Local woman receives College of Regents award

A Seymour woman has been awarded the College of Regents, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a member of the Loyal Order of Moose organization.

Christy Newkirk, 51, joined Women of the Moose Chapter 1733 about eight years ago and became interested in the organization because of her husband, Brett Newkirk, who is vice president of Moose Lodge 418 in Seymour.

The lodge is located at 110 E. Sixth St., and both the men’s and women’s chapters meet there.

“I had never been a Moose member before and never knew what it was about, and for even the first six months I was here, I really still didn’t know,” Christy said. “Then I kind of got thrown into being on the women’s board, and my first position was secretary, so then it just went from there, and I’ve been in it ever since.”

Sylvia Woodard, who has since passed away, was secretary before Newkirk.

“I took the minutes of the meetings, and over the years, I’ve gone from that to senior regent, then I went to past regent,” she said. “There’s a small group of us on the board, and we’d like to have a lot more involved, but it’s hard to get people to step up and volunteer, so we trade off positions, so right now, I’m secretary again.”

Carrie Graham, Chandra Yates and Hannah Whetstine also are board members of the organization. Graham is treasurer, Whetstine is past regent and Yates is senior regent of the women’s chapter. She also is in charge of the women’s board.

Newkirk said the first award a woman can get as a member of Women of the Moose is Academy of Friendship, then Golden Gavel and the highest honor is College of Regents, which is the equivalent of Pilgrim Degree of Merit. The Pilgrim is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a member of the men’s Loyal Order of Moose.

Graham said this is the first time in more than 20 years that a member of the Seymour chapter has earned a College of Regents award, so it’s a pretty big deal. Norma Neukam was the first local member to receive the prestigious award many years ago.

“It’s hard to get the College of Regents, and it takes a lot of time, a lot of volunteering and a lot of paperwork,” Graham said. “Christy had to enroll two new members into the local chapter each year and had to go to all of the trainings, and the club had to get an award of achievement, and then she got a letter last year saying she was getting her College of Regents.”

Newkirk said Graham is the one who gets all of the paperwork turned in each month, and there are officer trainings to attend and women’s rally days. For members to be able to receive personal honors, their local chapter has to have an award of achievement each year

Eligibility for College of Regents is limited to a member who has completed the requirements for Golden Gavel as senior regent, which Newkirk accomplished. She also must hold a Golden Gavel celebration meeting, and the junior past regent is required to attend the annual executive session, board of officers meetings, committee activity and chapter business meetings.

All requirements for personal honors were completed by Newkirk, and club requirements were met, too.

Graham said there were almost 7,000 men and women Moose members in Orlando at the international conference where Newkirk received her honor. She was among the 390 who received the College of Regents award this year.

“At conferences now, Christy will walk in with the other College of Regents recipients, and they’ll all be in their caps and gowns, and having the higher degree, she’ll be taking part in ceremonies and sitting up in front,” Graham said.

Newkirk said she’s not really comfortable being in the spotlight and believes she gets that from her parents, Ken and Pat McCallister, who are very humble people. She learned from them that you help people just because it’s the right thing to do.

Newkirk said what she likes the most about being in the Moose organization is helping people, especially the kids. When Moose members pay their membership dues, those funds go to Mooseheart and Moosehaven.

Mooseheart is a residential child care facility on a 1,000-acre campus 38 miles west of Chicago. The Child City is a home for children and teens in need from infancy through high school.

Dedicated in July 1913 by the Moose fraternal organization, Mooseheart cares for youth whose families are unable, for a wide variety of reasons, to care for them.

Newkirk said it’s not an orphanage, but kids come there from broken homes. Mooseheart takes them in and gives them a better life.

“We are going to visit Mooseheart on Sept. 17, which is Indiana Day there, and because of COVID, we couldn’t go for a few years, but we can go back now and visit the kids,” she said. “Through Mooseheart, kids are given their best chance at life and then they go off to college after they graduate.”

Graham said Mooseheart, Illinois, has its own ZIP code and post office on the campus.

“It’s like a city with a school and a church, and it’s almost like a college campus,” Graham said. “There are apartments on campus at Mooseheart if kids want to stay there after they graduate. They can stay there four years for free.”

She said the last time they visited, there were about 10 girls in the house, ages 6 or 7.

Newkirk said the children understand what Moose members do for them and the kids are so grateful, and seeing the looks on their faces when she visited Mooseheart is unexplainable.

Graham said the kids are free to go home any time after their parent or guardian is able to take care of them again.

“Doing things for our kids at Mooseheart and for our seniors at Moosehaven is important to me,” Newkirk said. “We have a ‘grandmother’ we were assigned in Moosehaven, so Carrie and I got to meet her for the first time in Florida and take her a gift this summer.”

Moosehaven is an active retirement community on 73 acres in Orange Park, Florida, exclusively for members of the Moose. The residential community has served members since 1922.

“Carrie and I just went to visit Moosehaven when we were in Orlando for the 2022 International Moose Convention, and we took a bus over to Jacksonville,” Newkirk said. “Our organization, we’re like family, and we might not see eye to eye on everything in the lodge, but we do a lot for others, like if someone has cancer or gets sick, we raise money for them and I care about them and I like to give back. I think that’s so important. That’s why I stay.”

Graham said there are about 180 women members in the local lodge, and they host parties for members’ children and for Halloween, Easter and Christmas.

She said they’ve made a lot of friends through the organization over the years by going to the state conferences in Indianapolis.

“These are held in March and October, and we’ve met so many great people, and when you go back, you see them again and reconnect,” Newkirk said. “We all have the same goal, and we know what the Moose stands for, and we all care so much about it. It’s really a great fraternity.”

Women of the Moose is always looking for new members, and there is no military affiliation with the organization and no requirements to sign up, except to be 21 years old.

“We are big on recognizing veterans,” Newkirk said.

Graham said they have a lot of nights where the lodge is open to the public and there will be music, and then there is free bingo on Friday nights with the opportunity to win prizes. People can come in on those nights to see what the Moose is all about.

Newkirk file

Christy Newkirk has lived in Seymour since she was 2.

She is married to Brett Newkirk, and they have two daughters, Jessica Howard and Abby Hoevener, and one grandchild, Brody Howard.

Newkirk owns All in One Hair Care by Christy, 320 W. Second St., Seymour. It’s in a little red building that used to be Tammy Hiester’s dental office behind the Jackson County Dental parking lot.

The salon is the only southern Indiana wig bank, and they work with the American Cancer Society and the Don and Dana Myers Cancer Center, giving each cancer patient one free wig.