The White Rock Elks will open their doors to the public Saturday. They aim to dispel misconceptions that the club is a club only for men

Respecting history, embracing change

The White Rock Elks will host an open house on Nov. 8

The White Rock Elks are inviting the community to their open house Saturday in the hopes of dispelling dated beliefs about the vibrant organization.

“We want to get rid of the myth that you have to be a member or an old man to come here,” longtime member Senga Cowie said.

The event, held at 1469 George St., Nov. 8, 2-5 p.m. is open to all ages and will feature a tour of the multi-use facility, which includes a commercial kitchen and the newly updated George Lounge, which was completed in August along with a $30,000 renovation of the longstanding building.

On hand for the open house will be Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg, White Mayor Wayne Baldwin and Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, among other community leaders.

The groups who rent the 2,100-sq.-ft. hall – including dance groups, karate, tai chi and more – will also be on hand to share with visitors all the activities that take place under the Elks’ roof.

“We have been in this building here since 1987,” president Thomas Corless told Peace Arch News. “But the Elks have been in the community since 1958. That’s 55-plus years of service.

“Our theme is caring for our community.”

Second-vice-president Lois Duke said the perception of the Elks is stuck in the past – along with the iconic fez hats worn in years past.

“We need to update the community on that, because I think there is still this image of old men in the fez, and it looks very stale and closed. We want to change that image.

“Respect history, but embrace change.”

The George Lounge, Duke noted, is a welcoming and warm environment where people can enjoy good music, the ever-popular karaoke and mingle with friends.

“I can come in and sit at any table,” she said.

Corless noted that there are not many venues in the area like the Elks Lounge, which is always open to the public. No membership is required, he said.

“There are no organizations like this,” he said. “There are (other groups), but they are very closed and secretive,” he said.

Over the years, the Elks have evolved from a mens-only club to a growing group of men and women of all ages.

Cowie, who is married to Corless, noted that it was only in 1998 that she was allowed to join the organization, after a nation-wide referendum.

“A lot of the older folks quit when that happened, but they came back when they realized…”

“– women were useful,” Corless interjected, laughing.

Since that referendum, there has been a female president and a shift in mentality, Duke said.

“There’s such an opportunity for great possibilities here. When you have like-minded people come together, there’s synergy that is created. The sum is greater than the individual parts. But what needs to happen is action, so they can become concrete, real and tangible,” Duke said.

The Elks are  supporters of community organizations and initiatives, including their three children’s camps – located in Aldergrove, Salmon Arm and Denman Island – as well as the B.C. Hearing Resource Centre.

“We’re trying to get more involved in local charities,” Duke said. “The idea of looking after your own backyard first, then spreading out. If you come together, I think more can happen.

“Right now, we’re trying to get the word out that we exist. Many people didn’t know about us, what we do or why we’re here.

“We’re here for our community.”

For more information on the Elks, events or membership, go to or call 604-538-4016.


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