HARBOUR GRACE, NL — For decades, Loyal Orange Lodge Chosen Few 153 Tilton has supported a variety of organizations.
While Tilton may be in its name, the group's membership comes from all over the Trinity-Conception area. With the general membership of this Protestant fraternal group aging more every year, several LOLs in the region now cease to exist. Those Orangeman who did remain are now a part of the Tilton group. As a result, it has more communities to serve than ever before.
In 2017, the group donated over $37,000 to different organizations, including schools, fire departments, food banks, churches and non-profits active in the health sector such as the Janeway Children's Foundation, Daffodil Place and the Trinity-Conception-Placentia Health Foundation.
"If it's a bad year, it stays mostly local," Deputy Master Chad Gosse told the Compass at the Harbour Breeze Lounge in Harbour Grace, where the group held a banquet dinner last Tuesday. That night, over $20,000 in donations was announced in front of 120 invited guests.
Within the last 20 years, the group has shared $385,000 with other groups. Those funds are largely the result of the LOL's bingo night every Wednesday at the Tilton Bingo Hall.
When it comes to fundraising, 2017 has indeed been a good year. The LOL supported 11 schools, three food banks, and purchased the Spaniard's Bay Volunteer Fire Department’s new automated external defibrillator, valued at $2,100. The Spaniard's Bay-Tilton parish and local Anglican Church Women's group also received donations at last Tuesday's event.
"Fifty years ago, there was a lodge in every community," explained Gosse. Now the group has members hailing from Harbour Grace, Whitbourne, Green's Harbour, Old Perlican and Western Bay, as well as other communities neighbouring those previously mentioned. Its current membership stands at 44.
"All these volunteer-based groups, they're dying out," said Goose. "We're lucky enough in Tilton to have one of the larger memberships across Canada for the Orange Lodge."
While Gosse himself is a young man, the same can't be said of most members of the Tilton LOL, which was founded in 1910 and still occupies the same Orange Lodge building as it did back then.
"As they're getting older, the membership's declining because the majority of members are passing away," he said, noting six members of his group died within the last year-and-a-half. "Really, people need to know if they want to help someone, if they're looking for somewhere to get out and join, there's places like us that offer that assistance to do so."
Many of the lodge's current members have family ties to the group, either through a parent or grandparent. Gosse's father and brother are also members of the group.
In addition to the LOL's fundraising activities, it hosts an annual family fun event that's free and coincides with Orangeman's Day, held every year on the Monday closest to July 12. In May, the group also hosts a community clean up.
"It's kind of crazy how much garbage gets collected," said Gosse. "The first year we did it, there was 40-odd bags we picked up."