On Sunday, April 10, members of the local Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE) #4372 spent several hours stuffing Easter baskets with all kinds of goodies for local children who might not ordinarily have a visit from the Easter Bunny. Seventy-nine children who attend Head Start or live at the domestic violence shelter will each receive a basket or bucket. The project was spearheaded by Gloria Tomkinson and Kelly Peabody.
Over the course of a few weeks, they collected so many toys and so much candy that the large collection box had to be emptied a number of times. The items included coloring books, crayons, water pistols, soap bubbles, stuffed bunny rabbits and, of course, candy galore. This is the first time the aerie (the name for the club) has done this particular project. Judging from the response of the members and from the fun that the workers had putting the baskets together, this will probably be an annual project.
The Fraternal Order of Eagles was founded in 1898 in Seattle, Washington with a goal to make human life more desirable by lessening its ills and promoting peace, prosperity, gladness and hope. Many of its earliest members were associated with the theater−actors, stagehands and playwrights. In their travels around the United States and Canada, they promoted the organization. Within ten years there were more than 1,800 aeries scattered throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico and more than 35,000 members.
Through the early years of the twentieth century, the FOE was instrumental in getting official recognition for Mother’s Day and supported important social legislation, such as Social Security and Medicare. Such well-known figures as Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Father Flanagan (founder of Boys’ Town), Bob Hope and even country singer Louise Mandrell have been members of the organization.
In keeping with the founders’ goals, the local Weeki Wachee Eagles engage in philanthropic projects and give grants to local nonprofits. Among the local organizations that they have helped are K9 Partners for Patriots, Veterans’ HEAT Factory and the Hernando Education Foundation. Two years ago the Eagles held a golf tournament that raised almost $10,000 to send children with diabetes to camp. But it’s not just community service and fundraising the Weeki Wachee Eagles do. They hold dances, bingo, fish fries and other social activities. Some are open to the public and some are for members only. They also have a fully-equipped kitchen and a bar.
Anyone wishing to become a member of the Weeki Wachee Eagles can visit the club first and receive an application. On their second visit they can request a sponsor, if they want to join. Then they pay their $20 initiation fee and are interviewed by the membership committee. The aerie is located at 8263 Cortez Blvd. For more information call 352-597-1586 or log onto www.foe4372.com. You can also find out about recent activities on their Facebook page.