Local FOP transforms lodge to draw in new members

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Members and supporters of the Hancock County FOP enjoy refreshment during an afternoon visit this week. The lodge has undergone a significant renovation throughout the spring and summer. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — At 4 p.m. they filter in, as the server behind the bar pops open a cold beer.

She knows each of the guys by name, knows what they drink, and always greets them with a smile.

It’s opening time at the Hancock County Fraternal Order of Police lodge in Greenfield, and a group of retirees is meeting up for its daily gab session at the bar. They typically only stay for one beer, but it’s a tradition they cherish.

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The lodge, at 400 E. Davis Road, is the local equivalent of the bar made famous on the TV show “Cheers.” It’s a cozy little watering hole where everyone knows your name.

Created for local law enforcement officers and their supporters, the lodge has been a local fixture since 1964. This year it underwent a drastic makeover.

A handful of members used the downtime that resulted when the state went into quarantine in mid-March as an opportunity to renovate the building’s interior — replacing dated wood paneling, carpet and furniture with a sharp new look.

“I think the new look is absolutely tremendous,” said Leo Davis, one of the men who bellies up to the bar at 4 p.m.

His father-in-law, former Hancock County sheriff Edgar Kirkpatrick, helped found the lodge in the 1960s. Davis has been a regular fixture there for the past 40 years.

It’s clear that he and the other regulars take pride in the lodge, where the vibe has been transformed from an outdated bar to more of an upscale pub.

The dark-paneled walls and dark wood furniture have been replaced with faux barnwood paneling, handcrafted wood tables and bar-height black metal chairs. The matted carpet was replaced with new wood flooring, and the outdated light fixtures were exchanged for industrial-style lights.

The old bar that stood for years was torn out and replaced with a new corrugated metal bar, and a decorative wood beam was installed down the center of the new metal roof.

“It looks great. It’s probably the biggest single transformation I think that place has ever had,” said the club’s secretary and treasurer, J.D. Fortner, a Greenfield police officer.

The lodge has been at the same location since being established in 1964. The main building originally served as a bunkhouse at Fort Benjamin Harrison.

“It was brought here on a truck,” said Fortner. The downstairs gaming area and kitchen area were later added on. A picture of the bunkhouse being put in place now hangs on the wall at the lodge, alongside photos of the most recent renovation.

“It’s a welcoming place to be,” said Davis, one of the daily regulars.

His buddy, Mike Splater of Greenfield, a former reserve deputy for both Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and the Greenfield Police Department, has been a member at the lodge since 1969. He stops in several times a week for the “camaraderie and the cold beer,” he said.

Another friend, Ron Althoff of Greenfield, has been coming in since 1975.

The three friends met up on a recent afternoon to enjoy the lodge’s new atmosphere.

“I hope people find it inviting. It’s just a great place for people to come in and just enjoy themselves,” said the bar’s general manager, Karena Walter, who has worked there the past six years.

The lodge offers a safe, relaxed atmosphere, she said, especially since only members and their guests are allowed.

“It’s a nice place to go where you don’t have to deal with the riffraff. You don’t have the fights or anybody coming in off the streets to cause trouble,” she said.

The club is part of the state and national Fraternal Order of Police organizations.

While some FOPs are strictly for law enforcement officers, the local club is open to both active and associate members. Active memberships are active or retired members of law enforcement, while associate members are their friends, family and other supporters.

“Associate members are people who have a lot of respect for the police. It’s like a family in here,” Walter said.

The bar serves up $5 pizzas throughout the week, along with hot dogs, but Wednesday night dinners typically pack the house. Members gather to enjoy broasted chicken the first week and a taco bar on the last week of each month. They also hold a hog roast each year.

Bingo is the big draw on Friday nights, where members play for a cash pot for a $1 buy-in per game.

While some of the oldest members weren’t too excited about the changes at first, Walter says the renovations were intended to draw in a younger crowd.

“Since the renovation our sales and membership applications have both gone up tremendously,” she said.

Walter credits its members for supporting the club and making it such a welcoming place to be.

Fortner, who oversaw the renovation, credits a handful of members for being the driving force behind the makeover.

“There was a group of about eight or 10 of us that were down there on the Friday night before we had to close,” said Fortner, referring to March 13, when the state slipped into shutdown mode due to the coronavirus.

“Because we knew we were going to be closed, we thought we would maybe take some paneling down and do some painting,” Fortner recalled, then one project led to another.

The lodge underwent a full makeover before reopening May 18.

“It was a fun project. It was a bit more than what we anticipated getting into, but it turned out nice,” said Fortner.

While member donations offset much of the remodeling costs, the lodge will host a fish fry fundraiser later this month to pay off the rest.

The lodge provides a nice refuge for law enforcement officers, he said. “Officers don’t really go out to local bars to hang out because you might encounter people you arrest, so this is kind of like a sanctuary where we can go and kind of unwind and enjoy each other’s company.”

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Hancock County Fraternal Order of Police, 400 E. Davis Road, Greenfield, is open to members and their guests. More information about the organization is available on the Hancock County Fraternal Order of Police page on Facebook; by phone at call 317-462-6591; or by email [email protected].

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