MILWAUKIE, Ore. (KOIN) — Lynsie Winstead is 108 years younger than the Milwaukie-Portland Elks Lodge has been around. But recently the 26-year-old became the youngest female leader — the Exalted Ruler — in the lodge’s history.
Over the past century most of the Exalted Rulers have been men, though a few women have held the title. Winstead is actually the second-youngest Exalted Ruler of any Elks Lodge in the nation.
“I think it’s really cool that we’re expanding from an older to younger generation,” she told KOIN 6 News. “Women didn’t get to vote, or didn’t get to join the Elks Lodge until 1995.”
She became interested in the Elks when she was a teenager and came to the lodge to help at a haunted house.
“I wanted to be an Elk member and they go, ‘Well you’re not 21. You can’t join.’ I was 19,” she said. “But they said, ‘We can start a program called the Antlers, which is between the ages of 13 and 20.”
That’s what she did. She and about 35 others joined the Antlers with her. The minute she turned 21, she became an Elk.
Her reign as Exalted Ruler began April 1 and will run through March 30, 2024. As Exalted Ruler, she spends 30-40 hours, unpaid, at the lodge each week helping to organize the many community service events.
She also makes sure the lodge is current on Facebook and the Elks Lodge app.
“I’m excited I’m part of the social media aspect and I’m also the public relations, helping other lodges get their content out there so people can see what they’re doing,” Winstead said.
Her main goal is to attract younger families to the lodge and hope that they feel as comfortable and supported here as she does.
“We call this a home because we’re always here,” she said, “one big Elk family.”