For Odd Fellows, doing ‘good’ includes improving downtown Carpentersville
By Erin Sauder For Sun-Times Media August 26, 2013 11:42AM
Guy Rossi, of St. Charles, talks about the remodeling process, Friday, at the newly remodeled Odd Fellows building in Carpentersville. Dave Shields/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 29, 2013 6:11AM
CARPENTERSVILLE — Ask a member of the Odd Fellows Century Lodge 492 why he decided to join the community service-oriented group, and you’ll likely get two answers.
First will be the tongue-in-cheek quip, “Because I’m kind of an odd fellow myself.”
The other is more heartfelt: “Because I wanted to help.”
Since Nov. 4, 1900, Century Lodge 492 has been meeting at 50½ E. Main St. in Carpentersville. One of the oldest entities in the town aside from municipal services, the group has been doing charitable work in the community, statewide, nationally and internationally for 113 years from this location.
And to coincide with the order’s Sovereign Grand Lodge World Meeting in Schaumburg, members of Century Lodge 492 held a celebration Friday to unveil their newly remodeled digs, which included work on both the interior and exterior of the building. Celebrants included community leaders, local residents, contractors who worked on the project, and Odd Fellow brothers and sisters from across the United States and 28 other countries.
Carpentersville Village President Ed Ritter was one of those attending Friday’s event. He said it had been about 16 years since he was last in the Main Street building.
“It’s an amazing transformation,” he said. “It fits in so well with Otto’s (of Otto Engineering) building. They all date from the same time period, and now they all look like they do. The downtown is almost completely redone now.”
Century Lodge 492 is one of the more active fraternal orders in the area, boasting more than 100 members. Odd Fellowship is often called “the three-links fraternity” based on the order’s symbol: three intertwined links standing for “friendship, love and truth.”
And members take that seriously. During Friday’s celebration, visitors were warned not to step on the patterned links on the carpet upstairs.
“No one steps on those,” said John “BJ” Goldberg, past grand master of Illinois and a 21-year member of Century Lodge 492.
That same upstairs room is where the meetings are held, and one can glimpse the history of the order there. The walls are covered in memorabilia and artifacts from decades gone by, as well as the order’s constitution.
Goldberg is excited about the building’s renovations.
“We are very proud of our fraternal look and would hope the community enjoys the look of the building as they drive through the historic district of Carpentersville,” he said.
Doing ‘endless’ good
Odd Fellow Louie Kloepper of Carpentersville joined about four years ago after a knee injury caused him to have to retire from the East Dundee Police Department.
He said he first became aware of the local fraternal order several years ago through the police department’s Shop with a Cop program, which includes treating the local under-resourced children who participate to a breakfast before their shopping trips with officers.
“I met John (Goldberg) and asked if the lodge could do cooking breakfast for the kids and families, and they agreed. The second year, I asked again and said to send us the bill. John called me and said, ‘There’s no bill. We’ll foot the whole thing.’ They did that for five years,” Kloepper said.
After his retirement, he sought out the group to become a member.
“It’s a brotherhood, but the main thing I like is that it’s reaching out and helping other people,” Kloepper said.
Fellow member Jeremy Soderstrom of East Dundee agrees.
“We do our best to take care of each other and the community,” he said.
Some initiatives undertaken by the group include helping collect food for the FISH (Friend I Shall Help) Food Pantry in Carpentersville, hosting fundraisers to support local charities, and gathering clothing and items for those in need.
“It’s endless what comes up,” Soderstrom said.
He became involved after a being encouraged by another member.
“He said, ‘I think you’re going to like this. Why don’t you check it out?’ And I did, and I saw how wonderful these people are,” Soderstrom said.
Member Steve Garstki of Mount Prospect praises his fellow brothers. Over the years, time constraints and distance have kept him from being active as he’d like, he said, but “you’re always welcomed back.”
“These are a group of men who have carried on the tradition of a fraternal order,” he said. “They’ve dedicated themselves to not only helping each other but the community. You would be hard-pressed to see a more energetic group.”
More information about the group is at www.centurylodge492il.org.