Charlene Baillieul, a chapter advisor for Manitou DeMolay, says the nonprofit has been very positive and inspiring for young men.
DeMolay is a youth-led, adult-advised organization through which young men learn to plan, organize and facilitate their own programs.
“The young men hold meetings at the Masonic Lodge in Rochester where they elect their positions and state their ideas for future plans,” Baillieul says. “The meetings follow Robert’s Rules of Order, and each member has a specific role within the meeting. The roles are chaplain, master councilor, treasurer, secretary, etcetera.”
The young men decide within these meetings what activities they would like to do to fulfill the mission of the chapter, and what community service projects they will pursue.
Jeff Koleszar, executive director ofManitou DeMolay, says the organization started more than 100 years ago.
“A young man noticed that there were a number of teenage boys who had lost their fathers in World War I, and he thought it was tragic for a young man to grow up without a father in his life,” Koleszar says. “He got to know a few of them and they started a club. He was a member of the Scottish Rite in Kansas City, so they met at their building and he told them the story of Jacques DeMolay.”
DeMolay was the last grand master of the Knights Templar according to Koleszar. DeMolay was captured by the king of France, imprisoned, tortured, and eventually burned at the stake because he wouldn’t turn over the Templar’s knights and wealth to the king.
“This is the incident that took place on Friday, October 13 in the early 1300s that gave ‘Friday the 13th’ the curse of being bad luck,” Koleszar says.
Since its inception, the organization has been member-led. The officers and members plan their own activities, with the adult volunteers providing advice.
“This helps the members learn to work together, how to plan an event and how to delegate,” Koleszar says. “DeMolay is structured like a fraternity or sorority with chapters around the state. Each chapter elects its own officers who generally serve six-month terms. This helps the members develop leadership skills, how to communicate and set goals.”
At the state level, the organization leaders try to mirror what a local chapter does.
“The members from the chapters across the state vote on their state leaders, have input on what activities we hold on the state level, etcetera,” Koleszar says. “Each term is different because the members get to decide what they do. From paintball to bowling, basketball tournaments, speech competitions and video games, it’s up to the members to develop a plan, set their goals, work on committees, etcetera, in order to be successful.”
Chapter members are also involved in their communities and strive to be good citizens by helping others.
“We have chapters that are very active with Relay For Life, do canned-food drives and toy drives, adopt families for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and more,” Koleszar says.
Baillieul notes that each member joins for individual reasons.
“By the time they graduate from high school, they are all more confident, speaking more eloquently, and are more aware of how their community service efforts have helped our community,” Baillieul says. “With DeMolay’s focus on community service and brotherhood, each member truly feels as if they belong to something greater than themselves. It is a wonderful and safe place for young men to gain some needed life skills and endless networking opportunities. These young men will one day be our community leaders, and DeMolay will have prepared them with the necessary skills and a network of support for these leadership positions.”
Baillieul became involved when her son, Leiton Haack, stated that they needed another advisor for the group.
“DeMolay encourages parents to be active alongside their children, and it afforded me a chance to spend more time with Leiton,” Baillieul says. “As a parent, I watched my son become a part of an organization that focuses on the betterment of our community and instills the responsibilities of being a good son – reverence, courtesy, comradeship, fidelity, cleanness and patriotism.”
As an advisor, Baillieul has watched somewhat unsteady public speakers grow into confident and self-assured young men who conduct meetings as leaders.
“DeMolay is a great group for all young men, especially those that wish to better their public speaking skills, community service involvement and confidence, in a fun and relaxed environment,” Baillieul says.
Baillieul notes that Haack joined DeMolay when he was in middle school, and has achieved many goals.
“He became the youngest master councilor at the Manitou chapter, and has competed at various speaking competitions within the organization,” Baillieul says. “I credit DeMolay for his current successes.”
Haack says he has enjoyed being a part of the group for five years.
“DeMolay, as an organization, has been extremely helpful to me throughout the years, be it in utility, mental health or socialization,” he says. “It’s provided a method of networking, and a way to make friends and memories. I still get excited thinking about when my chapter and I play Uno, video games, Onitama and a whole other slew of activities.”
He adds that the group has helped him in many different ways.
“DeMolay is absolutely a wonderful vessel for developing into a well-rounded young man, and I would argue that my sudden and unexpected rise into positions of power within my chapter when I was only about 12 or 13 has taught me how to get better at public speaking, projecting my voice, entertaining a crowd, making connections with those around the state, and the responsibilities that come with such high-ranking positions,” he says.
Haack believes DeMolay is unique in that practically every event, program, charity and competition is run exclusively by young men.
“Adult supervision, while present, is mainly for advising the young men of the organization, and not for running the chapter – something which is exclusively left up to the members of the chapter,” he says.
Haack says the number of events planned by his chapter is too plentiful to count.
“We’ve gone laser tagging many times, browsed around malls and IKEAs alike, and organized overnight gaming events which sometimes left us up throughout the night,” he says.
Haack notes that the value of the organization for a young, growing mind cannot be overstated.
“Although my chapter nowadays is much smaller than it used to be, the fun we have and memories we still make is an experience I wouldn’t sell for the world,” he says. “For that, I am and always will be forever grateful to DeMolay and those who have helped me grow over the years into who I am today.”
Haack is currently a student at the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities at Ball State University.
“I believe the confidence and responsibility needed to be admitted there are a direct effect of his involvement with DeMolay,” Baillieul says. “This organization has helped him with his confidence, public speaking, networking and overall character.”
Kory Pruiett, a chapter advisor, says that although the Manitou chapter of DeMolay is focused on helping the local community, they also support Indiana DeMolay as a whole, as well as DeMolay International, which spans many countries.
“Our main interests lie in helping our local community,” Pruiett says. “We have supported local churches, aided in cleaning and decorating cemeteries, raised food and money for our local food shelter, and many other projects to support our community as a whole.”
Pruiett adds that the organization teaches young men responsibility, leadership and the strength to become good men in society.
“We have seven virtues that our boys live by – filial love, reverence for sacred things, courtesy, comradeship, fidelity, cleanness and patriotism,” he says. “Being involved in this organization has literally changed my life. I wouldn’t be who I am today without having experienced being a part of Manitou DeMolay.”
Koleszar says Manitou DeMolay is always looking for new people.
“We are always looking for new members and new volunteers to help at each local chapter,” he says.
For more info including details on becoming a member, visit demolay.org.