As its highest ranking official and ambassador last year, George L. Glover III of Coventry, immediate past sovereign grand master of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, unexpectedly found himself wearing another hat: Globe trotter.
Since his installation as sovereign grand master in August 2010, he's traveled to five continents, logging more than 75,000 miles of flight time winging off to far flung places like New Zealand and Australia.
He's visited Odd Fellows jurisdictions and attended Grand Lodge sessions throughout the world; forged friendships with people from Sweden to the Phillipines; and essentially oversaw a 193-year-old worldwide franternal organization that, today, has nearly 10,000 lodges in approximately 26 countries.
Glover, 62, a fourth generation Odd Fellow, is also the first Rhode Islander ever to be elected to the sovereign grand master of the Sovereign Grand Lodge - Odd Fellowship's highest office.
Little did Glover know when he joined the Odd Fellows 44 years ago that he would someday be serving as the leader of the worldwide organization. But anyone familiar with Glover's family history and commitment to Odd Fellowship, would argue he was destined for the job.
“I feel that this heritage and commitment to Odd Fellowship has helped to shape my life,” he says. “How different my life would have been had I not joined the Independent Order of Odd Fellows as a teenager. The tenets of friendship, love, and truth have guided my life and molded me into the individual that I am today.”
Friendship, Love and Truth
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), also known as the Three Link Fraternity, is an altruistic and benevolent fraternal organization derived from the similar British Oddfellows service organizations which came into being during the 18th century, and at a time when altruistic and charitable acts were far less common. These altruistic organizations contributed their hard-earned wages to a common fund which they used to help each other and those less fortunate back on their feet, whether it was rebuilding a barn that had burned or putting in a new crop after a devastating season.
They 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 first national fraternity to include both men and women when it adopted the Rebekah Degree on Sept. 20, 1851. This degree is based on the teachings found in the Bible, and was written by the Honorable Schuyler Colfax, who was Vice President of the United States from 1868-1873. The Rebekahs started out as Odd Fellowships' female counterparts. Today men and women can join either the Odd Fellows or Rebekahs, or both.
Odd Fellows and Rebekahs were also the first fraternal organization to establish homes for senior members and orphaned children.
The Odd Fellows symbol — three links with F, L and T in them — stands for Friendship, Love and Truth and are the foundations of the order.
A man or woman of good character, who is loyal to his or her country and believes in a Supreme Being, the creator and preserver of the universe, is eligible for membership.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows in the U.S. has three levels: the Lodge, the Encampment, and the Patriarchs Militant. The Lodge is assigned to new initiates. Once a member has made their way through all the degrees and has had the 3rd degree (truth) bestowed upon them, they are entitled to hold an officer position in their lodge, and are also eligible to go on further in Odd Fellowship through the higher degree branches such as the Encampment and the Patriarchs Militant, also known as the Canton.
Worldwide, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Rebekahs are involved in numerous charitable efforts and humanitarian endeavours such as scholarships, low-interest student loans and grants, low-cost nursing homes for the elderly, family and youth summer camps and annual donations to charities. The Odd Fellows and Rebekahs spend over $775 million in relief projects annually.
The Educational Foundation of the order began its operation in 1927. It's purpose is to operate a revolving loan fund for qualified students dependent in part, or wholly, on their own efforts for an education, and to award scholarships to students based on scholarship, leadership and financial need. Since the beginning of the foundation, donations of approximately $3,500,000 have made it possible for over 3,500 young people to receive student low interest loans amounting to over $6,800,000, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship awards.
The order also supports the SOS Children’s Village, which provides a caring home for orphaned children in 132 countries around the world. In 2003, an orphanage project named “Odd Fellows Village” was introduced at the 2003 Sessions of The Sovereign Grand Lodge in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Today, the village, located in Battam Bang in the Kingdom of Cambodia, consists of 15 family homes, a social centre, a medical facility and kindergarten facility that houses approximately 150 orphaned and AIDS affected children. The village is a joint project in conjunction with SOS Kinderdorf International.
The order has also contributed time and money to the Arthritis Foundation, and the Visual Research Foundation, which supports vision care and research through the Wilmer Eye Institute at John Hopkins University; disaster relief; and planting trees and enhancing the environment.
Each year, the order sponsors a Rose Bowl float in the Tournament of Roses Parade. Through physical labor and financial assistance from many members, Odd Fellows and Rebekahs have been a part of the Rose Parade on New Year's Day since 1955.
The Department of the Army, official custodian of Arlington National Cemetery, has granted the first Sunday of May of each year so that members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellow and Rebekahs can pay tribute and homage to fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives in defense of their country. Members of the Order place wreaths at the tombs of the Unknown Soldiers in Washington, DC's, Arlington National Cemetery.
Ocean State Odd Fellows
There are eight Odd Fellow lodges and six Rebekah lodges in Rhode Island. The Grand Lodge of the State of Rhode Island Independent Order of Odd Fellows is based in Bristol. Membership statewide is about 200 Odd Fellows and 100 Rebekahs.
There used to be lodges all over the state, inlcuding one in Woonsocket and three in Pawtucket, but all but eight are gone.
“At one time we had over 1,000 members, but like a lot of fraternal organizations our membership is dwindling,” says Glover.
“The economy has been hard on people, for one, but also the country has changed,” he says. “I was born in 1950 and in those days the father went to work and the mother was home raising the children. These days, with both parents working, there's no time for people to get involved. And the kids are just as busy. There are so many activities for them to be involved in.”
Glover says the Grand Lodge of the State of Rhode Island has had some success targeting “empty nesters” as new members.
Still, with only a handfulof lodges, Rhode Island's Odd Fellows and Rebekahs remain busy doing charitable work in their communities - everything from awarding scholarships to helping family shelters and local food banks.
Each year, the Grand Lodge of the State of Rhode Island Independent Order of Odd Fellows awards five $1,000 scholarships. For the past three years, the Grand Lodge has been raising money for the San Miguel School for Boys in Providence.
Glover, who grew up in East Providence and moved to Coventry seven years ago, is a fourth generation Odd Fellow. His parents, George and Frances, as well as his grandfather and great grandfather, were all Odd Fellows or Rebekahs.
“Odd Fellowship is something I was brought up with and that has always been a part of my life,” he says. “When I my sister and I were young, my parents couldn't afford a babysitter, so my father would take us to the lodge where he was the appointed inner guardian and we would sit in the anti-room doing our homework.”
The day after Glover turned 18 in March of 1968, he joined Canonicus Lodge No. 9 in East Providence.
He attended Edinboro University in Northwestern Pennsylvania, and then worked as a mathematician, statistician and economist for the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, a job he held for more than 20 years before retiring in 2008.
He was noble grand master of Canonicus Lodge No. 9 from 1970 to 1971, and in the spring of 1972, joined Grand Lodge of the State of Rhode Island where he held nearly every officers post, including grand master from 1980-1981.
In 2010, he was one of four candidates for sovereign grand master of the Sovereign Grand Lodge - Odd Fellowship's top spot.
“I had been serving on the legislative committee so my name was well known,” says Glover, who's term as sovereign grand master was completed in August of last year. “I won on my first try, which is unusual.”
Glover, who is also a member of Mizpah Rebekah Lodge No. 22 in East Providence as well as a Freemason, currently serves as treasurer of the Grand Lodge of the State of Rhode Island.
“Not a lot of people know about the many good works the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs do in the community,” he says. “We tend to hide our light under a bushel, so to speak. I can't imagine my life without it. My life has revolved around it. I was bought up with it and I believe in what we do. I feel I've gained so much more from Odd Fellowship than I have ever given it.”
Says Glover: “We all would like to leave a footprint on this world and leave it a better place and I truley believe that Odd Fellowship and it's three principals of friendship, love and truth, has helped me to do that.”