Our Lodge
By Wil Parsons, PER(webmaster’s note: this is a living document as our Lodge continues to do amazing things for our community and produce amazing leaders. While Wil created a great foundation, this will be updated from time to time, most notably the Elk of the Year list, and the State and National officers).

The author thanks Louie F. Moro PDDGER, D. R. “Irish” Ferrigan PDDGER, Joseph P. Licursi PDDGER, Kenneth G. Reaves PER, Bill Sarow PER, et al, who were part of the history of this Lodge, for their encouragement, friendship, able assistance, and contributions to this article.

Santa Cruz Lodge No. 824 had its beginnings on December 27, 1902 when forty-six American gentlemen, mostly members of the San Jose Elks Lodge No. 522, decided to start a new Lodge in Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz Elks Lodge #824 was chartered on July 23, 1903. The charter officers were Exalted Ruler Carl E Lindsay, Leading Knight Benjamin K. Knight, Loyal Knight C. M. Cassin, SecretaryW. C. Hoffman, Esquire C. E. Lilly, Chaplain W. H. Williamson, Treasurer H. E. Irish, Inner Guard J. J. Doran, and Trustees A. A. Morey, J. T. Demming, and Henry Willey. The first meetings were held in the old Native Sons Hall on Pacific Avenue. In 1904, the Lodge moved to the Williamson and Garrett building on Pacific Avenue, and to 1214½ Pacific Avenue in 1920. The Lodge remained there for 46 years.

In 1955, the Santa Cruz Lodge won the Ritual Contest for the West Central District and then traveled to San Diego to compete at the state level. The results of that contest are unknown.

In April 1960, Exalted Ruler Ted Schipper appointed a site-selection committee to locate property suitable for building the present Lodge. The committee comprised Ernest Dillon, chairman; Ted Alveraz; Larry Violante; William Yeazell; Carroll Woods; Harold Rysdam; Charles Brunjes; Harry Lucas; and J. J. Johnson PER. They acquired the present site, originally 10½ acres, on August 4, 1960, for $35,000.

In 1961, Project Chairman Ernest Dillon and Building Chairman James Dumond, assisted by Louis Haber, Donald May, Donald Haile, J. J. Johnson, Ben Pino, George Kriz, Eugene Adams, Robert Ferguson, Lee Harris, and Ted Schipper, began developing plans and securing funds for the new building. They selected an architect in 1963.

On January 16, 1964, an adjoining 50-ft parcel, now an upper parking lot, was purchased for $6500, bringing the total to $41,500 for the site. PER Joe Alcantara, co-chairman of fund raising, announced that Lodge members had pledged $190,000 to help finance construction of a new Lodge. On May 14th, the Lodge approved a resolution to proceed with the project, but on September 24th, the Lodge rejected all bids because of a large discrepancy between the architect’s estimate and the lowest bid. The services of the architect were terminated.

In 1965, Exalted Ruler Ray Scott appointed Ernest Dillon, James Dumond, Lee Harris, Keith Shaffer, Ed Cacace, and Don Mungai to a new building committee. Following recommendations by this committee, the Lodge awarded a contract to the Carl N. Swenson Company of San Jose to build a new, 22,500 square foot Lodge for $375,000. Under the direction of Exalted Ruler Donald May, the cornerstone was laid on March 27, 1966. Members met in the new Lodge for the first time on March 31, 1966. On June 5, 1966, under Exalted Ruler Donald Mungai, the Lodge was formally dedicated. The Lodge membership rose to 1,025 and peaked at 1,653 in 1970.

In July 1977, in grave financial condition and needing some fast money, the Lodge sold part of the unimproved property at Ocean and Jewell Streets, below the Lodge, for $145,000. Henceforth, the Lodge was in sound condition for many years.

In July 1978, with John Regan reigning as Exalted Ruler, the Lodge celebrated its 75th anniversary. Ivano Comelli was Leading Knight; Andrew Van Valer, Loyal Knight; Joseph Licursi, Lecturing Knight; Cy Williams, Secretary; Jack Newhall, Treasurer; Rudy Del Grange, Tiler; Bill Simas, Esquire; Henry Queen, Chaplain; , Scott Macaulay, Inner Guard; and Bill Ryan, Organist; Trustees were Bernie Bourriague, Mario Esposito, Enrico Raffanti, Alvin Morris, and John Amin. Of these, John Amin, Bernie Bourriague, Mario Esposito PER, Joe Licursi PER PDDGER, John Regan PER, and Cy Williams are still members today (8/6/2002).

In February 1979, a 20-unit condominium was completed on the formerly owned property at Ocean and Jewell Streets, and Santa Cruz Elks members were afforded the first opportunity to buy these units. Fifteen members applied.

October 19, 1984, led by Exalted Ruler Ken Reaves, the members of Santa Cruz Lodge burned the Mortgage. Ray McCaulay, 92, a member of our Lodge for 69 years, was honorary chairman of the event, with Bernie Bourriague as general chairman, assisted by PERs Larry Violante, Lou Moro, and Don Mungai. Charles Olivas was Leading Knight; Leslie A. Yeffa, Loyal Knight; Clyde Cross, Lecturing Knight; Cy Williams, Secretary; Truman Wildman, Treasurer; Bill Gray, Tiler; Elmer Brown, Chaplain; Pat Alford, Inner Guard; Dave Frankel, Organist; and Bill Sarow PER filling in as Esquire. Trustees were Bernie Bourriague, Chairman; Alvin Gregory; John Amin; Bill Simas; and Mario Esposito. The reigning Miss California, Donna Cherry, presented a musical program, which was followed by a dinner and dance.

Santa Cruz Lodge #824 is currently one of ten Lodges in the West Central District. At one time, the district included Redwood City, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, Lompoc, Milpitas, and Cupertino, but these latter Lodges have either been absorbed by other districts or disbanded.

In September 1995, the Grand Lodge ratified the acceptance of female members into the Order. Carmen Perez-Anderson became the first female member of the Santa Cruz Lodge. She was initiated by Exalted Ruler Peter Putt and his corps of officers on January 29, 1998.

On March 17, 2001, Patricia Kleinert was installed as Inner Guard for the 2001-2002 Lodge year, becoming the first female officer in the Santa Cruz Lodge. When Pat Kleinert became Esquire for the 2002-03 Lodge year, her husband, Richard Kleinert, was installed as Chaplain.

On May 4, 2002, Santa Cruz Lodge place second in the annual ritual contest in Monterey with Exalted Ruler Don Hayward, Leading Knight Wil Parsons, and Esquire Pat Kleinert placing first.

The Lodge has supported the CHEA Major Project since its inception in 1950, in addition to supporting the Elks National Foundation.

At the local level, the Lodge embraces a Local Charity account dedicated to Santa Cruz area activities and a Lodge Charity account.

The Local Charity account was established in May 1994, when our late member Joseph Harrison bequeathed $240,000 to our Lodge. Joseph Harrison instructed in his will that the trustee of his estate sell real property and establish a Santa Cruz Elks Memorial Fund from the proceeds. He also instructed that any contributions to the fund be retained as principal, invested and reinvested, and that the income be used exclusively to support local charities, without touching the principle.

Using this account, the Santa Cruz Lodge has regularly sponsored a local Boy Scout troop for over 75 years, and continues to support local Cub Scouts, Little League, drug-awareness programs, scholarships, hoop-shoot free-throw contest, soccer shoot, Christmas parties for children of Elks, Christmas baskets, back-to-school clothing for underprivileged children, a Youth Appreciation night, a pre-teen gymnastics team, and other youth programs.

And, to ensure that veterans in our hospitals are not forgotten, our members prepare BBQs twice annually for veterans at the Palo Alto Veterans Hospital as well as supporting Operation Surf and Ride to Recovery annually.

The Lodge Charity account, which is funded by income from member donations and fund-raising events, may be used for any purpose approved by the membership. The fund helps worthy members who are destitute, unable to find employment, and without the necessities of life. The Lodge annually honors local law-enforcement and fire-protection personnel, funded by the Lodge Charity account. This account may also help other Elks Lodges that have suffered a catastrophe and contributes to disaster relief such as fires, floods, earthquakes, etc., throughout the United States. A donation to the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center disaster was made from this fund.

Each Flag Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Independence Day, members of our Lodge, assisted by Boy Scouts, erect an impressive Avenue of Flags at a local cemetery, using over 425 American flags. Each flag was donated in memory of a deceased person. About 40 flags are also erected around the Lodge on these special days.

The Lodge currently meets every 2nd and 4th Thursday nights, except when a dispensation is granted to conduct a special event. On the first Thursday of each month, the Lodge celebrates the birthdays of members who were born in that month, by awarding them a free dinner. This is also “bring-a-buddy” night, when guests are allowed to have dinner.

As of March 31, 2023, Santa Cruz Lodge had 953 members, of which 99 are Life Members, exclusive of Honorary Life Members, and 5 are Honorary Life Members.

Ritual Contest

The Lodge Officers won the District Ritual Contest in 2002, 2006, 2007 (under coach Leslie A. Yeffa), 2012, 2013 (under coaches Pat & Rich Kleinert) and 2019 (under coach Eric Aasen).

501c(3) Charitable Fund

The Lodge started the Santa Cruz Charitable Fund,  a 501C (3) in 2009 following a four year approval process and is now able to receive outside donations that provide tax deductions to our benefactors.

Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 3, 1966
75th Anniversary Brochure – Commemorative Issue, July 1978
Mortgage Burning Ceremony Memorial Brochure, October 1984
News Bulletin(s), Santa Cruz Elks Lodge #824, April 1973 to present
Scrapbook kept by Kenneth G. Reeves PER

Other historical information produced by Leslie A. Yeffa, PDDGER.