The Elks Love Kids of Character Impact Grant project continues to push the Vero Beach Elementary (VBE) School students forward. Their wampum reward system has been a driving force behind the school’s success in getting the students on track for positive behavior by raising the awareness that character counts and getting good grades are important for success. Teachers are using the wampum reward system in the classroom to redirect behavior and focus.

Students are rewarded for good grades, politeness, sharing, following directions, focus and good behavior. The lodge goal has been to help the school with behavior problems, morale and grades by funding their positive-behavior store, named Elks Love Kids of Character Store, with meaningful rewards that also help struggling households by providing school supplies, engaging toys and snacks.

Project Manager Michele Klager displays new 2017 uniforms

The Impact Grant also provides 200 free uniforms for underprivileged students. This school has 90% of its population living in poverty. The lodge feels the children are victims of circumstance and new uniforms lift their spirits to do well and take the financial pressure off the parents struggling to pay bills.

In May 2017, they added free books to the program. Books are a rare commodity in a household where money is tight. The Elks collect children’s books at the lodge and distribute them to the children as they exit the store. This year they have collected and distributed over 300 children’s books so far.

This is the Lodge’s third Impact Grant and they are finally seeing significant results:

• Grades have gone up in math 16% and 10% in reading this year.

• Behavior has improved; there is an overall 92% decrease from last year.

• The school grade is now rated a high C; three years prior it was rated F.

• Teachers were leaving the school because of behavior issues but now they are staying.

• Elk volunteers are really stepping up to help the school more than ever.

• Students know the community cares about them because of this program.

• Morale is up and students like coming to school.

Since the school store opened one month late 2017 due to Hurricane Irma and Shoe Carnival picked up the price of buying the homeless kids sneakers for school, we had a little surplus in the grant fund budget. With blessings from Elks National Foundation, this surplus was used to purchase 56 Walmart Gift Cards valued at $25 each for every child from VBE living at the Hope for Families Shelter for Christmas. Christmas cards were written out and signed from the Vero Beach Elks.

Photo caption from left to right: Helping to distribute the gift cards are Kathi Karinja &Margaret Hearndon – from Vero Beach Elementary, Michele Klager from the Vero Beach Elks, Debra Catapano from the Hope for Families Center homeless family shelter.

As part of our Elks initiative to promote patriotism, 4th and 5th graders signed Christmas cards again to our soldiers serving in Afghanistan. They were sent to our troops as part of our Cookies for Soldiers program in December.

In January, 2018 at VBE we will be teaching a baking cookie class with 4th Graders one period a week. Remaining cookies will be shipped to our soldiers.

Our Lodge’s “Elks Love Kids of Character” community improvement project at VBE, has again been chosen to be funded for a 4th year with a $10,000 Impact Grant for 2018. Congratulations to all!  Pictured below left to right are: Michele Klager-Project Manager, Flo Synenko, Linda Bigelow, Cindy Emerson-Vero Beach Elementary Principal, Paul Diaz-Exalted Ruler, Rachel Morrey-Vero Beach Elementary Assistant Principal, Pat Diaz, Kathi Miller and Deb Stuller.

We have a lot to be thankful for this year, but most of all, a lot to be proud of.

For background information on how this project got started see these posts from our website: