The way Wayne Brown and his fellow Arlington Elks Lodge members see it, they're only doing what should be done.
"There's a lot of down-and-out veterans these days, and many end up homeless and in desperate need," said Brown, a member of the lodge's recently formed veterans committee. "We need to show our support and be there for them. After all, they were there for us."
The Arlington Elks Lodge has recently made a concerted effort to do more for veterans, fellow committee member Duke Lane said. For example, a recent fundraiser at Arlington Elks Lodge No. 2114 raised more than $8,000. The event was planned and staffed by the veterans committee.
The funds will be combined with grants from the National Elks organization and directed to veteran support projects during the year.
The event included a dinner, musical entertainment by local artist Trey Houston and auctions. Among the highlighted auction items were a laptop, deer feeder, round of golf for four at Tierra Verde, a day at Lone Star Park for four and a power tool set.
"We had at least 30 to 35 local restaurants contribute as well," said Tom Kacor, co-chairman of the veterans committee. "Based on the success, it's something we think will continue. It certainly exceeded our expectations."
Brown said the evening "truly demonstrated the Elk motto 'Elks Care. Elks Share.' The national association gives us a grant here or there, but it's not enough to do all that's needed."
Brown said the funds will be used to support projects that will provide entertainment, personal care, daily necessities and other conveniences to local veterans in need.
A couple of the more popular programs the Lodge does is create camping kits and welcome home kits. The former provides items such as hygiene products, sunblock, etc. to homeless veterans. The latter helps veterans get settled in a new home they might have gotten from a Veterans Administration loan and includes toiletries and other necessities.
"Even though they are moving in, they often don't have a lot of the things they need," Lane said.
Another program, Brown said, is Bicycles for Vets, in which veterans receive rebuilt bicycles.
"We have access to a guy who's pretty good at refurbishing bikes, and a lot of vets are asking for bikes," he said.
The big difference between now and before, Lane said, is the concerted effort to recruit people for a specific committee. While the Elks have long helped veterans, he said they are now asking more members to focus on that specific task.
"The focus now is reaching out and getting more people, and as a result we've gone from three to 26 doing things for veterans now," Lane said. "It was a matter of finding out who wanted to help.
"I think people are generally shy. It's like being at a new job. You meet people, but you don't usually get up and start a bowling league or softball team. The people who have been there a while come up to you and ask you to be a part, and that's what we did."
Brown added with a smile, "Unfortunately, the committee didn't come with a budget, so we're doing what we can. This fundraiser was our first step out of the box, and we are very pleased."
Kacor said the need to assist veterans continues to rise because there are simply more veterans now.
"If you look at the last 30 years or so, we've been involved in quite a few military activities around the globe," he said. "They haven't been galactic conflicts among the super powers, but there have been quite a few skirmishes and we've been involved."
In addition to the fundraiser, the Lodge holds various functions for veterans throughout the year, including several veterans patients day out events where they come for food, fun and play the nearby par-3 golf course. The remaining ones for this year are June 6, July 11 and Aug. 1. And, there's always simply visiting veterans and spending time with them, Lane said.
"Many don't have families. They tend to not be the elite, or in the 1 percent, and a lot are in long-term care," he said. "And I think the homeless segment is more than it used to be, at least it seems that way. Either way, they need us."