The Ticonderoga Elks Lodge 1494 presented dictionaries to third grade students at St. Mary’s School. Elk members Mary Lloyd Burroughs and Richard A. Nadeau, PER, delivered the books to teacher Joanne Cook, volunteer Mary Ann Majors and students.
In an era of computers, smartphones and other technology, are paper dictionaries still relevant?
Ticonderoga Elks Lodge 1494 believes so.
“There’s much more to a dictionary than just the spelling of a word,” Richard Nadeau, Ti Elks Dictionary Project coordinator. “There are some things you just can’t do with a computer. And there are still many students who don’t have access to a computer or the internet.”
That’s why the local Elks recently completed their ninth year with the national Dictionary Project. The effort gives a dictionary to every third grade student in the area. This year more than 600 dictionaries were given to students at Ticonderoga, St. Mary’s, Crown Point, Moriah, Putnam, Schroon Lake, Mountainside Christian Academy and Addison, Vt., schools.
The dictionaries, which are updated every year, also include the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, mathematical and science tables, presidential biographies, maps and other information. Large print dictionaries are available for students with vision problems.
“The goal is to give students a reference tool to help them,” Elk David Carr said. “We feel a dictionary is an important tool for everyone. We know of students who have used their dictionaries all through school and taken them to college.”
The Ti Elks also present French and Spanish dictionaries to middle school language students.
The Dictionary Project began in 1995 when Mary French, a resident of Charleston, S.C., decided to raise money for dictionaries in a local school. By 1999 French had managed to get dictionaries to every third grade students in her state. That’s when Carr heard about it.
“My wife, Penny, is a retired English teacher,” Carr said. “She thought it was a great idea to give dictionaries to students and suggested the Elks may want to get involved. I spoke to Sue Fahey, a Ticonderoga third grade teacher, and she was excited about the idea.”
Later, while on vacation in South Carolina, the Carrs had an opportunity to meet French, who explained the Dictionary Project in detail. In 2003 the Ti Elks started the program locally.
“It was so successful that in 2004 I brought it to the New York State Elks Association and in 2005 to the grand lodge,” Carr said. “I met with every state president and every state secretary. It really spread across the country and the Elks are a big part of it.”
Civic groups and others support the Dictionary Project nationally with the Elks, having started in Ticonderoga, accounting for 40 percent of all dictionaries given away in the U.S.
“I want to thank the Elks for all their help in introducing the Dictionary Project nationwide to their members,” French said. “Many Elks lodges throughout the United States have joined the Dictionary Project and have distributed several hundred thousand dictionaries to children.
“It is virtuous to work so hard to expand the vocabulary of the children where you live,” she said. “I can’t think of a better investment than putting words into the hands of children.”
Carr eventually became national president of the Elks and remains active nationally. He handed the reins of the Ti Dictionary Project to Nadeau in 2006.
As coordinator of the Ticonderoga Dictionary Project, Nadeau is responsible for raising money to support the purchase of the books, ordering the dictionaries and distributing them to area schools.
“It’s a treat to bring the dictionaries to a class room,” Nadeau said. “We spend a few minutes explaining the dictionaries and we usually ask the students to look up a word. The kids are usually very excited and happy.”
The dictionaries are distributed at the beginning of each school year, but it’s a year-long project. Money needs to be raised each year and the dictionaries are ordered in the spring.
This year its cost Ti Elks $1,200 for the dictionaries.
“We get a lot of support financially, but we could certainly use more,” Nadeau said. “The (Ticonderoga High School) Key Club, French Club and Spanish Club send us a check every year. Most of the money for the dictionaries comes from the Elks.”
Individuals can also support the Dictionary Project. With a $50 donation the Elks will place a person’s name or a memorial notice in 30 dictionaries.
“That’s basically dictionaries for a class,” Nadeau said. “Inside the front cover we place a sticker that reads something like ‘Courtesy of...’ or ‘In memory of...’ We point that out to the students when were deliver the dictionaries.”
People interested in supporting the Dictionary Project can contact Nadeau by Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Elks take photos and ask students to write a short note about their dictionaries. Those are collected and placed into an album kept at the Ticonderoga lodge.
“That album is on display for people to see what the Dictionary Project is all about,” Nadeau said. “People are welcome to come in and see it.”
Nadeau pointed out the Dictionary Project is just one of several Elks youth initiatives. The Elks also sponsor an Americanism Essay Contest and a drug awareness program.