Odd Fellows and COVID-19

Odd Fellows and COVID-19

Updated: December 3, 2020

By Dave Rosenberg, PGM, PGP

The Covid-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone. Odd Fellows Lodges have not been spared the negative impacts of this virus. Fraternal orders are, primarily, social entities. The members come together in Lodge Halls in fellowship and fraternity. However, during the pandemic Lodge Halls have, for the most part, been shut down and taken out of operation.

For an Odd Fellows Lodge like Davis #169, in Davis, California, such a shut down could have been devastating. The Davis Lodge has over 300 members [How to Join the Odd Fellows] and (pre-pandemic) the Lodge Hall was open virtually every day, and was busy approximately 20 days every month with fraternal events, Lodge meetings, committee meetings, community events hosted by the Lodge, or public rentals. Since the middle of March 2020, the pandemic has forced the Davis Lodge Hall to, essentially, close its doors to the members and to the public.

And yet, in the pandemic year of 2020, the Davis Lodge has actually experienced a net gain of members, and the Lodge has found ways to keep busy and maintain fraternal connections. How did the Davis Lodge achieve this? We simply re-imagined, reinvented and restructured ourselves.

Because it may provide the seeds of ideas to help other Lodges struggle through the pandemic (which will certainly continue well into 2021), here are 11 things that the Davis Lodge did over these past nine months to adjust, to continue to stay connected, and to continue to serve its members and the broader community.

  1. Meetings on Zoom. In Davis we have an Odd Fellows Lodge, and Encampment, a Canton, and a Rebekah Lodge. All members of all units have email, and we have stayed connected through email. We can’t meet physically, but we can and do meet virtually. Each unit meets once each month on zoom. In fact, for convenience during the pandemic, the Odd Fellows Lodge, the Encampment and the Canton meet on the same evening at different times, using the same zoom connection.
  2. Helping members with food deliveries. Once the pandemic struck California in March and the “shelter-in-place” orders first went out, one of the Lodge members gathered some volunteers and announced, via email, that the volunteers were available to go shopping for groceries and to deliver those groceries to any members who were home-bound because of age or infirmity. Several members were befitted in this true act of fellowship.
  3. Daily trivia quizzes. Starting on March 15, and continuing every single day thereafter, our Lodge produces a “Daily Crisis Trivia Quiz” of 10 questions. Answers are given the very next day along with the new quiz. This daily features has been fun and provides a constant connection. To date, we have produced over 260 of these daily quizzes, and we intend to continue them until we are safely back in the Lodge Hall.
  4. The “Odd Gossip Page”. In addition to the daily trivia quizzes, our Lodge produces what we call an “Odd Gossip Page” approximately once a week. The “odd gossip” is all positive (nothing negative) and provides news relating to members of the Lodge such as birth of children and grandchildren, deaths or illness of members, birthdays of members, Lodge and community event information, and more.
  5. The Odd Bulletin Board. And about once a month, a couple of the younger members of the Lodge produce the “Odd Bulletin Board” via email. The “bulletin board” provides information on items for sale by members, house-sitting, dog-walking, and the like. It’s a nice service for the members of the Lodge.
  6. Community Blood Drives. Even though the pandemic has required the closure of the Lodge Hall, we have opened it three times – with permission of local government – to work with the blood source company Vitalant to conduct community blood drives. Over 100 pints of blood have been contributed in these blood drives. The Lodge is thoroughly cleaned before, during and after the blood drive. Masks are worn and social distancing is enforced. These blood drives maintain the Odd Fellow Lodge’s presence as a leading organization in the community. A fourth such blood drive is now planned for early February.
  7. Odd Fellows Hikes. We may not be able to use the Lodge Hall during the pandemic, but the great outdoors are open to us. One of our Lodge committees – the “Hiking Committee” has continued to organize hikes every few weeks on the greenbelts and greenpaths in and around Davis. The hikes last about 1-2 hours and hikers do maintain social distance.
  8. Thursday “Meet-Ups”. Our Lodge, when the Hall was open, used to to meet every Thursday for “Club Night at the Lodge”. Typically, 50-60 members would come to Club Night to share a meal prepared by our Lodge chefs, play trivia, enjoy the open bar, chat, do jigsaw puzzles, watch sporting events on the big-screen television, and spend some fraternal time together. We can’t do that during the pandemic, but what we have started to do is have very informal zoom “meet ups” every Thursday evening. We get 10-20 Odd Fellows who join up by zoom – no agenda, just some social conversation for about 45-60 minutes.
  9. Meals for the Community. Our Lodge has a certified commercial kitchen in the basement. And we have entered into leases with two separate catering companies to provide meals to both members of the Lodge and the general public. The meals are delivered to the homes of those who order them. These food services are very well received by Lodge members and the public at large.
  10. Zombie Bike Ride. On Halloween the Davis Odd Fellows Lodge organized a “Zombie Bike Ride” for the community. Over 1,000 families participated – with masks, costumes, and social distancing – in a bike ride on the Davis Bike Loop. Most everyone was in costume. We also arranged with a local theater company to place “zombies” along the route in various fun tableau. But the icing on the cake is that we raised $12,000 from sponsors and were able to build six unique tricycles which we donated to children with special needs.
  11. Zoom Visits with Santa. Every year for the past two decades our Lodge has organized and hosted “Breakfast with Santa” for the community – a very popular event. Obviously, that could not happen in 2020. So our Lodge re-imagined and restructured the event as “Zoom Visit with Santa”. Using the Internet, parents and grandparents are signing up their children for 5-minute one-on-one zoom visits with Santa. Most are also donating $10 or $20 which will be given to our local community Food Bank to help those who need some food during the holidays.

The pandemic put all of us in what can only be described as an alternative universe. However, the pandemic doesn’t mean that Odd Fellows need to disappear into a cave of despair and inaction. On the contrary, Odd Fellows can reinvent themselves to stay relevant and involved during this difficult time. And, hopefully, emerge from the pandemic, strong and ready for a new beginning.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Pasts Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)

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