The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks is dedicated to service in communities across the country. One of the many areas of involvement with Elks nationwide is to honor and serve our veterans.  The Order has a long tradition of service to our veterans through support and honor. To keep those traditions active, the Milford Elks can be seen marching in Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day parades, holding annual Flag Day ceremonies, replacing flags on veterans’ graves, and to providing with aid, comfort, and support when needed.

To that end, the Milford Elks Lodge #1589 recently applied for and were awarded a grant from the Elks National Foundation, known as the Gratitude Grant.  The Foundation offers this grant to a select number of local Elks Lodges every year who meet the per-member giving goal for our Elks National Foundation. The grant can be used for an active service project within the community.

This past Monday, members of Milford Elks Lodge #1589 used the Gratitude Grant to benefit Homes for the Brave, a non-profit in Bridgeport which provides aid to homeless veterans. Members of the Milford Lodge came together to cook and served a chicken parmesan dinner to the residents.  The 39 residents of Homes for the Brave, and 10 residents of Female Soldiers Forgotten Heroes, each received a gift card to Walmart to be used for hygiene products and other necessities.  Finally, the Lodge purchased a high-quality, commercial printer for the Homes for the Brave computer lab where residents apply for jobs, print out resumes and cover letters, and take basic courses.

Rob Muoio, the Lodge’s Exalted Ruler, and a former veteran himself, was thrilled to have this opportunity.  “I have seen some of the hardships our veterans endure,” he said.  “It’s easy to take the simple things in life for granted. I feel it’s my duty as an American to do what I can to help our veterans when they struggle with things we all take for granted sometimes-a roof over our heads, hot meals to nourish us, and basic needs to get us through our days. It was a great idea for our Lodge to use the Gratitude Grant to benefit these much deserving veterans and I’m proud of our entire Lodge for their hard work, dedication, and continued commitment to our service men and women and our veterans.”

Rob’s wife, Sarah Muoio, agreed.  “I think when you see a need with veterans, in particular, you are drawn to go out and do something to help. How do you thank someone who has sacrificed months and years of their lives serving our country? It’s difficult to see these brave men and women struggle to get the support they need. But it’s great to have the resources to show them how much we all care about them.”

Lodge Secretary, Lisa Murray, along with her husband Peter, a Trustee, also participated.  “It was such an honor to give back to these men and women who gave so much for our country,” Lisa said.   “I really feel like we got as much out of this experience as they did.  It was more than just a meal.  We showed them that there are people out there that care, want to hear their stories, and do a little something to help them get back on their feet.”

Homes for the Brave provides both permanent and supportive housing programs.  The programs aim to help service men and women, who have experienced homelessness, return to productive, meaningful lives.  The programs assist them with finding safe, stable, permanent housing, increased income, and greater self-determination.  The programs include vocational training, job placement services, life coaching, case management, access to community services, and computer training.

Vince Santilli, director of the Homes of the Brave, had this to say about the project: “All of us at HFTB are thrilled by the amazing visit of the Milford Elks, Caring with Grace, and Anthony's Army-they served up an incredible meal on a sweltering night, distributed gift cards to the residents, and presented a beautiful new color printer to HFTB. Can't wait for your next visit!!!!”

Please visit www.homesforthebrave.org or www.milfordelks.com for further information on these organizations.