Tough decision for Elks Lodge

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Members of the McCook Elks Lodge are facing a difficult decision. Because of financial challenges and the loss of membership, the Elks officers have sent a letter to members, asking whether B.P.O.E. Lodge 1434 of McCook should turn back its charter and all physical and monetary property to the Nebraska Elks Trustees.

The letter -- dated March 4. 2004 -- starts by declaring that, "McCook Elks Lodge 1434 has been in existence for more than 77 years, with a peak of over 3,000 members."

But times have changed. "Now, with fewer than 400 members, it is increasingly more challenging to continue past traditions of community service," the letter states. These many programs include Elks Educational Scholarships, Fourth of July Fireworks, Boy Scouts sponsorship, Care for Veterans, the Easter Egg Hunt, Bingo, the Elks Hoop Shoot and Lodge family get-togethers.

It has been difficult to maintain these projects, however, because of limited attendance and participation at meetings. Currently, the letter points out, the Elks have been unable to attract a full slate of candidates for Lodge chairs.

While dues income has decreased due to the decline in membership, the Lodge's financial obligations have increased. The large Elks building, located at 903 East Seventh Street, is no longer leased and is used only for Elks and Does meetings and Wednesday night Bingo events.

Up until now, the Elks have been able to meet financial obligations. However, the Lodge is facing a challenge. In February, the Internal Revenue Service notified the McCook Lodge that it owes more than $8,000 in back taxes, interest and penalties. "Our accountant is working with the IRS on this matter," the letter states, adding: "If the claim stands, this could exhaust operating funds."

To sum up, the Elks officers say it this way: "Despite the good principles of Elkdom and our many good works, it is unrealistic to believe the status quo can continue with any degree of success. We are faced with some difficult decisions about the future of McCook Elks Lodge 1434."

There are two options. One, the Elks could turn back the charter, or two, the Elks can increase membership and participation in the Lodge and its activities.

All Elks are urged to join in the decision. Attendance of Elks members is respectfully requested at the next Lodge meeting, to be held Tuesday, March 16, at the Elks building, beginning at 8 p.m. The Elks unable to attend are asked to write down their thoughts and send them to the McCook Elks Lodge, P.O. Box 256, McCook, NE 69001.

Input is critical. "The response from Lodge members, combined with a full disclosure of the finances at the next meeting, will help determine a course of action concerning the future of our Lodge," the officers state.

Serious about the need for action, the Elks Exalted Ruler, Officers and Trustees close by saying they expect a decision to be made on or before the Lodge's April 6th meeting.

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