In February of 2012, a small group of girls gathered in a kitchen in Denmark, WI to decorate cookies to donate. Don Nieland and I drove over to give our support and to formally start the first YELL! (Young Engaged Lodge Leaders) group of Western Fraternal Life. Since that time, 13 other YELL! groups were created and have helped their lodges become active volunteers in their communities, while providing leadership experiences, fun memories, and connections that can last a lifetime.
YELL! groups started as a way to engage our young members in the lodges, and provide incentive to the lodges to sponsor young member's interests. Prior to YELL!, some lodges had kids in dance groups, creating plays, and helping with events, but no real way to involve them in their own projects. While some lodges were already involving their young members, there was no formal recognition or program to encourage lodges to do so.
YELL! groups started as a way to engage our young members in the lodges, and provide incentive to the lodges to sponsor young member's interests.
Western's leadership saw the need to encourage development in the youth and young adults of the lodges to strengthen the membership. Lodges receive monetary support for volunteer activities in their community.
To say that I’m proud of the YELL! groups that have been created and sustained over the past six years is an understatement. As a professional, there is nothing more rewarding than to see a program you have worked on grow, develop, and maintain itself years after starting. However, this really has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the youth liaisons and YELL! group members who come back each year with fresh ideas to enhance and improve their communities. Take some time to look through the YELL! projects that have been done so far this year. The YELL! groups are some of the best ambassadors for Western Fraternal Life in our member’s communities and I, for one, am grateful to see their impact.
No. 38 YELL! group was exceptionally busy throughout the past year participating in various activities. Among the most notable events for the YELL! group were building birdhouses, duck houses, and gardening. These houses serve to provide habitat for critters which diversify and enhance our landscape. The YELL! group has previously performed different environmental activities, but the aforementioned activities were a first for the group.
They hold many meetings outdoors and have a general sense of appreciation for nature and the world. Other activities that the YELL! group has been involved in include bringing baked goods to elderly neighbors in the community and visiting residents in local care centers.
YELL! provides opportunities for our younger members to give back to the community in so many different ways.
Outside of one of these facilities is a little library made by the members of the YELL! group. They have had to perform minor repairs on their little libraries, and keep them well stocked, as they have become a fixture in the community.
“YELL! provides opportunities for our younger members to give back to the community in so many different ways, which makes becoming a YELL! member a great choice for anyone. There’s no reason to not be in YELL! when you are able to help people and the environment in an activity that you help design and carry out,” said Ellie Haeska, No. 38 YELL! member.
No. 44 YELL! activities focused on history and heritage this year.
In February and April, they celebrated birthdays of beloved elder members who have since passed away.
In May, YELL! members cleaned the lodge hall grounds and Wooden Hall monument, took part in celebrating Czechoslovakia’s 100th anniversary (including wearing kroje and folk dancing at the open house)folded and distributed brochures about our lodge and how to join, and helped put flags on veteran’s graves at local cemeteries.
At the biggest lodge event, Czech Fest on September 8 and 9, the YELL! members plan to help fundraise at the bake sale and assist with children’s games and activities.
No. 108 YELL! members had two big July projects that made a difference for hospital patients. “We have been involved in YELL! for over four years. We take the opportunity to get together during their summer to continue doing things in YELL!, which is great to see,” YELL! member Jodi Kolarik commented, “We are motivated by the friendships made while working and laughing together.” In the past, they have made blankets for cancer patients, and this year they repeated it. The lodge purchased the fabric, and YELL! members got together to cut and tie the blankets. Twenty blankets were completed and donated to Project Linus.
We are motivated by the friendships made while working and laughing together.
Members of YELL! also got together to take labels off of donated teddy bears and put them into Western bags. The bags are delivered to local hospitals by YELL! members so that they can bring joy to kids in the pediatrics ward. "We enjoy helping others, especially kids," Jodi Kolarik explained.
No. 141's YELL! group made and delivered origami flower May baskets to Cornell Care Center. The flowers were made by member Cade Sikora. The baskets were either hung on a doorknob at the center or personally handed to a senior by a YELL! member. In the past years, sometimes other members made the flowers, or they were delivered to a different senior center.
No. 144 YELL! members have decided to focus on community service this year by visiting residents at Home with Friends Assisted Living Center in Mosinee. In July, three members conducted Bingo and visited the entire afternoon with the residents. The residents really enjoyed the treats that were the prizes. Our youth enjoyed making the residents smile.
YELL! members enjoyed themselves so much, the group plans on returning. In the fall, they have a new arts and crafts activity and maybe another afternoon of Bingo.
No. 219 YELL! members made May baskets to deliver and surprise the DAC residents in Thief River Falls. They brought items and helped assemble 43 baskets. “Lots of hands made quick work. It was fun to plan and create something that is a surprise for others,” said member Rachel Fredrickson about the new May project, “It made the DAC recipients day a little brighter and made them feel loved that someone cares enough to put the basket together for them.”
It was fun to plan and create something that is a surprise for others.
For Halloween, they plan to collect and give candy to local nursing homes. The residents do not have the extra money to spend on candy, but the donation makes it possible for them to hand out candy to youth who come trick-or-treating.
Also in the fall, YELL! will be helping the lodge at the Northland Threshing Bee bake sale, driving tractors, and working in the blacksmith shop.
No. 389's YELL! group took treat bags to the Western Library during summer reading. The group talked about what the YELL! group does and how to join. The kids there were excited to get a treat bag.
The YELL! group also joins together with lodge members and cemetery board to trim, mow, and clean the Northfork Cemetery. We volunteer to do this project several times during the months of May, June, July, August, and September. There is a variety of age groups ranging from 6 to 85. The younger age group sweeps graves and picks up trash while the older ones mow and weed around the graves and cemetery area. There are usually 10-16 volunteers and depending on volunteers it takes 2-4 hours. This year, the YELL! group also helped with the flags for Memorial Day.
YELL! groups are for members age 40 and under -- a great opportunity for involved young adults and children to make a difference in their community. To join or learn about starting a group, please contact Kelsey Logan at 877.935.2467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call 877-935-2467 to speak with a Western Fraternal Life Representative.