Monday, October 22, 2018

Back to Biloxi

by John Kavula
Elks Scholar Fellow

As the chilly fall weather crept in on Chicago, Programs Relationship Senior Associate Maryann Dernlan and I had the chance to escape to the sunny, 80-degree weather of the Mississippi Gulf Coast for a site visit in preparation for the 2019 Winter Elks Scholar Service Trip.

When I accepted the position of Elks Scholar Fellow nearly five months ago, one aspect of the position that drew me in was the opportunity to choose the location for the Elks Scholar Service Trips. When I found out that Community Collaborations International (CCI), a service organization we had worked with on a past trip, had a program in Biloxi, Mississippi, I knew that I wanted to go to a place that meant so much to me: The Gulf Coast.

Before going to college, I lived just an hour east of Biloxi in Mobile, Alabama, so I jumped at the opportunity to bring a group of Elks scholars, many of whom may have never been to the Gulf Coast, to share the experience of the place I called home for seven years. 

Situated on the water with an unobstructed view of miles of beaches, Biloxi, Miss., Lodge No. 606 and its members welcomed me the first night. I had the chance to meet with Chuck Burdine, the Exalted Ruler of the Lodge, as well as two other Exalted Rulers—Cindy Murphy of Ocean Springs, Miss., Lodge No. 2501 and Terry Hudson of Gulfport, Miss., No. 978. These Lodges often collaborate to do phenomenal work in their communities, and they were just as enthusiastic about the Elks scholars coming down to their neck of the woods. All three Lodges offered to host a dinner for the scholars and discussed the possibility of spending a day serving with the group. Lodge visits are always a highlight of every trip, and it’s clear the Mississippi Gulf Coast Lodges will provide some warm Elks family hospitality.  

The next day, Maryann joined me to see some potential service sites. CCI has strong relationships with many organizations in the Biloxi area and coordinates service projects for college-aged groups looking to serve the area. At Moore Community House, we met with the Director Mary Harrington, who told us about the various family services they have been offering for mothers and their children since 1924. We also had the chance to meet with the director of the East Biloxi Boys and Girls Club where we learned about all the after-school programs the organization offers to students in the area. 

Finally, we met with Judy Steckler, the executive director of the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain. The Land Trust works on environmental conservation and restoration projects across the coast. All three of these organizations are distinctly unique, and each has the potential to create a memorable service experience for the scholars.

Our final stop was Camp Wilkes: the place the scholars will call home for the week. Located on the water with scenic views, the camp offers a variety of outdoor activities and, of course, a fire pit, so I know it will be an enjoyable experience for the group.

Although the trip was short, I left Mississippi reminded of the things that make the Gulf Coast so special to me: the hospitality of the people, the beauty of the nature and wildlife, and the sense of pride that people like Chuck, Mary and Judy have in their community, and, in turn, the work they do to make it better. After returning to Chicago, I could not be more excited to travel to Biloxi with a great group of scholars in January to serve in the name of the Elks!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Happy ENF Month from the ENVSC!


by Mary Morgan
Elks National Veterans Service Commission Director

I was an employee of the Elks National Foundation for 6 years, and I’ve been a donor for longer. Now that I work at the Elks National Veterans Service Commission, nearly our entire budget comes in the form of a grant from the Elks National Foundation.

So, you could say I have many reasons to celebrate ENF Month. And you’d be correct.

My first job at the ENF was in the Donor Services department, which processes the donations that come in, maintains all donor records, and helps to ensure that every gift is acknowledged.

Often, donations would come in with jokes, notes and updates—like from Roy Weichold, a.k.a. “Mouse,” who was a member of Carmichael, Calif., Lodge No. 2103. One of his jokes was: Why are the streets of Paris lined with trees? So the Germans could march in the shade. Reading these notes from donors like Mouse was one of the joys of the job, and it helped deepen my connection with our donors and supporters.

There was one note that really made an impact on me. It arrived with a $10 donation, and said, “I’m retired and on a fixed income, so this is all I can give.”

That’s it. Just a short, simple note from a donor who was willing to sacrifice so he could contribute. If you’re strapped for cash, $10 can be a decent amount of money. It could buy a much-needed meal at a restaurant, a cup of coffee every day for a week, or a couple pieces of pie for you and a friend.

This Elk could have used that money to buy himself something he wanted or even needed, but instead he donated it. He trusted the Elks National Foundation to use those funds wisely. I don’t take that trust lightly. In fact, I’ve thought of that note often, when I was working for the Community Investments Program and now that I’m with the Elks National Veterans Service Commission.

It’s also a great reminder that in this day and age when the news is full of stories about millionaires and billionaires pledging vast sums of money, that it is regular people that have the power to make a difference in their communities.

The Elks National Foundation is powered by the donations and support of hundreds of thousands of those people, who believed in its mission over the past 90 years. Its programs are powered by those same people. I’m proud to call myself one of them.

Happy ENF Month!


Monday, October 1, 2018

Celebrating Through Service in My Backyard

by Megan Kalie
       2015 Legacy Awards Scholar


Megan and her parents stopped by the
          ENF booth at the convention center.
My name is Megan Kalie, and I’m studying English with a concentration in creative writing at Slippery Rock University. I attended the past three Elks Scholar Service Trips in Santa Monica, Asheville, and San Antonio, and the Elks National Foundation has changed my life immensely in only six months.


I had always heard of the Elks growing up since my dad is a member of the Hawthorne, Nev., Lodge No. 1704. For 11 years, I collected donations to purchase Girl Scout cookies to send to military service members overseas, and my dad’s Lodge donated money to my project every year. As a Legacy scholar, the Hawthorne Lodge sponsored my scholarship, but I had never been able to meet any of the members of the Lodge until the Elks National Convention this year.

Because I was attending the 150 for 150 Service and Celebration Weekend, my parents decided to attend the Convention as well. My dad arranged a meeting with Hawthorne Lodge Exalted Ruler Kenneth Carrothers. We met Mr. Carrothers and I thanked him for the Lodge’s support. We talked for hours as I shared about my experiences on the Elks Scholar Service Trips. I told him about the volunteer service I do on the trips, and he was happy to learn more about my opportunities as an Elks scholar.

In addition to allowing me to connect with my sponsoring Lodge, 150 for 150 was also significant to me because it gave me the opportunity to go back to a place I used to call home. While the two service trips I’d been on were fun and gave me an opportunity to help others, San Antonio held a different promise for me because I would be serving others in what was basically my backyard. I was only four or five when my family lived in Texas, so I couldn’t have understood what service was or that people so close to where we were living were struggling to make ends meet.

   Megan sorts items at Haven for Hope with
150 of her fellow Elks scholars.
Not only did being back in San Antonio feel like a homecoming, but getting to see familiar faces from previous service trips did as well. One thing I really loved about the 150 for 150 celebration, outside of all the great service work did, was watching everyone reconnect. Knowing I’d get to see people from the Santa Monica and Asheville trips again made me more excited for San Antonio than I could’ve imagined. I was happy with my own reunions, but seeing other scholars reconnect with friends they’d made on their service trips was a joy to witness, too.

Getting to be a part of the Elks’ 150th anniversary is something I’ll never forget. What made the trip so appealing to me was being involved in something that has never been done before and will never be done in that way again. None of us knew what to expect going into the convention center because everything was new; all the activities we were partaking in were happening for the first time. Knowing that we all got to be a part of the biggest gathering of Elks scholars ever was such a thrill!

While I know there may not be another celebration as big as this to look forward to, I hope that I’ll be able to see everyone I met somewhere down the line, whether that’s on another service trip or a special visit. There’s this sense of family on the service trips that you can’t fully understand until you’ve been on one yourself. Knowing that I now have these connections all across the country makes me excited to continue to add to the list, and I look forward to reconnecting with my Elks family again.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Practice What We Preach

by Makenna Canon
Programs Assistant 


The Elks National Foundation 2019 scholarship contests are underway, and our office has spent the last few months supplying scholarship materials and information to our dedicated volunteers across the country. We’ve been encouraging volunteers to promote the contests in their local communities and to communicate directly with applicants, families, and guidance counselors.  


While we consistently push our volunteers to go out in the field to promote our programs, most of our promotion at the Elks National Foundation is online or by proxy. This week, I had the chance to practice what we preach and promote the contest in our own local community of Chicago. I attended the second annual Scholarship and Resource Fair hosted by Chicago Scholars. Ten scholarship organizations presented their scholarship programs, ranging from local scholarships to national programs, like ours, to 150 high school seniors and their families.  

Most of my interactions with applicants are virtual, either through email or over the phone. This was my first chance since starting at the ENF to speak with applicants face-to-face about our scholarship programs. Spending an evening speaking with students about scholarships, answering their questions regarding our programs, and hearing about their future plans and dreams was both enlightening and inspiring. I learned that applicants are most curious to hear how their specific experiences fit into the criteria of our scholarships. They want to know how the work they’ve done will be reflected on their application and how to best share that with the judges. Their stories are important, their achievements are notable, and their dreams are big. They hope that they’re able to convey that all through a few short answer questions and a 300-word essay.

By representing the Elks National Foundation at the event, I was able to share the experience that you, our Elk volunteers, have with the applicants and gain a sense of the hard work Elks put in every year. It was easy, at least for me, to believe that scholarship promotion was presenting materials and facts to interested students. After interacting with students directly, I realized the true scope of the work the Elks put in each year. They are in their communities, giving their time at fairs and meetings, to provide students with an opportunity to share their stories and continue dreaming. I’m proud to be even a small part of that.

For 2018-19, the Elks National Foundation appropriated $4.6 million to fund ENF scholarship programs, which ensure a bright future for our nation’s youth. As important members of the Elks family, Elks scholars have many social and service opportunities to connect with the Elks and one another. For more information about our scholarship programs, and for ways Lodges can get involved with Elks scholars, visit elks.org/scholars.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Just the Beginning


by Maryann Dernlan 
Senior Associate, Program Relations


At the Elks National Convention in San Antonio, we brought together 150 Elks scholars to celebrate the Elks’ 150th anniversary through the 150 for 150 Service and Celebration Weekend. Have you watched one of the 150 for 150 videos, read a blog post from a scholar who attended, or scrolled through the more than 3,000 pictures from this unforgettable weekend and thought, “I wish I could have been a part of that!”


Whether you’re an Elks scholar or an Elk, know that this event was just the beginning. We offer opportunities for Elks scholars to connect with one another or serve in the name of the Elks every year, all year round. The events that happened at 150 for 150 showcased, on a large scale, our scholar relations efforts that have been in place since 2009. You can pick how you’d like to get involved and bring the Elks family network to life in your local area!


A note to Elks scholars:

There are more than 3,050 Elks scholars heading back to campus this fall and thousands of alumni across the country. On top of that, there are nearly 800,000 Elks members who are serving their communities––many are in careers or retired from careers in areas you may be interested in learning more about.

With the start of the academic year, it’s the perfect time to plan how you’ll connect with your #ElksFamily this year. 2014 MVS scholar Cecily Froerer recently shared, “I encourage all Elks scholars to reach out to their local Lodge. It may seem intimidating to walk into a Lodge filled with strangers, but I promise, you won’t leave as strangers. It’s because they’re Elks. They help people. It’s who they are, and it’s what they do. And as Elks scholars, we’re blessed to be part of it.”

Click here to see all the opportunities available to you as an Elks scholar!


A note to Elks:

MVS scholar Marlena Pigliacampi poses with PER,
past scholarship chair and Legacy scholar Erika Barger.
There are three things we know for sure about Elks scholars. First, they’re service-minded (100 percent of Elks scholars were involved in community service in high school compared to 27 percent nationally). Second, they want to thank you, personally, for your support of their education. Third, they’re highly involved on and off campus with everything from classes to jobs to extracurricular activities.

These three pieces come together to mean that scholars will try their best to get involved if they’re given a clear opportunity to give back meaningfully with your Lodge. If you have a meeting coming up you’d like a scholar to speak at, or a great event they could serve at, an invitation from the Lodge is the first step they need to start their involvement. Click here to read about a scholar’s recent experience visiting her Lodge––how she was intimidated at first, but ultimately felt at home with her Elks family.

After reading her post to get the scholar perspective, brainstorm with your Lodge about how you can engage scholars near you. Then, email scholarship@elks.org and we’ll connect you with scholars in your area. Today’s Elks scholars can be tomorrow’s Elks if we engage them in meaningful service. Your Lodge has an opportunity to make it happen!


For 2018-19, the Elks National Foundation appropriated $4.6 million to fund ENF scholarship programs, which ensure a bright future for our nation’s youth. As important members of the Elks family, Elks scholars have many social and service opportunities to connect with the Elks and one another. For more information about our scholarship programs, and for ways Lodges can get involved with Elks scholars, click here.