If you’ve never heard of the Independent Order of Oddfellows, you’re probably not alone. Although they keep a quiet presence, the charitable, faith-based, fraternal organization dates clear back to 18th century England, when its members were dubbed “odd fellows” because folks found it odd that their service-oriented organization freely assisted the needy without wanting any recognition for their good deeds.
According to its website, the Order made its way to North America in 1819, forming chapters in the United States and Canada. It has since expanded worldwide with membership in 10,000 lodges in 26 countries.
Cabinet Lodge No. 68 in Libby has been doing good deeds in that community since the ’40s, according to Noble Grand Tenaj Shank. Their philosophical tenets include understanding and practicing the three principles of friendship, love and truth, leading a purposeful life, being active in your community, using their talents to help others, and having fun.
Shank emailed the Inter Lake to share some of the “fun” things the Lodge’s 33 active members have been up to, including a not-so-traditional, international potluck Thanksgiving dinner this year. Spearheaded by member Teddye Beebe, the feast did have turkey on the table, albeit barbecued, but members also brought everything from English pudding to Greek spanakopita, Hawaiian pork and Bayou sweet potatoes.
The lodge also sponsored a “First Snowfall of the Winter” guessing contest. For a dollar a guess, members could pick the date snow would fall for the first time on the sidewalk in front of the lodge.
Shank said prognosticating among members was lively, with opinions opening with “Well, last year …,” “No, we are going to have a early winter …,” and “For the last 40 years …”
As it turned out the winner was announced at the Lodge’s Nov. 2 meeting — which happened to be the very date of the first snowfall — and only one fellow had it spot on.
“Mother Nature had the final decision and made it a good one so there would be no questions or arguing,” Shank said. “One o’clock a.m. it started to snow … and it snowed … and it snowed … piling inch upon inch … 10 inches high. And, just to make sure everyone knew she was the one in charge, it snowed for four days!”
Longtime member Bruce Switzer took his prize money and then promptly donated it all back to the lodge.
The Oddfellows also have an ongoing “Adopt a Soldier” program. They’ve sent care packages overseas to their “adopted” soldier and enlisted the help of Libby Elementary School’s first- through third-graders to help by writing him letters.
The lodge also sponsors several fundraisers every year. All the money stays in the local community to help Libby residents, Shank wrote, as well as toward scholarships for students attending Flathead Valley Community College’s branch in Libby.