Celebrating Thirty Six Years Of The Order Of Good Things
By Cookie Steponaitis
photo providedEagles Aerie # 3801 celebrates 36 years with the Addison County community and President Mike Smith and Ladies Axillary President Pat Wright, along with the 630 members want to thank the community for their continued support and involvement in Eagles projects.
On February 6, 1898 six thespians gathered in Seattle, Washington and analyzed their lot in life. The group was dealing with a musicians strike without an immediate solution in sight and decided to turn the tables on the situation by helping others. The group quickly grew after two and a half months and in April 1898 adopted the Eagle as their official symbol and changed their name to the Fraternal Order of Eagles. The organization has grown from that humble beginning to an international non-profit with over 1500 aeries or clubs in 1700 cities with a current membership of just over one million members. Fundamental to the organization then and now is the basic concept of bringing together people with a desire to make the world a better place.
FOE Aerie #3801 in Vergennes just celebrated its thirty-sixth year and sports a sign out front of the New Haven Road, Vergennes location thanking the community for being a part of their continuing journey. The members reflect a quiet determination and firmness of commitment that is admirable in today’s world. FOE #3801 has a total of 630 current members between the Eagles and the Ladies Auxiliary and is going strong with many who hearken back to the first days of organizing and opening the club. The first meeting was held in Palmer’s Restaurant on March 5, 1978 and the founding group of one hundred members moved quickly to bring the club to what is today. The second site was located in 1979 at the Knights of Columbus Hall which is currently where Luigis on Main Street is located. The group continued to expand and broke ground at the current permanent location at New Haven Road on October 6th, 1982 and moved in on January 29th, 1983.
FOE #3801 Grand Trustee and Eagles Director Tom L. McGrath explained the journey of the group sharing, “We were able to keep that schedule because we met with the construction crew every morning at seven a.m. and planned the day. At night as soon as the crew left members worked at night laying cast iron pipes, plumbing, air conditioning and electrical - Phil O’Brien, Marcel Brunet, John Jewell and Mo Paquette to name a few. We would finish around 10 or 11 p.m. every night and the next morning the crew would return shocked at what more had been accomplished.”
Other Eagles members nod or chime in with comments and other tidbits of information while listening to Tom McGrath explain the progress the group made. While the name aerie seems a fitting depiction of a large bird’s nest, it also speaks to the bond and shared interest of the Eagles club members. The group shares their charitable works with enthusiasm and no self-praise. As mind boggling totals are shared and more areas of charitable works explained, no one stops to showcase or single out one above the other. It is stionseems a fitting descripto what is currenltysimply business as usual for the group.
Eagles Aeries locally, nationally and internationally focus charitable efforts in the same focus targets. “There is the Kidney Fund, Heart Fund, Cancer Fund, Children’s Fund, Child Abuse Prevention, Muscular Dystrophy Diseases, Spinal Cord Injuries and Diabetes Research,” added McGrath. “Since 2008 Eagles nationally pledged $25 million dollars over a five year period to help open The Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center at the University of Iowa. It was challenged or a goal that each member would contribute $5.00 a year for each of the five years. With a little over one million members that is five million a year. This includes each member at the Grand Aerie, State Aeries and Local Aeries. This summer on July 15th we will have our international meeting in Orlando, Florida and I will present the final five million dollar payment to the Diabetes Center people. As of today we still need to raise $68,660.12 but we will have that by the end of the month.”
It is that practical quiet determination and commitment that is the hallmark of Eagles around the state and nation. “Eagles to me are the greatest thing and the biggest secret,” remarked McGrath. “No one really has knowledge outside the organization the amount of good will and civic involvement that comes from this organization. Whether it is Little League, school scholarships or charity work with local organizations like a $50,000 donation to Porter Hospital and others like it, Eagles work and give.” When McGrath is asked how people could join he chuckled and added, “Come and pay your dues.” Then quickly resuming his relaxed sharing about the club Tom McGrath explained that, “the only requirement to being an Eagle is a belief in a supreme being of your own choice and a willingness to help improve prosperity, peace goodness and hope.”
It is easy to see while looking back into the history of the organization the connection between that group in 1898 and the Eagles of today. 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the creation of and celebration of Mother’s Day which was spearheaded by Eagles and one particular member Notre Dame Coach Frank Herring who petitioned and directed President Woodrow Wilson and the Congress to set the day as an honor to all mothers. The Eagles Club can also be credited as being the impetus for the Social Security Act being passed and creating awareness and helping to pass legislation ending job discrimination based on age. Another sign of the strength and involvement of the local Aerie is the current slate of officers at all levels. Tom McGrath is a past Grand Trustee and current national director. Rob Oliver is the incoming state president and Art Putnam serves at the New England level leadership. All three come from Eagles Aerie #3801, serve by choice and as examples of the impact of Eagles members.
A happy birthday to Eagles Aerie #3801 and let us all honk our horns as we pass in recognition of the group that quietly, determinedly and with devotion focuses its considerable power and impact each year on charity works large and small. If you want to learn more stop in for an open house, come in for a fish fry or stop one of the current set of officers to talk about being an Eagle. Leadership of Aerie #3801 includes Junior Past President Ron Swenor, President Mike Smith, Vice-President Jeff Ringey, Chaplin Rob Oliver, Conductor Art Putnam, Secretary Tom McGrath, Treasurer Walt LadaBouche, or Trustees Tom McGrath, Ron Swenor, Kent Wright IV and Chris Dion or Pat Wright who serves as the Ladies Auxiliary President. You can try to catch up with Tom McGrath and if he is home he will happily share all stories Eagles with you, but this past year alone McGrath logged 168,000 miles in the air not only traveling the nation to assist with national level business but also helping train officers. And f1r those of you wanting to try your Eagle wings and join an aerie, Aerie #3801 is ready and waiting. While you will get the feeling of flying free when you help others, you will be firmly grounded in a fraternity connected in a spirit of liberty, truth, justice and equality that charges each other to make human life more desirable by lessoning ills and promoting prosperity, peace, gladness and hope; an impressive set of goals and all in the order of good things in life.