Nonprofit Spotlight: Moose efforts benefit Aberdeen, region and nation

Farm Forum

Kelly R. Brugman is governor of Moose Lodge 590, the Aberdeen Moose Family Center.

This year, the Aberdeen Moose Family Center, consisting of the Loyal Order of Moose and Women of the Moose, will celebrate its 112th year of providing a family environment and community service to Aberdeen and surrounding communities.

On Aug. 3, we invite you, our neighbors and friends, family members, church and business associates, to join us as we celebrate.

Though the Moose fraternal organization was founded in the late 1880s with the modest goal of offering men an opportunity to gather socially, it was reinvented during the first decade of the 20th century into an organizational dynamo of men and women who set out to build a city that would brighten the futures of thousands of children in need all across North America.

In 1888, Dr. John Henry Wilson, a Louisville, Ky., physician, organized a handful of men into the Loyal Order of Moose for the purpose of forming a string of men’s social clubs. Lodges were quickly instituted in Ohio, Indiana and Missouri.

In 1906, James J. Davis, the founder of today’s Moose fraternity, became the 247th member of the Loyal Order of Moose. He saw the potential to build the tiny Moose fraternity into a force to provide protection and security for a largely working-class membership. At the time, little or no government safety net opportunities existed to provide benefits to the wife and children of a breadwinner who died or became disabled. Davis proposed a low-cost Moose membership as a way to provide such protection. Davis and a few other colleagues set out to solicit members and organize Moose lodges across the U.S. and southern Canada.

By 1912, the order had grown to more than 500,000 members in more than 1,000 lodges.

In 1913, the Loyal Order of Moose established the Mooseheart School, a home for children in need. Congressman John Lentz announced: “This will always be the place where the Moose fraternity will collectively pour out its heart, its devotion and sustenance, to the children of its members in need.” Since then, Mooseheart has become a home for any child in need.

In 1922, the Moose fraternity opened Moosehaven, the “City of Contentment” for its retired members. Moosehaven has grown into a 63-acre community providing a comfortable home, a wide array of recreational activities and comprehensive health care to more than 400 residents.

For more than 25 years, the Moose directed its efforts almost completely toward Mooseheart and Moosehaven. In 1949, the Moose fraternity instituted the third great Moose endeavor of the modern era, the Civic Affairs program, later renamed Community Service. The director general of the Moose explained the rationale: “Only three institutions have a God-given right to exist in a community, the home, the church and the school. The rest of us must be valuable to the community to warrant our existence, and the burden of proof of our value is on us.” The Community Service program has since flourished into myriad humanitarian efforts on the local lodge level.