It is my belief that every single Odd Fellows Lodge should sponsor and organize at least one “signature event or project” for the community. I define “signature event or project” in the context of this article as an occurrence or a project that is immediately identified by community members with the Odd Fellows Lodge in that community. There are many reasons why a Lodge should have a signature event or project. Some of the reasons include:
- Raising the visibility of the Lodge in the community which, in the long run, can translate into increased membership.
- Fulfilling the precept that Odd Fellows Lodges should reach out into the community to do good works for the benefit of the public.
- Affording the Lodge members a worthwhile and (often) fun project, increasing their satisfaction in membership.
But what community event or project is right for your Odd Fellow Lodge?
That’s the first question that should be asked, and I suggest that a good way to answer it would be to have a group discussion at one or two Lodge meetings. Every community is unique, and the same can be said of the Lodge in that community. The Noble Grand (or other discussion facilitator) should make sure that the discussion is open and enjoyable. Every member should have the opportunity to provide input, but no member should be permitted to dominate the discussion. And it is vitally important that the comments should all be positive. Leave negativity outside the door. At the end, the Noble Grand (or other facilitator) should see if there is a consensus.
Coming up with a signature event or project for your Lodge may require you to think outside the box. Let me give you three examples from my own Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge (Davis #169 in California), where we came up with signature events well outside the box.
Natalie Corona Scholarship
On January 10, 2019, a terrible and traumatic event occurred in the City of Davis. A young, energetic and popular police officer by the name of Natalie Corona was shot and killed while responding to a three-car vehicle crash in Downtown Davis. As Officer Corona was conducting a routine investigation at the collision scene, a person not involved with the crash rode up to the scene on a bicycle. While Officer Corona was speaking to a man involved in the accident, the person on the bike came up to her and opened fire without warning, striking her with bullets. He shot her several more times after she fell to the ground, before shooting randomly at bystanders and vehicles. The perpetrator then fled into a nearby home. As responding officers converged on the scene and searched for him, he emerged from the home wearing body armor, yelled at the officers, and then reentered the home. He committed suicide moments later. Natalie Corona was just 22 years old when she was murdered.
The Davis Lodge decided to honor the memory of Natalie Corona by setting up the “Natalie Corona Scholarship Fund.” Well over $100,000 has been raised to date, creating a perpetual scholarship fund. The Lodge, working with the Corona Family, has awarded scholarships every year since 2019 to high school seniors from Davis and also from Arbuckle (Natalie’s home town) who wish to enter the fields of law enforcement or public safety. There is so much money now accumulated in the fund, that scholarships are provided from the interest earned, without invading principal. And the Lodge sponsors yearly events to keep the memory of Officer Corona alive and to add to the principal.
Zombie Bike Ride
When COVID hit in 2020, many events that we had planned for the Lodge Hall could no longer take place as folks were sheltering in place and not gathering in groups. So, we decided to create an outdoor event which could be melded with the ubiquitous symbol of Davis – the bicycle. Voila: The Zombie Bike Ride was born. In the first year, hundreds of people of all ages participated. In the second year, over one thousand people participated. Now, in our third years, we anticipate over 2,000 local and regional residents will join the fun. The event takes place at or near Halloween, and involves the whole family. Folks dress up like zombies, or in Halloween costumes. They ride bicycles at various points along the 12-mile long Davis Bicycle loop. Local theater groups participate with zombie tableau along the route. Food trucks abound. Last year we had skydiving zombies drop in on the crowd, and this year we will feature a nationally known stand-up comic who will put on a show at the Lodge Hall. Local and regional media, as you can imagine, love it.
But the icing on the cake is provided by community sponsors who donate funds for our beneficiary, NorCal Trykers, a nonprofit corporation that builds specialty tricycles for children with mobility issues. These specialty tricycles are expensive to build, and we happily donate these them to the children.
Welcome to Davis Sign
Since 1917, the main entrance to the City of Davis has featured a large “Welcome to Davis” sign complete with metal medallions displayed by local organizations (such as Rotary, Lions, the Odd Fellows, etc.). COVID in 2020 and 2021 hit the sign pretty hard. It was falling into disrepair and the Chamber of Commerce (the organization that maintained the sign for the City) was falling on hard times. In fact, the sign (and all the medallions) was “re-purposed” and was covered by a plastic tarp encouraging people to get their COVID shots and to get tested.
The Davis Odd Fellows were chartered in 1870 – and as the oldest organization in Davis, the Lodge stepped up and volunteered to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Davis to maintain, repair and care for the “Welcome to Davis” sign. The City has agreed. The Lodge is committed to restoring the sign to all its original glory. It’s a great project for Lodge members, many of whom love to design, paint, work with wood, hammer, nail, and build. And the Odd Fellows/Rebekahs metal medallion will be proudly displayed near the center of the sign.
To paraphrase our Ritual, these examples “are but a tithe” of the the possibilities. If you don’t already have one, consider development of a signature project or event for your Lodge. It is well worth the effort, and will help ensure that your Odd Fellows’ journey is even more meaningful.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
Jurisdiction of California
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