Can you spell empowerment?

Jack Berry stood in front of a group of Hawthorne Elementary third graders Wednesday morning and asked if they knew what the Elks Lodge was.

`You hunt for elk,` one student guessed.

Berry, a member of the Helena Elks Lodge #193, went on to explain that members of Elks are a little like Boy or Girl Scouts.

`We are men and women who get together to help other people,` he said.

From advocating for veterans to providing scholarships to college-bound students, the Elks have consistently worked to help those in need.

And for the third year in a row, the Elks, in partnership with The Dictionary Project, have provided dictionaries to area third graders. This year, more than 900 dictionaries are being distributed to schools in Helena, East Helena, Townsend, Boulder, Basin, Wolf Creek, and Canyon Creek.

James Madison, exalted ruler for the Helena Elks, says the usefulness of a dictionary goes beyond spelling, pronunciations and definitions. It is a companion for solving problems that arise as a child develops his or her reading, writing and creative thinking abilities, Madison said. Teachers benefit, too, he adds, because they know the students have consistent access to a tool for homework and in-class explorations.

Hawthorne third-grader Jaylen admits she`s not a good speller, so the new dictionary will be a useful tool.

`When I look up something it helps me spell the word,` Jaylen, 8, said.

Berry urged the students to use their new dictionaries and not put them on a shelf only to collect dust. He reassured them that a book with a worn binder is acceptable.

As soon as Jake, 8, got his book he wrote his name inside.

`I like dictionaries because I learn stuff,` he said.

Deb Jacobsen, principal at Hawthorne, sat smiling in the classroom, watching the students thumb through their new books.

`Anytime the kids can a have a research tool at the tip of their fingers, it makes learning more immediate for them,` Jacobsen said. `For them to be able to reach in their desks and pull out their very own dictionary is valuable. To possess that is possessing a little bit of power.`