Life Lessons on Giving Back

Many of us are dreaming of getting back to things like weekend barbecues, concerts or our favorite restaurant. Carl Oken, the Voluntary Service Representative at the Castle Point VA in New York, is dreaming of getting back to his regular volunteer duties.

Carl Oken, at left, delivering supplies to the VA last year.

The Castle Point VA Medical Center is currently closed to volunteers, to help protect the veterans there. Oken is still finding ways to help though, by coordinating with recreation staff and the Volunteer Services department.  He’s still making sure the newspaper is delivered, canteen books are distributed, and veterans have the hygiene supplies they need. He’s not forgetting about other essentials like coffee and supplies for ice cream socials.

Impressed by his passion and ability to adapt, we followed up to ask why he does this work for veterans. Here’s what he said.

As a young man I would ask my parents about their volunteer activities, which included things like den mother, Little League umpire , volunteer firefighter, cooking at our house of worship or simply helping a friend going through a tough time. The answer I received was, “You need to help those who need it and thank God you don’t need it”. That’s how I learned to give back.

My “give back” is through our nation’s veterans. My dad served in the Army during the Korean War and my uncle was at Normandy and Northern Africa during WWII.

I volunteer for veterans because of the feeling you receive when a homeless Veteran is eating a hot meal, or when you sit down to share a meal with other people who don’t have a dining room table. I love being welcomed with smiles and thanks when organizing Bingo games at the VA, and being asked “Are you coming back next month?.

We have veterans throughout our communities who just need a little smile, a hello or some conversation. One hour a month can bring a veteran some cheer, relief and pleasure.

Please get out there and give back, just an hour a month for Veterans. It is so rewarding, and they need you so much.

Thank you and remember, “So long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them”.

Want to learn more about the Voluntary Service program? Visit our webpage.

Author: Elks National Veterans Service Commission Blog

Elks' stories of serving our nation's veterans.

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