Skip to main content

CIP It Up!

by Meaghan Morris
Lodge Grants Programs Coordinator

On August 2, CIPsters (or CIPerstars, depending on who you’re asking) Doug, Katie, and I headed out to Elgin, Ill., Lodge No. 737 to aid in their Step It Up project, a program run with the help of Beacon and Promise grants. This program was designed to provide children in need with brand-new sneakers before they head back to school, as shoes can be on the backburner when families in need are faced with allocating resources toward school supplies and books for the new year.

As someone who owns a whopping total of eight pairs of shoes—which is a generous estimation, mind you—I imagined this project to be impactful in their community with a couple hundred shoes maximum. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the sheer magnitude of the almost 2,000 pairs of shoes the Elks provided.

They had high tops, and they had slip-ons. They had light-up and sequined sneakers of all different colors and designs. They had hundreds of shoes from girl’s size 1 to men’s size 13, and every size in between. Before all this footwear could be distributed to the children and parents in need in the Elgin community, however, they had to be organized for maximum effi-shoe-ncy.

The slew of shoes, loads of loafers, and boon of boots had been stored throughout the First Baptist Church, where the event was held. When us CIPsters arrived early on Friday morning to assist in the unpacking and displaying of nearly 2,000 pairs of shoes, we found that the Elks and the First Baptist Church had been soliciting donations and organizing them by size and gender since the beginning of the year—like I said, effi-shoe-ncy!

We learned from Rebecca Huguley, the wife of the FBC pastor who leads the Step It Up program, that no detail was too small. She demonstrated how to unpack, unwrap, and display every pair of shoes, including specific ways to tie the laces, position each pair, and spruce up entire tables of shoes for a streamlined effect. Each table was assigned a single size, and Rebecca instructed us to place corresponding boys’ shoes on the left side of the table, girls’ shoes on the right, and gender-neutral shoes in the middle with an easily remembered saying: “Girls are always right.”

Katie, Doug, and I were assigned sizes 1-3 for boys and girls, which I will dare to say were the most adorable sizes of all. Whenever we could find a break from cooing at the cuteness of the miniature sneakers, we were talking with the Elk volunteers all around us. We discussed everything and anything—from ideas for the new Spotlight Grant to the Lodge’s other grant projects, from sports to bingo to fantasizing about retiring to the South where we would not have to deal with Midwest winters, these social interactions made the hours feel like minutes. Before we knew it, all 1,849 pairs of shoes were prominently featured in all their flashy glory!

We then joined Greg and Sharlene Huske, the Power Couple of the Elgin Lodge, for a tour of the Lodge. Greg, a Past Exalted Ruler, and Shar, the Secretary and Grants Coordinator, imparted a wealth of knowledge about both the building itself, and the Lodge’s history. They shared their aspirations for the Lodge and revealed some incredibly innovative designs for cabinets and appliances that made the Lodge one of a kind. This included a massive, custom-built grill, constructed by a Lodge member out of up-cycled metal drums and other materials, which was put to good use when the Lodge made Sloppy Joes for all the volunteers after the Step It Up event.

After looking at pictures and finding the original Elgin, Ill., Lodge No. 737 charter, we were all tickled to see that we were less than two weeks shy of the 117th anniversary of the Lodge induction into the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks on August 14, 1902.

Overall, joining the Elgin Lodge on their Beacon and Promise grant project was as fulfilling as it was sole-ful. Being up close and personal to the action while working with the impassioned, engaged, and eager Elk volunteers helped us glean more about the project than any Final Report ever could. We can’t wait to Step Up to another Lodge for their CIP project!

The Elks National Foundation allocated $13.7 million this year to fund the Community Investments Program. Lodges meet local needs through grants that offer Lodges opportunities to serve the community in ways that will raise the Lodge’s profile, energize the membership, encourage former members to return to the fold, and gain the notice of people who want to be part of an organization that’s doing great things. To learn more about the Community Investments Program, please visit


Popular posts from this blog

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…

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…

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…