Christmas and Beyond!

‘Tis the season for Community Investments Program grants! Every year, Elks Lodges use CIP grants to share holiday cheer in their communities. And while the holidays are an important time to give back, the CIP encourages Lodges to go “beyond the basket” and rethink how to best support their communities into the new year.

Lodges like Owego, N.Y., Lodge No. 1039, Calpine, Calif., Lodge No. 2432, and Centralia, Ill., Lodge No. 493 are going beyond the basket and using CIP grants to extend their charitable efforts throughout the year.

For the second year in a row, the Owego Lodge merged its Spotlight Grant with the Beacon Grant to host a Christmas event with presents, visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus, and arts and crafts projects, along with items and services like winter gear and haircuts. The biggest focus of the project, however, is the hygiene kits that the Owego Lodge will provide at the event and throughout January, February and March 2022. The Owego Lodge is reviving a hygiene-focused program it used to run because of increased need due to the pandemic. The Lodge will provide hygiene supplies and PPE beyond the holidays to help families stay safe and healthy after the holiday buzz surrounding volunteering and donating has passed. “By combining Christmas with the hygiene kit program, we have the ability to have a continued positive effect on these families for additional months of the year,” said Grants Coordinator Timothy Sayers. Like the Owego Lodge, Calpine, Calif., Lodge No. 2432 is also hosting a Christmas event for families. The free event is complete with crafts, a visit from Santa, and registration for Imagination Library, a program that mails free books to children from birth through age five. The Lodge aims to hold an accessible event for its entire community—which boasts a large, Spanish speaking population—by posting flyers and advertisement for the event in both English and Spanish.

“The objective of this event is to provide children with an opportunity to enhance their holiday season by offering activities that are not available locally,” said Grants Coordinator Ellen Vieira. “If a child wants to see Santa for instance, the family has to drive over 100 miles to Reno, Nevada.”

A 100-mile drive is not easy, or feasible, for many families. By keeping the event local, the Lodge will meet folks in their community. To ensure the event has an effect beyond the holidays, the Calpine Lodge will host a large community-wide food drive alongside the Christmas event. The Lodge will collect and donate pantry-stable foods to its local food bank.

Lodges that prefer a physically distanced approach to grant projects should follow in the footsteps of Centralia, Ill., Lodge No. 493, which is using its Gratitude Grant to provide Christmas gifts and winter gear to kids and veterans this holiday season.

The Centralia Lodge has various partners—including veterans organizations, the Salvation Army, and local schools—that help to identify kids and veterans in need of food, holiday gifts and coats. The Lodge will work with its partner organizations to shop for and distribute these items to help keep Elks volunteers and program recipients safe while still making a difference.

While holiday gifts are more time-bound in their impact, the coats, blankets, and food that the Lodge is providing will continue to provide warmth and comfort throughout winter months. If your Lodge is using CIP grants to put on a holiday project, consider providing essential items and meet needs that members of your community face beyond the holiday season.

By paying close attention to the health and safety of their neighbors and focusing on extending their grants’ impact, the Owego, Calpine, and Centralia Lodges are sure to make a difference in the lives of those around them this holiday season and beyond! Feeling inspired? Your Lodge can build stronger communities using CIP grants. Check out our Grant Toolkits to get started!

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