Hundreds of women and men from across the state convened at the Benton Convention Center Sept. 6-9 for the 111th Grand Session of the Order of the Eastern Star.
The annual gathering brings members of the historic group, whose history in North Carolina stretches back 133 years, together from across the state. The event has been held in Winston-Salem for the past six years.
Grand Worthy Matron Margaret Dixon convened the meeting of Eastern Stars, one of the largest fraternal organizations in the world.
“My theme has been consistent since I came on board,” said Dixon, who has led OES since 2010. “The theme is ‘Stars on Point,’ and what that means is that we’re women and men who have it together and are doing it right.”
The Order of the Eastern Stars is home to both male and female members, most of whom are connected through familial ties. The organization, which draws its name from the Star of Bethlehem, is rooted in religion but it is not a religious organization, leaders say. Members are required to profess a belief in a “Supreme Being” of their choosing and be registered voters. The North Carolina Grand Chapter, an affiliate of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons Jurisdiction of North Carolina, Inc., is a massive collective of more than 37 local OES districts. Female members dressed in their Sunday best – sporting OES white from head to toe – for the Grand Session.
Milton “Toby” Fitch Jr., Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Masons, said he attends the Grand Session every year. Fitch, a superior court judge, former state legislator and active OES member, said the social interaction at the Grand Session is one of the components he enjoys most.
The 2012 Session included a variety of meetings, receptions, workshops and the election of new officers. Members were updated on the achievements of the Eastern Stars, who gave $55,000 in college scholarships and raised $160,000 through their Queens Contest to help support charitable projects across the state.
“I think everything has gone marvelously well,” said Dixon, who joined the Eastern Stars in 1976. “The measure is the attitude and feedback that you get from the membership, because this is about them. If we please the membership, then we’re doing well, and this session, everybody seems extremely happy.”
Michelle Evans, a member of the Drucilla Chapter #19 in Durham, said the 2012 Session exceeded her expectations.
“It’s been exciting – it’s been electrifying this year,” declared Evans, a community college instructor and longtime salon owner. “We have great leadership, and there’s always something to take back to the community to help them grow.”
Evans added that the session afforded her a chance to interact with some of her mentors, like fellow Drucilla Chapter member Olinzie Johnson, who has been an Eastern Star for nearly five decades. Johnson, a retired Duke Medical technologist, serves as co-chair of the Senior Delights, an elite group of Eastern Stars who are 80 or older. There are more than 100 Senior Delights in North Carolina, said Brenda James-Stanback, who has directed the program for the past four years. The Senior Delights were feted during a special luncheon in their honor at the Embassy Suites hotel Friday. The Delights were presented with handmade scarves featuring OES colors, pillows made from old OES t-shirts, and mini tiaras during the luncheon.
James-Stanback, whose husband Tidus Stanback is a Mason and OES member, said the luncheon was just one way of expressing the appreciation she and many others feel for the organization and for the women and men who have carried on its traditions for so long. Becoming an Eastern Star 19 years ago was the realization of a long held dream for her, James-Stanback said.
“I had aunts at the time that were Eastern Stars and I was always fascinated by their attire. They always looked so elegant going to the meetings and I always wanted to be just like them, so when they took me in, I just thought I had arrived,” said the Albemarle resident. “The service that we give – the service, the love, the fellowship and the charity. That’s what I love about it.”
For more information about the Grand Chapter Order of the Eastern Star, visit www.gcoesphanc.org