Elks Care for Caregivers
Caring for others sometimes requires sacrifice. By prioritizing someone else’s needs, caregivers perform acts of selflessness that assist the elderly, people with disabilities, and those in need of assistance in meeting and overcoming their obstacles. Too often, those providing the care can be overlooked as people who may also be in need of support.

The third Friday of February is recognized as National Caregivers Day, and the CIP is celebrating by sharing the stories of a few Elks Lodges that use their Beacon Grants to ensure that those who care are also cared for.

Horseheads, N.Y., Lodge No. 2297 used its Beacon Grant to hold a daylong Caregiver’s Retreat. The Lodge connected with the Alzheimer’s Association to bring in partners that shared their expertise with the caregivers in attendance. Seminars covered money management, avoiding scams, and physical and mental health practices. Representatives from government agencies, nonprofits and advocacy groups provided the attendees with resources.

The event brought together like-minded people with similar experiences. Studies have shown that working together improves quality of life and helps those in difficult circumstances accept them.

“One of the most beneficial aspects of our program is giving the caregivers an opportunity to sit with others going through the same struggles and share stories and ideas,” says Grants Coordinator Frank Savino. “Respite care provides the caregiver a temporary break from their duties to allow them to attend to their own needs.”

The keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Cynthia Huling Hummel, is the director of the Finger Lakes Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease. Rev. Dr. Hummel is living with Alzheimer’s herself; she was diagnosed in 2016 and has spent the years since helping others navigate the same journey.

The event required about 50 Elks to pull it off. From setting up the Lodge to preparing and serving the meals to cleanup duty, members were more than willing to lend a hand to make the retreat a positive experience.

The event was such a hit that preparations are being made for the next one, tentatively scheduled for November 2024. When the time comes, a Beacon Grant will be waiting to assist them in making the retreat another success.

Some Lodges use grants to provide auxiliary support for caregivers. San Antonio, Texas, Lodge No. 216 uses its Beacon Grant to provide welcome distractions for children undergoing cancer treatment. In partnership with Jaxon’s Frog Foundation, the Lodge purchases Smile Bags for pediatric cancer patients, containing toys and puzzle books, along with practical items like colorful water bottles and sunglasses.

“We have seen firsthand the need to help these children and their families cope with the very long days at the clinic,” says Grants Coordinator Lee Hincher. “The Smile Bags helped Jaxon’s Frog Foundation reach children and families during some of their darkest times of need.”

The San Antonio Elks have learned over the eight years of completing this project that even the smallest items can make a difficult time easier.

Ketchikan, Alaska, Lodge No. 1429 uses a Beacon Grant to maintain a medical equipment closet. The Lodge uses grant funds to purchase medical items that are kept at the Southeast Alaska Independent Living facility. Members of the community can use the wheelchairs, shower benches, and walkers for up to three months. Many caregivers pick up wheelchairs for friends or relatives as they recover from medical procedures.

“We do not have a Medical Supply store in our community and need everything sent by barge or mail,” says Grants Coordinator Bernice Metcalf. “The medical loan closet is heavily used, and they need to have nice, safe working equipment to loan out to community members.”

One of the new Impact Grant projects being funded in 2024 is “Elks Caring for the Caregiver” from Wells, Maine, Lodge No. 2738. This project will create a monthly caregiver support group meeting at the Lodge. Connecting caregivers with their peers and local resources will improve their emotional, social and financial health, which better enables them to provide care. By the time of next year’s National Caregivers Day, we can expect the caregivers of the Wells community to feel bolstered by their local Lodge.

Every CIP grant project could be considered a project of caregiving. By identifying a need in their community and using grant funds to address it, Lodges show how much they care for their neighbors. On this National Caregivers Day, every Lodge can take pride in the fact they’ve made care a more prominent feature of their community.

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.