Who are the Odd Fellows?
In mid-July members of the Galano Board were invited by the Odd Fellows to attend a meeting at the Helping Hand Home for Children in Hyde Park. The Helping Hand Home is one of many local charities that the Odd Fellows have funded with generous gifts. They have made a commitment to give the Helping Hand Home at least $12,000 each year as a sustaining gift. The Galano Board was invited to this donation ceremony by the Odd Fellows because they value our contributions to their mission. It is because Galano leases their old Lodge that they are able to make these sustaining contributions to local charities. Our tenancy and our mission supports their mission—both monetarily and philosophically. While I posed with the Odd Fellows behind the “big cheque” that was being ceremonially given to the Helping Hand Home for Children, it occurred to me how our relationship is mutually beneficial—and how your basket donations make a virtuous circle within our community. First, let’s review the relationship of the individual groups and members within the Galano Club: Each 12-Step recovery group that meets at Galano pays (donates) rent for the meeting room. When you attend a meeting and put two or three dollars in the donation basket, a portion of that money is paid to Galano as rent for the meeting room. Galano’s other revenue stream is from monthly or annual dues paid by Galano members. These are tax-deductible sustaining contributions made by members who want to ensure that there is a safe place for the GLBTQ (and our straight allies) community to attend 12-Step meetings and socialize in a sober environment. So… Galano collects a portion of the basket donations as rent from each individual group, and Galano collects dues from sustaining members. Then Galano pays bills to keep the Club running. Our largest bill every month is the rent we pay to the Odd Fellows. Who are the Odd Fellows? The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF remains prominently on the Guadalupe Street side of the building) is an international fraternal organization whose purpose is to “Visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.” The Odd Fellows are also known as the “Triple Link Fraternity” which represents “Friendship, Love and Truth.” This theme can be seen in the chain links that decorate our entrance gate and the memorial cornerstone. Before the social safety net of LBJ’s Great Society initiatives, the only funding for old-folks homes, hospitals, and orphanages was from charitable organizations. In the first two centuries of the United States, men’s clubs and fraternal orders provided amusement, collegiality, and—most importantly—funding to provide services for society’s most vulnerable. The Lion’s Club, Rotary, Elks Lodge, Masons, Shriners, and the Odd Fellows raised money and built America’s hospitals and orphanages. In the 21st century these fraternal organizations are less prevalent; however, they still enjoy a modest membership—and they continue to do good works in their local communities. Our chapter of the Odd Fellows, Capital Lodge #23, no longer required their large and well-appointed hall, and four years ago they made the decision to lease it—and the Austin Galano Club became their tenants. (They still meet at the Lodge on Tuesdays, and they retain a warren of offices in the corner of the building.) Because of the rental income they now derive from their valuable asset, they are able to continue to make generous contributions to local charities. And this brings us to why I was standing with the Odd Fellows giving a $12,000 dollar cheque to the Helping Hand Home for Children. The Odd Fellows value us—and our mission—and our relationship helps them to fulfill their mission. As I was standing with the Odd Fellows, I marveled at the virtuous circle that our basket donations and dues make: Money is put in the basket at the individual 12-Step groups that meet at Galano. A portion of that money is donated to Galano as rent for the meeting room. That money is combined with dues and donations from Galano sustaining members. Galano cuts a cheque to the Odd Fellows every month for rent. The Odd Fellows then gives their money to local charities that benefit all of us, if only indirectly. I helped give our money to the Helping Hand Home for Children—an orphanage at 38th and Avenue B that provides the most vulnerable kids in Austin a safe place to grow up. And throughout this virtuous circle of giving, none of the money is going into anyone’s pocket as salary. The Galano Board is completely volunteer, as is the Odd Fellows. (And because the Odd Fellows is a non-profit organization, and Galano is also a non-profit organization, our building remains exempt from property taxes.) Your donations are flowing back into our community dollar for dollar. –Al Arro