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!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Ten Things on Every Northwestern Student’s Christmas List

By 2015 Most Valuable Student Scholarship Recipient and Elks Scholar Advisory Board Member Jessica Carter

As my first quarter comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on all of the amazing experiences I’ve had at Northwestern so far. Now that I am more familiar with campus, I’ve compiled a list of the things that NU students, and Elks scholars across the country, will need in the coming quarters. Things I’m sure you will find on all Wildcats’ Christmas lists.

1. A camera to capture all of the memories you’ll want to remember forever. One of my favorite things about NU is that there is ALWAYS something to do. The best event this past quarter was the Residential College Formal. My friends and I got all dressed up and went to Navy Pier for a night of dancing and amazing food (truffle mac and cheese and jumbo crab cakes were on the menu so amazing might be an understatement).

My friend, Christopher, 
and me at the RCB Formal
2. Spirit wear to show off your purple pride. With a 10-2 football record, everyone is eager to support our fellow Wildcats.

3. Money will be helpful for any student that decides to make spontaneous trips into Chicago like me. How could you not when there’s a free intercampus shuttle? This past week I had a “Christmas in Chicago” day with one of my really good friends. We went to the Christkindlmarket, took a trip to see the huge Christmas tree, and even got to go ice skating at Millennium Park.

4. A planner to keep all of your responsibilities straight. Most people I know are involved with at least two to three extracurricular activities. My main priority is MUN or Model United Nations. MUN is an educational opportunity that allows high school students to learn more about diplomacy and many of the issues facing our world today. Participants, or delegates, are placed in committees, assigned countries, and then given a particular topic to research and debate. Every year, NU hosts its own conference, which is where I come in. I am a Vice Chair on the Security Council so it’s my job to help formulate topics and provide background for the delegates on what they will be debating. It has been so much fun so far and the perfect club for a political science major, like myself.

5. A coffee mug for obvious reasons.

6. Tupperware- In an annual published list by The Daily Meal, NU was ranked as the fifth best college for food. What sets us apart from the competition is our weekly Hot Cookie Bar. This cookie phenomenon occurs every Friday, with each dining hall making anywhere from two to 31 trays of half-baked cookie dough goodness. Needless to say that Tupperware for leftovers would come in extremely handy for any and every NU student.

7. Parka- The mild temperatures of the past two months are only the calm before the storm. Students are getting ready now because the cold is coming and we all know it.

 8. Shorts- because anyone who lives in Illinois knows that it can be 20 degrees in the morning and 70 in the afternoon.
Newt Gingrich visited campus 
and gave a speech 
in early November.

9. A paint brush- In the early 1940’s students began painting the giant rock in the center of campus. What first started as a prank has become an accepted avenue of expression. Now, almost every night the rock is repainted with symbols promoting different clubs or events on campus.

10. A sharpie and some paper- with all of the amazing people that come to NU every student should have both of these at the ready, at all times! They would be helpful for taking notes and hopefully getting an autograph. This past quarter, I’ve gone to a talk with both Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, and Ta Nehisi Coates, political activist and author of Between the World and Me.

Jessica Carter
Elks Scholar Advisory Board Freshman Representative
Northwestern University 

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.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

My First Hoop Shoot

by Youth Programs Associate Billy Donnelly

I have been the Youth Programs Associate at the Elks National Foundation for over four months now. The last four months of my life have been dedicated to the Hoop Shoot. I get to talk about the Hoop Shoot all day. On the phone, in meetings, in passing small talk. I tell my friends and family about the Hoop Shoot and all of the exciting things that we are planning for the 2016 Hoop Shoot National Finals in Chicago. The website that I visit most is not Facebook, ESPN or even my email, it is www.elks.org/hoopshoot. I drink my morning coffee out of my Hoop Shoot mug.

I thought that with all of this Hoop Shoot exposure, I was an expert. I thought I knew everything there was to know. But guess what—I was wrong. The only way to truly know what a Hoop Shoot is like, is to attend a contest.

I got my first taste of a real Hoop Shoot on a recent Saturday morning. My Lodge, Chicago Northshore, Ill., Lodge No. 1316, holds its Hoop Shoot contest in Chicago and I was able to attend. Saturday mornings aren’t exactly my thing. In fact, I was almost late to my very first Hoop Shoot. I dragged my feet up to the gymnasium door with groggy eyes, coffee in hand, but as soon as I opened the door—BAM! The electricity in the room made me more alert than the strongest cup of coffee ever could.

The gym was brightly lit and full of energy. A complete contrast to the grey, snowy streets of Chicago that Saturday morning. Parents sat around and chatted, children were playing on the court with large smiles. I found myself surrounded by familiar faces. Elks National Foundation coworkers, Headquarters staff and Elks I knew from the Lodge were in attendance. Talking with families, passing out doughnuts and assigning volunteer positions—there was much to be done.

Before I knew what was happening I was informed that I would be rebounding. I blinked and the contest started. I kept repeating to myself the rules and procedures that I knew from the pocket manual and volunteer instructions back at the office, but it wasn’t the same. I wasn’t in my office. I wasn’t on the phone talking with someone about a contest that was happening in a few weeks and a few hundred miles away. I was there. It was happening. I was incredibly nervous for that first contestant. For them, for their parents, for myself. Every corner of that gymnasium was filled with excitement, anticipation and hope. I just focused on my rebounding. Stand here. Don’t move. Shot’s up. Get the ball quickly. Pass to line judge. Return to spot. Repeat. Before I knew it I found myself in a groove and started enjoying myself. Before I knew it, they were announcing the winners. My first Hoop Shoot was over.

I was proud of the winners. They did a great job and they deserved it. I was also incredibly proud of all of the volunteers that were there. None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for them. They were truly making a difference for the children in this community.

After my Hoop Shoot experience, my office felt a little different. I got it. I understood a little more why the Hoop Shoot exists. Why we do what we do. Before I knew it, Brookfield, Ill., Lodge No. 1510 was having its Hoop Shoot contest and I was so excited to go. When I walked into that gym they couldn’t stop me from rebounding. I loved it. Lodge No. 1510 had an amazing Hoop Shoot. I wasn’t nervous anymore. I jumped right in and started rebounding.

My first two Hoop Shoot contests were incredible. I learned a lot—both on and off the court—and I can’t wait to attend the Illinois North District Hoop Shoot this winter!

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.  

Billy Donnelly
Youth Programs Associate

Monday, November 30, 2015

Overdoing Grit?

by Jim O'Kelley, Director
Elks National Foundation

Early last summer, my mother-in-law, who watches the kids two days a week, took Patrick, the 3-year-old, to a reading at our local library. While there, Pack (that's what we call him) did something to earn her praise.

Admittedly, that's not hard. She is a grandmother. Nevertheless, she was impressed and showed it by saying, "Good job!"

That simple, seemingly innocuous phrase earned the instructor's condemnation. The woman swooped in, her finger wagging.

"You shouldn't tell a child 'good job,'" she chastised. "It sets them up for a lifetime of seeking affirmation and praise."

"Well, then what am I supposed to say?" asked my incredulous mother-in-law.

"You should say, 'You worked hard, and you did it,'" the woman answered.

We all had a good laugh later that day when my mother-in-law recounted the story.

A funny thing happened when I started praising Patrick for hard work.

A few days later, I found myself at the playground with Pack. He performed some feat and looked to me for approval. I started to tell him 'good job' but caught myself and instead said, "Hey, you worked hard, and you did it!"

It felt funny to say, but a funnier thing happened. Patrick took an even bolder risk. When he successfully completed that, I again said, "You worked hard, and you did it," which prompted another, even bolder attempt. These weren't the kinds of risks that cause parents to hold their breath, but he definitely was challenging himself on the playground.

The loony instructor at the local library appeared to be on to something.

Today, I'm much more familiar with the grit movement -- her advice was an extension of it -- and if you've been paying attention to this space, you know I've become something of a champion for it. Developing gritty kids is important for their future success.

But so is balance.

We still tell Patrick 'Good job,' because, well, because we're not out of our minds. But when he accomplishes something we've encouraged him to figure out for himself, we're just as quick to say, "You worked hard, and you did it!"

Striking the right balance isn't always easy for parents, though. The other day, Meghan was driving the kids somewhere, and Patrick said from the backseat, "Mommy, I worked hard, and I did it!"

"What did you do, Honey?" she asked.

Patrick held up his water bottle. "I took a drink of water."

Oh well, at least she didn't praise him for that.

To check out my series on grit, click on the label #TrueGritTuesdays in the green box below.