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Elks Club: Miller Time is all the time

April 17, 2014

by Joe Russell

Jim Miller, bartender, Elks Lodge #149, Yates Street, Albany/Joe Russell

Jim Miller, bartender, Elks Lodge #149, Yates Street, Albany/Joe Russell

Jim Miller has spent 30 years tending bar at the Albany Elks Lodge. On a strictly volunteer basis, he looks at the great conversation and longstanding friendships as payment enough.

“Everyone here is good people,” Miller said.

The Albany Elks Lodge is responsible for countless charitable contributions within the Pine Hill community and the great Albany area. The Albany Elks’ current headquarters was opened in 1984 at 25 South Allen St. after their original State Street location burned to disrepair.

The Elks Lodge is open seven days a week, from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Miller is there for every moment of it. As the “go to” bartender, friends and fellow members look to Miller for both guidance and historical context.

“Here you find best friends. You can’t meet nicer people, and Jim is one of them,” said Ed Molitor, a longtime member.

Miller has a hand in the club’s annual charitable activities and continual charitable donations. Organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, various homeless shelters, and Veterans Association (VA) all benefit from the work of Elks members. Altogether, Miller states around two- thirds of the Albany chapter’s proceeds are donated to charity, the remaining one-third is put toward running the facility, which is owned by the Elks Club.

Among the several charitable activities, Miller references the annual Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners as his favorite activities.

“We took care of 50 families last Thanksgiving -turkey, potatoes, the whole bit,” Miller said.

Elks Secretary Ray LaRose, Albany/Joe Russell

Elks Secretary Ray LaRose,
Albany/Joe Russell

The Albany Elks Lodge has an impressive 500 person membership, and the majority of the members are actively involved in the club’s activity. Membership has remained steady and new members may still apply, but gaining acceptance into the organization is no easy feat. Applicants must first find two current members to act as sponsors, and then undergo a rigorous three step process.Families in need receive food directly from the members, and parties are held at the prior to the holiday season to raise funds and accept donations.

The first step, ‘investigation,’ can be likened to a background check. The second, ‘indoctrination,’ is a period of time for a potential member to prove their club loyalty. The third, ‘initiation,’ usually involves a task such as overseeing a major event, and is always followed by a party. This process may seem overwhelming and unnecessary to some, but Miller stresses the importance of ensuring quality members. “We have to make sure they’re good guys,” Miller said.

Miller’s work and dedication is obvious through his longevity and continued club attributions. Along with his action, Miller’s fellow club members praise him. Ray LaRose is the current Albany Elks secretary and former vice president. He has been with the organization for 25 years and has spent 24 of those years in a higher level trustee position. Ray’s years of experience make him an authority on club members. “You don’t find much better than Jimmy. He’s always been around and always lent a hand,” LaRose said.

Becoming a member of the Elks isn’t just for charity as there is always fun to be had around the club. Miller especially loves playing darts against neighboring clubs. Each chapter has teams. They compete for prizes, but more importantly, they compete for bragging rights. Competitions move from lodge to lodge in locations such as Rotterdam, Colonie and Watervliet and even further regional clubs like New Brunswick and Colbeskill. Miller has been an active member of the dart team since his initiation and enjoys the comaraderie and competitive nature of the sport.

After years of membership, Miller takes pride in his chapter of the Elks and the club as a whole. “We’re always looking for new members, we’ve even done a dollar membership fee to get more guys,” Miller said. The annual membership fee is a small price to pay in comparison to the feelings of joy and pride brought by being active in the organization. They have events planned for the summer of 2014 already. They look forward to providing concerts in front of their building and hope to collect further donations.

            “We’re here to take care of our community, and you can’t find better guys to do it,” Miller said.-30-

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