Veterans News

A Windy and Wonderful Time

Despite a looming hurricane, we had a terrific time in Tampa. In a tempered return to the annual Elks National Convention, we all gathered in Florida to reconnect after more than a year apart. We packed quite a bit into a few days. Here’s a recap for those who weren’t able to make the trip.

Early in the week, the Elks National Veterans Service Commission members met to discuss our ongoing programs. We added a few new facilities to the Elks Voluntary Service Program, discussed adding new cities of focus to the Welcome Home program, and started planning for next year’s Freedom Grants.

We also heard from newest Commission member and PGER Paul Ryan, who updated us on his recent visit with the VA Secretary. Ryan shared the VA Secretary’s praise for all Elks do! He asked us to continue the fight against veteran homelessness. He also asked Elks to help fight veteran hunger and spread the word about mental health resources.

Every ENVSC monthly newsletter includes mental health resources like the Veterans Crisis Line, and the website Make The Connection, where anyone can view videos of veterans telling their stories of recovery. We know that, thanks to the Community Investments Programs, Elks are addressing hunger in communities across the country. In fact, in 2020-21, 52% of grants went to address hunger in Elks communities.

We pledge to continue the conversation about how Elks can help with these 2 pressing issues moving forward while maintaining our commitment to veterans in hospitals and those experiencing homelessness.

We hosted our annual Volunteer Seminar at Convention! Nearly 300 people joined us as we kicked off the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Elks National Veterans Service Commission. After we handed out the candy, we got down to business. We reviewed our program history, and how our enduring mission keeps those programs thriving today.

For the second half of the seminar, we were lucky to be joined by staff from our longtime partner Help Heal Veterans. Since 2001, the Elks have been donating leather to Help Heal Veterans, which uses the leather to make craft kits for veterans in recovery.

They offered a peak at their factory in California, and how they use Elks leather to make kits. Then, they hosted a craft kit training session for all in attendance. HHV staff member Chip Purkey led everyone in attendance in a craft kit session. Check out the finished product at left!

(Fun fact, the Veterans Leather Program inspired HHV staff member Chip Purkey to join the order! He is a member of Hemet, Calif., Lodge No. 1740.)

Next up on Sunday, we headed over to the Opening Ceremonies, when the ENVSC gave its report as part of a blockbuster Elks Charities show! Together with the ENF and the Drug Awareness Program, we reflected on a year of being there for our communities when things got tough.

We debuted the ENVSC’s 75th Anniversary video, which will kick off a year of celebrations. And we reflected on how our volunteers were there for veterans in need during an especially tough year.

During the Ceremonies, PGER Mike Luhr stepped onstage to report on the outcome of the pandemic-delayed Pearl Harbor Campaign. Elks came through for the Pacific Historic Parks, at a time when the funds were badly needed. Altogether, Elks donated $514,971.98 to the campaign!

Pacific Historic Parks staff joined Luhr onstage to accept the final donation from the Elks and thanked all the donors for their commitment to the cause, which proved exceptionally helpful during the past year.

Then, Help Heal Veterans CEO Joe McClain joined us on stage to present the Elks with the 2021 Partner of the Year Award!

Veterans Leather Program Chair Dennis McAleese and Vice-Chair Chuck Mudge accepted the award on behalf of the Elks, capping off our official report.

(From left to right: Joe McClain, Dennis McAleese, Chuck Mudge.)

It was wonderful to see those of you who were able to make the trip to Tampa. We hope to see the rest of you at future conventions!


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