CIP Provides Covid Relief
As the Community Investments Program Grant application deadline approaches, we're taking a look at how Lodges used their grants to provide COVID relief in their communities. On April 1 this year, the pandemic was unfolding across the country, making grant projects—and planning for the future of them—virtually impossible.

“As we all know, this year has been really different,” says Katie Graves, Programs Coordinator for the CIP. “It has brought on uncertainty and a lot of challenges and with that, a lot of change.”

The CIP wasn’t exempt from uncertainty, challenge and change. Instead of opening applications for all five CIP grants on April 1, only Gratitude Grants were available to eligible Lodges—those that had met the National President’s per-member-giving goal to the ENF.

Lodges stepped up across the country by donating their Gratitude Grant funds to organizations working on the front line of the pandemic. Those funds helped meet the most pressing needs across the country, especially food insecurity.

New Britain, Connecticut, Lodge No. 957 donated its Gratitude Grant to the Prudence Crandall Center, a shelter for domestic violence survivors.

“The impact of the COVID-19 virus extends beyond the medical community,” says Grant Coordinator Debra Scarlett. “Stressful occurrences also contribute to a rise in domestic violence incidents.”

As a result of the pandemic, the shelter is currently 47 percent over its budgeted capacity. The New Britain Lodge’s donation allowed the shelter to purchase much-needed supplies to help women and children fleeing abusive situations, live in safety and rebuild.

On June 1, the ENF opened the Spotlight Grant. The $2,000 Spotlight Grant is available to every Lodge. In normal times, donating a Spotlight Grant would not be allowed.

But these are unprecedented times, and the CIP had to adapt its approach for the year. The Spotlight Grant offered a new opportunity to shine the light of COVID relief. Lodges could use the funds for more active projects, like purchasing and delivering supplies to local shelters or food pantries, or Lodges could donate the funds directly to an organization equipped to serve populations affected by the pandemic.

“We are trying to step back from our policies and our guidelines to be as flexible as possible,” says Debbie Doles, Assistant Director of the ENF. “We don’t want to build any barriers to using these grants. We want everybody to be able to use them to meet the needs of communities, which are great right now.”

After reading a story in the local paper about a Scout using a 3D printer to create more than 4,000 protective face shields for health care providers, Livermore-Pleasanton, California, Lodge No. 2117 donated its Spotlight Grant to the Boy Scout Troop.

Each face shield costs $1 to create—because of the Livermore-Pleasanton Elks’ donation of their Spotlight Grant, 2,000 more face shields can be created to help meet the need for PPE across the country.

As the summer months passed, needs continued to arise or be exacerbated by COVID. So, on August 1, the Beacon Grant application launched. It would be the final new grant offered to all Lodges in the 2020-21 grant year. The idea of “last, but not least” holds true for the Beacon Grant. Available to every Lodge, Beacon Grants increased to $3,500—a 40 percent increase over last year. On August 1, $6.5 million became available to Lodges to help build stronger communities.

“That’s a big deal,” says Doles. “And that’s on top of what we’ve already done with the Gratitude Grants and then again with the Spotlight Grants. That’s a lot of money we’re getting out there to communities so they can rise to the occasion to meet these needs.”

“This is how we’re adapting to the current environment,” says ENF Director Jim O’Kelley. “Given the environment, keeping you safe is paramount.”

West Palm Beach, Florida, Lodge No. 1352 was able to carry on their Beacon Grant project this year. The Lodge maintains and supports the Loaves and Fishes community garden. The garden supplies organic produce for schoolchildren in the after-care programs the Lodge partners with—more than 70 percent of whom live at or below the poverty level—and four soup kitchens in their community.

Since the pandemic began and schools closed, West Palm Beach Lodge members adapted the project to include mask requirements and social distancing in the garden space. Their hope is to increase production to meet growing needs in their community related to the pandemic.

“Every year, we have expanded the growing technology and vegetable production while educating the children, teachers and parents on conserving our natural resources and producing vegetables using the latest technology and growing techniques,” says Grant Coordinator Tim Hadsell. “The goal for the Lodge members is to [double] the vegetable production and distribution.”

The CIP grant applications close on December 31, 2020. Click here to learn more and apply.


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