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Local Odd Fellows Lodge key player in pandemic efforts for the second time

The fraternity organized a temporary hospital during the Spanish Flu.

In partnership with Flatirons Family Pharmacy — a locally owned and operated independent pharmacy — the Longmont Odd Fellows Lodge — a chapter of the nationwide fraternity — joins the fight against COVID-19. 

Today the lodge hosted the second of at least four vaccination clinics.

On Mar. 25, the lodge, located at 430 Main St., welcomed nearly 750 local residents to receive the first dose of a COVID vaccine in its building. The same number of people visited the space once again today to get their second shot. 

Flat Irons Pharmacy has a staff of only eight members and has been administering vaccines since in a drive-up format at their Ken Pratt location, said Jennifer Palazzolo, pharmacists and owner of Flatirons Family Pharmacy. When the pharmacy secured a large amount of Pfizer doses in March,it reached out to the community via social media to find a large space that would host nearly 1,000 people. 

“They (Odd Fellows) were the first to step up to our facebook request ... They provided between 15 and 20 volunteers that day to get people through the paperwork and to set up all the social distancing necessities,” Palazzolo said. “I did not know of them until this and cannot say enough good things about how they’ve stepped up for the Longmont community to get vaccinated. We could not have done it without them.”

Like Palazzolo, many people in the community are unaware of the existence of the building and the lodge even in plain sight, according to Brian O’Hanlon, longtime member of the lodge.

Odd Fellows is a secret society without a secret,” he said. “Nobody knows about us … even those who have walked past the building a million times.”

Lodge members do not mind the anonymity and would not welcome the publicity under normal circumstances, O’Hanlon said, but he believes it makes sense to bring some attention to what is happening now given these are not normal times. 

In 1918, the Main Street building served as an emergency hospital during the Spanish Flu pandemic housing approximately 120 beds for the sick, according to O’Hanlon.

“The Longmont hospital in 1918 had like 35 beds and there wasn't enough room,” he said. “The Odd Fellows stepped forward and they made the entire facility available to doctors and nurses, this go around we just want to vaccinate as many people as we can help vaccinate.”

The fraternity as an organization started in 1871, according to Dave Iannazzo, longtime member of the lodge, with the Longmont building built in 1907 for the Odd Fellows. 

“The driving force of the lodge itself, the fraternity was for working men that if you, as a member, got sick and couldn't work, they would pay you some income in order to keep paying your bills,” he said. “If you died they would have a burial plot, like workers compensation.” 

At one point there were over 17,000 lodges in North America, according to Iannazzo, most of which were located in working areas such as mining towns. The Odd Fellows was established in Longmont due to the booming agricultural activity seen in the area at the time, welcoming farmers and immigrant workers as members alike, he said. 

“What created the Odd Fellows was a truly egalitarian notion that one of us is going to die in the field, someone is going to lose an arm in the field and will probably have a family or need to be buried, and there were no collective resources like we have today,”O’Hanlon said. “The oddness of the Odd Fellows was that you would actually give money to someone else. It was kind of the birth of charitable giving.”

Back in the beginning of the local chapter, the lodge had over 520 members who would pay dues to contribute to the fellowship’s fund, he said.

Today, the local chapter has adapted its mission to continue living up to the olden day’s ideals in a way that continues to serve the distressed by fundraising and donating money to organizations such as the YMCA, OUR Center and Children First of the Rockies, according to Lou Cavallo, longtime member of the lodge and vaccination clinic liaison for the Odd Fellows. 

“Our role is to help our fellow man and the more people we can get vaccinated the sooner we can get back to normal life one of these days,” he said. “This is a tight knit community and it’s weird not to go (out) and to not see our neighbors … A lot of events have not happened for about a year, no art walks or the festivals on Main (Street). We want to help step back into the normal, and we can do that with helping out with the vaccine clinic.”

 The Flatirons Family Pharmacy and Odd Fellows will host another vaccination clinic on Apr. 24, administering 900 more first doses to members of the local community. The pharmacy will continue to provide drive-up COVID vaccines as they become available. 

“Knowing the history of 1918, I realized that we (Odd Fellows) had a role to play then and those brothers played it, they stepped up to the challenge,” O’Hanlon said. “For me it's just a very obvious and linear consistent (mission), they did it when it was their turn and now it's our turn.”

For more information on vaccination availability and appointments, click here or visit the pharmacy’s Facebook page. Appointments will not become available until the next vaccine shipment is confirmed and the pharmacy suggests members of the community check its sites regularly for availability.

Silvia Romero Solís

About the Author: Silvia Romero Solís

Después de viajar por el mundo, Silvia llegó a establecerse en Longmont. Ella busca usar su experiencia en comunicaciones y cultura para crear más equidad y diversidad en las noticias de Longmont.
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