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After 150 years, core values remain strong at Masonic Lodge in Normal

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The Masonic Lodge in Normal, one of the oldest continuously operating organizations in Bloomington-Normal, is celebrating its sesquicentennial.

Mike Tutter is the senior warden of the lodge. That's the second-in-command behind the worshipful master. Tutter said though many things have changed about the organization, its core values remain strong after 150 years.

"In general, the principles of what we believe in and what we try to do for members who come in has never changed. Our slogan is to make men better than they are," said Tutter.

Elks, Eagles, Odd Fellows, and many other fraternal or community groups have struggled over the years for membership nationwide. Tutter acknowledged as members age, organizations can become less visible. And though recruitment has not been an emphasis for many groups, Tutter said it has for Masons in Normal.

"Normal Lodge has tapped into some of our younger members, maybe out of college or people who are in college, tapped the fraternities and other groups that might be interested," said Tutter.

In their heyday, Tutter said, such societies often had 100 or more members turn out for meetings. Nowadays at the lodge, it's 10 to 20, but the work continues.

"We still do our charitable funds. We go out into the public. A couple of years, we have been at the Worldwide Day of Play. We help at the food banks. The community part of that, we are still at greatly," said Tutter.

The Masons also have a childhood ID campaign they run to create a national database if kids go missing.

The lodge has been in several locations over the decades, but from 1926 until about 11 years ago, it was in what is now Uptown Normal. The town did a land swap to facilitate part of the Uptown revitalization project and a bank now sits on the land. The new lodge is on the grounds of the old Illinois Soldiers and Sailor's Children's Home in Normal.

The 150th anniversary observance will be a public ceremony and rededication of the building at 1 p.m. Saturday.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.