Show You Care with Character
Nothing can keep Vero Beach, Fla., Lodge No. 1774 from their mission to help the kids—not even Hurricane Irma. Although it delayed the Lodge’s grand opening for their Impact Grant project, Elks Love Kids of Character Store, it didn’t stop a dozen volunteers from banding together to weather the storm.

Each week, the Elks Love Kids of Character Store serves 500 students at Vero Beach Elementary, a school where 90 percent of students receive free or reduced lunches, and had hundreds of behavior issues the previous year. The school spirit at Vero Beach Elementary was low for students, faculty and families at Vero Beach, so the Lodge stepped in to lift it back up.

“Our goal has been to help the school with behavior problems, morale, and grades by funding their positive behavior store,” says Project Manager Michele Klager. “We provide meaningful rewards for good behavior, like school supplies, engaging toys and snacks.”

The store has a point system called “wampums” that teachers award to students whose grades increase and who demonstrate positive behavior toward their peers and faculty members. Students can then redeem these wampums at the store and “buy” toys like jump ropes, matchbox cars and coloring books, as well as tools to succeed such as uniforms, school supplies and snacks.

Since the Elks started the store, the number of behavior issues has reduced to 30 from 430 the year before. Not only has behavior improved, but math and reading scores have increased by 10 and 16 percent respectively.

“We are so proud to know that our store is making such a big difference in the school’s morale and students’ behavior,” Klager says.

If each wampum was equal to one dollar, students would be spending around $60,000 each month. In addition to using the wampums to buy items, the class with the most wampums each month receives an ice cream party and a Pride of the Tribe certificate to display in their classroom.

“The Elks Love Kids of Character Store has been the most rewarding thing this Lodge has ever done,” Klager says. “Since the students earn the wampum, it’s helping the kids to want to do better in every aspect of life on campus.”

In their endless pursuit of building camaraderie within the community, the Lodge is also running a Baking Cookies for Soldiers class for the fourth graders at the school.

“This is part of the Elks’ initiative to promote patriotism and develop a sense of community,” Klager says.

The fourth and fifth graders at the school also sent Christmas cards along with cookies made by the Elks to troops in Afghanistan. The sergeant thanked the Elks and students with a letter, which the students were delighted to receive.

No matter what Vero Beach Lodge sets out to do, it seems they always hit the mark in showing how much they love kids of character.

The Elks National Foundation helps Lodges serve their communities in significant and ongoing ways by awarding Impact Grants of up to $10,000. To find out more about Impact Grants and the Community Investments Program, visit enf.elks.org/ImpactGrants.


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