Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

The article, below, was written by a relatively new member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows from a small Lodge in Southern California, and I commend it to you. The article highlights one of the great impediment to growth that I have personally seen in many, many Lodges. This impediment – unless corrected – will ultimately destroy the Lodge.

The problem? Long-time members of the Odd Fellows Lodge who just won’t let go of the control they exercise in the Lodge. Sometimes that “control” is abundantly clear and dominant, and sometimes it is subtle. Look, no one lives forever. Eventually, new members must assume all functions and responsibilities in the Lodge. It is critical that long-time members mentor the new members, and then allow the new members to assume responsibility in the Lodge. The long-time members are a great resource and should continue to be as active as is appropriate – but they cannot continue to dominate and control. To do so will stifle the new generation and will lead to a diminution of the Lodge. The long-time members may think that only they know the right answers and that only they can properly control the Lodge. But in reality, they are slowly strangling the life out of the Lodge, and they are ultimately destroying the Lodge.

The solution? The long-time members must simply mentor the new members, and then – with grace and dignity and the appreciation of their Odd Fellows Lodge – they must eventually release the reins of control. At the same time, the new members must show respect for the long-time members, exercise patience, and then slowly assume responsibility within the Lodge – they are, after all, the future of Odd Fellowship.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

From a New Member of a Small Lodge (by Veronica Dowdy)

I am a member of a small Odd Fellows Lodge. We have only maybe a handful of active members and many who are not active. I have been a member of the small community that we live in since 2009 and had been looking for a place/organization to be part of where I could feel more part of the community while contributing and being a valuable member of my town.

My husband and I joined the Odd Fellows because we saw the potential that the organization has and we have been inspired by who they are. Having lived in a large city prior to us moving to this town, it had me miss how much more we were involved in great activities geared to making a difference.

I have had over 20 years of experience planning events for large corporations. I have successfully raised funds for non-profit organizations. One such event included the Avon Breast Cancer 5K race in Los Angeles, where I was able to get the whole company I worked at to participate 17 years ago; and they still participate to this day after I moved on. I also raised funds for the AIDS Foundation through a San Francisco Marathon in which we gave away tickets to incredibly fun events such as Cirque Du Soleil, a Harbor Dinner Cruise and a piece of artwork valued at $10,000 all donated to us by different organizations and artists. I am very creative when it comes to ways to get the community and people in general involved in activities that benefit all of us.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were discussing ways to raise funds and awareness about the Odd Fellows. It has come to our attention that hardly anyone in our community is aware of who the Odd Fellows are or what we are about. So I figured it would be a great idea to organize special events such as whale watching, short trips to fun places for the community to be able to raise awareness of what we do and raise funds for different organizations as well as for our Lodge. There has been concern from a few members of our Lodge that I have been “holding back” in my participation and I figured that this would be a great way for me to step up and do what I do best – what I have had experience with and make a difference. Unfortunately, when I brought my motion up, instead of waiting for the discussion part of the motion, my motion was nit-picked and I felt shut down completely.

My motion was simply to head a “fun-raising” committee which was initially met with smiles and cheer.

My motion was never recorded because it was nit-picked by the secretary recording the motions until I could say nothing and so I sat silent. My husband stood in my defense to argue for allowing the motion to be made first and then discussion after. No one said a word and my husband and I were given the universal “shhh” symbol. The person who gave the “shhh” to us picked up the motion and it passed but garnered one “no” vote.

I voted for my own motion only because it had to come from someone else who had “been around” longer than I have. This really left a bad taste in my mouth and completely took away any desire for future participation in my lodge. My husband experienced the same thing when he brought up an idea that would make a difference for our lodge as well. Someone else who had “been around” made the motion after watching his contribution get picked apart before the motion was made because the discussion to shoot it down preceded the motion.

I have read that some of our lodges are dying. This is one of the reasons why. New members who can be a great contribution to our communities join and bring with them ideas and experience needed for growth. Unfortunately, if they encounter the SAME opposition that we have, there is no room for leadership or contribution or growth. Like another odd fellow member stated: stores and restaurants that have survived have found a way to diversify what they offer and bring new items and products into their establishments; how can our lodges expect to survive when any new ideas are nit-picked and shut down by senior members before there is even a record of the motion? And whose motion does it become if a member who has “been around” makes it instead; isn’t that belittling? And how can anyone question why new members are holding back instead of realizing that the only reason we hold back is because we feel that any contributions that we bring will face nit-picking opposition rather than procedural debate which is fair and just and both sides can be heard in an orderly fashion?

I will continue to participate in my lodge for now, because I know that this is important for my husband and I want to support him in his commitment to our community. But if I see no change in how things are being done, I may withdraw my participation from the lodge. It saddens me to think that we have such a great resource in our community and that it’s not being utilized the way it was meant to be. I am hoping that in writing this, other members can see how things need to improve. It should be up to the older members to shepherd and support new members instead of what I have experienced. This comes from the perspective of a newbie and is meant to bring awareness to something that needs to change in order to transform our lodges from something that is dying to something that is thriving.

This is not meant to be harsh criticism, but instead, constructive criticism on what needs to change in our lodges as we can’t be the only lodge where this happens. What I proposed was not something new, but has been asked of us as members from our grand lodge in several letters to members. We have been asked to do more than meet in session. It is one thing that older members do not do what is asked of members by our grand lodge, but it is a great hypocrisy to stymie the efforts of new people to do what is asked of us by our Grand Lodge. Such hypocrisy destroys whatever vitality that new members bring.

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