Skip to main content

A Week with the Neighbors

  by Kyle Bort
An Emergency Educational Grant Scholarship Recipient

During the Winter Elks Scholar Service Trip, I had the opportunity to redefine my perspective regarding the social problems of poverty and homelessness. While serving alongside 20 other Elks Scholars in Dallas, I learned many things about what it means to spend a week serving my neighbors. 

This was my second service trip through the Elks National Foundation. As an Emergency Education Grant recipient, the Foundation has made education possible for me by offering
a grant to children of deceased or totally disabled Elks members. My farther, Bill Bort, always stressed the importance of service. I can remember many times when I served alongside him. He had the ability to bring joy and hope to the people around him.

John Quincy Adams once stated “If your actions inspire others, to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” This is a quote that I believe my father understood well. After his passing in 2009, the ENF made it possible for me to continue my education, while also allowing me to carry on his legacy of service. I cannot express the impact of Dallas without first stressing the importance of the Elks National Foundation. We really are #ElksFamily. 

 So what did I do in Dallas? Throughout the week, we served with CitySquare, an organization that seeks to fight the causes and effects of poverty through service, advocacy, and friendship. They accomplish this by providing neighbors with direct resources, such as housing, training, meals and education. They explained to us that this type of approach to poverty begins with redefining the terminology that we use. By referring to the individuals we serve as “neighbors”, we start to pull apart the labels and stereotypes of homelessness. They taught us that through connections and conversations with our neighbors, we begin to better understand and address poverty. 

Throughout the week, we engaged in various forms of direct service. One night, we served and ate dinner with our neighbors. It was during this dinner that I had the pleasure of meeting Robert and Winston. As I sat with them, I learned about their passions and interests. Robert was a big music fan and told me about past musicians and instruments. He also spoke Portuguese fluently; therefore, we spent a lot of time comparing my second language of Spanish with his second language of Portuguese. Winston told me about sports news in Chicago. He was so happy that we spent time speaking with him. In many ways, Winston was the perfect example of gratitude. His spirit and positive attitude are something we should all strive for.

Later in the week, we also volunteered at the food pantry and walked alongside our neighbors as they shopped. The neighbors were greeted by a volunteer and then guided around the pantry where they had the option to pick from a wide variety of items—including steaks from Trader Joe’s. In this situation, I was able to provide a personalized experience and I was also able to brush up on my Spanish skills as many of the neighbors were fluent in Spanish. 

Over the course of the week, I learned that a large amount of empathy is required to confront poverty. In turn, this requires stepping out of our own shoes and into the shoes of our neighbors. This step allows us to break down the labels and stereotypes that are often associated with our neighbors. It allows us to see them for the people that they are. They are people that are full of dreams, talents, skills, hope, and solutions. We must realize that many times our answers to poverty are not necessarily true. In many ways, it is our neighbors who have the answers. Finally, our neighbors are similar to us in many ways. They are not the labels and stereotypes that our society gives them. As a society, it is our duty to reach out to them. I would highly suggest serving our neighbors so that you too can see this perspective.

  At the beginning of the week, we were asked to write our personal definition of service. To end, I would like to share mine. 

“Service is stepping outside of yourself to address the needs and challenges of our neighbors. This is accomplished through a perspective of love, grace, compassion, and empathy. It is realizing just how blessed you are and realizing that you want to show the same towards everyone around you"

To read more about the Dallas Elks Scholar Servcie Trip, click here.  

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Serving by the Blue Ridge Mountains

by Gabriella Haire 2015 Most Valuable Student Scholar
My name is Gabriella Haire and I am a junior studying biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. Beyond dreaming up medical innovations, I enjoy volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House, training for cross country ski races, and exploring new cities one ice cream shop at a time.

Following a typical track practice in March 2015, I received an atypical email. It was an invitation to the Elks Most Valuable Student Leadership Weekend and the promise of an Elks National Foundation scholarship. I was elated as I celebrated in the locker room, but I didn’t fully realize how that email and the Leadership Weekend were just the beginning of my relationship with the Elks.
After a physics lecture in November 2015, I received an email confirming my acceptance to the Winter Elks Scholar Service Trip in Oakland, California. I was eager to connect with Elks scholars for a whole week, rather than just a weekend. As it turned out, a week w…

What I'll Remember Most

by Cullen Edens
2016 Most Valuable Student Scholar Cullen, along with 19 other scholars, came together to serve the San Antonio community in the name of the Elks from June 26 to June 29. These 20 scholars then joined 130 of their fellow scholars for the 150 for 150 Service and Celebration Weekend, where all 150 scholars worked together to serve the city of San Antonio from June 29 through July 2. 



My name is Cullen Edens and I am a junior at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma where I am majoring in Accounting. When I was selected as an Elks Most Valuable Student scholar, I simply thought I would collect my award and move on with my college education. I had no idea the impact that the Elks National Foundation would have on my life.
In late June, I traveled to San Antonio not knowing that this service trip would transform the way I viewed the communities around me. Arriving at Trinity University, I met 19 other Elks scholars from across the country from Maine to California. We instan…

Show Me the Heat

by Billy Donnelly Youth Programs Associate
While low temperatures afflict most of the United States in January and February, things are really starting to heat up for the Hoop Shoot. In gyms all across the country, Hoop Shoot contestants have been competing in state contests--another stop on the road to Chicago.
This year I had the privilege of attending the Missouri State Hoop Shoot contest, just outside of St. Louis. Randy Eaton has been the Show-Me State’s Director for more than 30 years, but after all that time, you can tell he has not lost his fire and passion for the program.
I left a looming snow storm in Chicago, happily heading south to help out with Randy’s event. It didn’t take long after my arrival before we could start to get to work. The hotel was practically ready to go—a Holiday Inn with an arcade and a large indoor pool meant that the 48 best free-throw shooters in Missouri weren’t going to have to go far to have some fun.
Randy took me to go help set up for the Awar…