I feel bad when I lose faith in our young people but there's so much crime, apathy, and disrespect.  I bet older folks have felt this way for generation after generation.  But, there's always been one ray of hope in Erie over the past 100 years.

I attended a business meeting of the Erie Chapter of the Order of DeMolay.   Young men between the ages of 12 and 21 have been gathering for such meetings in Erie for 100 years.  All of the DeMolay members over the past century have had many things in common.  Most importantly, they want training and guidance to become better citizens.  It's something that's lacking among many young people.

"In my experience, I can say there are some people that will look at it first thing and say it's not for me.  But sometimes you just got to look at the bigger picture, says Jack Farkasovsky, age 19.

DeMolay was founded in Kansas City in 1919 by Frank S. Land who believed a new youth organization was needed to provide guidance for boys. The Erie Order was established five years later. DeMolay is sponsored by Masonic organizations and the Erie chapter meets in the Masonic Lodge downtown. Every member dedicates himself to uphold certain virtues...love for parents, reverence, courtesy, comradeship, fidelity, cleanliness, and patriotism.

"It can be such a powerful guiding hand.” says Michael Whitney. “I feel like if I hadn't been part of this, I don't know where I'd be. I wouldn't be the man I am now. That's for sure." 

Michael is 23-years old and like many former members, he now serves as an advisor to the current members such as 12-year old Chris Light and 13-year old Jackson Haffley.  Jackson, by the way, is a fourth generation member of Erie DeMolay.  It doesn't take long for the new members begin embracing things such as public speaking and community service.

"I didn't really have much of a chance just to be involved in my community.  I sort of think I wanted a way to actually do that.  DeMolay was the answer that I found to get involved with my community,” says Zak Kineston.  Zak, age 23, is another former member who stayed involved with the organization as an advisor.  

DeMolay is not always seriousness and structure.  The guys also have fun doing a variety of activities including, sports and field trips.  There's video games and billiards in their clubhouse.  This group will probably will end up being friends for life.

"You can meet guys from all over the state, even times you can meet people from all over the country or even all over the world,“ says Ryan Kraus, who served as a State Master Councilor with the organization.

One of the most well-known products of the Erie DeMolay program is Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook.  He will be the guest speaker when the order officially celebrates its 100th anniversary on April 20.  For more information on the celebration and on DeMolay, log on to eriedemolay.org.