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Dawn Lambert, current exalted ruler of the Ishpeming Elks Lodge, is a Superior Woman. Now in her second stint at the helm of this fraternal organization, Lambert is responsible for overseeing the operation of the club. Through her involvement with the Elks Lodge and other charitable organizations in the Upper Peninsula, Lambert has earned a reputation as a “super-doer”: a community volunteer who donates hundreds of hours of time and effort to causes near and dear to her.
By Dale Hemmila
In this world there are doers and there are super-doers. Many of us are doers; if someone asks for help for a few moments, or asks us to volunteer for a day or so, we willingly do it, and when it’s done, we go back to our regularly scheduled life.
Super-doers are people who do the moments and days of volunteering, but then find ways to keep giving to help others to make their moments, their days, their weeks, and even their years, much better.
Dawn Lambert is a super-doer. A ball of fire redhead with a light-up-the-room smile, Lambert just can’t stop, well, doing.
Originally from the eastern Upper Peninsula, Lambert now calls Ishpeming home. She works as a licensed agent at a Marquette insurance agency, but her involvement as a volunteer outside of her full time job helps make Michigan’s Upper Peninsula a better place to live.
Currently in her second stint as the Exalted Ruler (ER) of the Ishpeming Elks Lodge, Lambert went from a lodge bartender to trustee to her first term as ER from 2011 to 2012 and accepted her second tenure for the 2017 to 2018 term.
“When I took Exalted Ruler in 2011, there was no one else stepping up to the plate to do it, and I figured, who knew more about what was going on than a bartender and Trustee, so I jumped in with both feet,” she said. “I love planning events and making things happen and if you surround yourself with great people, it makes the task that much more enjoyable and fun.”
But the position of ER is more than just “fun.” There are official duties that make the ER an unofficial CEO of a fraternal organization with more than 350 members. The ER works with other office holders, trustees, and committees to make certain the lodge, which has a full bar, serves weekly meals and offers special events, runs smoothly.
As only the third female ER at the lodge — which only began accepting women as members in 1996 — she says she had no problems taking on the role after the success heralded by her female predecessors.
“I had no qualms because they had broken trail for me,” she said. “I can’t recall any negative remarks and people have been very positive and helpful.”
It’s likely her own work ethic helped her ease into the role, as well.
“I’m not afraid to step up to the plate to plan events, to come in and do the work,” she explained. “I don’t ask someone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.”
Lambert certainly has put that philosophy into effect during one of the lodge’s signature events, or as she describes it: “My beloved Christmas dinner.”
At the behest of local businessman, Kiwanian, and volunteer, Dave Aro, the lodge sanctioned a Community Christmas Dinner feeding about 50 people on Christmas Day in 2009. Unfortunately, the event lost its financial supporter soon after it began and was close to folding, but that’s when super-doer Lambert stepped in.
She began a fundraising effort that continues to this day. The Christmas dinner has survived, and even thrived, in subsequent years after Lambert sought and received grants from the Elks National Foundation and solicited funds from local donors. She also began a delivery service to take dinners to people who were homebound on Christmas Day.
“Although I founded the dinner, Dawn has been the main reason it continued,” Aro said. “Dawn’s energy, enthusiasm and resourcefulness are really the only reason the dinner kept happening after the previous sponsor was unable to continue.”
And the numbers served are a testament to the dinner’s success. Cooking 300 pounds of turkey and 50 pounds of ham with all the usual trimmings, Lambert, Aro and group of 30 volunteers served up more than 600 meals last Christmas for in-house, delivery, and takeout.
And if you ask her why she gives up her holiday for others, well: “Now you’re going to make me cry,” she said.
With a tear and a Kleenex, she explained her heartfelt reason has to do with her mother, Theresa, who died at the age of 46 in 1995.
“Christmas was my mom’s favorite holiday,” she said. “So when I got the chance to do this I pushed forward. During the community Christmas dinner, I always feel like she is standing by my side.
“And definitely my favorite part of the day is seeing people come in for the dinner, and sometimes you’re the only hug they are going to get that day.”
And Christmas isn’t the only holiday where service to others comes first. She and her husband, Peter Sayring, volunteer to serve a free Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s tavern in a different U.P. community each year.
It is not just the members of the Elks Lodge or holiday diners that benefit from Lambert’s volunteer efforts, either.
A member of U.P. Pink Power since 2012, (according to their Facebook page: A group of girls from Gwinn and surrounding areas, help “Pay it forward” to those in need), Lambert can be seen participating in their many events to raise funds to assist others facing “travesty” issues.
That includes participating in a 17-mile walk each spring to raise money, helping organize a fundraising auction, participating in an annual golf outing or just about anything else to serve the cause and help others.
“Recently, the money raised purchased automated external defibrillators (AEDs), 117 across the U.P.,” she said. “If we hear of someone diagnosed with cancer or other disease, or their house burned down, we pay it forward out of funds raised by the walk or other fundraisers.”
So, if it takes a 17-mile walk, showing up for an early morning radio interview, hustling auction items or cooking and serving a holiday dinner for hundreds, Lambert is a super doer but she is also quick to point out she has lots of support.
“If it weren’t for (husband) Peter’s support, and the support of my friends and family, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do,” she said.
Nonetheless, doing is what she does and does well.
“If I think I can help and believe in the cause, then I’m going to help, that’s what it’s about,” Lambert said. “I need to spread my wings and help people. Hopefully, if I ever need it, people will be there for me.”
According to fellow Christmas dinner organizer Aro: “Dawn’s work with the Elks, Breast Cancer Awareness, Christmas dinner and other things have always been a large reason why their events or fund drives have been successful. She’s a little red tornado.”
To learn more about the Ishpeming Elks Lodge, visit: Ishpeming Elks Lodge