Thursday, April 28, 2011

Elks Community Builder of the Week

Calabash, N.C., Lodge No. 2679

Picasso in suspenders! Joe Adams of Calabash, N.C., Lodge No. 2679 puts in some volunteer time for his Lodge’s Impact Grant project. Calabash partners with two nearby Lodges to run its Children’s Shelter Improvement Project.  The Lodge is renovating the children’s area in the shelter so residents’ children can have a safe place to play and learn.

The ENF awards Impact Grants to help Lodges significantly address unmet needs in Elks communities. Impact Grants are competitive grants worth up to $10,000 and are open to all Lodges. To find out more about Impact Grants, visit www.elks.org/enf/community.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Southwest Region Doesn’t Miss

By Communications Specialist Kristen Scaletta

Today, our office is busy with last minute preparations for the Hoop Shoot National Finals, which take place this Saturday in Springfield, Mass. I’m looking forward to leaving for my third National Hoop Shoot competition tomorrow morning. This year, I’m anticipating the contest even more, since I had the privilege to attend the Southwest Regional Hoop Shoot contest last month, so I already know some of the finalists.

Thanks to Regional Director Jud Good and his wife Deb, Development Manager Kate Keating Edsey and I were able to travel to Dallas, Texas, to experience the regional contest in person.

From the moment we arrived at the hotel for registration, we knew the contest would be big. When we pulled up, flags representing each state in the region greeted us at the doorway. Upon entering, we saw a table lined with trophies that were taller than most of the contestants. All of the Elks on Jud’s Hoop Shoot team gave us a warm welcome, and we immediately felt like we were part of the team.

Friday night, we attended the Hoop Shoot social, where we got to meet each of the contestants, enjoy a homemade meal, and witness the shooting order selection.

In case you’ve never been to a Hoop Shoot, it’s a free throw contest for kids ages 8 to 13. Contestants in each division line up to try to make the most out of 25 free throws. So as you can imagine, shooting order is a big deal. Different regional finalists have different preferences. Some like to go first to get it over with, and not have the pressure of watching everyone else shoot. Some prefer last, so they know how many shots they need to make.

At the Southwest Regional contest, to determine the shooting order, contestants in each division came to the stage separately, and stood on top of a number, which was randomly placed face down, so they couldn’t see. They traded spots until they were happy with the number they stood on. Then, on the count of three, they all picked up their signs and saw their shooting position. When they showed family and friends in the audience, everyone cheered. What a fun way to kickoff the contest!

The good energy of the social carried right into the actual contest. A local high school drum line played during warm ups at the gym, and each contestant was recognized as he or she ran through the drum line to begin the contest. The gym fell silent when the shooting started. I’m consistently amazed at how much these contestants practice, and how infrequently they miss. It’s also fun to watch each contestant’s technique. After the contest, I felt I saw every approach, from dribbling twice, spinning the ball and shooting, to never letting the ball hit the floor. It’s also great to see all of the good sportsmanship the contestants show. They really bond during the contest, and cheer for one another just as much as they’re rooting for themselves.

After the last shoot-out ended, the contestants took the last bus back to the hotel. When they got off, they ran through a line of family and friends cheering for them and wishing them well.

Even though there were no more free throws, the fun wasn’t over. That evening, there was a wonderful banquet where each contestant was recognized and received an award. The nervous energy from that morning turned into pure excitement, as contestants celebrated their victories, spent more time with one another, and learned more about the Elks and other Elks programs, such as the Drug Awareness Program. After eating their fill of chicken fingers and pledging to say no to drugs, the evening ended with a raffle, where contestants won even more prizes.

Overall, Kate and I had a fantastic time in Dallas. Big thanks to Jud, Deb and the Southwest Regional Hoop Shoot Team for your Texas hospitality!

The Hoop Shoot National Finals are in Springfield, Mass., on Saturday, April 30. If you can’t make it to the finals, you can follow the action from home using our online shot tracker. Visit www.elks.org/hoopshoot for regional results and other Hoop Shoot stories.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Elks Community Builder of the Week

Walterboro, S.C., Lodge No. 1988

Walterboro, S.C., Lodge No. 1988 used its Gratitude Grant to partner with a local school for kids with disabilities. The Lodge purchased adaptive playground equipment, including swings, picnic tables and a playhouse. Above, Lodge members pose with the kids, who are thankful for the Elks’ serious commitment to playing around.

The ENF awards Gratitude Grants to Lodges to directly address local needs. Lodges are eligible to apply for Gratitude Grants after meeting the GER’s per-capita goal. To find out more about Gratitude Grants, visit www.elks.org/enf/community.   

Friday, April 15, 2011

Forecast: April Scholars

By Programs Relationship Associate Anne Shields

Birds chirping. Tulips blooming. Sun shining. Elks scholars serving. Spring is here and Elks scholars are out in full force serving their communities as part of the Elks Scholar Month of Service.

We’ve been promoting the Elks Scholar Month of Service since January, when the snow drifts were up to our office windows, so it’s hard to believe April actually arrived and with it, Elks scholar volunteers.

Now we are in the midst of the Elks Scholar Month of Service, and we’ve seen a great response from Elks scholars across the country (which is no surprise, since Elks scholars are dedicated to service).

So far this month, Elks scholars have served their communities in a variety of ways. Erika Barger, an Elks scholar alum, kayaked out to an island to pick up litter along the Shell Key Preserve beach near St. Petersburg, Fla. A group of seven Elks scholars at Brigham Young University came together to serve at Hoofbeats to Healing, an organization that provides therapeutic horseback riding for children with autism. Elks scholar alum Brennan Takayama hit the streets of Honolulu, Hawaii to hand out sandwiches and personal care items to the homeless community, along with notes of ‘aloha’ or love. Notre Dame Elks scholars sorted donated clothes at the Center for the Homeless (click here for a video). And, Laura Pennington, an Elks scholar alum, is using the entire month of April to collect donated clothing for Vietnam veterans.

That’s a lot of Elks scholar service, and there’s more to come!

From Philadelphia to San Francisco, Elks scholars are showing their continued dedication to their communities and showcasing what it means to be an Elks scholar.

This was just a sampling of Elks scholar service projects. You can read about all the projects here. Continue to check back throughout April as more Elks scholars complete service projects. Here at the office, we love receiving Elks scholar service photos and videos, and we can’t wait to see what other service stories April brings!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Elks Community Builder of the Week

Livermore-Pleasanton, Calif., Lodge No. 2117

Livermore-Pleasanton, Calif., Lodge No. 2117 used its Promise Grant to hold a free children’s carnival! At the carnival, kids played games like mini golf, fish bowl toss, and Hoop Shoot practice. Local police stopped by to talk about the dangers of drug and alcohol use and abuse,  and the fire department gave tours of their fire truck. Above, an Elks member a local clown puts the finishing touches on an attendee’s face paint.

The ENF awards Promise Grants to the first 500 Lodges that pledge to host an event that helps build the character and competence of youth in their community. To find out more about Promise Grants and to download an application, visit www.elks.org/enf/community.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

In The Bag…

By Development Manager Kate Keating Edsey

Texas hospitality is second to none, so I couldn’t have picked a better place for my first Hoop Shoot and Impact Grant project visit. Communications Specialist Kristen Scaletta and I headed down to the Big D last month by invitation of Jud Good, Southwest Regional Hoop Shoot Director.

Kristen will tell you more about the Hoop Shoot contest next week, but let me just say how much I enjoyed the experience. It was amazing to meet the Elks who volunteer their time and talents to produce a spectacular weekend for the contestants and their families. I can’t wait to see how the winners from the Southwest Regional Contest do in Springfield—I have especially high hopes for my banquet tablemates from the 10 - 11 year-old group!

During our time in Dallas, I was honored to see our Impact Grant dollars at work in Plano-Richardson Lodge 2485, guided by Exalter Ruler, Project Manager and Lodge ENF Chair Valree Thompson.  Valree was excited to show us how the Lodge’s Emergency Duffle Bag Project benefits their community, saying “the Impact Grant has had a positive effect on our Lodge—it pushed us in the right direction and put Elks in the same room for a purpose.”

Valree makes sure each bag is full of supplies.
Valree came up with the idea for the Impact Grant project in a meeting with Deb Walsh, Executive Director of Neighborhood Youth and Family Counseling Center of Richardson.  Valree knew of NYFC’s good work in the community, so she sat down with Deb to talk about how the Lodge might partner with them for an Impact Grant project.

Valree had a “lightbulb moment” listening to Deb talk about how difficult it is for domestic violence victims to flee their homes without toiletries or personal care items.

“There is a huge unmet need in supplies and assistance for women and children fleeing domestic violence and crisis situations,” Valree said, “and the project itself provided an easy way for Elks to get involved by assembling bags of supplies.” 

The concept is simple—provide bags filled with emergency supplies, water, toiletries and other necessities to NYFC for victims of domestic violence and other crisis situations. These victims often have to leave their homes at a moment’s notice, without any of their personal or comfort items. The Lodge also delivers bags for children stuffed with snacks and activities.

The kids' bags are full fo snacks, coloring books,
and other necessities.
Valree met us at the Lodge to show us the bags, freshly assembled by herself and a team of seven Elks and Does. The most time-consuming part of the project is the shopping, but Valree found ways to make it cheaper and easier by becoming a regular at the local Dollar Store.

Are you wondering why the photo above doesn’t show a duffle bag? I did too! Although the project is called the Emergency Duffle Bag Project, the Elks quickly discovered that duffle bags aren’t as good as sling-type bags, which allow for hands-free carrying and are better for organizing personal papers and files.
After touring the Lodge and seeing the bags, we drove to NYFC with Valree and Bill and Rae Arwood. Rae is the president of the Does and assists with the bags project. Bill is a member of the Lodge and was kind enough to chauffer us and help deliver the bags.

We were greeted by Deb, who showed us around and told us what the bags and Elks support meant to NYFC.

“It’s hard to make good decisions in crisis situations.,” she said. “Victims need to be able to get up and go. These bags help them do just that.”

I asked Deb if she was familiar with the Elks before partnering with the Lodge thanks to the Impact Grant, and she said “I didn’t know about them before the project, but I sure talk about them a lot now!” Deb is also considering joining the Order because of the project.

The Elks deliver bags to NYFC.
In the three months since the project started, six bags have already been distributed. Another 30 are ready to go should the need arise, and more bags will be assembled as needed. The project is off to a great start, and is already making a difference in the community.

After leaving a few bags with Deb, we said goodbye to Valree, Deb, Bill and Rae, and headed back into Dallas just in time for the Hoop Shoot Social.

Later that night, I thought about the contrasts between the bag recipients and the Hoop Shoot kids I’d met that day. The Hoop Shoot kids, while anxious about the next day’s competition, were laughing and eating sloppy joes, and I couldn’t help but wonder if a family was just arriving at NYFC in need of assistance and an emergency bag. Wouldn’t it be great if no one ever needed an emergency bag? Unfortunately that isn’t likely to happen, but at the least the Plano-Richardson Elks are there to help.

A special thank you to Valree Thompson for coordinating our Lodge visit, and to Jud and Deb Good for not only inviting us to the Hoop Shoot, but for making it possible to visit the Lodge and meet with ENF donors and friends during our visit. Texas hospitality at its finest!

The ENF awards Impact Grants to help Lodges significantly address unmet needs in Elks communities. Impact Grants are competitive grants worth up to $10,000 and are open to all Lodges. To find out more about Impact Grants, visit www.elks.org/enf/community.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Elks Community Builder of the Week

Des Moines, Iowa, Lodge No. 98

Des Moines, Iowa, Lodge No. 98 used its Gratitude Grant to become an “Army of Hope.” The Lodge delivered food baskets to 32 families in need throughout the community, including seven families of deployed soldiers.

The ENF awards Gratitude Grants to Lodges to directly address local needs. Lodges are eligible to apply for Gratitude Grants after meeting the GER’s per-capita goal. To find out more about Gratitude Grants, visit www.elks.org/enf/community.