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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 for Hope, a transformational campus to support people exiting homelessness.

A group of young people wearing orange shorts that read 150 for 150 pose for a photo.

Haven for Hope is an amazing facility that continues to provide multiple avenues to help get people out of homelessness. They have a low-barrier emergency shelter, a street outreach program, a jail outreach team, a kennel program for visitor’s beloved pets, legal services, veteran services, income and skill development services, and spiritual services. Additionally, they have a transformational campus that provides residential housing which allows clients to address barriers prior to securing permanent housing. 

This program, in addition to other implemented measures in San Antonio, has reduced the number of people experiencing homelessness in downtown San Antonio by 81% between 2010 and 2019. 

This was my first service trip and it really helped me to change my view of that population from “homeless people” to “people experiencing homelessness.” It was a transformational experience to see there are ways to help support the people in that situation. The facility truly gave me hope as a potential model for other cities to follow. 

On the Chicago trip, I lived and served with 11 other Elks scholars. Since the trip was considerably smaller, I learned about everyone on a personal level and made some lifelong friends. I reconnected with two scholars from the top 20 Leadership Weekend in 2018 and visited with a third top 20 scholar from a different year!

Since we were in Chicago, we visited the Elks National Memorial; it’s a beautiful building! We also volunteered at multiple locations including soup kitchens and a food pantry, and we participated in self-reflections each night to build group relations. 

We served at Lakeview Pantry, one of Chicago’s oldest and largest food pantries. There, we sorted through hygiene products and created bags of frozen food to hand out to clients. At Care for Friends, we cooked a wonderful meal for clients and packed them in to-go containers. We talked, connected, and listened to some of the visitors’ life stories. We also volunteered at Lincoln Park Community Services. There, we cooked and served a meal to visitors. 

A woman and a man wearing masks and aprons stand by a stove. The pair are Elks scholars preparing a meal at Lincoln Park Community Services.

Every night we had dinner together and had vulnerable conversations to help learn about people’s experiences and how we are each shaped uniquely. We learned to remember that labels often come with prejudices and how we should be aware of them and to reserve judgment before we learn more. 

While the Chicago and San Antonio Trips were different, they had shared similarities: connection, service and experience! 

On the Elks Scholar Service Trip, I connected with people from various backgrounds and life experiences, who share a common goal of service.

Personally, these trips provide me the opportunity to break down stereotypes and assumptions that I subconsciously carry. In addition to service, the trips offer the opportunity to experience a city up close and personal.

Both trips promoted an immense amount of internal growth. These experiences connect you to people from across the country that are all trying to make the world a better place. I can’t recommend a service trip enough. While there are moments of vulnerability, there are an equal number of laughs. These trips allow me to visit and see places that I normally may not experience otherwise. Elks Scholar Service Trips are life changing, and I think that is due to the quality of the people you serve with—Elks Scholars are truly special individuals, and I am so honored to have my place in the #ElksFamily.

The Elks National Foundation offers three Elks Scholar Service Trips annually. 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


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