Active in Guttenberg Eagles Club celebrates 30 years of helping people

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Guttenberg’s Fraternal Order of Eagles celebrated their 30th anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 17. Charter members in attendance were, from left, Peggy Wolfe, Richard Schmitt, Steve Eglseder, Tom Engledow, Jay Fishback, Jim Eglseder, Dian Meskimen, Bill Hodges, Billie Smith, Sheila Smith, Gene Fischer, and Terry Eglseder. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser 

Editor’s note: As a Guttenberg native and a member of Guttenberg Development & Tourism, there’s nothing more exciting to me than someone who proclaims, “There’s nothing to do in Guttenberg!” Life here may not be fast-paced, but there are plenty of opportunities to get involved, meet great people, and enjoy living - and I'm always eager to pass that knowledge on. This story is the first in a series planned to highlight local groups and organizations that welcome members of the community and enhance our city’s culture. If you would like your group to be featured, please contact The Guttenberg Press. 

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In the small town of Guttenberg exists one chapter of the group that campaigned for Social Security, pled for the observance of Mother’s Day, and rallied to enact the first Workmen’s Compensation Act. On the state level, this group gave $25 million to fund the Diabetes Research Center in Iowa City. Guttenberg’s own Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 4114 celebrated its 30th anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 17, at their club on Highway 52. Charter members in attendance included Peggy Wolfe, Richard Schmitt, Steve Eglseder, Tom Engledow, Jay Fishback, Jim Eglseder, Dian Meskimen, Bill Hodges, Billie Smith, Sheila Smith, Gene Fischer, and Terry Eglseder. 

While significant national campaigns have always characterized Eagle activity, the group’s grassroots strength undoubtedly lies in local aeries and auxiliaries like those in Guttenberg. Over the years, the local group has donated to high school proms, memorials, and the Guttenberg Fire Department. They’ve held benefits, given money to the little league and to families traveling to faraway hospitals for treatment, donated bikes to children, and honored fire fighters and police officers. “We pay for the first year’s membership for every policeman or fireman that wants to join,” said Aerie president Jim Egl-seder.

That’s the motto of the club: People helping people. When the group was founded in 1898, it was first called The Order of Good Things. Six theater owners sitting on a lumber pile in Seattle formed the group after settling the matter of a musician’s strike, and went on to recruit many show people who travelled from town to town on old vaudeville circuits, getting new lodges started. 

At the turn of the century, the Eagles Club was a place for men only. Today, the group calls itself a family fraternity, serving as a hub for family-oriented recreational activities. The Auxiliary, the group’s women’s club, meets separately but works alongside the Eagles in every pursuit. The local club holds fish and chicken fries one Friday a month, and during fall, winter, and spring, the club holds burger night on Thursdays. One hundred percent of the funds raised by the 850,000 members in 1400 aeries throughout the U.S. and Canada are given to charity, which equates to nearly $10 million donated annually to local charities, communities, and fundraisers. 

A state charity night was held Oct. 16, with a silent auction, 50/50 raffle, and chicken bingo. The local club raised $1,292 for Wildwood Hills Ranch, an Iowa nonprofit that exists to transform lives and strengthen communities by impacting at-risk youth. Located in Madison county, the 400-acre ranch has been providing life-changing opportunities and camp programs for at-risk and disadvantaged children since 2001. Campers enjoy a week full of exciting activities including hiking, swimming, horseback riding, fishing, arts and crafts, daily reflection and campfire experiences, while trained camp counselors teach children leadership, character building, and team building skills and demonstrate the meaning of honesty, integrity, and respect.

Kim Lowell is the current president of the Auxiliary, which has nearly 70 members. Robin Cunningham of Guttenberg is an officer for the Iowa State Fraternal Order of Eagles, which boasts 8,884 Aerie members and 4,701 auxiliary members statewide. There are over 130 members of local aerie.

Though some clubhouses in larger cities are only open to members, the Eagles Club in Guttenberg is open to the community at large. The group will host a pasta night on Oct. 29 from 4:30-8 p.m. to benefit Guttenberg EMS, and their next fish fry will be Friday, Nov. 20. Auxiliary meetings are held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 6 p.m., and Aerie meetings are every other Tuesday at 7 p.m. 

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