As so many of us were, I was deeply concerned by the recent alarming article by Brother Dave Rosenberg, our Past Grand Master, describing the precipitous decline of our beloved Order – Independent Order of Odd Fellows, giving us the picture and the numbers showing the sharp reduction in Odd Fellows Membership and Lodges over the past few decades. I trust that his thoughtful letter is a wake-up call to all who love our Fellowship, by implicitly, but firmly pointing out that THE IOOF MAY BE DYING ON OUR WATCH!
At the risk of being labeled as Rita and her 3 Rs, I must say that are some things that all of us who are committed to the Odd Fellows and its Mission must understand and vigorously undertake in response.
Recognition – Although we may be warmed and comforted by the fellowship and camaraderie we experience in our respective Lodges, we must recognize the overall trend for the IOOF is pointing us toward irrelevance in our communities and possible extinction. Put another way, that while we may be relaxed and cozy on a cruise in our individual state rooms, the ship is taking on water at an alarming rate! And we must recognize and accept that each of us must energetically take part in turning this dreadful trend around.
Recruitment – Every Odd Fellows Lodge that is to survive must have a high-priority Recruitment Program led by a high-energy, can-do, Member who has the full support of the Lodge. This Recruitment Program will encompass a Plan with Goals, Schedule, Events, Budget, and adequate staffing. The recruiting effort should target specific high-potential targets, individuals in life transitions, such as recent retirees, recent military discharges, recent graduates, new Americans, the newly divorced, newly bereaved, and newly arrived residents. Potential members will only seldom walk through our doors unbidden. No, we must go out and get them.
Retention – Obviously, energetic recruitment alone will not save us if we do not retain the members, their presence and active participation, by those members we have obtained from recruitment as well as those Brothers and Sisters that we already have. That means that those of us that are pledged to work for the survival of our Home Lodge and our international Order must work to make our Lodges inviting, comfortable and relevant to newcomers and old-timers alike. This may include up-grading and up-dating our Halls and their facilities, revising our programs and procedures, perhaps refreshing the look, feel, and content of the Lodge and its activities. Possibly of even greater importance, each of us must make a particular effort, perhaps just as a one-person welcoming committee, if required, to engage and embrace new members or candidates, to integrate them into the life and spirit of the Lodge, so that our words of FRIENDSHIP and LOVE are seen to be our TRUTH, and so that quickly our Fellowship, becomes their Fellowship too. This assertive out-reach should apply to members that are drifting away, who no longer seem to need the fellowship of the Lodge. Find out how we can make the Odd Fellows relevant and rewarding to them again, and see what we can do about it.
The Odd Fellows organization must be saved, and can be saved, but it will require the well-considered collective effort of the individual members of our endangered Fellowship. Who wants to be part of this noble effort to keep alive the message of Friendship, Love and Truth ?
There is no Lodge in North America that is more active than the Davis Lodge. We do 95% of our work through our various committees. And we have more committees than any other Lodge – currently at 55 committees, and growing. Committees can be divided into three categories: Social Activity Committees which provide a social and fraternal ingredient primarily for members and pledges (for example, the Club Night Committee, Odd Bowling Committee, St Patrick’s Day Party Committee, etc.); Community Serving Committees which focus on service and support to the community outside of the Lodge (for example, the Adopt-a-Highway Committee, the Bingo Committee, the Community Support Committee, etc.); and Operational Committees which are focused on the internal operations of the Lodge (for example, the Finance Committee, the Bylaws Committee, the Membership & Initiation Committee, etc.).
There are a fair number of our committees that overlap these three general categories – for example, the New Year’s Eve Party Committee, the Music and Concerts Committee, and the Chocolate Festival Committee, and others, are both Social Activity and Community Serving Committees. And finally, some of our committees are very active, some are just forming, and some are not very active at all (waiting for members to step up and take charge and resurrect them). New committees can always be formed (for example, we just formed a Ping Pong Committee and the new ping pong table is being delivered to the Lodge this week) if members have an interest, subject to the approval of the Noble Grand.
At the request of the Lodge and the Noble Grand, the Membership & Initiation Committee has compiled a list of our 55 Committees and presents this list, below. We do this so that YOU can find out more information about our committees. You are invited to contact Noble Grand Stewart Savage or Chair of the Membership & Initiation Committee Dave Rosenberg if you are interested in joining a committee or if you want more information about a committee. We will be happy to connect you to the Chair or Co-Chair of the committee or make sure your inquiries are answered. Many of our committees could use new members! For example, our Bingo Committee is always looking for new members to train and to run our once-per-month Bingo for the community.
- Here is the list of the Davis Lodge Committees, and a brief explanation of each Committee’s function. Currently, the Lodge has 55 Committees, as follows:
- Adopt-a-Highway – Once per month or every two months cleanup of a 1-mile stretch of Hwy 113, near Davis.
- Bell Ringing – Once per year during the Christmas holiday, the committee organizes a bell-ringing team for the Salvation Army.
- Bingo – Once per month on the second Sunday, this committee puts on Bingo at the Lodge for the public, with proceeds going to a charity or community group.
- Breakfast with the Bunny – Breakfast and crafts and an egg hunt is provided to 100 children during the Easter holiday, and the kids get to meet “The Bunny.”
- Breakfast with Santa – In December this committee organizes breakfast with “Santa” for 360 children and parents.
- Bylaws – This committee reviews and processes any changes to our Bylaws, as requested.
- Children’s Sunday Movie Matinee – Movies for children are shown once every month or two, free and open to the public.
- Chocolate Festival – An annual November fundraising event at the Lodge featuring all things chocolate, with vendors, demonstrations, food and drink.
- Cigar Lounge – Cigar enthusiasts gather once a month to smoke fine cigars and discuss issues of the world.
- Classic Film Festival – Twice each year (in the Spring and in the Winter) this committee shows a trilogy of classic films on Sunday evenings, free and open to the public.
- Club Night – Weekly social gathering on Thursday nights at the Lodge with food, drink and trivia, open to members, pledges and their guests.
- Community Support – This committee meets by e-mail to consider requests from community groups for co-hosted events, purchase of tickets and donations.
Communications & Website – Runs our Lodge website and is involved with internal Lodge communications.
- Finance – Once or twice each year, audits the Treasurer and Financial Secretary of the Odd Fellows Lodge.
- FLT (Fine Liquor Tasting) – This new committee is organized by those who enjoy the tasting of fine spirits.
- Gaming Committee – Once each week this committee organizes gaming nights at the Odd Fellows Lodge.
- Good Fellowship – This committee organizes occasional fun events for the members, such as wine country trips.
- Golf – This committee caters to those members who wish to golf on local courses, typically once per month weather permitting.
- Halloween Party – Organizes the yearly October Halloween Party at the Lodge with costumes and music.
- Historical – In charge of historical displays and historical items at the Lodge.
- Holiday Caroling – Once each year during the Christmas Holiday, this committee goes caroling to a local Senior facility.
- Homeless Assistance – This committee considers ways we can help the homeless.
- Horseshoe Throwing – For those who like to occasionally toss horseshoes, this committee is a must.
- Installation & Awards Banquet – This committee organizes the annual installation and awards banquet, held in January.
- Lodge Anniversary – This committee will organize our annual “birthday” of the Lodge (the month we were chartered), which occurs in April.
- Movie Matinee – This committee meets on the 4th Tuesday of the month to view a film at a local movie house.
- Membership & Initiation – This committee is in charge of membership development and the Pledge program.
- Music & Concerts – Organizes music venues at the Lodge, including the monthly Thursday Live! held on the second Thursday of every month.
- New Year’s Eve Party – Organizes the annual “New Year’s Eve” party held on December 31 -January 1 with music, food and drink, open to the public.
- Odd Bowling – Those who enjoy to bowl join this committee – with monthly bowling outings.
- Odd Needle Craft – Experienced or amateur needle workers flock to this committee and their monthly meetings, second Monday of every month.
- OddtoberFest – Organizes the annual OddtoberFest at the Lodge in the Fall.
- Photography – In charge of taking photos at Lodge events for publication.
- Picnic Day Float – Plans and builds our annual float for entry in the Picnic Day Parade, in April – busy building schedule January to April.
- Picnic Day Breakfast – Organizes the annual Picnic Day Breakfast at the Lodge in April, open to the public.
- Ping Pong – A new committee, dedicated to those who like table tennis.
- Publicity – In charge of advertising and publicizing our Lodge events.
- Running with the Turkeys – Once a year run/walk event in Woodland during Thanksgiving.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast – This committee plans and cooks our 2nd Saturday breakfast at the Lodge, every month.
- Scholarship – This committee has a budget and can provide scholarships to deserving members/children/grandchildren.
- Senior Project – This committee helps frail seniors with projects in their homes, as needed.
- Social Services – Assists those in need, particularly those with mental illness, and assists at the Food Bank.
- Sports – Members of this committee go to local and regional sporting events every month.
- St. Patrick’s Day Party – Organizes the annual St. Patrick’s Day party in March, with food and drink.
- Talent Show – Organizes an annual “talent show” of members, displayed during club night.
- Team Bald-fellows – Once each year, shaves heads to raise money for cancer research.
- Take a Hike – For those who enjoy to hike, this committee organizes monthly treks, weather permitting.
- Taste of Davis – Our big annual April fundraiser at the Lodge, featuring food and drink for the public.
- Texas Hold ’em Tournament – A new committee which will organize a poker tournament in the Fall of 2018.
- Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner – Another new committee that will organize an annual Thanksgiving Potluck dinner at the Lodge.
- Theater – This committee travels to local venues to enjoy theater and shows.
- Vice Grand’s Visitation – Organized by the Vice Grand, this committee schedules visits to other Odd Fellows Lodges.
- Visiting – This committee is in charge of visiting members who are sick or in distress, or sends flowers and plants.
- Wine Club – This committee organizes monthly wine tasting gatherings at the homes of members.
- Zymurgy – Those interested in the art of brewing beer will enjoy this committee.
F – L – T
Chair, Membership & Initiation Committee
Davis Odd Fellows Lodge #169
Many years ago, if one wanted to join the Odd Fellows, one had to show many traits: first, of course, one had to be male; even further one had to be a white male; one had to profess one’s religious preference; and lastly, an aspect fewer members know, one had to be gainfully employed or own one’s own business. Yet, curiously, our order was much more populous at that time than it is now. Of course, the world at large has changed. Racism, Sexism, Religious Bigotry are no longer accepted practices by rational individuals. But, what about the last point, the part about being gainfully employed? What caused that to change? We often attribute the diminishing of all fraternal groups to a few factors, specifically; radio, television and other electronic media, more established communities with better security for its population, and more modern ways to occupy oneself in a diminishing space for relaxation, but there is another one we rarely discuss. Namely, Social Security.
Because the age of our average member has increased, to over 70 years of age, almost all our members now receive Social Security. It is so important to the aged, that in politics, it is known as the “Third Rail” of debate, in other words, undebatable, unassailable, intrinsic to retirement of 90% of all American citizens. What this tells you, then, is several factors: first, that most people live receiving a fixed income, second, that living on a fixed income forces one to realize that one must live paying what is hopefully a fixed expense, and lastly, that the correlation between one’s income and one’s expense must have a correlation that is positive to that person’s retirement.
Thanks to Social Security and other government programs such as disability insurance, unemployment compensation, and more, our citizens enjoy a safety net to some extent. Inadequate, to be sure, but it is a net that did not exist 100 years ago when our order was larger. One of the well-known reasons our order was so big at that time, was that the ordinary lodge, particularly, lodges that resided in hard and challenging areas such as gold country, were the sustenance in almost the entirety of a member’s existence, not only did it educate them (many lodges had lending libraries), feed them (many also served daily breakfasts), offer security (most prominent citizens were members), house many of the children (Rebekah Children’s Services was originally an orphanage), and bury them (bury the dead). The times have made fraternal groups less central to people’s lives. We have some lodges, that I feel are on the precipice of closure (after being open for over 150 years) mainly because they now do nothing whatsoever for their members. Even the IRS with their description of fraternal groups would agree that lodges that now do nothing whatsoever for their members have ceased to be functioning fraternal groups. Conversely, it can be easily illustrated that a member who once benefited from a lodge setting in one way or another, and now gets nothing for being a member, and lives on a fixed income sees nothing but expense in being a member that now shows that member nothing but contempt.
Lastly, as if to plunge the knife in to the hilt, our order in its wisdom has decided to request more dues from its members who live on fixed incomes. I have spoken to some affluent members who say, what is $5.00 per year? Sure, it does not seem like much, at first, but SGL is looking for a $5.00 increase yearly for five years for both the Odd Fellows and the Rebekahs, so that figuring many belong to both, in five years, this would be a $50 increase yearly, and for what, exactly? What benefit does a member receive for being a member, when sustenance, security, burial, education, and even the modicum of care recedes from one’s view? In the normal world, when one is offered something one must question what benefit will I personally receive? If we have failed to even answer this simple question, our order is surely not going to last much longer.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
An article on the front page of the September 27, 2017, edition of the Wall Street Journal caught my eye. You might find it interesting. It was all about the slow diminishing in membership of the American Legion (an organization for veterans of the armed forces) and how some of the newer members of American Legion Post 43 are changing the perception of the legion. Here are some of the salient parts of the article:
“Here are words not often seen together in a sentence: American Legion and cool.
The young guns who have seized control of American Legion Post 43 are trying to fuse them together in the minds of a new generation of combat veterans . . . .
The American Legion has an image problem. Though the group is immersed in good works, its name summons visions of crotchety vets nursing beers in linoleum-floored posts. An ‘old-timey funny-hat club.’
At one California Legion convention, [one of the new members stated that he] was aghast the program mostly featured ads for hospices and cemeteries. [The member stated that the message was] ‘Welcome to the American Legion – prepare to die.’
There was little effort to make the Post a social center.”
Well, it should. This article could very well be talking about Odd Fellowship. There are Odd Fellows and Rebekah Lodges where the average age of members hovers around 70, and where a major item of discussion is the ubiquitous agenda item: Members Sick and in Distress. The Masons run hospitals for children. Odd Fellowship is an organization which, at the Sovereign Grand Lodge level, favors the Arthritis Foundation and Visual Research. We own cemeteries.
The new members of American Legion Post 43 set a goal of doubling membership. The meeting hall was completely renovated. They ratcheted up the social aspects – trying new things like Karaoke nights and comedy nights, forming running clubs and shooting clubs. They started a website so that vets could join by clicking any paying dues by credit card. The results were amazing. The number of new members who joined did not just double – it increased ten-fold.
Declining membership is a challenge faced not just by the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, but by most lodges, organizations and clubs. Men and women in 2017 have different challenges than men and women in 1917. Organizations that recognize this simple fact, and reinvent themselves, will thrive in the new Century. Organizations that fail to recognize this will continue the steady decline in membership. And a steady decline can only end one way . . . .
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
This past August, many of us from the state of California made the trip to our Sovereign Grand Lodge, meeting in St. Louis, MO. One of the remarkable things about our order is the constant renewal of friendship with those we know, and new members we meet. Sovereign Grand Lodge Sessions are full of get togethers for various committees and branches of the order. The proceedings handbook is very informative as to membership counts, assets, liabilities, and many other facets of our order. One of the first steps we all must take in revising our order and moving forward is to not do so blindly. When a member is present at a convention, it is difficult if not impossible to imagine the scope of a jurisdiction. Of course, this can be a good thing, because no jurisdiction should be treated less than any other.
On the negative side, there are several things almost all in attendance take note of, but is difficult to change without universal support. For example, unlike our own Grand Lodge Sessions, at Sovereign Grand Lodge, all legislation is discussed primarily in committees outside of sessions, and then only voted on in sessions. The problem with this is that the Sovereign Grand Representatives often have an incomplete and generally inaccurate view of the legislation. Of course, the glaring example of this fact came this year in the form of the increase of our Per Capita. The finance committee did give a report on the need for the raise, but many felt that the premise for the raise was not explained sufficiently. Sadly, although the initial request of a $5.00 increase yearly for 5 years was voted down, the amended request for a $5.00 increase yearly for 2 years passed. Some representatives seemed to feel that this was apparently an acceptable modification, but I personally felt that in a way we were being fed the same slow poison, just because it could easily be amended next year.
Also, the ugly reality of our order, is that while our own state is now growing, other states are shrinking, and some are shrinking fast. There are a multitude of reasons for this; specifically, a largely elderly membership, adherence to tired ritual dress and behaviors, ignorance of an outside changing world, and many other easily proven facts, but the results bear the facts out just by the virtue of the membership lists. The real problem with this is the order is becoming a convoluted quagmire, guided just as much by representatives of failing states as those in successful ones. The state of California, with some 4,000 members, has the same representation at SGL as states with less than 200 members! California presented legislation that would remedy this, but unfortunately, this failed, even though I felt it was imperative to speak on this issue. To be blunt (and I did seem to get agreement on this from many) without change representation will soon sink even more. We need to revamp this but also need to realize that no one wants to lose representation, while ensuring that larger jurisdictions receive at least more equal representation. I did take the opportunity to discuss this with Brother Terry Barrett, Sovereign Grand Secretary, and I am happy that he also is in favor of a modification of representation. He has written a new piece of legislation for next year, that may pass. What will help it pass will be to include other larger jurisdictions receiving more representation as well.
In August, there was seemingly very smart legislation presented via the jurisdiction of California to the representatives of SGL, to increase the number of representatives for every jurisdiction, but it was defeated. This would have been at no additional cost to SGL, and each jurisdiction would have had the option of adding more representatives to SGL, thus reducing the workload on the same existing representatives. Either they believed the workload was getting lighter each year and there was no need to have additional reps or they were happy with the year-by-year reduced numbers. In 2016, there were 119 reps. In 2017, there were only 113 reps and Sovereign Grand Lodge predicted further decreases.
The number has steadily declined and is on the same pace as the rest of the Order. Twenty minutes after the representatives voted not to increase the number of representatives, a gentleman (a rep), whom I shall not name, came to the mic and stated that each committee was so busy they could not find the time to attend other committee meetings and collaborate in discussing legislation which is assigned to multiple committees. He stated they lacked the time available because the committees were too busy. Here’s a thought! Perhaps with the added reps, the workload would have been reduced. What a concept!
As I have written in previous messages, the idea of having legislation sit dormant for nearly two years because it deals “with the almighty code” or the “sacred Ritual” is ridiculous. It is an outdated scheme to affect needed change and to keep up – I mean CATCH UP – with what changes we must make to save this Order. There have been plenty of suggestions and presented legislation to modernize and to move forward to grow this Order, but it gets killed primarily because of the delaying mechanism utilized to present items for a vote. Why this self-imposed “laying over of bills”? Why not an immediate, same session approval or disapproval? These methods of delaying allow prejudicial influences to kill important legislation and rarely works in favor of passing any changes.
The recent dues increase, which every member has a right to speak against or in favor, as it personally affects our pocket books, is one of the worst votes by a misinformed group of representatives we have ever seen. If one reads the legislation, the dues increase is nothing but a punishment on the membership, for not growing the Order. It is also a steep increase to many members, a total of $10.00 for two years. Then, the Rebekahs were included in this retaliatory measure as well, as they must pay $10.00 over a two-year period, too! Furthermore, no Rebekahs were given an opportunity to come to the mic and speak on the matter. They probably didn’t even know that it was on for a vote. But, their dues were arbitrarily increased as well. If a member belongs to both the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, which many do, that equates to a $20.00 increase. For our members who are retired or on limited incomes or those simply having a tough time financially, this can be a burden. The fact that the Finance Committee for the SGL could not respond to what the money would be used for, when called upon during the discussion of the increase, should have been a red-flag to anyone and everyone in the room. The fact that SGL did not need the money, as is evident in the bill, should have been a red-flag. So, what happens to the money? Who does it go to? How is it going to be spent? We can’t believe most of the reps voted on something without knowing where the money was going or where it was going to be used. Well, perhaps given the method in which legislation is discussed behind closed doors, presented in a slight of hand manner, and then passed without adequate discussion, we can believe it.
Brothers and sisters, we must open our eyes and be aware of what is going on around us. We must be more progressive in our thoughts and ideas to save this wonderful Order. Some of us have been working for the Order for a very long time. We want to see it go on for another 200 years. If we are not more attentive to bad legislation, backroom dealings, and fiscal irresponsibility this Order may not survive.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Peter Sellars and Rick Boyles