DMC – What Becomes Us?

You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole, goes the old saying.

Sometimes I think that’s exactly what we are trying to do. Many of us look at charity work to somehow make us progress and grow membership, but it’s not clear that this is how charity works. Charity is admirable, to be sure, and we should all practice it, but does it help us gain members? Many will quote the Shriners and their children’s hospitals, or other fraternal groups which do acts similarly inspiring, but if you delve into the numbers in all fraternities, you will see that all groups are losing members.

Why is this? A mix of reasons, of course, but neither the rise in membership nor the decline are influenced much by charity work, unless it is, wait for it, of a directed poignancy. Why is this? Several reasons, of course, but this may be easiest borne out by looking at our history, or, in fact, almost all fraternal histories. Our order was at its biggest when it had its most direct relevance upon its own members. The problem with most modern groups, not just our fraternity, but almost all groups, is that they fail to retain relevancy. Over time, many lodges have, essentially, become groups of one socio-economic level. The lodges that retain relevance have a clear amount of influence on their members lives and are capable of growth. Lodges that fail have lost any relevance to their own members. If you the reader have never been to a failing lodge, I implore you to visit one and see for yourself. Lodges that are failing, are skeletal, full of artifacts, perhaps, but lacking in any trend in modernity. In fact, often failing lodges are a window on our past; they show photos of eras long gone and tell of groupings much larger than their composition today. Successful lodges, such as Davis, Yerba Buena, and others are practicing events modeled around today’s world. The Davis Lodge, for example, does community and charitable work based upon today, such as environmental cleaning of roadways and helping foster children who have “aged out” of the foster care system. Yerba Buena Odd Fellows Lodge, along with several other Bay Area Odd Fellows Lodges, such as Alameda and Berkeley sponsored appearances in the largest parades in the Bay Area, including, to the horror of some regressive members, the Gay Pride Parade, never mind the fact that hundreds of veterans traditionally march in the Gay Pride Parade. Many successful lodges have experienced at least a leveling of their membership by practicing diversity, not charity directly, of course, but practice of a charitable spirit.

We see that we can sustain growth by having some influence with our members. If a member among us is tired, hungry, homeless, depressed, we should feel compelled to help in some way. If we do not, how are we practicing our own mandates? Almost out of a work by Dickens, we can’t house all the homeless, feed all the hungry, lighten the load of all those depressed but those among us who are in need, physically or spiritually, should be the recipient of something relevant from our own lodge. Isn’t it tiresome to hear that another failing lodge closed without even a sign of relevance? To grow, requirement one should be to assist one’s own members in their times of need. Show a sign that we care. To me, lodges close, because first, they have made the conscious decision to fail to care. Lastly, some members look at their lodges as a profit center. This was never the point of the Odd Fellows. We must maintain our lodges, but we are also compelled by no less than the IRS code to assist our members. We are all brothers and sisters, theoretically, at least that is the pronouncement we make at every occasion.

Do any of us go home hungry, or lonely, or embittered? Then we have failed at a basic lodge level. This is not just a gesture to be extended at Christmas time, but every day within every year. Either we practice what we preach or what we preach is a lie. Membership growth is fostered by an exhibition of the human heart, nothing less. Lodges fail, and we all fail, when we fail to care about our own members. I remember when I was still new in the order and riding with another member to visit a distant lodge passing a member who had broken down in her car. We didn’t stop and help her and that has haunted me to this very day. I have no recollection why we didn’t stop, but if we fail to help a member in their moment of need, what does that say about all of us and our precepts? We are all mortal, and particularly those who profess deep religious beliefs are truly fooling themselves if they are looking for a spot in heaven while denying a crust of bread to someone we encounter on this earth.

In F., L., & T., Rick Boyles

Club Night – March 8, 2018

WHEN: Thursday, March 8, from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Lower Hall, Davis Odd Fellows Lodge.

WHO: Members and Pledges, and their Guests, are cordially invited.

WHAT: Thursday evening’s “Club Night at the Lodge” features: (1) Dinner at the Lodge. Chefs Sarun and Michael have prepared – Chicken Enchilada Casserole (there will also be a Vegetarian Alternative), Chips and Salsa, Green Salad and House-made Dressing. Just $7 per plate. Dinner will be available soon after 6:00 p.m. (2) Our Full Bar will be open with a complete selection of mixed drinks, spirits, craft beers and wines. (3) Trivia Night. Trivia Masters Kati and Kellie O’Day are on stage and will challenge you with three rounds of Trivia, with prizes for the winning tables. Trivia starts around 6:35 p.m. (4) Social Time. There will be plenty of time to chat and socialize with your Lodge mates. (5) Jigsaw Puzzles. Lea Rosenberg will supply the ever-popular jigsaw puzzles for the tables. (6) The Big-screen TV will be on with your favorite sporting event. (7) Piano Lounge. Lodge Musician Blake Temple will entertain us with some background piano music.

WHY: Club Night at the Lodge is brought to you virtually every Thursday evening – just to kick back with your Lodge mates, relax, socialize and have some fun. The Club Night Committee is chaired by Kathy Hemness and Kevin Sitz.

Club Night – March 1, 2018

Dear Odd Fellows and Pledges,

WHEN: Thursday, March 1, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. (We end Club Night a bit early so folks can go to the Upper Hall to enjoy Thursday Live!)

WHERE: Lower Hall, Davis Odd Fellows Lodge.

WHO: Members and Pledges, and their Guests, are cordially invited.

WHAT: Thursday evening’s “Club Night at the Lodge” features: (1) Dinner at the Odd Fellows Lodge. Our excellent chefs have prepared – Vegetarian Chili, Homemade Cornbread, Green Salad and House-made Dressing. Just $7 per plate. Dinner will be available soon after 6:00 p.m. (2) Our Full Bar will be open with a complete selection of mixed drinks, spirits, craft beers and wines. (3) Trivia Night. Trivia Master Kevin Sitz is on stage and will challenge you with three rounds of Trivia, with prizes for the winning tables. Trivia starts around 6:35 p.m. (4) Social Time. There will be plenty of time to chat and socialize with your Lodge mates. (5) Jigsaw Puzzles. Lea Rosenberg will supply the ever-popular jigsaw puzzles for the tables. (6) The Big-screen TV will be on with your favorite sporting event. (7) Piano Lounge. Lodge Musician Blake Temple will entertain us with some background piano music.

WHY: Club Night at the Lodge is brought to you virtually every Thursday evening – just to kick back with your Lodge mates, relax, socialize and have some fun. The Club Night Committee is chaired by Kathy Hemness and Kevin Sitz.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
For the Club Night Committee

p.s. March 1 is the first Thursday of the month, so “Thursday Live!” music is back in the Upper Hall. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. It’s open to the public and always free of charge (although donations are gratefully accepted). The show this Thursday features “Old Timey Americana” music with the very talented and popular Meredith Axelrod.

9 Steps to Help Resuscitate a Failing Lodge

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Last week I gave you 9 red flags which can serve as warning signs that an Odd Fellows Lodge (perhaps your own Lodge) is in trouble, and is in danger of expiring. This is serious stuff. Your Odd Fellows Lodge has been around for decades, in many cases for generations, and in some cases for over a century. Odd Fellows over the years have developed, have nurtured, and have grown your Lodge. They tended to the Lodge as if it were a garden. And now, your Lodge is trouble on YOUR watch. Are you going to sweep aside all that hard work of your predecessors over all those years, and just let your Lodge fade away? Of course you aren’t. But how do you even start the process of resuscitating your Lodge?

Well, I’ll be frank. It won’t be easy. If you and your Lodge mates have ignored your Lodge for years (perhaps decades) and let it fall on hard times with diminished membership, the resuscitation of your Lodge will not be accomplished easily or quickly. But it can happen. And to bring your Lodge back from the gates of oblivion is worth it. So, to help you on your journey of resuscitation, here are 9 steps to follow. They are proven methodologies which will bring your Lodge back from the brink.

1. The Lodge Retreat. A retreat is the important first step. To be successful, you must contact each and every member of your Lodge and do your best to ensure their presence at the retreat. If some members can’t attend, follow up and talk with them either personally or on the phone – and get their input. Find an appropriate place for the retreat (perhaps the home of a member), and set it up to last for at least two hours, preferably more. Invite a facilitator – if you request one, DMC will provide an appropriate facilitator to your Lodge subject to working out the details of time, date and place. The key to a Lodge retreat is to make sure that all suggestions are considered, and no one is put down or criticized. Write down the points of agreement going forward, create a “Revitalization Committee”, put someone in charge of the committee who has some clout (like the Noble Grand or the Vice Grand or a very respected member) and have this committee monitor your progress.

2. Collectively Decide the Character of Your Odd Fellows Lodge. The value of a retreat is as a starting point to determine the character and culture of your Lodge, going forward. You can’t change the past. The retreat is the present. What you can do is plan your future. Trying to plan 10 years ahead is usually not too productive; but planning for the next 3 years is realistic and achievable. Questions to answer include: What do you want your Lodge Hall to look like in 3 years? How will you encourage current members to more actively participate? How many new members do you plan to bring in over the next 3 years, and what are your strategies to do so? Other questions might involve: How to increase Lodge visibility in the community? How to improve signage at the Lodge? How to do a better job handling Lodge finances.

3. Plan on Having Some Good Times. If a boring Lodge is a dying Lodge, then an active Lodge is a thriving Lodge. We are, after all, a fraternal order. Odd Fellowship originated in the pubs and taverns of England where members could enjoy a good social life with their Lodge mates. That old-fashioned and old time connection is valuable today in our disconnected society. If your Lodge doesn’t plan some fun activities for members, and potential members, then you will be a diminished Lodge. So, plan some fun activities. And don’t be afraid to fail once or twice. Better to have failed than never to have tried.

4. Plan to Be Involved in the Community. Every Lodge must have a purpose. And that purpose has got to be more than merely reading from a red book and obtaining degrees. Virtually no one will want to join your Lodge because they can sit and recite from a book. In particular, young men and women in the 21st Century want to be active to help others in the community. If your Lodge doesn’t have at least ONE community-serving project each year, then shame on you. This is not as difficult as you may think. There are dozens of community projects your Lodge can choose from – just decide on one and do it.

5. Designate a Membership Committee. Crucial to the continued viability (if not the very existence) of a Lodge is the need to bring in new members. Without new blood – new members – to continue the work of the Lodge, the Lodge will wither away and die in time. Bringing in new members is a responsibility of every Lodge member, but every Lodge should have a Membership Committee to ensure that membership development is always a focus of the Lodge.

6. Eliminate the Bickering. Do your Lodge meetings often devolve into bickering and arguing between two or three individuals? Such meetings cause members to be uncomfortable, and eventually to stop attending. This will lead to the downfall of your Lodge, and must stopped. The best way to halt the bickering is for the Noble Grand or a respected, long-time member, to privately speak to the bickering members and ask them – kindly but forcefully – to stop the bickering or to stop attending. If this is not feasible, then the DDGM or DDP must be notified and called in to intervene.

7. Upgrade Your Gene Pool. Some Lodges have shrunk to a point where only one or two handfuls of members remain to attend meetings. This has ramifications. One of the ramifications is that the “gene pool” of talent within the Lodge has shrunk. There was a time in the past when Lodge members were the leading citizens of the community – bankers, attorneys, accountants, ranchers, business owners, mayors, even judges. There were plenty of people of talent to handle the important financial and administrative matters of the Lodge. Today, we find Lodges where that talent pool is diminished or even non-existent. This can lead to lots of problems as Lodge members cope with budgets, leases, financial statements and bank accounts. An immediate target of such a Lodge must be to bring in one or two leading citizens of the community to re-charge that gene pool of talent.

8. Clean Up Your Lodge. A Lodge that has little or no signage, is not clean, or has shabby paint, sends the image of an old and dying entity, or a place where the members don’t really care. It is uninviting. And an uninviting Lodge tells members of the public: Don’t apply here. An important step to bringing a Lodge back to life is to invest time, money and effort to cleaning up, and brightening up the Lodge.

9. Review and Evaluate. It is very important that you evaluate how your efforts are doing. Adjust and modify as needed. This evaluation should occur once a quarter, as well as annually. Your Revitalization Committee can monitor and report on progress of your Odd Fellows Lodge.

Good luck! We are rooting for you.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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