“We like to enjoy ourselves and make sure people get what they need,” said Monika Draggoo, Exalted Ruler Santa Barbara Elks Lodge #613, tucked away at 150 North Kellogg Avenue. The Elks, say its representatives, are a not-so-secret society of individuals interested in assisting the surrounding district; they are a shining model of effective, conservative, and patriotic collectivism. “We’re just here to help,” says Draggoo, who earlier this month was named the first woman Exalted Ruler in the local club’s history. She previously held the Lecturing Knight position and served in the Loyal Knight office.
Founded 110 years ago, the local Elks Lodge has a long-standing tradition of benevolent contributions to the community, last year donating $2 million to various causes including the Special Olympics, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, as well as Veterans’ groups, firefighters, and local law enforcement. There are reportedly over 2,000 chapters of The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks across the country with over a million members, and the local chapter boats a membership of 1,219. The requirements for membership are a $130 annual membership fee, proof of U.S. citizenship, and the belief in divinity of any type.
Over the years, the Santa Barbara Lodge has grown immensely. It now boasts three bars, a barbecue grove, a gym, sauna, and one of the largest ballrooms in the area. All of these additions and extensions have been made possible by the Elks themselves, say representatives. Today, members volunteer their time to the upkeep of the building and the grounds. Perhaps it is the investment of the individuals’ part into the collective which knits the group together and creates an atmosphere, described by Draggoo, as familial. It is not a country club, but rather a place for motivated individuals to enhance their personal lives with friendship, as well as give to the wider community, she said.
In the upcoming years, the Elks are looking to increase membership, and especially to reach out to younger families. Recently, they’ve added a playground to entertain children, and are planning to create a babysitting program to give a adults a place to have a good time at a reasonable price. For those who are not yet initiated, the grounds are open for rental, Bingo is open to the public (all proceeds are donated), and everybody is invited for a tour.