A Final Salute to the Three Gratitude Grant Bonus Era
As the Community Investments Program welcomes the arrival of a fourth Gratitude Grant bonus, we want to congratulate the Lodges that received all three available bonuses in 2023-24. Thanks to the hard work of Lodge volunteers, 142 of the 1,659 eligible Lodges received a full $3,500 Gratitude Grant! Here are a few Lodges that took advantage of every penny in 2024.

Waukesha, Wis., Lodge No. 400 hosted a 1940s-themed dinner dance for seniors living in Waukesha County. The county is home to 70,000 seniors, and 94 percent are single and either live at home, in senior housing, or assisted living facilities. Lodge members established connections with senior homes and assisted living facilities to ensure attendance, and they provided wheelchair-accessible transportation from each facility. Along with volunteers from a local church group and the high school’s National Honor Society, members served a nutritious dinner to the 250 seniors in attendance.

Dinner was followed by a raffle of fleece blankets made by local middle school students and a night of music and dancing. The Jack Farina Big Band performed, and local swing dancing groups made sure the seniors could waltz the night away. The event united generations of attendees in the spirit of fun dancing, good food and great company.

Fort Smith, Ark., Lodge No. 341 worked with CASA to provide books, blankets, and teddy bears to children entering the foster care system. Children entering foster care are often scared and may have experienced forms of abuse or neglect. The Lodge works with local partners to provide items that will comfort the children and give them encouragement for the future.

“Not all the homes have books for the children, and the children have very little personal items to take with them,” says Grants Coordinator Cheryl Higginbotham. “The books, blankets, and bears we supplied will give the children something that is theirs to keep and take with them as they move through the system and, hopefully, back home.”

According to the Arkansas Department of Human Services, the number of children in the state foster care system has decreased in recent years. Ongoing efforts by organizations like the Fort Smith Lodge and its partners will hopefully see this number continue to fall by helping children find permanent homes. In the meantime, the items provided will assist children in maintaining their sense of security and give them something to call their own.

Raymond, Wash., Lodge No. 1292 works with local nonprofit Willapa Business Week and three surrounding school districts to offer a program for high school juniors that teaches fundamental business skills. Over a five-day period, more than 110 students come together in downtown Raymond to form their own companies. Students work together to develop ideas and products and present their ideas to pseudo investors. Local business leaders and Lodge members help students navigate their companies through eight business quarters, teaching them skills to prepare for future careers.

In addition to serving in the programs oversight, the Lodge supports the program financially to cover the cost of supplies, paying for rental space for the companies to meet, and cover the fees for the schools to participate.

Students also get the opportunity to network with local business leaders and earn college credits. Part of a statewide program that includes companies like Microsoft, Boeing, PEMCO Insurance and Costco, this program has a track record of success with more than 90 percent of students reporting an increase in self-confidence and felt that they acquired skills to use in their day-to-day lives.

“Community support for the program reached a point where it is so ingrained into the culture of the community that we consider it to be an annual event,” says Grants Coordinator Kelly Timpson Habersetezer.

Lynnwood, Wash., Lodge No. 2171, in partnership with local nonprofit Nest Mission, provides laundry service and hygiene kits to individuals experiencing homelessness.

“This started as a Spotlight Grant project,” says Grants Coordinator Dan Radley. “As the local unhoused population grew, so did the need for support. Now, we provide greater support with the larger Gratitude Grant.”. By receiving all three Gratitude Grant bonuses, the Lodge increased the project’s impact.

Whether it is working with seniors, veterans, or youth, the Gratitude Grant helps Lodges build stronger communities. With an additional $2,000 available in bonuses, the potential impact of the Gratitude Grant is greater than ever before. Be sure to communicate with your Fundraising Chair about your Lodge’s progress toward the 2024-25 Gratitude Grant bonuses. CIP Grant applications open on April 1. Hopefully, your Lodge is one of the first to qualify for a full $4,000 Gratitude Grant!