Thursday, May 17, 2012

Elks Community Builder of the Week

Newark, N.Y., Lodge No. 1249
Lodge member Bob Schinsing (left) poses with the shelter’s director. Bob regularly volunteers at the Humane Society, and has used his handyman skills to build a shed, shelving units, doors and play cubes.
If these dogs could talk, they’d say, “Thank you, Elks!” Elks at Newark, N.Y., Lodge No. 1249 have a soft spot for animals. Each month, members collect supplies to donate to the Humane Society of Wayne County. The Lodge also uses its Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to support the shelter.

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-capita goal. To find out more about Gratitude Grants and the Community Investments Program, visit www.elks.org/enf/community.   

Monday, May 14, 2012

My First Hoop Shoot

In March 2012, Lindsay Saunders joined the Elks National Foundation as the Youth Programs Associate. As part of her job, Lindsay will manage the day-to-day operations of the Elks Hoop Shoot. This April, Lindsay traveled to Springfield, Mass., for the National Finals, where she saw her very first Hoop Shoot contest in action.

By Lindsay Saunders, Youth Programs Associate

Lindsay learns the intricacies
of Hoop Shoot registration.
“Elks LOVE the Hoop Shoot!” I was told this several times before ever witnessing a Hoop Shoot in person.  Sure, I read through materials, studied the rules, even watched couple of YouTube clips of local contests. Still, nothing quite prepared me for the tremendous event that is the National Hoop Shoot Finals.

I arrived at the Sheraton Hotel in Springfield, Mass., and immediately began meeting Hoop Shoot volunteers who had been working tirelessly to prepare for what I was to witness in the next couple of days. For most Elks volunteers, this year’s Hoop Shoot was far from their first—some of them have been attending for more than 20 years! A few hours, several hugs, and a couple of custom Elks pins later, I already felt like a member of the Hoop Shoot family. I was overwhelmed by each Elk’s kindness, dedication, and passion for the program.

After a few of days of behind-the-scenes preparation (and lots and lots of note taking), it was time to meet the finalists and their families. Group by group, families arrived at the hotel to register for the contest. After being greeted by a red sea of smiling regional directors and checking into their rooms, families were ushered through the registration line. Many trickled into the family hospitality room where I was able to meet them and put some faces to the names I’d been seeing in news articles and emails for weeks.

It was during these discussions that I realized why Elks Hoop Shoot volunteers possess so much passion for what they do—it’s the families. Each expressed gratitude toward the Elks and pride in their sons’ and daughters’ accomplishments. For some, it was their first time flying on an airplane. Many had never been to the East Coast (myself included). My time in Springfield confirmed that, although contestants compete alone, Hoop Shoot is a family activity through and through.

 My last two days in Springfield were a blur. Busy trying to wrap my head around all that was happening, I continued to mingle with families, get to know Elks, and soak in as much information as possible. Finally, I witnessed my first Hoop Shoot contest. I have to admit, growing up a cheerleader and attending a Big Ten university didn’t quite prepare me for the Hoop Shoot finals. I quickly realized that the toughest part of my job might be keeping quiet during the contest—it was hard not to cheer!

By the end of my trip, I returned to Chicago with a wealth of new knowledge and a clearer understanding of how the Hoop Shoot works and what it’s really about—the kids who participate. I am excited to be a part of the program and, in case you’re wondering… I, too, LOVE the Hoop Shoot.

Through the Elks National Hoop Shoot Free Throw Program, the Elks National Foundation teaches kids the value of hard work and good sportsmanship. In 2012-13, the ENF allocated $748,055 to fund this program. For more information on the Hoop Shoot, visit www.elks.org/hoopshoot.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Elks Community Builder of the Week

Bay City, Mich., Lodge No. 88

In Bay City, Mich., veterans know the Elks care. Bay City, Mich., Lodge No. 88 used its Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to plan a great day out for veterans in partnership with the National Guard and a local veterans’ group. Elks provided food, support and publicity for the Walleyes for Warriors event.

“We have a passion for supporting those that served," says Project Manager Anthony Bosco, a Vietnam veteran himself. "We are planning of having this event again next year.” 

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-capita goal. To find out more about Gratitude Grants and the Community Investments Program, visit www.elks.org/enf/community.   

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Elks Community Builder of the Week

Harrison-East Newark, N.J., Lodge No. 2326

Play ball! Harrison-East Newark, N.J., Lodge No. 2326 used its Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to help local youth get in the game. Elks donated to the Little League; sponsored a team; and helped with the opening day ceremony, parade and barbecue to kick off the season.

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-capita goal. To find out more about Gratitude Grants and the Community Investments Program, visit www.elks.org/enf/community.   

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Farewell to Elks

By Christine Vaccarello, Development Associate

“Where do you work?” “What do you do?” Over the last four years, I’ve tried out many different explanations when responding to these questions. I’ve learned that to the non-Elks public, the Elks National Foundation is not a household name.

So when I tell people that I work for the Elks, they almost always want to know more. Next, they’ll either ask, “Who are the Elks?”, or my favorite, exclaim “I know the Elks!” and then share a special memory about the Lodge in their community or an Elks family member. For instance, one of my friends recalls the Elks sponsoring his youth tee ball team, from the uniforms to the post-game snacks.

Here in Chicago, many people who hear “Elks” associate it with the Elks Veterans Memorial building. It’s a Chicago landmark, after all. They’ll ask, “You work in that building?! Can you give me a tour?” I respond, “Become an ENF donor, and I’ll be glad to give you a tour.”

But my favorite thing to talk about is the Elks’ philanthropy. I watch peoples’ eyes widen when I mention the ENF’s $23.6 million in charitable distributions this year. I brag about our volunteers and their dedication to the ENF and their communities. I share a funny anecdote from a conversation with an ENF Chair––they always keep me smiling.

I’m writing this post on my last day working at the Elks National Foundation; tomorrow I’ll begin a fundraising position at another organization. It’s hard to believe that fewer than five years ago, I had never heard the term Grand Exalted Ruler. Despite being educated and trained in fundraising, I didn’t know about gun raffles or charitable Bingo.

After four and a half years here, I am inclined to agree with the Elks’ assertion that BPOE stands for the Best People on Earth. The long-distance Elks friends I’ve made are people I won’t forget. Elks members have taught me the true meaning of the word “volunteer”. Being a bit of a nerd, I already knew that it comes from the Latin volo, “to want”, which is also the root of the word benevolent. To Elks, volunteering is more than a hobby; it’s a way of life. This is why the Elks National Foundation thrives.

I’d like to sincerely thank all the ENF donors and volunteers who’ve made my job a pleasure. Keep up your passion for the ENF mission and know that you are inspiring people across the country, including here at the ENF headquarters.

And Chicagoans, take note: though I won’t be working in the building, I still know my way around the Veterans Memorial and will gladly arrange a tour. Just don’t forget your checkbook.