HERMISTON - The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States announced a plan to assist families who have a father or mother called to active duty with the military reserves or the Oregon National Guard.

The Army of Hope is a work force of carpenters, electricians, mechanics, plumbers, doctors, accountants, teachers and other professional people and tradesman mobilized by the Elks.

"We are just now setting up," said Jim Kraack, past exulted ruler of the Hermiston Elks Lodge. "We know we have local people with immediate family members in the reserves and National Guard."

Elks members and volunteers across America will make minor repairs and provide professional services to keep homes functioning until their loved ones return.

"When somebody is off fighting and the plumbing breaks down, say it's a wife with two little kids, we would be able to help and save her the cost of a plumber," said Jan Kraack, Jim Kraack's wife.

The Hermiston Elks earlier this year supported families with members in all branches of the armed forces, National Guard and reserves. The lodge gave a blue star flag to people who had a son, daughter, wife or husband serving in the military. The last time the program was active was during World War II.

"The Hermiston Elks reinstated the Blue Star Flag program this year and gave out 23 flags the first go-round," Jan said. "We are up to 60 flags. That's a lot of people for this little area."

With the flag program and now the Army of Hope, the Elks are standing by their veterans 100 percent, Jan added.

"We are working on getting this (Army of Hope) off the ground here," Jim said.

Kraack and his committee will take over the local organization and volunteers in Hermiston once the Elks National Veterans Services compiles a list.

"We are trying to help keep hearth and home in place," Manning said. "We want to help those who defend. We give whatever direction we can and we want local lodges to be as innovative as they want. We want them to take this as far as they can."

Manning received a call from a lodge in Florida that has partnered with other service and community organizations to help implement the program and build a support system, he said.

"We are working to get this off the ground," Jim Kraack said. "We will take anybody who is willing to help."

To become part of the Elks Army of Hope, and to locate a nearby Elks Lodge, call Elks headquarters toll-free at (866) 355-8387.

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