by Chelsea Dennis
Last month, Colleen, Maryann and I took a trip to Elmhurst, Ill., Lodge No. 1531 to see the Lodge’s Impact Grant in action. Working with the Elmhurst-Yorkfield Food Pantry and Dollar Tree, the Lodge provides hygiene and cleaning products to families in need. For many families that use food banks to supplement their meals, there is often a need for hygiene and cleaning supplies. While food banks are able to address hunger, very little is allocated for other items. Recognizing this need, the Lodge stepped in to provide supplies for 50 families monthly using the Impact Grant.
As I helped prepare packages, many of the families spoke of how grateful they were to the Elks for providing this service and how receiving the items took pressure off their limited budgets. Prior to seeing the Lodge’s project, I was unaware that this was a need in some communities. Hearing directly from recipients opened my eyes to how small needs are often overshadowed by broader social issues. By simply providing these small yet critical resources, the Lodge indirectly improves health and education outcomes. For example, having cleaning and hygiene supplies helps people maintain healthy bodies, clean environments and reduces school absenteeism for students concerned about hygiene issues.
Having worked at the Elks National Foundation for a little over a year now, I have read hundreds of grant applications. However, my visit to Elmhurst was my first time visiting a Lodge and seeing Elks in action. After speaking with Mike, Rita, Joan, and Margaret, members of the Lodge that are actively involved in the Impact Grant project, there is a clear passion for serving the community. Their enthusiasm for this project is a testament to the saying,
“There is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer, with it beats the spirit of service, generosity and compassion…and the health and well-being of our community, our country, and our world”—Kobi Yamada
As we launch ourselves into the holiday season, it’s timely to reflect on all of the things we are grateful for here at the ENF. Whether Elks are serving meals to veterans experiencing homelessness or creating food baskets for families in need, we are forever grateful to the thousands of members who dedicate themselves to building stronger communities. As you prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday this week, take a look at how Lodges are giving thanks by giving back.
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, click here.