How to be an Odd Fellow – Protecting the Rights of Our Neighbors -by Vanessa O’Connor

How to be an Odd Fellow –
Protecting the Rights of Our Neighbors
By Vanessa O’Connor
Mountain View Lodge #244

The Odd Fellows empower members to support those most in need, providing a source of strength within the community. We have always welcomed and comforted those under duress, as it is part of our oath “to visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan.” However, when an issue is nationwide, as with immigration, it can be overwhelming or worse – abandoned, as being an issue that is either highly politicized or beyond our reach. But our neighbors and communities are under threat. Our government has separated parents from their children, have held children behind bars and mistreated them, and have created an atmosphere of fear within communities by detaining our neighbors, regardless of their proof of citizenship.

Our community needs our help now more than ever, which is why Mountain View Lodge #244 has hosted several fundraisers to protect our neighbors and their rights.

The fundraiser itself is a pop-up photo gallery, held within our lodge in partnership with local photographers. People donate to one of the charities listed and in exchange, they receive a framed photo from the gallery in thanks. This serves two roles – 1) it brings awareness to the issue and the charities working to resolve it, and 2) it provides an opportunity for the community to learn more about the Odd Fellows. Donations are made directly to the organization so that community members know their donations are going where they want them to. They only need to show a receipt or proof of donation to enter the gallery and select a photo.

The charities we have chosen are all 501(c)3 nonprofits and include the Bay Area Immigration Fund, the Freedom for Immigrants organization, and the Rapid Response Network, which consists of three nonprofits (Sacred Heart Community Service, People Acting in Community Together / P.A.C.T., and Services Immigrant Rights and Education Network / S.I.R.E.N.). All three protect the rights of immigrants through different means.

The Bay Area Immigration Fund and the Freedom for Immigrants organization provides cash bonds to community members who have been detained. Detainment conditions are cruel and dehumanizing. Behind chain linked fences, children and adults are pressed into cramped detainment centers, where basic necessities – access to showers and medical treatment, even clean water for infants – are denied. Children sleep on concrete floors and are sick with outbreaks of the flu. Six children have died under the detainment of border patrol agents. Needless to say, the conditions for adults are no better. To free men and women from the detainment center, the charities provide cash bonds so they can walk free. This allows our neighbors – especially parents and young adults caring for the elderly – to continue working and supporting their families while undergoing court proceedings. Cash bonds are also refundable as long as the conditions for the bond are met, and they can be used to support others who have been detained.

The Rapid Response Network protects immigrant families before and after detainment. Before detainment, the network sends a trained representative to communities to provide information on immigrant rights. The network also provides support should ICE visit a local neighborhood, both by walking people through how to assert their rights and by sending trained dispatchers to the scene. Myself and my husband have been trained by the Rapid Response Network, and we are always on alert should we receive a text of an ICE report in our local neighborhood. We have been trained to conduct legal observation and documentation on ICE, which can help should an immigration case be opened. After detainment, the Rapid Response Network provides support during and after an arrest or detention.

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This strikes close to home, as my mother, my aunts, and my cousins are immigrants from the Phillippines. Though they’ve waited years, have gone through all the right avenues and are either on their way to citizenship or have citizenship, we know this is not enough to protect them. ICE has detained Americans, despite government IDs and proof of citizenship. Mothers and fathers have been detained and separated from their children. Families have been left without caretakers, without work or the funds for food and shelter. If ICE detained my family, how would my cousins survive? They’re as young as those held at the border. Would they be trapped behind chain linked fences, or separated from each other? Would they be left at the school curbside, watching the driveway till nightfall, wondering why their mother didn’t pick them up? It’s heartbreaking and overwhelming, and it’s terrifying that such mistreatment hasn’t stopped.

But despite the helplessness such thoughts often bring, our members have fought against. Our lodge has fundraised from October through December to “relieve the distressed,” honoring our tenant of Love. Our members have been a source of comfort, a reminder that together, we can build bridges where others would build walls. While immigration is highlight politicized, the rights of our neighbors are not a political issue. I urge all lodges to protect your neighbors in this harrowing time, and thank those who have already done so.

Visit Sovereign Grand Lodge: Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Visit our Facebook page: Heart In Hand

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4 thoughts on “How to be an Odd Fellow – Protecting the Rights of Our Neighbors -by Vanessa O’Connor

  1. I think serving immigrants in the community is an excellent idea and the continuation of a long tradition of Odd Fellowship. Many immigrants joined Odd Fellows lodges for the mutual aid and assistance we provided in the past. Now is an excellent time for our lodges’ doors to be open to helping those new to our communities.


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