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!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Little Bit Goes a Long Way

by Marcee Northey
Donor Services Manager

The Elks National Foundation Donor Services team processes all of the donations generous Elks send in every day. We scan the checks, look up Lodge numbers and ENF Donor IDs, and enter all of the information into our system, crediting members and Lodges. I personally process Fidelity Club donations, which is my favorite way to support the ENF.

The Fidelity Club is our automatic monthly giving program, and it makes supporting the Foundation super easy. It also helps keep our costs low because less staff time is spent processing the donations. Members set up an automatic credit card charge or direct debit from their checking account. Others can join by participating in their company’s payroll-deduction program. That’s how I participate, and I’m a Century member in the Club. You can find out more about the Fidelity Club and special recognition on our website. It has a really great pin!


The minimum donation amount is only $5 per month, which also makes it really easy. I just give up a McDonald’s value meal each paycheck. The coffee drinkers in the office sacrifice one of their daily fancy Starbucks lattes. Having an automatic donation also allows us to increase our annual giving easily. Writing a $100 check might not be possible for everyone, but a small automatic charge or deduction is not as noticeable come payday. Many ENF staff have reached the Honorary Founder cumulative level of giving just through the payroll-deduction program at the office.
 
So, join the Fidelity Club. It makes supporting the ENF really simple, and a little bit goes a long way through a monthly donation. You can even designate your gift to your favorite ENF program!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Always Serve With a Smile

by Jessica Phan
2015 Most Valuable Student Scholar


One of the many things I love about families is that they are always there to support one another. When I received my Most Valuable Student scholarship sponsored by the Santa Ana, Calif., Lodge No. 794, I was able to experience the camaraderie and generosity of the Elks first-hand. From their welcoming hugs to our humorous conversations at the dinner table, the Elks showed me that they wanted to provide much more than financial support. Though it was only our first time meeting, the Elks demonstrated that they were truly invested in my life. Being at the Lodge made me feel like I was part of something bigger, but I had no idea at the time how involved the Elks would become in my life.

A Few Members of the Elks Family
Serving on the Winter Elks Scholar Service Trip in Oakland, Calif., alongside 18 other Elks scholars made me realize that my Elks family was not limited to my local Lodge. The lasting relationships we built in one week are stronger than I ever could have imagined possible. Seeing updates from Elks scholars through social media fills me with nostalgia as I recall our late-night conversations, silly inside-jokes, and laughter-filled car rides to and from service sites. I am especially glad that we still stay in touch and am always excited to hear about the amazing things my fellow Elks scholars are doing in their communities.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that these connections would extend to members of the Richmond and Alameda Elks Lodges as well. Just as the Elks at my local Lodge had done, they graciously welcomed all 19 scholars into their Lodge and were interested in learning about each of us. Though I may never meet some of those Elks again, I will always cherish the time we spent learning about each other over a delicious home-cooked dinner–just as families do.

Most recently, I had the opportunity to experience just how far-reaching my Elks family is. During my volunteer shift at a local hospital, I met a patient who seemed anxious for a quick recovery. To take his mind off of being in the hospital, I made conversation about the people he looked forward to seeing once he could leave. Immediately, his face lit up as he excitedly expressed that he would be going to the local Elks Lodge. When I explained that I was an Elks scholar, we bonded over this common relation.

Soon after, his two friends from the Elks Lodge arrived. By this time, the gentleman’s demeanor had completely changed and he excitedly reported that I was an Elks scholar. After chatting about the recent events at their Lodge and about some things that I have been doing at school, I shared some pictures from the service trip. They wanted to learn all about us, so I told them a little bit about each scholar as we went through the photos (oh, the memories!!). There were definitely lots of heartfelt emotions as one Elk expressed through tears how proud she was of all of us.

As I left, the patient left me with something I won’t forget:

“You never know whom you’re going to meet or whom you’re going to impact, so always serve with a smile and you’ll be remembered just for that.”

After all the Elks have done for me, I was glad to have the opportunity to play a small role in brightening their day.

Such experiences have reaffirmed my initial impressions that the Elks are a wonderful organization that truly cares for its members, scholars, and community. This month, I look forward to returning to the Santa Ana Lodge to present at this year’s scholarship awards ceremony, where I will have the opportunity to reconnect with Elks and meet the newest class of Elks scholars. In everything I do, I know that I will always have their support. After all, family is forever–and I’m so grateful to be part of the Elks family.

Jessica Phan
2015 MVS Scholar

Jessica Phan is a 2015 Most Valuable Student scholar from Irvine, California. She currently attends Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., where she plans to pursue a major in Neuroscience and minor in Spanish. In her free time, she enjoys running, playing the piano, and volunteering in her community. To read more about Jessica, read her meet the class feature here



Monday, February 29, 2016

See You Later Decatur

by Youth Programs Associate Billy Donnelly

To read more posts about the Hoop Shoot, click here
 
My last blog post was about my experience at my very first Hoop Shoot contest at my Lodge, Chicago North Shore, Ill, Lodge No. 1316. I had such an amazing experience at my Lodge contest that I decided to keep the ball rolling (pun intended) all the way down to the Illinois State Hoop Shoot Contest in Decatur, Illinois. Who knew I would have to leave Chicago in order to get back on the road to the 2016 Hoop Shoot National Finals in Chicago.

The very first thing that I need to talk about when discussing my time in Decatur was the incredible team effort made by Illinois State Hoop Shoot Director Jim Swisher and the Illinois Elks Hoop Shoot volunteers. I was in great company. Illinois Elks Association representatives, Lodge and District Hoop Shoot Directors, ENF staff members, Lodge Secretaries, and Elks from all across Illinois brought their talents to Decatur. Together they put on a magnificent event for all of those involved.

From my very first encounter with Director Swisher and his volunteer “Dream Team”, I knew that I was in the big leagues. This contest was one to remember for the contestants and their families. It certainly was for me.

There were 48 families that attended the Illinois State Hoop Shoot contest. Only six contestants and their families advanced to the North Central Region 3 Contest. All 48 families however, were treated like champions. From the moment these families walked into the room for registration there was something to do. Meals were being provided, volunteers were engaging, the Drug Awareness activities were out for all to see, and of course, the pool was open.

During registration, some kids were more outgoing than others. By the time the awards banquet started, you could see all of the friendships that had developed over the weekend. The contestants, their families and the Elk volunteers—old friendships from previous contestants had been rekindled and new ones had formed. It was a wonderful sight to see.

The contest may take place on one Saturday in February, but attending the Illinois State Hoop Shoot in Decatur really helped me remember that the Elks Hoop Shoot is more than just a day. It is an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships and that can last a lifetime. It is with this in mind that I leave Decatur and continue on the road to Chicago, both literally and figuratively. My next literal stop will be a gas station, my next figurative stop will be in Iowa City, Iowa for the North Central Region 3 Hoop Shoot on Saturday, March 19, 2016. I was live tweeting the Illinois State Contest in Decatur and will be tweeting throughout my trip to the regional contest Iowa City. If you would like to follow along on Twitter, my handle is @ElksBilly. If you’re attending a contest, remember to post about it on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #hoopshoot.

Billy Donnelly
Youth Programs Associate

The Elks have been developing gritty kids through the Hoop Shoot program for more than 40 years. In 2015-16, the Elks National Foundation allocated $924,070 to fund the program. For videos, news from the court, and more information about the Hoop Shoot, visit www.elks.org/hoopshoot.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

An Elks Family Affair

by Lynn Glick
Alameda, Calif., Lodge No. 1015


Elks scholars now have the opportunity to come together in service with their Elks scholar peers. These trips will offer the opportunity to learn about societal issues, serve those in need in the name of the Elks, and the chance for Elks scholars and Elks to connect with their Elks Family across the country. To read more posts about the service trips, click here.


Hi, I am Lynn Glick from Alameda, Calif., Lodge No. 1015. I am completing my third and final year as District Scholarship Chair. When I first joined the Elks, I helped with our Lodge’s scholarship judging. But it wasn’t until I became the Bay District Scholarship Chair, and also had the opportunity to judge applications at the state level, that I really understood how much work goes into the scholarship process. I am not just talking about the work of the Lodge Chairs, the District Chairs, and the state judges, but the work of the applicants themselves.

I had no idea how hard high school students work at part-time jobs, and how much time they spend participating in sports, practicing their instruments, singing in choirs, doing service projects, and being involved in a host of other outside activities. Nor did I realize that opportunities for leadership were so prevalent in high school. And that’s in addition to all the time they spend on their academics.

In January, I had the pleasure of meeting 19 Elks scholars when they came to the Bay Area for the Winter Elks Scholar Service Trip. The Elks Scholar Service Trips exist to offer Elks scholars the opportunity to learn about societal issues, serve in the name of the Elks, and to connect with their Elks family. My Lodge has a dinner every Wednesday, so I arranged for the scholars to enjoy a meal at the Lodge with our regular Wednesday night Elks, and several Elks officers from other Lodges in our District, and from two neighboring Districts.

We made it a family affair. I enlisted the help of my husband, Jeff, who is also an Elk, and our teenage daughter to greet the scholars when they arrived. Jeff enjoyed talking with them, and my daughter received valuable information that no parent can impart. She learned about the college application process and life as a college freshman, and came away with a lot of good information about how to make the most of her high school years. Having a chance to talk about these things with people who are only a few years older had a strong impact.

In speaking with the scholars on the trip, I was surprised to learn how many of them have parents who are Elks. This made me remember my reasons for joining the Elks. My dad was an Elk in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and I grew up going to Elks family events. He eventually transferred his membership to the Alameda Lodge when I was Exalted Ruler. I loved being able to spend time with him at the Lodge. We both liked volunteering for our Lodge Charity Gaming Night together, and he taught me how to deal blackjack, although I have never been as good at it as he was.

During their week in the Bay Area, the scholars served at Harbor House in Oakland. When I started teaching at an elementary school near there, many of my students went to Harbor House for after school snacks and tutoring. I am thrilled that this organization is still helping students in the neighborhood, and am very happy that the Elks scholars were able to help there.

I have always been a big supporter of the Elks scholarship programs, and donate to the Elks National Foundation to help keep these programs going. I have taught at several schools with a lot of low income and recent immigrant families, where the majority of students don’t have the chance to go to college. I have seen how having the chance to go to college has benefitted my former students, and am proud to have even a small role in a program that has helped thousands of deserving students reach their goals.

I think it is important for us to promote Elks scholarships. I know and talk about the Elks scholarships to any high school junior I know, so they can start thinking about applying well in advance of their senior year. In my Mom’s group I have been promoting the Elks scholarships for some time even though most of the kids are only high school freshmen and sophomores.

I wish every Lodge had the opportunity to host Elks scholars, and every Elk had a chance to meet and get to know them.

If you would like to engage Elks scholars in your area, please email scholarship@elks.org and watch Engage a short film with a message from Elks scholar Macy Warburton about the importance of connecting with Elks scholars.

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 2015-16, the Elks National Foundation will offer 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.