The Columbus Fraternal Order of Eagles #1834 has a history that dates back to 1909 and has been an integral part of the development and tradition of the city. But, in the early part of this year, things weren’t looking too good.
Concerns about funding and a lack of bookings for the club’s ballroom led to outside help being appointed to help get the organization back on track.
“At the state level, we do a cursory survey,” said Dennis Micek, a member of the Columbus Eagles Club and secretary for the Nebraska State Fraternal Order of Eagles. “If that cursory survey has some red flags that show up, they call in an out-of-state agent. Columbus has an out-of-state agent that’s working with us. He comes in to assist clubs to get back on their feet.”
With help both outside the organization and inside, the Eagles Club is slowly, but surely, getting re-situated in Columbus. In addition to bringing in the agent, members also appointed Doug Wiese as the club's new secretary. Wiese has attempted to turn over a new leaf with the club, bringing in new staff and creating a new club culture.
“We got new staff in there with a little bit (of) a better attitude,” Wiese said. “That’s a huge part of it, positive attitude, positive thinking and working together with the community, which is what the Eagles is.”
The public had the first chance to see the new attitude on full display this summer when the club held a fish fry for the Big Pals-Little Pals nonprofit youth mentoring organization. The fundraiser raised around $2,000 and the event fit in well with the club’s main goal and motto, “People Helping People."
“We are here to help improve the community,” Wiese said.
Wiese also went to work on fixing the interior of the building, making the place clean and modern, with new televisions and a new big-screen projector added in the social room. These repairs were much-needed ones for an organization that needed some new ideas to bring people back inside of its doors.
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“You go through some times where you need some fresh ideas and fresh new members,” said Diane Wilken, secretary for the Columbus Eagles Club Auxiliary and chaplain for the State Order of Eagles Auxiliary. “We have some new staff behind the bar and gaining new members and new officers to move forward with our ‘People Helping People’ motto.”
Some of the club’s mainstays are still around, like the hamburger nights held every Wednesday. However, there are new social events that will provide a fun atmosphere at the club. There are tailgate parties for Husker football and volleyball games, with opportunities to win tickets to the football regular-season finale against Iowa up for grabs.
“If you come in and purchase a beverage, you will get a ticket,” Micek said. “For every score change for Nebraska, a ticket is drawn and they’ll receive a gift. That ticket goes into a special bucket and at the end of the football season we are going to give away the Iowa tickets to one of those tickets drawn out of that bucket.”
The club is also attempting to bring back some old favorites, like fried chicken nights and eventually its steak night. The ballroom is also available for weddings or any other kind of reception events.
“I hope people realize we have a ballroom,” Micek said. “It’s very reasonable in town compared to other places.”
Micek and the other members of the club hoped the club’s struggles wouldn’t lead to its eventual closure. They didn’t have any real plans to close and they don’t currently plan to shut down any time soon. Wiese said he hopes to become more involved in the community, with more events similar to the fish fry coming as the organization gets more money in its coffers.
“We used to donate, on average, at least $10,000 back to the local community,” Wiese said. “I’d love to get back to that where business is good enough and we can start giving back more generously to our local community.”
Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.