By Tim Leeds
The state Eagles president said today he wants to settle a dispute that prompted Havre Eagles Aerie 166 to bar its auxiliary from the lodge's dining and kitchen areas.
Ralph Schwartz said he wants Jerry Pyette of Chinook, who is a senior state trustee, to attend a meeting of the Havre men's and women's groups next month and report back to him so state leaders can try to resolve the situation.
Other leaders on the state level of the organizations expressed concern today about the Havre dispute.
"It's disgusting to begin with, but it's so heartbreaking (the auxiliary members) have given so much of themselves through the years," state auxiliary and international auxiliary past president Shirley Johnson of Missoula said.
The ban on using the aerie's kitchen and dining room has made the auxiliary look into cancelling events they had already scheduled in the club for the next few months.
Auxiliary president Eleanor Mejie said Thursday the Eagles sent a letter saying the men were taking over all activities in the kitchen and dining room, and that the auxiliary had four months to pay $2,400 in back rent for using the club facilities.
According to Mejie and other auxiliary members, the organization has never agreed to pay rent to the men's organization and has contributed plenty of money to improve the facility.
Mejie said Schwartz and Pyette both talked to her about the situation. She said Schwartz wants to get the aerie and auxiliary together at a July 11 meeting, the date of a regular aerie meeting.
"He wants to get the two of us together and see what's going on and why," she said.
Gerry Henderson, chairman of the trustees of the Havre Eagles, refused to comment on the situation today.
Johnson said officers of the state organization are generally interested in the aeries and auxiliaries working together. She said Pyette is a believer in togetherness and working as a team, and Schwartz also stresses teamwork.
"He is a believer in working together," she said.
Mejie said not being able to use the Eagles Club to raise money will make it hard for the auxiliary to continue its charitable contributions. She said it has five main national charities heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and kidney disease, as well as many local causes.
"Our motto is people helping people and we donate to many of these people that need money," she said.
Some of the local causes the auxiliary has supported include books for the public library and the Eagles Manor, scholarships, and donations to the Havre Jaycees, the youth hockey organization and the Salvation Army, Mejie said. She said she has a $500 check to present to the long-term care facility at Northern Montana Hospital for its library and a $2,000 check to present to the hospital to use on a new EKG machine.
Mejie said the events the auxiliary used to hold at the Eagles were a major way to raise money for the charities.
"How can we raise the money now?" she said.
Mejie said the auxiliary only has $1,000 it can use for the back rent the aerie is requesting. The rest of the auxiliary's money is already committed, such as the donation to the hospital. Some money is also in reserve. She said any use of the reserve must be approved by the state organization and must be paid back.
She said the auxiliary has been quite active in hosting events to raise funds. She said it usually hosts about 10 wedding receptions a year, has held Christmas parties for groups including Kmart, IGA and retired railroaders, and hosts other events as well.
Johnson said the conflict is not common in Montana, although charging rent is more common among older Eagles aeries farther east in the United States. She said the rent issue is a problem in Billings, where the aerie has been charging its auxiliary rent. The aerie in Edmonton, Alberta, drove its auxiliary out of the facility when it demanded rent, she added.
Schwartz said questions about charging for use of the facilities is an internal one, unique to each aerie.
"I certainly can't tell them what to do, and I wouldnt want to," he said. He said his job is to find a way to mediate and resolve the conflict over the issue.
Johnson hopes the two groups will be able to come together and continue to provide good work for Havre.
"It makes it really tough, you can't do what you're supposed to do," she said. "It's supposed to be people helping people and they can't even seem to help each other."