“Before this service trip, my definition of ‘Elks family’ was a vague network of students scattered around the country who were fortunate enough to win some money,” shared 2017 MVS scholar Stephanie Royer. “Now, I realize that my Elks family is a tangible, visible community of like-minded students pursuing their dreams along with the Elks lending their support and leading the way in service.”
Elks Scholar Service Trips are an opportunity to grow. An opportunity to build incredible friendships. An opportunity to learn more about community needs. And, an opportunity to serve in the name of the Elks.
In early June, 16 Elks scholars from 14 states traveled to Chicago for the week-long Summer Service Trip. From a few familiar faces to new ones, freshmen to alumni, MVS scholars to Legacy scholars, the participants arrived with diverse perspective and experiences, but left united as one #ElksFamily.
The Service Trip was devoted to individuals—primarily veterans—experiencing or transitioning out of homelessness. Service activities ranged from making and serving meals at a shelter to organizing a warehouse of furniture for families exiting homelessness. Throughout the week, the scholars participated in a wide variety of service to better understand the complexity of the issue. They met basic needs, such as food and clothing, to restore a sense of normalcy to those they served, but they also met needs, such as furniture and personal belongings, to restore a sense of dignity.
The group packed more than 700 hygiene kits for veterans in need, served as personal shoppers for more than 150 veterans visiting the Jesse Brown V.A. Food Pantry and handed out clothing to more than 500 veterans attending the Chicago Standdown, a bi-annual citywide event where dozens of organizations come together to provide services to veterans in need.
“What I have come to know and love about the Elks family has only been reaffirmed and strengthened through the service trip,” reflected Eric Kim, 2014 Top MVS Male winner. “That Elks scholars come together to serve veterans and create meaningful, long-lasting relationships is truly special and unique to the Elks.”
The Summer Service Trip provided an opportunity for scholars to challenge their perceptions of homelessness and identity, to discuss the importance of engaging societal issues and to build relationships where barriers may have existed.
The week was bookended by #ElksFamily dinners. A visit to the Elks Memorial and Headquarters immersed the group in the Elks rich history of serving veterans. The scholars packed veteran hygiene kits to be distributed at the Winter Standdown and enjoyed classic Chicago-style deep dish pizza with Foundation staff. Then, to celebrate a week of learning, serving and connecting, the Brookfield, Ill., Lodge No. 1510 hosted the scholars for food and fellowship on the last night of the trip.
“The trips teach you so much about service, yourself, and others, and you make such meaningful connections with other members of the Elks family,” exclaims Grace Roebuck, 2015 MVS Finalist. “I can honestly say these trips have changed my life, and I hope so many more Elks scholars get to experience these trips like I have.”
If you’re interested in a life-changing experience, check out this flyer to read about the dates and locations of the upcoming Winter and Spring trips. To see pictures from the Summer trip, visit the Elks Scholars Facebook page and the Flickr album.
Follow @ElksScholars on Twitter and Instagram.
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