Two Centuries ago, Thomas Wildey lit a fire that swept across the North American continent.
It was a benevolent fire that gave life and form to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. And by the middle of the Nineteenth Century, Odd Fellows Lodges were popping up in every state and province. It’s important to remember that those early Odd Fellows started their Lodges, virtually from scratch. Merchants, farmers, bankers, butchers, ranchers, newspaper editors, restaurant owners, accountants, lawyers, doctors, teachers, handymen, came together to create Lodges from the ground up. They contributed time, land, materials, money, skills and their talents to build Lodge Halls. They brought in lumber, sawed, hammered, nailed, painted, tiled, roofed. They arranged and guaranteed loans. The early Odd Fellows maintained those Lodges on their own time. They swept, cleaned, mopped, and repaired the buildings, found tenants, paid the bills and property taxes, and constantly upgraded and improved the infrastructure of their Lodge Halls. Lodge members took great pride in their halls, and the buildings reflected well on the burgeoning Order. Community members wanted to be part of IOOF and the fraternity’s membership boomed – at one time becoming the largest fraternal order in the United States with over one million members.
Now, in the 2020’s how disappointed Brother Wildey and those early Odd Fellows would be to see the lethargy that has befallen some Lodge Halls and the ennui that has infected some Lodge members. Complacency has replaced energy, and many Lodge Halls have fallen onto hard times. This is nothing new. Decade after decade, Lodge buildings have slowly deteriorated, repairs have not kept pace, roofs have not been repaired or replaced, walls have not been repainted. In some of our Lodge Halls, the energy and commitment of the early Odd Fellows has waned. They have taken the gift of a building – typically in the heart of town – and have frittered it away by not just failing to maintain or improve the asset. What used to be show-pieces have become run-down structures. How does a Lodge attract new members to a shabby building? Where is the pride?
An analogy might be a person receiving a gift or bequest of a beautiful home from a grandparent. That person then performing no upkeep, and then passing it along to their children who again do virtually nothing to keep that home in good condition – ignoring the peeling paint, the plumbing problems, the crack in the wall, the missing tiles on the roof.
But as they say, “it’s never too late”. If you and your Lodge mates are housed in such a neglected building, it’s time to turn your focus on your Lodge Hall. You certainly can’t fix decades of neglect in a month or a year. But every project requires that first step. As Brother Wildey, himself, might say: It all starts with a vision, then commitment, then energy.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
Jurisdiction of California
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