Monday, March 20, 2017

A CIP Pioneer

 by Senior Programs Associate Colleen Muszynski



The CIP office, and the world, has lost a kind, selfless champion. Sharon Kolkhorst, member of Coos Bay, Ore., Lodge No. 1160 and Weekend Share Bear Snack Packs program project manager, passed away last week. With Sharon at the helm, Coos Bay was one of the first Lodges to receive a $10,000 Impact Grant for their Weekend Share Bear Snack Packs program when the grant was introduced in 2008. Sharon’s commitment to and passion for the program has continued since—in 2017, the Lodge was awarded its ninth consecutive Impact Grant. Only one other Lodge from the original Impact Grant class can say the same. In fact, Sharon and her husband Lou have helped the Lodge secure more than $115,000 in CIP grants since 2006.

However, life is about more than money. It’s about creating lasting relationships and leaving your community better than you found it. Sharon did just that. I had the pleasure of meeting Sharon and Lou on an Impact Grant site visit to Coos Bay in 2015. It’s a trip I’ll never forget—not because of the crazy beauty of the Oregon coast or the good food, but because of the welcoming warmth of Sharon and the Coos Bay Elks family. I got the chance to see the snack pack program in action, meet all the dedicated volunteers and talk with partners who have directly benefited from the program. What was clear was that Sharon was the steady, organized, passionate glue that held it all together. What was also clear was that she wasn’t in it for recognition—we could hardly get her on camera to talk about the project! 

As with anyone who truly makes an impact, Sharon’s actions were what spoke volumes. Thanks to her hard work with the Impact Grant over the years, thousands of elementary school students experiencing food insecurity in the Coos Bay area did not go hungry over the weekend. I am grateful for that trip and lucky to have worked with her these past couple of years. Sharon embodied the true meaning of selfless service, and she will be missed. 



Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trip of a Lifetime


by Grace Roebuck
Most Valuable Student Scholar

My name is Grace Roebuck and I am a freshman at Vassar College. I’m undecided major wise, but enjoy using art as a medium for social advocacy in humanitarian crises. I’m currently in the process of bringing the “Red Sand Project” by Molly Gocham to Vassar, to raise awareness for human trafficking. My passion for social justice is what led me to apply for the Winter Elks Scholar Service Trip. 

Fourteen hours there, 14.5 hours back. Living in Rhode Island, my travel should have been about 12 hours total, but alas the weather had other plans. That being said, I would do it all over again or even drive to Dallas if I could relive the trip. This trip was one of the single most incredible experiences of my life. The connections I made with the people experiencing poverty and homelessness (our “neighbors”) and the other volunteers were invaluable. 

We are all rich and poor in different ways. Every person you meet has the ability to teach you something, and enriches your life if you allow them. Yet, we unfairly often categorize people by their socioeconomic status, and deem those of a lesser status as lazy, greedy, or undeserving. From this trip and the conversations I had, I can safely refute that grossly incorrect stereotype. When volunteering in the food pantry, I cannot recall one person who took food from every section. When I asked why they didn’t, I got answers like “Oh I have some of that left” or “Oh I don’t want to waste it, someone else can have it.” Not once did I see a glimmer of greed in someone’s eye, nor a hint of unintelligence in their rhetoric. 

At a dinner we hosted for our neighbors, I had the pleasure of meeting three little children who were AMAZING. Full of life, these children loved school and fun. They had big dreams and ambitions, and couldn’t find a school subject they didn’t enjoy. We ended up singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and dancing in the hallway. As we danced, their father came out to watch us. Looking a tad tired, the love in his eyes was clear as he watched his children dance around in pure happiness. Simultaneously, his eyes carried a look of sorrow, as though he knew their happiness was fleeting, existing for this moment, but not guaranteed for many future ones. 

As eye opening and incredible as it was to volunteer, the connections I made with the other scholars were equally priceless. Following our volunteer work, we unpacked each day, slowly delving deeper and deeper into privilege, poverty, and understanding our core self. Yet, these scheduled conversations only encouraged us to go deeper, even after they concluded. Late into the night we discussed theology, education and educational barriers, personal hardships, and passions (typically academic ones). Because of the conversations we had, and the service we did, we ended up forming an unbreakable connection, unique to the incredible group known as #Elksfamily. 

 To read more about the Dallas Elks Scholar Servcie Trip, click here.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Week with the Neighbors

  by Kyle Bort
An Emergency Educational Grant Scholarship Recipient

During the Winter Elks Scholar Service Trip, I had the opportunity to redefine my perspective regarding the social problems of poverty and homelessness. While serving alongside 20 other Elks Scholars in Dallas, I learned many things about what it means to spend a week serving my neighbors. 

This was my second service trip through the Elks National Foundation. As an Emergency Education Grant recipient, the Foundation has made education possible for me by offering
a grant to children of deceased or totally disabled Elks members. My farther, Bill Bort, always stressed the importance of service. I can remember many times when I served alongside him. He had the ability to bring joy and hope to the people around him.

John Quincy Adams once stated “If your actions inspire others, to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” This is a quote that I believe my father understood well. After his passing in 2009, the ENF made it possible for me to continue my education, while also allowing me to carry on his legacy of service. I cannot express the impact of Dallas without first stressing the importance of the Elks National Foundation. We really are #ElksFamily. 

 So what did I do in Dallas? Throughout the week, we served with CitySquare, an organization that seeks to fight the causes and effects of poverty through service, advocacy, and friendship. They accomplish this by providing neighbors with direct resources, such as housing, training, meals and education. They explained to us that this type of approach to poverty begins with redefining the terminology that we use. By referring to the individuals we serve as “neighbors”, we start to pull apart the labels and stereotypes of homelessness. They taught us that through connections and conversations with our neighbors, we begin to better understand and address poverty. 

Throughout the week, we engaged in various forms of direct service. One night, we served and ate dinner with our neighbors. It was during this dinner that I had the pleasure of meeting Robert and Winston. As I sat with them, I learned about their passions and interests. Robert was a big music fan and told me about past musicians and instruments. He also spoke Portuguese fluently; therefore, we spent a lot of time comparing my second language of Spanish with his second language of Portuguese. Winston told me about sports news in Chicago. He was so happy that we spent time speaking with him. In many ways, Winston was the perfect example of gratitude. His spirit and positive attitude are something we should all strive for.

Later in the week, we also volunteered at the food pantry and walked alongside our neighbors as they shopped. The neighbors were greeted by a volunteer and then guided around the pantry where they had the option to pick from a wide variety of items—including steaks from Trader Joe’s. In this situation, I was able to provide a personalized experience and I was also able to brush up on my Spanish skills as many of the neighbors were fluent in Spanish. 

Over the course of the week, I learned that a large amount of empathy is required to confront poverty. In turn, this requires stepping out of our own shoes and into the shoes of our neighbors. This step allows us to break down the labels and stereotypes that are often associated with our neighbors. It allows us to see them for the people that they are. They are people that are full of dreams, talents, skills, hope, and solutions. We must realize that many times our answers to poverty are not necessarily true. In many ways, it is our neighbors who have the answers. Finally, our neighbors are similar to us in many ways. They are not the labels and stereotypes that our society gives them. As a society, it is our duty to reach out to them. I would highly suggest serving our neighbors so that you too can see this perspective.

  At the beginning of the week, we were asked to write our personal definition of service. To end, I would like to share mine. 

“Service is stepping outside of yourself to address the needs and challenges of our neighbors. This is accomplished through a perspective of love, grace, compassion, and empathy. It is realizing just how blessed you are and realizing that you want to show the same towards everyone around you"

To read more about the Dallas Elks Scholar Servcie Trip, click here.  

Monday, February 6, 2017

My Journey to the ENF!


 by Blaire Shaffer
Communications Assistant


After graduating from Luther College with a major in Communication Studies, I found myself in Chicago, and like many other graduates, I embarked on a massive job hunt. A PR and social media internship with a Humane Society created my desire to pursue a career in the  non-profit sector. So, I was thrilled by the prospect of working as the Elks National Foundation’s Communications Assistant.  I feel very lucky and honored to be given the opportunity to share news about the ENF as well as service work done by Elks through writing and social media!

I have only been working at the ENF for a little over two months now, yet each day has been filled with fascinating lessons and challenges. It has been wonderful to work in a place with extremely kind and funny co-workers, who have all been incredibly welcoming from my very first day. I am looking forward to April, because I am excited to experience the Hoop Shoot National Finals and MVS Leadership Weekend for the first time! Although it is only February, the Communications Department has started preparing for the Hoop Shoot National Finals, which has only encouraged my anticipation.

My duties as a Communications Assistant deal with assisting in social media management. This means creating posts and responding to comments or mentions.  I also oversee the blog. I aid in the creation of content for the ENF, which includes writing Speaking points, News to Use, and any stories or letters that I am assigned, or helping design save-the-dates or announcements. I help keep the ENF website up to date with fresh content for visitors to enjoy. I also assist in organizing Frontline, which is an email newsletter for registered ENF Fundraising Chairs. 


When I’m not at the ENF, I am usually found hanging out with my dog Bruno (a Border Collie and German Shepherd mix) or my friends, running, reading, exploring Chicago, watching movies or TV, and cooking/baking.