Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Minne-appolis, Big Impact

Jocelyn Moya
ENF Programs Assistant


This week I, along with my two wonderful colleagues Colleen and Maryann, was able to experience firsthand the work Lodges across the country are taking part in—and it was exceptional. The information we’re able to gather when reviewing grant applications or reading project reports can only go so far—the ability to visit a Lodge, see a project in action, and meet the wonderful and hardworking volunteers who put it all together really puts the cherry on top.

Checking out the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden



In the Minneapolis suburban area, there are two Lodges using an Impact Grant to tackle one very important issue: combating teen homelessness. However, the only similarities between the two projects are the great group of volunteers behind them and the impact they’re making.

CIPsters learning about such a great partnership!

An Avenue to a Future


At Minneapolis, Minn., Lodge No. 44, volunteers work with one single partner organization, Avenues for Homeless Youth, to assist the teen residents and staff of this transitional housing program.

The facility houses ten teens and leaves one bed open for emergency situations. The Elks work with the facility to ensure residents have basic necessities, cook weekly meals at the residence, and help maintain the grounds. The most incredible part of this project is how much the community was behind opening this facility. From talking with Lodge members and Avenues staff, it became evident that this was a project the community was really pushing for. In fact, it only took 18 months for the city to approve and build the center. Since day one, the Lodge has been there to help support the facility and its residents in any way necessary.


Hope in Hopkins

Debbie and Colleen having a fun time setting up the backpacks.
While visiting Hopkins, Minn., Lodge No. 2221, we had the opportunity to help assemble hygiene packs the Lodge provides to teens and meet with a few of the community partners they work with. The most inspirational part of the visit was seeing how this project has grown in terms of community partners and support. There is a really exceptional group of volunteers doing a lot of fantastic work, but beyond that they’re bringing in local community groups from churches to softball teams to Boy and Girl Scouts to stuffing parties at people’s homes to get them all involved and invested in the cause.

In the beginning, Project Manager DeDe Noll Kelm stated that when they debuted these bags people would snatch them up right away. But, as they began to see the Elks would actually stick around the organizations started taking only what they needed. At MoveFwd, one of the organizations that we stopped by to chat with, it became clear how much the relationship with the Lodge has grown and how much trust has been built. The Executive Director, Lydia Kihm, said, “The project has morphed and now we’re not panicky they’re going to disappear.” This speaks so much to the reliability of Teaming Up for Teens and their ability to adapt to the needs of those they’re helping. The Housing Manger chimed in and said teens come to them looking for the bags which allows MoveFwd to then connect them to added support and resources.

We were also able to visit a school and speak to the counselors and social workers and Treehouse another organization aimed at helping teens who are at-risk succeed, everyone had nothing but praises for the Elks and were so thankful for the support the bags provide.

Community is Key


The efforts of combined work!
After visiting with both of these great Lodges and meeting all the committed volunteers tackling this one critical issue in such different ways, I can say that the most important part of any successful project is the community. At the Minneapolis Lodge, they were lucky to have the community behind them to support this cause but without the community who knows if the project would have been possible today. At Hopkins, the Lodge had to work hard to gain the trust of the local organizations serving teens and they did. Now they’re bringing in the rest of the local community to build added support.


Both projects have been able to use the different strengths of their communities to make impactful and inspiring change. I could go on for days about the remarkable time we had in such a short time but instead, take a look at photos from our trip here. After our Minneapolis experiences, I can’t wait for the opportunity to see more Elks and their communities in action!



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Night With the Scholars

By Lois Kundel
Davenport, Iowa, Lodge No. 298


An Elks National Foundation recognition night–what a great way to thank and recognize our ENF donors and also highlight the great work of the Foundation! I had heard, more than once, that our Lodge members hear “ENF” all the time, but most of them probably don’t even know what the letters stand for or understand what the Foundation does or is all about.

In brainstorming this event, I tried to come up with a way to make the night more memorable and real for our donors, a way for them connect with the who, what, why and how of their donations.

About that same time and as scholarship chair, I was notified that one of our Most Valuable Student scholarship applicants was awarded a $4,000 MVS scholarship. The light bulb went on and my brain engaged–invite our scholarship recipient to the recognition event–that would be a great way to help make the connection. I contacted the Foundation and with their help we had four Elks scholars in attendance–two MVS scholars, a Legacy Award recipient and an Emergency Educational Grant recipient.

Kaitlyn Roling, Carly Ryder, Grace Spires and Sam Dunklau
The scholars, Kaitlyn Roling, Carly Ryder, Grace Spires and Sam Dunklau, were excited to join us and to meet our Lodge members. From the time I connected with them, they were eager to be a part of and participate in the event. After arriving at our Lodge, they were friendly, engaged and sociable. Each of them enjoyed a complimentary dinner and then spoke, telling those in attendance a little bit about themselves and their goals and then thanked the donors for their support of the Elks National Foundation. They enjoyed meeting each other and even offered to help with future Lodge events.

Our members couldn’t get over how talented and personable the students were and they were so thankful to meet the scholars. They are still talking about “a night with the scholars” and how nice it was to meet “the kids.”
Me at a Youth Recognition Night earlier this year.

Scholarships are a way to help future generations. My husband, Harlan and I love the Elks, their mission and purpose. We are especially impressed with the Foundation’s management and stewardship of our funds. For an organization to spend less than eight percent on fundamental expenses, in our opinion that speaks volumes about the organization.

Harlan and I believe in supporting our youth. When we learned about the MVS Named Scholarship Program, we chose to make that commitment and name a scholarship. Our night with the scholars was such a delightful evening. I would encourage my fellow Elks to reach out to the scholars in their areas. Engage them, bring them to your Lodges and ask them to help with your programs. They are family and our future.

By Lois Kundel
Davenport, Iowa, Lodge No. 298



In 2016-17, the Elks National Foundation appropriated $4.20 million to fund the ENF scholarship program, which provides college scholarships, ensuring a bright future for our nation’s youth. As important parts of the Elks family, Elks scholars have many social and service opportunities to connect with the Elks and each other. For more information about our scholarship programs, and for ways Lodges can get involved with Elks scholars, visit elks.org/enf/scholars.
 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

On Board with the Best People on Earth

by Jenna Johnson
Elks Scholar Fellow

Since joining the Elks staff on April 4, I have been welcomed into a supportive and inviting community that embodies everything the Elks stand for, and I could not be more grateful. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the chance to converse with wonderful co-workers and had the opportunity to learn more about the various programs and events the Elks National Foundation facilitates.

I have always appreciated the mission of the Elks--I would not have been able to attend the university of my choice or pursue the degrees I was passionate about, had it not been for the generous support of the Foundation. However, my admiration for the organization only continues to grow as I learn about departments, such as the Community Investments Program, and events, such as the Hoop Shoot, that are entirely focused on fostering community partnerships. I’m looking forward to involving Elks scholars across the country in the good work of the Elks by engaging them on upcoming Elks Scholar Service Trips.

Jenna settles into her new digs at 2750 N. Lakeview.

Prior to beginning in the office, I had the opportunity to participate in the Spring Scholar Service Trip to Washington, D.C. It was a great introduction to what these trips are all about. My favorite part was the natural integration of relationship building and volunteering. Serving alongside each other provided an immediate platform of commonality for everyone in the group. It allowed me the opportunity to hear the scholars’ stories, learn what they are passionate about and find out how the Elks and the ENF have impacted their college careers.

As we served individuals experiencing homelessness, by preparing meals or by visiting veterans at a senior center, I was surprised by how quickly walls came down between different individuals. Scholars were forming friendships and engaging each other in meaningful conversation from day one. They were discussing what they had seen throughout the day, and they were processing their experiences in intentional and insightful ways.

Jenna (left) prepares a meal on the Spring Scholar Service Trip.

They were also learning from the individuals they served. They were in constant dialogue with the community members we came into contact with, and they were enthusiastic and eager to serve. The scholars cleaned homes, raked yards, led Bingo games, initiated conversation during bedside visits at the V.A., organized furniture, packed food, and participated in a variety of other forms of service. However, at the end of the day they always seemed more satisfied than drained. It was a privilege to witness the ways in which service became a life-giving endeavor.

It was a week full of connections. Attaching personal faces to pivotal issues, such as homelessness and food insecurity, bringing scholars together to form meaningful friendships, and getting to know the Elks members who make many college and career aspirations a possibility by investing in individuals. The trip had a transformational impact upon the scholars and staff alike and was a unique blend of serving communities, building relationships and exploring our nation’s capital.

Over the past few weeks, I have come to realize that the values I saw the Elks encourage and instill in scholars on the service trips are reflected in every aspect of the Foundation. I am eager to get involved, invest in the work of this organization, and learn from fellow staff members who are dedicated to selfless service.

As the second Elks Scholar Fellow, I am also thankful for the wisdom and support of Maryann Slater, who led the first three Elks Scholar Service Trips when she was in the Fellow position. She has laid the groundwork for service to become an integral part of scholars’ lives. Hearing about her vision for the trips has helped shape my understanding and makes me excited to follow in her footsteps as best I can. Click here to read her blog post from the Winter Trip. I feel privileged to be joining the Elks team, and I look forward to planning and leading the future Scholar Service Trips!


We know Elks scholars are dedicated to service. Elks scholars now have the opportunity to come together in service with their Elks scholar peers. In 2016-17, Jenna will lead three Elks Scholar Service Trips for up to 20 Elks scholars each. They are scheduled for the summer, winter and spring in locations from coast to coast. These trips provide scholars the opportunity to learn about societal issues, serve those in need in the name of the Elks, and connect with their Elks Family from across the country. For more information about the trips, click here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Other March—and April—Madness


Jocelyn Moya
ENF Programs Assistant 

Around this time last year, I was just moving up to the CIP office and everything was a chaotic blur. The phones were ringing non-stop, emails were coming in quicker than we could respond to them, and everyone was trying to get back in compliance before the Beacon Grant deadline. And, this was from my second hand perspective as I was not handling the Beacon Grants yet and was taking care of Gratitude Grants. I thought surely I was in for quite an interesting March—and it was but, I drastically overestimated that amount of mayhem that occurred in the CIP office this year.

This year we were able to top the Beacon Grant record—and hopefully by the end of it we’ll be closer to 1,000 Beacon Grants approved than ever before. There was definitely a lot of work to be done but there seemed to be less of a rush and everything was much more calm, cool and collected. I guess it all comes down to perspective—last year I had only been at the ENF for a few months before it started getting busy. Now I’ve been here for over a year, I have experienced three grant deadlines, the start of a new grant year, the awarding of all 500 Promise Grants, and the Final Report Form deadline. It’s exciting to see how much I’ve grown in my role with the help of my fellow CIPsters, but it’s even more exciting to see how much the Beacon Grants have grown through the years with help from a great group of volunteers! So, how about next year we shoot for 1,000? If we continue to work together, I think it’ll be a slam dunk!

Take a look at the infographic below to see how far Beacon Grants have come and how your Lodge can help them grow even greater.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

What's the Weather got to do with it?

by Christine Robinson
Communications Associate 


          I started working at the Elks National Foundation in the midst of our busiest time of year, March. I remember that day specifically because it was freezing cold and Chicago was coming off a winter with record-breaking low temperatures.

           
In the Rotunda of the
Elks Veterans Memorial
My first role at the Foundation was in the Donor Services department. I started 21 days before the 2013-14 fiscal year donation deadline. Though I was new and only learning a small portion of what my entire role would entail, I could still sense the busyness in the air! The Donor Services department is like a well-oiled machine that works behind the scenes to make sure every single ENF supporter is credited for their donation. They work hard to ensure that supporters like you receive acknowledgment and recognition for your generosity. They update the per-capita, reports, etc., weekly to make sure that ENF Fundraising Chairs and ENF donors have the most up to date totals available to them on the Reports and Standings page. Matching Gift, Recurring Gift, Tribute Gift, MVS Named Scholarship Program, those are just a few of
the ways you can support the ENF, not to mention, a gift given in any format can be designated to the program you feel most passionately about. For example, I designate my recurring donation to the Community Investments Program—watch Donations at Work and learn what it means to designate a gift to a specific fund.

            Last March, during the close of the 2014-15 fiscal year, I had an entirely different understanding of just what it means to work here, and specifically what I imagined it was going to be like in the Donor Services department during another record-setting year end. I worked closely with the Communications department as they updated the acknowledgment letters for first-time donors—the letters are a testament to the Elks family and contain images of Elks and Elks scholars from across the country! As I was making my way through the close of another fiscal year, tracking down recognition pins that were accidentally delivered to the other side of Chicago, answering questions, and then…one day, in the middle of March, an opportunity to learn a different role became available.

            Though I thoroughly enjoyed my role in the Donor Services department, my true passion is communication. In fact one of my favorite parts of processing donations was speaking with Elks from across the country. While addressing questions from donors and ENF Fundraising Chairs, another topic of discussion was the weather. It’s no secret that I find the weather fascinating. I could talk to anyone about the weather and it just so happens, that I had the opportunity to speak with Elks across the country about the weather in Chicago and the locations they were calling from. I’m still trying to convince the CIP to start a grant program for weather education—they have yet to succumb to the [barometric] pressure. 

       After almost a year in Communications, I’m experiencing the busy season with an entirely different perspective. Combining my prior experience in Donor Services with my role in the Communications department—I’m able to share stories that you help us write with fellow Elks who are working to build stronger communities across the nation, just like you are doing in your own communities. I’m so thankful for my time in Donor Services because it allowed me to understand just how hard ENF Fundraising Chairs work to make sure that every donation they receive is properly recorded, making it easier for the Donor Services team to get the donations into our records with ease and efficiency.

           
Hoop Shoot Trading
Cards in Progress

 


Right now, the ENF Team is working on two big events, the 2016 Hoop Shoot National Finals are just around the corner and the MVS Leadership Weekend will be here before we know it. By the time we blink, summer will be in full swing and we’ll be in Houston, talking to Elkceptional people like you, sharing stories from the National Finals and Leadership Weekend.     
            The conditions are right during this busy season—the forecasters are predicting exciting new stories! With the direction of ENF Director Jim O’Kelley, these stories will be turned into films just as powerful as the Foundation Films produced in the past year. In the meantime, I want to leave you with a link to Lights, Camera, Passion! the 2014-15 Annual Report and remind you that just watching isn’t enough. Be sure to share with your friends, family and fellow Elks and help us tell the story.

            In addition to the above films, we have two films about the inaugural year of the Elks Scholar Service Trips watch Learn.Serve.Connect and The Oakland Scholar Service Trip. Another must-see film is One Last Stand. Watch it to meet seven veterans who were there recently but have now exited homelessness with help from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and community partners like the Elks.

            Even though the weather changes, these films will always be in-season! Comment below and tell us which Foundation Film is your favorite!