I have just returned from the California Grand Lodge Sessions held, for the first time, in Visalia – deep in the Central Valley. About 200 voting representatives attended as delegates from their Lodges from throughout California, including 11 Past Grand Masters. This was the 165th annual gathering, and as usual, it was interesting, energetic and vibrant. I would like to sketch for you some of the highlights and low-lights of the session:
* Dave Reed, from my own Lodge Davis #169, was elected as Grand Master of California for the coming term. We congratulate Dave and wish him – on behalf of all of us – a productive and active term. Also, we congratulate Mel Astrahan in his election as Deputy Grand Master, and Jamie Jepson, the newly elected Grand Warden. Three strong candidates ran for the position of Grand Warden, and Jamie was elected.
* Once again, we had a good turnout of representatives from throughout California, but on the other hand 46 of our 116 Lodges did not send even one representative. That’s 40% of our Lodges not represented. Not a good sign, and not a good trend. How can a member complain about actions of the Grand Lodge when the member’s Lodge doesn’t send a delegate to the decision-making entity? These 46 Lodges seem disconnected from the greater Order, and seem to be focused just on their own Lodge. We hope that many of these unrepresented Lodges start sending representatives in the future.
* Some great news was revealed in the report of the Grand Secretary. According to the 2016 annual reports submitted by Lodges, in 2016 Odd Fellowship in California showed a net GAIN in membership. Specifically, on January 1, 2016, our records showed 4,449 members, and on December 31, 2016, our records showed membership at 4,539. That is a net GAIN of 90 members. While 90 is not a huge number, it is an increase of about 2%, and more importantly, it is an INCREASE in membership, not a decline. Our Order has shown, since World War II, an almost constant net loss in membership. In 2016, we broke that downward spiral to show a net gain. We hope this path continues upward in the coming years. I am especially proud of this new path because it occurred in the year when I served as Grand Master for the first half and Peter Sellars served as Grand Master in the second half. My main goal as GM was focused on membership, and certainly all the work we invested in DMC was directed toward increasing membership.
* This Grand Lodge was Peter Sellars’ final act as Grand Master. He was a strong GM and he ran a fair and productive session. It was a remarkably busy session with the largest number of bills and resolutions that I have ever seen. We got through them all. I served as Parliamentarian for the session, and I was busy throughout. I have never seen so many motions to table, motions to reconsider, motions to postpone indefinitely, etc., in my life. And was the vote to be a majority vote, 2/3 vote, 3/4 vote or 4/5 vote? Notwithstanding all the parliamentary maneuvering, we got through it all. I am sure all delegates were delighted that we used electronic voting, that I had suggested three years ago, and which we have implemented with success. Without the electronic voting, we would have been in sessions for an extra day!
* There were many controversial issues before the Grand Lodge, including the requests of several Lodges to have their loans forgiven. In the end, the grand body denied all the requests, but I predict that the Grand Lodge Board of Directors will make efforts over the next few months to work with these Lodges and find ways to give them financial relief.
* The Sovereign Grand Lodge representative to sessions was Sovereign Grand Warden Doug Pittman, a generous, gracious and well-spoken gentleman. He even got into the dunking booth (a good sport, indeed) during Friday fun night, to help raise money for Odd Fellows and Rebekahs. We wish him well in his continued travels and in the coming years as he moves up the ladder. In other news, the Grand Lodge coalesced around the candidacy of Barry Prock to be elected Sovereign Grand Warden this year. We wish Barry every success as Sovereign Grand Lodge Sessions.
* The DMC event at sessions was “Friendship Evening”, which was very popular on Thursday evening at the convention center. Over 150 Odd Fellows and Rebekahs attended. I remember back 5 years ago when DMC first formed, the Grand Master would not allow us on the program or even allow our event to take place at the convention site. We had to get the word out by word of mouth, and gathered at a local Mexican restaurant. How times have changed. The good news is that the goal of DMC has become the goal of the Order – increasing membership is our imperative.
* Finally, a personal word. When I first started attended Grand Lodge Sessions about 6 or 7 years ago, I was the only one from my own Lodge to attend as a representative. This year, my Odd Fellows Lodge had 7 representatives, and my Rebekah Lodge had 3 representatives. On the Odd Fellows side, my Lodge saw several of its members elected and appointed: Dave Reed as Grand Master, Bob Schelen as Grand Chaplain, Jean-Paul Montreuil as Grand Herald, myself elected to the Grand Lodge Board of Directors, Tony Pruitt elected to the Foundation Board. On the Rebekah side, Diana Schmiegel is the new Marshal and Lea Rosenberg is the District Deputy President for District #14. This should stand as encouragement for every Lodge to start sending representatives to Grand Lodge. Much can be achieved. But, you gotta be there.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Continuing a community service begun over five years ago, Davis Encampment #21 announced today that it has provided $100 scholarships to 85 children from 39 local families. These scholarships enable the children to register for classes provided by the City of Davis Parks and Recreation staff. The classes include swim lessons, dance, week-long summer camps and family summer swim passes.
The Davis Encampment has adopted as one of its missions to facilitate and fund summer programs and summer camp experiences for children.
“We are so pleased to be able to give these families and children the opportunity to enjoy a summer experience,” said Sharla Cheney, a member of the Davis Encampment and coordinator of the scholarship program. “We wish to thank the wonderful City of Davis Parks and Recreation staff – and in particular, Administrative Operations Supervisor Christina Wood – for their work in helping families choose classes and register their children. We could not have done this without their cooperation and willingness to help.”
Davis Encampment #21 is part of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The Davis Odd Fellows were chartered in 1870, and the Davis Encampment received its charter in 1955. The Davis Odd Fellows offer four degrees to its members – the Initiatory Degree, the Degree of Friendship, the Degree of Love, and the Degree of Truth. The Encampment provides three advanced degrees of Odd Fellowship for its members – the Degree of Faith, the Degree of Hope and the Degree of Charity. Members of the Encampment are permitted to wear the purple and gold fez. There are 116 Odd Fellows Lodges in California, but only 11 Encampments, including Davis Encampment #21.
Funds for the 85 scholarships were raised through a combination of donations from members, the Odd Fellows Bingo Committee, the Odd Fellows Music Committee, Santa, and a $1,000 community donation.
The deadline to apply for scholarships in 2017 has passed and no further applications can be considered for this year. However, the Davis Encampment hopes to continue the program in 2018.
“Some of the children in our scholarship program come from families who might not be able to afford the summer experience,” said Cheney. “We would like to help as many children as we can to experience the joys of a summer program, including summer camps.”
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The 8th annual “A Taste of Davis”, organized and hosted by the Davis Odd Fellows Lodge, was another smashing success. We wish to say “thank you” to the 250 members of the public who attended and enjoyed the food, wine, beer and other culinary treats served by 20 local purveyors on both floors of the Odd Fellows Lodge Hall. We heard many positive comments and saw many satisfied smiles.
Many individuals and businesses deserve a big “thank you”.
The Purveyors of good food and beverages at this year’s Taste of Davis were: Berryessa Gap Winery, Blue Note Brewery, Bogle Vineyards, ChickPeas, Common Grounds, Davis Creamery, Gesche’s Gourmet Catering, Hunan Bar & Restaurant, Let Them Eat Cake, Maria’s Cantina, Papa John’s Pizza, Putah Creek Winery, Sudwerk, The Lodge Catering, Three Mile Brewery, Tres Hermanas, Turkovich Family Winery, Wing Stop, the Upper Crust Baking Company, and Zumapoke.
Major sponsor for the 2017 Taste of Davis was Pacific Gas & Electric Co. Super sponsors supporting the event are the Davis Enterprise (and Editor Debbie Davis and Advertising Manager Nancy Hannell) and Davis Downtown (formerly know as DDBA). Sponsors include Dawn Coder, Davis Firefighters Local 3494, Mayor Robb Davis, Beth and Bob Dovi, Stacie and Lucas Frerichs, Supervisor Jim Provenza, Sherry and Tony Pruitt, Kathy and Ted Puntillo, Lea and Dave Rosenberg, Charlene Sailer and Howie Spero, Lisa and Jesse Salinas, Diana and Paul Schmiegel, Arun Sen, Andrew Skaggs, Greg Tanner, Timmons Owens Jansen & Tichy Inc., Joyce Trujillo, University Retirement Community, Allison Zuvela.
Thank you, also, to the many Odd Fellows who volunteered their time and energy to this event: Dawn Coder, Robb White, Joyce Puntillo, Joel Mandel, Steve Lin, Nancy Schrott, Elizabeth Lasensky, Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald, Kelli O’Day, Kati O’Day, Joe Otto, Ed Lewis, Tony Pruitt, Sherry Pruitt, Robin Dewey, Amanda Maples, Danny Tomasello, Aaron Wedra, Bill Grabert, Renee Liston, Alex Saldivar, Arun Sen, Greg Tanner, Diana Schmiegel, Mary de Soto, and co-Chairs Lea and Dave Rosenberg. Thank you also to the Lodge Operations Manager Allison Vickrey and Lodge Assistant Operations Manager Daniela Gutierrez. And special thanks to the two vendors who sold tickets for us: Avid Reader Active and Common Grounds. Thank you to the Lodge webmaster and Noble Grand Stewart Savage.
Every year the Davis Odd Fellows designate a beneficiary for some of the proceeds of this event. The Elderly Nutrition Program will be the beneficiary of a financial donation this year.
This great community social event will continue. We have already chosen the date for the 9th annual “A Taste of Davis”. Mark your calendars for Thursday, April 26, 2018.
Lea and Dave Rosenberg
Taste of Davis Co-Chairs
In 2010, some seven years ago, PSGM and PGM Don Smith (now deceased), PGM Rick Boyles, and I launched “Dedicated Members for Change” (DMC) with about 30 charter members – all progressive leaders in their Lodges. I am very pleased to say that DMC has grown and prospered over the years, and now boasts an e-mail list of hundreds all across North America and even some in Europe.
We formed DMC in 2010 with one overriding purpose in mind: To focus on the need for Lodges to add members so that our Order can survive and grow. And in the seven years since it’s formation, DMC has had a laser-like focus on this subject. We have made numerous, positive and proven suggestions over the years on how Lodges can increase their membership. But ultimately, it’s not that complicated. I have often spoken about the subject and used the analogy of the three-legged stool. If all three legs are sturdy, the stool will be strong. If one leg is weak, the stool will be unsteady and will eventually topple. The three legs represent (1) the great history and ritual of IOOF; (2) good fellowship and fun activities for the members, family and potential members; (3) active outreach into the community, doing good local works. I have used my own Lodge – Davis #169 – as the “laboratory” for this concept. And it has worked. In the last ten years – while most other Lodges have declined in membership – my Lodge has grown 1,000%. From less than 30 members, my Lodge now has 275 members, with 22 pending applications for membership. And the age range covers everything from members in their 20’s to members in their 90’s, all ethnic groups, and about half our membership is female.
Significantly, it appears that our membership efforts are now beginning to bear some fruit in California. Preliminary figures show that in 2016 (the year in which I served as Grand Master for the first half of the year and Peter Sellars served as Grand Master in the second half) our Order in California – for the first time in a loooooooooong time – will show a net GAIN of members – led primarily by our largest Lodges. The most significant growth has been in the number of female members of the Odd Fellows. This net gain is a good omen, and we hope a harbinger for the future. Perhaps we have bottomed out after decades of net losses, and are showing the very glimmerings of net gains for years to come.
That said, we need to see growth in most (if not all) Lodges, not just some Lodges. In may ways, Odd Fellowship in California is a mile wide and an inch deep. We have 116 Odd Fellows Lodges in this State. Yet the largest 4 Lodges encompass almost 25% of the total membership, and the largest 10 Lodges comprise close to 40% of the membership.
Unfortunately, many Lodges have not followed our suggestions. They have become complacent, and are “satisfied” with the status quo, or they are rent by internal bickering and dissension. The sad truth is that most Lodges in our jurisdiction and around the country are continuing to diminish in membership. We see many Lodges where the membership has grown old, and they have not added a new member for five, or ten, or even more years. These Lodges are Zombie Lodges, just going through the motions of life. There is no long-range view for these Lodges. The members only focus on continuing to operate in their personal comfort zones, without regard to the future of their Lodge or the future of the Order. This is both selfish and fatal to their Lodge. They barely can muster a quorum, and often do so only with associate members from other Lodges. They do very little, if anything, other than hold a 20-minute monthly meeting to read the minutes, report on who is sick or distressed, and pay the bills – with no committee reports and no new business. A Lodge which is composed of members of just one generation cannot survive in the long run. A Lodge must encompass and include two or three generations to survive. There must always be a new generation of members and leaders who can continue the Order. That’s certainly the way it was in the 1700’s, 1800’s and early 1900’s. And it can be that way again.
There are those who point to societal changes which have changed the way the public views fraternal orders. They point to radio, television, movies, automobiles, airplanes, computers, cell phones, and lots of other innovations that have changed society. They point to social security, insurance, employment counseling and assistance, and other innovations which have stepped in areas where fraternities once functioned. This is all true. But, fraternal orders are still relevant today and can still grow and prosper, and be venues where the members feel welcomed, appreciated and engaged. I know this is true because I have seen it in my own Lodge. Burying the dead and visiting orphans may have little meaning to young men and women in 2017. But organizing a local music event to raise money to assist foster families, or adopting a highway to clean up, or organizing a community chocolate festival to benefit a local sexual assault center may have significant meaning for the current generation of members and potential members.
There is good news and there are success stories, and those success stories inspire us and give us hope for the future. In the coming weeks, we will detail a few of those success stories in this newsletter, and we welcome your input to spread this good news and show what Odd Fellowship can be in the 21st Century.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was designed many years ago with the premise that everyone likes a title. Look around the Odd Fellows and you will see that there are very few members who do not have a title of some kind. However, having a title is no guarantee of ability nor is it a license to pass judgment. Our Grand Masters in every state, along with the Sovereign Grand Master, are compelled to make fraternal decisions, but even our highest-ranking officers are fallible. Our order was also thoughtfully designed with an ending date to each position. These positions are basically positions of honor and reward, thus each person who attains these positions should feel compelled to accept these honors and then cheerfully relinquish them when their time has passed. This is one of the wonders of our order, just as in our great country, a peaceful exchange of leaders, no matter how divergent their ideas, no matter how different their backgrounds, acceptance of responsibility and acknowledgement of a peaceful change.
The Odd Fellows must do its best to eliminate the tendency to dictate to one another. No matter what one’s expertise may be, this is not a license to bully, but it happens far too often – in lodges, in Grand Lodge events, and even at the Sovereign Grand Lodge level. No one has the right to dictate to another his or her views at the expense of anyone else. There are many code passages that bear this out both in the California Roberts Code, and the Code of General Laws. However, it is one of the foibles of the human species that each of us tends to think we know the better way more than anyone else. We only know the way for ourselves. Recently, there have been repeated instances where someone made a wide-reaching decision that harmed someone else’s right to exist on the same level. In Odd Fellow parlance, this is conduct unbecoming of an Odd Fellow. The only reason we as a group allow this to continue to occur is because it happens all too often. We must discontinue hatred. We must discontinue prejudice. We must discontinue sexism. There is no time to waste. We either do it now or risk losing our order altogether This is not the avenue for bullies, and one person’s perception of the order is that person’s perception solely.
There have been various complaints about many things that affect our order, but no one in the Odd Fellows is infallible. Mistakes happen. Members may sometimes get offended. But we need to realize that even within our own family’s accidents and hurt feelings occur My own lodge may seem eccentric while your lodge may seem to run like a well-oiled machine but both exist, and we as an order must be most concerned in ensuring that they continue to exist. To be perfectly frank, other states have been almost completely decimated by turmoil. Let us rise above that. Let’s show Sovereign Grand Lodge that our state can behave in a congenial manner and perhaps we will end up having fun doing it.
In closing, remember that all of us are brothers and sisters, and try and show the same respect to each other that you would to your own families. We should try to not publicly deride anyone because it demeans our order in general. My worst memories of the order are where I heard one member demean another publicly. This should not be tolerated from anyone. We are all Odd Fellows, and joined with the premise that friendship, love and truth are our call signs. We need to act like we feel love and admiration for each other, and realize that the old are not like the young nor vice versa. All souls are welcome within our order, all are loved if you reciprocate love, and lastly, the most difficult and challenging fact, that all of us are human and fallible.
In Friendship, Love and Truth, Rick Boyles