By SEAN ROWLEY
Tahlequah is blessed with many charitable organizations that provide food, shelter and other assistance to those in need, and the new year brings another calendar for the city’s oldest altruistic organization: the Cherokee Masonic Lodge No. 10.
Members will prepare an all-you-can-eat breakfast Jan. 18 from 7-11 a.m. at the lodge, corner of Choctaw Street and College Avenue. Tickets are $5 and the public is invited.
“They really do a great job, and their food is awfully darned good,” said Jo Prout, executive director of CASA. “They work hard, standing in that hot kitchen, and we are very pleased to be one of their beneficiaries.”
Benefit breakfasts are held every third Saturday of each month at the Cherokee Lodge. Proceeds have gone to Help-In-Crisis, Relay For Life, the Special Olympics, Save a Senior, the Salvation Army, Energy Aid, and most recently the Soroptomists Club.
“We are involved in many projects to help the community,” said Kent Rountree, a member of the lodge. “Several of our members are certified to participate in the Prevent Blindness Oklahoma project. We do eye screenings at schools throughout the county. We want to identify issues early so parents can get their kids referred quickly. Of course, poor vision can affect a child’s quality of education.”
Lodge members staff the concession stands during the annual Cher-O-Dair Shrine Club rodeo and the Shrine Circus. The Masons also organize the Student of Today and Teacher of Today awards in Cherokee County. Winners are honored at a dinner event each year.
“We are committed to assisting widows in the county,” Rountree said. “If someone has a need, like a wheelchair ramp or handrail, we will build it ourselves. If it is a larger project, we can raise the funds to allow that work to be done.”
Rountree sought membership with the Masons because of its deeds in the community.
“I was drawn by the charity,” he said. “We do everything for charity and don’t retain anything. It is a fraternal brotherhood of men who identify needs. We then develop plans to meet those needs, or at least minimize the impact for affected individuals. As a child, several gentlemen who mentored me were Masons and I always looked up to them. When I got to a point in my life where I could pursue it, I became a member myself.”
The Cherokee Lodge is the oldest in Oklahoma, dating to the 1840s. W.W. Hastings was a member, as were several of the Ross family. The lodge is home to a number of artifacts, many carried by former members. But also among the treasures are the bell from the Old Moravian Church, erected in 1835, and the sword presented to Chief Bowles by General Sam Houston after a treaty was signed between the Cherokee and Texas nations.
Rountree was also drawn to the history and moral foundation of Freemasonry.
“It is perhaps the oldest fraternity known to man,” he said. “Operative Masons go back to the times of King Solomon. So there is a great deal of history and honor associated with it. Everything is founded in biblical principles in our organization. It is also important to understand that we do not recruit. If interested in becoming a member, a person must contact a member.”
The Masonic Lodge is working on a new website at cherokee10.com.
“That will re-establish our web presence,” Rountree said. “We hope to have that up by the end of January. Once that is going, people will be able to go online and see a calendar of our events.”
For information about the lodge’s events, call Rountree at (918) 931-7192 or the lodge’s Worshipful Master for 2014, Dana Hazzard, at (918) 931-0391.
The lodge’s CASA breakfast will feature eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, coffee and juice. All proceeds go to CASA. For more information about the CASA benefit breakfast, call CASA at (918) 456-8788. Tickets are available at the door, but can be purchased in advance at the CASA office at 304 W. Keetoowah St.