Jeff Green | Mar 26, 2009
Back to HomeFeature Article - March 26, 2009 Harrowsmith hosts Grand Master’s BanquetBy Julie Druker
Grand Master Charles Benson receives a $1500 cheque from District Deputy Grand Master Wayne van Alstine of Harrowsmith's Athena Lodge 30.
Suits, ties and fancy dresses were the norm at the Golden Links Hall (also known as the Athena Lodge # 306) in Harrowsmith on Saturday night as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Rebekahs of District 49, which includes the lodges of Harrowsmith, Parham, Gananoque and Kingston, hosted the Grand Master’s Banquet for Grand Master Charles Benson of Belleville.
Master of Ceremonies Brother Mark Blakey welcomed guests and numerous dignitaries from the order who attended, along with the Deputy Mayor of South Frontenac, Bill Robinson. After a sumptuous turkey and ham supper made and served by local Rebekahs, the group got down to doing what they do best: altruistic giving.
Three cheque presentations were made to Grand Master Benson from brothers Ed Badour of the Mayflower Lodge #297 in Parham, and Bill McFarlane of Athena Lodge 306 in Harrowsmith, and Sister Viola Anderson of the Cataraqui Grand Lodge 310 in Kingston. Each lodge organizes a wide variety of fundraisers throughout the year to support the various ongoing projects and research. The $1500 donation from the Harrowsmith lodge was raised through regular youth dances held there, bake sales and the regular selling of District Deputy Grand Master Wayne van Alstine’s own homemade bread at their regular Sunday dinner gatherings.
I spoke to Grand Master Benson before the dinner commenced and he outlined his objectives this year. “One of the themes I have this year is keeping the members informed of what exactly we are doing so they can share this information. We have about 6 or 7 projects that we are involved with on an ongoing basis."
These include hunger and disaster relief, and medical research for the CNIB, for leukemia and arthritis. The education fund also receives ongoing support and last year alone $1.5 million was gifted towards scholarships, loans and grants.
Funding to recent provincial projects has included the Barrie Seniors’ Home, where a new wing housing 96 new beds has recently been completed. The order was also instrumental in supporting and expanding Camp Trillium, a camp for children with cancer. Benson explained, “Our biggest project in Ontario is for Camp Trillium. We’ve been involved with them since 1984 when we gave them our first grant for $5000. This past May we were approached by them when they found out the camp land was going up for sale." The order then decided to pledge the one million dollar purchase price for the land, and Camp Trillium was able to purchase Garrett’s Island located near Picton when it went up for sale last year by a private owner.
Benson explained, “This ensures the camp’s success into the future and will allow it to grow and remain active throughout the year and not just in the summer months. This is very important since last year was the first year that the camp had a waiting list.”
Benson recently was elected to the board of directors of Camp Trillium.
The order also pledges money to the Alan Simpson Fund, which is run in Ontario and assists orphaned children by granting them $2500 per year towards their post secondary school education.
A highlight of the evening was Benson’s presentation of the Merit Award to brothers Clifford Boyles of Kingston and Glenn Fox of Parham in recognition of their ongoing service to their communities. Fox, 84, has been with the Parham branch of Oddfellows for 50 years. He was taken aback and admitted, “It’s quite an honour.”
Members and guests enjoyed the music of the Young family guitar trio known as the Brothers from Belleville Lodge, who played a selection of country and bluegrass favorites.
Although the Order of Odd Fellows and Rebekahs remains one of the largest service organizations in the world, membership in the order is definitely on the decline. Benson admitted, “Like many other service clubs and fraternal organizations, we’re struggling with membership and so that’s why we’re trying to encourage people to get to know a little more of what we do and the benefits of joining.”
For more information please contact Brenda Taylor at 613 372-2410 or Wayne van Alstine at 613 358-2533.