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Grant makes big community impact

The Florence Elks Lodge No. 1020 in Florence, S.C., was recently awarded a $10,000 Impact Grant by the Elks National Foundation. The money will be used to support an afterschool woodworking program called "Building a Better Future."

The "Building a Better Future" team includes (from left) John Fitz, Scot Garber, Dave Mioduski, Scotty Enzor, Steve Schulman, Ed Bennett, Randy Oswalt, Jerry Hatcher and Kim Baggett (not shown).

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The Florence Lodge is one of 49 recipients nationwide to receive an impact grant this year. The grants range from $2,500 to $10,000. Impact grants are the newest addition to the Elks National Foundation's Community Investments Program. They are competitive grants designed to help Elks make a difference in their community.

Florence lodge member Steve Schulman discussed the progress and implementation of the student woodworking project. He said lodge members decided to use the grant money to reach out to at-risk children of middle-school age. Elks members are serving as mentors while providing learning opportunities and teaching community-building skills.

"Seventh and eighth-grade students are entering a very impressionable stage of their adolescent lives. We are hoping this project will not only be a fun way for students to learn new skills, but will also provide a unique opportunity to steer kids away from the trappings of drug use. During the six to eight weeks of woodworking classes, we hope the students will gain enough interest for them to pursue a career in the construction industry or simply enjoy the craft for recreation."

Members spent the grant money on the purchase of a trailer, which they turned into a mobile shop. They also purchased a generator, air compressor, hand and power tools, and materials to create portable worktables with vices.

The program debuted in April at Sneed Middle School in Florence, where students built a birdhouse. Lessons are based on the book, "Woodshop 101 for Kids" by Craig Stevens. Additional sessions will be held throughout this school year and into the fall.

In addition to helping children, Schulman says that the Elks will make an ongoing use of the fully equipped trailer to help construct wheelchair ramps for Lighthouse Ministries of Florence, a national charitable organization that provides assistance to local needy families.

"We will design the ramps, lay them out and build them at no charge, and Lighthouse Ministries supplies the wood. Together, we're helping people in the community."

Contact: Elks National Foundation, 2750 N. Lakeview Ave., Chicago, IL 60614. Tel: 773-755-4954.

This article originally appeared in the May 2010 issue.

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