Moose Lodge raises $10,000Published 9:22am Thursday, October 25, 2012
Fraternal organization has no plans to close but is losing membership
Despite rumors to the contrary, the Albert Lea Moose Lodge is not closing.
Moose members and even some local businesses have donated more than $10,000 in the last two weeks to go toward the organization, Lodge officials said Wednesday. The donations are about one-fifth of the $50,000 debt in rent and vendor bills the Moose is working to recover.
“We’re extremely humbled by the amount of people who have stepped up and said we’re not going to let this lodge close,” said Albert Lea Moose Lodge Gov. Frank Kohl.
At the end of September, Kohl and other Moose leaders mailed a letter to the organization’s members advising them of the debt, explaining how the organization got to that point and encouraging a renewed commitment to the lodge. That heightened the closing rumors, but it also garnered help.
“To have in two weeks raised $10,000 is phenomenal,” said local Moose administrator Curtis Smith, who is also a part owner of Skyline Plaza.
A combination of rumors, the depressed economy and a shift in support for fraternal organizations contributed to the Moose’s financial situation, Kohl said.
In 2008, when the Moose moved from its former floodplain location on Main Court to the Skyline Plaza, he said there were many new members. Kohl was one of them. Lodge membership doubled compared to the old site.
But in the years that have followed, the number of members has dropped off, and there are now a little more than 700, he said. Some of the older members who had been supportive fraternalists died, but no new members have joined, he said.
“Younger people just don’t join fraternal organizations anymore,” Kohl said. “They just don’t seem to.”
Add to that a rumor that started about a year and a half ago that the Moose was closing, Kohl said, which directly affected the number of people willing to lease the event center for weddings or other events at the back of the lodge. People were fearful that the lodge would be closed and they would have to find another location for their event at the last minute.
The lack of weddings or events during the months of July and August hurt the lodge during an already slow summer season in which many of the group’s members were on vacation or camping, Kohl said.
He declined to comment on whether the design of the building affected the number of events coming there. However, some groups in Albert Lea don’t consider renting the banquet space because they would have to walk through the bar area to get to it.
Kohl said he thinks people have also forgotten about the community support that the Moose gives through donations and scholarships to group such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Salvation Army and Red Cross. They also give to numerous sports programs and let people use their event center space for free for benefits. Membership dues also support two major Moose initiatives for children and seniors.
Changing the course
Kohl said a meeting was held Oct. 10 to inform members of the situation and to talk about ways to make sustainable changes for the organization.
Smith said there were 130 people at the meeting and there was a feeling of optimism about moving forward.
The two men said people in attendance talked about ideas for raising money, along with how to avoid getting into this situation again. They also talked about setting aside negativity and instead promoting the organization’s goodwill.
They hope to set rumors straight, promote the club more and even have a few events to help them support themselves.
On Nov. 29, Kohl said Moose leaders are organizing a burger basket benefit fundraiser with music and karaoke, and they are encouraging members to go out and sell tickets.
“Help support the Moose so we can help support the community,” Kohl said.
He said the group is aiming to raise the remaining $40,000 before the first part of December.
Each member has also been asked to contribute.
“We cannot keep the lodge going with just a few members supporting it,” the September letter stated. “We need the support of the majority. It is going to be up to the lodge membership if the Albert Lea lodge stays or goes.”
The letter called on its members to change the trend of lower memberships in fraternal organizations and asked them to start helping to rebuild the lodge.
“The Moose is asking the community to help us in our time of need,” Kohl said. “If you want to be part of a great organization, come down and see what the Moose has to offer.”