Eagles from all over Idaho landed in Coeur d'Alene Monday for a week-long summit.
The Coeur d'Alene "aerie" of the Fraternal Order of Eagles is hosting the annual Idaho State Eagles Convention which will feature a 1950s-style sock hop Thursday before ending with the installation of new statewide officers in a members-only ceremony Friday.
The nonprofit charitable organization - which started in Coeur d'Alene in 1901 after its founding in Seattle in 1898 - and its women's auxiliary donated more than $21,000 to local charities for the 2014 fiscal year which ended May 31. Recipients include the Kootenai County Humane Society, Special Needs of North Idaho, Children's Organ Transplant Association, St. Vincent de Paul and Hospice of Coeur d'Alene, among others.
"We're expecting a full house," said Jack Blanchard, president of Eagles Aerie 486 in Coeur d'Alene.
The conference will host approximately 150 delegates, including members of local aeries, companies and auxiliaries throughout Idaho, and representatives from New Mexico, California and Alberta, Canada.
The sock hop Thursday will feature live music and a silent auction, and guests are encouraged to dress in period attire. The tickets for $7 will be sold at the door at 209 E. Sherman Ave.
"Come on down to the sock hop; we'd love to have you," said Blanchard. The dance will be held in the ballroom which was renovated in 2008 for $300,000. The space is frequently rented for weddings and other private events, Blanchard said.
Blanchard, 77, a Vietnam veteran and retired member of the California Highway Patrol, said he is confident the Eagles membership roll will continue to grow in Coeur d'Alene. He said the group has approximately 1,300 members but welcomes more.
Blanchard, who said he joined the Eagles 34 years ago for the camaraderie as well as the chance to help the community, said his group admitted 25 new members last week. The organization is family-oriented, Blanchard said, with a hamburger cookout every Thursday hosted by members and a Sunday morning breakfast hosted by the auxiliary. Both weekly events are open to the public for $5 to $7.
Heather Callahan, a third-generation auxiliary member and incoming Idaho state auxiliary vice president, said the Coeur d'Alene auxiliary has 800 members. A member for 18 years, Callahan said 131 new members joined last year. They range in age from 20s to 90s.
"Our target market should be retired soccer moms," said Callahan, 43, who wants more members. Auxiliary membership dues are $20 annually, and Eagles membership dues are $45.
Blanchard said the only requirements for membership, in addition to being recommended by a member, are affirming a belief in a supreme being and passing a police background check for felony convictions. Prospective members are not required to disclose religious affiliation.