Who Are the Odd Fellows?
To improve and elevate the character of man.
In 18th Century England, people were facing a lot of challenges. Life was tough, often lawless and desperate. Medicine was still crude and in a primitive stage. Life expectancy was about 45 to 50. There were lots of sickness, orphaned kids, widowed mothers and many people cannot afford to pay a decent burial for the dead. So, ordinary people from different trades and walks of life found it necessary to group together as brothers and sisters and contribute some of their hard-earned wages to a common fund which they could use for unfortunate times such as sickness, losing a job and even death. They would work together to help each other and the unfortunate families back on their feet, whether it was rebuilding a barn that had burned or putting in a new crop after a devastating season.
It was odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need and pursuing projects for the benefit of all mankind. Such altruistic and friendly society came to be known as “Odd Fellows” because it was odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need and of pursuing projects for the benefit of all mankind. It was believed that they were “an odd bunch of fellows” who would behave in such a selfless and seemingly impractical fashion. Odd Fellows are also known as “The Three Link Fraternity” which stands for Friendship, Love and Truth.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was founded on the North American Continent in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 26, 1819 when Thomas Wildey and four members of the Order from England instituted Washington Lodge No. 1. This lodge received its charter from Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows in England. At that time, the city was suffering both a yellow fever epidemic and mass unemployment so they dedicated the organization to “Visit the sick, relieve the distress, bury the dead and educate the orphans.”
Odd Fellowship became the 1st national fraternity to include both men and women when it adopted the beautiful Rebekah Degree on September 20, 1851. This degree is based on the teachings found in the Holy Bible, and was written by the Honorable Schuyler Colfax who was Vice President of the United States during the period 1868-1873. Odd Fellows and Rebekahs were also the first fraternal organization to establish homes for our senior members and for orphaned children.
Today, Odd Fellows and Rebekahs continue to exist with nearly 10,000 lodges in approximately 26 countries consisting of men and women who united together for mutual aid and conviviality, providing social and practical support for each other and their communities in every way possible. Even though we have come a long way now, there are still more needs to be done. Working together to achieve these goals and help our fellow men creates a bond that cannot be described – a brotherhood and sisterhood of benevolence that can only be felt as an active participant. Working together, we can really help make a difference!
The Odd Fellows are actively involved in a variety of civic and philanthropic efforts on a local, national, and international level. Highlights of these include:
- The Odd Fellows and Rebekahs spend over $775 million in relief projects annually
- The IOOF Educational Foundation provides substanial loans and grants to students
- SOS Children’s Village provides a caring home for orphaned children in Cambodia
- Living Legacy focuses on planting trees and enhancing our environment
- The Arthritis Foundation
- Visual Research Foundation supports vision care and research through the Wilmer Eye Institute
- United Nations Pilgrimage for Youth
Odd Fellows Valediction
I AM AN ODD FELLOW:
I believe in the Fatherhood of God, and the Brotherhood of Man;
I believe in Friendship, Love and Truth as basic guides to the ultimate destiny of all mankind.
I believe my home, my church or temple, my lodge, and my community deserve my best work, my modest pride, my earnest faith, and my deepest loyalty, as I perform my duty “to visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan” and as I work with others to build a better world because in spirit and in truth, I am, and must always be, grateful to my Creator, faithful to my Country, and fraternal to my fellow man;
I AM AN ODD FELLOW!
Odd Fellows Creed
Genuine Friendship, which hears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, is the first step toward progress and personal enrichment, and the teachings of Temperance, Prudence, and Justice.
Love is the basis for all life’s ambitions, service to humanity, and more family oriented.
Truth, the imperial virtue, promotes economic stability, equality under law, freedom of enterprise, the highest of ethical standards, and lasting peace, the ultimate goal of fraternity.
Universal Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God is imperative to the survival of the World, and can be accomplished only through the practice of fellowship and understanding among all peoples and nations.