It’s been a whirlwind trip for Penny Skinner, grand madam president of the international Eagles Auxiliary, since she left her home in Clarksburg, W. Va., on Aug. 14.
Skinner’s visit to Detroit Lakes on Thursday was the latest stop on a cross country journey that will take her through Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota before returning home on Sept. 1.
Despite the long hours in airports and on the road, Skinner said, “I’ve been having a ball.”
As evidence of that fact, she appeared quite relaxed as she visited and occasionally joked around with the group of Eagles Auxiliary members from northwest Minnesota who joined her for a Thursday afternoon pontoon ride around Big and Little Detroit lakes.
Among them were Minnesota Eagles Auxiliary President Mary Lee, Detroit Lakes, who acted as her escort during her trek through the state; Detroit Lakes Eagles Auxiliary members Audrey Kuehl, Betty Hochhalter and Cylinda Scheiben (the president of the local unit); District President Mary Ekren, Roseau, and her fellow Roseau members Judy Hagen and JoAnn Burkel; and Marlene Hanson, Hallock, who is also a state trustee for the organization.
The women were riding on Detroit Lakes’ Let’s Go Fishing pontoon, ably captained by Dave Hochhalter, co-founder of the Detroit Lakes LGF chapter and past president of the local Eagles Aerie.
Skinner’s weeklong journey through Minnesota began in Minneapolis on Aug. 20, and continued with stops in Rochester and Litchfield (“I won the dart tournament there!” she exclaimed gleefully) before her visit to Detroit Lakes.
“This is my very last stop in Minnesota,” she said, a little sadly. “The ladies here brought out the sun for me - everywhere else, it’s been rain and storms and cold weather since I left home.”
Besides visiting with the members of the local auxiliaries about their concerns and “acting as an ambassador for the Grand (Eagles) Aerie,” Skinner said one of her main “jobs” during her cross country tour - which will resume again after Labor Day, with a trip up to Canada - has been to promote her favorite charity, The Arc of Harrison County (the region of West Virginia she is from).
In choosing her local chapter, which is part of the National Association for Retarded Citizens, commonly referred to as “The Arc,” Skinner said she felt “we have lots of projects for our children, but once those children get out of school, some of them fall through the cracks.”
The Arc supports people from age 18 on up, and “they have to raise their own money for projects,” Skinner said.
Her aim is to raise enough funds to purchase a 17-passenger van for the Harrison County chapter, she continued. “They are a special group of people… I am in awe of all they do.”
As a plus, she added, all of the money raised goes directly to support the charity’s projects, rather than administrative costs.
Skinner said she was also there to help raise support and awareness for the Eagles Memorial Foundation, which “takes care of the children of any Eagles members, male or female, who lose their life on the job.”
“It pays for their physical, mental, dental and educational needs, through (completion of) a graduate program,” she said.
But her favorite part of her journey, Skinner said, was getting to know the people she has met along the way.
“They (Eagles Aerie and Auxiliary members) are all generous, fun loving and truly caring individuals,” she said. “Our (Eagles) motto is ‘People helping people,’ and they do.”
At a special potluck supper held in her honor at the Detroit Lakes Eagles Club Thursday night, Skinner also announced the launch of a special Eagles International Food Drive on Oct. 3.
“We’re going to try to fill the food banks in each area,” she said.
More details about the event will be announced as it draws closer.
For more information on the Fraternal Order of Eagles and Eagles Auxiliary, please visit www.foe.com.
The website includes an “Aerie Locator” as well as information on the organization’s history and the charities they support.