SPARTA, NJ – You may have walked by the Sparta Elks Lodge and may have even looked inside, but do you know the Elks Club?  There are some familiar activities such as the Polar Plunge and the July 4 parade but there is much more.  

Recently the lodge itself was treated to a make-over in time for the 50 anniversary of the Sparta Elks Lodge 2356.  The upper room got new wall treatments, lighting, flooring, and fixtures.  What has not changed is the view of the lake through the large windows and the opportunity for the community to rent the room. 

It is a social group that is driven by philanthropy.  One of the major undertakings for the Sparta Elks is support for special children, especially Elks Camp Moore.  Several fundraisers earmark money for the Special Children’s fund helping to send children to summer camp for a week at no cost to the families.  They also support TOPSoccer program in Sparta offering a six-week program pairing special needs children with high school players.  

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This year the Elks are also raising funds to install a new spray park at Camp Moore.  The brainchild of Sparta Elks lodge member Anthony Alfonso, the handicapped accessible facility will cost approximately $50 thousand with the Elks volunteers doing most of the work.  All of the Northwest district lodges will be working and donating to make the project a reality.  Alfonso is also the NJ State Chairperson for the Special Childrens’ Committee.

Recent events to support these causes include a comedy night and Polar Plunge.  The Sparta Elks Comedy night had 80 attendees and raised $2500.  The Polar Plunge had 40 plungers and 20 to 30 observers, most of whom attended the breakfast afterwards, earing close to $5000.  The Northern Hills Academy school for special children in Sparta send a large contingency of 17 teachers to participate in the plunge.

Throughout the year the Elks also hold holiday parties and events for these children.

The Elks hold an Easter party for special children throughout the region at the Zeris Inn in Mountain Lakes.  Each year 80 people, including 40 special children are invited to attend.  The two brothers who own the inn, “donate the facility, staff, food everything including the table clothes,” said Leading Knight and Pete Appaluccio.  The Elks provide Easter baskets and entertainment. 

They are part of a Trick or Sweet event at the Embassy Suites in Parsippany in Oct.  The Elks join other organizations and businesses to provide a safe Halloween experience for special children.  The groups rent suites and decorate them for Halloween.  The children go to room to room to trick or treat.  At the end of the event, all of the trick or treaters are given a meal. 

They Sparta Elks provide a Halloween party for the TOPSoccer participants and a Christmas party as well. The Sparta Elks lodge will also be bringing back their Charity Ball in Oct.

The Special Childrens’ Committee in only one facet of the group.  The Elks have a history of supporting veterans that dates back to World War I when they established the first field hospital.  In 2014 Elks clubs in New Jersey raised $29 million for NJ veterans.  The Elks visit the hospitals, provide entertainment and bring them on trips.  The NJ Elks recently purchased a bus for veterans to be able to travel to Washington DC.

Twice a year, in a partnership with the Birchwood Manor the Veteran's committee sponsors an event for veterans of severely wounded and fallen soldiers.  In July they hold a barbecue at which the Elks cook and serve the meal.  In the fall the same group is treated to a sit down dinner. 

The Lacey Township Lodge in Forked River holds a statewide picnic on their expansive property.  Every family with fallen heroes are each brought in one at a time, having their name announced.  There is even a fly-over of US Army planes.  Over $100 thousand is raised at that event.

Locally the Sparta Elks hold a military truck pull as a fundraising event for the Army of Hope committee. 

Disbursements are made each year through this committee.  Families receive $1000 per child for Christmas gifts, Elks members go to veterans’ homes to make repairs and address many needs.  The lodges all participates.  Some Elks members are veterans themselves. 

Sparta Elks lodge also supports youth activities.  Locally they run a District Hoop Shoot for children ages eight through 13 and an Americanism Essay contest.  The essay winners have a chance to advance to compete regionally and nationally.  They support scouts in the endeavors to achieve their highest ranks; Eagle Scouts for Boy Scouts, Silver and Gold Awards for Girls Scouts.  The Elks help with projects, provide flags and patches at a ceremony.  

They sponsor drug awareness programs offering the second largest program in the country second to the government.  The Elks provide printed materials without charge.  They support Red Ribbon week held in Oct in honor of fallen DEA agent Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camarena.  Members of the Sparta Lodge participate in the annual Walk Out on Drugs walk around Lake Parsippany.  The annual event raised $15 thousand for local programs last year.

Students can apply for scholarships through the Sparta Lodge.  They annually recognize two Most Valuable Students with scholarship money for graduating seniors.  Those students have the opportunity to go on and compete at the state and national levels. 

Some scholarship opportunities are available only to the legacy of Elks Lodge members; Legacy Award and Elks Family Scholarship.

Junior members of the lodge are called Antler Youth; members between the ages of 12 and 21.  They participate in events, service related projects and do fundraisers.

The lodge supports the community offering breakfast every second and fourth Sunday of the month.  Open to all, the breakfast of eggs cooked to order, pancakes, French toast, bacon, sausage and more. Food is cooked to order for $8, children under six eat for free.  All proceeds go to Elks charities. 

The community is also welcome to attend their annual Flag Day and 9/11 ceremonies.  Sparta Elks support local food pantries including the Samaritan Inn, Manna House, Sparta Ecumenical Food Pantry and First Baptist Church in Newton. 

Sparta Elks Lodge is supported by the Elks National Foundation.  “For every dollar we send to the foundation, we get back $1.48,” said Appaluccio. 

The Sparta Lodge is one of nine that comprise the Northwest district in New Jersey.  There are 12 state districts with 118 lodges and 49 thousand members.  Sparta member Pete Appaluccio is the Past District Deputy for the Northwest District. They are a part of a national organization the county 850,000 members in 2000 lodges.

“We are always looking for new members,” said Appalucio.  “There is something for everyone.  If not, we will create it.”

“You can do as much as you want or as little,” said Alfonso.