new initiates are people ages 30 to 40. They want to support the community and give back. It’s a safe place for families to come and socialize, and we have a big, wonderful pool area to enjoy. It’s one of the largest private pools in the area.
What are some of the charities that you support?
We support so many; it’s unbelievable. We do scholarships for various schools. We have a huge nursing scholarship. We do a couple hundred food baskets at Christmas time that are put together at the lodge and hand-delivered to needy people. Juvenile services—we help with residential foster care that helps individuals who are aging out of foster care with important life skills; that’s ages 15 to 18. We try to help keep sibling bonds with children who are separated in foster care with activities and events to enhance their relationships, as they are separated from their brothers and sisters. We help with the homeless, and have a program that assists single parents with children. The Elks club also helps out veterans; we have a group that goes to visit veterans in the hospital and delivers books to them. They will not be forgotten, and we will take care of them.
What events do you have coming up?
We have our biggest event of the year coming up in early November. It’s the 110th Uncle Dan’s Charity Dinner. “Uncle Dan” Wheeler owned a ranch where the downtown post office building is today. He also owned a lot of other properties in the Truckee Meadows, and he raised turkeys on his ranch. At Thanksgiving time starting in 1909, he would give free turkeys to the homeless people and people in need. He was an Elk, of course, and that became a yearly practice, and we still do it today. The dinner is our biggest fundraiser of the year. It’s our primary fundraising tool. We use those funds to support our programs for the entire year. The 110th Uncle Dan’s Charity Dinner will be held at the Reno Elks Lodge on Saturday, Nov. 5, with cocktails at 5 p.m., and dinner at 6 p.m.; $10 admission.