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Making a Difference from a Distance

by Lydia Smeltz, 2017 Legacy Scholar

Lydia Smeltz volunteers with Raleigh, N.C., Lodge No. 735No.

Last year, I had the opportunity to work with Raleigh, N.C., Lodge No. 735 on their USO Holiday Snack Bag Project as part of the 2019 Cornerstone Grant. The Raleigh Elks have worked with the USO to provide snack bags for troops traveling through the Raleigh-Durham (RDU) airport during the holidays for the past five years.  By organizing this event, the Raleigh Elks support the service men and women during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

I formed relationships with the Raleigh Elks, who have become a second family to me over the past four years. When I reached out to them to express my interest in applying for the 2020 Cornerstone Grant and assisting with this event for a second year, they were overjoyed. They explained that funding was down due to COVID and that the grant would alleviate a financial burden while allowing us to serve our community.

Thanks to the Cornerstone Grant, we were able to continue this tradition for both holidays during a difficult 2020. Supporting the troops through service was a reassuring reminder that with some adaption, we can still find ways to make a difference from a distance. 

The Raleigh Elks members and I packed all the bags assembly line style, like a well-oiled machine. The Cornerstone Grant allowed us to fill the bags to the brim with snacks. I hope that the troops enjoyed our edible “thank you.” Having the opportunity to participate in this event for the second year in a row allowed me to share my gratitude with those who work so hard to keep us safe. 

As a Legacy Scholar, I have seen how much my dad’s Lodge, West Shore, Penn., Lodge No. 2257, means to him. I am beyond grateful that I have been able to form meaningful relationships at my “home-away-from-home” lodge in North Carolina. The ENF Legacy Scholarship and Cornerstone Grant have enabled me to connect with my college community in a truly altruistic way: through service. 

If you are thinking of applying for an Elks scholarship, I would absolutely encourage you to! Not only have I had a direct impact on my community, but I have formed incredible relationships that I am confident will last a long time. 



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