The latest display at the Nicola Valley Museum and Archives (NVMA) features a local service organization that has existed in Merritt for over one hundred years, showcasing an impressive history of service and selflessness by a group of Nicola Valley women.
Patricia Rebekah Lodge No. 33 was established in the Nicola Valley in spring of 1914, and are a sister service club to the Independent Order of the Oddfellows, a fraternal organization that has members in 19 countries. The group is named for the biblical figure Rebekah, with her kind and caring heart.
Over the years, the Rebekahs have supported numerous local projects, such as their Christmas hampers, the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Big Bike, the Berta Fraser Day Centre, Operation Shoebox, and a number of national and international efforts. Members visit with the sick and many delivered ‘meals on wheels’ to seniors for years. The group also continues to provide a bursary to a student graduating from MSS. Museum management told the Herald the decision to feature the organization was easy.
“They’ve been around here for over one hundred years, they started here back in around 1914 as the female division of the Odd Fellows,” noted Cameron Bridge, manager of the NVMA.
“They’ve been a part of the general history of the Nicola Valley. They’ve participated in lots of fundraising efforts, and a lot of prominent people throughout the history of Merritt have been Rebekahs.”
Bridge added that the NVMA looks to highlight local service groups as often as possible, sharing their storied histories in the community with museum visitors from all over the province, country, and world. The pieces in the exhibit include a rare Rebekah’s Lodge Book, a gavel used to lead meetings, and artifacts from years of community service, including many rare pieces.
The Rebekahs’ mandate is to ‘visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan,’ a somewhat antiquated mission that the local group has brought into modern times through their community service work.
“Now, that is a 200 year old mandate, believe it or not,” laughed Pamela Ottas, noble grand of the local Rebekahs and past president of the Rebekah’s provincial organization.
Ottas offered that while no longer accurate word-for-word, their mission remains similar, with the group offering support to seniors in a number of ways, supporting education through bursaries, and fundraising for a number of other community initiatives.
The tight-knit core of 10 Patricia Rebekah Lodge No. 33 members look to make a strong comeback from the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions that altered, and sometimes altogether prevented, service work.
“We give bursaries to our local high school, and we used to have cash raffles, but not being able to get out into the stores for a while, we haven’t had those for three years,” said Ottas.
“We are just now starting to get back into the community part of it, so it’s going to take a little while yet, because there aren’t as many of us to do the work.”
Ottas has been with the Rebekahs for over 50 years, the past five of those years taking place in Merritt. The group meets twice per month, and offers not only a venue for community service and volunteerism, but social time for members of the community. Many of the club’s members have been active with the organization for over 50 years, including a number who have dedicated over 60 years of their life to serving their community.
The Rebekahs display at the museum is now available for viewing to the public, during normal museum hours. The NVMA is located at 1675 Tutill Court, beside the Senior’s Centre. For more information, visit www.nicolavalleymuseum.org.
For more information on Patricia Rebekah Lodge No. 33, call Pam Ottas at 250-315-1608, or Perri Commandeur at 250-315-1631.