A movement is underway by women and men in the Tamaqua area to establish what would be the town's second Rebekah Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Rebekahs are a fraternal and service organization.

The community already is home to Hester Rebekah Lodge No. 29, which has been providing community service for 117 years.

The new Rebekahs represent a new group with well over one dozen charter members, said organizers.

"There are 17 of us," said Justin Bailey, who is spearheading the effort.

Bailey is a member of Tamaqua Harmony Lodge and serves as grand guardian for the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

The new Rebekah group will be chartered as Lady Harmony Rebekahs No. 86, and will be instituted during a public ceremony to take place 1 p.m. Saturday, June 12, at First United Methodist Church, Tamaqua.

The new lodge will be headed by a roster of women with a strong history of community service and fraternity. Laura Bailey is expected to be seated as charter noble grand; Ashley Pliska, vice grand; Alice Taylor, secretary and Alisha Valedon, treasurer.

Following the institution, a formal installation of officers will take place. The general public is welcome to attend all facets of the unique event. After the ceremony at the church, those present will drive to IOOF Lodge Hall, 503 W. Broad Street, where refreshments will be served to all in attendance. Lady Harmony Rebekahs will meet on the first and third Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. inside IOOF Lodge Hall, which is the former chapel atop Odd Fellows Cemetery.

The Rebekahs traditionally were known as the female auxiliary of IOOF. However, the IOOF Sovereign Grand Lodge opened the door for Rebekahs to accept male members, and the traditionally all-male IOOF lodges to accept females. That change in membership guidelines took place about five years ago.

It must be emphasized that Lady Harmony Rebekahs are a different group from Hester Rebekah Lodge. Hester Rebekahs were chartered in Tamaqua on December 27, 1893. That group has earned a high level of respect within the community and will continue to exist and provide fellowship and community service.

Prospective members of Lady Harmony Rebekahs joined with members of Harmony Lodge for a joint lodge cookout on Memorial Day at Odd Fellows Cemetery. The contingent sold hot dogs and refreshments to attendees of the community's cemetery service following the Memorial Day parade.

"This is history in the making," said Charles Bailey, Tamaqua, referring to the new lodge. Bailey is Justin's father and past noble grand of Harmony Lodge, along with past grand master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

It was the senior Bailey who engineered the re-institution of Odd Fellows Harmony Lodge over 10 years ago. Harmony was chartered in Tamaqua in 1843 and grew to become the largest Odd Fellows lodge in Pennsylvania with close to 1,000 members. It was reinstituted on December 11, 1999, in a public ceremony held at the Tamaqua Community Center. The group continues to thrive.

Tamaqua is also host to IOOF Scott Encampment #132, with representation at Leesport Canton #2. Tamaqua Scott Encampment began in 1861 at the start of the Civil War. Encampment and Canton are para-military units representing advanced degrees of Odd Fellowship.

Nationally, the Rebekahs were founded on September 20, 1851, when, after considerable debate, the U.S. Grand Order of Odd Fellows voted to adopt the Rebekah Degree, largely due to the efforts of an Odd Fellow named Schuyler Colfax, who served as Speaker of the House and 17th vice president of the U. S.

Recipients were known as "Daughters of Rebekah." The name is taken from the Biblical character of Rebekah, presumably to symbolize unselfishness and in her acts of ministering to a poor unknown stranger.

The group is non-denominational and welcomes all who believe in a Supreme Being. The Rebekahs believe in a Creator and Preserver of the Universe, and pledge to be faithful to their country. Rebekahs follow principles of Odd Fellowship, specifically friendship, love, and truth.

The Odd Fellowship fraternal society began in England in the 1700s.

More information about Odd Fellows or the new Rebekah lodge can be directed to Justin Bailey at (570) 449-5617.