Fraternalism Is Alive & Well

By Tim Percic (President of the AMLA)

Almost 5 years ago, I wrote a synopsis of "Fraternalism" that got a lot of attention. Mostly because I referred to "Fraternalism" as the F-word that gets thrown around a lot here because the AMLA is a fraternal benefit society. That F-word, “Fraternalism” is a word that has fallen out of the vernacular mostly because it feels like something that requires work, or is something only our grandparents think about. But thanks to the AMLA, this word gets some extra consideration.

At the AMLA 29th Regular Convention held on November 3-4, Delegates and Friends were reintroduced to Fraternalism—and they liked it.

The group gathered on the eve of the Convention to assemble care packages for The Providence House, a crisis nursery for children, to color place-mats for the holidays to share with the elderly, and to place stamps on envelopes for Christmas cards to aid a prison ministry. Afterwards, participants enjoyed a wine presentation by Chalet DeBonne Winery and chatted.

The following afternoon during breakout sessions at the Convention, many of these same Delegates participated in a discussion about how AMLA Fraternal Events can impact the community—including The Providence House, whose CEO, Natalie Leek-Nelson was kind enough to join the discussion. When the breakouts were concluded, the Delegation reconvened in full, and presented Ms. Leek-Nelson with 40 care packages which were assembled at the aforementioned gathering the night before.

The photo in this post captured the moment.

This is only the tip of the iceberg though. If you dig a bit deeper, you would see that AMLA Members and Lodges were asked if they would contribute to the cause. The AMLA Board authorized a donation of $1,500, which was augmented by donations by other Lodges and Members to bring the total over $3,600!

Armed with this, AMLA Members, Liz Zab (Lodge 1), Christine Panchur (Lodge 27), and Jan Tilisky (Lodge 30), worked to procure merchandise valued at well over $4,000 to fill the care packages that we assembled on the eve of Convention.

This effort is special for many reasons, but the biggest is that it is Fraternal. A Fraternal act like this is done by the mobilization of a group of people (in this case AMLA Members and Friends), and gathering the necessary resources to complete a particular task (in this case, raising money, purchasing items, assembling the final product, and presenting them to the recipient). Fraternalism is in the DNA of the AMLA.

What makes fraternal benefit societies so particularly amazing is that they coordinate the resources of everyday people to accomplish outstanding things. In the heyday of fraternals—roughly the 1910’s through the 1940’s—fraternal organizations funded orphanages, hospitals, healthcare networks, and schools. Fraternal benefit societies transcended social strata to unite the educated with the working class, men and women, all races, and treat them as equals---all during the time when the rest of society didn’t (read the book From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State, David T. Beito).

Yes, there was a time when fraternals were cutting edge. Over time, government regulations and commercial competition coupled with unwillingness of fraternals to adapt struck a huge blow to the industry. While the AMLA enjoyed a relative heyday in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the industry of fraternal benefit societies was in rapid decline. Today, societies like the AMLA number in the 70’s where once there were hundreds. Where fraternal organizations once provided society with direct assistance in many forms, they are now marginalized to the life insurance industry.

So what does this mean for the AMLA?

Well, for starters, we know that the AMLA is special. It is one of the few remaining fraternal benefit societies which is very financially healthy. The Membership is around 8,000, and there is great potential for growth. Here’s why:

Your Membership in the AMLA is much more than Life Insurance. You become part of an engine for doing good---for Members and the Community. You have a say in how the AMLA works through Conventions (like the one earlier this month) and in your Lodge Meetings. You can call the AMLA Home Office and meet with Agents (who are also Members) to discuss your policies AND what ways the AMLA can help outside of life insurance.

Where else can you find that level of awesome in the corporate world? It almost sounds like a cutting edge (because it is), socially conscious answer to Wall Street from Main Street. Knowing this, who wouldn’t want to be a part of the AMLA?

Don’t read this article as a sales pitch. Read it as a statement of pride. It is a pride that every AMLA Member can share. When you feel that pride, don’t keep it to yourself. Your friends, family, co-workers,---everybody, can benefit from Membership in the AMLA! And, by extension, so too does the community benefit.

Ask yourself: “If a handful of AMLA Members can change a child’s life through the care package project completed at the Convention, what can an “army” of AMLA Members do to change the World?”

The answer is: More than you know.

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