By Nicole Davis
They’ve been given one final chance.
Members of the Beech Grove Moose Lodge, located at 3320 S. Emerson Ave., met on Nov. 29, voting to close lodge. Member and volunteer Penney Bray left feeling crushed. She wasn’t alone in that sentiment.
“I said, ‘we cannot let this lodge close down without a fight,’” she said.
Bray got together with member Michele Campbell to find a solution. They emailed everyone at Moose International and every lodge in Indiana and finally reached Dan Evans, south regent for the state. Evans offered one last opportunity to make the lodge successful.
“They have given this location multiple chances and it’s not been successful so far,” she said. “Now it’s to the point, ‘this is it, this is crunch time, we have to make it work.’”
A special meeting was held outside of the Moose, where changes were discussed and new leadership was decided upon. The lodge, chartered in 1962, is entirely volunteer based. Jerry Erisman, a more than 40-year member, will serve as governor; Joe Roell as past governor; Ronnie Glass as administrator; Rick Skirvin as trustee; Jason Allen as treasurer; and Howard Watson as prelate. A meet-and-greet for the new leadership was held on Jan. 19, which member Rachelle Tomblin, Jr. Regent for Women of the Moose Chapter 1589, said was well attended despite a predicted icy snowstorm.
“This kind of crowd is what it used to be,” Tomblin said.
Skirvin, a one-year member and owner of Nite Owls Saloon and Grill in Beech Grove, said this new leadership is committed to making the Beech Grove Moose solvent.
“I didn’t want another empty building in Beech Grove,” he said. “All things need to be made cost effective for its members, but it also has to make money to pay its bills. We want to bring membership up. We’ve already brought in 15 new members this month.”
The programs for which the Moose contributes are a large reason its existing members want to keep the lodge in operation. The lodge regularly hosts fundraisers for local causes. Funds raised also contribute to Moose International’s Moosehaven and Mooseheart programs.
“Everyone here just helps each other out,” said 10-year member, Judith Hartwell. “If everyone has been to Moosehaven and Mooseheart, you’d never let your dues collapse.”
Moosehaven is a retirement community for Moose members. Mooseheart is a residential childcare facility for youth in need in Chicago. The Beech Grove lodge sponsors a child at this facility each year.
“The meaning behind the entire Moose organization, a lot of people don’t know all of that,” Bray said. “They just think it’s a private club. There’s a lot more to it. … Dan asked me why it was so important, why was I so determined. I told him it was because of those kids.”
The lodge is working to add more events, keeping members up-to-date via Facebook, facebook.com/BeechGrove1883, and the sign outside. They are also offering additional hours for the kitchen.
“Hopefully we get our membership up, our attendance up and it becomes something better than we ever had before,” Hartwell said. “We’re very hopeful. We know we’ll make it. We’re not going to let it go down again.”