Marking a century: El Dorado Elks turning 100
By his own admission, Roger Cutsinger joined the El Dorado Elks Lodge for selfish reasons.
Cutsinger, now 74, was 21 and had his eye on a young lady in town. That young lady, now his wife, attended dances at the Elks Lodge.
Tthen I got involved in all the programs and things," Cutsinger said. "I realized there was more to the lodge than dancing. It is a great organization, it really is."
Today that means projects and programs to support veterans — running monthly bingo games and clothing giveaways for vets. The orgainzation has also sponsored youth sports teams and made donations to other nonprofits in the area. This year the lodge gave funds to Court Appointed Special Advocates, The Salvation Army Angel Tree program, 12 Baskets Food Bank and the local safe house.
Cutsinger has been a member of the El Dorado Elks for 53 years, taking 11 turns as president during that time.
According to elks.org, The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks started life in 1867 as a group called the Jolly Corks — a group of actors and entertainers "bent on having fun and avoiding a New York Excise tax." In February of 1868, a group broke away from the Jolly Corks and created the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks with the mission of helping veterans, scouting and creating scholarships.
The Elks' drug awareness program is the nation's largest all-volunteer drug education group.
"We have the Elks orgainzation nationwide has the No. 1 drug prevention program recognized bu the drug enforcement agency," Cutsinger said. "Our lodge has a drug awareness trailer and we are the only one in the state that has that. That is another active program that we do."
The building owned by the Elks of El Dorado was constructed in 1931 as an Elks Lodge. In the 1980s the Elks sold the building, moving to a different location. They bought it back in 2018.
The Elks moved back to that buliding in July of 2019 and have been renovating the building for the past two years.
The group has also been growing, showing the most growth for any lodge in the state.
"We are growing," Cutsinger said. "We are at 144 members now and we are still growing. We were down to 114 just a couple of years ago.
"The bottom floor is totally done. We are now working on the upstairs trying to turn it into a full-blown dinner theater."
The desire is to host the Act One Players, a theater troupe that started in Augusta in the 1980s, who moved into the El Dorado Elks.
"We feel like our lodge has come full circle, since the (national) organization was started by actors and here we have our own acting group," Cutsinger said.
Cutsinger has been a member of the El Dorado lodge for more than half of its life — and has watched as other clubs have merged. For example, Wellington merged with Winfield before Winfield merged with El Dorado. Augusta has also merged with the El Dorado lodge. There are currently 19 lodges listed in Kansas.
The El Dorado lodge will host a three-day celebration of the anniversary this weekend. The official anniversary is Feb. 7.
The celebration will begin at the lodge of Feb. 5 with a 6 p.m. Monterrey Dinner and revue of Carol Burnett skits. Tickets are $15 for the dinner and the show, $10 for dinner only and $5 for the show only. At 6 p.m. Feb. 6 the lodge will host a concert by Matt Engels and a pulled pork dinner. The lodge will host a celebration of the 100th anniversary on Feb. 7. For more information, call 316-321-9393.