Skip to main content

Same City, New Perspective


by Jyotsna Bitra
Most Valuable Student Scholar


My name is Jyotsna Bitra and I attend the University of Illinois at Chicago. I am studying Economics on the pre-medicine track. I love to play tennis, bake, write, teach, and listen to other’s stories. Growing up in Illinois and attending college in Chicago, I did not think participating in service in Chicago would be anything special. I’m used to the city and I was familiar with the area. But I was so glad to be mistaken.
 
Serving with my fellow scholars.
The first day of the Elks Scholar Service Trip, we served at a shelter known as Breakthrough Urban Ministries. We prepared and shared a meal with those experiencing homelessness. I knew there were many individuals in this situation throughout Chicago, and I often pass many of them on the way to the grocery store or mall. But I’ve never stopped to talk to them, other than muttering a hello. At Breakthrough, I heard some of their stories and witnessed their interactions. They seemed like a family, an unorthodox one perhaps, but a family nonetheless. They care for each other and when one client stopped coming because he found an apartment, the others felt a mixture of hope and loss.

The next day we visited the Jesse Brown V.A., which is right across the street from the building I conduct research in during the school year. Yet, I never knew it existed. In fact, I didn’t know what a V.A. was until this trip. But the pop-up food pantry we set up and served in was one of my favorite opportunities during this trip. Seeing the massive amounts of food and knowing it was all going to lessen stress for families and individuals put me in awe. I served near the end of the line and I realized the veterans thanked me more than I was able to thank them. And yet, my work of emptying boxes and organizing food didn’t begin to compare to the service they have provided our country. I learned that even though we each have our own place in society, we have to help each other in order to keep moving forward. Even though my volunteer work seems minor, the veterans experiencing homelessness have great appreciation and gratitude, and it is truly rewarding to witness.

The next day we visited Humble Design, which was by far one of my favorite organizations because turning a “house into a home” seems simple, but does wonders for families. We learned that coming home to a place of complete comfort and knowing it is yours can completely change a person’s perspective on life. A home is not simply a symbol of hope, but longevity. I am so thankful to the Elks for introducing me to the Humble Design warehouse in Chicago.

Finally, the last two days we helped with the Chicago Standdown. We sorted and folded more clothes than I ever have in my life. But all of this was put to good use when we helped veterans pick out clothing to take home. I saw their faces light up when they found a coat that fit them perfectly. The experience was a mixture of satisfaction, tiredness, smiles and endless thank-yous. When we left on Friday, I knew I wanted to return and serve at the Winter Standdown in November.
We had a great time exploring Chicago! 

The Service Trip was incredibly moving and impactful, but the other scholars I served with were equally important and touching. I met some amazing people from all around the country. I know we will all go our own way, but I am very happy to have met them and come together to learn in valuable ways.

I could go on and on about how much I love and miss the scholars I came to know on the trip, but I hope my fellow scholars will experience the connections themselves. Elks Scholar Service Trips are about more than meeting scholars or serving in a city; they’re about a combination of those two experiences that sparks new ideas and feelings to help us create a better home for all.

We know Elks scholars are dedicated to service. Now, they have the opportunity to come together in service with their Elks scholar peers. The Elks National Foundation offers three Elks Scholar Service Trips per year for up to 20 Elks scholars each. These trips provide scholars the opportunity to learn about societal issues, serve those in need in the name of the Elks, and connect with their Elks family from across the country. For more information about the trips, visit enf.elks.org/scholarservicetrips.

Comments

  1. Awesome article. Keep it up. Like the image and the process of Free trial . Thanks keep it up ..

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Labels

Show more

Popular posts from this blog

Seizing Every Opportunity

Reflections from the SAB President By Kat Nakamura 2019 MVS Scholar Hi, Elks Family! I’m Kat Nakamura, a 2019 MVS Scholar currently serving as the president of the Scholar Advisory Board. My time with the Elks has been a transformative experience, not only providing me with financial support for my education but opening the door to a nurturing community of like-minded individuals and remarkable opportunities. My journey began when I applied for the Elks Most Valuable Student scholarship, and little did I know it was just the beginning of a life-changing adventure. Months later, my mom encouraged me to apply to join the Scholar Advisory Board. Initially hesitant, I thought there was no chance of being accepted. Little did I realize that this decision would lead me to one of my most cherished experiences throughout college. The Scholar Advisory Board are the representatives that advise the ENF on scholar relations. Apart from being on the board, members attend the Elks National Conve

Finding a Place in the #ElksFamily

by Aleah Hahn, Most Valuable Student Scholar Aleah Hahn received a second place Most Valuable Student scholarship in 2018. She graduated from Michigan State University in 2021 with degrees in Biosystem Engineering and German. She is pursuing her master’s degree in Marine Resource Management at Oregon State. In her free time, she likes to cycle, forage and hike. Over my spring break I was able to partake in the 2022 Spring Elks Scholar Service Trip in Chicago! In 2018, I attended the 150 for 150 Service Trip in San Antonio, where we celebrated the Elks 150th anniversary through service. Both were amazing experiences to serve in the name of the Elks. They were alike but also different in many ways.  In San Antonio, I connected with Elks state leadership from my home state of Michigan since the trip was at the Elks National Convention!  I served with 149 other scholars and met many of them. It was a great opportunity to connect with other scholars. The majority of our service was at Haven

A Boatload of Scholars, a Busload of Clothes

By: Aditi V. Patel,  2019 Most Valuable Student scholar Last week, I had the pleasure of serving alongside 20 other amazing Elks scholars as a part of the Tampa Elks Scholar Service Trip. I did my research before the trip and found that Hurricane Ian had displaced more than 40,000 Floridians in September 2022—I wanted to do something to help! After landing in Tampa, we got right to work by sorting a busload (literally) of clothing that Tampa, Fla., Lodge No. 708 collected from the community for Greater Pine Island. We organized each item of clothing by size, made sure each item was in good condition, and placed them into bags. Whenever there weren’t clothes at my table, I would shift to another station to help others, and I saw other scholars doing the same. It was amazing to see everyone laboriously working for hours without any complaints, learning names and fun facts as we went. We had dinner at the Tampa Elks Lodge, which is where I had my first genuine conversations with the s