Friday, May 22, 2015

May Director's Update

By Elks National Foundation Director Jim O'Kelley
 
This month’s Midday with the ENF, our podcast about the Elks National Foundation, features a must-listen interview with Bryce Caswell and Sean Loosli.

To refresh your memory, Bryce and Sean were the top two Most Valuable Student scholarship recipients back in 2003. Here’s a photo of the two of them at the Elks National Convention in St. Louis, along with Meghan and me and also Robin Edison, who used to work with us.
Robin Edison, Sean Loosli, Bryce Caswell, Meghan Morgan and Jim O'Kelley
at the 2003 Elks National Convention in St. Louis
It was taken after they had blown everyone away with their speeches.

They left town that day with $60,000 scholarships, both headed to Harvard.

Fast forward 12 years. The two of them were with us recently for our second Leadership Weekend. Here’s what we look like now:
Sean, Bryce, Meghan and Jim
Sean and Bryce served on the judging panels for the interviews and were two of the six current and former Elks scholars who helped make the weekend a success. Officially, these six were judges, chaperones, film directors and leaders, but they also served as mentors for the new scholars.

We’ve been focusing our scholar outreach on engagement with Elks Lodges. We want you Elks to get our scholars involved in meaningful ways. As we’ve seen, if you can connect with a scholar one-on-one, our organization will become more than just a check to them and they will want to join us. (Related: Check out this post from another scholar who has joined the Elks.)

We will continue to stress engagement with Elks, but the Leadership Weekend along with the upcoming Scholar Service Trips are creating new opportunities to connect scholars with one another and establish not just friendships but also mentoring relationships. That’s really exciting.

At one point during the interview, Bryce talks about how much the 20 new scholars inspired her, and she says, “We’re going to hear about these students for the next 40 years in our country.”

Elks scholars are among our country’s best and brightest. They’re the movers and shakers of their generation. Now, imagine what it could do for the Elks brand if being an Elks scholar becomes as much a part of their identity as where they went to college and what they achieve.
That’s what we’re trying to accomplish, and we can get there by continuing to build a strong scholar network.
Listen to the interview. It will make you feel good about what we’re doing with your donations. You can find it at www.elks.org/enf/midday.cfm.

Sincerely,

Jim O’Kelley
ENF Director

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Proud Member of the Elks Family

By 2009 Elks Legacy Scholar Lauren Kuhn
2015 Miss America 4th runner-up Lauren Kuhn
speaking to Hoop Shoot Finalists at the 2015 National Finals
Springfield, Massachusetts—the birthplace of basketball. Believe it or not, my time as Miss Massachusetts had not yet taken me to Springfield for an event surrounding basketball. I jumped at the opportunity to be the keynote speaker and National Anthem performer for the Elks Hoop Shoot National Finals. As a 2009 Elks Legacy scholar, I looked forward to the chance to reunite with my Elks family but what I didn’t know was that I’d be reuniting with some of my biological family too! When I stepped through the elevators in my downtown hotel in Springfield, I was stunned to see my grandmother and grandfather waiting for me. They live more than two hours from Seattle, Washington, so they had a long way to travel! The Elks National Foundation surprised me with their attendance. Why was this so meaningful? Let me share.

Lauren taking a selfie with her grandparents!
My grandfather Melvin Thompson is a life-long Elk and ran the Hoop Shoot at Hoquiam, Wash., Lodge No. 1082 for many years. My mom, sister, and I all participated. Then, when it came time to apply for college, my grandpa was there to sponsor my application to become an Elks Legacy scholar. He not only helped me, he helped many young people in the community by being an involved member of his Lodge for so long.


When the athletes and their regional Elks leaders came onto the court, I could see the pride radiating from all of the Elks involved. These Elks weren’t even related to the athletes, but they were still proud. This type of mentorship and support was showed their contagiously selfless attitudes. Then, I watched the Hoop Shoot stars and immediately noticed the excitement in their eyes as they planned each shot. I saw the pride they had in what they were accomplishing—they knew they’d made it very far. When it was time to narrow the field, I couldn’t help but feel my heart break as I knew that every athlete was impressive and was deserving of the national title. After meeting athletes that did not win the contest, I could relate to their mixed feelings of excitement and disappointment. The maturity that these young people show is impressive, because many adults still struggle with these feelings and have a tough time feeling proud of their accomplishments when they aren’t the ultimate “winner.” So, what can we learn from these impressive young athletes?

1. There’s always next year! Whether it is a sporting event, scholarship opportunity or job opportunity, there is no reason we can’t try again for the same or a similar opportunity in the future. Perseverance is the key to success.

2. Sportsmanship is the name of the game. When I placed 5th in the Miss America 2015 pageant, I was still thrilled for the four women who finished above me—just as the young athletes at the Hoop Shoot congratulated those who received awards.

3. Sometimes we gain more by not winning. It’s true that winners learn from their mistakes and channel their determination to help them improve! Each time a competitor doesn’t finish at the top, he or she has the opportunity to evaluate ways to improve ultimately helping them learn valuable life skills. The trip to success isn’t always direct… there might be a few layovers along the way.


I am incredibly proud of all the athletes. Regardless of their placement in the contest, they are a success and they earned their way to the top! Congratulations!

Lauren Kuhn 2017
Doctor of Dental Medicine candidate, Harvard University
2015 Miss America 4th runner-up
2009 Elks Legacy scholar


In 2015-16, the Elks National Foundation appropriated $4.16 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 www.elks.org/enf/scholars. For more information about the Hoop Shoot, including videos and news from the court, visit www.elks.org/hoopshoot.

Friday, May 8, 2015

From Volunteer to Scholar to Elk—My Journey to Elkdom

By MVS Scholar Sean Pringle

I first volunteered at the Oceano/Five Cities Elks Lodge back in my junior year of high school. The Lodge was serving a huge crab feed dinner to benefit one of their many local causes. That night, I met an Elks member—Tony Ulibarri—who held a very large smile in the back kitchen as he served up his homemade pesto sauce.
Sean Pringle and Tony Ulibarri
The next year (as a high school senior), I volunteered at the same dinner. Earlier that fall, I applied to be an Elks Teenager of the Month and for the ENF Most Valuable Student Scholarship. I remember submitting my Teenager of the Month application to the high school counseling office the same time Tony arrived to pick the applications up. He arrived—again with a large smile—and we talked for a few minutes. A few months later, I found out that I had been selected as a Teenager of the Month and, later, Teenager of the Year. Then, in April, I was notified that I was selected as an MVS Scholarship recipient. I was both excited and proud to accept these awards, but I wanted to learn more about the organization and their work. I received an email from the ENF to serve on the Elks Scholar Advisory Board, a group devoted to drawing together Elks scholars to perform service and help them reach out to Elks Lodges near their colleges.

During the summers while I served on the Board, I attended the Elks National Convention. I enjoyed touring each booth at the Convention to hear about the Elks’ state-wide charity programs, meet several Elks, and collect some really cool pins! While in college at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, I started an Elks scholar group on my campus and took these students back to my home Lodge to volunteer at dinners and other local events. It was rewarding for me to give back to the Elks for supporting my education and to work with the ENF, who helped me understand how charity is truly one of the strongest tenets of both the Order and its members.

Last June, I finished my undergraduate program in civil engineering, and began the graduate program in the fall. Without the support from the Elks, I don’t think I would have seen it as feasible to continue my education and work towards a master’s degree.

This past week, I joined the Oceano/Five Cities Elks Lodge. I feel proud of these past few years of giving time and receiving so much from the Elks. As a member, I hope to contribute to the Lodge and its great impact in my hometown. From the first time I volunteered at the annual crab feed, I knew the Elks provided a good service to those around them. Now I realize that the environment at the Lodge extends far beyond its benefit dinners and annual events—their charity and benevolence is a way of life. I look forward to serving the Elks and allowing the solid values of the Order to shape and strengthen me as I gain many new friendships with other Elks and embrace the warm culture and service-minded life of my new family.

Sean Pringle
2010 Most Valuable Student Scholar Member, Oceano/Five Cities, Calif., Lodge No. 2504

In 2015-16, the Elks National Foundation appropriated $4.16 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 www.elks.org/enf/scholars.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Grow-A-Grant

By ENF Programs Assistant Jocelyn Moya

Happy New Year! Well, sort of. The ENF closed the 2014-15 fiscal year on March 31, but lucky for you there’s still time left in the grant year. In fact, there are plenty of Gratitude Grants available, to Lodges that reached the per capita goal, to apply for by May 31.

I’ve had many Lodge members tell me they’d like to apply for a grant but due to the time of year and project deadlines they have difficulty thinking of a project. As you know, the Community Investments Program is all about using the resources and relationships that already exist to benefit the community so what better resource to maximize than that of the four seasons.

One simple project your Lodge can easily start is a community garden. Community gardens are a fantastic way to meet the needs of the surrounding community and teach youth about the benefits of local food and healthy eating. The best part of starting a community garden is that it is versatile. Your Lodge can choose what to plant, with whom to partner, who the garden will benefit, and who will help care for it. Read on for examples of Lodges who put a modern spin on traditional gardening projects!

Eating Healthy
Blairsville, Penn., Lodge No. 406 worked with the Borough of Blairsville and the Blairsville Community Development Authority to construct a 20-bed community garden. Lodge members maintained a portion of the garden’s crops and donated the shares to a local food pantry. The local community uses the remaining beds as part of a healthy eating initiative. This project has had major success and nothing but positive feedback from the community. The chair of the local food pantry remarked that this was the first time the food bank was able to offer fresh produce to its clients, which is especially important considering there isn’t a grocery store in town.

Interactive Education
Winter Haven, Fla., Lodge No. 1672 teamed up with Hydroponic Towers for Youth, an after-school tutoring program that also teaches children about gardening and healthy eating. The students’ homework is to bring home the fresh crops to share with their families!

Garden Therapy
Petaluma, Calif., Lodge No. 901 built an organic garden for students attending Cypress School, a school for children with autism and cerebral palsy. The students enjoy working in the garden just as much as they enjoy eating the delicious vegetables they’ve worked hard to grow. Join the Lodges across the country that are digging in the dirt and building stronger communities. I look forward to hearing all about how your Lodge’s garden grows!

Jocelyn Moya
ENF Programs Assistant

The Elks National Foundation helps Lodges serve their communities by offering $2,000 Gratitude Grants. Lodges are eligible to apply for Gratitude Grants after meeting the National President’s per-member goal for giving to the Foundation. To find out more about Gratitude Grants and the Community Investments Program, visit www.elks.org/enf/community. For a list of additional Gratitude Grant examples, click here!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Happy New Year!

By ENF Development Coordinator Billy Donnelly

I started working at the Elks National Foundation in June of 2014. I spent all of my time here at the ENF hearing about our major milestones. I only could read about the Hoop Shoot National Finals, or the MVS Leadership Weekend. People could only tell me what the Elks National Convention or the end of a fiscal year is like. Recently, that has started to change. I have had a small part in the legwork for some of our major events, and it has been quite the experience.

I recently made it through the end of my first fiscal year with the ENF. It was almost as if time sped up. If I blinked, I would have missed two weeks. Everything that I had learned from the past year with the ENF was put to the test. Although it was very busy, it was busy in a good way! I had the opportunity to talk to countless ENF Fundraising Chairs, Secretaries, Treasures and Exalted Rulers from all across the country. Being able to talk to so many people and hearing their Lodge’s stories really helped reduce the stress of all of the paperwork.

Even though the fiscal year is officially over, things have yet to slow down in Chicago. With the Hoop Shoot National Finals and the MVS Leadership Weekend taking place this month, there is still a lot to do. It is very rewarding playing an active part in these events. I am no longer hearing about them happen, but helping to make them happen myself. I feel very connected to these programs and am eagerly awaiting their arrival.

 Looking into the future, I am very excited about everything this year has to offer. I have already been in contact with some of the 2015-16 ENF Fundraising Chairs and think that this year will be another one for the record books!

Billy Donnelly
ENF Development Coordinator

With more than 800,000 members and nearly 2,000 Lodges nationwide, Elks are providing charitable services that help build stronger communities across the United States. The Elks National Foundation, the charitable arm of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, helps Elks build stronger communities through programs that support youth, serve veterans, and meet needs in areas where Elks live and work. To learn more, visit www.elks.org/enf.

Monday, April 6, 2015

April Director's Update

By Elks National Foundation Director Jim O'Kelley
 
A long time ago, a speaker at a workshop I attended hit us with a quote that left a lasting impression:

“Change is inevitable, but progress is optional.”

April 1 marked the 18th turning of a fiscal year for me as director of the Elks National Foundation, and I still get excited when we flip the calendar.  Each fiscal year ushered in at least one interesting and significant change. Most of them have moved us forward. We’re making progress, and that’s what keeps me and the staff going.

Here's one small change that will inspire big ideas!
Mary, Jocelyn and Sarah talk CIP around their new table.
Every single one of our major programs has at least one big change coming, from the latest expansion to the Community Investments Program to the new Elks Scholar Service Trips. It’s going to be a great year for our programs and the people who count on our services.

But even on the fundraising side—on both the front and back ends—we’re making changes that you may not even notice but that will move our organization forward. New solicitation and stewardship efforts. Better document management. More functional work space.

From the staff who raise money to the ones who process the gifts, the programs people who spend it all to the communications folks who tell you all about it—we’re all working together to move the Foundation and the Elks organization forward.

That’s why I get so excited when April 1 rolls around, and that’s why I love working here.

This new fiscal year is going to be fantastic. Enjoy the ride. I’m glad you’re with us.

Sincerely,

Jim O’Kelley
ENF Director

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lights, Camera, Hoop Shoot!


It's not easy keeping track of 25 free throws! Good thing
Elks scholars Macy and Isaac attended
the Region 8 Hoop Shoot contest to help out!

As I write this, I am at a student affairs conference in New Orleans, or as I like to refer to it, “Nawlins.”  I have a bit of a break today before attending more workshops, so I am taking some time to reflect on all my adventures over this past month. Naturally my thoughts have wandered to the Elks since my previous time in New Orleans was spent at the 2014 Elks Grand Lodge Convention going on haunted ghost tours, sharing my experiences as an Elks scholar, eating substantial amounts of gumbo and jambalaya, and doing my favorite Convention activity—challenging people to free throw competitions at the Hoop Shoot booth.  

The Elks Hoop Shoot competition has held a special place in my heart over these past few years, and this past month has been no different. I have had the opportunity to be involved with various activities centered around the Hoop Shoot during March. It started off with my interview for episode 7 of the Midday with the ENF podcast. ENF staff members Jim, Debbie, and Anne were all on air with me as we discussed my experiences with the Hoop Shoot and how I was preparing to attend the National Finals for the fourth year in the row. It is always a good time with the four of us involved, and this conversation was no different. Feel free to listen in to that episode here!

A day after being featured on Midday, I left for Denver with some of my fellow Kansas Elks to attend the Region 8 Hoop Shoot. Seven hours and a few antelope sightings later, we arrived. From the introductory pizza party to the ending awards banquet, the weekend was full of excitement. I especially loved attending the actual Hoop Shoot competition, watching six amazing contestants (three from Kansas...woohoo!) qualify for the National Finals. I had the opportunity to serve as a scorekeeper on the girls’ side of the competition alongside my fellow Elks scholar, Isaac Baldwin, who is originally from Kansas as well. Let me tell you, counting to 25 is not always easy when keeping score at a Hoop Shoot contest, but thankfully we Elks scholars made it happen. 

One of my greatest memories from the Region 8 Hoop Shoot was the awards banquet held at the conclusion of the weekend. As I took a seat at my table, I realized that there were two Getty Powell award winners sitting on either side of me—Tommi Olson and Taylor Robertson. Both of these former Hoop Shoot contestants are now playing basketball in high school and continuing to work hard to achieve their dreams. Even better, they both served as rebounders for that weekend’s contest! Shout out to these gals for not only inspiring me but for also giving me reasons to smile and laugh throughout the banquet.

A short 24 hours after arriving back in Manhattan, Kansas, I was under the lights and looking good for the camera as I debuted in my acting career. That might be a bit dramatic, but I actually was filmed for this year’s Hoop Shoot film. It was a wonderful experience getting to show people what my everyday life at Kansas State University is like and share why I am so passionate about the Hoop Shoot program. There were also a few funny moments that occurred that might have included me tripping, the wind blowing my scarf into my face, and some messed up words in my interview answers. If you are ever in need of some comic relief, feel free to ask the ENF for the blooper reel!
Overall, the past month has been a whirlwind with many great Hoop Shoot related experiences. I am so thankful to be a part of this organization and cannot wait for many more great memories. Now starts the countdown for the National Finals! See you soon, Springfield!

Macy Warburton
2010 Most Valuable Student Scholar and Elks Scholar Advisory Board Member
Member of Junction City, Kan., Lodge No. 1037
 
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. Through the Elks National Hoop Shoot Free Throw Program, the Elks National Foundation offers youth the opportunity to engage in healthy competition, connect with their families and community, and succeed both on and off the court. In 2015-16, the ENF allocated $924,070 to fund this program, which includes the exciting addition of a Hoop Shoot app for contestants. For videos, news from the court, and more information about the Hoop Shoot, visit
www.elks.org/hoopshoot.