Schoenbaum Center

Money Matters

Finding the Meaning of Fraternalism

By Earl Hardaker, Regional Director

When I was a child, I was a typical rowdy, Southeastern Kentucky boy who played in my neighborhood and whose parents always taught me the importance of helping others.

My chosen professions for “what I wanted to be when I grew up” were plentiful and unusual: garbage collector (I loved helping mom and dad by bringing the cans to the back of the house after pick up), postal worker, teacher, fireman, wrestler, zoologist, or even a police officer. I would even pretend I was a clerk in a grocery store and help bag the groceries we were purchasing.

Pretending to be a bagger at 8 years old, I never thought one day I would become a member of store management for one of America’s largest grocery store chains. I thought I had found my career for the rest of my life. I soon discovered doing the same thing every day wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to do something new and exciting every day, and I eventually left the retail world and went into sales.

I did so by joining an organization built on helping other—both now and in the future—an organization based on fraternalism. I joined Modern Woodmen of America.

For some context, I need to take us back to my college years in the late 90s. Some of the guys in my class asked if I would be interested in joining their fraternity. I have always bounced to the beat of my own drum, and in my mind, I didn’t want to belong to an exclusive club that picked my friends. Any person that knows me would attest to the fact that while I follow the line, I like to see how far the line really goes. So, joining a fraternity sounded like sitting through 8 hours of infomercials with no bathroom break. I wanted so badly to be me that I didn’t realized I could have done both.

With that in mind, when the recruiter from Modern Woodmen contacted me, I did not like the sound of the word fraternal. I knew I wanted out of retail, but I didn’t want to simply jump at the first thing that came along, especially when that something had fraternal in the title. I thought it sounded too exclusive, too restrictive, too much like a fraternity.

Life is about a series of chances, and you don’t often get to get a second chance on a door opening, but I did. Modern Woodmen graciously allowed me to walk through the open door not once but twice. You see, I didn’t go for the first interview. I told them I wasn’t interested. After some soul searching and at the prompting of my then-girlfriend (now wife), I approached them for a second chance at a first interview. I officially joined Modern Woodmen of America on August 1, 2006. I soon became a fraternalist, and my, how my life has changed—because fraternalism is a way of life.

Fraternalism’s formal definition is: of or being a society of men associated in brotherly union, as for mutual aid or benefit. Now, I want to clarify, this also includes women and children. Essentially, it’s a group of like-minded people getting together to help others in our community.

Modern Woodmen of America is a fraternal benefit society, so I get together with everyone who is a member, and we do really cool things for the community. We plant trees, donate youth educational programs, paint benches, build little free libraries, sell lemonade, do matching funds programs, collect can food, cook food, donate food, watch movies together, wrap presents, go bowling, and partner with other awesome people at other awesome organizations. If you replace “fraternalism” with “volunteerism,” you will understand who we are and what we do.

Since our beginning in 1883, Modern Woodmen of America (MWA) has been consisted of our members helping other members and their communities. Much like organizations that volunteer to clean up a neighborhood playground, Modern Woodmen members donate their time doing the same thing; we just have a different name for it—we call it being fraternal. We bring together like-minded people for a common good.

You may see MWA members purchasing swings and slides and then installing them on a playground, you could very well see us planting flowers and trees for municipal parks or schools, or you could see us presenting a dollar-for-dollar match at a fundraiser (up to $2,500). You may ask yourself, who are these members? Well, they are people just like you and me. They are people in our communities who believe in a creating a better tomorrow by starting today. MWA’s president, Kenny Massey, is a fraternalist; our home office staff in Rock Island, IL, are fraternalists; our regional office staff at the Schoenbaum Center are fraternalists; and our members are fraternalists. You very well could be a fraternalist, too. All it takes is an interest in making the community a better place.

For more information about how you can become a fraternalist, please check out our website at, or, better yet, swing by the Schoenbaum Center and ask us.


Welcome to the Schoenbaum Center Blog!

By Loretta Jett-Haddad, President and CEO

As President and CEO of the Schoenbaum Center, it is my distinct pleasure to be the first person to contribute to our new blog. I invite you to check back regularly for future postings from our Board of Directors, service providers and other community leaders. We plan to feature postings on a variety of informative topics such as child care, nutrition, wellness, financial sustainability, elder care and emergency assistance resources.

Let me introduce you to the unique and wonderful Schoenbaum Center!

With the vision and generous support of Alex and Betty Schoenbaum, the Schoenbaum Center opened in 2002 and is West Virginia’s premier multi-tenant non-profit complex located in the heart of downtown Charleston. Our mission is to provide or coordinate needed resources for people, families, and businesses through services, community partnerships and opportunities. With eight community service providers under one roof, the Schoenbaum Center helps more than 20,000 people each year with resources to improve their health, safety, education, income and happiness. In addition, we provide more than 70 jobs, plus many volunteer opportunities for members of our community.

As always, our doors are open to everyone in our community and Hope Grows Here through a wide range of programs and services offered by our service providers (a list of these nonprofit organizations is provided under the Links section in this blog as well as on our website) including:

  • Full-day child care for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years
  • Adult education and workforce training for youth & adults
  • Early intervention (birth to three)
  • Child advocacy & consultation on child concerns
  • Mentoring programs
  • Information and referral to services
  • Fraternal financial services and community programming
  • Small business operational consulting
  • Emergency assistance
  • Personal assistance/homemaker services

The Schoenbaum Center serves as a shining example of hope and compassion by enriching families, businesses and the community.  I would like to close by sharing one of my favorite quotes from our Founding Benefactress, Betty Schoenbaum, “The joy of living is the joy of giving”.  Please consider supporting the Schoenbaum Center in your charitable giving. We need your support to continue to serve the wonderful people in West Virginia…our family, our friends and our neighbors.

And lastly, please stop by the Schoenbaum Center for a visit! I promise you will be amazed at who we are and what we do!