By Sheryl Oswalt
Leaving the driveway with skepticism a couple weeks ago, my husband and I headed out to this month’s assignment; the Portage – Schoolcraft Eagles Aerie 3531 on Shaver Road for fish fry night. It’s one thing to go to a restaurant with the intent of observing for a future interview but totally different when you think you might be the one in the stoplight. After all, we were not members and I feared it would feel a little like we were wedding crashers or something. I guess I always thought that the Eagles were a closed club like for example the Legion. As it turns out Aerie 3531 is open to the public almost more often than not; and one occasion is on Friday nights where they host a variety of meals. Tuesday nights are always burger nights and they are open to the public then as well. And there is line dancing on Thursday nights – also open to the public. In addition to “open entry” meals, they have corn hole and shuffleboard tournaments on the 2nd Saturday of the month (October through April). Both members and non-members are welcome on band night, once a month, subject to a small cover charge. Only members and their guests are eligible to purchase alcoholic beverages.
While you don’t have to join to eat there, you might just want to consider it. The slogan of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles is people helping people. Contrary to my thinking, you do not have to have an affiliation with someone in a branch of the service to belong. They no longer have a rule that you have to join after attending three times. You just want to have a willingness to help others and volunteer your time at some of their fun-filled events and pay your membership dues. All the funds they raise at the 3531 stays local and the charities they help are all chosen by the active members.
There are four groups within the organization; the Aerie’s, the Auxiliary, the Eagle Riders and R.E.A.C. (Retired Eagles Activity Club). Each group sponsors special activities as fund raisers. Just some of them include the annual golf outing, a car show and a charity jam session in April. While each group contributes to several charities of their own choosing; a special ongoing project for all is their Cletus “Bud” Israel scholarship fund. This year they were able to award five $1,100 scholarships. They were recently recognized for accumulated donations of over $110,000 to Hospice of Southwest Michigan.
Carol Davison is secretary of the Auxiliary and has been a member for 30 years. Judy Corwin is currently their treasurer and she has served on the Board for 34 years. While the organization has many seasoned members like Carol and Judy, they are pleased to report that they have been adding new people to their family of members. They have a real nice facility there and it is available for rent to its members for weddings, birthdays, funeral dinners and other gatherings.
As far as logistics go, you need only to sign the registration book at the door if you are a visiting Eagles member. On burger night, you simply place your burger and side dish order at the window and seat yourself. On Friday nights you will find a ticket table where you purchase your meal ticket and then find a seat. When you are ready to eat, just give them a wave and they will place your order. Fish night included a baked potato, cole slaw, a generous portion of really good fish and a wonderful desert. Carol Davison not only acts as Auxiliary Secretary but she is also in charge of home-made desserts; making as many as 10 cakes for their Friday night specials. A core group of cooks rotate on meal nights but are all member volunteers. While it looks like a busy job; a look in the kitchen gives you the impression they enjoy their work.
If you are looking for a new experience and good food made by people who enjoy helping people; take a drive over to Eagles 3531 and check out what they have to offer. Friday night meal specials are posted on their website calendar.