Many Elks Lodges use CIP grants to host holiday events where Elks are that friendly face. Among them, two Lodges have developed lasting projects that make the Lodge like home for people in their communities who can’t afford a holiday celebration. This year, both are using Gratitude Grants to ensure their projects have as wide a reach as possible.
Whiting, Ind., Lodge No. 1273 hosts more than 100 sailors from the Great Lakes Naval Station on Christmas Day. These sailors are in basic training—for many, it is their first time being away from home for the holidays.
As the two buses full of sailors pull into the Lodge, a group of carolers that includes Elks and the Mayor of Whiting greets them.
Then, the day of festivities begins. People from across the community ensure the sailors feel at home, police and firefighters attend and serve food, and members of the American Legion and VFW offer company. The Lodge also makes cell phones and tablets available for the sailors to call their families—a luxury that is not often available during basic training.
“Our Lodge is their home for the holiday, and our community gets behind this program in a big way,” says Grants Coordinator Edward Boyle. “We know when we are sharing the holiday with them that they will remember this Christmas as much as we do.”
By Christmastime, the sailors have only a few weeks left of training. With a joyful holiday in the books, the Whiting Elks help prepare them to finish their training strong—and remind them that they always have a home with the Elks.
Many families have Christmas traditions, but not many can say that their traditions stretch back more than a century. East Liverpool, Ohio, Lodge No. 258 can, and it is partially that sense of tradition that keeps its Christmas program going year after year.
For the last century, the East Liverpool Lodge has supported families who have difficulty affording Christmas gifts or dinner. When the project began, Lodge members played Santa Claus, delivering gifts directly to children’s homes. At that time, about 30-40 kids received gifts. Today, with the holiday party and gift distribution taking place at the Lodge, about 300 kids enjoy a brighter Christmas.
Several Lodge members are teachers at local schools who identify and distribute event tickets to families who need some support. About 70 Elks volunteer on Christmas day, with many giving up their own Christmas morning to prepare the Lodge.
“You see younger adults volunteering who would normally be sitting underneath a Christmas tree at home,” says program manager and Leading Knight Jim Culp. “My kids come here first before holding their own celebrations.”
The children are guided through stations where they can pick out a few gifts, hats and gloves, sweets, and plenty of snacks. Even with all the options to choose from, the children often remember the real meaning of the season, taking less so that others can have more.
The good memories of this event sick with the volunteers and children who attend, generation after generation. One Elk volunteer told the local paper that his mother, recently deceased at the age of 92, received her first baby doll at the event.
“Some members and volunteers working here went through this line as a child. They want to come back and pay it forward,” Culp said. “That’s what it’s all about: helping the community and helping kids have a good Christmas.”
CIP grant applications are open through January 17, 2024. For more information on the grants we offer, check out our Grant Toolkits. The CIP can be reached with any questions at 773/755-4730 or LodgeGrants@elks.org.
For 2023-24, the Elks National Foundation allocated nearly $16 million to fund the Community Investments Program. Lodges meet local needs through CIP 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.