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Questions on South Allen: Ask Larry

May 14, 2010

by Licelot Cruz-Altagracia

Local charm has a home at the South Allen Street corner where the post office and the Elks Club meet. In fact one man in particular has a lock on this busy intersection. He divides his time between his job at the postal service and his volunteer work across the street at the lodge.

Meet Lawrence “Larry” Currier, who for the last 14 years has operated out of the Pine Hills station, where many of the customers take time to greet each other outside on the steps.  Currier, who walks to work every day from his Pine Hills home, has labored in the postal service for 30 years.

The Pine Hills station opened in 1939 at 5 South Allen St., and Currier came aboard here in 1996. Changes at the Quail Street station in the 1980s and concerns about mergers resulted in the neighborhood petitioning Congress about the local storefront. The two man station became a one man station in 1984. Then in 2004, it was turned into a full service station.

“Most of my customers are walk-ins who live in the neighborhood,” said Currier “They do not have to drive.”  Currier has watched the technological revolution change postal service habits, and his employer, the U.S. Post Office is now talking about ending Saturday mail delivery to slow reduced revenue streams.

Over the years, many times, they have tried to shut down this location and move this post office farther way, but he has remained in the same location for more than 10 years. This is thanks to the outcry from the locals and Pine Hills community. The community has supported not just the local postal service but the Elks club community for many years.

Currier is an active member of the Elks club in Albany. “Most people think we’re just a bunch of drunks, but we contribute to the community, we’ve had a long history at the Pine Hills” said Currier. It is a national fraternal organization which helps makes the community better. He is the past Exalted Ruler of the club, a post comparatively like a CEO of a company. His current position is Esteemed Leading Knight.

The Elks club, called the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, was created by a group of actors who were down on their luck in New York City in the 1800’s. The first club was established in 1868. They pulled for each other and helped one another financially. Eventually when the groups of actors became famous, they began giving back to the community. Today the Elks club has hundreds of lodges all across the 50 states.

Some community based programs include the Veterans Administrative Hospital ice cream program. Representatives from the lodge bring ice cream to the hospital and interact with the veterans eight weekends out of the 140 weekends shared with other lodges. They are planning a Veterans dinner at the lodge in November if the budget allows, as well as a pre-Thanksgiving dinner which they host a week before Thanksgiving.

The Elks also prepare 50 food baskets with complete dinners for beneficiaries of Albany County Social Services. The Lodge donates about $2,500 to cover the cost of the 50 food baskets.

Next month,  the lodge would like to host a Veterans barbecue or picnic named after Paul Barns who passed away recently. It was his idea to hold this event.

The Elks also run a variation of youth programs such as hoops and a regional and national  basketball tournament for children from 8 to 13. Winners receive a trophy and a trip to the national conference. They hold concerts with the New York State School of Music Association where eighth grade students showcase their musical talent.  These types of music programs are held at the Lodge because the school district may not always have the funds to hold these events.

The Elks club awards $1.9 million in merit and need based scholarships annually. They provide $40,000 to $60,000 in scholarships to students nationally.

They also offer training in the kitchen through their  culinary institute where they help students develop cooking skills in the commercial grade kitchen. And, they sponsor a Boy Scout troop, and hold fundraisers to support a variety of needs, including a child diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

One member of the lodge for 27 years, John Morlock, appreciates the chance to socialize at the lodge. He sits down, drinks a few beers withhis peers and involves his family in some of the activities there. He can bring his grandkids and wife to events like the Memorial Day picnic and Mother’s Day dinner. He said the lodge used to be mainly male but has developed a female attendance over the last few years. The women at the club have made their own dart and bowling league. An application is available for anyone who is interested.  -30-


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