On September 23, more than 200 members and guests gathered outside the town of Rossville, KS to host a re-dedication of Moravan Hall, No. 128. The members sold kolache, BBQ sandwiches, and drinks to help cool off in the sweltering heat of the day. The program began at 7 p.m. with the Czechland Polka Band with leader J.D. Parr, playing classic Polka tunes on the corner stage.
|Kelsey Logan and Vice-President Bob Dolezilek displaying the 1903 Moravan (ZCBJ) Original Charter. It had been missing for 50 years before being discovered by Betty Lambotte (left).|
Only a couple years ago, an event like this wouldn’t have seemed possible. Lodge President Doug Martinek reached out to local members to build a coalition of members who were passionate about keeping the Czech heritage and the lodge hall alive. For two years, the lodge has been improving and adding events that would not only reach out to new members, but also rekindle relationships from the past.
At the Rossville Corn Festival this summer, while members were selling kolache for a fundraiser, local woman Betty Lambotte discovered she had something that “belonged to the lodge.” Intrigued, Martinek visited and learned that she was in possession of the original lodge charter from 1903. It was stored away in a tube that her late husband probably acquired at a farm or garage sale. Upon learning this, the lodge members decided to hold a re-dedication of the hall and return of the charter at the next Polka dance.
The charter was sent to be framed and member Dr. Ernie Kratina learned the history of the intricate document. During the program, Doug Martinek welcomed everyone to the hall, then introduced the guests of honor. Betty Lambotte spoke about finding the charter and how she almost threw it away several times. Home Office Member Programs Manager Kelsey Logan spoke about the importance of a small group of people who can make a big difference in the community and the value of local lodges. Also recognized was agent Howard Blecha, who came with his wife, Debbie. Dr. Kratina shared his knowledge of the document, detailing what each picture represented and how it was related to the history of Western Fraternal Life.
After the presentation, members of all ages danced, sang, and enjoyed the evening. Members are planning more events in the future to help update the hall. Plans are drawn for more additions and to help keep up with the expanding attendance. The charter served as a reminder of where the members came from and now will hang proudly in the revitalized lodge hall for years to come.
“This charter is something that people will recognize, and acknowledge the 114-years of our lodge. We can think about our forefathers who started the lodge. We are connected with them,” remarked President Doug Martinek.
Meanwhile, No. 128 seeks to continue its engagement with the community. They are planning on an appreciation day and open house to celebrate the members and others who have helped get involved, from dances to recent work on a new handicap ramp. The hall does seek monetary donations at its events and from anyone interested so that they can continue to make improvements. Specifically, they want the hall to be rented by the community for weddings or other events all year, but that's difficult until they can install heat, air conditioning, running water, and indoor restrooms. People who are interested in making a donation are encouraged to contact a lodge officer.
The public is also encouraged to mark calendars for the next Polka dance on April 28, 2018 at the hall. Another dance will occur sometime in September 2018.
Call 877-935-2467 to speak with a Western Fraternal Life Representative.