BY MARY WICOFF
DANVILLE — Some homeless veterans can sleep better at night, thanks to the efforts of the Danville Elks Lodge 332.
The local group applied for a Freedom Grant from the Elks National Foundation, and received $1,500 to help the homeless program at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System.
With part of that money, the group bought two mattresses, two box springs and two sets of frames, as well as sheets, blankets and other bedding.
Recently, two Elks representatives loaded the items onto a VA truck at This is It Furniture, and the cargo was driven to Springfield to be used in its homeless program. The Springfield Vet Center and community-based clinic are part of the Illiana System.
About $900 remains in the Elks fund to help the homeless, and so, more will be done, said Mike Gerrib, leading knight at Lodge 332 and coordinator of the program to help the homeless.
“No veteran should be homeless,” Gerrib said. “I have a soft spot for veterans.” He served in the Air Force, while his father and son served in the Navy.
“We do what we can to help the veterans,” said Don Luebbers, exalted ruler at the Elks.
The grant that the Elks received has to be used to buy items to help people; the lodge can’t just give out the money. The mattresses, box springs and frames were bought at This is It Furniture, which stored the items until they could be picked up. The store also gave the Elks sale prices on the furniture.
Local Elks members contribute to the national foundation, which is the second biggest scholarship foundation (second to the U.S. government) in the country. The foundation provides more than $3.64 million in college scholarships each year through its three scholarship programs.
Locally, the Elks support programs such as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and the We Can Do Anything Club at Danville High School, and others.
“We fund local charitable organizations,” Luebbers said.
In addition, the Elks sponsor bingo every first Sunday of the month at the Danville VA, and also contribute money to help with funeral expenses, when needed.
Another project is the VA’s annual “stand down,” where items, such as clothing, are given to veterans. The Elks help with that event, and try to make sure veterans are registered with the VA system so they can receive more help.
Luebbers said the Elks is a non-profit group that promotes Americanism and service to veterans, children and others in need.
Also helping with the recent loading of items at This is It Furniture were Rick Dailey with the Illinois Patriot Guard and Lloyd Miller with the American Legion.
For more information about the Elks, visit its website http://www.elks.org.
For information about the VA’s homeless program, contact Coordinator Jennifer Gerrib at 554-5679 or visit http://www.va.gov/homeless. The National Homeless Veteran Hotline is (877) 424-3838.