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Freemasonry Watch




Masonic lodge forced to sell building due to low membership




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Texarkana Gazette
http://www.texarkanagazette.com/articles/
2006/10/21/local_news/news/news14.txt

Masonic lodge forced to sell building due to low membership

October 21, 2006

By JOHN FOOKS

Dwindling membership in many social, civic, support and service organizations has had a devastating affect on many clubs and organizations in the Texarkana area, not the least of which are the Masonic fraternities.

Border Lodge No. 672 is the most recent victim of thinner rosters. Lodge leaders recently voted to sell the building and property that it has been meeting in at 918 Westlawn Dr., Texarkana, Texas, since 1988.

“We voted to sell the building and 3.8 acres of property this past June and sent out a letter informing our members of the decision about three weeks ago,” said Charley Clay, lodge secretary. “The plan is to sell our building and property (valued at approximately $675,000), purchase a smaller property on which we can build a smaller building. A smaller building means lower overhead, which is getting really high where we are.”

Clay said the lodge had about 460 members when he joined in 1991, and only has approximately 260 members now. About 68 of those members are 50-year members, meaning they no longer have to pay annual dues.

Current dues are not enough for the lodge to remain solvent, and the lodge is loosing approximately $500 a month, or $6,000 a year. At that pace the lodge may be forced to close soon. This recent step is to prevent that from happening, Clay said.

“We have a committee looking at property in the area right now, and if we can find a smaller piece of land we can build a smaller building than we have now,” Clay said. “Our Worshipful Master is James Rubly, who unfortunately has had this thrust upon him. He realized how important it is to have firm leadership at this time in our lodge and he’s willing to do whatever necessary to keep our lodge healthy. All of us are.”

The Shriners also meet in the Westlawn location and they will have to move when the Masons move. Longtime member and Mason since 1941, P.H. Fairchild, said this has been coming for a long time.

“I just hate to see us lose this building, but the way things are going we’re going to go broke. It’s either sell what we have or merge with another lodge,” he said. “The Masons aren’t the only ones suffering from low membership. The Shriners, Order of the Eastern Star, DeMolays ... they’re all suffering. It’s a shame that people don’t seem to have time to contribute back to their community like they did in my day.”

Fairchild has been a Mason since 1941 and a Shriner since 1950. For two decades, Fairchild served as fund-raising chairman for the Bowie/Cass Shrine Club and has seen the great works that Shriners and Masons can perform.

One is 13-year-old Peyton DeLoach, a burn victim who has benefited from the free services at the Shiners Burn Hospital in Galveston, Texas, for the past 12 years. Another is Grant Harrison, who was born with a condition that destroyed muscle development. Grant has benefited from the free services at the Shriners Hospital in Shreveport, La., since 18 months of age.

One is 13-year-old Peyton DeLoach, a burn victim who has benefited from the free services at the Shiners Burn Hospital in Galveston, Texas, for the past 12 years. Another is Grant Harrison, who was born with a condition that destroyed muscle development. Grant has benefited from the free services at the Shriners Hospital in Shreveport, La., since 18 months of age.

“I made a little stump speech at our lodge several months back and suggested then that every member knew someone who was not a Mason -- a brother-in-law, a friend, a co-worker -- and get them to come and find out more about Masons,” Fairchild said. “At that time, I think we got three to come in who were interested. Only one completed his master’s degree, so that was one out of three.”

Ironically, Clay’s counterpart on the Arkansas side, Oscar Brooks, secretary of Masonic Lodge No. 341 on Highway 82 East in Texarkana, Ark., said his lodge is “solvent ... at least for now.”

“Our membership has remained pretty steady that last couple of years and this year we have lost hardly any,” Brooks said. “One of our biggest loss in membership is the result of death and you can’t do anything about that.

“But we don’t feel threatened right now. We put on a master’s degree this past Monday night and we have another one scheduled for Oct. 28.”

Brooks said one thing he believes has helped his lodge in recent years are the numerous benefit dinners and fund-raisers, one of which is taking place today (a barbecue benefit to raise money for scholarships).

“You’ve got to have your face in the pubic eye so they know you’re here,” Brooks said. “People hear about us and come in. We’ve handed out three petitions to join or lodge this past week.”

Clay said that although they are selling their building and property, he still believes his lodge is going to continue functioning and helping the community.

“We’re just trying to look ahead before it’s too late to look,” he said.

Clay said if anyone would like more information about becoming a Mason, or how they can help the lodge, they may call the lodge on weekday morning at 903-832-2725.

While the tradition of “To be a Mason, ask a Mason” still holds in most states, Texas Masons may now ask a person to become a Mason.

“It used to be that a Mason could not ask anyone to become a Mason, that anyone interested in joining must first ask to join. Now us Texas Masons can ask someone to join. But we can only ask one time,” Clay said. “Probably the best thing to do is what potential members have always had to do: To be a Mason, ask a Mason.”









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