In March, a dozen scholars traveled to Chicago to serve in the name of the Elks.
“On the Elks Scholar Service Trip, I connected with people from various backgrounds and life experiences who share a common goal of service,” says Aleah Hahn, a 2018 Most Valuable Student scholar from Michigan.
While in Chicago, the scholars served with organizations addressing food insecurity. Scholars sorted hygiene products and packed frozen meals for clients at Lakeview Pantry, one of the oldest and largest food pantries in the city, serving people whose incomes are below the government’s threshold for poverty. In addition to connecting with their peers, Elks scholars listened to stories from individuals using the services at Care for Friends, an organization building pathways out of homelessness. At the last service site, Lincoln Park Community Services, scholars cooked and served a meal to individuals facing homelessness and poverty.
“Personally, these trips provide me the opportunity to break down stereotypes and assumptions that I subconsciously carry,” says Hahn.
In late May, Elks Scholar Fellow Grace Roebuck led a dozen scholars on an Elks Scholar Service Trip to Seattle after the initial trip, scheduled for early January, was postponed—the service sites had been unable to host the scholars due to an Omicron COVID-19 surge.
While the Chicago Service Trip focused on food insecurity, the Seattle Trip offered a broader scope of service at organizations supporting individuals experiencing homelessness, people in recovery, and women experiencing poverty. Scholars spent their days at Immanuel Community Services, Jubilee Women’s Center and DESC Rainer House.
“What really has drawn me to all these service trips is being able to serve the local community and work with local organizations,” says Elks Scholar Advisory Board Member Nishitha Karumuri, a trip participant and 2019 Most Valuable Student Scholar from North Carolina. “I’ve really been able to see the community impact we have when we work with these local nonprofits. I love to learn about what every city does and hopefully bring it back to my hometown.”
“This was my first time going to an Elks Lodge out of my state, which is super-duper cool,” says Kat Nakamura, another member of the SAB and a 2019 Most Valuable Student Scholar from California. “Not only is it beautiful here, but the people are so amazing to talk to and connect with.”
Nakamura didn’t know much about the Elks before applying for a scholarship, but now it is hard for her to imagine her life without us.
“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without the Elks,” says Nakamura. “Even in those periods where I didn’t feel as connected, I knew I had the Elks and they were there to uplift me, which was great. I hope to be an Elk really soon.”
At the end of each day, the scholars reflect on service. Upon reflection, they often find that their expectations of service, communities and one another have changed.
“Elks Scholar Service Trips are life-changing, and I think that is due to the quality of the people you serve with,” says Hahn. “Elks Scholars are truly special individuals, and I am so honored to have my place in the #ElksFamily.” The Elks Scholar Service Trips provide scholars the opportunity to learn about societal issues, serve in the name of the Elks, and connect with their Elks family. For more information about the trips, visit enf.elks.org/ScholarServiceTrips.