Although the Wesley Chapel and New Tampa areas have multiple Rotary Clubs, there has never been an Elks Lodge in our area. The closest Elks Lodge to Wesley Chapel is Lodge #2731 on Wire Rd. in Zephyrhills. 

But, a steering committee is trying to determine if there is enough demand for an Elks Lodge to be built right here in the W.C. 

On Oct. 4, an initial meeting of the Benevolent & Protective Order of the Elks was held at the Seven Oaks Community Clubhouse and a little more than 20 people attended. 

Among those in attendance were two past presidents of the Florida State Elks Association — Rudy Masi (left in photo) and Frank Malatesta (right). 

Masi told the Neighborhood News that there needs to be a minimum of 125 people who sign up that they’re interested in becoming Elks — a national service organization with more than 1,750 chapters, 2,100 lodges and 750,000 total members across the U.S. (90 in Florida) — in order to charter an Elks Club. 

“After that, we have to find a place to build a lodge,” Malatesta said. 

Malatesta and Masi said that the Elks primarily focus on service projects to benefit children and veterans and that here in Florida, the State Elks Assn. has two major projects — the Florida Elks Youth Camp, located in Umatilla, and the Florida Elks Therapy Services, a group of about 30 occupational and physical therapists who travel the state providing free rehabilitative services for children. 

And, although the camp, which hosts 360 campers per week for seven weeks each summer, isn’t free to attend, “No child who can’t afford to attend is ever turned away,” Malatesta said. “It’s an amazing facility.” 

In addition, Masi says that the Elks’ motto is “As long as there are veterans, the Elks will never forget them.” He said that after World War I, the Elks created the first veterans hospitals in the U.S. and today, every Elks Lodge has representatives at every VA hospital. These reps help veterans get the benefits they need and deserve. 

The Elks will hold a second membership drive and meeting, also at the Seven Oaks Community Clubhouse (2910 Sports Core Cir.) on Tuesday, January 30, at 7 p.m. 

“After that meeting, if the people who attend want to move forward, we will hold another membership drive and a picnic to try to get us closer to 125 people,” Masi said. “We also already have a Realtor® looking for locations in and near Wesley Chapel to build a lodge.” For information about the Jan. 30 meeting, see the ad above. 

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