Re-blog: Putting the ‘Western’ in Western Fraternal Life

As we continue with re-branding this summer, we at Western Fraternal Life think it’s important to look at how we got to where we are today. Our name is an important and often confusing aspect of our history (as it has changed three times!) so we wanted to revisit it today in our blog.

At the Home Office we are sometimes asked, “Where does the name Western Fraternal Life come from?” or “What does the “Western” part mean?” After some discussion, we decided to check our history books. The history of our organization is entwined in the answer.

According to the Centennial Edition of the Fraternal Herald from 1997, Western Fraternal Life was first a part of CSPS or the Czechoslovak Benefit Society in 1854. “The CSPS, which provided both a social lodge and a life benefit, operated on an assessment plan. Members paid monthly dues, which varied depending on the number of deaths, which were claimed per month. Neither age nor health was a factor in payments; every member paid the same. There was no reserve from which the death claims were paid. Only men were allowed to join—neither women nor children were accepted as fully insured members.”

This set-up was not sustainable, and created a rift between the newer and older members of the Association. “This system, typical of fraternal benefit societies of the time, worked for a number of years, as the number of Czech immigrants increased, adding new blood to the pool from which members were drawn. The new stream of immigrants, however, differed demographically from the Czechs already in place. The members of the CSPS were much older than the new immigrants who came to the states. Many of the immigrants came for economic opportunity, and some fully intended to return to the homeland after making money in America. These immigrants dreamed not of religious freedom, but of the economic freedom, which came with owning land. Land was available in the west, not the cities; therefore, they settled in Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Kansas.”

“A rift soon developed between these men and their eastern counterparts. The older immigrants began to die at a faster rate, and this meant that the rates increased for the younger members (mostly located in the “west”). For the Association to survive financially, each member had to pay a significantly higher rate. Why, the younger members thought, should they have to pay more for those out east? It made sense to them that, as they were younger and would not receive benefits from the Association for many years to come, they should have lower dues than those who were more likely to collect. In addition, members should have to submit to a medical exam. Also, while eastern Czechs, whose wives did not bring home a significant portion of the income, did not see the need to insure women, western Czechs saw the situation differently. If a wife died, the farmer would have to find a way to replace valuable source of labor. In addition, they believed in equality between men and women. In the end, they reasoned, their continued membership in the CSPS would be more of a hurt than a help.”

From there, the western members of CSPS decided to take action. “The western cause was greatly helped when Jan Rosicky, the great publisher of Czech language newspapers from Omaha, NE lent his vocal support. On February 9, 1897 Rosicky led a group of 25 delegates from 31 CSPS lodges who met in Omaha. These delegates drafted four resolutions, which they would present to the CSPS convention. The resolutions called for premiums determined by age, admission of women as fully-insured members, the establishment of a reserve fund, and a medical director who would examine all applicants. The convention adopted a set of bylaws for a new organization, which would provide the social and insurance benefits of its parent in case the CSPS defeated the proposals. In a move which surprised few, the CSPS rejected each of the resolutions.

In June 1897, the officers filed Articles of Incorporations with the state of Iowa. Thus, on July 4th, 1897, was born Zapadni Ceska Bratrska Jednota (ZCBJ), the Western Bohemian Fraternal Association (WBFA). By the end of 1897, the Association boasted 49 charter lodges and 1,259 charter members.”

That is how our Association, Western Fraternal Life Association, got its name.

Summer Safety Tips for Adults, Kids, and Pets

dog safetyThe summer can be a great time to get out of the house with family and friends. Stay safe this summer with tips for adults, kids and pets.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, getting one blistering sunburn when you’re a kid doubles your chances of developing melanoma. Regardless of age and skin type (whether or not you burn easily), the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone, adults and kids alike, apply a water-resistant sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays every day of the year. Yes, even in winter and on cloudy days. Choose a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and apply it 15 to 30 minutes before going outside.
When using sunscreen, apply as much as would fill a shot glass — and if you’re using both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply sunscreen first and then repellent.

Did you know that if you are feeling thirsty, you are already mildly dehydrated? Relying on thirst as a reminder to take a drink leaves you at risk for dehydration. So to be sure you and your kids are OK, look for these other signs, which can indicate that a child or adult is dehydrated:
• Dizziness
• Dry mouth
• Cessation of sweating
• Irritability
• Lethargy
• Fatigue
• Dark yellow urine
• Anuria (lack of urine) for 12 hours (or 6 hours for infants)
• Tearless crying
• Sunken eyes
Water and sports drinks (drinks that contain electrolytes) are the best options for hydration. Avoid sodas, juice, and other fruit drinks.

How the Heat Effects Your Pets:
When it is really hot outside – even a casual walk can lead to heat stroke especially if your dog is older or out of shape. Keep your exercise routine to early morning or evenings when it is cooler.
Check the temperature of the street or sidewalk with your hand. If it is too hot to touch, then it is too hot for your dog to walk on. If you must take your dog out, than utilize grassy areas for them to walk on instead.
NEVER leave your dog in your car during hot weather. Dogs left in cars, even with the window cracked open, can overheat very quickly during the summer.

Here’s how to recognize heat stroke in your pet. If your dog is suffering from heat stroke they will be:
• panting excessively
• have redness around its eyes
• show signs of weakness
• irritability
• may start vomiting
• collapse
You can try to cool him down by giving him cool water to drink – not cold water. Cold water may make him vomit.
Try to sponge him down with a cool wet towel or soak him in a tub of cool water and keep a fan on Fido.

Outdoorsy types are not the only ones who need to worry about ticks — you could pick one up in your own yard while gardening or playing outside. Prevent tick bites and tick-borne illnesses with these four steps:
Wear light-colored, lightweight clothing and shoes during the summertime, and tuck your pants into your socks.
Insect repellents that contain DEET or permethrin can reduce your chances of tick bites. DEET products may be applied directly to exposed skin (not skin under your clothing) and to clothing, but should be used sparingly on kids — look for products with about 20 % DEET concentration, and apply it to your child’s body, avoiding his or her face and hands. Permethrin should only be applied to clothing.
For family pets, it is also a good idea to apply some kind of tick and flea protection during the warmer months. Many options exist, but it is best to consult your animal’s veterinarian first for recommendations.
Know Your Enemy
Ticks like to hang out in grassy or wooded areas, and they are especially fond of places that are moist or humid. Tall brush and weeds will almost always guarantee that you will encounter ticks.
Be Vigilant with Tick Checks
Do a tick check on everyone in the family (even family pets) every night after spending the day outside where tick exposure may have occurred. Contracting a tick-borne illness can take up to 36 hours if a tick isn’t removed, so you want to be prompt and thorough. The CDC recommends you check under the arms, between the legs, around the waist, inside the navel, and the hairline and scalp.

Playground Safety
More than 205,000 kids visit emergency rooms with playground-related injuries every year, estimates the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Many of these injuries could be prevented with a little precaution and adult supervision.
Check the playground equipment before letting kids play on it. For example, surfaces that are too hot can cause burns, and loose ropes can cause accidental strangulation. The ground should be covered in a protective surface such as rubber mats, wood, rubber mulch, or wood chips; never grass, asphalt or concrete. The right surface materials could reduce the risk of head injury or other severe injury in the event of a fall.
Also, be sure that your child’s clothing is playground-friendly: Remove any strings, such as those on hooded sweatshirts, only let them wear closed-toed shoes at play, and avoid clothing that is loose enough to catch on equipment.

With these simple tips, your whole family can enjoy the summer months. So play it safe and make good memories that last beyond the season.