The Moose fraternity was founded in the late 1800s with the sole purpose of offering social opportunities for men. By the fall of 1906 there were only two lodges left in Indiana.
James Davis was invited to enroll in the Crawfordsville, Indiana Lodge and saw potential to build the organization into a force to provide protection for the membership of primarily working class men.
He proposed to offer protection for a member’s wife and children if he died or became disabled. This benefit would be available for annual dues of five to ten dollars.
This marketing strategy was very effective and by 1912 the order had grown from 247 members to nearly 500,000 in over 1000 lodges. By this time the organization began paying “sick benefits” and looking for a location for a home, school and vocational training for children of deceased members. Shortly thereafter the Moose Supreme Council approved the purchase of 1000 acres 40 miles west of Chicago.
In 1913 the Women of the Moose were formally recognized and the first 11 children moved into what was to be known as Mooseheart. By the 1920s the population of Mooseheart had increased to close to 1000 children.
The leaders then turned their attention to members who were having financial difficulty in retirement. They purchased 26 acres of shoreline property just south of Jacksonville, Florida and in 1932 Moosehaven, “City of Contentment” was opened.
For 25 years the Moose focused it full attention on Mooseheart and Moosehaven. World War II veterans greatly increased the membership rolls and the Director General Malcolm Giles began what was to become the Community Service program. Giles explained, “Only three institutions have a God-given right to exist in a community: the home, the church and the school. The rest of us must be valuable to the community to warrant our existence, and the burden of proof of our value is on us.”
Nationally Moose Lodges today are responsible for at least $80 million in community service including donations and volunteer hours.
Today Mooseheart is home to about 500 residents. It is licensed and equipped to care for children and young adults from newborn through age 21. Between six and ten children live in each of the 30 homes on the campus.
In each home are found married family teachers and a single family teacher. The curriculum used in the school system is similar to any other school with some differences. Career exploration is begun at the middle school level and moves into vocational training in high school.
All high school students also are members of Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. Upon graduation students are prepared vocationally and academically and offered a scholarship package ranging from a three-year $14,000 scholarship to a five-year $36,000 scholarship.
Moosehaven, as a residential retirement community, offers a wide variety of activities such as swimming, bowling, exercise equipment and game rooms. They also schedule dances, special dinners and sightseeing trips. The newest addition to this community is the Katherine Smith Special Needs Hall. It will be home to 16 residents who are challenged with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia related problems. The construction of this facility was completely funded by the Women of the Moose.
The Aransas Pass Moose Family Center is located at 2540 FM 2725 just outside the city limits. It serves Ingleside, Aransas Pass and Rockport communities and includes Lodge 2063 led by Governor Kevin Stubbs and Chapter 1972 under the leadership of Senior Regent Gypsie Leckbee.
Of all the lodges in Moose International, only 20 are ruled by a Joint House Committee where decisions are made by men and women together. This Lodge and Chapter are ruled in this way and work together to provide a variety of activities for members and carry out community service activities.
The Loyal Order of the Moose meets twice a month as do the Women of the Moose to conduct business. Joint meetings are held twice a month.
On Friday nights different dinners are prepared, Thursday nights feature one dish surprises and Sunday morning breakfasts are prepared. Different teams of men and women share the responsibility for these meals which are offered to members for a reasonable cost.
Skeet shoots are held twice a month on Saturdays followed by something on the pit. Sunday and Wednesday nights poker games are held. Besides all of these activities there are special events for holidays, celebrations and benefits.
Community service is an ongoing part of the Lodge and Chapter. Girl and Boy Scouts, Special Olympics, Relay for Life, Driscoll Children’s Hospital and Ingleside’s Champs pony league team are a few examples of groups receiving their support.
Each 9/11 a Remembrance Ceremony is held and all first responders are recognized with a meal prepared for them. This past May, 12 scholarships were awarded to graduates of the high schools in Aransas Pass, Ingleside, and Rockport. Students honored were chosen for their community service.
Most of the funds used for these activities come from donations but the Shrimporee is one of their large fundraisers. The Moose is well known for its turkey legs and according to Moose Tale Editor Gaila McLaughlin they sold enough legs that if laid end to end would stretch close to the length of five football fields. They also made a first time appearance in the parade demonstrating the tremendous spirit of these dedicated community members as they showed that the men and women of the Moose not only work hard but they also play hard.