Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Just the other day I was walking along G Street in downtown Davis. A new coffee shop had recently opened at the corner of G Street and 3rd Street and it was distinguished by an expanse of windows so that most everything in the shop was visible from outside the shop. I could clearly see the patrons with their coffee cups. And glancing through the floor-to-ceiling windows, I was struck by the fact that every single person in that coffee shop – and there were over a dozen patrons – was sitting alone with his or her cup of brew, looking down to their laptop or cell phone. Every single person was engrossed in their electronic window on the world. No one looked up, and no one was engaged in conversation with anyone else.
And then it hit me.
Our society has changed in a dramatic way. We have become – to a great extent – a society of loners. And this effect is most pronounced in the new generations of our society – those men and women generally under the age of 40. This has been a sea change in our sociology. The only comparable event in our American history is the advent of the car and train – which took us out of the horse-and-buggy era and made people mobile. But even that enormous change did not come on as rapidly as the change we are seeing today. We are in midst of it, and the change seems to be evolving and morphing almost daily. The Internet, computers, laptops, iPads, iPhones, Twitter, Facebook, the Cloud, email, texting, YouTube, Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumbir, Google, WeChat, and a plethora of other components of social media – these innovations have fundamentally changed the way we interact with each other and communicate with the world. A member of Sycamore Odd Fellows Lodge #129 sent me an email with a remarkable quote and statistic from the New York Times: “Social isolation is a growing epidemic – one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980’s, the percentage or American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent.” Forty percent! Understand this: We have a large percentage of the population who are isolated, and who could gain from a connection to other human beings.
Recognition of this modern reality is important at many levels. It has direct relevance to fraternal orders in general, and Odd Fellowship in particular. There is a population of men and women who would greatly benefit from membership in our fraternity; and of course, our fraternity would greatly benefit from their membership.
Here are the simple facts:
(1) If an Odd Fellows Lodge does not add new members, that Lodge is in trouble. We need only look at the recent history of our Order in North America. Over the past 50 years, hundreds of our Lodges have withered and passed away. In virtually every case it was the result of lack of members. (And make no mistake about it, a “consolidation” of Lodges is simply a genteel way of saying that a Lodge has died.) Without the addition of new members on a regular basis, the Lodge will diminish and die in time.
(2) The majority of our Odd Fellow Lodges have not added new members in sufficient numbers to replace the existing members who pass away, move away, or let their memberships lapse. This has been going on for decades, and the numbers of members keep shrinking in those Lodges. Only a few Lodges have actually shown net gains in members. There is no question that a Lodge that continues to show a net loss in members will diminish and die in time.
(3) Most Odd Fellow Lodges that add new members, add members who are in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s. It’s wonderful to add these new members, but without adding members in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, that Lodge will create an age gap that – in time – can’t be filled. A Lodge where the average age is in the 60’s or 70’s is destined to diminish and die in time.
So, our fraternal order has a great opportunity to tap into a new generation of men and women in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. We need to do so in the interest of our fraternity and our Lodge. And, frankly, many of these potential younger members want the social interaction and community involvement that a Lodge can offer. Many of them do not want to be isolated all the time. How do we tap into the younger generation? One thing is certain, we cannot do so if we continue to behave like we are a fraternal order from 1917. We have to reinvigorate and reinvent our Lodges to make them relevant not only to Baby Boomers, but also to Millennials. This means, for example, that our Lodges must have Facebook pages and we must be present on social media. More importantly, we have to offer activities in the Lodge and in the community that interest and attract younger members. Just having baring meetings where we read the minutes of the last meeting, talk about repairing the roof, and spend most of our time talking about who is sick and in distress will not be a recipe for success with the new generations. On the other hand, focusing our meetings on socially responsible activities in the community (for example, helping foster families, feeding the hungry, helping frail seniors in town, cleaning up highways, etc.) and fun activities for Lodge members (for example, a New Year’s Eve event, or an Oktoberfest, taking hikes, poker night at the Lodge, a family potluck, etc.) – these are things that will interest all members – and in particular the younger generations that we need to grow and flourish.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
THE NEED TO PROMOTE THE ODD FELLOWS & REBEKAHS
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, as an entire Order must start promoting itself if it intends on a continued existence. Promotional campaigns bring attention to groups and awareness to various causes. Promotional events can bring pride to a membership and gain support from a community. Promotional ideas must continually evolve and fit the interests of those who view the Odd Fellows from the outside – the non-members.
Today, we look back on promotional programs the Order has used over the past decade or more. There is no doubt these were good ideas at the time, but our Order has fallen short in evolving with new ideas and new promotional events. We have the Arthritis Foundation, SOS Village in Cambodia, Visual Research, and a couple of others. That is all we have to promote ourselves from the promotional programs of the Sovereign Grand Lodge. There has been no new ideas presented, or at least accepted. Although these are very worthy causes, do you see these are good promotional programs to attract attention to our Order?
Right now, we have been threatened with having our dues increased – yes, threatened, as this is what the language of the resolution translates into, with regard to the increase of dues. If we do not show growth as a whole in this Order, our dues increase by $5.00 next year and again the following year. Call it what you wish, but this is a threat of a dues increase. Again, ask yourselves, “Are these good promotional programs to attract attention to our Order?” The increase in dues is not a good promotional plan for the Order.
Brothers and Sisters, not only do we need Sovereign Grand Lodge to give us the tools to meet its demand of increasing the membership by improving upon the promotional programs, we need our own Grand Lodges and Lodges to establish promotional events!
As businesses, which we are defined as by the Internal Revenue Service, as well as being 501c(8)s, having exempt statuses, we are permitted to conduct promotional events and programs to attract potential members and create support for our organization. A business must promote itself if it is to survive. Too many members refuse to recognize their lodges as businesses or know they may set promotional goals.
What kinds of promotional events or ideas are available to our lodges? There are numerous ideas. Off the top of one’s head: Support a youth team, and provide shirts that read, “Odd Fellows & Rebekahs.” Purchase promotional items with the name “Odd Fellows & Rebekahs” on each items and give away at a local county fair, event, etc. Participate in a local county fair or march in a local town and city parade carrying a banner that reads, “Odd Fellows & Rebekahs;” these are promotional events.
Collaborate with other organizations, which are doing good works, such as Cancer Awareness, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and other charitable groups. Make the public aware that the “Odd Fellows & Rebekahs” strongly support these kinds of groups – and you have a wonderful promotional. There are many ideas for promotional events.
A warning, stay away from political support groups, supporting candidates, and aligning with any religious groups, such as raising money for these kinds of entities, as our tax-exempt classification does not allow for these kinds of promotions.
Perhaps one of the best opportunities for a promotional event presented itself in late September, 2017, when two members of the Odd Fellows (brother Bo Huang of Yerba Buena Lodge #15), one who works for Samsung Development in Silicon Valley, listened to a guest speaker talk about his own accomplishments and the cause he supports. The speaker was the world renowned Robert Swan, who was the first man to walk to the North and South Poles. He was planning another trip and promoting renewable energy in his presentation.
Sister Bonnie Sellars, who attended this event with brother Bo, met Robert Swan after the presentation came up with an idea for a promotional for the entire Order. They spoke about the Odd Fellows. She asked if he could take a patch to the South Pole on his next expedition and in exchange, we would ask for support for his 2041 Foundation, Inc. from the lodges and members. He was happy to do it for the Order and offered to take a picture of himself with the “Odd Fellows & Rebekahs” patch.
Subsequently, several articles shall be written of the event, postcards of the patch shall be printed, and sharing of the event with non-members are part of the promotional. Perhaps we have found a candidate for the SGL’s Honorary Member recognition, which it has not awarded for years.
We received limited support for the idea, but came up with an adequate amount of money to contribute to the 2041 Foundation, Inc. and its upcoming expedition to the South Pole. During this time, we discovered that far too many lodges do not have any promotional programs. Other lodges did not see the advantage of a promotional event or how it related to gaining the awareness of the public or creating potential members.
A special patch was embroidered adding the words, “South Pole” on the “Odd Fellows & Rebekahs” three-link patch, and then sent to Robert Swan, who shall carry this with him on the 600-mile trek across the Antarctica. Robert Swan has been received numerous awards and recognition, including being awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in 1995.
So, you see, ideas for promotional events may come from every place. The aforementioned idea is just one example of a promotional. We, as an Order, must embrace those promotional ideas that will shed a positive light upon our lodges. We need to make the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs more dynamic and appealing to our communities.
Peter V. Sellars
PGM / PGP
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