The Elks National Veterans Service Commission was established in 1946, immediately after World War II, with the sole mission of serving our nation’s veterans. Though much has changed since then, the Elks’ dedication to serve veterans and military members in need has never wavered. In VA clinics, veterans’ homes, USOs, homeless shelters and more, thousands of Elks’ volunteers give generously of their time, energy and resources to serve veterans and military members each year.
The Elks are committed to their mission, “So long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them.” The Veterans Service Commission takes that pledge one step further, and promises service to our nation’s veterans and military members, with a special focus on service to those in need.
As the needs of today’s veterans changed, so have the Elks’ programs. Today, the Elks National Veterans Service Commission has many exciting programs and partnerships catering to veterans and military members and their families.
Adopt A Veteran Program
Many older veterans in hospitals, VA homes, nursing homes and care centers have limited or no family nearby. Without social engagement and positive interaction, veterans’ health can suffer and they lack support. The Elks family is all over the nation, and Elks’ volunteers can support local veterans by participating in the Adopt-a-Veterans Program and providing friendship and assistance.
Eligibility: This program is targeted toward any veterans that are lonely or isolated. Veterans in VA hospitals, assisted care homes, community living center, retirement homes, homeless and transitional shelters, and hospital domiciliary programs are all eligible. Individuals can adopt more than one veteran, and Lodges can adopt certain floors, units or even whole facilities.
Getting Started: VA hospitals have strict privacy laws. You may have to physically visit the hospital and make up your own list. Or, try contacting the facility’s Activities Director or Social Services representative for the names of veterans. Additionally, churches, veterans groups, American Legions, VFWs or similar organizations may know a veteran in need of support.
Recruiting Volunteers: Ask members to adopt a veterans at Lodge meetings and events. Approach schools, churches, civic groups and other community organizations about adopting a veteran, or contributing supplies, letters or gifts. Don’t forget about youth volunteers—ask scout troops, Antlers participants and student groups to get involved.
Guide for Visits: Be a friend. Ask questions. Listen to their thoughts and concerns. Visit regularly. Send cards. Check in with phone calls. Invite veterans to be guests at Lodge meals and events. Remember birthdays, special events and especially holidays.
Cost of Program: The cost of this program is very small, and is almost always covered by the volunteer. Cards, small gifts and donations of necessary supplies are common. If a veteran is in need of a larger gift, this can possibly be funded through raffles, 50/50s, donations by individuals or Lodge groups such as the PERs or Ladies. Please clear all gifts with the facility beforehand. Additionally, many stores may offer a discount for a charitable project if you ask.
This year, the Elks National Veterans Service Commission will award 180 Freedom Grants to Elks Lodges to hold projects that serve veterans and active-duty military members.
Freedom Grants are competitive and will be awarded to Lodges whose projects are judged to best serve the needs of veterans and/or active-duty military members. Meaningful Elk involvement is strongly encouraged.
Freedom Grants must focus on one of these five areas of increased need.
- Homelessness and Housing
- Military Families
- Educational Support