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Odd Fellows Tyner 821 Lodge Serves the Community Through Many Means

Writer / Lois Tomaszewski
Photography Provided

In the Tyner area, the phrase “fish fry” is synonymous with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Tyner 821 Lodge. This fraternal organization has built a reputation around its annual fundraisers as well as the benevolence passed on to the community.Tyner 821 Lodge

The Odd Fellows is a fraternal organization whose mission is to “care for widows and orphans, and those who are sick and in distress,” says 60-year member Joe Bottorff. To do this and other projects locally, fundraising is important.

Bottorff joined the Tyner 821 Lodge after graduating from high school. He has served in leadership stations in his 67-year membership, but he is just a youngster when it comes to the history of the lodge itself. It was established in 1900 by Ambrose E. Fink, Watson S. York, Henry L. Jerrell, Charles F. Dawson and Eli Wick.

The Tyner 821 Lodge hosts two fish fries annually, including one in the spring and one in the fall. This year’s fall event is set for Saturday, October 8 at the fire station and community building in Tyner. Dinners include fries, coleslaw and dessert, and sell for $12. The spring fundraiser is tentatively scheduled for the last Saturday in April, Bottorff says.

The fish fry is a big event for the community and is a major source of funding. A specially equipped fish-fry bus allows the organization to better organize their own fundraisers and do the same for other organizations. The first bus was equipped with four large fryers, running on gas stored in 4’ tanks and other equipment, in the 1960s. There have been five buses since then.

Volunteers are a necessity when it comes to organizing what has become known as their legendary fish-fry dinners. Some come from the Rebekah Lodge, the sister organization to the Odd Fellows.

“It takes 100 people to pull off one of these fish fries,” Bottorff says.

Six or seven volunteers work on the bus frying up batches in 350-degree oil. Others help with the prep work, which usually begins on Thursday for a Saturday event.

“We cook about 1,300 pounds of fish,” Bottorff says.

Tyner 821 LodgeBottorff estimates that the number of diners who purchase a fish-fry dinner is between 1,200 and 1,700. The breading recipe used is a trade secret, and it is also what distinguishes their fish fry from others in the region, such as a recent fish fry for the Walkerton Fire Department, and the Plymouth Wesleyan Church in April.

While the Tyner Odd Fellows group has relied on the successes of the fish fries, there commitment to giving back to the community as much as they take in has resulted in adding another fundraising event for the community. The lodge now sponsors an antique tractor show in August. The show has been growing in the number of tractors on display. Through the last two shows it grew from 140 tractors to 205.

“Families come and enjoy it,” Bottorff says.

Popular kids’ events include a pulling contest on tricycles and a bounce house, among other activities. There are also demonstrations of hit-and-miss engines, and rows of tractors. Business sponsorships are also available. Other organizations and agencies take part too, such as the local fire stations.

“We try to give out all of the money we make on an annual basis,” Bottorff says.

One year that meant providing financial help for a woman in the community who needed help caring for family members who were ill. The members also provide at least two scholarships per year, support other organizations, and assist those in need in the community and beyond.

Their charitable work does not go unrecognized. They were recognized as one of Beacon Credit Union’s Project Spotlight award recipients this year. Recipients are selected by votes cast by community members.

The Tyner 821 Lodge has the largest membership of any lodge in Indiana. The current fraternity building was built by members in 1960 on the outskirts of Tyner. It replaced the original building that was lost in a fire.

Members also enjoy fellowship through activities such as annual fishing trips, bowling leagues, softball and basketball teams,Tyner 821 Lodge picnics, and recently an outing to watch the South Bend Cubs play at Four Winds Field.

For more information on the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Tyner 821 Lodge, contact New Membership Committee Chairman Jerry Moore at 574-952-0400, or email iooftyner821@yahoo.com. More information can be found on the organization’s Facebook page, and by visiting iooftyner821.org.

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