Erika Barger was recognized out 56,000 Elks.
Erika Barger has been around the Ormond Beach Elks for as long as she can remember.
She has memories of dressing up as a young girl and attending installation dinners, of not being tall enough to see over the lodge's shuffleboard and meeting new Elks, some of which are still members today. In fact, Barger herself is a fourth-generation Elk.
“I’m carrying on the family legacy, I guess you could say," Barger said. "But it really wasn’t a question of ‘if’ I was going to join. It was more of ‘when’ I was going to join.”
The Order of the Elks is a charitable fraternal organization open for members 21 and older. The national organization supports local programs, and the Ormond Beach Elks Lodge 2193 is no different. Specifically, it aids the local boy and girl scout troops, veterans and other youth.
But for 31-year-old Barger, who is a practicing attorney, joining the Elks was about more than just following in her family's footsteps. It was about the comradery, the people and the role the Elks played in the community.
“I really embraced the impact that they have in the community and I wanted to be a part of giving something back to the community through the charitable endeavors," Barger said.
She's been an official member for almost 11 years, and on May 24, she was recognized in Orlando by the past Elk Association State President Frank Malatesta with the highest honor that any of the 56,000 members of the Florida State Elks Association can receive: Elk of the Year.
Barger received the award due to her efforts as the state chairman of the Elks National Foundation Fundraising Committee. As chairman, her job was to coordinate efforts between the 14 district chairmen across the state to fundraise $4.75 per capita in each of the lodges.
Not only did the Elks exceed that amount, but in total, the Elks raised $361,000. And because the state Elks get back $2.29 for every dollar donated, $822,000 will be available for grants, scholarships and other programs.
Barger said she was grateful to receive the award. She looks forward to staying involved in the Elks, as she is the Ormond Beach Lodge's scholarship chairman, a position that has come full-circle for her too. Barger received a scholarship from the Elks for college herself.
"What I have learned over the last several years, having grown up with the Elks, is how much the organization and its members are truly an Elks family, where members share common interests, goals, and purpose in helping to strengthen our communities," Barger said.