By Stephen Smoot
“The historic command of the Odd Fellow ‘is to visit the dead, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan.’”
So reads one of the first lines on the website for the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows, the organization under which the Shinnston Rebekah Lodge operates. Volunteers for the Rebekah Lodge strove this fall to get donations of new socks for struggling veterans as the cold months of fall and winter approach.
“We just started a few months ago,” said Wanda Ashcraft, secretary of the Lodge. She added that she sent out letters to area churches and other organizations as well as putting out donation boxes at Shinnston City Hall and the library. Ashcraft shared that “the Sovereign Lodge suggested that we do this.”
The Lodge collected 2,887 pair of socks, as well as $1,900 in donations from those who preferred to give money.
Ashcraft, who served for eight years as mayor of Shinnston, credited teamwork for the success of the endeavor. “We teamed up with the town,” she noted.
In addition to the power of teaming, a bit of friendly feuding also helped to boost the final results. “I’m very competitive,” Ashcraft explained, then told how the Shinnston Lodge competed with Boone Lodge Number 170 in Madison. Though the competition remained tight, Ashcraft noted with satisfaction “we won the state award last week for the most socks.”
She shared that she gave 101 pair to the Clarksburg Mission. This organization provides “a long-term residential program for up to 24 men and 18 women. Each individual is accepted into the program through application. This process ensures that each person receives the kind of care that they need, whether from our facility or another.”
Of the residents, 21 are veterans.
The Mission also continually searches for individuals or organizations who can, as the Rebekah Lodge did, run clothing drives> They also welcome those who can gather food donations as well.
Ashcraft and the Lodge will present the remainder of the socks to the Louis Johnson VA Hospital in Clarksburg. A donation ceremony was held last Monday at 1:15 PM.
Not only did the drives conducted in Shinnston, Madison, and elsewhere, as well as the effort behind them, “relieve the distressed,” they also accomplished another core mission of the I.O.O.F., “to elevate and improve the character of mankind.”