Josh Bennett had tied his bowtie perfectly.
His dress shirt was neatly tucked into his slacks.
And while he still shifted back and forth when he talked and nervously his right hand in and out of his pocket, the second-in-charge of Manteca’s chapter of DeMolay International spoke glowingly of an organization that he feels helped him break free of social bonds and work towards becoming a better young man.
“It’s about leadership and learning more about yourself,” Bennett said. “I’ve been in DeMolay for a year, and before I came here I really didn’t interact with very many people. I love the opportunity to make the friends that I have today and learn the things that I’m learning.”
An offshoot of Freemasonry, DeMolay International is an organization for young men between the ages of 12 and 21 that exhibit good character and acknowledge the existence of a higher power. Those stipulations are concrete, but they aren’t exclusionary – very rarely does a member that applies and is interviewed get turned away, and religious beliefs of members range from Islam to Judiaism to Wiccan.
But it’s a strong moral background and a key sense of leadership that the group’s advisors – all of them Master Masons – try to instill in the group of roughly a dozen key members that attend regular meetings inside of Manteca’s Masonry meeting hall.
Hints of the affiliation with the group’s elder organization abound.
Those that apply and are accepted into the fraternity are subjected to a series of “degrees” – much like those that are assigned to Masons to signify their level – that promote the idea of advancement. The process encourages members to learn and to apply themselves so they can one day hold an office like Master Councilor – the post that Lodi-native David Jobrack now occupies.
“Generally DeMolay is a business fraternity for young men that teaches them leadership and business skills,” Jobrack said. “It was started for young men that lost their fathers in World War I so that they had a place to turn. Today it’s an opportunity to find a group of close-knit friends that are like-minded, and a series of advisors that are willing to help promote a positive environment.”
In his current post Jobrack runs the meetings and takes a proactive approach in helping to promote DeMolay both in Manteca and its neighboring communities. He still lives in Lodi – he graduated from Bear Creek High School last year – but has a group of friends that all decided to transfer to Manteca to be a part of that DeMolay post, making it easier to associate with friends in the organization.
Jobrack said he knows what it’s like to be a high school student and be constantly faced with scenarios that are detrimental. He hopes that there are kids out there that realize that are positive places to turn instead of giving in to the pressure.
“There are kids out there every day that are facing pressures to become unsatisfactory young men, and they should know that there’s a different house hold and a different path,” he said. “There aren’t any cliques here – I played football in high school so I hung out with the jocks and somebody else might have hung out with some other group. But none of that matters here.
“Everybody is accepted and everybody is encouraged to improve themselves.”
DeMolay International meets on the second and fourth Wednesday at Manteca Masonic Lodge Tyrian #439 – located at 212 Powers Avenue. The meetings begin at 7:30 p.m. For additional information contact Adam Karim at (209) 565-4514 or email David Jobrack at firstname.lastname@example.org.