Shaler man keeps climbing Elks ranks
The titles are becoming more elaborate but the work remains the same for Charles Cook.
The Shaler resident, a 51-year member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, was elected to the position of grand esteemed lecturing knight. It's the third-ranking national position in the group, founded in 1868 as a men's social club dedicated to volunteerism.
“I'm very elated,” said Cook, who was president of the now defunct Etna Elks Post 932. That post closed in 2011 and merged with the Oakmont Elks Post 1668, where Cook still is an active member.
“I put a lot of years in and I'm still very interested in their work.”
That includes raising money for student scholarships, visiting hospitalized veterans and funding programs for families of military reservists.
Cook credits his father for an early interest in the service group, which focuses much of its volunteer efforts on local youth.
“We do a lot of work with scholarships,” he said, noting that the Elks National Foundation gives more than $3.7 million to college students every year.
There are awards for academics, financial need and leadership. There also are Legacy Awards, handed out to children and grandchildren of Elks.
Cook said the group's dedication to military personnel is impressive too.
“We go up to the veterans' hospital monthly and take refreshments,” he said, referring to the Veterans Administration facility in O'Hara. “Sometimes we hire a singer or magician and try to give them some entertainment.
“We're a patriotic group. We do a lot of work with the vets; we spend a lot of money and time on people and that appeals to me.”
Nationally, the Elks are responsible for funding the Adopt-A-Vet program, in which lodges sponsor visits, dinners and other social activities to provide cheer to hospitalized vets.
Oakmont Elks Project Manager W.D. Fletcher said Cook deserves his newest honor.
“He's risen through the ranks and is very well-respected,” Fletcher said. “He's noticed as a very solid contributor to Elks causes.”
Cook said his new title of grand officer won't do much to change his role at the local lodge along Washington Street in Oakmont.
But Fletcher said the leadership role is a prestigious one that could have an influence on the group's nearly 1 million members across the country.
“It is a senior management position,” Fletcher said. “His input can influence our future.”
Cook, a graduate of Carnegie Tech, worked in the organic coatings field for more than 40 years. He has been married to his wife, Louise, for 52 years.
He served as the exalted ruler of the Etna Elks during the 1970s, when it boasted the highest club membership in the state with 2,300 people. He also has served as the Pennsylvania Elks state president.
Cook will act as a presiding officer at the 2014 Elks national convention in New Orleans.
“The Oakmont Elks proudly salutes him for this national recognition,” Fletcher said.
Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or firstname.lastname@example.org.