The Langley Elks hosted the 105th national conference July 19 to 21, and took time from meetings and ceremonies to make a visit to the Cloverdale wildfire evacuation centre.
The Elks took soccer balls, teddy bears and colouring books down to the evacuation centre in Cloverdale to distribute to children displaced by the fires.
They gave some toys to one little boy who was crying.
“And he said ‘You just made my day’,” said Deborah Sallenback.
The Langley woman said that kind of encounter sums up why she loves being a member of the Canadian service organization.
“I think the highlight is the children that we help,” she said.
Sallenback was the first woman to join the local lodge #259, the first woman to be the lodge’s exalted ruler, first district deputy (overseeing seven lodges), and the first women on the B.C. Elks Association to be the president. She was the first woman to be elected to the national executive. That was in 2011. Now she’s the first woman to become a national president of the Elks of Canada, a position called the grand exalted ruler.
The national conference here brought together up to 400 members and their family from across Canada. That’s when the special installation ceremony was held for Sallenback and the rest of the national leadership.
The Elks are looking to increase their connections to the corporate community and how it can work with other organizations devoted to helping people. The organization has partnered with Hillberg and Berk on customized jewelry that will help raise money for charity.
The lodges in this area devote much of their efforts to children with hearing impairment through the B.C. Family Hearing Resource Centre.
“We service up to 300 children each year all across B.C.,” she said.
The Elks started the BC Family Hearing Society 35 years ago in a tiny office in Surrey.
“Now we have a state of the art building,” Sallenback said.
She said there’s little that compares to seeing a child hear for the first time and seeing the expression on their face.
That’s why during the next year of her term of office, she plans to focus on membership to boost numbers so the organization can continue to do good for others.
“I travel all of Canada, visiting the different lodges,” Sallenback explained.
She won’t just be attending in a ceremonial capacity. She’s going to discuss ways to increase the profile of the service organization.
“As you know, most organizations’ membership is dwindling,” she said.
The Langley lodge has 56 members, the oldest being 96 and the youngest in his 30s.
She wants to encourage Millennials and younger people to join.
The organization uses social media to help spread the word about the work it does in its various communities.
Sallenback said the organization may also have to look at changing some of its rules, allowing more casual dress versus the traditional suit coat and dress pants, and making the meeting structure more casual so it’s more appealing to more people.
The new job she’s taken on means she gets to see lots of this country.
Sallenback is already a seasoned Canadian traveller. Her and her husband, Dave, are CFL fans and have travelled to many of the host Grey Cup communities across the nation since 2002, and she has also travelled with the Elks.
She’s now retired after 24 years with TD Canada Trust where she was a centralized sales and service administrator.
She joined the local lodge in 2000 as a way to spend more time with Dave.
“When we first got together, we were working opposite shifts so we never saw each other,” she explained.
When they married in 1995 and moved to Aldergrove, they wanted to find something they could do together.
But they wanted it to be meaningful.
A friend invited them to an Elks meeting.
“We got involved, and within the first or second year, I was in a chair [on the executive] and the next year I was the exalted ruler [president of the lodge],” she said.
She looks forward to her year of new duties, attending lodges across the country to talk about boosting membership and the different initiatives of the organization.