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Lodge 702: Of Moose and Men and Women:

Victoria Delaney is an accomplished actress and a fresh and funny performance artist who appears at such hipster hangouts as The Fake Gallery on Melrose. You’d think all that would be plenty, but she also found herself yearning to become a Moose. And not just any Moose, but one with a title.

The exuberant Delaney is now Senior Regent of the Women of the Moose at Moose Lodge 702 at Ocean Park Boulevard and 16th Street. Far from looking for new material, Delaney was instead looking to connect to people and make some new friends.

Officially “installed” in April during a ceremony at the Lodge, Delaney says her involvement with the Moose is no joke. “Here’s the thing for someone like me…” begins the energetic blond. “This connects me to my community, and it puts me in touch with people that I otherwise don’t run into in my life.” Delaney points out that she lives five blocks from the Lodge and taking on a role in the Moose organization has connected her to her neighbors in a way she believes would have otherwise been impossible. “Now I bump into people I know from Santa Monica. I never did that before.”

Delaney’s position in the organization also reflects the efforts of the Santa Monica Moose Lodge to pull in new members. Delaney says that the Moose had a thriving membership in the 70s and 80s but now they are seeking to bring in some “new blood.” And there’s no question that the organization would like a greater number of younger members, especially when they show the kind of enthusiasm Delaney has demonstrated in just the last few months.

I witnessed her gregarious organizational skills firsthand when Delaney persuaded me to attend “Hot Fun in the Summertime!” a social event featuring dinner, dancing to live music and door prizes. It’s the kind of thing that used to happen all the time at the Lodge in years past. But older Lodge members told me that there hadn’t been an evening of this sort for quite a while. That is, until Victoria arrived.

At the “Summertime” event Delaney was constantly working the room, tending to the dinner line then bounding off to begin the sale of drawing tickets. While there was speculation at our table that we were some of the youngest people at the event, you couldn’t prove that once the music started. Everybody got up and danced, many with impressive style and moves, and it became clear that Delaney’s first big event was a hit.

Lodge 702 is a bit of a treasure in Santa Monica. The bar, referred to by Moose members as “the social quarters,” has a neighborhood feel that’s almost impossible to find anywhere on the Westside. The larger meeting and event hall is retro to say the least, and the walls bear photographs of Moose members going back to the very first days. Delaney says it’s her “dream” to have her picture up there one day.

A highlight of the hall is a lighted bingo board, something that grabbed Delaney’s attention right away. Even before taking office, she organized a bingo night at the hall just because she loved that board. “When I walked into this place I thought, ‘This looks like Wisconsin, 1969,’” Delaney recalls. “The first thing I saw was a huge light-up bingo machine. I asked one of the Moose women, ‘When do we play?’ and she said, ‘We don’t anymore.’ I said, ‘We do now.’”

Founded in 1888, the Loyal Order of Moose is a fraternal and service organization with roughly 2,000 Lodges, in all 50 states and four Canadian provinces, plus Great Britain and Bermuda. While there might be something a little old-fashioned about the female members belonging to the Women of the Moose and the men being the Royal Order of the Moose, you can’t fault their mission: All Moose activities contribute to service projects, with focus on two large Moose facilities. “Mooseheart” is a 1,000-acre community and school near Chicago for babies, children and teens that, for various reasons, lack a stable home. There’s also Moosehaven, a 65-acre retirement community in Florida where dependent senior members and their spouses can enjoy their golden years in comfort and dignity.

Men’s business lunches and women’s afternoon teas blossomed into national voluntary associations for public service around 1900. While the number of men involved in fraternal organizations remained relatively stable at the end of the 20th century, the number of women belonging to such groups dropped. Victoria Delaney may be a one-woman campaign to turn that around, at least at the local level.

A June 30 event at Lodge 702 was technically “members only,” but Delaney encouraged people interested in the Moose to “swing by” and check things out. She’s out to add members. She summarizes her membership pitch this way: “You’ll meet a ton of people, get involved in fun projects… and it barely costs anything to join.”

Maybe home video devices and two-career families have made it difficult for younger generations to even conceive of joining organizations and attending meetings at a “lodge.” At the “Summertime” event, there was nary a cell phone in sight. It occurred to me that giving one’s self over to an evening of dining and dancing with the people that live in your community might qualify as acting on the old hippie admonition to “Be here now.”

Lest anyone think of the Moose as somehow not attached to the “now,” Delaney related to me how a recent Moose service project involved collecting stuffed animals to send to orphans in Iraq. “We got these stuffed toys and then sent them. Then the soldiers hand out the toys to the children… and the children show the soldiers where the landmines are.”

One more thing about that “Summertime” evening: One of our drawing tickets was a winner. After dancing and enjoying the good company at Lodge 702 that evening, I became the owner of a brand new Crock-Pot. A few days later, I donated my prize to another charitable organization. Because that’s what a Moose would do.

Interested in joining the Moose? Find out more at Mooseintl.org or email the Santa Monica Lodge at [email protected]

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