Friday, May 10, 2019

Odd Fellows Celebrating 141 Years in Franklin

William F. Ray Odd Fellows Lodge #71 has been a good neighbor in the Town of Franklin for 141 years, and counting. The local lodge was celebrating their 100th anniversary at the same time that the town was celebrating the Bi-Centennial Celebration in 1978. 

Their former location was the three story brick building on Depot St., which the lodge sold to Central West Realty Trust in 1981. That property was renovated and then named “The Brickyard” and housed various businesses for several years until the building was leveled for the Dean Bank addition and drive through lot.

After the sale of the Depot St. building in 1985, the lodge members bought the Varsinic Bogigian house and land at 330 West Central St. near the corner of Rte. 140 and Beaver St. in Franklin. The house was a smaller and more manageable property than the former Depot St. property, and with some internal renovations, was turned into our present day lodge hall.  
The hall was dedicated on December 3, 1985 and was honored during the ceremony by a visit from Sovereign Grand Master George Shaw, the highest ranking officer in the World Order. Being just one of 10,000 lodges in 30 countries, Odd Fellowship has the distinction of being the largest fraternal order in the world under one leader.

In 1996, Past Grand, John Gardner, engaged the Cub Scouts in Franklin and offered the Lodge to be the Parent Non-Profit Organization behind the creation of the new Pack #17. From approximately one dozen scouts in that year, the Pack grew to become the largest Pack in Franklin with 78 scouts. William F. Ray Lodge has provided a home base of operations for the scouts and we annually put on a Children’s Christmas Party in their behalf at neighboring Rising Sun Lodge in Medway. 

The Franklin lodge also assisted the Franklin Youth Soccer Association by allowing them full use of the building for their headquarters before obtaining more permanent quarters on Cottage St. Accepting the hospitality of the Odd Fellows Lodge enabled the FYSA to grow from a small and splintered organization, with its members working out of kitchens and basements, to a much more organized and centrally operated entity.

In the early 80’s and into the 90’s, the Franklin Odd Fellows ran 11 years of benefit volleyball tournaments for the Arthritis Foundation and raised over $27,000 for this worthy cause. We also organized an Arthritis Walk in Franklin, but it was lightly attended. The Grand Lodge, I.O.O.F. of Massachusetts in Worcester followed our lead and has been running with it ever since with such events as the Boston and the Worcester Walk-a-Thons, the Spring Charity Ball in Worcester and an annual golf tournament. 

This year, the golf tournament will be held at the Quail Hollow Golf and Country Club in Oakham, MA on June 17, the day after Father’s Day. The Odd Fellows and Rebekahs of Mass. raise more money for the National Arthritis Foundation than any other state in the country.

Local charities that the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs support are the scouting programs and foodbanks, the Franklin and Bellingham Rail Trail effort, the Odd Fellows Full Care Nursing Home, the Odd Fellows Children’s Summer Camp in Belfast, Maine, the Children’s Pilgrimage for Youth, the Veterans Walkway project and others. Nationally we support a Visual Research Foundation at the Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Wilmer Eye Institute, a National Disaster Relief Fund, the Living Legacy Program, The Home for Little Wanderers, the Mass. Diabetes Foundation and an Education Scholarship Fund for our community’s youth. Odd Fellowship internationally supports S.O.S., a program of building children’s orphanage villages in Cambodia. 

Nationally, the Odd Fellows are celebrating their 200th Anniversary in this country and celebrations will be occurring in all 50 states. Internationally, Odd Fellowship is much older in England where it originated in the early 1600s but it is much younger in many of the 30 countries worldwide. Members who travel in this country and abroad will be welcomed at any lodge in any state or in any country. One of the Franklin members has made meetings in the New England States and Minnesota in this country and has also participated in meetings in the Netherlands and in Germany.

Our warm and personal affiliation with our Brothers and Sisters in the Order has attracted many notable names throughout our country’s rich history. The following have all been Odd Fellows: William Jennings Bryan, Sec of State; Wyatt Earp, Law Officer from the Old Wild West; Robert C. Byrd, U.S. Senator; Charlie Chaplin, Comedic Actor & Film Director; Ulysses S. Grant, 18th U.S. President; Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th U.S. President; Warren G. Harding, 29th U.S. President; Charles Lindbergh, American aviator, author, inventor and social activist; William McKinley, 25th U.S. President; Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd U.S. President; and Lucy Hobbs Taylor, first U.S. female dentist. A record of all past officers of our local Franklin lodge, going back to our institution in 1878, can be found in our web site under the History Tab.

The local lodge is currently undergoing a 2 year long building upgrade with a new roof, all new windows, new siding, insulation, a new bulkhead and garage door. Member and builder, Chris Miller, has generously given his time, as well as other dedicated members who work full time jobs and manage to find a few hours on weekends to work at the lodge. 

To help support our charities, the members are planning on a Second Annual Fundraiser Cornhole Tournament to be held at the Bellingham Sportsman Club at 360 Lake St., Bellingham, MA 02019 on June 23, 2019 at 1:00 PM. The cost of admission per player will be $20 per person with drinks available from the bar and the DJ services of Rich Gillespie of New Style Entertainment. Look for future notifications to come on this event.

The mission statement for the Odd Fellows fraternal organization is as follows: 
“We endeavor to elevate the character of mankind, to provide aid to our community, to make it and the world a better place to live, to aid the less fortunate members of our society by donating to charities, to support the youth of our community and help them grow, to aid our own members in times of distress, to support science and research foundations for the elimination of diseases and poverty and to support our community in every way possible.” 

The sister and supporting organization to the Odd Fellows is the Rebekah Assembly of Massachusetts who do a great job every year raising funds and awarding scholarships to needy high school students aspiring to go to college. Membership into either the Odd Fellows, or the Rebekahs, is open to both male and female and we honor a non-discrimination policy that comes directly from our Sovereign Grand Lodge.

More information on the Odd Fellows organization and history can be found at the following web sites:

Odd Fellows Celebrating 141 Years in Franklin
Odd Fellows Celebrating 141 Years in Franklin

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