Getting to Know The Eagles, The Elks, The American Legion

Three Organizations With An Identity of Giving Back

Angie Ripple, photos by Zach Hoffman  |   Sunday Nov. 1st, 2015

Have you ever wondered what the inner workings of a fraternal organization look like? Maybe you didn’t know there was such a thing. Maybe you’ve never known an Elk or Eagle or Legionnaire. Bozeman is home to three organizations who do a whole lot more for our community than serve drinks or call bingo. They work hard throughout the year to write grants, fundraise and organize parades so that they can help others in the community. Here is a quick look at three great organizations in our community and how you can join them in keeping Bozeman great.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles, or F.O.E., is an international non-profit organization dedicated to the concept of “People Helping People”. Eagles Lodges are know as Aerie, a large nest of a bird of prey, especially an eagle. Bozeman’s Aerie #326, was founded on March 7, 1903, it has been in its current location of 316 East Main Street since 1905. The local club currently has a total of 400 members.

Both men and women can join the Eagles, men are part of the Aerie, and women are part of the Auxiliary. Potential members must be sponsored by current members, complete an interview, take an oath to God and Country, and pay a minimal annual fee. Each year, the Presidents of the Aerie and Auxiliary choose a “President’s project charity” to raise money for. This year, the Aerie President chose to raise money for Warriors and Quiet Waters, while the Auxiliary President has chosen to raise money for Vietnam Veterans of America. In addition to these, Aerie #326 also donates money to Reach Inc., The Montana Hope Project, Cancer Support Community of Montana, and several other charities, some of which were established by the Grand Aerie of the F.O.E. such as the F.O.E Diabetes Research Hospital in Ohio. Members help raise money by donating their time to weekly and monthly events. For example, Auxiliary members bake brownies for each Friday’s Burger Night and all proceeds from brownie sales go to their selected charities.

Benefits of belonging to Aerie #326 include death benefits automatic to your estate, discount prices on Burger Night (every Friday), discount prices on Steak Night (1st and 3rd Saturday), Free Steak Dinner once a year in April, free Christmas Eve Hors d’ ouvre party, paid sponsorship in pool and baseball leagues, free Holiday parties for children and grandchildren, a free annual picnic, and discounts on off sale beers and liquors. As an Eagles Club member, if you are killed in the line of duty while at work, your children are guaranteed a scholarship and medical expenses through college by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. As their sign says “You can’t afford not to join the Eagles Club”.

The Bozeman Eagles hosts community events such as bingo, cribbage, karaoke, pinochle, shuffle board, pool, holiday celebrations, as well as live music nearly every weekend. The Eagles ballroom has recently been revived to host live music as well, but can also serve the communities needs for wedding receptions, fundraisers, or business celebrations.

Stop by the Eagles next time you are in downtown Bozeman for a drink, a burger or to meet a member and find out more about becoming a part of People Helping People. Like their Facebook page for updates on events and fundraisers:

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks [BPOE]; also often known as the Elks Lodge or simply The Elks, is an American fraternal order and social club rooted in the Bozeman community since 1898. Historical Bozemanites including GH Willson, MR Willson, Glen Willson, Nelson Story Jr., Ernie Heeb, FM Staudaher, Carl Lehrkind, Carl Fjeld, Herb Hruska and Don Langohr were all Elks members. This fraternal and patriotic organization is easy to join (, basic requirements include a belief in God, American citizenship, good moral character and being over 21.    

The Bozeman Elks membership currently stands at 166 members, led by Exalted Ruler, the Elks version of president, Susie Larson. The local Elks focus their time fundraising and building community support in three main areas; youth, drug awareness and prevention and veteran services.

To help local youth the Elks promote their national annual hoop shoot free throw contest for kids ages 8-13. Local schools are invited to participate, last year nearly 1,500 local kids participated. This years contest will take place on November 7, boys and girls begin by shooting 10 free throws, followed by another 15 free throws, winners generally shoot 24-25/25. Local winners go on to shoot this year at Gallatin Gateway School, winners there move on to Districts in Big Timber, State in Livingston, Regionals in Rapid City, SD, winners at the National level in Chicago have their names placed on a plaque in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. Ask at your kids school about participating.

For kids in grades 5-8 the Elks have an Americanism essay contest. This years theme is ‘What can I do to promote patriotism and love for our country?’ Two winners at the local level receive $60 each, winners at the state level receive $100 and are sent on to be judged at the national level. Deadline for this years contest is December 18.

High School Seniors have the opportunity to be honored by the Elks as the Most Valuable Student. The Bozeman Elks hold an annual golf tournament to support the local Most Valuable Student with a cash prize. This year Big Sky senior Trevor House went on to the national level, was flown to Chicago for a weekend of leadership training, and received a $50K scholarship!

The Bozeman Elks is dedicated to drug awareness and prevention by helping set up four drug take-back boxes in our area. They also sponsor The Community Coalition On Drug Awareness, C-CODA provides resources to reduce underage drinking, tobacco use, and illegal drug use by bringing parents, kids and law enforcement together throughout Southwest Montana.

For veterans the Elks participate in the annual Stand-Down event put on by the Vietnam Veterans of America, to date the Elks have donated $8K to this event. Elk members visit Montana’s Fort Harrison each Christmas to deliver lap afghans and toiletries, and spend time with service men and women. They also spearhead the Montana Star Project delivering stars from retired flags to be kept in veterans wallets with this saying: “I am a retired star from the flag or our country. I have flown in the sun and wind in remembrance of your service to our country, you are not forgotten.”

In the past 4 1/2 years the Bozeman Elks Club has donated $40K via grants and fundraising to numerous community organizations. Some organizations that benefit from our local Elks are: The Community Cafe, Gallatin Valley YMCA, Rainbow Girls, Boy Scouts, Veterans American Legion Baseball, Montana Raptor Center, and Belgrade Girls Softball.

The Elks often partner with the Bozeman Eagles and American Legion, as well as share members, for community events such as their annual Kid’s Christmas party, being held this year at the Eagles on Dec 12, for members of the clubs.

If you would like to know more about joining the local Elks Club contact Susie Larson at (406) 586-5824 or stop by 205 Haggerty Lane, Suite 160 any Tuesday or Thursday from 4-7pm and have a drink with an Elk.

The American Legion; On March 5, 2009 Gallatin Post 14 of the American Legion located at 225 E Main St in downtown Bozeman was a total loss in the natural gas explosion that left one casualty and destroyed half a downtown block and a handful of local businesses. Eighteen months after the explosion the American Legion reopened with a street level bar, and upstairs banquet hall and kitchen. The facility is used for formal Legion business such as meetings, and as a coordination point for community service projects. Bozeman’s American Legion hosts community events such as bingo, holiday celebrations, spaghetti dinners and silent auctions, and live music, it is also available to the community in time of need.

In 1919 The American Legion was chartered by Congress as an organization for war time veterans. Although membership is only open to those who served active duty in the US Armed Forces during “war time”, as designated by the US Congress, there are still ways to be a part of the Legion. As a descendant of a former Legion member you may join either the Sons of the American Legion, or the American Legion Auxilary. If you are not a descendant your help is still very much welcome with a variety of service projects preformed by our local American Legion.

Each May Post 14 hosts the Bozeman Memorial Day Parade preceded by a pancake breakfast. Volunteers are needed to cook for, serve, and clean up after the approximately 250 guests that enjoy the pancake breakfast each year at the Legion. After each parade participants assemble at the Vietnam Memorial Wall at Sunset Hills Cemetery for a memorial service. The memorial service honors military veterans and generally includes a flyover, an honor guard, the playing of “Taps,” a bagpiper, and a Gold Star family salute for families who have lost family members in service to their country.

American Legion members volunteer their time helping out at many events at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds, from parking cars at the Gallatin County Fair, to helping out with Legion baseball, serving drinks and food. They also serve as bellringers during the holiday season, are part of the Honor Guard and work with local and national charities to bring attention and money to veterans issues. Their fundraising efforts often benefit the local Salvation Army, the Warming Center and Warriors in Quiet Waters.

If you would like to know more about how you can volunteer with the Bozeman American Legion call Lenny Albright at 406-586-8400.

Now that you know more about how these three organizations show up in the Bozeman community you can support them in their efforts, become a member, or enjoy what they are doing to make Bozeman the great place it is. Ask around and you may be surprised by how many Elks, Eagles and Legionnaires you already know!  

About the Author(s)