Back to Nature with CIP Grants
Natural beauty surrounds Elks Lodges from coast to coast. Whether it’s the ocean view from Honolulu, Hawaii, Lodge No. 616 or the snowy mountains around Aspen, Colo., Lodge No. 224, it’s clear that Elks enjoy some of the best scenery around.

Lodge members go beyond just appreciating nature, though. For World Wildlife Day, which falls annually on March 3, here are a few Lodges that use CIP grants to protect their environment, educate their communities about nature, and provide equitable access to the outdoors.

Oak Island, N.C., Lodge No. 2769 has used many grants to ensure that the local scenery and wildlife of its beach town are protected. The Lodge used a Gratitude Grant to purchase supplies and help refurbish the facilities of the Sea Biscuit Wildlife Center, which rescues, rehabilitates, and releases wild birds native to the area. The facility rescues more than 700 birds on average per year.

“The Lodge members provided manpower to power wash all cages, repair netting, replace sand in enclosures, trim weeds and growth from the cages, and predator-proof the cages,” says Grants Coordinator Glenda Dennis. “Most importantly, they prepared the facility for any weather-related events, like hurricanes, by replacing and securing plastic roofing over cages so they don’t fly away with the wind.”

Hurricanes are an issue that the island knows all too well. The area was hit by Hurricane Isaias in 2020, prompting two locals to start the Davis Canal Marsh Cleaners. The group was founded to return items that had been swept into the canal by the storm to their owners but has since grown into an all-volunteer organization of more than 100 people, including Lodge members, that meets regularly to keep the canal free of debris. The Oak Island Lodge used part of a Beacon Grant to purchase a new kayak to help with the group’s cleanup efforts.

Telluride, Colo., Lodge No. 692 annually uses part of its Beacon Grant to treat children to the wonders of nature. Situated amid the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, the Lodge has access to skiing and snowboarding in the winter and beautiful lakes and hiking in the summer.

However, these natural amenities are not accessible to everyone who lives in Telluride. In an effort to rectify that, the Lodge used a Beacon Grant to get youth into nature through the One to One Mentoring Program. The Lodge hosts Day on the Lake events, providing paddleboards for children and their mentors to build trust as they connect on the water and enjoy picturesque views in every direction.

Recently, the Lodge again partnered with One to One, hosting a back-to-school event that included an ecology lesson from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife office. Representatives from the office taught students about fishing, including how to work a rod and reel, and the importance of conservation. Children played soccer and painted flowerpots while they waited to try their hand at fishing. As Grants Coordinator Cynthia Wyszynski noted, there was “something for every kid.”

“When planning activities, it is important to consider the participants' desires and needs, which is why the Telluride Lodge was so successful,” says CIP Associate Sam Kayuha.

Newport Harbor, Calif., Lodge No. 1767 tailors its grant project to connect people with vision impairments to the outdoors, using a Beacon Grant to take residents of the VA Hospital’s Blind Rehabilitation Program on an ocean outing.

“The cruise gives them time to experience the sounds of birds and waves, the sounds of the boat's motor, the feel of the ocean water and ocean breezes, and the rolling and swaying sensations of the boat,” says Grants Coordinator Wendy Wuitschick.

The Lodge has hosted this project for the last four years and found that along with the valuable experience of connecting with nature, the day also gives veterans time and space to connect with each other. With the Lodge’s location on the harbor, it is easy for the veterans, their aides, and the Elks to return to the Lodge to enjoy meals before and after the boat ride.

The Lodge also provides a parting gift bag of hygiene items, but it is more of a “see you later” than a “goodbye”; the membership’s close relationship with the VA Hospital residents ensures that it won’t be long until they meet again.

World Wildlife Day may only be one day of the year, but every day is an opportunity to appreciate and protect nature. Doing so with CIP grants is a great way to connect Lodge members and the wider community with the beauty all around them.

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