Observing the International Order of Odd Fellows creed of "friendship, love and truth," members of The Daughters of Rebekah are involved in social and charitable activities worldwide. That includes in Milton-Freewater, where members are active in Integrity Rebekah Lodge 175. The IOOF branch and international service-oriented organization for women was founded in 1851.
As guest speaker for a recent Milton-Freewater Rotary Club meeting, Rebekah member Donna Stewart talked about IOOF, sponsored for male membership in the United States by the Manchester, England, order and chartered on April 26, 1819, in Baltimore, Md. After the Rebekah Order was established, its membership grew to 3.4 million by 1914.
The Milton-Freewater Lodge was established in 1908 and met in an office space at 10th and Main streets. Other area chapters are in Heppner and Pendleton. Active in youth and veterans projects, members began placing American flags on graves of veterans when McCaw Hospital in Walla Walla (now site of the Jonathan M. Wainwright Veterans Affairs Medical Center) and provided care for wounded military troops during World War II.
Through fundraising activities, they provide meals for the Milton-Freewater Rotary meetings and support an active scholarship program. The international organization has provided $3.5 million to more than 3,500 young people since the program was established on Sept. 27, 1927.
Dan Preas, a 31/2-year volunteer chaplain at the Washington State Penitentiary, also spoke to the Rotarians.
Preas and his wife were apprehensive about the program when they attended their first informational meeting. Warnings about what they might encounter during their visits increased their anxiety levels, which heightened more when doors closed and locked behind them as they entered, he said.
Their first encounter with inmates was polar opposite to what they had envisioned, he said. Rather than being aggressive or manipulative, the men were attempting to find meaning in their lives. They came to church to see how that might give them the hope they had been missing, he said.
Because many of the men could become neighbors, "it seems best to give them an opportunity to change before they are released."
The penitentiary houses about 2,000 inmates who are separated into four levels of security. The prison is currently constructing housing units for a fifth level of security.
Dan serves as a volunteer chaplain four to five days per week.
Annie Charnley Eveland will be back in the office on May 22. Items for the Etcetera column may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org or, if too timely, to Alasdair Stewart at email@example.com. Call Stewart at 526-8311 for more information.