Holiday Giving and Beyond

The holidays are upon us, and that usually means ample time and money will be dedicated to family festivities, food, and jolly fun for many people across the country. However, some are not so lucky and lack the resources for gifts and meals in this festive time. During the season of giving, many organizations and individuals step up to provide for families in need through holiday baskets and food. While this does not go unappreciated, people live with hunger, housing insecurity, and poverty year-round. Here is some food for thought on how your Lodge can use your CIP grants to best serve your community beyond the holiday season.

Feeding America estimates that 37 million people in the United States struggle with hunger, including 11 million children. Even more—an estimated 38 million people—live in poverty and struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis. People in your community could benefit from a wide array of non-food resources year-round, such as baby products, literacy trainings and incentives, educational resources, household items—the list goes on. For these reasons, making the switch and going “beyond the basket” is not as “Grinchy” as it may sound!

Raton, N.M, Lodge No. 865 recently made the switch. For the past three years, the Lodge hosted an annual Christmas dinner for families in their community, but this year, the Lodge realized that the need was year-round and shifted the focus of their supersized Beacon Grant as a result. Brenda Ferri, Lodge Grants Coordinator, says that the shift occurred when a local teacher came to the Elks saying that many students come to school hungry on Mondays because they don’t have enough food at home for the weekends. The Lodge decided that something needed to be done and sprang into action. Beginning in January, the Lodge will provide weekend meal packs to the children facing food insecurity every week for three months instead of hosting a Christmas dinner. Changing an annual holiday event to a project during less festive times might feel like an abandonment of a cheery tradition, but, more important, Brenda says, “Instead of feeding a family for one day, we will be able to help those in most need for at least 12 weeks.”

The specific need that the Raton Elks identified may not be a need in your Lodge’s community, and that is okay. The opportunities are endless, and so is the payoff, like that for the Raton Lodge. “We have definitely changed our public image in our community from being a ‘bar on the corner’ to a charitable organization, that is willing and ready to help our children grow up in a healthy, drug-free community,” Brenda says.

Not sure where to start? Brenda has one last piece of advice. “Identify a need in your community and devote your efforts to making a difference,” she says. “Let your community know exactly who the Elks are and what we do. Never be afraid to tell the story of how you are making an impact in your community.” We couldn’t have said it better!

The Elks National Foundation allocated $13.7 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. If you would like to speak to someone in the CIP office, we can be reached at 773/755-4730


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