Odd Fellows and Rebekahs are working to advance eye research through Professorships in Ophthalmology at the world famous Wilmer Opthalmological Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. The Odd Fellow World Eye Bank and Visual Research Foundation was established in 1956 and has grown to become one of the major public service activities of the Order. At Johns Hopkins Hospital, The Chair of Visual Research, sponsored by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, conducts intensive study of glaucoma, corneal transplantation, allergic and congenital diseases of the eye. The Chair has been extended to 2026.
TEXAS VISUAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
The Texas Visual Assistance Program allows the membership of Texas to belong to the World Eye Bank, but to retain 75% of all donations, funds, and property received in Texas and send 25% to the World Eye Bank. The Texas Visual Assistance Program provides eye glasses, minor eye surgery, and visual aids such as magnifying glasses and high intensity lights, to those people in Texas who can satisfactorily demonstrate a need.
TOMB OF THE UNKNOWNS
The first Sunday of May each year has been designated for the Annual Odd Fellow Pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Unknowns. Permission for this date has been granted by the Department of the Army, official custodian of Arlington National Cemetery. The first pilgrimage was in 1934 with the purpose of not only honoring the Unknown Soldier and the Nation’s war dead, but also, the members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows who made the supreme sacrifice during World War I. On this day each year, Odd Fellows and Rebekahs pay tribute and homage to fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives in defense of our country. A lone Army Sentinel guards the Tomb of the Unknown, day and night, the sentinel paces and guards. He stops pacing at the observance of the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs in the placing of wreaths at the Tombs. Each Unknown Soldier has been presented with the Grand Decoration of Chivalry, the highest decoration that can be bestowed on an Odd Fellow. These jewels are prominently displayed by the U.S. Army in the Hall of Trophies. On this same day, a wreath is also placed at the Canadian War Memorial in Arlington Cemetery. On the first Sunday in June, the ceremony is repeated at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottowa, Canada.
ODD FELLOW AND REBEKAH HOMES
The first Odd Fellow Home was established in 1872 in Pennsylvania. In a few years this grew to 65 homes located in most of the states and some foreign countries. Well over 100,000 orphans and aged members have been admitted to our homes in the intervening years. In Texas, a Children’s Home was established in 1885 on 200 acres of land in Corsicana. This home reached a peak population of over 400 children during the depresion years of the 1930's when our home had its own school district, football team, baseball team, and band. The number of children steadily declined until in 1990, the Children’s Home was closed. We are proud of the work we did in providing homes for children and in converting orphans into leaders of our communities and state. The Children’s Home is officially closed and part of the pasture land was donated by The Grand Lodge of Texas to the City of Corsicana for use as a Park and Soccer field. Part of the buildings are leased to Navarro College for dormitories and offices. We no longer have children of our own who need our special care and protection, but we still provide services to children in the area and to Texas with our assets.
In 2010 a former children’s dormitory on the campus was rebuilt and converted into a Grand Lodge I.O.O.F. of Texas Administration Building. On the western wing of the building we have the Grand Lodge offices and the eastern wing is made up of more rooms for group functions ranging from meetings and conferences to smaller parties.
A Retirement Home was established in 1905 on 100 acres of land in Ennis. Several thousand Odd Fellows, widows of Odd Fellows, and Rebekahs have called this their home since opening. The Retirement Home is currently being modified so that 2 single rooms are combined to make one suite, each with private bath, bedroom and sitting room; providing living space for couples or single residents. The home has a large recreation area, dining room and chapel. All meals are provided and are prepared under the supervision of a qualified dietician. This home has space for 68 residents and operates at about 75% capacity. A 58 bed Nursing Home was opened in 1962 as an annex to the Retirement Home, and operated until July 1989 when a new, specially designed Nursing Home was opened on property adjacent to the Home for the Aged. This is a 114 bed full care Nursing Home which provides all except intensive care. It is staffed by full time Registered and LVN nurses, pharmacist, dietician and on call Staff Physician.
IOOF Home for the Aged Structure Built in1928 in Ennis, TX This building was replaced in 1971. (click to enlarge)
SOS CHILDREN’S VILLAGES
Several years ago, recognizing a need to care for orphaned, abandoned, neglected, and abused children, a non-governmental child welfare organization was formed which is now known as the SOS Children’s Villages and provides loving, stable homes in over 132 countries around the world. They serve all children in need regardless of race, nationality or creed. Every child is assured of the love and support of a surrogate parent with brothers and sisters, the opportunity to live in a permanent house, and the positive experience of being part of a larger village community. This prepares them to take their rightful place in society as happy, responsible, and productive adults. That is precisely what the Independent Order of Odd Fellows did when our children’s homes were operating all over this country for more than a century. At one time the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs had 65 children’s homes in the U.S. and were caring for over 100,000 children. The SOS Village Organization at this time has 456 Villages serving over 58,000 children.
A partnership between the I.O.O.F. and The SOS Children’s Villages will be an ideal relationship between the two most dedicated, private, non-governmental, non-profit organizations in the world who are dedicated to protecting and nurturing orphans and all children in need. There are currently three SOS Villages in the United States and The I.O.O.F. is in the process of building a SOS Village in Cambodia which is planned for dedication in 2006.
The Odd Fellow and Rebekah Friendship Towers, Inc. was chartered in 1978 to operate as a separate non-profit corporation under the laws of the State of Texas, with a Board of Directors elected from among Odd Fellows from the State of Texas. The purpose was and is to provide elderly and handicapped persons with housing facilities and services especially designed to meet their physical, social, and psychological needs and to promote their health, security and happiness. The charges for apartments and services are predicated upon the provisioning, maintenance and operation cost for each facility on a non-profit basis. Texas has two Friendship Towers; one in Dallas with 150 apartments and another in Corsicana with 100 apartments. Residents must be retired and be fully capable of caring for themselves. Each complex has a large recreation area, craft rooms, a library, and Chapel. We are justly proud of the care we are providing for our retired aged and handicapped members and citizens.
Texas Odd Fellows and Rebekahs have joined with the Kidney Foundation of Texas to assist in fighting kidney disease. We proudly sponsor the Gift of Life Organ Donor Program and we urge each of our members to donate their kidneys upon their death. What greater memorial could a person leave than to give life to someone else when their life is over? Over 80,000 people are stricken with kidney disease each year and must sustain their lives by use of an artificial-kidney machine until a donor is found. Only 10,000 of these will receive kidneys. It is obvious that more can be done and would be if more people would donate their organs.
Odd Fellows and Rebekahs have contributed over $3,000,000 to the Arthritis Foundation in recent years. These funds have been given to aid in research to find the cause, prevention, and treatment methods to fight this painful and crippling disease. We are proud of our part in this and will never know how much help we have been to an unknown number of people of all races, religions, and creeds. There are over 100 types of Arthritis that affect people of all ages.
The Educational Foundation of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows began its operation on September 20, 1927. Its purpose is to operate a Revolving Loan Fund for students dependent in whole or in part, on their own efforts for an education. It is supported by donations by the membership to a trust fund and no part of the trust fund can be used for operating costs. The trust fund currently has about $3,500,000. Operating costs and loans are dependent on interest earned and prompt repayment by recipients of the loans. Loans are made for two or four year programs at an accredited college or university, and for study at any recognized trade school after completion of high school, for any course offering immediate opportunity for employment. Due to low interest rates, and a shortage of funds, this program is only open to children of members or children who have a relative who is a member, at this time. The interest rate varies and is determined at the time of a loan, but is kept as low as possible (4% minimum) to offset operating costs, on a non-profit basis. To date over 7,500 students have received loans totaling over $7,000,000.
WORLD HUNGER AND DISASTER FUND
Odd Fellows and Rebekahs have the obligation “to relieve the distressed” and have spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars in the care and aid of Brothers and Sisters who have met with natural disasters. We demonstrate our obligation when funds from the World Hunger and Disaster Fund are used to aid in responding to the needs of those who have suffered from natural disasters. Damage from Hurricanes during 2005 which struck in Florida, Mississippi, New Orleans and in the Sabine River area of Texas have all been supported by this fund. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was instrumental in assisting until reorganization was accomplished. Because of greater than expected needs over the past few years, this fund is seriously short of money. It is supported entirely by donations from Odd Fellows and Rebekahs and is in urgent need of additional donations.
INTERNATIONAL PEACE GARDEN
Midway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, at a site on the longest unfortified border in the world and only 35 miles from the geographic center of the North American Continent blooms the International Peace Garden. The Garden, dedicated in 1932, spreads over 888 acres of North Dakota, and 1,451 acres of Manitoba Province. It commemorates the more than 150 years of harmony and cooperation between two neighbor nations, the United States and Canada. At the entrance to the Peace Garden stand the majestic gates provided by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, saluting the Gardens ideal and reminding the world that Odd Fellowship is universal and committed to promoting peace and harmony among all men. The Entrance Gates, designed and built for the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, diagonally span the boundary. One fourteen foot high native fieldstone pillar rises from Canadian soil and the other from United States soil; four black laminated wood beams extend from each pillar toward the metal rings in the center which join them exactly over the border. The gates bear the inscription: “THIS ENTRANCE BUILT AND DEDICATED TO THE CAUSE OF PEACE BY THE ODD FELLOWS AND REBEKAHS OF THE WORLD.” We take great pride in having contributed the largest single part of a non-governmental organization in the creation of the International Peace Garden.
Since 1955, Odd Fellows and Rebekahs have continuously been a part of the beauty and excitement of the Rose Parade on New Years Day. Our first float was entered in the parade of 1909, making us among the longest participants. Through the years, we have had over 25 prize winning floats which have borne our names and emblems. This includes 6 first place, 6 second place, and numerous special award floats which were seen by millions of people on television and many thousands more have seen them personally each New Years Day. It takes physical labor as well as financial assistance from a great many members to make possible the beautiful entry in each year’s parade. Theta Rho girls and Junior Odd Fellows are selected each year to ride on the float by competition. Young people and adults from several states give time between Christmas and New Years Day to build the float. Our contributions make possible this outstanding public relations opportunity and make each of us personally, a part of the Rose Bowl festivities.
LIVING LEGACY PROGRAM
The Living Legacy Program has the goal of planting trees to beautify the environment and to improve our ecology by making this a cleaner world in which to work, play, and live. It has the motto: “Plant a tree for those who come after me”. Since its institution, over 8,000,000 trees have been planted in all parts of the world, with many being planted in Texas. A great many people are engaged in cutting trees down - not nearly enough are involved in replanting them.