Skip to main content

Same City, New Perspective


by Jyotsna Bitra
Most Valuable Student Scholar


My name is Jyotsna Bitra and I attend the University of Illinois at Chicago. I am studying Economics on the pre-medicine track. I love to play tennis, bake, write, teach, and listen to other’s stories. Growing up in Illinois and attending college in Chicago, I did not think participating in service in Chicago would be anything special. I’m used to the city and I was familiar with the area. But I was so glad to be mistaken.
 
Serving with my fellow scholars.
The first day of the Elks Scholar Service Trip, we served at a shelter known as Breakthrough Urban Ministries. We prepared and shared a meal with those experiencing homelessness. I knew there were many individuals in this situation throughout Chicago, and I often pass many of them on the way to the grocery store or mall. But I’ve never stopped to talk to them, other than muttering a hello. At Breakthrough, I heard some of their stories and witnessed their interactions. They seemed like a family, an unorthodox one perhaps, but a family nonetheless. They care for each other and when one client stopped coming because he found an apartment, the others felt a mixture of hope and loss.

The next day we visited the Jesse Brown V.A., which is right across the street from the building I conduct research in during the school year. Yet, I never knew it existed. In fact, I didn’t know what a V.A. was until this trip. But the pop-up food pantry we set up and served in was one of my favorite opportunities during this trip. Seeing the massive amounts of food and knowing it was all going to lessen stress for families and individuals put me in awe. I served near the end of the line and I realized the veterans thanked me more than I was able to thank them. And yet, my work of emptying boxes and organizing food didn’t begin to compare to the service they have provided our country. I learned that even though we each have our own place in society, we have to help each other in order to keep moving forward. Even though my volunteer work seems minor, the veterans experiencing homelessness have great appreciation and gratitude, and it is truly rewarding to witness.

The next day we visited Humble Design, which was by far one of my favorite organizations because turning a “house into a home” seems simple, but does wonders for families. We learned that coming home to a place of complete comfort and knowing it is yours can completely change a person’s perspective on life. A home is not simply a symbol of hope, but longevity. I am so thankful to the Elks for introducing me to the Humble Design warehouse in Chicago.

Finally, the last two days we helped with the Chicago Standdown. We sorted and folded more clothes than I ever have in my life. But all of this was put to good use when we helped veterans pick out clothing to take home. I saw their faces light up when they found a coat that fit them perfectly. The experience was a mixture of satisfaction, tiredness, smiles and endless thank-yous. When we left on Friday, I knew I wanted to return and serve at the Winter Standdown in November.
We had a great time exploring Chicago! 

The Service Trip was incredibly moving and impactful, but the other scholars I served with were equally important and touching. I met some amazing people from all around the country. I know we will all go our own way, but I am very happy to have met them and come together to learn in valuable ways.

I could go on and on about how much I love and miss the scholars I came to know on the trip, but I hope my fellow scholars will experience the connections themselves. Elks Scholar Service Trips are about more than meeting scholars or serving in a city; they’re about a combination of those two experiences that sparks new ideas and feelings to help us create a better home for all.

We know Elks scholars are dedicated to service. Now, they have the opportunity to come together in service with their Elks scholar peers. The Elks National Foundation offers three Elks Scholar Service Trips per year for up to 20 Elks scholars each. These trips provide scholars the opportunity to learn about societal issues, serve those in need in the name of the Elks, and connect with their Elks family from across the country. For more information about the trips, visit enf.elks.org/scholarservicetrips.

Comments

  1. Awesome article. Keep it up. Like the image and the process of Free trial . Thanks keep it up ..

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

For the Love of Nonprofits

by Nathan Kriha
Donor Services Coordinator
One of the most consistent passions in my life has been a love for nonprofits—especially ones that focus on education and the development of impoverished communities. This love can be traced all the way back to my high school days when my mother (quite forcibly) suggested I teach a kindergarten religious education course with her.
After my introductory class, I thought that this decision would easily be one of the biggest regrets of my life: The children would scream, cry, launch their crayons into space, tear up their books, and cry a little more. While I was initially stunned by this preliminary lesson, I witnessed my mother corral these angsty students and gradually create a heartwarming and quite soothing environment. At this moment I realized the true influence that a teacher can have on their students, and I became captivated with the study of successful teaching methods.
This interest persisted into my coursework at the University of Not…

Meaghan's First Month

by Meaghan Morris
Lodge Grants Program Coordinator

Hello! My name is Meaghan, and I am thrilled to be the new Programs Coordinator in the Community Investments Program office.
I graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2015. Since then, I’ve jetted around peripatetically, travelling to 46 states and 24 countries, and living in Western Massachusetts, Boston, and the mountains of rural Wyoming.  I moved to Chicago in 2016, and the Cubs won the World Series a little while later. I attribute my move as the main catalyst for the breaking of the Curse of the Billy Goat, so, you’re welcome for that, Cubs fans!
I joined the ENF during its busiest time of the year. I started working in the CIP office one day after grant applications opened for the new year, and our office was inundated with hundreds of grant applications in that first week alone. On top of the busyness in our office, Fundraising, Communications, Hoop Shoot and Scholarships were excitedly (yet gracefully!) preparin…

Back to Biloxi

by John Kavula
Elks Scholar Fellow

As the chilly fall weather crept in on Chicago, Programs Relationship Senior Associate Maryann Dernlan and I had the chance to escape to the sunny, 80-degree weather of the Mississippi Gulf Coast for a site visit in preparation for the 2019 Winter Elks Scholar Service Trip.

When I accepted the position of Elks Scholar Fellow nearly five months ago, one aspect of the position that drew me in was the opportunity to choose the location for the Elks Scholar Service Trips. When I found out that Community Collaborations International (CCI), a service organization we had worked with on a past trip, had a program in Biloxi, Mississippi, I knew that I wanted to go to a place that meant so much to me: The Gulf Coast.
Before going to college, I lived just an hour east of Biloxi in Mobile, Alabama, so I jumped at the opportunity to bring a group of Elks scholars, many of whom may have never been to the Gulf Coast, to share the experience of the place I called home …