outlining the history of the I.B.P.O.E.
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The following brief history of the I.B.P.O.E. from their official web site serves as a basis for the evolution of the Elks lodges in Panama and the Panama Canal Zone and the major cities and areas where Westindian Panamanians founded settlements.
“The Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World were granted a copyright as an organization September 28, 1898, in Cincinnati, Ohio. A Pullman porter Arthur James Riggs, and Benjamin Franklin Howard, who were both members of another fraternal organization, met in that city, and they discovered that they both had a dream of forming an Elks organization for people of color. Their dreams and plans were realized when the first Lodge, Alpha Lodge No. 1, was organized in Cincinnati, Ohio. As the Elks prevailed, the organization struggled against many racist attitudes and legal efforts to deny the existence of the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World.
On June 13, 1902, Emma Virginia Kelly Organized the Daughters of Elks in Norfolk, Virginia. This group was later adopted by the Grand Lodge and became an auxiliary body to the Brothers of Elks. The first Temple was Norfolk Temple No. 1, Norfolk, Virginia.
The Elks is the largest predominately Black, fraternal organization in the world, and boasts a membership of over 450,000, with Lodges and Temples in the United States, Canada, Mexico, West Indies, Panama, and the Bahamas. In 1998, the organization celebrated its international centennial, which was hosted in the City of Las Vegas, Nevada – one hundred years – since their founding. The second one hundred year centennial celebrated was held in 1999, hosted by the City of New Orleans for the founding of the Grand Lodge. The parent body of the organization. Congratulatory acknowledgments were received from the United State President William Jefferson Clinton, every presiding Governor of the twenty-seven State Association representing domestic jurisdictions personage, corporations, and letters from governing authorities of foreign jurisdictions under the umbrella of Elkdom.
The purpose of our organization is that the welfare and happiness of its members be promoted and enhanced; the nobleness of soul and goodness of heart be cultivated so that the principles of Charity, Justice, Brotherly and Sisterly Love be inculcated; that its Members and Families be assisted and protected; and the spirit of patriotism be enlivened and exalted.
A few of the major departments of the Elks Grand Lodge are Educational, Medical, Veterans Affairs, National Youth, Civil Liberties, Antlered Guard, and Hobson R. Reynolds National Shrine Departments. Many of the Grand Temple Departments are designed to increase awareness of self-worth within communities. An example of these are Aids Awareness, Battered Women, Jean C. W. Smith Special People, Kidney Disease Awareness, Emma V. Kelley Achievement Award, Lend-A-Hand Blind, Shoe Bank, and Anniversary and Flowers. Through the efforts of its members and various departments, the Elks sponsor extensive educational scholarship programs, youth summer computer literacy camps, and children with special needs, parades and unequaled community service activities throughout the world.”
Two particularly active Elks Lodges were the Aurora Lodge No. 523 of the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks in Colon and the Justice Lodge No. 832 of West La Boca (before Silver La Boca was dismantled and closed down). There were also quite a few chapters in Panama City proper until age and the exoduses to the United States reduced their membership considerably. A few, however, continue to operate today in Rio Abajo and, of course, in Colon. The Panama Canal Elks Lodge #1414 (not a member of the IBPOE) still continues to operate in the former Canal Zone offering scholarships to youthful aspirants and carrying out other charitable activities.
This story continues.