Charitable Salem Eagles inviting public to Feb. 16 meet and greet

SALEM – It’s a fraternal club that “pushed” for the founding of Mother’s Day, provided the impetus for Social Security and pushed to end job discrimination based on age.

Chartered in same year the Wright brothers flew, Ford Motor Company and Harley-Davidson were incorporated, the Fraternal Order of Eagles, over 110 years, has provided support for medical research centers across the country.

It has raised millions of dollars every year to combat heart disease, cancer, helped handicapped kids, uplifted the aged and, in general, made life a little brighter for everyone.

It has 13 different charities and Aeries in 1,700 cities with #316 located at 1884 N. Ellsworth Ave in Salem.

It’s been there since 1991 after moving from the East State State property that is now parking for the Masonic Temple.

The Eagles purchased the North Ellsworth property in 1989 when it had about 1,500 male members.

Today that number has dropped considerably and there are some 170 men and about 100 auxiliary members.

And that’s why two of the more tenured trustees, Bob Plegge, who has served as president twice, and past president Tim Chestnut, decided to hold a meet and greet the Eagles on Feb. 16 inviting the public to the 10,000 square-foot facility and, Plegge said, “get people to sign up.”

The club still holds dances, but Chestnut said they will start having fish fries from 4 to 7 p.m. on Fridays along with a membership drive.

Both Chestnut and Plegge acknowledge past problems but say they’re behind them. Chestnut said, explaining there were “problems with a few officers with sticky fingers … some were taken to court about seven years ago … it’s behind us.

“We had a bartender charged and convicted years ago in the late ’90s or early 2000s,” Chestnut said. “It hurt our reputation. I think it did. We had more rumors going around. You go downtown and you would hear more about this place than anywhere. The rumors were overblown, but we’ve slowly cleaned up. The Grand Aerie told us what we had to do to straighten up.”

Plegge turned to bolstering the membership which is $24 a year after a $20 initiation fee for new members.

“Come out (to the open house) it will be open to the public,” Plegge said.

He explained that the Eagles “has what they call a memorial foundation with a benefit package for safety workers killed in the line of duty.

He said the first year’s membership for firefighters, police officers or EMS employees is free.

“If they keep their membership current and lose their life in the line of duty, their children’s education is paid for through college,” Plegge said.

The Eagles also has a grant for firefighting equipment through the foundation.

The Eagles building was for sale about a year-and-a-half ago, but not any longer,” Chestnut said, noting that the busiest days are Saturday, sometimes Wednesday and whenever on drawing days. There are daily, weekly and monthly drawings, he said.

The facility can seat 400 people. For more information, call 330-337-6211.