PHOTO: The Chamber Ambassadors had lunch and toured the new expanded kitchen at the Monticello Eagles Club last week. From left are Caleb Dirks, Deb Merfeld, Kathy Bone, Jim Tucker, Randy Clark, George Manternach, Jill Cheney and Bob Chronowski. (Photo submitted)
PHOTO: Vaughn Ballou and Randy Clark, Eagles members, grill out at one of the Chamber’s Fun on Friday Night events. The Eagles serve food at many community events to raise money for local charities. (Express photo)
By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
Ten years ago, the Monticello Eagles Club organization took shape. The men’s Aerie #4466 and women’s Auxiliary #4466 was formed on Dec. 7, 2003, when the official institution took place at the Heights Supper Club.
Before then, it was just an idea Darrell Reyner, owner of Darrell’s A Family Tradition, had after visiting with one of his food vendors from Dubuque, Michael Duehr. An Aug. 20, 2003, article in the Monticello Express explained that Duehr talked with Reyner about the Dubuque Eagles Club, and Reyner thought, “Why not start one in Monticello?”
Shortly after the idea took off, the men and women’s groups only had about 15-20 members each. They needed 50 members in order to become instituted. When another article ran in the Express on Nov. 26, 2003, it stated the men had obtained their 50 members in record time!
“The Monticello men obtained their 50 members in just 50 days – the first Eagles Club in the United States or Canada to reach this milestone.”
In starting out, the ladies’ auxiliary met regularly at the VFW; the men’s meetings took place at Darrell Reyner’s restaurant and the Heights. Soon enough, the group grew too big so the Eagles needed a larger location to conduct meetings.
Once the institution ceremony was held on Dec. 7, 2003, officers were established. Those who served as officers at this time were: Brad Roe, treasurer; Steve Ehrisman, trustee; Tony Kraus, secretary; Tony White, conductor; Bob Chronowski, trustee; Michael Duehr, junior past president; Bob Faust, vice president; Darrell Reyner, president; Dave Meyer, chaplain; Dale Ahlrichs, inside guard; Dave Schenck, trustee; and Larry Ehrisman, outside guard.
Four months after announcing the Eagles Club was planning to form a group here in Monticello, they were up to over 130 members. Some of their first donations were made to the Monticello Fire Department for CPR training and extraction equipment.
Over these past 10 years, the work performed by the Eagles goes to help raise funds for various service organizations and non-profits throughout the community. One hundred percent of their funds goes directly to these charities and organizations.
Michael Duehr was quoted in the Aug. 20, 2003, Express as saying this about the Eagles Club: “There is no single organization in Monticello that can bring people together on a social and charitable basis to benefit the community and themselves. The Fraternal Order of Eagles is an organization that can involve the family, increase identity for Monticello and help people.”
Sitting down with several Aerie and Auxiliary members last week, they estimated that in these past 10 years, the Eagles have raised over $100,000, with approximately 90 percent going back into this community. Some of the local charities to benefit from the Eagles Club over the years have been: Fourth of July Fireworks, Monticello Ambulance Service, MFD, D.A.R.E. program, Scouts, Senior Dining, Camp Courageous, Food Pantry, MHS BPA, Relay For Life, Post Prom, Sacred Heart Booster Club and many, many more.
“It just depends on the need at the time,” said Eagles Auxiliary member Jill Cheney.
Throughout the years, the Eagles hold several fundraisers, including Monday night BINGO, dinners, breakfasts, swap meets, Monticello alumni breakfast, cooking and serving food for Fun on Friday Night, golf tournaments, selling popcorn during the Fourth of July parade, selling food at the annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Rod & Custom Car show and so much more. The Eagles also give four scholarships a year to seniors at MHS.
In May 2006, the Eagles Club building opened its doors. After outgrowing other locations in town for meetings and events, they decided to build their own facility, while making money to go right back out into the community.
“It was a need in the community,” said the members. The hall holds about 275-300 people, encompassing 3,500 square feet.
All of the kitchen staff are volunteers; the bartenders are paid. This year, they expanded the kitchen (thanks to a Jones County endowment grant) and are looking to get new chairs and carpet in the near future.
“It’s all volunteer labor out here,” said Jim Tucker.
In the Sept. 9, 2009 Express, it stated, “The Eagles’ main source of income is from three sources: renting out a modern banquet hall, special fundraisers and operating an upscale lounge.”
Today, the Eagles Club is thriving with 282 members combined, men and women.
The Eagles Club national motto is “People Helping People.” That is quite evident in the way the local Eagles give back to the community in so many ways.
“What we do helps others,” said current President Randy Clark.
Anyone 18 or older can become a member of the Eagles Club. The men’s dues are $25 a year. The women pay $25 the first year and $16 each year after.
As for why you should become a member of the Eagles Club, Darrell Reyner says it best, “I am an Eagle because, for $25 a year, it makes me feel good to be a part of an organization that is dedicated to helping people and raising money for charities.”
In honor of their 10-year anniversary as a club, the Eagles are planning for a celebration and open house after the first of the year.
Mark your calendars for Friday, Jan. 3. The Eagles will host a throwback to former member Rex Cheney and his famous onion ring recipe, a favorite of many.