The Lodge runs a supply pantry for the students at Millcreek High, a local alternative high school in St. George, Utah. Students at Millcreek High are not your average teenagers. They come to the school because of trouble at traditional schools, health issues and court referrals. Lodge member Wayne Preston remarks of the school’s staff, “The desire to do ‘whatever it takes’ to assist these young adults to achieve their diploma is commendable.”
It’s that sentiment that inspired the Elks to do something more for the students at the school. Already involved with Millcreek through scholarships and other support, the Elks designed their Impact Grant project with one goal in mind — to increase the graduation rate at the school. They would do so by stocking an at-school pantry with supplies designed to help students with their individual needs. They received a 2010 Impact Grant project to start the pantry and received another $10,000 Impact Grant for 2011 to continue their great work.
Whatever it TakesThe pantry takes the school’s ‘do whatever it takes’ philosophy to heart. The Elks offer support for each student working to get an education, from kitchen supplies for students living on their own, to child care books for young parents, to quick, healthy meals for students with tight schedules. In the project’s first year, the graduation rate rose from 48 percent last year to 59 percent! Ninety-five percent of graduating seniors received some form of support from the pantry.
Elks have donated hundreds of hours of their time, knitting blankets and baby booties for the children of students, assisting students living independently with setting up their own homes, compiling recipe books for students using the pantry, and more. In addition to building and maintaining the pantry, the Elks are at the school each night, providing fresh fruit and other snacks. Volunteers love spending time at the school, and during the summer months, the project committee even gave out their personal phone numbers in case a student needed some emergency help when the pantry wasn’t open. Project Manager Betty Archambault is proud of the increase, as well as the great level of Lodge involvement. “Even though you can’t bring a thousand Elks into the school, it’s a full Lodge project, everybody’s backing it and supporting it and bringing ideas to meetings and talking about it.”
It Takes a CommunityThe project has grown since its start, thanks to a partnership with the local food bank and much community support. The Elks are now able provide more child care supplies, bus passes, and even assist students with other things, such as paying tuition for prenatal classes and purchasing tools for trade school students.
Though the unwavering goal is to increase the graduation rate, there is more to the project. The Elks are hoping their example will teach the students to give back to the community and learn the value of giving to those in need. They will ‘pay it forward” when they can do so themselves. Project Manager Betty Archambault knows about this firsthand. She recalls “When I was a single parent of two, raising my children, teaching school, and working for an education, the Elks and Emblem club showed up at my door with boxes of food,” says Archambault. “I knew at that moment I would someday give back to others the kindness given to me.”
And she and the Elks have! Along with the grant, community support, in-kind donations, and food bank support, the Elks have given away more than $78,000 in supplies so far this year. And there’s more to come. The Salvation Army and the Assistance League plan on becoming involved with the project too. The Lodge has even gained two new members because of the project — the school counselor and the school principal’s spouse!
Pay it ForwardMeanwhile, Betty’s prediction about paying it forward is already true. Students rush out to help the Elks unload the supply truck, they stay after to help clean up the pantry, they replace the food they’ve taken when they are able, they assisted with a Lodge rummage sale, and a few even volunteered with the Elks at the St. George marathon.
Then there are the numerous letters of thanks. From the numerous notes of thanks to the graduation day letters of appreciation, students are eager to show their appreciation. Trustee Bud Thomas feels the same way, remarking “I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of this project. I am getting back more than I am giving” The story of US is turning out to be quite an inspiring story.
The ENF awards Impact Grants to help Lodges significantly address unmet needs in Elks communities. Impact Grants are competitive grants worth up to $10,000 and are open to all Lodges. To find out more about Impact Grants, visit www.elks.org/enf/community.
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