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National Elks leaders visit Alexandria

National leaders with the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks visited Alexandria last week. They included (left to right) Paul Ryan with the national board of trustees, Michael Zellen, national president, and Dwayne Rumney, past national president. (Al Edenloff | Echo Press)

The Alexandria Elks Lodge hosted the Minnesota Elks Convention on June 23-24.

Elks leaders at the state and national level attended, including Michael Zellen, national president, Paul Ryan, who serves on the Elks' national board of trustees, and Dwayne Rumney, past national president.

As the current national president, Zellen is visiting all 50 states to see first-hand the active role Elks members play in their communities. He encourages Elks lodges to "get involved and stay involved."

"It's amazing what the Elks are doing throughout our country," Zellen told the Echo Press during a short break in his Alexandria visit. "At the local, state and national levels, collectively, we've put more than $300 million into our communities."

The Elks' programs are widespread and broadly focused, including everything from supporting veterans to providing youth scholarships, Zellen said. Elks members also put a priority on helping senior citizens and increasing drug awareness.

One major project the Elks are looking forward to this summer is a Minnesota Elks Youth Camp, that will allow more than 500 children, ages 9 through 13, to experience biking, swimming, cabin life, archery and more.

Zellen expressed optimism about the organization's membership. At its high point 30 years ago, there were about 1.7 million members. Although it has since dropped to about 774,000 members, the decreases have been less and less the last three years. "We are going in the right direction," Zellen said.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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