Tell us about Bellevue Lodge. What makes it unique? What is it known for?
Historically, Bellevue was known as a “Railroad Lodge.” Towns like Bellevue were major hubs of activity for commerce during the height of rail traffic. Men who joined Bellevue Lodge were often connected with the rail companies that operated from Moorman Yard as the Lodge was formed in 1855 and the railyard in the 1880’s. So often the membership was not just men in the Bellevue community, but also in other major rail towns in Ohio like Columbus or Conneaut who might find themselves in town during a lay-over for their next trip.
As rail travel has changed, so has the presence of rail workers in the local Lodge. There are still railworkers on our roster, but most of them are retired and we don’t see the visitation from railway Masons like we used to. Now the Lodge is developing into an interesting cross-section of professions, we have postal workers, teachers, small business owners, morticians, electricians, cell phone salesmen, BBQ pitmasters, and more. Our latest petition was from a pastor in a nearby community.
What is the community of Bellevue, Ohio like? What is your Lodge’s interaction in the community?
Bellevue is a small town of just over 8,000. Our largest employers are the railyard, the Bellevue Hospital, and the local public school system.
When I came into Bellevue Lodge around 2010, we weren’t doing much in the way of community involvement. That has really changed in the past couple years. We’ve gotten much more active in our charitable fundraising. Just this year we did a canned food drive for our local food bank, and at our last meeting we donated a portion of our latest fundraiser to the Pass it on Clothing Closet, a non-profit that offers free clothing for people in need. We also reactivated our local scholarship award. Our building sponsors a Boy Scout troop, and we made our first appearance at the local Halloween parade alongside other community organizations in Bellevue.
The Open House program promoted by MWB Grindle was a good thing for our Lodge. Interestingly, while we didn’t get a lot of un-attached community visitors, we made several connections with Freemasons living in the Bellevue community who held their membership in other Grand Lodges, and got to start forming a relationship that will see them start to visit our Lodge and/or become a dues paying member. Open Houses work, but you have to take ownership of the advertising–putting a sign in the front yard and hoping for the best isn’t enough.
We’re aware your lodge has an emphasis on community and fellowship. Can you tell us more about that?
We had an influx of new members this year, and that really re-invigorated our longtime members for things like traveling to Lodge inspections. We won the District traveling gavel several times. We got back in the habit of offering some kind of meal before our Lodge meetings. Even if it’s just a pizza, it’s a chance to connect with each other outside of the formal Lodge room setting. Roby Lodge #539, the next Lodge East of us, challenged us to a Euchre tournament – we didn’t win, so they sent us a few decks of cards and told us to keep practicing!
We were very efficient with our business meetings and degree work this year. If a Lodge closes before 9pm, men will often hang out at the building until 10pm or later. Lodges that run overly-long meetings and don’t budget their time well will see their members flee after the final gavel drops.
What is the relationship between Brothers in the lodge? How do they interact with each other and engage in Lodge events?
We’ve had the most new members join Bellevue Lodge this year in my 13+ years as a Mason. This has brought us some unique challenges, as new men are brought into a group with others who have long-standing relationships.
There is a tendency for us as Masons to try to draw a capacity crowd to an event, then hang out with “our usual guys” at the event instead of mingling together. This type of schism can happen at the local Lodge level as well, and if you’re not intentional, you’ll end up with a table full of “new guys” and a table full of “old guys”, and you have to make an effort to break out of that mindset. All relationships take time to develop, and Lodge Brothers are no exception. Keep coming to Lodge, make the small talk, learn the names of their wives and kids, and the relationships will come.
Does your Lodge have any upcoming events you’d like to share?
Honestly a lot of our original agenda got side-lined this year due to the influx of new degree work we ended up taking on. As I write this we’ve just held our annual meeting and a new corps of officers is setting up the new Masonic year. I know that we are going to continue our raffles that help us donate to our charitable causes, but other than that I look forward to seeing the direction the new officers take the Lodge.
What about this Lodge made you want to be part of it? What type of Mason does it attract?
I had heard about Freemasonry for a long time, but hadn’t yet gotten the chance to really settle down in a community until I was almost 30 and felt “ready” to join. MWB Charlie Murphy held the first state-wide Open House that year, and that is what got me in the door. I visited Bellevue Lodge, as well as the Lodges in Sandusky and Tiffin. All the Masons that I met that day encouraged me to join in my home community so that I had an easier time getting involved. For me, it was the right call to join my hometown Lodge.
I wouldn’t say we attract a certain “type” of Mason. Our membership tends to be members of our rural community, and their friends and family that also find the ideas of Freemasonry appealing.