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#ElksFamily From Biloxi to San Diego

By: Jacob Fritchie, 2017 Most Valuable Student scholar

I joined the #ElksFamily as a Top 20 Most Valuable Student scholar in 2017. Leadership Weekend was a blast, and I was so thankful for the scholarship money that allowed me to go to my dream school, the University of Illinois. After learning about the wonderful Elks National Foundation during Leadership Weekend, I knew that I wanted to stay involved and continue connecting with scholars across the country.

My first opportunity was the 2018 Summer Elks Scholar Service Trip before the 150 for 150 celebration in San Antonio, Texas. In San Antonio, the main focus was serving people experiencing homelessness. We weeded a large community garden, cleaned a school building for children without homes, and volunteered with a shelter large enough for hundreds of families. I had done community service on my own but volunteering with a group of 19 other serviced-minded individuals felt different. Every day after service, we would have reflection, where we talked about the impact of our work. How did we help the community? What did we learn about the people we were helping? What did we learn about ourselves? I learned so much about San Antonio, the community I was serving, and myself.


The following winter, I joined the service trip to Biloxi, Mississippi. This trip focused on environmental cleanup. We cleaned out bayous and waterways, with warnings to watch out for the alligators. The Biloxi service trip is where I really started to feel connected to my Elks Family. We stayed at our own campsite, so we spent a ton of time together. After the service and reflection, we would spend hours playing basketball, a game of mafia, or even just chatting. We truly grew so close that we were all crying the day we had to leave.

Right before the pandemic, I was asked to be one of the scholar leaders on the 2020 winter service trip in San Diego. By this time, I was one of the older scholars with more experience. It was rewarding to travel with a group of younger scholars who had just started college and to see their excitement to serve. I was happy to extend the Elks Family to a new generation of scholars. It seems to have been successful, as I have seen many of them participating on service trips since!

I would encourage every Elks scholar to participate in any of the upcoming service trips. It is always rewarding to volunteer with underserviced populations, but it is even better when you can do it with a group of amazing individuals. You will make a difference in a community, make lifelong friends, and get involved with your Elks Family. Truly a win-win-win.


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