Elks Lodge benevolence pays off for local groups

Jim Rutherford, Elks trustee, poses with some of the beneficiaries of this year’s Charity Classic Golf Tournament (from left to right):  Jim Rutherford, Scott Sparks (Lewistown Redbirds), Derek Manseau (Lewistown Hockey Rink), Mary Kepler (Friends of the Pool), and Bill Berg (Lewistown Hockey Rink).  Not pictured is Matt Martin (Lewistown Youth Baseball/Softball Association).

Photos courtesy of Elks Lodge

The Lewistown Elks Lodge recently distributed $7,000 to local youth groups from monies raised in its annual Charity Golf Classic, a golf tournament that’s been a cornerstone of the organization’s benevolence for years. 

Elks board member and co-chairman of the tournament Jim Rutherford believes the fundraiser began in the early 1980s. It was initially created by Major League Baseball Cy Young Award winner Jim Perry and local resident Hank Hanson, for purposes of funding legion baseball. For 20 years the event was called the Jim Perry Celebrity Classic, featuring nationally known sports figures and its namesake celebrity.  

Now, it’s run under a different name and draws Montana-made celebrities. What hasn’t changed, though, is its impact on area youth programs. Rutherford knows just how important the event has been to the community, something that many are unaware of.

“In my estimation, the fundraiser has generated over $250,000 since its inception,” said Rutherford. Some of the local programs that Rutherford recalls having recently benefitted are Redbirds Legion Baseball, Lewistown Youth Baseball/Softball Association, Fergus Girls Fastpitch, Fergus Boys Cross-Country, the Lewistown swimming pool, and the hockey rink.

“The Elks is a very giving organization and a lot of people are surprised when they find out how much we give back to the community,” said Rutherford. “Our golf tournament is just part of the story. Between it and our Hoop Fest and grants and scholarships, our cash donations have been well over $20,000 this year alone. That’s something we’re very proud of.”

The Hoop Fest noted by Rutherford is an annual kid’s basketball tournament hosted by the Elks Lodge.  Teams come from across Montana to compete in the weekend event, which also gives a boost to the local economy.  Over the seven-year period of the tournament, $78,000 has been raised, 90 percent of which has been donated to local programs like the Fergus golf team, Sea Lions swim team, Boys and Girls Club, wrestling clubs, the Lewistown Civic Center, and others. Also, the Elks recently distributed grants totaling $2,500 to the Farm in the Dell program and Council on Aging, $2,500 towards youth golf programs and equipment, and awarded scholarships to graduating seniors headed to college.

In addition to direct monetary donations, the Elks Lodge provides its golf course free of charge to Fergus High School as a practice facility and tournament host for the golf team, and a running course for the cross-country team. The Elks host numerous fundraisers for local non-profit entities as well.  

“We work with non-profits to ensure their fundraisers are successful,” said Rutherford. “Our facility is a vehicle for them to enjoy and raise money. We see our club as an important asset to Lewistown and our members and volunteers work hard so the community benefits from it.”

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