Every year, communities across the country recognize Red Ribbon Week by promoting awareness of the dangers posed by drug abuse. The Red Ribbon Campaign started in 1988 and has since reached millions of children and families. With drug abuse education and prevention being the cornerstone of the Elks Drug Awareness Program, Elks Lodges are a natural partner of the Red Ribbon Campaign.
Red Ribbon Week is October 23-31, making now a perfect time to highlight a few of the many Lodges that use CIP grants intent on keeping their communities drug-free.
Fresno, Calif., Lodge No. 439 uses a Beacon Grant to hold three events that aim to discourage substance abuse. Each event targets a specific age group, gearing its message to the challenges faced by teenagers, pre-teens and young children.
For sixth- through eighth-graders, the Lodge holds an event at a local middle school where parents and their children can participate in presentations on the risks of drug abuse. A representative from the district attorney’s office and a school psychologist from the county office of education join the group to discuss drug abuse and its negative outcomes, and advise parents on how to recognize substance use and abuse in their children.
Third- through fifth-graders are invited to an event at the Fresno Lodge, complete with information booths, educational games and crafts related to staying drug-free. A local police officer talks to the kids and the department’s K-9 unit demonstrates its drug-detecting abilities.
"We wanted to give the kids an opportunity to have fun while learning," said Grants Coordinator Susan Good. The Lodge invited the DAP's lovable mascot, Elroy T. Elk, to connect with the younger kids.
Finally, preschoolers and kindergartners at three elementary schools participate in lessons on how to develop coping skills and learn empathy. Based on methods developed by a local organization called Solely Sunshine, the Fresno Lodge hopes to impart skills that reduce anxiety and fear, which can keep kids from turning to drugs in the future. Each child also receives a book featuring those lessons.
Like so many communities across the country, Wallingford, Conn., has been hit hard by the opioid crisis.
“The increase in admissions [for treatment] for opioid use shows that people want help,” says Wallingford Lodge No. 1365 Grants Coordinator Laurene Goode-Gade.
The Lodge uses a Beacon Grant to host an event designed to educate families and share resources.
"Prevention requires education," Good-Gade says.
The event includes an array of substance abuse-related materials and activities, including Narcan training and presentations focused on youth mental health support. Other Elks from the area are invited in hopes that they will take inspiration from the event and host one in their communities.
Other Lodges participate by supporting local drug abuse prevention projects. Natick, Mass., Lodge No. 1425 donated its Gratitude Grant funds to the Natick Opioid Taskforce this year. The taskforce includes members from the town’s education and health departments, the police department, and community service groups, all working toward preventing opioid overdoses. Portsmouth, N.H., Lodge No. 97 used its Beacon Grant to support Step Up Parents, an organization that provides financial support to caregivers of kids who have been removed from unhealthy situations, often involving parental drug use.
“Many of the kinship caregivers and the families helped are [living below the poverty line],” says Portsmouth Lodge Grants Coordinator Elyse Gallo. “Offering them needed financial assistance helps to maintain stability and independence while they raise the children.”
Plenty of Elks Lodges live the spirit of Red Ribbon Week year-round. From helping adults recover from addictions to educating kids on why it’s important to avoid drugs, Elks practice and promote drug-free living in their communities. This week, especially, is an opportunity to recognize the work Elks do to keep their communities substance-free with the help of grants from the Community Investments Program.
Lodge grant applications are open through January 17, 2023. For more information on our available grants and their guidelines, check out our Grant Toolkits. If you have any questions about grant projects, the CIP can be reached at 773/755-4730 or LodgeGrants@elks.org.