Sixteen Elks scholars recently returned from the Spring Elks Scholar Service Trip where they served with 10 different D.C. Metro Area organizations from March 7-11. The scholars served with a wide variety of organizations each day through Youth Service Opportunities Project
By breaking up into three groups, the scholars were able to touch hundreds of lives throughout the week. By coming together in reflection each night, the scholars got to learn about one another’s service experiences each day and discuss ways that they can take what they learned on the trip back to their campuses and hometowns. This trip was only the beginning of the impact these Elks scholars will make.
The scholars found themselves playing Bingo with veterans experiencing homelessness, distributing free, fresh produce to low-income seniors, and preparing meals through an organization that prevents food waste by collecting unused food from local restaurants. They also packed and organized food at the Capital Area Food Bank, performed yard work and household chores for low-income seniors to ensure that they can continue to safely live in their homes, and tutored elementary school students.
On Friday, the group took in the monuments of D.C. before heading to the Washington, D.C., Veterans Affairs Medical Center to meet the needs of our nation’s veterans. They played Bingo and also had bedside visits with the residents of the V.A.
Pooja Nanjannavar, a 2013 MVS scholar, gained new perspective after serving at the V.A. “I met a lot of great veterans who had a lot to say about their service and things they’ve done for our country, and it really made me appreciate everything they’ve done and made me want to work with them more in the future.”
To top it all off, the scholars ended the week by enjoying a family dinner at the Arlington-Fairfax, Va., Lodge No. 2188 alongside some of our nation’s bravest heroes. Susan Mekenney, Lodge scholarship chair, was instrumental in making the experience a memorable one for all of the scholars and Elks involved.
The scholars had the opportunity to serve and share a “Thanksgiving in March” meal with wounded warriors and their families who came with the Aleethia Foundation . The night ended with the scholars learning about why the members had joined the Order and what being an Elk means to them.
Frank Burns, PER and Treasurer, talked about the Lodge’s charitable work in the community. He shared that while service allows Elks the opportunity to volunteer, it also allows them to, “build very strong, lasting friendships.”
“I think if you can get the opportunity to visit more Lodges and get to see this nature in the character in the people who populate these Lodges, that will be the reason that you want to be a part of it someday, yourself,” Burns continued.
Scholars left the dinner inspired by the Elks’ service in their community and capped off the conversation with a big Elks family group hug.
“Tonight I really got to see everything that’s so good about [the Elks],” shared Becky Clark, a 2014 MVS scholar, after her experience at the Lodge. “I really, really want to become an Elk. Before this I thought that Elks was something that you had to be born into or something that your parents did. Once I turn 21, I definitely see myself becoming an Elk."
“From the day when I received my scholarship at my local Elks Lodge to the visit at the Arlington-Fairfax Lodge, the Elks really live up to their name for being the BPOE: Best People On Earth,” reflected Michael Wu, a 2009 MVS scholar. “The hospitality, generosity, and dedication to serve those in need that they exhibit align with my values very much. It is an absolute honor to be a part of the Elks family, and I plan on finding out more about becoming a member after I graduate from medical school in a few years.”
To see more pictures from the trip, visit the Elks Scholar Facebook page and the Flickr album.
Follow Elks Scholars on Twitter and Instagram to relive the trip through the eyes of an Elks scholar.