Spreading their wings

Eagles organization raising money for local causes

Local Fraternal Order of Eagles President Jon Cox says he originally joined the lodge because of the supportive community it fosters.

Local Fraternal Order of Eagles President Jon Cox says he originally joined the lodge because of the supportive community it fosters.

PHOTO by Brittany Waterstradt

More info:
Learn about Chico’s Eagles organization at http://chico.californiafoe.com.

The motto of the Fraternal Order of Eagles (F.O.E.), “People Helping People,” is evident in the work and fundraising done by the Chico lodge (or as it is more accurately known, “aerie,” the name of an eagle’s nest). It’s also clear in the way members pitch in to help each other when they’re in need.

“We’re all brothers and sisters here,” said Jon Cox, Chico F.O.E. president, at a fundraising dinner to support the memorial services of two recently passed members. “We’re all equals, and we all try to help each other out as much as possible.

“When you become an Eagle or an auxiliary member, we have a general fund that we use to help you and your loved ones do what you want for your last day here. You’re extremely important and nobody here is better than anybody else.”

Cox, a local contractor and father of six, is assisted in his duties at Aerie 218 by his eldest son, Dylyn Braun, who acts as a conductor at meetings and initiations, carrying a Bible, a flag and an eagle icon.

“New members are always welcome,” said Cox, provided they are of “good moral character” and believe in the existence of a supreme being of some sort.

The organization traces its roots to the Order of Good Things, a group of theater owners that formed in 1898 in Seattle. Over time, the group adopted the bald eagle as its symbol and changed its name. Since then, aeries have spread across the United States and Canada.

F.O.E. was the first organization to support both workers’ compensation and pension laws. Six U.S. presidents have been members.

Today, more than a million F.O.E. members maintain thousands of aeries nationwide. On a national level, the F.O.E. generates an estimated $100 million in charitable contributions each year for causes ranging from cancer research to scholarships for underprivileged students.

Locally, the money generated during fundraising events goes to various causes, including schools, the Salvation Army, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, as well as research into illnesses such as kidney disease, breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. All told, Chico’s Eagles organization helps support 10 local charities. In addition to the Eagles’ regular contributions to community causes, the Women’s Auxiliary provides four $500 scholarships to local high school students.

“We try hard to keep all of our money right here in the area,” explained Pat Fletcher, a former F.O.E. Women’s Auxiliary president.

Much of the Eagles’ social interaction takes place in the private bar and social club attached to the F.O.E. building located at 20th and Mulberry streets, where members can meet and share a drink or play a game of pool or shuffleboard.

“Some of our best ideas come from in there,” said Cox, before going into the bar to retrieve his wallet, which he had left out in the open by his seat, an act of trust in his fellow Eagles.

The Eagles count on donations and fundraisers to be able to help others the community. These fundraisers often take the form of a game like Bingo or cribbage. Recently, the auxiliary began hosting “Bunco days,” featuring the popular dice game.

“We have found that [bunco] is the most successful, fun fundraiser,” said Cheri Moniz, current auxiliary president. “It only takes an afternoon, and people really enjoy it.”

Fletcher estimates that each bunco game has raised about $1,000. Along with the games is a raffle, where most donations are generated. The auxiliary also recently put on its annual fashion show fundraiser to support scholarships for local high school students. The events are open to the public.