Skip to main content

The Elks Stand Up to End Veteran Homelessness

by Taylor Odisho
Communications Assistant

Elks headquarters staff smile while distributing thermal clothing.
Hundreds of volunteers and sponsors bustled around the Illinois National Guard Northwest Armory in Chicago, preparing for the rush of homeless veterans. The line for the winter Standdown went well past the front doors, and since it was the middle of November, everyone rushed to get people through the doors and out of the cold.

A group of Elks Headquarter staff and Elks scholars lined up to help veterans collect winter boots, thermal clothing, toiletries, shelf-stable food and more.

Before veterans headed down the line, they were given a small, white envelope—thank-you notes written by local students. When some veterans opened their cards, they quickly disguised their misty eyes with a smile, and gently placed the letter in a place for safekeeping.

A veteran named Mike who helped organize the event shared his gratitude for the volunteers. “You’re going to change a lot of lives today and make people really happy,” he promised.

Sometimes, the veterans had us
guess their clothing size.
People like Marine veteran Simon H. Garcia, who served in the Vietnam War, who thanked every volunteer with a smile and well wishes for the holidays. He’d occasionally lean in to ask for an extra shirt or pair of socks, noting how much his wife needed it as well.

Events like the Standdown not only help veterans in need, but also their families. The people who miss the veterans while they’re away and are there to support them when they return. Garcia also grabbed a small, pink shirt. “My niece would like this.”

At the end of the line, it was time to pick out a new coat. Earlier, Garcia had shared his disdain for the Cubs when he saw a volunteer wearing a World Series shirt, so the White Sox jacket in the middle of one rack was like a magnet.

Garcia took the jacket right off the hanger, held it up and grinned. “This is the one!”

Many veterans shared stories
while collecting their items.
After veterans gathered their supplies, picked out new coats and even got free haircuts provided by a local barbershop, it was time for a hot lunch.

“I started attending them four years ago when I found out about it through the V.A.,” Garcia shared. “At the time, I wasn’t homeless, but if my brother hadn’t accepted me into his home, I would’ve been.”

Garcia choked up.

“I never got this kind of help before, and when I think about it, it makes me break down.”

At the end of the day, Mike, the organizer, was right. With gratitude in their eyes, hundreds of veterans thanked the volunteers for taking a few hours out of their day to help them prepare for winter. These volunteers were quick to point out that it was the least they could do to thank the vets for their service.


The Elks National Foundation ensures our veterans are never forgotten. In 2017-18, the ENF granted $1.5 million to serve veterans through the Elks National Veterans Service Commission, and pledged $1 million to help the commission end veteran homelessness. For more information about the Veterans Service Commission, visit elks.org/vets.  

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Katie Gets Acquainted with the ENF

by Katie Graves
Lodge Grants Programs Coordinator
Hello! My name is Katie Graves, and I am excited to be one of the new Programs Coordinators in the Community Investments Program office.

I graduated from Valparaiso University with a degree in English and Secondary Education with a minor in Social Work in December 2018. I spent the next six months building and growing my small online vintage clothing business, working retail at a Swedish furniture store (any guesses?), and searching for a purposeful job that I could fall in love with that would also allow me to move from southeastern Wisconsin to Chicago. When I landed the Programs Coordinator position at the Elks National Foundation, I was ecstatic to begin this journey both professionally and personally. I was moving to my dream city, and I was going to be doing a job with purpose focused on helping passionate groups of wonderful Elks do good in their communities with CIP grants.

I became a part of the ENF family at an exciting time of…

SAB in STL

by John Kavula
Elks Scholar Fellow
Less than a month after I started working at the ENF, I was in San Antonio with 150 of our scholars for the 150 for 150 Service and Celebration Weekend. That was my first time at a national convention. With all the excitement of the celebration, I knew that it was a unique event and not something to expect every year. This year, I was looking forward to going to St. Louis to see a different side of convention with a much smaller group of people: the members of our Scholar Advisory Board. After being a part of the SAB’s annual meeting, I can say one thing for sure: grab your shades because the future for Elks scholars is bright!
All of our scholars are obviously amazing, not only for their academic prowess, but their service to their communities. The members of the SAB stand out among the thousands of Elks scholars for one important reason: their dedication to engaging other Elks scholars. Staffing the Board’s meeting in St. Louis, I heard their ideas …

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…