Remembering to Give Thanks: An Interview with Lewiston

Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite out of the big holidays—I can smell it now, the sweet potatoes, macaroni casserole, green beans, cornbread dressing, and, of course, that perfectly baked turkey, all freshly out of the oven. Such warm delicious food on such a warm spirited holiday, where we take the time to remember what we are thankful for beyond the food on the table in front of us. In the same way that everyone might dig into slightly different spread on Thanksgiving, we all celebrate the holiday in different ways too. We thought we’d check in with a Lodge Grants Coordinator to see how they celebrated the holiday last year. Here’s our conversation:

Jocelyn: Thanks so much for discussing the Lodge’s project with us, Karen! Our office was impressed with Lewiston, Maine., Lodge No. 371’s project because it focused on two of the most important happenings in November—Thanksgiving and Veterans Remembrance month. Tell us how your Lodge celebrated Thanksgiving last year.

Karen: We used our Freedom Grant to serve a hot holiday meal for local veterans. We invited local veterans from the homeless shelter down for food and entertainment. We gave backpacks full of hygiene items, blankets, and gloves to all in attendance.

Jocelyn: That’s a great charitable focus. How many veterans did the project serve?

Karen: We really wanted to focus on the health and homelessness of our local veterans—we had a total of 100 veterans at the event.

Jocelyn: Wow, so impressive! That must have taken a lot of members wearing a lot of different hats. What specifically did members did?

Karen: We had a total of 35 members help with the event. Elks cooked the meal and served it to all veterans in attendance. Then, they delivered the leftovers to two other local homeless shelters that support veterans. Members purchased and transported all items used at the event, including items for the meal and the backpacks full of supplies.

Jocelyn: This project keeps getting better and better! Was the Lodge as impressed by the project as we are?

Karen: We heard all positive comments from the Lodge and had more members help with this project than any other in the past.

Jocelyn: Did the community recognize the Lodge’s efforts?

Karen: Absolutely—we brought awareness to the community that there was a local issue surrounding veterans experiencing homelessness. We even had people step up and provide other items to the local shelter that we couldn’t.

Jocelyn: A successful event—that’s the outcome we hope for with all CIP grants. We hope the Lodge’s interest in the community will get everyone interested in its greatest needs, and see the Lodge as a leader. What would you say the project’s biggest success was?

Karen: Providing the needed items to our veterans and making the community aware that there is an issue. Also, we were able to bring some holiday cheer into our veterans lives so they know we appreciate what they did for our country even when they may be at their lowest.

Jocelyn: Thanks again, Karen and Lewiston, Maine., Lodge No. 371, for your thoughtful responses and commitment to community!

After that inspiring interview, I know I’ll be full of more than just great food this Thanksgiving. I’ll also be full of gratitude for what I have, what I don’t, and what communities throughout Elkdom are doing every day to celebrate just that. Thanksgiving and Veterans Remembrance month are great times to stop and reflect, but they shouldn’t be the only time of year we do this, and they don’t have to be. Consider the needs in your community and when help may be needed most. It may feel more spirited to serve those in need around the holidays, but when the holiday decorations are gone the need will still be there. So when you’re celebrating this Thanksgiving—remember to take time to reflect on what needs your community has and when is the best time to target those needs.

The Elks National Foundation allocated $12.53 million this year to fund the Community Investments Program. Lodges meet local needs through Beacon, Gratitude, Promise, Anniversary and Impact Grants. These grants offer Lodges opportunities to serve the 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.


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