Impact Grants are competitive grants of up to $10,000 for Lodges to make a significant and meaningful difference in their communities and inspire Elks to dedicate themselves to service and volunteerism.
Lake Oconee, Georgia, Lodge No. 2849 received an Impact Grant in 2018; it’s funding was renewed in 2022. The Lodge partners with the Georgia War Veterans Home for its project, Reach Out to Our Veterans. The Lake Oconee Elks use the Impact Grant to hold monthly outings and events that provide entertainment and companionship, and the Lodge has continued building meaningful relationships with the home’s residents despite the pandemic.
The Lake Oconee Elks are proof of what an Impact Grant can do. Reaching Out to Our Veterans was originally designed to give the residents opportunities outside of the home, as the veterans rarely had the opportunity to leave. But throughout the course of the project, the Lodge realized that many residents use wheelchairs, and without an accessible vehicle, the Elks couldn’t bring many of the veterans along on their adventures.
So, the Lake Oconee Elks reworked the project, pivoting to include monthly events right at the Georgia War Veterans Home to be enjoyed by all residents, and the refreshed project has yielded incredibly positive results.
The Lodge has been creative in sharing its events with the local community, and a pizza party and barbeque luncheon held for more than 100 residents was no different. That publicity inspired a community member to donate a fully functional wheelchair van to the project. Though the community member is not a member of the Elks, she was so moved by the dedication and passion of the Lake Oconee Lodge that she wanted to give back to the veterans at the home.
“The donor, whose husband used the van before he passed away, asked that our Lodge facilitate the donation,” said Impact Grant Project Manager Mary Zachary. “We are very proud that our efforts have helped to engage the community in supporting the Veterans Home.”
Not long after the first donation, another community member donated a second wheelchair van. With the donations, the Lake Oconee Elks will be able to deepen their impact and provide more accessible services to show that Elks always care.
This year, a new class of Impact Grants recipients joined Lodges across the country in making meaningful, positive differences in their community.
Lake Hopatcong, N.J., Lodge No. 782 will use its namesake natural resource to teach children living in households below the poverty line about environmental sustainability with the Lake Hopatcong Elks Floating Classroom. A 2020 report by the Center for American Progress detailed how 70 percent of communities with families living below the poverty line live in nature-deprived areas, meaning they have fewer parks and coastlines to enjoy.
“[The project] will involve hands-on learning during an outdoor field trip designed to teach [students] about lake ecology and the environment surrounding the lake,” said Lake Hopatcong Impact Grant Project Manager Linda Gathen. “It will also serve the future health of our beloved Lake Hopatcong by educating the students about the lake, the importance of clean water, and what they can do to preserve it so it can be enjoyed for many years to come.”
The Lodge will partner with the Lake Hopatcong Foundation and local public schools for 500 students to visit the lake this summer. Students will collect water samples to test, go for hikes, and learn about ways to keep the lake clean.
Saratoga-Wilton, N.Y., Lodge No. 161 is another 2022 Impact Grant recipient. The Lodge’s project, Engaging and Supporting Our Community to End Relationship Abuse and Sexual Assault, will provide programming and support services for the community.
In Saratoga County, where the Lodge is located, domestic violence is the second-highest violent crime, a predominate cause of area homicides, and the primary cause of families experiencing homelessness. On average, Wellspring, the county’s domestic violence and sexual assault service agency, receives 1,700 hotline calls and assists more than 1,000 survivors of abuse every year.
“To us, those are not numbers, they are people,” said Saratoga-Wilton Impact Grant Project Manager Geraldine Conboy. “Where are abuse victims? They are right beside us. They are our friends, our employees, the person next to us in the line at the bank, and sometimes our own family member.”
The Lodge will partner with Wellspring for its Impact Grant project, which will fund essential services—like safety items, overnight bags, bus and taxi transportation to Wellspring’s office, court visits, counseling, and medical services—as well as clothing and household items for survivors as they transition to independent living. The Saratoga-Wilton Elks will also sponsor a new initiative, the Community Conversation Series, a preventative program to educate the community on relationship and sexual abuse, increase awareness, and shine a light on resources available to survivors.
The Elks National Foundation allocated $14.9 million this year to fund the Community Investments Program. Lodges meet local needs through grants that offer Elks opportunities to serve their 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 elks.org/cip.