Thursday, February 11, 2016

The 5 Stages of an Elks Scholar Service Trip

by Elizabeth Schaff
2012 Legacy Scholar


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.

I recently returned from Oakland, California, where I had the opportunity to serve alongside 18 of my Elks scholar peers and two wonderful ENF staff members as we delved into the issues of hunger and homelessness plaguing the San Francisco Bay area. Throughout the trip I experienced a whirlwind of emotions, and I gained more from my experience than I ever dreamed possible. Although these are only a handful of the many feelings I had during my trip, any Elks scholar considering attending an Elks scholar service trip can count on experiencing the following:

Curiosity
As an Elks scholar, I had always been interested in serving my campus and community. However, my involvement with the Elks had been limited, since there is no active Lodge near my university. When I received the application for the service trip I was curious about the Elks as a whole, as well as what types of service we might be performing. This was my first time participating in a service trip, so I truly didn’t know what to expect. This trip gave me great insight into the activities and service of the Elks, as well as an entirely new view of the issues facing the San Francisco area.
 
Anticipation
When I received my acceptance letter for the trip, I could barely contain my excitement. I was thrilled to have this opportunity to learn more about the Elks and my fellow Elks scholars from across the nation. I was also excited to dive into the issues of hunger and homelessness and how they affect the areas we served. Having grown up and attended college in North Dakota, I was eager to experience a new part of the country while having a meaningful impact on the Oakland community.  

Serving
Service is the cornerstone of the Elks scholar trips­–as such, our team spent four full days volunteering with different organizations around the Oakland area. We learned so much every day, and we had the opportunity to serve a wide variety of causes. From sorting cans and serving lunch at a shelter, to sorting more than 16,000 pounds of fresh produce at a county food bank, to interacting with low-income elementary school students in an after school program, to planting more than 6,000 marsh plants in an effort to restore the wetlands around the San Francisco Bay, there was definitely something for every participant. Through our service we learned about the issues facing the San Francisco Bay area, as well as about each other and ourselves.

Exploration
Our service trip included both figurative and literal aspects of exploration. On our final day in the San Francisco area we were able to visit several of the popular Bay Area attractions, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and AT&T Park. Perhaps even more meaningful, however, was the personal exploration that each participant experienced throughout the week. During our nightly reflections we were able to learn about the experiences and viewpoints of our fellow Elks scholars, and we formed meaningful and lasting bonds with one another. I experienced more personal growth through my participation in the service trip than I ever imagined possible.

Gratitude
As an ENF scholarship recipient, I already felt a strong sense of gratitude to the Elks for helping to make my education possible; however, through my participation in the service trip, I gained a deeper sense of gratitude for all that the Elks have done for me and do for their communities.  By seeing firsthand the devastating effects of hunger and homelessness, I also gained insight into my own privilege, and am very thankful for all of the opportunities and blessings I have been given.

The trip was a truly eye-opening experience, and I learned an incredible amount about the issues we served, my fellow Elks scholars, and especially about myself. I feel extremely blessed to be part of the Elks family, and I would definitely encourage any Elks scholar to consider participating in a future service trip!

Elizabeth Schaff
2012 Legacy Scholar

Elizabeth Schaff is a 2012 Legacy Scholar and a recent graduate from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, ND, where she earned a degree in biology with a minor in music. She currently lives in Saint Paul, MN, and plans to apply to medical school this summer.

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.

Monday, February 8, 2016

It Made a Difference for That One

by Maryann Slater
Programs Relationship Associate

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.

I live for the light bulb moments. You know, when you can see someone’s perspective change, or they are finally able to understand something they haven’t been able to understand. While I am honored to serve alongside my fellow Elks scholars on the Elks Scholar Service Trips, my favorite part of the trips is observing and facilitating the scholars’ light bulb moments throughout the week.

For example, scholars share things such as, “The person I met today who is experiencing homelessness has a college degree–I never realized that homelessness can happen to anyone.” Or, “I never thought about how important it is to just make eye contact with people who are on the streets. I never really understood how experiencing homelessness can make someone feel invisible.” These lessons stay with the scholars long after the service trip ends.

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. Today’s Elks scholars can be tomorrow’s Elks if they are able to see the benefits of membership by engaging with Elks members in service.

Programming and reflections are a big part of an Elks Scholar Service Trip and are based on the premise of “The Active Citizen Continuum” which is a part of the Break Away: the Alternative Break Connection, Inc. resources. This continuum categorizes citizens into different categories based upon one’s level of concern for community and societal issues ranging from the least engaged citizen, a member, to the most engaged who prioritizes community in his/her values and life choices, an active citizen.

The Active Citizen Continuum
While it is my hope that all of the students will leave the trip as active citizens, so touched by their experience that they simply can’t continue to stand by and allow those around them to suffer, I understand that each person will manifest this in his/her own way beyond the trip. I always hope to hear about at least one scholar who becomes actively involved within the Elks or his/her community beyond the trip.

Have you ever heard The Starfish Story? It tells the story of a young man who is picking up starfish one by one and throwing them back into the ocean so that they won’t die. An observer comments that he will never be able save all of the starfish and that he can’t possibly make a difference, to which the young man replies, “It made a difference for that one.”

The Starfish Story

The Starfish Story has taken on a new meaning for me since I started working at the Elks National Foundation. I used to look at its message in terms of the individuals I was serving, but now I look at in terms of our scholars’ perspectives and involvement in their communities beyond the Elks Scholar Service Trips.
Because the Elks National Foundation invests so intentionally in its scholars through initiatives like the Elks Scholar Service Trips, the ENF is able to multiply the “one,” by allowing up to 20 scholars, three times per year to take part in an immersive service experience. Scholars not only become transformed through their service experiences, but they also become invested in the Order, as they truly feel welcomed into the Elks Family through meeting local Elks members.

Since returning from the Winter 2016 Trip, I’ve been so thankful to hear about many of our scholars’ changed perspectives and renewed dedication to their communities. Patrick Clerkin will be joining us on the Spring 2016 Elks Scholar Service Trip and using his experience from the Winter 2016 Trip to lead as the Elks Scholar Leader in Washington, D.C. Timothy Diovanni is volunteering with a homeless shelter in Midtown Manhattan this weekend, an opportunity he has pursued because of his experience on the trip. Jessica Phan is getting involved with Pomona College’s Alternative Service Break program this semester. Van Truong volunteered at her sponsoring Lodge, Port Orange, Fla. Lodge No. 2723 just a few days after returning from the Winter 2016 Trip.
Van with members of the Port Orange, Fla., Lodge No. 2723
serving together on Martin Luther King Jr., Day
But I didn’t have to wait until after the trip to see our scholars stepping up to live out what they learned during the trip.

The last day of the Winter Trip, we got to see the Golden Gate Bridge and explore San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. The scholars had packed their lunches, but many of them returned at the end of the two hours of free time at Fisherman’s Wharf and shared that they had gotten to hand their lunches out to people experiencing homelessness after choosing to buy their own meals. I think it’s safe to say, they’re already making a difference “for that one.”

Game Faces–our scholars are serious about service!
Maryann Slater
Programs Relationship Associate 

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.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Level Up!

Lauren Barnes
Donor Services Assistant
 
Making sure certificates are organized during
the monthly Cumulative Recognition process!
It’s crazy how fast time flies at the Elks National Foundation. I can’t believe I’ve already been the Donor Services Assistant for almost 8 months! It feels like I just started yesterday. In that time, I have had the honor of hearing from many generous Elks around the country, as well as ENF Fundraising Chairs who have had the opportunity to recognize members for their gifts to the Foundation.

As the Donor Services Assistant, I am in charge of running the Cumulative Recognition process each month. This means I organize and mail letters, certificates and pins to donors who have reached different giving levels over their lifetime. If you’re interested in learning more about the Individual Cumulative Recognition levels, please visit our website.


What’s great about the Cumulative Recognition program you ask? Pins of course! Each level of giving comes with a different pin. You can add these to your collection and wear them proudly to your Lodge, Grand Lodge Convention, or just for fun!
Recognition is also an assurance that you know we value your gifts and want to make sure that you are properly thanked. You are making such a big difference in Elk communities and we want to make sure you know your gifts will go far.

It never ceases to amaze me how generous Elks really are. Whether it’s a first time donation, or an Elk who has been donating for years, I am always humbled to hear from ENF Fundraising Chairs who recognize donors for their immense generosity.

Once such Chair is Amanda Jung of Orange Lodge No. 1475 in Orange, California. Amanda works hard to make sure her members are recognized for all of their hard work and support. When I recently heard about a recognition ceremony that Amanda organized, I had to share this story…Amanda states:

“I was honored to present Mr. Colin Smith, PER with the Elks National Foundation’s Permanent Benefactor pin and certificate at the Orange Elks Lodge meeting on Wednesday, December 9, 2015. Colin Smith has donated a total of $2,000 or more to the Elks National Foundation…Colin made his first donation to the ENF in May of 2004. His wife, Nicole, and son, Bradley (4 years old!), have also made donations to the Elks National Foundation over the years. In addition, Colin is a member of the ENF Fidelity Club.”

Before I started at the ENF, if you told me you know a 4-year-old who makes charitable gifts, I might think you’re teasing me. But as you can see with Bradley, it goes to show you’re never too young to make a difference.
Take Thomas Whealon of Fond du Lac, Wis., Lodge No. 57—
seen here proudly displaying his Permanent Benefactor certificate.

“Thomas Whealon is just one of our many members who realizes the importance of making a donation to the Elks National Foundation. Veterans and youth across our state benefit from the  donations our members make year after year. Thomas is shown receiving his Permanent Benefactor Certificate ($2,000) from Don Behnke, PER, Lodge No. 57 ENF Fundraising Chair. Thank you Tom!”

Paul Bradigan of
Kittanning, Pa. Lodge No. 203
being presented
his Permanent Benefactor award
from ER Dan Gallagher.
With all of these Permanent Benefactor stories, our donors make it look easy to give where you can. Take Paul’s advice, “It wasn’t hard. You just do a little at a time over the years. It’s even easier now that you can contribute online. ENF is a great cause.” Thanks for all of your support Paul!

Please consider thanking Lodge members for their generosity and hold a ceremony to show your support. Also, email pictures to me at LaurenB@elks.org or post recognition photos to the Elks National Foundation Facebook page the next time you present an award to your members. We love to hear from our Elks who are making a difference!


Lauren Barnes
Donor Services Assistant




With nearly 800,000 members and more than 1,900 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.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My Takeaways from a Meeting of the Minds

by Jim O'Kelley, Director
Elks National Foundation

Last month, for the second straight month, we put the Elks Veterans Memorial to good use serving homeless veterans. Back in November, we ran a neighborhood clothing drive right out of the Rotunda. This time around, we hosted various stakeholders in Chicago's fight to end veteran homelessness for dinner and discussion in the Grand Reception Room.

The event drew some heavy hitters. Guests included representatives from Senator Dick Durbin's office, the mayor's office, two of the three VA medical centers serving the metropolitan area, and three area non-profits. The Elks were well represented as well, of course. Grand Secretary Bryan Klatt was there, as were Past National President Paul Helsel, a member of the Elks National Veterans Service Commission, and Mary Morgan, the director of the Commission.

Paul Helsel talks about what the Elks can contribute to the effort. (That's me in the foreground at left, listening attentively!)

Three things stuck with me that night.

First was the term functional zero, which I had never heard. Turns out you're never going to eliminate homelessness because new cases will constantly crop up as veterans go through crises. The idea, then, is to get to functional zero, which means you have eliminated the backlog and are capable of finding housing for each new case within 30 days. That's functional zero.

While talking during dinner with Lisa Morrison Butler, Chicago's commissioner of the Department of Family and Support Services, I learned that Chicago's backlog was 450 veterans, with around 225 new cases each month. The commissioner was optimistic that the city could achieve functional zero by June.

The second thing that stuck with me was a comment I heard a couple of times while mingling prior to the dinner, and that is that everyone wants to help the veteran who looks like Pat Tillman. Tillman, in case you're not familiar, was a professional football player for the Arizona Cardinals. After the attacks on 9-11, he quit football, joined the Army, and eventually became a Ranger. He died in Afghanistan in April 2004, a victim of friendly fire.

Anyway, the point was that Pat Tillman was a strong, powerful, good-looking man, the kind of soldier you'd see on a recruiting poster. When many of us think about helping homeless veterans, that's what we have in mind. There's this notion that our soldiers went straight from the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq to the streets of America, and all that it will take to put them in homes now is an easy hand up. The reality is that as cities like Chicago clear out their backlog, they're starting to reach the veterans who have been chronically homeless.

Which leads to the third thing: During dinner, one of the non-profit attendees who has been finding and providing housing for homeless veterans for years said, "The easy ones are gone."

I saw what he was talking about in October when I went up to the North Chicago VA Medical Center to interview seven formerly homeless veterans for a new series of films. If you haven't seen One Last Stand yet, our short feature film about the fight to end homelessness, please find the eight minutes and 45 seconds to watch it. You can do so right here:

The playlist also includes our profiles on each of the seven vets in the film. (Five are already done; two are coming.) I'm not sure what I expected to find when I went up there to interview them, but I was definitely surprised by how different each of their stories were. And not one of them served during our two recent conflicts.

But regarding the comment that the easy ones are gone, I get it. Listening to their stories and hearing what they went through--crime, drugs, fear, mental and physical health issues, living in their cars, bouncing around shelters, dumpster diving, finding housing and losing it again and again--it's clear to me that helping them find stable housing required a ton of hard work by dedicated social workers at the V.A. and community partners like the Elks.

It's likely to be even more difficult to find housing for the 450 vets in the backlog here in Chicago, and thinking about that is daunting. But it's also encouraging to know that it can be done. That all it takes is hard work. We can do hard work.

We know the V.A. is in this fight for the long haul. So are the Elks.

I'll be blogging about the various films in this new series over the next few weeks. I hope you'll follow along, watch the films, and, most important, get involved. You can learn more here.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Path to the Elks National Foundation

by Chelsea Dennis
Programs Assistant

I don’t know about you, but the last few months of 2015 have been a whirlwind for me! On September 7th I ended my last day as an AmeriCorps member and started my first course in graduate school that same evening. A week later I found out that I was hired by the Elks National Foundation! Honestly it's been a lot to take in at once, but luckily the holidays have served as a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the past few months. Now that I’m settled into my new role as a Programs Assistant in the Community Investment Programs office, I finally feel like I have a grasp on things.

Before moving to Chicago and ultimately working at the ENF, I served as a corps member with City Year Washington, DC (CYDC), a nonprofit that works to combat the drop out crisis. In my role as a corps member I taught English/Language Arts and Mathematics to 5th grade students at risk of falling off track and organized events such as AttenDances to get students excited about school. My time with CYDC and my Kimball Elementary School team really left an impression on me and made me feel as if every person can help contribute to making the world a better place. As an added bonus, I got the chance to make a great set of lifelong friends.
Celebrating a completed year of service as corps members with CYDC.
Two of my students hanging out with the FLOTUS. They were even featured in the Washington Post!

After my time with City Year, I moved to Chicago to be closer to my family in Gary, Indiana (and yes, before you ask, it is Michael Jackson's hometown) to complete another year of AmeriCorps with Literacy Volunteers of Illinois, a program that focuses on adult education. Although it was a change from working with fifth grade students, teaching literacy to adult learners relied on some of the same techniques. I was placed at Albany Park Community Center, a neighborhood known nationally for its diversity. While there, I had the opportunity to meet people from Yemen, Afghanistan, Djibouti, Guatemala, Bangladesh and the list goes on. I learned so much about the life of immigrants and the difficulties many experience when arriving in the United States. Living in a country with a high literacy rate, it’s easy to take reading for granted. However, for many arriving in the U.S. with no literacy skills in their native language, acquiring the language and reading skills to survive can be a harrowing experience.

Prior to applying for my position with the ENF, I knew very little about the Elks. I had seen the building many times before and often wondered what went on inside. After seeing the position posted online, I did a little research and was amazed at the Foundation's level of community investment. The mission of helping Elks build stronger communities really aligned with my belief of service to a cause greater than self. What impressed me even more was the fact that members decide on projects that best suit the needs of their communities.
Sitting at my new swanky desk.
Currently I'm staring into your eyes (it's creepy I know),
but before that I was learning how to use the grants database. 
Now that I’m here, I’m really excited about what’s in store for 2016. I know you've probably heard that the Elks National Veterans Service Commission will invest four million dollars (yes $4 million dollars!) to eliminate veterans' homelessness. Last month, I had the chance to attend a dinner sponsored by the ENF to learn more about veterans initiatives throughout Illinois and I can’t wait to see how the Elks will play a critical role in supporting our nation’s veterans.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post featuring all things Chelsea, but I have to get back to reviewing Gratitude Grants. Don’t forget the deadline is May 31, 2016 so apply today!

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. In addition, Lodges that exceed 15 percent membership support last year may be eligible for a $500 bonus. To find out more about Gratitude Grants and the Community Investments Program, visit www.elks.org/enf/community.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The 12 Days of Elks Scholar Service Trips

by Maryann Slater
Programs Relationship Associate
 
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

12 #ElksFamily T-Shirts
Justin Schulberg, 2013 MVS scholar from
Rutgers University shows off his
 Winter Trip T-Shirt.
- A staple of any Elks Scholar Service Trip, you can find these snazzy shirts that read “We Are #ElksFamily” on all of the Elks scholars throughout the week of a trip.

11 Cell Phones Resting
- The Elks Scholar Service Trips allow for students to become “unplugged” for the week during service and activities which allow them to take a rest from their studies and take advantage of new experiences and opportunities. Take it from Spencer Fricke, 2014 Legacy scholar who attended the Summer 2015 Trip-“It was an eye opening week and it’s great to get unplugged from your reality at home.”

10 Scholars Flying
- We have 19 students traveling from 16 different states to serve in Oakland, California–click here to view an interactive map!
9 New Year’s Wishes
- We’ll be ringing in the New Year together in Oakland on January 3–what better way to start off 2016 than with your Elks family?

8 Group Activities
- Beyond service, scholars participate in activities such as a privilege walk and a core values exercise that will help them to gain new perspective and empower them to apply what they learn on the trip to their lives at home or on campus.

7 Scholars a Packing
- I hope that all 19 will be a packing soon!

6 Nightly Reflections
- Each night we’ll sit down as a group and process what we each experienced that day. This allows us to learn from each other’s perspectives, grow closer as a group, and discuss how we can apply what we’re learning on the trip to our own lives back home.

5 Days of Service
- We’ll serve with different organizations each day from Monday through Friday in the San Francisco Bay Area on the Winter 2016 Elks Scholar Service Trip.

4 Elks Connecting
- By visiting the Alameda, Calif., Lodge No. 1015 for dinner during the week, scholars will have the opportunity to connect with more of their Elks family who have been supporting them throughout their time in college.

3 New Friendships
- I can’t wait to see a group of 19 strangers turn into a group of friends over the course of our week together.
The Winter 2016 Trip participants are already connecting in a
Facebook group – this is just the beginning of the friendships
that will come out of this trip experience! 
2 Trip Hashtags
- Search #LearnServeConnect and #ElksFamily and follow @ElksScholars on Facebook, @ElksScholars, Instagram and Snapchat to follow along with the action!

Here I am with my
“huge binder full of plans”
before the Summer 2015 Trip. 
1 Huge Binder Full of Plans!
- Color coded schedules. Index cards. Materials that will help to make the week a success–these are a few of my favorite things!











Maryann Slater
Programs Relationship Associate


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

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Bring us a figgy pudding… 
and some better singing

by Kate Keating Edsey, Development Manager
Elks National Foundation

2015 marks my eighth Elks National Foundation holiday season--and my eighth stint as an ENF caroler. I’m not a singer, as anyone who has heard me will attest, but I enjoy Jim O’Kelley’s annual tradition of the ENF staff coming together on the morning of our staff holiday party to delight the Elks headquarters staff with our tunes.

Five years ago some of our staff put together a caroling video to share with friends of the Foundation--some practice, some chaos, and borrowed construction lights from the Elks Veterans Memorial resulted in this masterpiece.

This year, the ENF carolers are again featured on a video, and also the December Midday podcast. For those of you who aren’t Middies, Midday is now recorded and produced with the help of our new friends at Tribeca Flashpoint College in Chicago’s Loop. We packed up most of our carolers and headed downtown with excitement to meet the professionals and students who would assist us in making this vision a reality.

Some new staff, some new songs, still some chaos. Our caroling expedition was definitely an exercise in herding cats--where to stand, who’s in front, who will count us off, and especially the best way to turn a page of lyrics (I’m looking at you, Colleen Muszynski). The final result?

Maybe not our best caroling in eight years, but heartfelt and fun. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you’ll accept my apology in advance for standing too close and dominating the microphone.

We have less than 365 days to practice for next year, so we should probably get started.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!