Elks Zellen look­ing to ‘pay it for­ward’

Record Observer - - Community - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­times.com

STEVENSVILLE — Elks Grand Ex­alted Ruler Michael Zellen, of Everett, Mass., has been an Elks mem­ber for 49 years. He of­fi­cially joined when he was 21, then in his ju­nior year at Suf­folk Univer­sity, in Bos­ton, ma­jor­ing in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion. At the time he was very de­pen­dent upon his fa­ther, the late Charles M. Zellen, for his fi­nan­cial sup­port to go to col­lege.

Zellen was only 8 when his fa­ther be­came Ex­alted Ruler (a lo­cal pres­i­dent) of their Elks lodge at home in Mas­sachusetts. “I grew up there, at our lo­cal lodge,” Zellen said. So at a young age, he was no stranger to the Elks or­ga­ni­za­tion, which will cel­e­brate its 150th birth­day in Fe­bru­ary 2018. His fa­ther would be his spon­sor to join when he turned 21. How­ever, two weeks be­fore the ini­ti­a­tion cer­e­mony was to take place, his fa­ther died un­ex­pect­edly at the age of 59. Still griev­ing, Zellen went for­ward, hon­or­ing his fa­ther, and joined. Lit­tle did he know how great a de­ci­sion that would turn out to be.

With his fa­ther gone, Zellen re­al­ized he had no way of pay­ing for the re­main­der of his col­lege ed­u­ca­tion. He only had three semesters re­main­ing to get his de­gree, but he would have to find a full-time job to sup­port him­self. He went to the col­lege regis­trar’s of­fice to for­mally drop out.

Two weeks af­ter sub­mit­ting his let­ter to the univer­sity, he re­ceived a phone call from John E. Fen­ton, pres­i­dent of Suf­folk Univer­sity. Fen­ton had pre­vi­ously served as the Elks G.E.R., and had the an­swer to help­ing Zellen stay in school to get his de­gree. Fen­ton saw to it that Zellen was awarded an emergency grant through the Elks Na­tional Foun­da­tion, enough to pay his tu­ition and book costs for his re­main­ing three semesters.

Zellen took his col­lege de­gree and made a ca­reer in bank­ing for most of his adult life, re­main­ing a very ac­tive Elks mem­ber. He said, “I’m not pay­ing the Elks back for what they did for me, I’m pay­ing it for­ward! I’ve al­ways tried to do for oth­ers who are in need, through the pro­grams the Elks have, and help peo­ple, like I needed help af­ter my fa­ther died.”

This was only part of Zellen’s mes­sage, Satur­day evening, March 25, as he ad­dressed more than 200 Elks lead­ers from across Mary­land, Delaware, and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., as they met at the Kent Is­land Elks, Lodge 2576, in Stevensville. Lodge 2576 was cho­sen this year to host the an­nual state G.E.R. visit, and state lead­er­ship meet­ings over the week­end. The G.E.R. rep­re­sents the na­tional Elks pro­gram, trav­el­ing dur­ing his year-long term to ev­ery state. Zellen took of­fice in July 2016. So far, he has vis­ited 35 states.

From March 21 to March 23, he met in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., with the di­rec­tors of the Drug En­force­ment Agency, Coast Guard of­fi­cials and Veter­ans Af­fairs. He asked each group, “What can we as Elks do to sup­port you?” The Elks have a very ac­tive Drug Preven­tion Pro­gram spon­sored through more than 1,900 lodges across the na­tion. Elks are also very ac­tive in help­ing veter­ans, es­pe­cially those re­turn­ing to civil­ian life, and es­pe­cially those who have had ma­jor in­juries while serv­ing the na­tion in the mil­i­tary. Last year the Elks helped get more than 700 home­less veter­ans off the streets and into a place they could call home, and helped them find jobs to sup­port them­selves. Zellen said, “We’re here to help our neigh­bors and com­mu­ni­ties. To help the youth, help the needy and es­pe­cially our veter­ans.”

He also praised the char­i­ta­ble work of the many lodges in the Mary­land, Delaware & D.C. ar­eas. He asked that ef­forts con­tinue to be made with com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the pub­lic to let peo­ple know what Elks do and that they want new mem­bers to help make their com­mu­ni­ties stronger.

Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sioner Mark An­der­son pre­sented Zellen with a procla­ma­tion from the com­mis­sion­ers, hon­or­ing his visit to the county, and prais­ing the work done by the Elks lodges in the area. He even gave Zellen copies of news­pa­per ar­ti­cles demon­strat­ing Elks sup­port of youth pro­grams in the county. An­der­son, also a long­time mem­ber of the Elks, pointed out that the lodge in Stevensville con­tin­ues to show mem­ber­ship growth ev­ery year, this year near­ing 700 mem­bers. And, that over the past 12 years, Lodge 2576 has given well over $1 mil­lion back to the com­mu­nity through fed­er­ally reg­is­tered char­i­ta­ble 501(c)3 or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Zellen con­cluded the ban­quet wish­ing ev­ery­one a great year ahead.

The Elks na­tional slo­gan is: “Elks Care, Elks Share!” For more in­for­ma­tion about join­ing the Elks, call your lo­cal lodge or ask an Elks mem­ber.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

From left, Kent Is­land Elks Ex­alted Ruler Lloyd Bar­ron and Lead­ing Knight An­gela Meyer stand with Elks Grand Ex­alted Ruler Michael Zellen, the Elks na­tional pres­i­dent, Satur­day evening, March 25, at the KI Elks Lodge 2576 in Stevensville. Kent Is­land was cho­sen as this year’s site for the G.E.R. visit and Mary­land, Delaware, and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Elk lodges state as­so­ci­a­tion meet­ing. Zellen ad­dressed more than 200 Elks mem­bers com­mend­ing their lo­cal lodges, es­pe­cially Kent Is­land, for serv­ing their com­mu­ni­ties.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

Alvin R. Emory Jr. of New Cas­tle, DE, cen­ter, is the win­ner of this early 1950s model Ford. He is sur­rounded by cur­rent and for­mer state and na­tional Elks lead­ers, from the left, Past Grand Ex­alted Ruler Paul D. Helsel, Elks Mary­land State Pres­i­dent Con­nie deYoung, cur­rent Grand Ex­alted Ruler Michael Zellen, and raf­fle co­or­di­na­tor Robert H. McIn­tyre of Delaware. The car was owned by Dave Wal­cott of Eas­ton, who died in 2015. In his will, Wal­cott asked the Elks to raf­fle the car with the pro­ceeds to be used for the “Army of Hope” fund to help veter­ans.

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