After the primary organizer of Garage Galleries moved from Forest Park to Los Angeles, community member Gerald Lordan worried over the future of the event, which celebrated its fifth year transforming garages into art galleries this August.
Lordan thought the Aerie in Forest Park, the Fraternal Order of Eagles Club’s headquarters, might be a good place to hold Garage Galleries. He had been intrigued by the Eagles building at 446 Hannah Ave. for years and thought it had always been underutilized. Once he got to the club and started talking to the members, he decided to join.
After paying the $25 application fee and being interviewed by Eagles Club members, Lordan was in, the first member to join the club in a long time. Celebrating its 112th year in service this year, the Eagles Club is an international nonprofit focused on giving back to Forest Park causes, like the food pantry at the Howard Mohr Community Center, police fundraisers, Salvation Army and more.
It is in its second year of resurgence.
“I’ve explained to the Eagles Club that we need to get out of the Aerie and get out into the community. We can’t expect Mohammed to come to the mountain, the mountain is going to go to Mohammed,” said Lordan, a history teacher at Fenwick High School in Oak Park and former head of St. Bernardine’s school in Forest Park.
Club members advertise their presence to the community by attending community events and buying advertising in various community organizations’ programs.
Lordan also wants the community to know that the club is a “low-cost opportunity for people” who want to use the Eagles Club hall to hold a party or event.
“We do graduation parties, family reunions and birthday parties,” he said.
They even have room for German singing groups. The Harlem Maenner-und Damenchor, a German American social singing group, uses the Aerie to practice every Tuesday evening.
The choir pays for the club’s rent, which is their principal source of income, Lordan said.
Currently there are 25 members in the club, however, about five members typically attend the weekly meeting, Lordan said. Forest Park resident Chris Harris is a recent member.
“All the guys that are members there, before this little wave of new people came in, had been members there since the 1980s,” Harris said.
He added: “We’re so happy we doubled in size within like six months after we got the ball rolling.”
Although the club is located in Forest Park, it serves the entire Proviso Township.
Bingo night, held every Wednesday at 7 p.m., is the second biggest sources of revenue for the club.
“We’re one of the few bingo games left in town. Bingo lost its popularity when it lost its profitability and bingo lost its profitability when we started so many of these neighborhood riverboat gambling places…but there are people who want to play bingo,” Lordan said.
The club uses the revenue to maintain their headquarters and to donate to different charitable causes.
“We’re more likely to give money to a local small neighborhood charity than to a national charity,” Lordan said.
Veterans are close to the club’s heart.
The club’s most recent donation was to the Wounded Warrior Project. They are also generous in giving to the Fisher House, which provides lodging for families of injured veterans and is located inside the VA hospital in Maywood, Lordan said.
Lordan hopes to attract younger members to the Eagles Club to help sustain the club moving forward. One way to do this, he said, is to get the word out that they are available for rent for theater groups.
“We would hope very much that we could be somewhat of a performing arts center. We have a stage. One doesn’t get used all that often,” Lordan said with a laugh.
Community members who would like to get involved with the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Forest Park please email Gerald Lordan at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Eagles Club at 708-366-1321.