Monday, January 25, 2010

Something to Consider

In these difficult times, it’s hard to think about where to spend your limited charitable time and dollars. I know this intimately, as I am a member, officer, and Exaulted Ruler- Elect (president) of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, St. Cloud Lodge #2843.

If you aren’t aware, the BPOE is a strictly American, patriotic charitable fraternal organization with nearly a million members and a 141-year history, a network of more than 2000 lodges in communities all over the country, a generous charitable foundation that each year gives millions in scholarships, an inspiration to youth, a friend to veterans and more. The Elks began accepting women as full members in 1995, but the “brotherhood” aspect of it has not changed, in that we are all bound to eachother by virtue of our committment and dedication to helping others.

I joined the newest Minnesota lodge less than 3 years ago, and I can honestly say it was the greatest thing I’ve ever done, other than having my children. Our order is different from any other organization in many ways, but what grabbed my attention is that they surpass many with larger membership rolls in their giving, and are much more active in local communities than any other I had found in my area. Our giving is focused on DOING, not spending, but of course it takes money to do the things that we do. The Minnesota state project, supported by all lodges in our state is the Minnesota Elks Youth Camp, located north of Brainerd on Pelican Lake. It’s one of the best facilities I’ve ever seen, providing the summer camping experience to hundreds of kids every year who otherwise would never be able to go to camp. It has been in operation by the Elks since 1954, if I’m remembering correctly. Each state has it’s own major project, and we here are very proud of ours. The Elks sponsor an annual Soccer Shoot, and also the Hoop Shoot for three age groups of elementary school kids, with the winners progressing from lodge level, district, state, and up to National competitions. We have many scholarship programs, as well as essay contests and other youth activities. We sponsor a veteran’s transitional home here in St.Cloud, and host many functions throughout the year at the St.Cloud VA medical center. We have an annual Flag Day ceremony, as well as participation in local parades where we actively promote our Drug Awareness program. We respond to requests for help to families of veterans with simple things like fixing plumbing and other simple household repairs and maintenence, or cutting a winter’s worth of wood for home heating while their spouse is serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. We do a LOT of great things! But back to what I was originally writing about…

I returned on Sunday afternoon from my weekend long training seminar, where we had discussed many of the challenges of regular operations and keeping the good of the order foremost in our planning as we prepare for the upcoming year. Of course, the undeniable fact of our current national financial distress was a prominent topic, as it has bearing on every aspect of the charity work we do. Most of the lodges also have clubs, where they run their business in order to support their lodge’s charitable endeavors. Some, like the lodge I will soon preside over, do not have a club and rely on fundraising alone. We have differing challenges than those that are more encumbered, but one that we all face regardless of size of membership, location, or any other differences, is that we all are competing for those limited charitable dollars available within our communities.

I’m not asking for you to give to my lodge, visit your own local Elks club, my particular charitable order or any other. What I’m asking you to consider is whether or not you’re spending at least 3/4 of your available charitable dollars and/or hours in giving that stays within your communities, supporting your neighbors, their children, or the veterans who have given so much to us all. It is all well and good to give to those less fortunate in other far off countries who are in need, as they always are. Haiti needs our help, as well as many others, and they will continue to need and request our help far into the future. There will always be countries less fortunate than we are, and it is a great thing that we in this country can afford to help them in times of need or tragedy. But what of the quiet tragedies and simple needs in your own city? Your county? Your state? Your country? With the challenges being faced by many people closer to home, you may want to consider if you can give some of your time, even if you can’t afford to give cash right now, to an organization with local impact.

Please spend a few minutes to review your charitable giving, both in time and dollars, and see where you can help to improve the lives of those in your community. Investigate those organizations who have been receiving your time and money, and make sure you’re helping the people you really want to help.

And of course if you’re interested in learning more about the Elks, you can read more about what we do nationally HERE (where you can also look up your nearest local lodge), in Minnesota HERE ,  and my home lodge of St.Cloud MN HERE . We’d be very happy to invite you to join, or help in any capacity you’d care to!