Our Town Tuscola: “Secret society” gives back

Local News

TUSCOLA, Ill. (WCIA) — A unique group is helping make the community a better place.

Ainslie Heilich and his business partner bought a building downtown seven years ago. They came across a cavernous room upstairs, and didn’t know what to think. They later found out it used to house an Odd Fellows Lodge, dating all the way back to 1865.

“We found all this great, old regalia that was hidden up in the crawlspace, almost like National Treasure. It’s like you start down a path of little bread crumbs and it just kind of ropes you in further and further and here we are,” says Heilich.

Odd Fellows is a fraternal order. It used to offer financial support, including insurance and social security. By the mid-1900s, groups started disbanding. But now, Heilich says there’s an uptick with 55 lodges in Illinois alone. He helped bring back Tuscola’s order three years ago. They focus on charity work. 

“For a lot of people of my generation, we were raised on the Internet and we are seeking that in-person interaction and we’re definitely growing tired of all the arguing on Facebook. When you come to a lodge, you leave all that behind you. You can’t talk about religion, you can’t talk about politics. All you’re allowed to do is focus on doing the good of the order and being good friends to each other,” he says.

That’s what brought Natasha Gardewine to the group almost a year ago.

“I was kind of looking for a group of people. We have similar interests and stuff so I got here and I was really impressed with it because of the group of artists and it kind of felt like somewhere that I could fit in,” she says.

The group is having a big event Saturday. It’s having its third Odd Market. It’s from 10 am – 10 pm, at the Tuscola Community Building. It will feature artists from around the area. Money raised will go to help First Gig Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Kids. 

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