Monday, August 13, 2018

Because They're Elks


by Cecily Froerer
2014 Most Valuable Student Scholar

My name is Cecily Froerer. I’m a junior at Utah State University where I’m studying Communicative Disorders and minoring in American Sign Language. Four years ago, I was a high school senior with two goals. First, obtain a college degree. Second, do so without any form of student loans. The second was a seemingly unattainable goal.

By some stroke of luck, I found myself in my high school’s office when two men from the local Elks Lodge shared information about the Most Valuable Student scholarship. As I continued about my week, I kept thinking about that scholarship. It was stuck in my mind. Eventually, I applied. Maybe, I would be able to get a little money for college from this. I couldn’t have dreamed what was about to happen.

The next year was a whirlwind of surprises. I watched as my scholarship application passed through the Lodge, to the district, and on to the state level! I was incredibly grateful, but I was also fairly confident that it would stop there. Nothing could have prepared me for being selected as one of the Top 20 National Finalists and attending the 2014 Leadership Weekend. As one of the MVS scholars, my unattainable goal suddenly became a reality!

Fast forward to 2018. In July, I participated in the 150 for 150 Service and Celebration Weekend with the Elks. At this point, it had been about three years since I’d really interacted with the Elks. I was excited to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. While I was there, I met Larry Hovorka, the Exalted Ruler, and his wife, Sally, from my Lodge. When you meet someone from the same Lodge, there is an instant, indescribable connection. I immediately sense their interest in me and my future, and I feel immense gratitude for their influence in my life; meeting the Hovorkas was no different.

As we packed bags for homeless veterans, the Hovorkas and I got to know each other. When I told them I was studying communicative disorders, with the hopes of someday becoming a speech pathologist, Sally stopped me. “Well, then you must know about Meadowood.”

I didn’t. As it turns out, Meadowood is a residential camp in my home state of Oregon that focuses on helping children with speech, language, and hearing challenges. In future years, I can volunteer there and gain experience in my field of study.

At this point, it’s becoming a bit unreal! Not only are the Elks funding my college education, they’re providing an entire camp where I can go and receive priceless experiences using what I have learned and love.

Were the Elks created as a resource just for me? Of course, I know they weren’t, and the camp isn’t about me either. It’s the Elks helping the children in their communities. But in true Elks fashion, those that serve can grow as much as those they’re serving. There is an endless web of people they are helping. I’ve personally seen it range from veterans to those experiencing homelessness. From children in need of eyeglasses to children with speech impediments. From an entire elementary school to a single college student trying to afford tuition.

While working with the Hovorkas, they asked me to come speak to my sponsoring Lodge. I quickly responded, “Absolutely! I love meeting Elks from my area!”

Going back to my local Lodge was overwhelming. From the moment I began planning my speech, I knew that I would never be able to do justice to the gratitude I feel. When I’m at my Lodge, I am always very aware of how much I owe them. My entire Elks experience started because of their efforts. They made my dream of a debt-free college education into reality.

Even though I felt nervous to address them, I knew the nerves weren’t needed. The moment I entered the Elks Lodge, I felt welcomed. They greeted me, introduced me to those I didn’t know, asked for my advice, and listened to what I had to say. There really isn’t a better way to explain it than Elks Family.

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 a 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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

What I'll Remember Most


by Cullen Edens
2016 Most Valuable Student Scholar
Cullen, along with 19 other scholars, came together to serve the San Antonio community in the name of the Elks from June 26 to June 29. These 20 scholars then joined 130 of their fellow scholars for the 150 for 150 Service and Celebration Weekend, where all 150 scholars worked together to serve the city of San Antonio from June 29 through July 2. 



My name is Cullen Edens and I am a junior at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma where I am majoring in Accounting. When I was selected as an Elks Most Valuable Student scholar, I simply thought I would collect my award and move on with my college education. I had no idea the impact that the Elks National Foundation would have on my life.

In late June, I traveled to San Antonio not knowing that this service trip would transform the way I viewed the communities around me. Arriving at Trinity University, I met 19 other Elks scholars from across the country from Maine to California. We instantly connected as we ate dinner in the cafeteria and played games in the lounge area.

Our first day of service was at the Guadalupe Community Center, where we picked fruit and vegetables from the garden and pulled weeds from the flower beds in the 100-degree Texas heat. Being from Oklahoma, I have the authority to say that the sun was relentless! Despite the heat, we never let the conditions stop us from our mission.

The next day we volunteered at SAMMinstries. SAMMinstries is a shelter for those experiencing homelessness, and I left with a new perspective on the issue. Many times, the word “homelessness” has a negative connotation, but SAMMinstries explained how homelessness is a situation, not an identity, and can affect any single person.

The Battered Women and Children’s Shelter was our first look at combining both direct and indirect service, as we landscaped, painted, built a playhouse, and interacted with children. At the end of the day, we saw the difference that our group made in helping this organization.

One might ask the importance of traveling across the country to do what others might call “chores.” This service trip has taught me that there is perhaps nothing more powerful that we can do than take our focus off ourselves to help others. Together, we are believing that our generosity will tangibly become the difference to so many who have lost everything, even if it’s by pulling weeds or sorting donations. It’s impossible to fathom the enormity of someone’s crisis— and the turmoil people have been through and are going through— but when we all came together, we made an impact on the community.

I made many new genuine friendships over the course of this week. We all came from different backgrounds and states, but we shared one thing in common: our love for service. Saying goodbye to these 19 Elks scholars was extremely hard, but I know we will meet again, perhaps on another service trip.

When I travel, I often ask myself what I’ll remember the most. For this trip, it’s pulling weeds out in the blazing sun with my fellow Elks scholars that I’ll never forget. It’s the reflection time at night where we shared our perspectives and experiences of the day that I’ll never forget. It’s sharing our life stories, dreams, and aspirations at the breakfast table that I’ll never forget. In 10 years when I look back on this experience, I will ultimately remember the perseverance of our group, the friendships I made with my #ElksFamily, and the memories that will always lead me to believe that San Antonio is a place just like home.




Thursday, July 12, 2018

Elks National Convention: Take One

by Taylor Odisho
Communications Assistant

It’s taken an entire week to fully digest everything I experienced at my first Elks National Convention, and I think I can finally do justice in putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, in sharing them.

I started working as the Communications Assistant at the Elks National Foundation in October of last year. In just nine months, I’ve been exposed to stories, people and moments, and I’ve been working hard to convey these interactions in an honest, interesting light that resonates with our audience.

 However, it wasn’t until I shook hands with “Crazy Richard” Clayton and his wife; sat down with Nester Tan, a platinum donor with the ENF; or spoke with many of the Elks I’ve been writing about these past several months that everything finally clicked.

There’s a scientific way to say this, but I’m a writer, so I’ll use words. You can study a topic for hours and hours, but you’ll never be able to memorize what you’re reading until you can connect it to something else. Now, I’m going to apply that to how Convention has changed my perspective on my role in writing stories about the Elks.

I asked Clayton a series of questions I thought would adequately help me tell his story, his story being the reasons he donates at the Faith level each year. I was able to get his point across, but I didn’t know who Clayton was outside of the answers he gave to the questions I asked.

 Then, I was standing by the elevator of the ENF’s donor event and I met Clayton and his wife. Instead of an interview, we talked. They mentioned wanting additional copies of the Heartbeat issue they were featured in so they could give to their kids, and they were so glad to have the one copy I had in hand to take home from Convention. This interaction shed the why behind Clayton’s support for the ENF’s programs for kids like the Hoop Shoot and scholarships—the Claytons had kids of their own and supporting the ENF allows them to support other families just like theirs.

Another Elk epiphany came when I had the opportunity to speak with Tan. Tan has been an Elk for 36 years. As he’s grown older, he’s made it his personal mission to become a major donor to the ENF because he believes in what we do. Speaking with Tan about his life’s work, family and commitment to the Elks put a lump in my throat and brought him to tears more than once.

When I tell Tan’s story, it’s not just his answers that I’ll write about; it’s also the gratitude on Tan’s face as Elks thanked him for his contributions and as I told him we would publish his story on our website; and I’ll write about the pride beaming from Tan’s daughter, Heather, as he accepted his plaque at the major donor event with a standing ovation from the rest of the room. These are the moments you don’t get from a Q&A, but the ones that are crucial in writing a thoughtful narrative.

 In four days, I met some of the kindest, most upbeat and goodhearted people. Before, it seemed suffice to call them Elks, but not anymore. Now, I have an arsenal of adjectives and anecdotes to add to their stories, which I can't wait to start writing.

 A 501(c)(3) public charity, the Elks National Foundation helps Elks build stronger communities through programs that support youth, serve veterans and meet needs in areas where Elks live and work. For more information on the ENF, visit elks.org/enf.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Here's John!

by John Kavula
Elks Scholar Fellow

My name is John Kavula, and I am the new Elks Scholar Fellow. In May, I graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee with a degree in Applied Mathematical Economics and moved to Chicago. Although it has only been one week, the Elks National Foundation has already warmly welcomed me as a part of their amazing team and I know I have found a new home.

Starting in the first week of June, I could not have arrived at a busier and more exciting time. With less than a month until 150 for 150, everyone in the office is working very hard, so I hit the ground running. Luckily for me, the outgoing fellow, Jenna Johnson, left me everything I could possibly need, including a detailed manual and outlines to prep for the Elks National Convention. Even with everything going on, everyone has taken time out of their day to introduce themselves and to get to know me a little bit, and for that, I am very grateful.

As part of my orientation, I got a chance to meet with each department in the ENF to learn about what each does and how they all work together. I really enjoyed seeing the different aspects of the ENF because it will not only help me do my job better, but I can also better understand the breadth of everything the Foundation does.

On Thursday, I went to help set up for the Chicago Standdown with a few of my coworkers. At the bi-annual Standdown, over 800 veterans come and receive various goods and services, such as boots, toiletries, haircuts and vision checks-- all free of charge. On-site at the General Jones Armory, we did everything from unpack hundreds of pairs of boots to set up chairs and tables for the many different vendors. I enjoyed the day not only because I got to be part of such a fantastic event that helps so many people, but I also got to spend some time outside of the office with my new coworkers. On Friday, I went back for the actual event, and, again, had a great time. We spent most of the morning in the donated clothes area, where we helped the veterans pick out clothes. I really enjoyed Friday because it was more direct service since I was able to converse with some of the veterans and hear their stories.

As my first week at the ENF came, I am grateful the team has been so welcoming. Although my work will not always be easy, especially at first, I know my coworkers will be here to help with whatever I need and support me. I am so thrilled to begin my career with the ENF, and I’m excited to see what the next two years have in store for me. 



The Elks National Foundation offers three Elks Scholar Service Trips. 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.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Fired up for Fidelity Club!

by Ashley Hart
Development Assistant


This February, the Elks National Foundation welcomed me to their team as a Development Assistant. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to start my nonprofit career with the Elks family—a community known for their volunteerism, generosity and charitable work throughout the United States. As a DePaul graduate student studying nonprofit management, my decision to join the ENF stemmed from my passion for volunteer work, fundraising and nonprofit development. After my first week, I was delighted to discover the humility and devotion displayed by the ENF staff and volunteers. Never before have I worked for an organization as friendly and accommodating as the ENF. Their hard work and positive organizational culture mimics the passion and care demonstrated by the Elks.  


It seems I joined the ENF at a prime time. After a week of pleasantries, we entered the month of March full speed ahead. As a new hire, I quickly understood the stress that accompanies the last month of the ENF’s fiscal year. On the front lines, the donor services team processed the year’s final donations, and properly credited donors and their Lodge’s per-member-giving total. Meanwhile, our Youth Programs Associate Billy Donnelly dived into planning a successful 2018 Hoop Shoot National Finals here in Chicago. The CIPsters were busy approving record amounts of Anniversary and Beacon Grant applications while the scholarships department focused on Most Valuable Student judging and hosting the Elks Scholars Spring Service Trip in Asheville, NC. It was all hands on deck at the ENF.

Witnessing the ENF at its peak operations helped put my position into perspective. Along with serving our volunteers and donors, my responsibilities include coordinating the outreach efforts for the Fidelity Club—the ENF’s recurring gift program. As I became familiar with the meticulous and time-consuming nature of processing mailed donations, the need for expanding our Fidelity Club membership became clear: recurring support throughout the year would allow us to spend more time and resources on our charitable mission and less on administrative duties, like donation processing.   

Did you know the ENF offers a secure, convenient and economically feasible way to donate? By joining the Fidelity Club, you can budget your monthly gift to fit your financial capabilities rather than donating a lump sum to the ENF once a year. Donating on a recurring basis is the best way to directly support ENF programs year-round. Rather than waiting for the ENF to process donations sent through your Lodge Chair, your gift can have an immediate impact by taking just five minutes to set up an automatic, recurring donation on our website (enf.elks.org/recurring) through your debit or credit card. These donations can be made monthly ($5 minimum) or quarterly ($15 minimum) and designated to your favorite ENF program. Fidelity Club members receive special benefits and recognition items—such as a Fidelity Club sticker and pin set—as they continue to give month after month. To learn more about the Fidelity Club, click here or contact me at AshleyH@elks.org or 773/755-4858.

As I continue to grow with the Elks family and in my position at the ENF, my hope is to shape a donor-centric giving program based on the needs and interests of our most loyal supporters. Each day, I’m astounded by the Elks’ generosity and collaboration through their charitable support and volunteer projects. Thank you to everyone who contributes to the ENF, for you are why I’m excited to come to work every day and help Elks build stronger communities.