Making a Difference in Minneapolis
The Elks National Foundation’s dedication to building stronger communities extends to the host community for the annual Elks National Convention. This year in Minneapolis, the ENF kicked off the Convention by shining a spotlight on service with two local Lodges and the Elks Scholar Advisory Board.

A member of the SAB carries backpacks for survivors of human trafficking.

Hopkins Lodge No. 2221 and Minneapolis Lodge No. 44 hosted seven members of the SAB, plus Elks Scholar Fellow Libby Willkomm and CIPster Meaghan Morris, for a day of service. The scholars tied blankets for My Very Own Bed, a nonprofit dedicated to providing beds for children without one, and packed resource backpacks for survivors of human trafficking. The project was part of the Minneapolis Lodge’s Beacon Grant project, which is done in conjunction with the Minnesota FBI Academy.

Within 15 minutes, the scholars packed 96 bags, and their work didn’t stop there. After a fun and relaxing evening of lawn bowling, they were up the next morning to help the ENF staff at the ENF Booth in the Exhibit Hall.

They passed out ribbons for Elks who are ENF donors or whose Lodges used a Community Investments Program grant, interacted with Elks from across the country, and helped collect donations for the ENF’s Spotlight on Service supply drive. The ENF put out a call to Elks to donate a new or gently used children’s books or a new pair of socks to benefit people in the Minneapolis area.

An ENF staff member carries a box of books for the ENF's supply drive.

Many Lodges challenged their membership to bring in donations, and the Lodges’ representatives brought boxes, suitcases, or bags full of books and socks to the ENF Booth for an entry to win their Lodge a bonus CIP grant.

Portland, Maine, Lodge No. 188 compiled more than 450 pairs of socks for the drive, and their members Albert and Stephanie Ingraham brought them to the ENF Booth. When asked what inspired the members to donate, Albert’s answer was simple: “You asked.”

The Lodge’s generosity was even recognized by Delta Airlines. With two huge suitcases full of socks in tow, the pair explained what was in them to the employees at the airport, and Delta flew the suitcases to Minneapolis free of charge.

In total, 388 Lodges participated. Every Lodge that contributed to the drive was entered into a drawing to win a bonus CIP grant. The winners were announced on the most recent episode of the Midday Minute, which you can watch here.

In addition to special ribbons for their credentials, ENF donors were recognized with two special events throughout the weekend. On Saturday, donors who gave more than $1,000 in the previous fiscal year or who are members of the ENF’s John F. Malley Society were invited to an evening at US Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings football team.

The donors were treated to dinner, the presentation of trophies to Elks Scholar Alum of the Year Erika Barger and the two 2023 Hoop Shoot Getty Powell Award Winners, and then they were able to step out onto the field and toss some footballs. An ENF donor catches a football at the Vikings Stadium.

For the first time, the ENF hosted a recognition event for members of the Fidelity Club, the ENF’s monthly giving program. Donors who give automatic, monthly gifts through their credit card or bank account were invited to Bagels with the Board, an open house breakfast where they were able to mingle with the Scholar Advisory Board and the ENF’s Board of Trustees, composed of Past National Presidents.

“It’s important to thank these donors for their continued, reliable support,” says ENF Director Jim O’Kelley. “Fidelity Club donors sustain our programs, and they help ensure that our programs grow and reach more people.”

And ENF programs have grown.

“In 2004, when I stood here as your Grand Exalted Ruler in this very city,” said ENF Board Chairman Jim McQuillan at the Opening Ceremony, “the Foundation was spending $13 million on programs. Nineteen years later, the Foundation has tripled its spending on programs.”

An ENF donor catches a football at the Vikings Stadium.

Youth Programs Manager Makenna Cannon, Assistant Director of the ENF Debbie Doles, and Elks National Veterans Service Commission Chairman Bob Duitsman stepped up to the podium after to share how ENF-funded programs are using that money.

Each program is special, but incredible things happen when their efforts are combined. In January, Elks scholars on a service trip headed to Greater Pine Island, Fla., Lodge No. 2781 to help with Hurricane Ian relief efforts. The Lodge uses several CIP grants to help its community, and not even a hurricane could stop them.

“Through it all, working side by side with us to help other people, were members of the Lodge who themselves were suffering,” said Doles. “That right there captures the essence of this organization. Though their Lodge was no longer standing, these Elks stood together to help their community.”

The ENF wants every Lodge to host a Hoop Shoot contest and use CIP grants to build stronger communities. Several seminars taught Elks how to apply for CIP grants, host a Hoop Shoot, and fundraise for the ENF so the charitable work wouldn’t stop when Elks headed home from Minneapolis.

The ENF is looking forward to another year of standing together to build stronger communities.

You can view all the photos from the weekend and download them, free of charge, at the ENF's Flickr.

A 501(c)(3) public charity, the Elks National Foundation helps Elks build stronger communities through programs that support youth, serve veterans, and meet needs in areas where Elks live and work. For more information on the ENF, visit

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