Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Meet-Up in Madtown

by Sherie Sasso Scholarship Chair at Madison, Wis., Lodge No 410

This is my fourth year as Scholarship Chair at Madison, Wis., Lodge No. 410. We have about 25 high schools in our area, and we generally receive 40 to 50 applications each year. We have a team of three or four individuals who judge the applications.

From the beginning, I have always been extremely impressed by the quality of the applicants. They are all very bright scholars who maintain excellent grades while also participating in community service and school activities. Most are leaders in their classrooms and on their sports teams. In addition, many hold part-time jobs. It is incredibly difficult to evaluate each application and determine which of the applicants will move on to the District level. We wish we could give scholarships to all of the students because they have all worked so hard.

I was very happy when Elks Scholar Fellow Jenna Johnson contacted me about hosting an Elks Scholar Meet-Up at our Lodge. I was surprised to learn that 26 Elks scholars currently attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Twelve of them were able to attend our scholar meet-up. Except for a couple of casual contacts, none of the students had met each other, and the thing that brought them together was their Elks scholarship.

By the end of dinner, they were all chatting and laughing among themselves— exchanging emails and phone numbers, and really enjoying their get together. It
occurred to me that they actually have more in common than their Elks scholarship. They are all very similar people: extremely bright, extremely motivated and instilled with a natural love of learning. I’m so glad we were able to bring them together at the Lodge and I hope we stay in touch with each other.

Meeting these exceptional students has strengthened my belief in the ENF scholarship program and I am excited to review this year’s applications. Thank you, ENF!

Thursday, October 20, 2016


by Youth Programs Associate Billy Donnelly 
I have been fortunate enough to experience many different not-for-profit organizations, both as a volunteer and as a staff member. In my opinion, nonprofit work is the most rewarding thing that I can do both personally and professionally. Working a hard day and then working a hard day’s night can leave you feeling like a dog, but when you are invested, and you care about what you are working for, it’s different.
I am not going to pretend that doing nonprofit work magically makes everything okay. After a long day your feet are still going to hurt, your back is still going to ache, you’re still going to be hungry and tired, but it’s different. It’s worth it. And you know that it’s worth it. There are plenty of idioms that can sum up this sensation such as “You get out of it what you put into it” or “You reap what you sow”, and each one is more true than the last. Don’t believe me? Let me explain what it is like in Casper, #Wybroming.
With my #Wybroming travel companion

Elks family is more than just a hashtag. It is what connects hundreds of thousands of people across the country to each other. I am confident that I could enter an Elks Lodge anywhere I go and be welcomed as a friend. Within the Elks family, there is a Hoop Shoot family as well, and Casper, Wya., Lodge No. 1353 has always been an important part of that family. Long-time Hoop Shoot National Finals volunteers Ron and Nancy Shogren are members of the Casper Lodge. Long-time Wyoming State Director Frank Luers is a member of Casper Lodge, as well as Beth Luers, long-time District Director. Wes Stull, the long-time Lodge Director for Casper, credits the Hoop Shoot as the reason that he joined the Elks. Also in attendance at this event, was Region 8 Director Randy Gragg and his lovely wife Liz. This meant that every level of the Hoop Shoot, from Lodge to National, was represented.

I first met Wes and his wife JoAnn at my first National Finals—the 2016 Hoop Shoot National Finals in Chicago. There was not a single Finalist from Wyoming, but that did not stop Casper’s whole Hoop Shoot family—Ron, Nancy, Frank, Beth, Wes and JoAnn—from attending. 

Because Lodge No. 1353 has such a great relationship with the Hoop Shoot, we were invited to attend an Elks National Foundation Fundraiser at the Lodge, kicking off ENF month. The scheduling worked in our favor, and before I knew it, Elks National Foundation Director Jim O’Kelley and I were on the plane to Casper, tweeting about #Wybroming all the while. I wish I could talk about the wonderful hospitality that we received—about how the pilot welcomed the ENF staff over the intercom upon landing, about the welcome gala waiting for us at the airport, about two days of never having an empty glass or plate, and about the private tours of both the Lodge and the City of Casper, both well-deserved points of pride. But that is not what I took away from this trip. That’s not to say that I did not enjoy all the hospitality, because I most certainly did, but I took from the weekend than souvenirs and a full stomach.

Casper is one of the best Lodges I’ve ever been to, and it’s easy to see why. Lodge members work hard to make it that way. Casper has a plethora of committed volunteers that put a lot of time and effort into the Lodge, making it a fun place to be for both members of the Lodge and members of the community. Wes Stull, who helped organize our trip, was responsible for cooking 126 racks of ribs in one day. Something that wouldn’t have been possible without the help of friends and volunteers like Dan Winer, Tom Hedges and Exalted Ruler Michael Stedillie who spent their entire weekend volunteering at the Lodge. They were up with the sun and worked well into the night. The thing about it, though, is that they had fun while doing it. They enjoyed it. Every person at the Lodge on Saturday and Sunday had a great time, myself included. There was laughter and conversation among friends. But the Casper Lodge volunteers seemed to be having even more fun working than the people they were working for. Wes and the other volunteers were cracking jokes while proudly showing the fruits of their labor. It seems only fitting that they put in the most, and thus, they were able to get the most out of it. It was a wonderful sight to see, and it all tasted good too.

This mentality and work ethic, that is found in spades around the Casper Lodge, is what I took with me back to Chicago. It inspired me to put forth the extra effort, go the extra mile, not just professionally, but personally, as a member of my Lodge as well. I can’t thank the members of the Casper Lodge enough for the weekend spent in #Wybroming. Not just for the hospitality, but for the inspiration and the reminder of what can be accomplished if you are willing to put in the work.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Journey from Elk scholar to Lodge Scholarship Chair

 Sean Pringle is the Scholarship Chair at the Oceano/Five Cities, Calif., Lodge No. 2504 where he has been a member for two years. Upon receiving his MVS scholarship in 2010, Sean served on the ENF Scholar Advisory Board (SAB) for four years. He graduated in spring of 2016 with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering (structural emphasis) from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.  

We encourage Elks scholars to share their story, give their time, and join the Order. Hear about Sean’s journey from share, to give, to join below.


Each scholar has a different story and experience to share. We come from all different backgrounds, have led different volunteer events/activities, and are passionate about pursuing a great career after college. When you consider how many current Elks scholars and alumni are out there, we make up a rather large community, all with one central connection­we’re part of the much larger Elks family.

I became involved with the Elks during my senior year of high school. I realized how much the Elks were doing for our school, from providing dinners for students with academic excellence, to hosting the Elks Teenager of the Month (and Year) awards. I volunteered at a few dinners and lunch events earlier that year, and was selected as an MVS recipient later that spring. That summer, I served my first year as a Scholar Advisory Board member, which opened my eyes even more to opportunities the Elks provide across the country. Naturally, when I joined the Elks, I was drawn towards helping with the scholarships. We also have a great Youth Activities Chair, Kristi Dupler, who’s been a great mentor.

Back in college, I took a few other Elks scholars from my campus to various Lodge events to keep them connected with the Elks. We also did community activities, like visiting local senior homes to play cards and hang out with senior citizens. I knew it was a way to give back to the Order, which was supporting us during college with ENF and Lodge scholarships. We even made t-shirts that said “Cal Poly Elks Scholars” which we wore when we volunteered at these activities.

I think the most important thing Elks can do after supporting an Elks scholar going off to college is to continue to remain involved with that scholar during their college years. One great program is the Elks Scholar Speaker Program, which invites Elks scholars back to their Lodges during academic breaks to speak to the Lodge over a dinner and share their experiences. It helps the scholars to continue to remember the Order and reinforces a desire to give back and share their story even after they graduate from college.

My number one piece of advice for younger scholars looking to join the Elks is to think about joining with a friend. That way, there’s at least one person you know when you attend an event and it might make “breaking the ice” and meeting new people a bit easier. Also, getting involved in a specific committee, such as scholarships, or veterans, can help to keep you involved in several Lodge activities throughout the year.

The B.P.O.E. is truly a family filled with amazing and giving individuals. I don’t think any other organization presents the same amount of support through volunteer efforts geared towards a large variety of groups - from youth to veterans, law enforcement and even just the general public. Lodges provide an opportunity to meet someone new each day and share stories and experiences with one another. I look forward to contributing towards the warm culture at my home Lodge in the work I perform as Scholarship Chair and through our annual events. The term “Benevolence”, synonymous with “kindness”, “charity” and “goodwill” is 100 percent at the core of the organization and every activity put on by the more than 1,900 Lodges across the country. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Don’t Forget about the CIP!

by Senior Programs Associate Colleen Muszynski

2017 Most Valuable Student and Legacy Awards contests are in full swing. The Dallas Elks Scholar Service Trip is approaching this winter. The Hoop Shoot season has kicked-off with Lodge contests ramping up in October and griteos dropping every Tuesday

But hey, what’s that? In the corner among the chaos? It’s your friendly Community Investments Program grant office! And we’re here, as ever, to help Lodges make a charitable impact in their communities. 

Chelsea and I with our CIP Field Guides
Maybe I’m biased because I help run the CIP, but I’d argue that even during our slower times, the CIP grants office still buzzes with excitement. It’s a constant buzz that started with the kick-off of the 2016-17 grant year July 1, and won’t end until the cycle closes July 31, 2017—at which time we’ll ALREADY be a month into the 2017-18 year!

I’m getting ahead of myself because although we are always looking forward, there are some things to celebrate in our recent past. Already, we’ve debuted our brand-new CIP Field Guide, awarded all 500 Promise Grants in record time, and had 484 Lodges apply for the Freedom Grant—the most ever. 

Looking forward, I’m excited about a couple of things this ENF month. The CIP office and colleagues from other ENF departments are diligently reviewing 2017 Impact Grant applications. Recipients will be announced on spooky Monday, October 31. Speaking of Impact Grants, I’ll be visiting the Elmhurst, Ill., Lodge No. 1531—a 2016 Impact Grant recipient right in the ENF’s backyard. 

In addition, I’m really excited to introduce our new blog series written by 2016 CIP Volunteer of the Year and Fresno, Calif., Lodge No. 439’s very own, Susan Good. Susan will be writing periodically to offer tips and insights into what it means to be a successful grants coordinator. Click here to check out the first installment on Elks in Action

Even with the constant hum of excitement in the CIP office, we’re never too busy to talk. Feeling inspired to join in on the grant fun? Give us a call or shoot us an email! 

The Elks National Foundation allocated $9.8 million this year to fund the Community Investments Program. Lodges meet local needs through Beacon, Gratitude, Promise and Impact Grants. These grants offer Lodges opportunities to serve the community in ways that will raise the Lodge’s profile, energize the membership, encourage former members to return to the fold, and gain the notice of people who want to be part of an organization that’s doing great things. To learn more about the Community Investments Program, please visit elks.org/CIP.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

From Teaching to the ENF

by Hannah Jones
Donor Services Assistant

Hi all! My name is Hannah Jones, and I am the new Donor Services Assistant at the Elks National Foundation. I joined the Foundation in mid-July, so I’ve been immersed in this world for over two months now, and wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to introduce myself to Elkdom at large.

In case you’re wondering what a Donor Services Assistant actually does, I’ll allow you a quick glimpse into my modest yet surprisingly colorful cubicle to find out.

Usually a significant chunk of my day is spent talking to Elks from all over the country on the phone to answer different questions, especially questions related to donations and recognition. I help Lodge ENF Fundraising Chairs and Secretaries navigate our website, understand reports and standings, and explain how our donations are processed.

I also spend a lot of time reaching out to Lodge Chairs when we receive remittances that don’t balance, don’t have a list of donors, or any number of other issues that might arise. (If you’re an ENF Fundraising Chair and you don’t want me to harass you by e-mail about remittance issues, I’d be happy to direct you to some educational resources to make sure you don’t ever have to hear from me!) Today, for example, I’ve been processing an adjustment for a check that was sent in this past May without any donor information. After some communication with the Lodge Chair, I am fixing that donation so that all 850 donors get credit. It takes quite a bit of time to make adjustments like these, but it’s so important to the Foundation that this level of generosity is acknowledged.

Most days, I work on our bank’s website to download financial information for donation processing. Once a week, I send out acknowledgment letters, which I periodically edit to include the most up-to-date information on the Foundation. Once a month, I prepare recognition—the pins and certificates that show our gratitude for the continued support of our donors. The role of Donor Services Assistant is a grab-bag of responsibilities, but it’s teaching me a lot about the behind-the-scenes work at a non-profit.

This kind of exposure to non-profit work is extremely important to me, because up until this past summer, I had been working in a middle school in New Orleans as an English teacher. I’m fairly certain the two positions could not be more different. First of all, as the early fall weather rolls in and cools off the city of Chicago, I’m already beginning to brace myself for the cold, harsh winter that I know is in store after getting quite used to the swampy subtropics of southeastern Louisiana. Even more important, while I grew quite accustomed to spending my days attempting to get angst-driven pre-teens to read literature, I now get to converse with a much friendlier and significantly more mature clientele, who are motivated and well-aligned with the Foundation’s mission. Cajoling into action and breaking up fights are two skills that I no longer have to exercise on a daily basis! At least not yet.

The best and most unexpected part of this work so far has been discovering the immensely caring and familial world of the Elks. I’ll admit, before I started working at the Foundation, I didn’t know that much about the Elks. There was an Elks Lodge in my New Jersey hometown (Ridgewood, N.J., Lodge No. 1455), which I passed frequently, but not once did I pass the threshold and walk inside to uncover what the Elks are really about. Now I get to learn more and more about the great heart of Elkdom every day. Nothing has been more surprising than realizing the immense philanthropic power and the mighty force of change that Elks wield in communities all over the country.

I want to thank everyone that I’ve talked to so far for welcoming me with such open arms into the Elks Family. I hope I get the chance to get to know you and find more about the amazing things happening at your Lodge soon! I’m always just a phone call or email away.