by Maryann Dernlan, 2011 Legacy Scholar and former ENF staff member
As a member of Metuchen, N.J., Lodge No. 1914, a 2011 Legacy Scholar, and a former Elks National Foundation staff member, I thought all of my new Elkdom experiences were in the books. From volunteering with my parents at their Elks Lodges while growing up, to running Elks Scholar Service Trips and attending National Conventions, I have a plethora of Elks experiences.
But COVID-19 brought a new opportunity to reconnect with Elkdom. My mom, who has been the Scholarship Coordinator at the Metuchen Lodge for many years, asked me if I’d like to join the Scholarship Committee this year. In a “normal,” non-COVID time, this probably wouldn’t have seemed like an option—typically, she would try to get those who attend meetings in person and volunteer in person to join the committee. She has struggled to get new volunteers in recent years and has done the judging on her own.
However, with the new-and-improved online judging platform and everyone thinking from a “remote mindset” during these times, I was invited to join the Metuchen Elks Scholarship Committee, even though I now live in Florida. Since I grew up in Metuchen, I was grateful to reconnect with my hometown, learn about the experiences of those graduating during a pandemic, and volunteer my time to a worthy cause.
I’ve followed along with the many ENF stories about Elks serving their communities in new and creative ways that they had never contemplated before COVID-19 shifted society in 2020. And I’m privileged to be a part of the great work Elks are doing to support the next generation of college students and leaders. Now is the time to think outside the box; engage members—especially younger members who are technologically savvy—to come up with opportunities to serve your community in meaningful ways. You never know what initiatives will be created that could last long after this time. And the memories made in the process can paint the silver lining during a year of so much uncertainty.