Athol-Orange Elks Lodge closes

  • The Athol-Orange Lodge of Elks, officially known as Lodge No. 1837, participates in the Orange Bicentennial Parade in 2010. This week, however, the lodge was shut down by the national organization. Recorder File Photo

For The Recorder
Thursday, January 11, 2018

ORANGE — In a move that surprised many throughout the region, the Grand Lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks chose to shutter Lodge No. 1837 Monday, also known as the Athol-Orange Lodge of Elks, at 92 New Athol Road.

One would be hard pressed to find an individual in the North Quabbin Region that has not attended a number of events held in the popular hall. At the time of its closing, at least two Scout groups were still making use of the lodge for their regular meetings.

Reaching out to members of the Lodge for statement on the closing, Junior Past Exalted Ruler Keith Truhart Jr., offered the following statement:

“For almost 75 years the Athol-Orange Lodge of Elks No. 1837 has proudly and faithfully served our community. Though only a number to the Grand Lodge and one that seems to have not added up, the Elks have been so much more to our community. It has been a place of great joy for our weddings, anniversaries and birthday parties. As well as sorrow for our funerals and memorials. We have raised three generations of local kids into Elkdom and tried to instill and follow the pillars of our organization. Over the decades the A/O Elks have charitably given out hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships to local students. They have held countless events for our Veterans and tried to better their lives at every possible opportunity. It is a sad day and a great loss to not only the membership of 1837 but to the entire community that can never be gotten back.”

Others who wished to remain anonymous cited a number of factors that led to the closing of the lodge. Bingo participation has seen a steady decline, dwindling from 150 to 200 players a week, to 75 on a good evening. In order for the Lodge to break even they needed at least 100 participants a week. Also considered a factor is the recent re-assessment of the lodge by the town. After being considered tax exempt as a nonprofit for decades, the town re-assessed the Lodge for fiscal year 2016 and so between March of 2016 and July of 2017 the Lodge was forced to pay the town $25,000 in property taxes. Lastly, is the declining membership that many organizations are seeing as a result of the internet age and the rise of social media. Despite attempts to raise more revenue through meat raffles, dances, craft fairs, and the like the Lodge was just not bringing in the revenue needed to stay afloat.

A steering committee was created five years ago with the members appointed by the Grand Lodge for the purpose of fixing some of the lodge’s issues but in the end they were unable to prevent the lodge’s closing. At the time that the rug was pulled out from under members consideration was being made for moving the Lodge to a smaller establishment.

As for the organizations that use the Lodge regularly, local Scout leaders were told they can enter the building this Saturday morning between 10 and 12 a.m. to remove their equipment. Any organization that has already booked an event in the hall will be contacted by a representative of Grand Lodge about a refund. Concerned Bingo players are asked to contact the Bingo commissioner through the state’s lottery system.