Members of Hopkins Lodge No. 2221 are doing big things for veterans in the Minneapolis—Saint Paul Metropolitan area. After receiving 30 Welcome Home Kit Applications from them in under two months, we were eager to learn more. Gretchen and Rick Peterson, fast growing experts on Welcome Home Kits, were interviewed. From the moment they began speaking, their passion was obvious. Rick Peterson (member of the Elks for 24 years) explained that volunteering with the Elks, “was a natural progression, it’s what you do when you go to the Elks.” Volunteering was one of the main draws for Gretchen to join, over 10 years ago. When the Petersons saw the program highlighted in the Elks National Veterans Service Commission (ENVSC) newsletter, they instantly knew they wanted to get involved. The Welcome Home Kit program provides funds for lodges to help newly housed veterans become established. The ENVSC will reimburses lodges up to $200 to cover items such as small furniture, kitchen supplies, bedding, and cleaning supplies.
A thank you card Hopkins includes with each kit!
The Hopkins Lodge became familiar with the ENF grants after receiving an Impact Grant to start a project titled, “Teaming up for Teens” where they provide support pacts of personal hygiene products for homeless teens. Gretchen Peterson explained that the Hopkins Lodge is, “Trying to make an impact on the community by serving different areas… focusing on youth and veterans.” When they learned of the Welcome Home Kit program, it was a straightforward progression as they were already doing work with homeless teens. When asked how they get Elks involvement in the project, Gretchen Peterson explained that, “The issue of veteran homelessness really resonates with people, there is a lot of belief in helping veterans.” Most of the volunteers learned of the program through casual conversation, the lodge newsletter, display boards at the lodge, or Facebook posts. Whenever they complete a delivery, the volunteers post a photo and story of the veteran on their Facebook page so members who weren’t able to participate, can learn of the great work being done.
The poster board in the Hopkins Lodge and presented at the state convention.
One of the best surprises of their Welcome Home Kits, has been that many of the veterans helped by the Hopkins lodge now want to give back and participate in the program. Several veterans have kept in touch with the lodge and plan to become more involved in their numerous programs and activities.
Veteran Leonard Shown on the left, Rick Peterson Elks member on the right. After Helping him set up his apartment, Leonard wouldn’t accept just a handshake and proceeded to give Rick a hug. He then asked if it was okay for him to give his wife a hug. A real gentlemen. He also asked if he could volunteer for future deliveries.
Pat Wright Elks member left, Ronald veteran on the right.Ronald’s son was there to help the day they delivered the Welcome Home kit. After loading all of the great items into his apartment, his son took them aside and said thank you for helping out his dad. He shared with us that this was his dad’s opportunity to get a fresh start. Ronald was also excited that he had found employment!
Veteran Curtis on the left, Gretchen Peterson Elks member on the right. Curtis hasn’t seen a roof over his head for the last 6 years. He told them how he had made a few bad decisions along the way, but had made big strides in moving forward in his life. He was ecstatic about his new four walls and the roof over his head and the Welcome Home Kit was almost too much for him emotionally. He sends his thanks to all the Elks!
Elks member Deb Roe and her daughter on the left, veteran Debra in the green, and Elks member Maureen Golden on the far right. Debra came from a deeply military family and followed in her families footsteps. After her time serving us our country, she found herself in a bad situation and ended up living in her car with her daughter. Now, with this new home along with her Welcome Home kit from the Elks, she feel like there is hope for her future!