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Build it, and they will come back

For most of the time I’ve lived in Okanogan County, the Elks Lodge has been a hub of community activity. A fire at the 110 S. Ash St. lodge just over a year ago brought all that to an end.

Since that time, local members of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks have been grappling with related insurance, clean-up and reconstruction issues. In short, they have not given up hope on rebuilding downtown.

Last week, as a member of the Elks, I attended a committee meeting about the rebuilding effort, followed by a general membership meeting. As a member, I cannot discuss many of the details of what is happening within the private organization or specifically what is being planned. However, I can share with you the fact that Elks members desire to rebuild.

Build it and they will come. That’s the general consensus of members, who donate generously to community activities and children’s programs. I’m glad they feel that way.

As a new member of this community six years ago, the Elks Lodge provided a warm, welcoming place to meet other community leaders — not just those holding elected offices. Business managers met at the lodge, as did civic volunteers and others.

I attended Omak Stampede banquets, Chamber of Commerce dinner functions and other events there.

The lodge also hosted a Casting for Kids event to teach youngsters about safety and respect while they learned about fishing. Law enforcement, fire department and search and rescue members were also there to talk to youth about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, the Internet and more.

The lodge was also a hub of fun social activities, as well. There were Christmas and Halloween parties, oyster and crab feeds and even Kentucky Derby Day festivities. There were also community fundraising actions and other events there, too.

During last week’s meetings, I was reminded that the lodge is also a safe haven for children, should something happen at the middle or high school, or following other events. Indeed, I recall the lodge hosting children and providing hot chocolate and cookies after a few different downtown events in my time here.

While many of those community activities have found temporary homes in the last year, downtown Omak just isn’t the same without the Elks Lodge.

In the coming months, Elks will be able to publicly offer more insight into their reconstruction plans.

They’ll be looking for assistance from the community. That assistance can come in the form of memberships, sponsorship opportunities and plans to have your next event take place in the new lodge, once it opens.

I agree with other members — if we build it, they will come.

It’ll be nice to have a new lodge downtown, again. I’m already looking forward to the banquets, children’s programs and other activities that provided me such a warm introduction to life in the Okanogan Valley.

Roger Harnack is the editor and publisher of The Chronicle. He can be reached at 509-826-1110 or via e-mail at


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