For someone who's only been part of the Kenai chapter of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks for three years, being named Elk of the Year for your lodge is a huge achievement. But Mike Henry was not only named Kenai Elk of the Year on May 21, he also was named Alaska Elk of the Year.
"(I feel) privileged to get that nomination," he said. "It's quite an honor to be an Elk of the Year."
Henry, manager of the Kenai Spur Lodge and .406 restaurant in Kenai, was one of 17 nominees for the Alaska award, said Mary Macrander, secretary of the Kenai Lodge. Henry also is the first person from the Kenai lodge since 1987 to win the award.
"We've only had two prior Alaska state Elks of the Year in the history of the Kenai Elks," Macrander said, adding the Kenai Elks were founded Jan. 10, 1970. "(Henry's) the third person from our lodge."
Henry's father had been a member for 35 years, and Henry said he felt being with the Elks was a way for him to give back to his community.
"The Elks are the biggest distributor of scholarships," he said. "I got to give a $2,000 scholarship at Nikiski High."
The Elks club sponsors hoop shoots at the state and national levels and does a soccer shoot for local youth. It also sponsors an Easter egg hunt and a Halloween event.
When Henry became involved with the Kenai Lodge, he became the house committee chairman, working to bring the lodge itself up to date. Macrander said he helped get together a comprehensive financial package that allowed it to have money to do a lot of necessary repairs and maintenance.
"We're right across the street from the post office and anyone who drove by two years ago (would say) it's a huge improvement today," she said, adding that without Henry's help the repairs wouldn't get done.
"He helped on the roofing, he helped paint, he helped put up drywall."
As chairman of the house committee, Henry said he's in charge of the lodge's bar and restaurant, ensuring it's properly staffed and the food is there when it's needed. He even ends up doing some of the cooking himself.
Henry received a plaque at the state Elks convention in Homer on May 21. Macrander was the person who submitted Henry's name to the state association.
"It's a huge honor," she said. "That's a great achievement in three years."
Henry said in order to be a member of the Elks Association you have to be sponsored by another member. A background check is conducted, potential members take an oath and then are initiated into the club in a formal ceremony. Henry said right now he bears the title of Leading Knight, but being named Elk of the Year is a way to move up in the organization. Eventually he'd like to be the Exalted Ruler of the Kenai Lodge and work for the association at the state level.
"You take the position of being in charge of the whole lodge itself," he said of the top position.
Being active in the lodge has its advantages, and Henry said he'd like to be in the lodge even when he retires as manager of the Kenai Spur Lodge.
"When I retire it will give me the opportunity of doing other things than doing nothing."
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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