In 2014, the Huron Elks helped raise over $100,000 for Huron and the surrounding communities through the various events, such as pancake feeds and fundraising benefits, which the Lodge hosts. These funds enabled residents to meet medical and living expenses incurred during the course of illness or loss, provided support to local organizations, raised awareness of important issues and helped organizers accomplish a host of other worthwhile community goals.
Unfortunately, the Elks Lodge could eventually be forced to close its doors to the community.
Board chairperson Lori Heller says the organization cannot continue to fund the Elks Lodge, including the 444 Bar and Grill, without the participation of members and the support of the community.
Heller says for the Elks Lodge to remain viable it is not only important for current members to actively participate but for younger residents to join the Elks. An influx of new members helps replenish the ranks of membership as older Elks retire or become less involved. Declining membership is a nationwide issue for the Elks and other service organizations. Currently, there are 193 Huron Elks members. However, their patronage alone isn’t enough to maintain the Lodge.
Heller states that the best way for non-members to support the Elks Lodge is by frequenting the 444 Bar and Grill.
A renovation project in 2010 gave the Bar and Grill a new look and major improvements. Heller says she is frustrated when people complain that there aren’t enough restaurants in Huron yet admit they forget about the Elks when making plans to dine out.
“We need people to come in and have dinner or a drink. We have some of the best food in town,” Heller says.
Recently, the Elks has experimented with entertainment geared toward a younger clientele such as hip hop shows. Heller says these efforts have been successful but cannot replace regular traffic.
Heller says this issue is close to her heart due in part to the support she received from the Huron Elks during her own struggle with a life threatening illness.
“15 years ago, I had cancer. The Elks had a benefit on my behalf that raised $12,000. I had been a member for about three years at that point, but not an active one. After receiving that check, I have been a very active member.”
Heller says part of the problem might stem from a longstanding misconception that the Bar and Grill is only open to members.
“We are open to the public. Everyone is welcome here,” Heller says.
Heller says the community would miss the Lodge, which is provided, free of charge, to individuals and organizations for charitable events.
“We aren’t closing tomorrow. But in the long term, if we don’t get more people coming through the door to help support the Elks Lodge, we aren’t going to be able to support anyone else.”