Elks are always ready to serve veterans in their communities. For Elk volunteers who are used to being involved in veteran activities regularly, it has been difficult to stay home while facilities are closed to visitors and the cancellation of events has been necessary.
Stand Downs, often one of the year’s main events where veterans gather to access resources, have been cancelled or postponed all over the country. But just because large gatherings can’t be held doesn’t mean Elks can’t help. As an alternative way to distribute much-needed items that veterans would access at a Stand Down, some Lodges are putting together kits of survival items, clothing, or packages of food to distribute to veterans in their community.
Your Lodge can start a similar project by contacting the VA or other organizations that were involved in organizing a cancelled Stand Down to come up with ways to reach the veterans who need these supplies. You may be able to distribute through a central pickup location like a food bank or a clinic where veterans will visit for medical appointments. Or, find places near veteran residences where Elks could drop off items for distribution.
Some activities may still be possible if they can be done outdoors. Voluntary Service Reps for ENVSC have reported holding brief meetings with their facility’s Volunteer Coordinators in the parking lot. Some volunteers have created vegetable and flower gardens or improved recreation equipment for veterans at residential facilities. Others have provided bird feeders and seed for veterans to enjoy nature from indoors.
Letter writing isn’t always popular these days when we have faster ways to communicate. Now could be a great time to slow down and give more traditional forms of communication a try again. Many veterans in hospitals or nursing homes appreciate receiving mail when they can’t receive visitors.
If you’d rather stick with newer technology, you may consider providing iPads, laptops, or phones for veterans who can only see their friends and family through video communication. Enabling electronic communication can also give veterans a way to stay in touch with their healthcare provider when an in-person visit is not necessary. Video calls can also be a great way for Elk volunteers to stay in touch with the veterans you’re used to visiting.
With a little bit of planning you may come up with even better ways serve your community’s veterans. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover something that your Lodge will continue even after things get back to normal.