Though it may be difficult to discern from its name, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows is the North American chapter of a service organization open to those who meet four criteria. The first is a minimum age that is stated as a range of 16–18. The second is a belief in a Supreme Being that is both the creator of, as well as the preserver of, all that is. The third criteria is being faithful to one’s country. And the fourth is to be a person of good character. Candidates for joining must be sponsored by current members. There are a number of degrees of membership.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is part of the larger collection of Orders of Odd Fellows which was formed in the eighteenth century. The North American branch was founded on 26 April 1819 in Baltimore, Maryland as an offshoot of the Order in England. The name “Odd Fellows” is said to stem from the members’ lack of desire for publicity for their accomplishments.
Similarly, the Rebekahs are an offshoot of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, with a creed based on the behavior of the women who appear in the Old Testament of the Bible, although it is a degree that can be conferred on men as well as women. The Rebekah Creed, refers to God as Father, men as brothers, and women as sisters, as well as the watchwords of friendship, truth, and love.
Odd Fellows contribute service locally, at the state or provincial level, or through national projects. The type of service in which Odd Fellows are involved is intended to have an elevating or improving effect on humankind. Examples of the good works of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows include:
• The Educational Foundation, their first project, which since 1927 has provided low-interest loans to help people further their education
• The S.O.S. Village, also called the Odd Fellow Village, is an orphanage taking shape in Battam Bang in Cambodia for children affected by AIDS
• The Visual Research Foundation & Endowment
• The World Hunger & Disaster Fund
• Contributing more than any other corporate entity to the Arthritis Foundation
Membership includes benefits such being able to join a reduced prescription drug costs and vision care program, as well as tours and pilgrimages to inspirational and important locales, such as the United Nations Pilgrimage for youth and the pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They also provide a float for the Rose Bowl Parade.