Ask the members of Trinity Rebekah Lodge in Napavine their hopes for their group and the answer is simple.
“To grow,” said Cookie Music, noble grand for the lodge.
Trinity Rebekah Lodge, a sister organization of the Golden Rule Odd Fellows Lodge at the same location, is poised to become the last of its kind in Lewis County.
Pine Burr R.L. No. 300 of Onalaska recently consolidated with Trinity and Montrose No. 46 of Toledo is expected to be joining them around September. The move will leave Trinity as the only Rebekah Lodge left in Lewis County and one of only 20 Rebekah Lodges left in the state. The next closest Rebekah Lodge is in Bucoda, which is in Thurston County.
Trinity currently has about 11 active members. A lodge is required to have at least five active members for a quorum. Pine Burr got down to only three members and Toledo has reduced to about six members, but their troubles have been compounded because they usually meet in the fire hall in Toledo, which has been closed to outside groups because of COVID-19 regulations.
“Consolidating will make us a stronger group, I hope,” said Alberta Luurs, secretary for Trinity.
Their companion organization, the Odd Fellows, only has 27 lodges left in the state. Like Trinity, Golden Rule Lodge of Napavine is also the only of its kind left in Lewis County, with the next closest lodge being Skookumchuck Lodge No. 129 in Bucoda.
The Odd Fellows and Rebekah Lodges are not alone.
Nationwide, service organizations have been reporting declining membership for several years now. COVID-19 certainly did not help the trend, as many organizations were unable to meet in person at least for some time.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the state lodge for Odd Fellows shut all lodges down for three full months. After that, lodges were able to meet again but without extra events such as social lunches. And many organizations’ median member ages are rising, meaning that even when groups were able to meet again, many members were among those most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus and were likely to opt out.
“I think our biggest challenge is we’re getting older and the young ones are so involved with their families and they’re not able to give up time from that,” said Chaplain Evelyn Neumann. “I think the same thing is happening to the Lions and Eagles and other organizations, too.”
In Bucoda, the Rebekah Lodge was able to keep meeting by getting a special dispensation to meet in a member’s home where social distancing was possible, explained LouAnn Hoffman, past noble grand from that lodge. She said they felt fortunate to have an alternative that could meet state requirements.
“There’s a lot of lodges that haven’t met at all,” Hoffman said. “These groups are quite important, especially for people who rely on them for socializing.”
Believed to have their roots in a movement of people from many different backgrounds and occupations who banded together to help people in need in their communities in 17th century England, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was founded in North America in 1819. Rebekah Lodges were started in 1851 as a companion organization for women, making the Odd Fellows the first fraternity to welcome both men and women.
Since 2000, the order has allowed men and women to join either Odd Fellows or Rebekah lodges. There are 10,000 lodges in 26 countries that work on a variety of projects aimed at the betterment of humanity.
“It’s a Christian organization,” explained Melody Butterton, musician, who moved to Trinity from Pine Burr Lodge of what drew her to the organization. “Love of country and love of God is our focus.”
“Fellowship with one another,” added Music, on what keeps her involved.
The Odd Fellows and Rebekah lodges have officers at the local, state and national level. Each officer chooses what is called a program, which includes colors and emblems but also causes that they will focus on. Programs that the Trinity Rebekah Lodge are currently supporting include the Alzheimer’s Foundations, Christmas gifts for local children and visual aids for local children
They are also sponsoring an elite softball player.
“We do a lot of community service,” Luurs said. “We’re always looking for needs.”
The Napavine Odd Fellows Hall has been located on Washington Avenue since 1904, a full nine years before Napavine became a city. The Rebekah Lodge was founded at the location in 1906. Over the years, the building has been rented out for many special events, even a makeshift school for a time. The Odd Fellows and Rebekahs have raised money there with bake sales, garage sales, dinners, bingo and breakfasts. As the lodges struggle to bolster their aging memberships, they also struggle to maintain their aging building. A breakfast on July 17 for the Napavine Funtime Festival is hoped to raise the money they need to paint the outside of the building.
“We’d really like to re-do the roof, too,” Luurs said.
During the COVID-19 shutdowns, Trinity has been able to continue to raise money for both their operations and their causes by doing an ongoing pie sale. A phone number for ordering pies brought in from Plush Piper in Kent has been displayed on a reader board outside the lodge for months and the community’s support has helped keep the building and the lodge members going.
“That saved us during COVID,” Luurs said. “If we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t have made it.”
Golden Rule Odd Fellows Lodge No. 207 and Trinity Rebekah Lodge No. 179 meet at 111 Washington St. in Napavine.
Learn more: IOOF.org
Upcoming Events and Fundraisers:
• July 17 - 7 a.m. until around 11 a.m. or until sold out – breakfast of biscuits and gravy with sausage. Bazaar and flea market until 3 p.m. Breakfast is $10 per plate.
• July 25 Bingo — Dinner at 4 p.m. Bingo at 6 p.m.
• Pies can be ordered by calling 360-219-7629. Pies come from Plush Piper in Kent and are $10 per pie unless they are specialty variety.