Local Elks Lodge increases veteran support efforts

GREENFIELD — Mike Jack realized when he took the young man shopping, there’s a lot he takes for granted.

His shopping companion, a veteran who’d just completed a year-long program to help him overcome the underlying causes behind his homelessness, had just found an apartment of his own.

And Jack, the president of the Greenfield Elks Lodge No. 1720, helped provide him with the things he needed as he moved in: cleaning supplies, shower curtains, spatulas — whatever he needed to make it feel like home.

Veterans advocates know many things can lead to veterans finding themselves without a place to stay, from struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder to money management issues. Three efforts by the local Elks Lodge this year — free shopping trips to help ease the transition into permanent housing, a new job fair targeting veterans, and a fundraiser benefiting Hoosier veterans with disabilities and — aim to help address some of those issues.

Through the national Elks organization’s Welcome Home kit program, the local lodge is able to provide some help to veterans getting back on their feet, Jack said. He and other Elks lodge members take them shopping for home goods, where they can spend up to $200 on whatever they need, he said.

The Greenfield lodge plans to support one or two veterans a month through this program, Jack said.

Veterans will be referred by the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation of Indiana, an Indianapolis-based center that serves some 1,600 to 2,000 veterans a year, said Aaron Carmichael, vice president of advancement.

The goal of the foundation is to address the underlying causes of homelessness, whether mental illness, legal issues, money management or others play a role, and help those veterans become self-sufficient, Carmichael said.

Assistance from the local Elks in that goal is welcome, he added.

Another local cause the lodge supports is working with veterans whose disabilities keep them from working, Jack said.

The local Elks Lodge hopes to raise $5,000 with its Parade of Nickels fundraiser for disabled veterans, slated for 6 p.m. March 3 at the lodge, 820 S. State St., Greenfield. The event, which features a pulled-pork dinner and music by the Gordon Bonham band this year, costs $10 per person. Last year, the effort raised some $4,600, Jack said.

All the money raised stays in the community, providing support to veterans with disabilities, Jack said.

He loves that their fundraising through the Parade of Nickels helps people right here, and he kept that idea in mind while planning a job fair for veterans in the Hancock County area.

He wanted to make it easy for veterans to find out what’s available in the community, with one-stop shopping for those looking for work.

The Elks job fair is planned for 2 to 7 p.m. March 7 at the lodge, with the hours of 2 to 3:30 p.m. reserved for veterans only.

About a dozen employers have reserved spots at the fair so far, including area factories and other businesses, Jack said. The lodge is collaborating with WorkOne in Greenfield, a job placement agency, to coordinate the event, he said.

Hancock County veterans service officer Bob Workman will also attend the job fair, where he hopes to help any veterans looking for work or financial assistance. Workman provides assistance to vets trying to navigate the Veterans Administration healthcare system, he said.

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.