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July 18, 2006 > Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Independent Order of Odd Fellows

by Lance Dwyer

In the 1700s, a group of men took a stand for their values and defied the king of England. The motive of their treason? Philanthropy.

In 18th century England, ideals of social unity and fellowship were considered to be odd. Therefore, most social organizations at the time existed for the financial benefit of the king.  

The forefathers of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) felt that there were individuals in their communities who had a greater need and accordingly made philanthropy the objective of their efforts.

Hundreds of years later, the IOOF has established lodges or chapters of its organization all over the world, including the Mission Peak Lodge in Fremont's Irvington District.

The Mission Peak Lodge symbolizes more than a hundred years of history and tradition, with its 1863 establishment predating the city of Fremont itself. According to Nancy Johnson, historian for the Mission Peak Lodge, in the late 19th century more than half of the 250-person population of what was then known as Washington Corners were members of the lodge.

The lodge was perhaps the only means of fostering community throughout the town, according to Johnson. During those times, members would go to great lengths to ensure the welfare of every member of their community.

"When there was a flood and someone's crops would be destroyed everybody would pitch in and repair crops and make sure that the member and his family had enough food to eat-it was a really big deal," said Johnson.

The IOOF originally served as a means of health insurance, as each member's dues would be paid back when he or she was in need of medical care. But now, the cost of dues has decreased and each lodge no longer offers health insurance as a benefit of membership, though the IOOF does own retirement and nursing homes for the benefit of its members.

Another significant and recent change for the organization is the admittance of women as members. Until four years ago, male and female IOOF members were separated into Odd Fellows and Rebekahs. Today, women have the choice of being a member of either organization.

For younger philanthropists, there are also junior organizations for youth ages 8-18, with the Junior Odd Fellows for boys and Theta Rho for girls. There is one of each organization in the Bay Area with a Junior Odd Fellow chapter in Cupertino and a Theta Rho chapter in Santa Clara.

The youth division of the IOOF allows for the organization's values to be instilled at a young age and then carried on in a legacy, much like the legacy Johnson is a part of. Johnson joined the Rebekas when she was 18, becoming a fourth generation member.  And her daughter Erin, the incoming president of the Theta Rho assembly of the state of California, will be a fifth generation member.

"It's my history and I love this organization and the charitable things we do in the community," said Johnson.

Any given member of the IOOF needs to believe in a supreme being, which Johnson said, will lead him or her to an understanding for the need to support the health and betterment of mankind. "If you belong to this lodge you're here to support the community," said Johnson.

Some of the Mission Peak Lodge's main contributions include two pancake breakfasts for the local Boy Scouts and the Mission High School singing group, which raised $2,300 and $1,600, respectively. They also have an annual social BBQ and a spaghetti dinner to benefit the young mothers of the community.

On a national and international level, the IOOF also sponsors a village in Cambodia and donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to an eye bank in Kentucky.

Anyone interested in joining the Mission Peak Lodge can call the at the lodge's historic headquarters in the Irvington District at (510) 440-8381 or to find another lodge in your area go to www.ioof.org.

 
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