Rainbow Girls strive to make Lawrence a better place.
Large cream white pillars stretch toward the sky and sharp black letters form the words, "Masonic Temple." The doors are worn, but in remarkable condition for an 88-year-old building. The ancient appearance of the temple and the unfamiliarity of the groups that meet in the temple add tremendously to people's notions that the organizations in the temple are cults. However, that is not reality.
Since 1911, this gigantic temple has housed many hard-working, service-oriented groups. These groups include the Fidelity White Shrine No. 11, the Masons, Lawrence Lodge No. 6, Acacia Lodge No. 9, the Social Order of Beauceant, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite R.A.M. Chapter No. 4, Council No. 14, Commandery No. 4 and the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls.
Some Masonic organizations no longer meet in the Lawrence lodge. Due to falling membership, the Order of the Eastern Star recently moved from Lawrence to Baldwin, and the youth groups, Demolay and Job's Daughters, were discontinued.
One group that has survived is the service organization International Order of the Rainbow for Girls.
The Rainbow Girls do many fun and helpful things throughout the year and hope to involve the community more.
"Rainbow Girls want to be better known in their communities so that the members of the community can see that we are there to help them, because service is a huge part of our group," Rebecca Zieman, Kansas Grand Worthy associate adviser, said.
The Rainbow members visit nursing homes to socialize with the people living there and decorate the facility. The girls also support many local organizations. In the past they have supported Habitat for Humanity, the Lawrence Humane Society, Hannah's House, the children's wing of the Lawrence Memorial Hospital and many other groups that need help. This year's statewide service projects include supporting The Children's Miracle Network and donating supplies to a camp for children with cerebral palsy.
The Rainbow Girls also have fund-raising events that help support their service projects and send the girls to state and worldwide events throughout the year. They have bake sales, car washes, dinners and a "young helper auction" where elders bid on them for their cleaning services or yard work.
Fun and games
However, these girls aren't all about doing service projects. They also know how to have a good time. They have sleep-overs, parties, dances, dinners and every now and then they will go to a theme park for a day.
"The most fun thing I've ever done with Rainbow was go to Georgia Grand and have our own little parties in our room consisting of pillow fights and dancing on the beds!" said Lawrence Rainbow member Ashley Woodward, 13, a student at South Junior High School.
All of the girls who are actively involved in this organization have gotten some kind of reward from being a member of the assembly. Many of these girls come away with more friends than they can imagine or important lessons learned.
"I have so many friends from all over the country," said Amanda Woodward, 17, a senior at Lawrence High School. "Most of my best friends are in Rainbow too. We have a common bond and that makes us stronger friends as well as stronger people."
Many people have never heard of any Rainbow Girls, but the organization has existed since 1922 when the Rev. Mark Sexson, a pastor in McAlester, Okla., founded the Rainbow Girls. He designed the organization to teach girls about charity, hope and service through their involvement in the community. The Rainbow Girls also help promote self-esteem, public speaking skills and planning skills.
"Rainbow has given me so much. One of the biggest things that Rainbow has given me is the ability to think on my feet and speak in front of big groups. It has also given me a lot more confidence in myself from when I first joined when I was 11 years old," Zieman said.
Girls through the century have tried to keep the membership in each local assembly up so that the organization as a whole would be gigantic. Without an acceptable number of active girls, the organization may not be around much longer. Despite all their efforts to keep their organization alive, it may not be enough. Membership in the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls has taken a horrific plunge. The membership has dropped to the point where the girls are given huge prizes for bringing in another member.
To become a member of the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, a person must be a female and between the ages of 11 and 20. She must be the daughter of a Mason or the friend of a Rainbow Girl. As long as someone fits one of these descriptions, she would most likely be able to become a member.
"The requirements for membership are restrictive because we want to keep this a moral and helpful organization. We do not want people involved who are out for themselves and are not in it for the long run," Amanda Woodward said.
-- Shauna Tubbs is a sophomore at Free State High School.