The reader is likely wanting to know what the driving reason or purpose was/is for the creation and ongoing maintenance of the OESChapters.org (OESC) website. It is no secret that creation and ongoing maintenance of a “proper” website is not a trivial undertaking. It requires a certain level of technical skill and available time apparently not generally present in the current Order of the Eastern Star (OES) membership population. It also requires dedication of significant time to the design, documentation and implementation of the site.
The creator of the OESC environment is a member of Chapters of the OES in California and South Carolina. Both jurisdictions I suspect, are experiencing significant reduction in members and an ever increasing median age of those members who remain. Simply stated, it is the writer’s opinion that we are dying off faster than we attract and engage replacements. Unless this reduction of membership is reversed and new, younger, members join the organization it is unfortunately likely that the Order of the Eastern Star, as we currently know it, will simply cease to exist in the upcoming years. I don’t want that to happen.
As of July, 2021, the OESC creator is a 55-year Mason and has ~45 years in Eastern Star. The fraternal orders of the late 1900’s are existing in a significantly different environment in the 2020’s and, in this writer’s opinion, have to take different approaches to membership recruitment and retention.
The individuals which the fraternal orders must attract, in the writer’s opinion, are those 20- and 30-year-olds who are the upcoming adult generation. Regardless of what the reader may call them – Gen-X, Y, Z, millennials – this generation of individuals is much more technologically astute and savvy than their predecessor generations. As a result it is the writer’s opinion that in order to revitalize, grow, and thrive the Fraternal Family (Masonic Lodges, Eastern Star and the concordant youth groups) must adapt to the technological requirements of their target membership audience. In the writer’s opinion these potential members actively look to the internet and a relevant organization website as a prerequisite to any meaningful participation in any fraternal organization.
For example, as of early February, 2016, in California there are some 150-odd operating Chapters of Eastern Star with a very small number of them (less than 15) having a website listed on the California Grand Chapter website. Of those few links listed several lead to dead links and two are not websites but rather a Facebook group and a blog. The writer found only two links that actually led to current operational websites. The remaining links lead to websites that appear to be outdated and/or not maintained. And… the links that do exist are behind the login firewall of the Grand Chapter website and not accessible by visitors or the potential member seeking information about a potential local Chapter. What impression do we present to the potential member pool who are seeking comprehensive current information? I suspect that we “turn-off” potential members simply because we fail in being technologically relevant to today’s target audience. Additionally, our current and future potential membership base needs a consistent, comprehensive, and current source for authoritative information on what’s happening in their home Chapter and in the local Chapters in their geographical area.
This website is the contribution of the writer and his wife to the Fraternal family in hopes of effectively addressing the above concerns, and is based on the following observations. All Chapter websites, if designed and constructed as the writer envisions would be essentially the same in that they would all:
- Have information about when and where the Chapter meets
- Have a current, maintained, calendar of events
- Have a list of current officers
- Have current information on how to join the Chapter
- Have information on the current dues of the Chapter
- Have available the newsletters of the Chapter
- Have officer blogs
- Have information on how the Chapter is involved in their local community
- Have a list of the Chapter’s past Matrons and Past Patrons
- Have a list of those Chapter members who have received special recognition and awards
- Have an up-to-date membership roster
- Have a list of member’s birthdays for sending Birthday Cards
While all of the Chapter’s websites would have the same structure and general appearance, the content would be different as they would have different event calendar data and different newsletters, for example.
It is out of the above that the OESC environment was created. The webmaster is a retired information systems manager and network engineer who has an extensive programming background with over 50 years in the industry. Being retired I have the requisite available time to create the OESC structure. I hope to create an effective structure so that all Chapters need merely to add their unique data content to the provided “cookie cutter” structure. If done properly this can eliminate the technological skillset requirement for all the Chapters so that they can all have an effective web presence and attract the target audience so badly needed for ongoing survival. If the environment is properly constructed anyone with basic computer skills will be able to effectively “take over” and administer the OESC environment should the original webmaster be no longer available. All software used is commercially available “off the shelf” products without any custom or non-standard programming so that the environment remains as “plain Vanilla” as practically possible. That will insure effective ongoing maintainability for both the original webmaster as well as any future individuals who undertake the environment’s maintenance.
The OESC environment is designed to be extensible and effectively capable of handling not only Chapters in California and South Carolina but in other jurisdictions as well. Over time, and after participating Chapters in California and South Carolina are integrated and smoothly operational it is hoped the OESC environment in other state jurisdictions will become active as well.
While it may be an unrealistic expectation, the writer hopes that the OESC environment will have a positive impact on membership in the OES fraternity and how it is perceived by the current day target potential members.