Deborah Boschetti, senior regent of the Riverhead chapter of the Women of the Moose, barely had a second to spare last Saturday as she prepared for the organization’s 60th anniversary celebration later that night.
“I still have to get changed,” the Laurel resident said apologetically as she spooned balsamic vinaigrette onto individual bowls of salad at the Madison Street moose lodge. “Can you excuse me for a minute?”
Ms. Boschetti’s predicament was far from unique. From selling raffle tickets to serving a meal of roast beef and mashed potatoes to themselves and their guests, all 50 or so Women of the Moose had at least one part to play in the evening’s festivities.
And that’s just the way things have always been, they said.
“Everything we do is volunteer,” said Diann Scott of Riverhead, a 14-year member of the college of regents, the organization’s highest position. “No one gets paid here.”
Community service has long been an essential aspect of Moose International’s mission statement. According to its official website, mooseintl.org, the first Moose lodge was established in Louisville, Ky., in 1888. The fraternal organization initially existed as a place where men could “gather socially, to care for one another’s needs and celebrate life together.”
Today, Moose International reportedly has more than a million members of both genders in all 50 states and beyond and annually contributes between $75 and $100 million worth of community services. According to its website, the organization cares for children in need at Mooseheart Child City & School near Chicago and operates Moosehaven, a 70-acre retirement community for members, near Jacksonville, Fla.
Founded in 1955, the Riverhead chapter of the Women of the Moose currently has 600 active members on Eastern Long Island, Ms. Scott said. In September, the organization partnered with Home Depot to donate 11 boxes of plastic tops to Caps of Love, a Florida charity that recycles and exchanges the tops for cash to pay for wheelchairs and prosthetics for disabled children.
“We’ve been collecting [the tops] for over a year,” member Gloria Yaede said in September.
Thelma Booker of Riverhead, a 15-year member and the Riverhead chapter’s first African-American senior regent, said the organization does “a little bit of everything,” from assembling food baskets for the needy to sponsoring dinner dances to donating blankets and personal hygiene items to Riverhead Care Center.
“It’s historic,” she said of the Women of the Moose’s 60th anniversary. “And it’s always a nice affair. It’s a nice evening for the young people to come on out; to let ’em know that life is not bad, you know?”
In addition to enjoying the opportunity to perform community service, members said they like the Women of the Moose’s emphasis on family.
“They have bowling for the kids, they do parties for the kids,” said Ms. Boschetti, who joined in 1980. “We have barbecues in the summer. Family is always welcome.”
Ms. Scott, who moved to Riverhead with her four sons in 1996, said joining the organization was a way for her to give back to the community, especially since two of her sons had enlisted in the U.S. military after graduating from high school.
“It’s selflessness when you give to others and you see that your blessings have passed on to someone else,” she said. “It’s the best-kept secret, the Moose.”