Eagles members soaring high

"It's the working man's club" — a place where blue-collared members have found fraternal fellowship and served their community for over 60 years.

“It’s the working man’s club” — a place where blue-collared members have found fraternal fellowship and served their community for over 60 years.

With a motto of ‘People helping People’, the Hope Eagle Aerie #2690 has a proud history.

“The club was first founded in 1949 in Chilliwack, but with so many people attending the meetings from here, two years later they decided just to move to Hope,” said club secretary Allan Derick.

And back then there were some real hands-on, make-it-happen, members, like Joe Buck, of Buck’s Confectionary, Dr. Robert Morrison, the town’s family doctor, and Ken James, the founder of Brigade Days …  in naming just a few.

Recently some of the club’s other long-standing members were recognized including a life-time membership presented to John Kellum. Eagles, Mike Kemish, a 50-year member, and Stan Gelush, a 30-year member, were also recognized for their club service.

“Kellum is the one who dug the hole right here!” jokes Derick, from the basement lounge of the Eagles Hall, a building built by volunteers for volunteers, including the much-needed heavy equipment offered up by Kellum. Eagles members are no stranger to long standing stories, especially after a metal Eagle weighing hundreds of pounds disappeared from the clubhouse and magically re-appeared decades later, worn and rusty from “its many travels.”

And the camaraderie between members is evident in everything thing the club accomplishes, even the funds for building supplies were raised through debentures sold to founding members and slowly paid back over the years. “Back then citizens took the time to be there for their community.”

This year, and although down from their usual $18,000 to $13,500, donations by the club to a long list community groups continue with community programs including Story Time in the Park, search and rescue, minor hockey, and the Hope Secondary bursary fund receiving or about to receive generous grants.

“We were at one time the biggest per capita donor to the diabetes association for many years,” added club president Herb Smith. “But donations are down this year because of the changes to the drinking and driving laws.”

And as society changes, so are the Hope Eagles. “It was a men’s club up until a few years ago; I signed up a woman and almost got abolished for it,” jokes Derick. “But it’s the law too and they finally did give up and accept women into the club three years ago.”

Once a place where people came together for fellowship, not only are the new laws hitting the club hard, but TVs, laptops and Facebook. “People just don’t have to leave their homes anymore,” added Derick.

But with their popular meat and 50/50 draws, bingo, a brightened-up lounge, and a renovated banquet hall, the club hopes to fulfill its destiny of people helping people for many years to come.

Even the exterior of the clubhouse at the corner of Fort Street and Fourth Avenue has sparked up interest with new paint, new signage, and a new Eagle carving.

In honour of the many other members who brought the community club through the decades, from founding member Ken Byron, who still gets regular club updates at the age of 90 at his home on the Salt Spring Island, to remembering Nick Nickeforek, who as long standing club bartender poured his last beer on his 90th birthday, the club working to win over new members. “Just $10 to join, $20 each year,” adds Smith. “It’s a nice place to spend time.”

For info on joining the club call 604-869-2560 and check out the club’s new website at www.foe2690hopebc.com