I have been lucky enough to win elections several times in our order. Now, I am serving in my third term as an elective member of the Board of Directors of the Grand Lodge. Of course, I also sat on the board as an elective Grand Lodge Officer and Grand Representative, so my total time on our Board of Directors is 12 years. Much of our time on our board is spent determining how to help our lodges with their various problems, many of which are financially oriented. At one time, in our order, we could assist lodges with loans and other recommendations. My good friend in the order, Jay Johnson, our Grand Treasurer at the time, established a program that gave low-interest loans to lodges in need. While this may have seemed too businesslike to some, who feel that the order should be guided by sheer benevolence, it was the only way a lodge in dire straits could obtain funding. Many lodges cannot get direct bank loans due to a negative or nebulous cash flow. Of course, because we all look at the order with this sense of benevolence, it’s often difficult to see the sensibilities in Brother Jay’s creation of lodge loans. However, this also enabled the Grand Lodge to sustain a positive cash flow for many years while, in turn, helping lodges in need.
A while back, conversely, our order as a whole decided by vote that loans given by the Grand Lodge were to be discontinued, and the loans were summarily forgiven. We all were imbued with that sense of benevolence again until the realization set in that while we had forgiven some loans, we had essentially told our 100 or so other lodges that there was to be no more benevolence. In other words, we had done two things by this vote to dismiss all loans – we had removed the ability of lodges to get aid from our Grand Lodge directly, and we had eliminated a great deal of income from the Grand Lodge itself. Everyone I have spoken to about this vote, even the lodges where the loans were forgiven, seem to agree that it was a foolish decision, guided by our desire to show benevolence.
On my early return to the board, we had been given an unusual assignment where I needed clarification. In previous years, it had always been a vote on how to save a lodge. Still, now we were tasked with the weird juxtaposition of how to keep the Grand Lodge Office financially viable. That has little bearing on the future of the order itself unless we can show that we will return the Grand Lodge Office to a better positive cash flow and can once again provide loans to the lodges within our jurisdiction. Ideas on how to do this are circulating, which we must all decide upon. In my own lodge’s case, which was my thinking at the time, what will happen when our elevator from 1927 finally gives up the ghost? If the Grand Lodge Office can no longer give loans to individual lodges, the only viable option is to sell older buildings, if possible, and move to newer buildings with fewer pressing issues.
Finally, we as an order must now be apprised of the ramifications of each vote we make as to what it will do for us, collectively. The forgiveness of a few loans may have shown benevolence for those few. Still, we are ignoring the rest unless we return to some centralized positive income to help the majority of lodges that now need more viable financial options.
In F., L., & T.,
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
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