Elks accept Army of Hope challenge
By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Sometimes cleaning up around the house after a long and hard winter can take weeks.
And it would have taken Barbie Bertschy weeks to spiff things up around her house on Huntly Road in Niles this spring if the Niles Elks hadn't been challenged by their Michigan Grand Lodge to take part in the "Army of Hope."
The "Army of Hope" challenge basically means as long as U.S troops are deployed in the Middle East, Elks around the country will be challenged by their Grand Lodges and encouraged to help families while a family member is deployed.
In Barbie's case, it's her husband, Leon Bertschy, a major in the Marine Corps, Engineer Company B., based in South Bend, Ind., who is currently deployed somewhere in the Middle East.
Tom Smith, a Niles Elks Royal Knight and "Army of Hope" spring clean-up organizer, said the Elks are just trying to give something back for the sacrifices the Bertschy family has already made while Leon is away.
Saturday, several Niles Elks members cleaned up Barbie's yard, fixed her fence, trimmed her fruit trees and mowed the lawn on the family's two-acre property.
Barbie, who has lived on Huntly Road with her husband and two sons for three and a half years, said she realizes the family lives in a great community.
She was surprised to learn the Niles Elks had chosen her as their first subject for the "Army of Hope" challenge.
But at the same time she is very appreciative.
She said if it hadn't been for the help from the Niles Elks, it would have taken her and her two boys many weekends this spring to fix things up around the house.
Among the clean-up volunteers were David Fish, a St. Joseph High School student.
But Barbie wasn't the only one appreciative of the help they received.
Her son, Alex Bertshcy, a Ring Lardner Middle School student, was just as happy to have someone come and help pick up sticks and clean up around his house.