GREAT FALLS — The Montana Association Elks mid winter-meeting is underway at the Great Falls Elks club and continues on Saturday.
The event consists of training seminars and workshops to help better the leadership skills among the leaders of Elks Clubs across the state of Montana.
Montana currently has 26 Elks Lodges.
National Elks director Jim O’Kelley made his way to Great Falls to discuss all of the things Elks have been able to accomplish over the last year.
“One of the biggest things that we’ve been able to do was Covid,” he said. “Obviously a pandemic is not good, and the Elks were put in an unusual situation. A lot of our members join for social reasons or legacy reasons, and socially we were sidelined because of Covid restrictions.”
O’Kelly said that although it was sudden switch and unknown territory among the Elks, they were able to come together and still be able to offer grants in order to help its community.
“A lot of the need that we found was food insecurity. A lot of places where our Elks lodges are located were suffering through security during the pandemic," he explained. "But I’m happy to say that we were able to rise through it and still be able to get the grants and funding that we needed in order to help our community.”
Another one of the highlights was the scholarship opportunities the Elks offer.
“We are among one of the best individual scholarships in the country,” said Gerald Penn, Elks of Montana scholarship chairman. Montana gets around $22,000 a year to distribute among its students; nationally, the Elks give around $2.4 million in scholarship money each year.
‘The biggest scholarship program we have is called the Most Valuable Student scholarship and students are judged at the local level through lodge, region, state, and then national. Out of Montana they get four slots to send for the national scholarship,” said O’Kelley.
In the past 10 years, three students from Montana have been selected among the top six scholarship recipients.