For New Jersey twins and 2013 Legacy Awards
recipients Michael and Joseph Mandes, giving back has been a passion since childhood. Their charitable efforts have only been furthered with help from their local Lodge.
Michael and Joseph, sponsored by Brigantine, N.J., Lodge No. 2428 first began giving back to the community at only 10 years old, when they started running a weekly lemonade stand to benefit the cancer charity Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. To date, Michael and Joseph have raised more than $34,000 for those in need.
“We just caught the volunteer bug at a young age. We gained confidence and pride in our community service,” says Joseph.
The brothers quickly gained fame for their charitable efforts within their community, including catching the eye of the Brigantine Elks. The Elks invited them to run their stand at the 2005 Brigantine Elks Bayfest and helped the brothers to meet their fundraising goal for that year.
Elks Caring, Elks Sharing
But this accomplishment would not be the end of the brother’s charitable efforts – nor their last collaboration with the Brigantine Lodge. Impressed with the Elks support of youth in the community, Michael and Joseph’s parents became Elks members. With encouragement from the Elks, the brothers leapt into action and created Kids for South Jersey Cancer Fund to help raise money. To inspire their peers to support charitable efforts in the community, including their newly formed group, Michael and Joseph formed the Brigantine Youth Alliance.
“If we were able to get everyone to work together to help with different causes, we could help each other,” says Michael.
And the Elks helped, too. The group met at the Elks Lodge and the Elks helped to facilitate fundraisers and connect the youth to Elks programs. Besides raising funds with the South Jersey Cancer Fund, the group also worked with Elks programs and events, including Hoop Shoot, Soccer Shoot, drug awareness events, and various veterans’ programs. To date, the group has raised nearly $80,000 for the causes combined, volunteered countless hours of their time, and encouraged youth in the Brigantine community to give back.
“I am so happy that I have been serving my community through the Elks since an early age,” says Michael.
Growing Some “Antlers”
As their college years approached, Michael, Joseph, and the Brigantine Elks wanted to ensure the group continued to inspire youth to give back for years to come, so the brothers turned their Youth Alliance Group into Brigantine Antlers Lodge No. 23.
“Our Antlers Lodge offers us a vehicle to continue what we have started in our community for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and for the South Jersey Cancer Fund, the local veterans, and special needs programs,” says Michael.
With the help of the Elks, Michael and Joseph have inspired their peers to give back in meaningful ways, and thanks to the newly formed Brigantine Antlers, the brothers’ influence will continue for many years to come.
Elks in their Past, Elks in their Future
The Elks have helped Michael and Joseph develop self-confidence, improve their leadership skills, and give back to their community.
“Being around Elks and seeing adults dedicated to volunteering their time to help others continues to inspire us today. We believe this has helped us to develop our characters at a young age,” says Michael.
Michael and Joseph have found a whole new aspect of being part of the Elks family by becoming Elks scholars. And though the brother’s will be following their own paths, with Michael pursuing computer science and Joseph studying physics at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, they plan to continue their involvement with the Elks into adulthood.
“In the future, we will become Elks, and when we have families of our own someday, we intend to ‘raise Elks’,” says Michael. “Our experiences at our local Lodge and with Elks programs in our state have led us to become dedicated in this way.”
In 2013-14, the Elks National Foundation allocated $1 million to fund scholarships for the children and grandchildren of Elks. If you know any Elks children who are high school seniors, encourage them to visit www.elks.org/enf/scholars for information, including eligibility and deadlines.