Empowering Community: A Look Inside the Benevolent Society Disrupting the Status Quo

Words by Andrea Westerlund
Photos by Matt Ulakovic

“I’m not really a joiner,” says Kimberly Prinsen, a member of the Benevolent Guardians of Corvidae (BGC), also known as the Raven’s Lodge, here in Rochester.

Despite the aversion to joining, Kimberly was won over by the community and focus on social justice that the Ravens shared. She felt like she finally belonged and that was “profound.”

Founded in late 2018, this society was created in response to the political climate and a desire to make a positive impact on their community. With a mission to empower people through mutual aid and urban progress, this unique group is quickly making a name for themselves.

You may have heard of various existing lodges before. Usually named after a large, antlered beast of some sort, they tend to be religious, white, and predominantly male. The Benevolent Guardians of Corvidae wanted to change that. Tired of the gender separation and religious commitments that many of these groups required, they wanted to create a space that was open, inclusive, and free of such limitations. As a result, their organization became a left-leaning, queer-friendly community that welcomed people of all beliefs and backgrounds.

“We started with just 13 members who all had interest in creating a group of people dedicated to bettering ourselves through the betterment of our community,” explains co-founder, Nicole Del Grosso. “We were all people that lived or worked in the city of Rochester or, one way or another, considered Rochester home.”

The Raven’s membership has since grown to 39, and they have supported various causes within the city. From planting gardens in Mount Hope Cemetery to collecting food and volunteering at other organization’s clean-up events, the Ravens strive to make an impact.

In 2022, the Ravens experienced an unexpected loss. When a founding member lost her cancer battle, the lodge stepped up to support her family, and even dedicated the lodge’s social justice library to her.

“Our members are everything,” explains co-founder, Jay Rowe. “And we will bend over backwards to help members and their families and really create a sense of belonging and purpose and legacy.”

At its core, the Benevolent Guardians of Corvidae is a social club with heart, made up of people who want to make a difference. One of the benefits of membership is access to the lodge itself, which will be reestablished in a new location this year.

“I’m looking forward to being able to walk in [the lodge] and just put my feet up and read a book and watch a movie and have a drink or a snack or whatever,” muses Jay.

A library is fitting for a group so focused on learning and empowering members to become engaged community members. One thing you won’t find at the Raven’s Lodge is judgement.

“It’s a safe space to learn,” says Kimberly. “We can learn about appropriation, body positivity, fat shaming, and we can speak up about what makes us uncomfortable. It’s a comfy place to be uncomfy.”

But I’m sure you’re all wondering the same thing at this point. WHY RAVENS?

“I think we had a whole meeting where we discussed what kind of animal it should be,” explains Nicole. “And we all really like birds. We realized that the Corvidae[1] are kind of reflective of who we are as people. They’re smart, creative, and industrious, but can be mischievous. We really identified with that. And the raven is the biggest and coolest and sexiest of those. The raven won out just because they’re hecking cool.”

[1] The group of birds that includes ravens, crows, blue jays, and magpies.



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