PITTSBURG -- In a club where most members are old enough to collect Social Security, Jacob Zimmerman is the exalted ruler of the Pittsburg Elks Lodge 1474 at the ripe young age of 23.
Zimmerman hopes to bring younger members into the lodge during his one-year term. "I hope to offer the Elks the ability to get rid of the stigma of being an old man's lodge. My main goal this year is it to try and get younger members," said Zimmerman, who was sworn in at an April 5 installation of officers dinner at the lodge.
He joined a week after he turned 21, the age when a man or woman can join the Elks, which provides a place for social interaction while raising funds for charitable causes that help veterans and disabled children, among other things.
Younger members are needed "to make sure the lodge is around for everyone to enjoy for a long time. It's a great way to meet new people and develop a lot of friendships that are lasting," said Zimmerman, an Antioch resident who delivers water softening products and graduated from Pittsburg High in 2008.
While Zimmerman is the lodge's youngest exalted ruler, it's hard to say if that designation applies statewide or nationwide. Elks organization representatives said they don't keep records on the ages of exalted rulers. That said, Charisce Williams, an executive assistant with the California-Hawaii Elks Association, said it is unusual for someone in their 20s to be named as an exalted ruler. But, she added, "Young people are starting to come into the Elks. It's throughout the nation in the last five years."
While the Pittsburg lodge does have some younger members, the average age of its 500-plus members is close to 70 years old, said Bob Beck, the outgoing exalted ruler.
"And that's why we are so excited. He will bring a new set of energy and excitement to our membership," Beck, 61, said of Zimmerman being named to the exalted ruler post by a unanimous vote among members after rising up through the ranks since joining.
"Any time a young person gets involved in an organization (such as the Elks) it is to the benefit of the organization. He can actually bring in other young people to this organization so it won't die. I know the young man and I believe he will do a good job. I applaud him for doing it. It is a lot of work and a lot of effort," said Ben Johnson, 68, an Elks member and city councilman.
The Elks Club is somewhat of a tradition in Zimmerman's family, given that his grandfather and uncles were lodge members. His father, Scott Zimmerman, served two stints as the exalted ruler in the Pittsburg lodge.
As a teenager, the younger Zimmerman helped out at pancake breakfasts and barbecue fundraisers at the lodge.
"I kind of got the bug for Elks when I was 14," said Zimmerman, who was also member of DeMolay, a service club for young men.
While many his age might turn to social media to promote a cause, Zimmerman doesn't see Facebook and Twitter as a way to promote the lodge.
"If I have an opportunity to talk to some about the Elks, I will talk to them. If you want to know about the Elks, come down to the lodge, " he said.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.